Tomorrow I start my Masters degree, which has been something on my ‘to-do’ list for quite some time. About 5 years ago I started to think about career advancement. I h always had a dream since I was young that I would continue my education and complete a Masters degree. Not many in my family have this level of education and I always thought it would be such an amazing thing to achieve. I remember the day I walked across the stage to get my diploma at the University of Victoria and the proud feeling I had, and seeing my mother’s face and how proud she also was of me. I would give anything to relive that moment. So tomorrow I start my 2 years journey towards my Masters in Communications at Royal Roads University. Most of my education will be online, and I will have to complete two, three week residencies on campus in Victoria, which is a ferry ride away from where I live now, meaning leaving my son for the first time since he was born for more than one night!
When I was first diagnosed with MS I, like many, started to have fear about doing things, something I never really had before. Having had optic neuritis I became very fearful of loosing my vision, I am a creative person and I can’t imagine not being able to use my eyes. I also then started to read about MS, go to workshops put on by the MS society and even attended a support group there a few times, and as I attended these things the fear I felt around MS would always surface. I would meet lovely people, but I would also see how the disease had progressed in many, and would see myself in them, knowing that I too could follow in similar paths. I would have fear over how this illness could take over my body and manifest in disabilities that would get in the way of living my life the way I wanted to. I worked hard to have a positive outlook on it all, acknowledging the fear all while not allowing it to control me. I would go to yoga often, take time to eat healthy and ensure that I was taking time for myself (Now as a mother I find those things have all fallen by the way side, I am sure other moms, MS or not can relate.) In 2011 I had a huge relapse and that fear came back and ran me over like a train, and over and over again. I loss the usage of my legs, was wheel chair bound and had to take time to practice what it meant to walk again. The cognitive disfunction I had was awful, I could barely finish a sentence and my brain was in such a heavy fog that I could not process much at all. The fear came back with that relapse and it made things feel so much more real as to how this awful illness can really take over your mind and body and leave you feeling helpless.
After a few years of humming and hawing about returning to school and working through my fears about completing a Masters and then and putting it off after being accepted two years ago, tomorrow is the day I finally begin! I put it off for two reasons no MS related. 1. I was trying to get pregnant for three years and it was taking a toll on me mentally and I needed to give myself space. 2. I finally gave birth to my son, which was was joyous as well as and it was hard on my body and so I needed time to heal before I could embark on this education adventure. I wanted to make sure once I started I would do it well!
The fear I had experienced is still there, it comes and goes and sometimes it stays a bit longer than I would like. Before becoming a mother I had fears about doing my masters successfully as a person living with MS. I worried about being able to handle the stress of it while working and I worried about being able to handle the cognitive side of performing at a higher academic level and I worried how I would balance it all. It has been years since I have been in an academic setting and at that time functioned cognitively much sharper than I do now. Now as a mother I have those same fears, but with the addition of motherhood on top of them all. I have found the introduction to motherhood hard, both mentally and physically. I am grateful for the supports in my life that have made it easier (thanks Tia Sonia!) but as I am sure many moms with MS know, there are days I would rather curl up in bed as the pain is in tolerable, or I just feel so weak, but I must get up and put on a semi-happy face to be there for my little man.
I often wonder how will I be: a mother, a student, a wife, a friend and a business owner all at the same time? To be honest, I have no idea! What I do know is I can’t be fearful of what could be around the corner with my health and just try and pace myself. To be a good mothers I need to also follow my dreams and remain true to what my needs are as well. Living with MS is unpredictable and there is a chance I could get ‘sick’ during my studies, but that chance is always there, studying or not.
I have my school supplies, my books and today am doing my orientation to online learning. Everything feels ready to go, but I still have that little ball of fear at the pit of my stomach. I am also filled with excitement and pride that I finally about to start my Masters!
I know there will be times I will fall and need to get back up.I know that I won’t get to be as social as I like, may not see friends as often as I like (motherhood has already changed that a bit) not remember birthdays and not be able to attend as many fun events as I would like. I know it isn’t going to be easy, but I know I can’t wait to walk across that stage and get my diploma and have my son waiting there to give me a big hug! That is what is driving me and gets me excited about starting this academic adventure! But let’s be honest here: I am nervous as all hell about it
I would love to hear from others that have taken on such full plates as a mom living with MS and some of the ways you helped yourself and your family through busy times like this.