Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fate, Circumstance and MS

On a cold September day in Korea in 1999 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  From that day on, absolutely everything in my life changed forever.  First there was the toll on my body.  Sometimes the damage comes and goes, some damage is always there and some damage just gets worse.  Regardless of what those damaging effects are at the moment, my MS is always there: my hands, arms, legs, eyes….  What I have “gained” from MS is always there with me, one way or another.

Quickly following what I gained from MS was what I lost.  The first loss was immediate: I would never fly again.  That was certain.  Slowly, more certainties would unfold.  My time in command was cut short and by June 2000 I was evacuated back to the States.  Feeling dazed and confused ,I said one final goodbye to the soldiers of Delta Troop, 1/6 Cavalry (Darkhorse!).

 “Don’t you get angry at what MS has done to you?”
I have never answered that question
 “Don’t you miss the Army?”
Nor have I answered that one
 “Don’t you miss flying?”
I especially haven’t answered that one

I don’t think of myself as a superstitious man.  I do not believe in fate and I surely don’t think that things are destined to happen in any one certain way.  Everyone I know and everything I have in my life is in my life because of some series of events in my past.  Maybe I caused those events; maybe I am just an ‘effect’ of other circumstances.  Regardless, I am here today because of what happened in the past.

Someday we will know more about those circumstances and events that cause Multiple Sclerosis.  We’ll learn more about the cause and develop ways to defeat the disease or prevent it outright.  In the meantime, we’ll work on ways to treat the disease and its effects on our bodies.  Regardless, I will forever have the effects that MS caused on my life.

In 2000 I returned to the United States to build my new life with MS.  This was only somewhat successful and it often felt like one step forward, two steps back.    Many of those steps were damaging both physically and emotionally.  By 2003, my MS had gotten the better of my physical and emotional self and I landed in Delaware for treatment at the Wilmington VA Medical Center.  Slowly but surely my body regained its strength and stability; the rest of me soon followed.

I met Brie in 2004; we married in 2006 and moved out west to build a home in Portland, Oregon, the following year.  Eleanor Rogue was born in 2010.  A strange series of events, circumstances and actions have molded the three of us into the perfect family.

There is no was that these events would have ever occurred had I not been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis on a cold September day in Korea in 1999.

“Don’t you get angry at what MS has done to you?”
Yes, I get angry sometimes.  Yes, I miss my Army days.  Yes, I do miss flying. 
I never answered these questions before now, mostly for fear of how I would react if I ever admitted that I missed the things I was forced out of because of my MS.  That’s a foolish fear on my part.  So, yes, I do miss it. 

I have a beautiful, strong woman who loves me and will be standing by my side supporting me every step of the way.  I have a beautiful little girl just 16 months old who wins my heart over and over every time she looks at me.  There is no way I would be in this exact place without every step taken before.

Do I wish that anything was different?
Not at all.

Kevin Byrne - Portland, OR

Tuesday, August 23, 2011



Oh, how I hate being told that I cannot do something!

Maybe it’s the snotty little kid in me who hasn’t quite grown up yet and probably never will.  Maybe it’s the old Air Cav pilot in me (who hasn’t quite grown up yet and probably never will!). 
·         “You can’t do that because of your MS”
·         “You shouldn’t do that because of your MS”
·         “Because of your MS, it would be best if you didn’t do that”

One of my biggest frustrations with MS is often the reaction of others. Well intended, and usually quite warranted, the reactions are just not what I want to hear under any circumstance.  I have ignored restrictions, pleaded for reconsideration, even snapped back a little when I was told that I could not or should not do something because of this disease.  No one is safe from my stubborn push back when they try to place limitations on me. 

In fact, there is only one who can come close to convincing me to accept some of those eventual limits of Multiple Sclerosis….my MS.  My MS doesn’t tell me I should not do something.  My MS ‘gently but sternly’ reminds me that I should not do something.  If I continue or push back or go too hard, my MS will show me that I cannot do something.  It is a constant game that we play, my MS and me.  Every day I push to show myself and my MS I can go further without issue.  Every day my MS is following me and reminding me that it’s still there ready to push back. 

My MS will convince me of some of my limitations, but only after hard fought battles.  Sometimes I win and gain freedom, dexterity and mobility.  Sometimes my MS wins and sets me back a bit.  There are no alternatives (yet) to this dance back and forth.  Without a cure for MS my only other choice would be to sit back and never push my body beyond the pain and limitation.  That’s not an option in my book.

And so go again and again!

We danced back in June on Mount Rainier.  I pushed my MS up to Disappointment Cleaver before finally conceding that my balance and gait issues were too much to go further.  My MS may have won the battle of the last 2,111 feet but I won the first 12,300!

A few days later we were at it again for a charity MS Mud Run.  10K of muddy obstacles to climb over, under and through.  I won that round and celebrated with a smug victory grin!

I know that I will have to constantly battle my MS.  I accept that.  In some sense I even look forward to the next battle; again that old Air Cav pilot in me!  I definitely don’t win them all but every victory, whether on the mountain, in the mud or walking down the street, will give me the energy to fight through the next loss….

MS gained the upper hand in our latest round.  I now accept my limitation that because of my MS, and the issues with balance and gait, I should never again go roller skating.  I fell, broke my leg and will need a while to rehab back to health.  You win, MS.  You can have roller skating.  I’ll keep the mountain, the mud and walking down the street!

Kevin Byrne - Portland, OR

It will never stop…nor will we
It will never quit…nor will we

This is why we fight!