Moving with MS

By: Maggie Harling

Well, this month I thought I’d try to write about what it’s like to move to a totally new place and continue to thrive as a person with MS. There are many elements to moving, so I thought I’d focus on three of them.

First off, the move itself. We’d been living where we were for about twenty-five years, so we’d accumulated A LOT of stuff. I’ve moved many times in my life, including to a new country, but having MS presents some unique challenges. Obviously, just moving items from A to B is difficult if you can’t carry the simplest things without falling over. My principle piece of advice is PLAN AHEAD. About three months before we moved I interviewed three well reviewed moving companies and chose the one that gave the best offer for our complicated move. Then I systematically went through each room in the house and assessed every item to see if we should move it, sell it, or chuck it. Then my fabulous friends helped me start packing. This help was really important because, besides reducing the amount the movers had to pack, it made the whole move more of a reality. When the actual moving days came we were ready and the whole thing went off relatively smoothly.

So the day came when we actually arrived here in Maine. Then came the next step which, I have to admit, I hadn’t planned adequately for…unpacking. Here we were, in a beautiful new house with stacks, and stacks, and stacks of boxes. Same problem…I still can’t carry anything from A to B. Once again, our good friends and family came to the rescue. Within a few days we’d established some semblance of order, although three months later, there are still boxes.

The next big thing that comes with moving is establishing new relationships with caregivers, especially important for MSers. Asking around for referrals brought me time and again to a single MS provider in a clinic about 40 minutes from here. I made an appointment and had my records sent there. Two months later I was delighted to find this provider to be first rate, and his clinic to be very well run. I’m still searching for Primary Care and a good dentist but at least I know where I can go for med refills.

Relationships with caregivers extend beyond the medical field for me. I’ve also found a good “Y” close by with a great pool and exercise equipment. At the Y I found an advertisement for a massage therapist whom I love. She also referred me to a yoga teacher with whom I start classes on Thursday. Best of all, I’ve found a great therapeutic riding stable with a good teacher.

Perhaps the worst thing about moving is leaving the friends you have made in your hometown. There are the friends you would have anyway; the people you’ve known through your work, or neighbors. These people you love and it’s easy to keep in touch with them over distances. Many of them have already visited and helped unpack. Then there are the MS friends. I was part of a fairly tight group of these, and I miss them terribly. I swam with them, I rode with them, and we even went on goofy trips, shopping or to the theatre. These were the people to whom you did not have to explain anything; they’d help you up if you fell over and stop bystanders from calling an ambulance if you didn’t need one. We all attended an MS Support group that was generally a riotous assembly. I remember one occasion when my friend Anna and I taught the group to hula hoop. By the end of that meeting we were all giddy with joy watching an elderly nun in a wheelchair hooping with her arms!

I do miss that, a lot. Slowly, I realize, I will start to make friends here. I tried attending a support group meeting in the local town but it wasn’t for me; they discussed medicines and injection site reactions and seemed disinterested in my medicine of choice – exercise. A riotous assembly it was not. I have heard of an MSer in town though, who teaches water aerobics and I’m going to try to meet her. Also, next month Maine Adaptive (the people who work with MS Cure at Sunday River) are having a handicapped cycling/paddling event in Acadia National Park. I’m looking forward to that one.

So, it isn’t easy, this moving thing. Thriving takes some effort on my part, but the pieces are slowly starting to come together. Part of what I have to remember is that resilience comes from within me; that I can’t only look outside myself for support with the madness of MS.