Positive Reactions to MS Diagnosis by Spouses

Multiple sclerosis can bring out the best in a partn

One of the saddest things about being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is how it makes you doubt everything - everything about yourself and everything in your world. Perhaps one of the most painful things is to doubt your spouse, as we all hear stories of chronic disease destroying marriages.

However, when I think about what helped me the most following my diagnosis, it wasn't a doctor. It wasn't a book (in fact, all of the books that I could find at that time were dismal, with dire predictions of imminent disability and planning for inevitable deterioration).

What helped me the most was my fiancé (now husband). More accurately, it was a specific moment that I kept going back to, and still do, to this day, almost a decade later. I remember that everything was confusing and upsetting and my feet tingled and the MS hug felt like a death grip. No one knew what to say to me when I told them of my diagnosis. One friend burst into tears.

In the middle of all of this, I worked up the courage to talk to my fiancé about our future. I told him that he had not signed on for MS. I told him that he was free to go on his way and that I would figure it out on my own while he found the healthy partner that he deserved.

The moment that is seared into my brain has nothing to do with anything he said to me after this proclamation. Instead, one of the most memorable and treasured moments of my life had to do with the expression of sheer confusion that came over his face.

He simply didn't understand what I was saying. He couldn't fathom how I possibly thought something like MS could affect his feelings for me or his confidence that our future together would be wonderful. It is that look on his face that I will hold in my heart forever, because he was right. MS has presented several challenges, but hasn't stood in our way of loving each other deeply.

While I am not saying this is everyone’s experience, several people have shared how their spouses reacted to their MS diagnosis, many of them positive. Here are just a few quotes that I have collected from different people:

"I was diagnosed in 2007. My husband had been diagnosed in 1997 (ten years earlier almost to the day) with lung cancer. Though he had most of one lung removed, he is clear of cancer and very much alive and well. Going through that was much more frightening to both of us I think. My diagnosis was in a way a relief, knowing what was causing the myriad of symptoms. My MS today seems to be under control. I have many MS symptoms still that come and go, but no further lesions. We both are very grateful each day for our health and to have each other in our lives. We know how very fortunate we are."

"After 25 years of marriage I thought it was over and that my husband would walk away, but for a few weeks [following my diagnosis] when I would fall apart (only at bedtime, I might add) he would hold my hand all night long if it took that long for me to stop crying. [We are] living well and very happy and content going on 4 years now!"

"It was my husband that said with me in his arms that we would just be the sexiest couple even with MS."

"I’ll never forget that the immediate response of my wife was to hold me and tell me not to worry, that she would be with me no matter what."

"The neurologist told my husband and I of the MS diagnosis together. The doc said all of his patients lost their spouses because chronic illness is too much to bear. He turned to Tom and asked, “Are you leaving too?" That was 10 years ago and Tom is right by my side being very supportive. Our family and friends have distanced themselves but that's okay, because we have each other."

"After my diagnosis I was stunned beyond belief. I cried for days, the uncertainty of my future was overwhelming. I felt sorry for my husband having to have a wife that was unhealthy until the day he sat me down to explain that his mother, who had rheumatoid arthritis for most of her life, was in a wheelchair, would never complain but would hold her head up high and face every day as a strong confident woman. She never wanted sympathy but to be treated as regular person with no disability. After hearing his mother’s story of overcoming adversity, I soon realized that what I was diagnosed with was not a death sentence, but was my chance to embrace life to its fullest extent. I have an extremely loving family, wonderful support from friends, and the realization that I am a blessed individual that just so happens to have MS."

"My now husband proposed to me the night before my diagnoses, letting me know that he was with me regardless of the outcome–could I love him any more?"

Despite all of these happy stories, MS can impact a marriage in many ways, as outlined in my article MS and Marriage, and we must remain vigilant to some of these potential problems and nurture our marriages. 

Continue Reading