For us, Multiple Sclerosis is personal.
We both have this unpredictable disease of the central nervous system, and as a result, we each serve as the primary caregiver for the other.
Combined, we have taken on MS for more than 30 years. Jennifer was diagnosed in 1997, has secondary-progressive MS and no longer walks; Dan was diagnosed in 2000, has relapsing-remitting MS and is training to run in 5K races.
We met at a National MS Society event in 2002, were married in 2005 and are continuing to live happily ever after.
Imagine that: happiness in the face of Multiple Sclerosis. Oh, for sure, it’s not all smiles and fairytale endings. We’re dealing with life, marriage and MS.
We know all too well about the realities of this disease. You know too, right? Managing the numbness, the fatigue, the bladder issues, the cognitive issues, the guessing game between the injectable vs. the oral medications, and more. You name it, we all are familiar with the symptoms.
For example, imagine the fatigue we were sharing on a recent drive from where we presented at Wartburg College in Iowa back to our home in Michigan. Already seven hours into the trip taking on treacherous winds, we barely had crossed the Indiana state line when the snow began to fall. All Jennifer wanted to do was get home, yet Dan knew the remainder of the trip would take nearly five hours on a clear day.
Something had to give, and Jennifer knew it.
“Dan. We need to pull over and stop somewhere for the night,” she said. “As much as I want to get home, I’m tired. You’re tired, and this isn’t fair to you to keep going through this. Tomorrow will be better for driving.”
And so we stopped in Michigan City, Indiana, and rested. The snow could have piled up and made for worse conditions the next day, but we were willing to take that chance tomorrow rather than face the odds of what we were facing on the road that particular day.
Jennifer no longer can drive, and she knew that giving Dan the green light to stop for the night is the one thing she could do to help her team.
This is what we’ve discovered after nine years of marriage: Teamwork is the key to unlocking happiness in a loving and caregiving relationship.
We are a team in this continuing battle against MS. We always need to remember that our battle is with Multiple Sclerosis and not with each other. It’s easy in the face of frustrations to misplace our anger on our caregivers. But the reality is we are on the same team, and we can do great things when we work together.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
Sure, we never dreamed of living with Multiple Sclerosis, but we always have dreamed of having a care partner who will help to make us strong in the face of adversity and rise to the top of our game; even when it means taking a timeout to get a good night sleep in Michigan City so you are fresh to face your shared opponent another day.
Do you have a partner that understands your limitations?
Dan and Jennifer Digmann demonstrate two very different faces of Multiple Sclerosis. They both have MS—Jennifer has secondary-progressive MS, Dan’s is relapsing-remitting—and combined they have lived with the disease for more than 30 years. They were married in 2005, and through their writing, speaking and living life to the fullest, have inspired countless friends, colleagues and perfect strangers with our love story and passion for life. The Digmanns travel the country to present at various events, co-authored the highly praised book “Despite MS, to Spite MS,” and maintain a blog – www.danandjenniferdigmann.com – which Healthline.com has named among the “Best MS Blogs of 2014.”