I Dated A Girl With A Disease...
No, when I first started dating Crystal Phillips 17 months ago I didn’t know she had a disease. When she told me she had MS I told her I was going for a BSci in Kines. Turns out she meant Multiple Sclerosis. Ahhhh. And at first I was a little scared you know? I mean...is that shit contagious? But she calmed me down and explained it to me and I did some research and checked out some of the symptoms….Muscle spasms, double vision/blindness, fatigue, urinary incontinence.
But things started to get more real. During that time I was also volunteering at a rehabilitation program for people with degenerative disease’s. My client was a man with the unbelievably cool name of Elmer. He was in his early 40’s and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when he was 19. Elmer told me that he was just starting to study journalism when he first had an attack and was forced to drop out because he could no longer type or hold a pencil. Now, almost twenty-five years later, he was confined to a wheelchair, unable to stand or even move his legs. His hands and arms were curled in to his body as all the muscles had atrophied to nothingness. Only his mind was relatively untouched, his only problem being short term memory, names and dates and such.
For 8 weeks we trained together, to the point where I could assist him to a standing position 8 or 9 times in a row. On my last day he told me that he hated the effort of having to leave his house to come to the training but the improvement he was seeing made it worth it.
I can’t even begin to formulate the word’s that would describe my feelings at that point. All I could think was; this is the same disease my girlfriend has. My beautiful, tall, smart girlfriend. An incredible athlete with Olympic dreams who loves to run trails in the river valley with her dog. My girlfriend that knows all about herbs and ancient grains and all sorts of stuff that I don’t have a clue about…Is this her future? Will she one day be folded into a wheelchair completely dependent on a provider? Will she one day be unable to remember the names of all the foods she tells me about? Go from worrying about dropping her 1000m skate time to being excited to be able to stand?
It sounds melodramatic and you may scoff as you read it but trust me, you can’t be melodramatic enough when you’re considering the future of someone with a disease as serious as MS. At that moment, it was as if it was all hitting me for the first time. I felt like you do after your third glass of red wine and you get that floaty, dizzy wine-drunk feeling. Just completely zoned out. But with this sickening shocked feeling that a nice cabernet doesn’t include.
When I talked to Crystal about it later that day she was unconcerned and positive. She explained that if she was always worrying about the future with the disease then she was never going to appreciate anything that she had right now.
True enough, and she proved it all through our relationship, with her only complaints coming when the MS was affecting her racing.
Following her lead, I tried to forget about it and the only time we’d really bring up MS was when we’d make jokes about how she needed to wear a cooling vest (MS patients have a tendency to overheat), or that my stunning good looks were making her nervous when her leg would spasm. She was so cool about it that I realized there was nothing hard about dating a girl with a disease. It was great actually, if only because of how tough it made her.
Over the 17 months there were a few break-ups and make-ups but overall it was a great relationship...Well, actually there were a few things that bugged me. If you had access to one of those handicap stickers you can hang in your rear-view mirror, would you not take advantage? Ms. Pride and Principle Phillips wouldn’t. Apparently, they should go to “people that really need it.” C’mon. I need it when it’s Saturday at Market Mall and the new Lady GaGa CD is being released. And she had access to marijuana for the pain! We could’ve sold that to junior high kids!
Anyway, other than that it was a great 17 months and when we decided to part ways a couple weeks ago neither of us felt any animosity. Since then there has been a discovery regarding MS that has given hope to MS patients around the world. An Italian doctor found that by unblocking constricted veins in MS patients he was able to halt progression of symptoms and even promote improvement. Obviously very exciting news for MS patients that have waited for so many years for developments.
Now Crystal is seeking that treatment, not offered in Canada due to pressure from pharmaceutical companies frightened to lose billions in profits, but in the curry-slinging, bhangra-dancing, Bollywood-producing country of India. If things go well then she’ll get the treatment in June, show lot’s of improvement, and her surgeon will be over here driving a taxi and living in Whitehorn by the end of the summer.
Now that you’ve heard her story I hope you feel like you want to help her. This isn’t one of those World Vision ads where all you can think is, “really? You’re letting it crawl on your eye? C’MON! Just swipe at it or blink or something!” and you have no idea if your money is going to reach that kid anyway. This is for Crystal, my close friend, in hopes that she’ll never have to end up like Elmer. Please for a second, refuse to be petty, forget the excuses (But I’m a student!), and donate whatever you can. Ask your rich parents if you want to. 20 bucks. It’s five latte’s. Or one terrible Nickleback CD.
To donate directly to Crystal's India trip:
Click on the PAYPAL button on the homepage of this website and choose a donation amount.
To donate to the MS Society by sponsoring me in the MS Bike Tour on June 12th:
Check out Crystal's fundraiser page created when she lost vision in her eye due to MS: