My Multiple Sclerosis Story
“I Have MS”
By David Haight
I have MS. Relapsing-Remitting MS, to be specific. I’m a 52 year old dad to three great kids (Marisa – 23, Dominic – 19, and Natalie – 18). Michelle is my beautiful wife and soul mate of 25 years. I have two dogs, Doby (after Larry Doby) and Louie (after Lou Gehrig). I go to work, I go to church. I grew up in a great family – playfully annoying my older sister sometimes and dreaming of pitching in the big leagues while playing catch with my dad each day. I didn’t end up making it to the majors, but I did love pitching for my college ball team. I find solace in baseball. I am reminded I am no longer the ball player I used to be; actually, I still am in my mind and heart – but that’s another story.
My MS journey began long before I was diagnosed. Around twelve years ago when I would jog around the neighborhood school track, or take Doby for his daily long walk, I noticed my vision would become very blurry. I will never forget that July day, a typical hot humid Michigan summer day, while I walked toward a nearby main intersection, my vision was so poor I was fearful of losing my sight. I promptly saw my then family doctor and went through a battery of tests. Eye exams and heart stress tests showed absolutely nothing. With things inconclusive, the doctor dismissed my symptoms. I wasn’t sure what to make of my vision issues and ended up changing my habits – short walks with Doby and only when the weather was cool (early morning or evening). I didn’t exert myself and things seemed to somewhat “improve”. Years passed. My vision issues, unaddressed, did not disappear. I noticed in addition to blurriness on my daily dog walks or jogs around the track, that there was an imbalance in my step. It was a new strange addition to my anomalies. Unhappy with my doctor’s lack of interest – I found a new family doctor who wanted me to have an MRI.
That MRI, done five years ago, identified lesions throughout my brain and spine. My family doctor referred me to a neurologist who formally diagnosed me. It was the week before Michelle and I were to leave to Italy for an anniversary vacation. I was unsettled. Dr. Beattie offered me what felt like a buffet of various treatment options, many oral medicine choices. I was overwhelmed and the more online research I did, the more concerned I became. I decided on a second opinion, and met the most fantastic Detroit neurologist, Dr. Omar Khan. He recommended Gilenya. I used to joke that Dr. Kahn, who has since passed away, became a neurologist just so he could have me as a patient. He put me at ease. He spoke in terms that my logical baseball-oriented mind could understand. Most importantly, he knew his stuff and his patient. Factual demeanor helped me to see all that life still was and promised to be—beyond a diagnosis. Gilenya continues to work well for me and my follow-up appointments show it “calms” the existing legions and keeps new ones at bay. My new neurologist, affectionately referred to in our family as “Dr. G”, is also wonderful. She’s quite knowledgeable and patient in her care of me. Best of all, her husband is a former ballplayer as well and we talk baseball during every visit.
I experience the common symptoms of MS. I get depression sometimes, although it is short lasting. I am helped when I recognize the depression as an “MS” thing – and I often will say that aloud to myself or any nearby family member. It amazes me how recognizing the depression as unexplainable and irrational does put it into perspective. Telling myself that the feeling will probably be gone by the morning does work for me. Not that it makes the depression any less real, but it does help me cope. My walk is not always straight, but most people would not notice I have MS just by seeing my gait. I sometimes veer left or veer right and joke to myself when I stumble slightly. I have fallen twice and each time I can pinpoint that I was dealing with severe emotional stress at the time. It’s amazing how stress can impact any disease, especially MS. I don’t think I could run the bases very straight these days, but my family is always there to support me with loving concern as they respond to my imbalanced stride. If I turn too quickly and stumble, I will lovingly point a finger at whoever is near. “Hey!” I may say, “I got this!” Their response? Usually I hear something funny and supportive, such as, “Are you dancing?” or “We got you too!” Michelle coined a phrase early on in my diagnosis, – “You’re like an airplane. You just have trouble with your take-offs (getting up from a sitting position) and landings (sitting from a standing position).” Again, I keep things in perspective. It’s amazing what a clear, positive outlook can do for any challenge one is faced with.
My ability to play baseball may not still be what it used to, but my love and interest in the beauty of the game is alive and well! I really thrive on the support of the MS4MS group. I love the mission of MS4MS. One of my life goals is to visit each MLB park and see a game. So far, I’ve been to twelve parks and counting. I may not reach all of them, but when I travel with my family I always visit the local stadium with my MS4MS shirt in tow. I am proud of who I am today. I am proud of the example I set for my children and others who deal with this disease. I will continue to see the glass as half-full and I treasure all of the special people I have met along my MS journey. This summer MS4MS comes to my home ballpark and team. I’m so excited to have MS4MS at Comerica Park with the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, August 10th. Hopefully, I’ll see you there.