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It’s okay to ask for help

By Dan Digmann
A freshly fallen half-foot of snow muted Floyd’s truck muffler as it sat idling in Jennifer and my driveway. Just as I thought something potentially was wrong with his front-mounted plow, I heard a shovel scrape across our front porch ramp.

Floyd, who we pay just to plow our driveway, was finishing up a job I was too weak to complete a few hours earlier. Multiple sclerosis had zapped the strength from my arms and left me too fatigued to clear away the wintery white. 

“Jennifer will just have to drive her power wheelchair down the ramp inside the garage,” I had conceded as I dropped the shovel over the porch railing and retreated to pout on the living room couch. I was frustrated and very vengeful of this stupid disease that was steadily taking away the abilities I once had.

The shoveling broke me out of my melancholy mood, and I went to the front door to stop Floyd in his kindhearted tracks. On the surface I told him how his extra efforts were greatly appreciated, but he didn’t need to do it because he had so many other places to plow. Still, deep down I was swearing to myself that I was not going to let this disease get the best of me. I had every intention to go back out and shovel after I rested.

Floyd, who knows Jennifer and I both have MS, just smiled, shrugged his shoulders and waved me back into the house. “It isn’t a problem, and I’m happy to help.”

When I told him how thankful I was and that I’d pay him extra, Floyd again smiled, shrugged his shoulders and waved me back into the house. “Happy to help.”

This was the reminder I needed, and it’s the story I continue remember each time I think I can do it all in spite of MS. The reality is I can’t do it all by myself. Can you? Yet, for those of us living with MS, how reluctant are we to ask for help?

It’s as though the minute we were diagnosed with MS, asking for help was simultaneously downgraded to a sign of being lazy, giving up ourselves and giving into the disease. I’ve been there, done that. Heck no, I’m not going to seek assistance. I’ve got this! Stay outta my way! I’m still strong! 

But here’s the reality: asking for help doesn’t show a sign of weakness. It shows a sign of respect for yourself and for the people who care about you.  

It’s like, what did I stand to gain had I done everything I could have to finish shoveling the six inches of snow off the 20-foot ramp at the front of our house? Just so I could say, “There! Take that MS!” But then I would have had absolutely no energy left to serve as Jennifer’s primary caregiver and help her with bathroom transfers, fixing dinner and getting into bed for the night. 

How selfish of me.

OK, so I didn’t actually ask Floyd for help. However, I recognized when I needed to stop shoveling for the aforementioned reasons, and I didn’t stand in his way after he assured me it wasn’t a problem for him. 

The last thing I knew, none of us has an “S” on our chest signifying we inherently are superhuman and are able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Our world is full of kind and caring people who want to help others in whatever way they can, and those of us living with MS should take inspiration from the words of celebrity cook Rachael Ray: “Take the help where you can get it.”

There was a time in early 2020 that I felt something tense up in my lower back just before I was getting ready to transfer Jennifer in the bathroom. “Uh-oh,” I said. “This could be trouble.” 

While I managed to complete the transfer, I knew that to try and do anymore ran the risk of me really jacking up my back to the point that I couldn’t walk, stand or go to work. So, we called on Jennifer’s family to have her brother, Steve, come and stay with us to help her transfer until I got better.

I wasn’t being lazy, giving up on myself or giving into MS. Rather, I was looking beyond myself and toward the greater good of each person involved in my life.

It’s okay for those of us living with MS to ask for the help we need, and we never should feel guilty about it. Because, if the roles were reversed, we know we each would be there to smile and say, “Happy to help.”