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’Tis always the season to mind your wellness

By Dan Digmann

The day after Thanksgiving in 2020 upended everything I thought was certain about the holidays. It also shifted my approach to how I will manage my multiple sclerosis from this day forward. 


For years I had professed “Oh Holy Night” ¬was my hands-down favorite Christmas song. But as my wife, Jennifer, and I popped open boxes of decorations to deck our house with lots of holiday cheer, I realized that a song about St. Nick also is at the top of what sparks my spirit for the season.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – specifically performed by Bruce Springsteen – is the quintessential Christmas tune that has to kick off my tree-trimming playlist. Yes, I’m a Springsteen fanatic (we have a room in our house dedicated to The Boss), but this song’s place in my holiday heart goes beyond my fandom and back to my childhood.

For as often as my mom, Nancy, read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” to my brother, Mark, sister, Dawn, and me when we were growing up, she effortlessly invoked the lyrics of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” at least twice as much in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve.

“He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so you better be good for goodness sake,” she’d say in a matter-of-fact tone every time my siblings and I were misbehaving. An effective enforcement tool that deflected a child’s anger from the disciplinarian. 

Well played, Mom. Well played.

Fast forward to 2020 and my first time listening to Springsteen and the E Street Band officially launch the holiday season for Jennifer and me. I paused as Bruce and ‘The Big Man’ Clarence Clemmons did a call-and-response to, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, you better be good for goodness sake.”

What amazing words of warning for parents to have in their pockets at Christmas time, I thought to myself. I started rationalizing that children really should be good the entire year because Santa doesn’t wait until Christmastime to make a list and check it twice to find out who’s naughty or nice. He always knows.

And then, as it often does, MS muscled its way to the forefront of my mind. I instantly had an epiphany about my disease, self-care, and overall health as Jennifer and I lined our fireplace mantle with evergreen garland.

“Why does it seem we don’t make it a priority to manage things about our health until either something is going wrong or we’re within weeks of our regular check-ups?” I rhetorically asked out loud.

For example: even if you brush and floss regularly, are you sure to do an extra-good job of it each day in the week before your dentist appointment? Yeah, me too.

OK, so I am diligent about taking my disease-modifying therapy as prescribed to help slow the progression of my MS. But what about everything else I could and should be doing to better keep this chronic illness under control? An impromptu inventory of the basic essentials, and I quickly realized I have a lot of work to do.

It’s not that I don’t do things like watch my diet, drink lots of water, get enough sleep, stretch my muscles, maintain physical movement, and control my stress levels. But as far as incorporating each of these as a part of my regular routine, an honest self-evaluation would read more like my teachers’ comments on my junior high report card: “Danny shows inconsistent effort.”

MS is the antithesis of Santa Claus, but it is always with me, and in many ways always knows if I’ve been bad or good with the aforementioned practices of my wellbeing. So why wait for things to go wrong with my MS or for my next neurologist appointment to really focus on taking the best care of myself? 

My wellness, especially when living with MS, knows no season. It’s something that deserves my primary focus the entire year and is why Santa Claus is forever coming to my town.