Exclusive Content

Remembering to give thanks, even when MS makes you forget

By Matt Cavallo

I was clinically diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis and I have not suffered a major relapse since the winter of 2016. I do, however, live with some nagging symptoms that are left over from my previous relapses. The symptom that bothers me, and others around me, the most is my memory. 

Memory issues make everything more difficult. It makes routine occurrences such as trips to the grocery store longer when you can’t remember why you are there, what you are supposed to get, or that you have a list folded up in your pocket. It makes work harder when you can’t remember what you committed to, or if you told a coworker or boss you would do something and then completely forgot the conversation ever took place. Friends can get annoyed when you say you will do something or go somewhere and then completely forget. I think these memory issues are hardest for people who are in your life everyday, such as your family and partners.

No one has been more affected by my memory lapses than my wife. The other day she told me she needed my decision on something we had previously discussed. The only problem was I thought I was hearing about it for the first time. This happens over and over in our communication and relationship. I remember the things that are part of my routine or on my calendar, but if you ask me something in passing, I will most likely forget it.

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and when she was first showing signs of dementia, I remember her being frustrated that she was forgetful and others around her were frustrated with her too. Then I realized I have similar, albeit not even close to the same magnitude of Alzheimer’s, short-term memory issues where people get frustrated with me for forgetting. 

I think another difference is that I know and understand why I forget. Because I understand by MS and my limitations, I don’t get defensive if someone says I forgot something. I know it is probably true. I do things to try to hide this from people at work or people I don’t see often. But if you are in my life in a large capacity, you know I am going to forget something. There are some who will be incredibly frustrated with me for forgetting and there are some who will be forgiving. 

For example, my wife is forgiving and patient. She has been living with me on this MS journey. She doesn’t always call me out when I forget something. She’ll usually just tell me again like it is new information to me. This takes a lot of patience and understanding on her part. 

MS memory can be difficult not only for the person living with MS, but also, for those around them. As a person with MS and memory issues, I give thanks for all of my friends, family, and especially for my wife for being patient with me even though I may forget things from time-to-time. I know memory issues can be frustrating, and I thank you for your support even if I forget what I am thanking you for. I’m sure all of us with MS and memory issues feel the same way.