by Sheri Horn Hasan
Ten weeks pregnant, I lay on the table where I’d undergone a routine sonogram to check on my baby’s progress when the doctor solemnly informed me that the baby’s heartbeat was no more.
Shocked and numb, I listened to his kind but clinical voice telling me that the baby more than likely had chromosomal damage and that the miscarriage was, in the end, for the best. As my brain consciously registered his words, my heart pounded and then silently broke. I was 41, trying to have the second child my husband and I had always wanted.
What I didn’t know then is how this tragedy would trigger a series of life-altering events and propel me on my own personal journey of deep woundedness–one that would change the course of my life forever.
Six weeks following the loss of my baby I began to experience symptoms of intermittent tingling that ran from my right hip down into my thigh. Walking became difficult, and my legs felt like they weighed a ton as I struggled up and down stairs to chase after my extremely active pre-schooler.
Fatigued, and feeling worse every day, I visited my general practitioner father-in-law, who gave me a shot of cortisone in the hip. Several weeks later, when that proved ineffective, he x-rayed my hip.
The x-ray showed nothing unusual. Perplexed about my other symptoms—which now included vertigo, dizziness and the feeling that I had an imaginary belt cinched one notch too tight around my waist—he sent me to a neurologist for further testing.
All the while, the numbness continued to spread from my right leg and foot to my left foot, and continued to creep slowly up my left leg until it finally reached my waist. I marveled at how it seemed to “jump” from one side to the other, while at the same time I panicked about why.
The dizziness became pervasive, the burning pain in my right hip and thigh more acute, and walking seemed a mystifyingly demanding task. Such was my condition when, after examining me, the neurologist sent me for MRIs of the back and brain.
When I returned to him, MRI films in hand, he immediately suggested admitting me to the hospital where in all honesty I was quite happy to agree to go. Exhausted, confused, and dizzy, at least I’ll get a reprieve from the demands of being a wife and mother, and an uninterrupted night’s sleep, I thought.
Three MRI’s, one spinal tap, five intravenous infusions of a high dose steroid later, and the diagnosis was conclusive: Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
MS is a chronic, progressive, neurological disease of the central nervous system, or the brain and spinal cord. It is an autoimmune disease in which certain white blood cells in the body, mistakenly thinking there is a foreign invader, attack the myelin, or the fatty coating that surrounds the nerves.
Myelin enables the nerves to transmit electric impulses from the brain throughout the body. When the myelin is attacked and eaten away by these rampaging white blood cells, nerve conduction is impeded and the result is tingling, numbness and intermittent loss of feeling in whatever particular area of the body the attacked nerves traverse.
After pronouncing his verdict, the doctor made it clear that if we wanted another child, and I relapsed during my pregnancy, there would be no relief. My other choices were to forgo another pregnancy and begin taking one of the injectible medications to try to slow the progression of the disease. Or I could do nothing and take my chances.
And he was fearful I might relapse quickly—within only three to four months.
To make matters worse, my doctor father-in-law, in an attempt to be helpful, told my husband that if things did not go well for me I might end up in a wheelchair sometime within the next ten years.
I struggled to cope with this momentous news. In the months that followed, the realities of this disease were tough at first to digest. It was even tougher to believe that I would at some point fully recover the feeling in my lower body and be able to walk normally and take care of my now five-year-old son without succumbing to total exhaustion.
And then I woke up one morning, still exhausted, partially numb, and intermittently dizzy—still terrified and depressed about my future—when something inside suddenly clicked. This is my life and not my disease’s, I reasoned. How could I live the rest of my life in fear? What kind of existence would that prove to be? Was I really going to just accept that I might be in a wheelchair one day and have no control over my own destiny?
I recognized early on that I could choose to take to my bed, pull the covers over my head, and refuse to face each day. Or I could put one foot in front of the other (no small feat at this point) and go as far as I could—one step at a time.
The image of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind kept coming to mind. The climactic scene—just before the intermission—where, having returned to her father’s decimated farm she finds him feeble and confused.
She realizes that it’s all up to her—she alone must keep the family alive. As she digs desperately in the dirt in search of food, she triumphantly finds a carrot. Raising it high up to the sky she declares: “With God as my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!”
I knew I could never just give myself over to this disease. I resolved early on that—whatever MS ultimately had in store for me—it would not beat me. I vowed, “with God as my witness, I’ll never not walk again!”
With that realization, I determined to live my life my way. And I understood that the definition of “my way” could be whatever I wanted it to be. I decided I had to live my life, make my plans and if, in the end, I woke up unable to carry them out, I would deal with it as it came.
I resolved to learn as much as possible about MS. I joined the National MS Society’s mailing list, attended a local support group, went to patient programs, and read everything I could get my hands on about the disease.
I lay to rest the goal of a long-desired second child, and understood that it was not in my cards. My doctor suggested I go on a particular immunomodulatory drug therapy he believed would take effect quickly—he was fearful I might relapse sooner rather than later. I argued with him, saying I wanted the one with no side effects. I didn’t care if I had to take a shot each day. I refused to give in.
As I began taking the daily injectible drug that might help slow the progression of the disease if it proved to work for me, I returned to the study of astrology, an area of great interest in my earlier days. The astrological philosophy that events in our lives may be fated, but that we are all born with the freedom to choose our own paths to our ultimate destinies, intrigued me. I realized that life is always a matter of choice! And I was choosing to look at my glass as half full, rather than half empty.
Waking the Personal Will
In time, I began to realize that a lot of my “issues” had to do with my inability to express myself. I was daddy’s little girl, but looking back it seemed that I always had to chase him for attention. When he’d smile at me and call me “cookie,” I’d light up like a Christmas tree! It took the experience of my MS diagnosis and going deep through my astrological study to realize how tyrannical he’d been when I was growing up.
Did he abuse me? Absolutely not…but was it his way or the highway? Hell, yeah! So I came of age subconsciously “stuffing” everything I feared to express. And that’s how I eventually got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself…hoo boy, did I really need THAT big of a wake-up call?
It didn’t take too long after that to make the leap to my husband and my marriage. Controlling and angry, he prevented me from expressing my personal will over and over again. At first, I was willing to “compromise,” but when our son was born, his behavior became increasingly controlling. I’d retreated and avoided, for the sake of peace.
A year after my diagnosis, most of my symptoms decreased substantially and I no longer had to take to my bed by 7:30 p.m. each night when my husband returned from work. When my first post-diagnostic MRI of the brain showed no progression I was ecstatic! My first call was to the pharmaceutical rep for the maker of my chosen medication, with whom I had struck up an acquaintance. She was as excited as I about my positive results.
Shortly after that call, she invited me to become a patient advocate. When she explained that I could share my experience with others newly diagnosed with MS, I jumped at the opportunity. What a blessing to be able to speak with others who faced the same terror and uncertainty in the early days of their diagnosis as me, and to reassure them that they had choices, as MS was by no means the end of their road.
Two and a half years later, my health improved to the point where people did not believe I had MS. I initiated a divorce, continued my study of archetypal/psychological astrology, found full-time employment as the marketing manager with a non-profit organization, and refused to live my life in fear of what tomorrow might bring.
Most importantly—now that eleven years have passed since my diagnosis—I never experienced the relapse predicted by my diagnosing neurologist. I know that I defied the odds. I continue now with my volunteer work as an MS patient advocate, practice as a professional astrologer, and have swapped a full-time job for my own writing/marketing business.
While I pray for a cure for MS, I also count my blessings, which include that continuing MS research provides the greatest hope that, when I picture my future, it does not contain a wheelchair.
And believe me—that is no small thing.
Are you ready to look newly at the choices available in your life and create clarity, manifest relationships, get through crisis, and live life to its highest potential? Let’s dive into your Natal Astrology.