JENNIFER POWELL: I think the best way to describe me is happy and joyful no matter what life brings. And that doesn't mean not being sad. That just means holding onto the joy. Mike is amazing. I'm a lucky woman to have a husband like Mike-- marriage with a progressive disease that continues to morph and grow that you have no idea what to expect. And it's been hard on our marriage.
I never really understood what secondary progressive MS meant. Having secondary progressive MS is profoundly different from having relapsing/remitting. I began to experience more leg pain, and I had trouble walking. I had another MRI, and it was found that I had a myriad of active lesions in my spinal cord. And they corresponded to that, which I was having difficulty with. That meant that my disease was progressing.
I remember the day I was diagnosed and Mike held my hand, and I felt that connection. Yet, this disease is powerful. And as it progresses, it can't help but have a seismic shift on your relationship. And the things you used to do may not be there anymore. That was difficult. I think it's important that it's OK to have resentment at this disease as a couple. It's unavoidable.
And Mike never chose to be a caregiver. Overnight, he was suddenly thrust there. And I never chose to be cared for. Being a caregiver and being a husband are two totally different things, and you really have to keep communication open. I think it's important to redefine what intimacy is to a couple. To us, we certainly had to, and we found ways that are actually closer than you would classically think of-- we smile, we laugh, the little things that we do.
Then I learned that I needed to incorporate other ways from my mind, body, and spirit. And I started to incorporate meditation, and guided imagery, and prayer. And I also did acupuncture massage and physical therapy. I find it so interesting that as my disease has progressed, I have never found such joy in life that I have now. And I attribute that to many things, but among them, Abby.
She makes me get up. It brings me out of myself, and I think that is so integral to my ability to find happiness and joy. What changed for me is finding a purpose outside myself. I began volunteering a while ago with the Golden Retriever Rescue. I found it really important to focus on that which I could do, find a sense of fulfillment that has nothing to do with this disease. Abby has taught me to live for today. Just like MS, things change day-to-day. We do not know what's going to happen tomorrow. Enjoy it. Enjoy today, be happy, slow down.