When I was a girl, my family used to travel to the same cabins in Cheboygan, Michigan for a week every summer. It was always the highlight of my year. My entire family used to make the trip- parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandma. I have so many amazing memories from my summers "up north" growing up.
My cousin Heather still makes the trip almost every year, and we still have family living up there as well. Sadly, I hadn't gone in years, and realized my 7 year old son had never gone. So when Heather said to me this year "Why don't you guys come up for a couple days?" I had mixed emotions. Part of me wanted to go so badly, but part of me was really afraid to make the five hour journey alone with my two children. I hadn't ventured more than an hour from home since being diagnosed with MS almost 2 years ago, and I knew my husband had to work so if we went, we'd be going alone.
Mind you, these are some very rustic cabins. Think camping in a wood box (laughs). There is no air conditioning, many bugs and even bats that often get into the cabins, set way back in dense woods along the Straits of Mackinac. My first fear was the heat. Even as far north as the cabins are, it's been a brutally hot summer everywhere and Cheboygan wasn't excluded. How would I survive five days with no air conditioning? As most know, heat and MS do not mix at all. I've spent the better part of this summer locked in my home for this very reason. And what if I did start flaring while up there? And the drive, could my legs handle it? Would they stiffen up and spasm? How would I even keep up with everyone physically? My mind raced, yet a part of me wanted to go up so badly. I wanted my kids to experience it and to give them a mini-vacation. I wanted them to have even a small taste of the magical summers I spent at the cabins growing up. So, fighting against my fears, I decided we'd make the trip.
The day before while packing, panic started to set in. It's amazing really how much MS has changed not only my body but my self-confidence. I used to take road trips often without so much as a second thought. I'd even driven alone with my daughter from Chicago to Atlanta without hesitation or apprehension. Yet this five hour drive north seemed so enormous to me, the fear of something going wrong either along the way or while up there almost made me cancel the trip more than once. Still, Wednesday morning came and the three of us piled into the car and headed north.
Much to my relief, the trip up went smoothly. We got to the cabins and went about unpacking our stuff, when I realized I also needed to grocery shopping. You see, it's sort of a 'rule' that while up north, you eat whatever you want, whenever you want. This usually translates into mounds of junk food and often. Kids can go crazy, eating whatever is around without asking their parents or fear of hearing "You can't eat cookies at 8am!" So shopping was a must- despite the fact my legs were pretty sore and stiff from the drive up. Yet despite my fatigue and soreness, even the shopping trip went smoothly, and we made it back to the cabins with a car load of absolutely nothing nutritious whatsoever. (laughs)
I'm happy to report the rest of the trip went just as smoothly, too. My kids and Heather's kids had an absolute blast. We were also able to visit family that lives up there, even having a bomb fire on the beach while looking for shooting stars one night. I did have to nap daily to rejuvenate and regain some energy and strength. I also moved slowly and the heat did tend to get bit rough at times. But being on the water, and the cabins being in constant shade due to the surrounding woods, it was tolerable. I even went swimming for the first time in years with the kids. Much to my delight, I realized in water, I'm almost 'normal'. Of course I still have zero balance so the waves knocked me over easily, but even that was pretty funny and gave the kids a laugh. In water, I could move freely. I played and rough housed with the kids in ways I haven't in years- in ways I've never been able to with my son in his entire life. It was amazing.
So overall, it was an outstanding trip. We had such a good time! My point to this story? Take a chance in your life. I think too often those of us with MS underestimate ourselves or get lost in our illness. I know I did. Then I realized the day may come that taking such a trip with my kids won't even be an option for me anymore. I hope that's not the case, but it is the reality when facing a future with MS. So, I took the chance while it was still an option, and I'm so glad I did. Not only did we create memories to last us a lifetime, but I found self-confidence and strength I didn't realize I still had.
My challenge to other MS'ers reading this? Take a chance in your own life, and never underestimate yourself or your strength, no matter how weak you think you are. You have nothing to lose but a world of self-confidence to gain.
Until next time, be well :)