Leaf at sunset

© Muhammad Hudari, iStock.com

Just as nobody warned me how my easy life would turn upside down with the birth of a child, I apparently didn’t get the memo that it could be almost unbearable to grow old. The big difference is that with a child things got better, much better—lovely really—whereas getting old is likely to be a downward slope. Down and out.

There is no denying that, at 81, I am on my way out, and from what the doctor tells me, my demise may be an ugly one. At first we thought I had Parkinson’s disease, which seemed worrisome enough. But it now seems my fate may be far worse. Although my brilliant neurologist isn’t absolutely certain yet, a recent brain scan shows a white blob they call “a hot cross bun.” And that benign name suggests a deadly disease, Multiple Systems Atrophy. MSA for short (but decidedly not sweet).

The hideous name says it all. My doctor slipped in that horrific possibility at the end of a visit a few months ago, throwing me for the proverbial loop. I didn’t have enough wits about me—or time then—to ask her more. So I did a little research online, until I dared not look further.

What I did see is that the condition is similar to the dreaded Lou Gehrig’s disease. If I do, in fact, have MSA, then the systems of my poor body will gradually “waste away.” Yes, those are the words I found under a dictionary definition of “atrophy.” I’m having to take deep breaths to stay calm even as I write them. WASTE AWAY. Who wouldn’t be scared to death, right?

I have hesitated to write those words in order to protect you, my beloved readers, from having to read them. But several people have told me lately to keep writing, that I am a truth-teller and an inspiration because I am willing to be so raw and vulnerable, so real. And I gather many of us need and welcome encouragement to be our own raw, vulnerable—our most authentic—selves. But please let me know if I’ve overstepped the line here.

Indeed, I have not written since I learned about this latest possible diagnosis because there wasn’t much I could say that felt real without speaking of this life-changing context in which I now live. Because I dearly want to keep writing, I felt I had to tell you. The good news about this awful disease is that the mind is the last thing to go if it goes at all, so writing is something I can probably continue to do with or without my systems intact.

Even with my already limited energy, putting honest, compassionate words to the page is one sure way I can try to contribute, perhaps to make a small difference in our world so desperately in need of truth and love. Thank you for bearing witness to my disturbing testimony and for being tender with your own dear selves, whatever life presents to you. For we are all in this soup together. With my love and blessings to you, now and always.

About the Author: Suzanne Grenager

A seasoned writer and mentor with a gift for helping people see and be their most authentic, empowered Self.

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