Finding strength in illness

Opinion Sunday 18/September/2022 23:04 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Finding strength in illness
Saleh Al-Shaibany

Muscat: The old lady swayed a little as if a strong wind was threatening to sweep her away. But she was in the comfort of her own house and the smooth wall provided the support she needed.

It was only momentarily before she recovered and started walking steadily to her armchair. She explained she was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) but there was no hint of regret in her voice.

Actually, she found it extremely pleasing that she managed to be in reasonable control of the disease for the last twenty years. MS reduces coordination between the body and the brain but she refuses to let the disease get her down.

She takes to comfort that there are thousands like her worldwide. The feeling that she is not alone gives her strength. There is something else that encourages her to move on. It was her husband and two children.

Over the years, she dispelled any doubt that she could have been a liability to her family. Instead, she fought all the way and remained the driving force to them as it had always been before her illness.

“Where will they be now without me?” she jokes now,” I am still managing almost everything in their lives.”

Two decades is a long time but she never looks back remorsefully. It provided her with enough experience to value little things that most of us take for granted.

There is a slur in her speech, picking things from the floor or making a cup of tea take much longer than normal. But she does these chores, including operating her electric sewing machine, with great relish

The irony, she explains, is that she never was a domesticated woman before her illness. She thinks her physical limitation is actually a blessing in disguise. She has learned to make her own curtains, quilts and knit jumpers.

She has also learned to be a good host, too. She always volunteers to entertain the friends of her husband and children at home.

In not so many words, MS has changed her life for the better as opposed to ruining it as most people in her situation would have thought. Of course, in any ups there are downs as well.

There are times when she feels low that now she cannot travel far. However, she soon bounces back. She simply cannot allow letting down her family.

“At my age,” she explains,” I tend to think of my mortality and how long I have got. It is sad that I would have to leave my family behind one day.”

As ever, it is not herself she thinks about. She is closed to seventy but then even the healthiest person tends to have these thoughts. She always assumed she would go first. I guess it is typical of a woman who cares so much about her family. Her doctors predicted progressive deterioration but that was twenty years ago.

It was a blow then but she laughs about it now.  Yes, she has become more unsteady and her grip is not what it was but it has not progressed to make her invalid. It is due, she thinks, to her determination to live as normal as her limitation would allow.

Instead of letting herself slip into a tunnel of despair, she constantly lifted her spirit in many ways. She is now convinced that she is better off than some of the seventy-year old people she knows.

As we were talking, her husband walked in and complained of his painful hip joints. She gave me a knowing look and I smiled back.

When I left, it was she who saw me to the door. Her husband excused himself because of his bad hips.