MS, The New Scarlet Letter?


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MS The New Scarlet Letter?

We are not Hester living in the pages of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 romantic work of fiction, forced to wear the branded blood red letter A on our bosom as a sign of our sins for all to see. In this novel, she was unjustly forced to wear this her entire lifetime as a symbol of her crime of adultery.

Do you ever feel that you have not been branded with the infamous Letter A but rather an orange lettered MS? You might not feel that you wear it on your bosom but rather on your forehead where it is like a flashing beacon for all to see.

This obviously feels like a branding not of adultery, but of the crime of being weak, sickly or somehow damaged. Like in nature, you feel like you are left behind by the herd as easy pray for it’s natural predators.

Why does our society in it’s constant race to make an extra dollar, to achieve the next promotion, discard so easily those that need help the most. A world that is filled with greed and vanity rather than compassion and humility is one that needs to evaluate why we are all really here living this life.

When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I did indeed feel like I had been branded with a scarlet letter of my own. I had suddenly become “that girl that has MS” instead of the “Cindy” I still was and had always been.

When you walk with the help of a cane, or the use of a wheelchair, do you feel you are pointed at or stared at a little too long?

I can still remember how I used to hate to have to stumble past the hospital’s crowded emergency room to  get my daily IV steroid treatment. I did not want to see anyone I knew and I would not meet anyone in the eye as they passed by.

Life has a way of putting in your path just what you might really need to see. For years I have contemplated getting a seeing eye dog but again felt that this would somehow be marking me out as being “different.” The other day as I wheeled my shopping cart through the crowded grocery store, in my current blurry state of vision, I almost ran into a woman with a seeing eye dog. This is my second close disastrous encounter with a seeing eye dog as I can recall another incident when my shopping cart ran over the front paw of one, as I misjudged the distance of my own cart.

Is life smacking me in the face and saying “Hello, this might be what you need to make your life easier”?

Why does any illness, no matter what it may be, have to make you feel marked as weak, damaged or pitied. It seems to me that if our society offered compassion and support rather than judgments, we would be teaching our children how to live a life that truly has meaning.

I now suddenly understand the growing number of pictures of MS tattoos that have been streaming over the internet. These people  have not only cast off their Scarlet Letter A of shame but have replaced it with the proud proclamation that they are an MS Warrior.

Are you living your life bearing the shame of your own scarlet letter, or have you had the courage and wisdom to realize that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not weak, pitiful or in any way, less worthy.

Is life putting signs in your path trying to get your attention?

Do not be like Hester in Hawthorne’s 17th century novel, a victim of society’s ignorance and ridicule.

You are not your diagnosis. You might have MS but you are not MS.

I,  for one, am casting off my own scarlet letter and when someone points at me, I will hold my head up high and let them stare in the wake of my dignity.

Cindy Lee Lothian

September 27, 2013

About Cindy Lee

I'm a writer, mother and lover of life who has learned that my twenty year dance with the disease MS, has given me Multiple Strengths. I write about love, laughter, healing and hope.
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3 Responses to MS, The New Scarlet Letter?

  1. Jim Schmidt says:

    Cindy, I’ve never seen an MS tattoo, anywhere. Where are they online?

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