Heartfelt Lessons from a Journey with MS

 
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Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects about 400,000 people in the United States, and about 2 1/2 million worldwide. There are approximately 200 new cases diagnosed each week in the United States, says the MS Discovery Forum. Rates of MS are higher for those who live further from the equator.  While anyone can develop MS, it generally targets those between the age of 45-64 and seems to be more common in women than men.

According to Healthline there are several early signs indicting the presence of multiple sclerosis (MS) which include:

bladder issues

vision problems

pains and spasms

sexual dysfunction

cognitive problems

weakness or fatigue

tingling and numbness

balance problems or dizziness

This does not mean that everyone with MS will have the same symptoms.

MS can also bring about:

seizures                                                                                                                         

hearing loss                                                                                                                 

slurred speech                                                                                                             

trouble swallowing                                                                                                  

breathing problems                                                                                              

uncontrollable shaking                                                                                                     

Not every relationship handles the challenges of MS in the same ways. I had the opportunity to meet a delightful couple who had been living with MS. The moment I walked into the home of Michael and Gail Gerber, I was encompassed with a sense of warmth, laughter and fun. The whole atmosphere in their home was one of love and a willingness to share their life with whomever was lucky enough to come through their door.

My first observation of Michael was the twinkle in his eyes and how he absolutely adored his wife.  That was more prevalent to me than seeing this man who was a quadriplegic sitting in an electric wheelchair. He was eager to tell me about his beloved Gail and how they met. He didn’t hold back in declaring that he loved her more today than the day he married her. When I asked him his secret to a happy marriage, there was no hesitation – Gratitude!

WATCH MICHAEL & GAIL’s VIDEO HERE

Michael explained that gratitude was the most important thing in any relationship but especially in a marriage. Gail was quick to confirm that not a day went by that Michael doesn’t shower his words of gratitude upon her, showing how much he loved and appreciated her. Michael shared that if people don’t show gratitude to family members, friends, or employers it’s as if we have a gift that is never given!

Michael had gone into the mortgage business in 1982 and was in it for over 30 years. He started to go up and down the state of CA with a few other key players in the mortgage industry and developed an association. In those days this association was known as CAMB, California Association of Mortgage Brokers. This is now California Association Mortgage Professional, CAMP, along with all the city associations such as LAMBA for Los Angeles.

 Even though Michael and Gail’s journey has been one filled with bad surprises and disappointment, no one would ever know. Michael has always been athletic, jogging daily, and it was on one of those runs he experienced some symptoms that caused him to seek out a medical exam.

 During my time in their home, I realized I was standing before an amazing  source of inspiration! Michael explained that he was not suffering from MS because suffering is an option and it’s not the road he had chosen to live on. Surely the disease has affected their lives, but the positive attitudes of both Gail and Michael overcame any negativity associated with a journey like theirs.

The Gerbers were one of the few people I have come across who stayed proactive by thinking ahead of this very progressive disease. They first contacted Gamburd 15 years ago, seeking equipment for their home to help them navigate the changes MS brought to their lives.

They had heard about Gamburd from a friend and were thrilled to learn there was a company that had an in-house construction team that was reliable.  This alone was a game changer! Imagine a construction team with integrity, that showed up on time, never left them in the dark, but provided constant communication and had their team diligently working on the home daily as promised! Gamburd even has a reputation of cleaning up, so no mess was ever left behind!

The Gerbers had their doors widened to accommodate Michael’s wheelchair. They completely re-modeled their master bathroom and added a Shower Buddy. The Shower Buddy choice came after Michael had been using a shower chair and due to the loss of upper body strength, slid off the shower chair and broke his leg in two places! At that point, the Gerbers selected to bring in the Shower Buddy System.

Last but certainly not least, they had an over-head lift installed which also brought them peace of mind. The overhead lift allowed Gail to transport Michael single-handedly from bed to chair without compromising her own back.

The Gerbers never kept their tips for living with MS a secret.  They chose to share their words of encouragement with others and for nine years participated in an MS Support Group. With Gail at his side they shared a lot of humorous comments and chose to be a dynamic team with a profound commitment to making each day their best day. Here is a blog Michael wrote sharing how perspective is everything.

They did what they could to help others and were key in fundraising for families affected by MS personally bringing in over $600,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Michael left us here on planet earth seven days after our interview.  Yet his message of gratitude continues to ring in my ears, throughout the MS community and for all who had the opportunity to know him and love him. For that we are forever grateful…