When I was first diagnosed with MS, I was reeling. The diagnosis seemed bleak, the advice from my doctors was inconsistent and troubling, and I didn't know anyone with MS. So I immediately started looking for mentors. Mentoring is funny: I think we tend to think of mentors seeking out their mentees, but in many cases it's the other way around. If you want and need good mentoring, sometimes you need to look for it.
First I found Phil, a guy in my local community who had a story that had many similarities to mine. We met, talked, and he described something that was invaluable to me: his path through this disease. Then I met Susan, a fellow academic who helped me think of useful ways to navigate the profession with regard to MS. I also talked with Sharon, a family friend with a lot of perspective on MS: she's had the disease some 40 years, has pursued a non-pharmaceutical treatment approach, and is incredibly positive.
I met with some of these mentors face-to-face and others via the phone or online. And there are others: people I've chatted with on YouTube, mainly, as there is so much sharing and discussion about the disease on that site. Every one of these mentoring relationships has been extremely valuable to me as I've worked toward sorting out my feelings, perspectives, plans, and approaches.
And today I had the chance to meet Sharon in person. She and I were called to Colorado for a funeral (my stepdad; her uncle), so it wasn't the cheeriest of meet-ups, but it was a meet-up nonetheless. I'm in my mid 40s and Sharon is in her mid 60s, and we're both doing very well. Yes, we both have this disease. And yes, we both have a few impairments. But overall we're both thriving. Seeing Sharon means seeing future possibility, longevity, resilience, and hope. It was a great meeting.