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By Cathy Chapman, MSA Coalition Patient Representative

Not in a million years did I ever imagine being faced with such a rare disease as Multiple System Atrophy. My life changed overnight when I was diagnosed. I entered into Social Security Disability, no longer drove, and any plans for after retirement were gone. Through all of the changes and the daily challenges of symptoms, I asked myself, “How do I find purpose”?

“Begin each day as if it were on purpose.” – Unknown

I found that the little things in life were now more meaningful to me. Observing the sunrise and seeing that its brilliant color is different every day makes me thankful I have been given another day. Having that cup of coffee with my special creamer gets me started even when my symptoms are roaring in like a lion. The changing of the seasons – spring with the migrant birds coming to make their nests, summer having my scaled down garden, and fall being a favorite season – are even more enjoyable to experience.

“It is in changing that we find purpose.” – Heraclitus

As more changes came with MSA and more doctors added to my journey, I changed as well. I was troubled as to what the purpose of my life would be. I met a friend, Ann, through an MSA support group, so we attended the MSA Coalition Patient /Family Conference together in New Orleans. Not only did we become good friends but I found a home with the Coalition. Ann passed away in March of 2017. Since then, I attended several more conferences and eventually began my volunteer journey with the Coalition. I had found purpose.

Traveling to visit family was important so I was going to make it my purpose to make the trips while I still could. With the adjustments made, I was able to make those trips. They are more meaningful to me, not to mention the new memories made.

“The purpose of life is the life of purpose.”Robin S. Sharma

The friends and even those that I have not personally met on this journey inspire and give me encouragement every day with the purpose they have made in their lives. Everyone on this journey has a purpose, even if they don’t know what it is quite yet. My life’s potential and purpose are still there – they just look different now.