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.