I Love Life: Multiple Sclerosis Survivor Offers Message Of Hope
National Multiple Sclerosis Ambassador Jackie Waldman was living the perfect life. She had three healthy children, a loving husband and a thriving business. Without notice, the native Texan found out she had multiple sclerosis.
“When I found out it didn’t have a cure, I just didn’t know what to do. I had led a charmed life before all this happened. I was now numb from my waist to my toes. I was frightened and scared. My husband was with me when the doctor sadly told us. I cried…I hugged him and said I was sorry. I knew that I couldn’t accept this. I had to find a way to beat the disease even though there’s no cure.”
Thanks to M.S., Jackie was no longer independent.
“Before the diagnosis, I had my own business. I had 25 sales representatives throughout the country, 25 employees, and 3 great kids. I was really involved in their activities. My husband and I live in Dallas surrounded by a huge family. We were busy with our social life and now I was numb from my waist to my toes. My doctor tried steroids and that didn’t work. I then underwent chemotherapy. Aside from losing my hair, I lost my self-esteem. I was at a loss physically and spiritually.”
Jackie was also sucked into a major mental depression.
“I started staying home more and isolating myself. I remained in my bed and that’s when the depression and loneliness consumed me. Bitterness and anger swelled up inside of me. I now was thinking of no one but me and was mire in a five year pity party.”
After those long and difficult five years, Jackie says a chocolate éclair changed everything!
“My husband tried unsuccessfully to fix the hopelessness in my life. He came home one day and told me friends had brought over dinner. I remember him telling me to get out of bed and eat with the family. Although I didn’t want to, I agreed. During the dinner, I kept falling asleep. When I woke up, I was holding up a half eaten chocolate éclair with custard smeared all over my face. My husband and three children were sadly staring at me. All of a sudden, I realized what I had become. I thought—if I’m like this now, what am I going to be like a year from now? I decided then and there to end the pity party! Thanks for the chocolate éclair—that made a huge difference.”
Jackie reached another turning point in her life after viewing a Steven Spielberg movie.
“My friend asked me to go see “Schindler’s List” with her. At the time, I knew I had to make some changes. But, I didn’t know the movie would be a pivotal point for me. While watching the movie, I witnessed the courage of people who were suffering and still found meaning in their lives—by giving the last piece of bread to each other. Oscar Schindler did everything in his power to save one more life. I realized true survival wasn’t about how my legs worked, how my body worked or about getting my old body back. True survival was survival of my spirit no matter what. I was killing my spirit by feeling sorry for myself and ignoring everyone in the universe except me.”
If you’re experiencing difficult times in life right now and feel like giving up, Jackie has a message worth hearing.
“I wanted someone to take care of me for those five years. I was determined to blame someone. Finally, I realized no one could fix it for me. I was the one who had to fix it because it was my attitude. When I chose to live again and see that life could be good—by giving to others and having the courage to put my own stuff aside long enough to do something for a family member, friend or a stranger in the community, that’s when I re-discovered life! Even if you don’t think you can find a good attitude, just try to give a little. Your attitude automatically changes because your perception changes. Life is bigger than our problems and we are bigger than our problems.”
In her best selling book, “The Courage To Give,” Jackie features real life stories of people who have discovered the joy of living. In one of the chapters, guest author Bea Salazar writes, “There was a time in my life when I was in so much physical and emotional pain that I just didn’t think I could go on. I spent every day and every night thinking about my pain and how useless my life had become. Then one morning, I found a little boy digging out food in a dumpster. The minute, I saw him I realized that there were children whose pain was much greater than my own. God led me to find that child and to find all the children I’ve worked with since that day. In working to help those children, my own pain has been diminished and my life has become a tremendous joy.”
No doubt about it! As Jackie Waldman discovered for herself: concentrating on one’s blessings combined with the gift of giving produces powerful results.