I was honored to speak at this wonderful event last Saturday, May 9 at the Four Seasons in Seattle. The text of my speech is below. The event raised more than a million dollars in one evening for the National MS Society’s research and other programs.
A video shown to the attendees ended with me saying, “I’ve been told by so many people who would know that there’s no doubt MS can be solved, that the issue can be solved, it’s just a matter of money. It’s just that simple, and many things in life are like that and this is one of them.” The first line of the speech picked up on that.
It’s true that many things in life are simple. Living with MS is definitely not one of them.
My journey with MS began in my mid-20s with numbness in my limbs. For the next several years, my relapsing-remitting MS didn’t demand too much of me. When my symptoms would flare up, I’d hit them with steroids. When the first MS medications became available, they helped some, too.
As you saw in the video, my legal career took off. I was able to work on some of the most high-profile cases in the nation – to literally be part of history. But as my MS progressed, it became more and more difficult for me to keep up with the mental and physical demands of such a high-pressure job.
After working so hard and doing my best to cram a 40-year legal career into just 14 years… I made the difficult decision to step down from day-to-day litigation work and to leave my dream job as a partner at this amazing law firm – a place where some of the most powerful attorneys in the nation showed me the utmost compassion because, as they said, it could happen in a heartbeat to any of us. //
Since then, MS has continued to take its toll on my mobility. I am able to walk less and less each year… and I can’t focus or multi-task like I used to. I struggle with accepting this version of myself. It seems that each week brings some loss and a new adjustment.
Life with MS is definitely not simple. //
Still, I feel that I’m a fortunate man with MS. In fact, that’s the name of my blog. It’s helpful to share my thoughts about this new life I’ve been handed – the good things and the bad things.
On the good side, MS hadn’t yet affected my life when my children were young and needed chasing. And then, while I was still working in Washington D.C., I reconnected with and married an old friend from junior high school in Bellevue. She is the kindest and wisest life partner I could ever hope to have. Together, we are part of a community of friends and family who love and support us.
I am also fortunate because my short career provided me with excellent health insurance… generous long term disability insurance… and a stable financial position. MS has also spared most of my cognitive functions – at least so far. I continue to consult at my D.C. law firm… to write and to teach young lawyers… and to be actively engaged with the National MS Society.
Finally, I am fortunate because I have hope. You and your support for the National MS Society give me hope.
Just look at what Society-funded research has already been able to accomplish in the past two decades. There was not one single medication to treat relapsing-remitting MS when I was diagnosed in 1994. Now, thanks to research, there are a dozen approved drugs.
Today, more and more research is being focused on the most progressive forms of the disease… with the hope that one day, scientists will be able to do for progressive MS what they’ve done for relapsing-remitting – slowing or stopping exacerbations and limiting progression.
But even more exciting for me, the Society’s research also is investigating how to actually repair function that has already been lost. I truly believe that it is simply a matter of time – and of money – before I will walk again, cane and wheelchair free. And then, the next logical discovery will be a way to end MS forever. //
For so many people in our Chapter community, hope is also an education made possible by a Society scholarship… or a grant to buy an air conditioner… or classes to help them learn to live their best lives with MS. You make all these things possible. You give the gift of hope to everyone living with MS. // //
Life with MS is a dance – for me, my wife and everyone we love. Sometimes, MS takes the lead and we must follow. At other times, MS must follow our lead. And sometimes, we even dance ahead of MS… leaving it sitting at the side of the ballroom.
So many people who have less than I do would never have the chance to take the lead in that dance if it were not for the National MS Society’s resources and support… if it were not for people like you who are here tonight.
Right now, each of you has the opportunity to take the lead in this dance. Life with MS is not simple. But it is simple for you to make a profound difference for all of us who live with this disease. So please, give generously… and then we will dance.