Multiple Sclerosis: Illness Narratives And Body Types

1347 words - 6 pages

In the summer between third and fourth grade my mother and father sat my sister and I down and informed us that my mom had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My mom’s experience of MS emulates narrative concepts detailed in Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Storyteller. In his work, Frank describes different kinds of illness narratives ranging from the morbid chaos narrative to the more inspiring restitution narrative. In accordance with Frank’s definitions, my mother has responded to the situation by using her body didactically and communicatively by proactively reaching out to an active community of MS sufferers, including recently diagnosed friends and family. She has used her body with ...view middle of the document...

In her case, those images were products of society’s view of her before her diagnosis. Mom was the same as ever to her family and her coworkers, and she aimed to keep us thinking of her as she was before—“what the popular phrase calls the ‘picture of health’” (44). Despite knowing that my mother had MS I failed to truly grasp the impact, both physically and emotionally, the condition had on her and would continue to have in the future. Always inquisitive, I occasionally pestered my mother with nervous questions. Of course, trying not to worry her son, my mother refused to break character in her responses. Seeking “predictability of appearance,” the illusion of health was more valuable to her than telling me the strictest truth (44). Despite her healthy appearance, my mother’s high functionality came at the price of painful nightly Copaxone injections.
My mother’s commitment to her medication in order to maintain the highest quality of life for herself and indirectly for her family indicates her body’s disciplined type. The disciplined body, as Frank describes, tells its story “through the pursuit of the regimen” (42). Managing the her job as a cardiac nurse and taking care of my sister and I was not an easy regimen to continue with MS, but thanks to her bodily discipline, it was one she kept to without fail. Living such a stressful life, the loss of bodily function was impossible to accept. To prevent the symptoms of MS from worsening and “compensate for contingencies [she could not] accept,” my mom began a prescription of nightly intramuscular injections (41). Her medicine, which she continues today, does not “provide pleasure,” but her adherence to it has ensured her “predictability of performance” (44). Her treatment makes sure her pain stays manageable and has guaranteed her ability to work and help provide for our family. I think the regimen that gave my mother the most pleasure was simply returning to her normal life. She continued her 24-hour shifts wearing Band-Aids to cover the bruises at her injection sites and came home smiling for dinner. After ten years with her diagnosis, my mother’s condition along with the injections, have become parts of normal life to my family. In defiance of Frank’s assertion that “a self dissociated from its body will rarely seek and discover terms of association with others,” my mother has not succumbed to “monadic self enclosure” (41, 43). In fact, our friends and family often call on my mother to educate those recently diagnosed with the disease and help relieve their anxiety about treatment.
My mother demonstrates aspects of Frank’s communicative and dyadic bodies in this willingness to reach out to the MS community. In an attempt to both keep her knowledge of her disease as up to date as possible as well as to interact with the global community of MS sufferers, my mother subscribes to a handful of MS newsletters and magazines. These periodicals always include testimonials from patients and doctors...

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