“Thursday is Simon and Garfunkel Day”
In thinking about today’s blog, I remembered a poem that was read to us at school time and time again. I was admittedly rather severe and lacking in imagination as a teenager (or at least so it seems to me now) so obviously I thought all poetry was meaningless nonsense – at best incomprehensible and far inferior to ordinary prose and at worst a very long jumble of imagery to be cringed through on a regular basis during the merciless torture of Higher English. Fortunately, I have quite the capacity for remembering lyrics (Radio One is my absolute nemesis, because I cannot get words out of my head once they’re in there) and so the poem, along with many others I now actually enjoy, has stayed with me.
The poem is called The Bridge Builder, perhaps you’ve heard of it? It recounts the tale of an old man who crosses a chasm, which was vast and deep and wide, and then once across he turns and begins to build a bridge to cross back. A nearby traveller asks him why he is wasting his time building the bridge when his journey is almost at an end and he has no need to return. The old man’s answer is simply that, although he had no trouble crossing, those who follow them may find the chasm too great an obstacle. It is for them, says the old man, that he is building the bridge.
Research on Multiple Sclerosis is still very much underway, and it is the work of Revive and similar organisations to act as the bridge-builders, offering therapies that have been shown to treat the symptoms and helping to raise money so that we can learn more about the condition. The transition from relapsing remitting (or primary) MS to progressive (or secondary) MS is under-researched and little talked about. Whilst more than 2.3 million people worldwide currently live with MS, more than half of those 2.3 million live with its progressive form. Progressive MS worsens each day and lacks the understanding and effective therapies available for those with its primary counterpart. The International Progressive MS Alliance is an organisation working to accelerate knowledge and international collaboration to develop new treatments for this secondary form of MS.
Underlying the ongoing need for research and development is the plight of the individual, for MS affects everyone differently. The uncertainty of what lies ahead for people who have just received a diagnosis of relapsing remitting MS or a further diagnosis of progressive MS is beyond my comprehension. It is for this reason that we invite the stories and experiences of Revive’s clients and their families, and members of the wider community. When I spoke with the wonderful Allan McIntyre, he gave me an idea of how clients relate to him when they first come or are referred to Revive and how this progresses as they stay and benefit from the therapies on offer; not least of which include his Fatigue Self-Management Programme and Margaret Smillie’s ever-popular Meditation and Relaxation classes. It struck a chord with me that new service users of Revive in particular often admit to having been in denial and say feel their fears crystallise upon coming to Revive and meeting other people with the condition at varying - often later - stages.
This fear and the often overwhelming changes that come with a diagnosis of MS can lead to social isolation, particularly when the condition changes relationships which were vital to your happiness and wellbeing before your diagnosis. Part of Revive’s work is to undo some of the damage that MS can do to a person’s sense of self and their ability to re-engage with their lives and the people in them. In this way, and particularly within the group-work sessions at the centre and the outreach clinics, it is Revive’s clients who are paving the way for those to come.
By talking about your experiences and sharing the knowledge of how you got through the darker and more difficult periods of your life, you may well be giving someone the help they need to do the same. And, in turn, when you find you need help the most, someone may have built a bridge for you. Our aim, in supporting those with MS and especially during this MS Awareness Week, is to help you muster the courage to cross it.
The Bridge Builder
by Will Allen Dromgoole
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and grey,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old grey head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth, whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I build this bridge for him.”
International Progressive MS Alliance – www.progressivemsalliance.org