I was around 19 years old when I found out my mother was diagnosed with MS. I remember not really knowing how to react, except to be immediately concerned and start asking questions. What is it? Is there a cure? How will this affect her? What can we do?
I mean, it obviously sucks that she has MS. No one wants to see someone they love be uncomfortable or debilitated in any way. But, I think what my mother does particularly well, is not make it an issue. We never talk about it with any sense of gravity. Of course we ask her how she is feeling but she is not one to make it into something bigger than it needs to be. There are, as we know with MS, good days and bad days. But she rarely will give the disease the attention it craves. She dictates the power the disease has on her, not vice versa.
"She dictates the power the disease has on her, not vice versa."
Don Fanelli on his mom's MS
And that's how she lives. When you meet her you wouldn't really know something was wrong, unless she was feeling numb or going through an episode and even then she would probably diffuse the situation by being brutally honest and making you laugh. And that's what I take away from her. No beating around the bush. Be honest, and usually there is humor to be found in the humanity of it all. I was just so overwhelmed when she finally retired and I found out how many sick days (80) she racked up as a teacher's aide helping emotionally disabled children. I just thought that was some ridiculous work ethic and selflessness and I was just so damn proud. I think it goes back to trying to be in control of the disease, and not letting it be in control of you. By focusing on helping others, it put the attention on them, not you. Therefore my mother could focus on service and not pity, which I believe helped aid in controlling the disease in some way.
"I keep thinking about how I could complete the whole walk in about an hour if could just use a car."
Don Fanelli on walking 50 miles in Challenge Walk MS
It definitely has sunk in that walking 50 miles is pretty crazy. Who thought of this? I demand answers! I keep thinking about how I could complete the whole walk in about an hour if could just use a car. However, I realized that I live my life doing things that really get me out of my comfort zone and challenge me mentally, physically and spiritually. I think this will definitely be uncomfortable at times, but I know focusing on the cause and my mother will be my mental and spiritual fuel…and granola bars and dark chocolate will be my physical fuel. I know there are people with MS that do this walk and it is just overwhelmingly inspiring and flat out badass.
Don Fanelli is a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City and has a number of TV and movie credits to his name. This will be his first Challenge Walk MS. His team is "Donna Fanelli is a Badass".