Life With a Killer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Multiple sclerosis. Not a lot of people know what it is. But once you do, you never forget.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that damages the nervous system, eventually causing a total shutdown of your body. My great aunt Ann was diagnosed with MS when she was 25 years old. At that age, most people are working and starting a family, and their lives are pretty good. But at 25, my aunt realized she was going to die. She didn’t know when, where, or exactly how, but she knew it would be a long, painful trip.

Her illness progressed. I always hated going to my great aunt and uncle’s house because I might have to sit next to her and try to make conversation with someone who couldn’t hear, see, or respond. She was always there, sitting in her electric wheelchair that she operated with just a slight touch of her almost-paralyzed hand. She had to be spoon-fed foods she could swallow with little chewing, and needed a nurse to help her bathe, dress, and other activities I did without thought.

Whenever I or my brother asked questions about my great aunt on our way home, my mom would try to answer as best she could, but then the car would grow silent as we tried to comprehend thoughts stimulated by the conversation. I didn’t really get it when I was little, but I did understand that having MS was a horrible way to live.

When I was in fifth grade, my great aunt had to go to the hospital because of the many failing parts of her body that seemed to be signaling the end of her life. Once again, I didn’t understand, but I knew it would be terrible to die hooked up to tubes and machines. Somehow she made it through that period and returned home, a surprise to everyone. A few days later, she died in her sleep, peacefully.

A lot of people came to the viewing, and I wandered to the front of the room to peer in the casket. I could tell she had on a lot of makeup and was dressed so she looked nice. She really did look pretty. The illness’s effects had almost lifted from her face. I think that is when I finally got it, and realized how different her life could have been if she hadn’t had this killer in her body.

I started tearing up, and went back to my younger brother who was diligently working on his coloring book. He asked me why I was crying, and I tried to explain, but this was one of those times when I, the kid with all the answers at school, didn’t have one.

It has been a few years now, and life certainly has changed. My great uncle is remarrying and finally looks happy, free of the bonds of my aunt’s sickness. But his new wife’s sister has MS, not as bad as my aunt, but when she was diagnosed, her husband left her, unable to deal with it. I don’t think I could ever do that to someone. When you marry, you vow “til death do us part,” not until a sickness or disease. I feel really bad for her, but she is dealing with it well.

I want to donate to a multiple sclerosis charity when I’m older in honor of my great aunt and my new aunt’s sister. This experience has helped me realize how fast life can change, and how you should count your blessings every day. I am really glad that my great aunt is free of her sickness now, and I truly realize how great a gift life is.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

Imperfectlife said...
Oct. 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm
It's really sad and I get the part that you don't understand what dying is like.
mikey ie35476 said...
Mar. 15, 2011 at 9:23 am
Thats sad ms sounds like a very serious diesease
ELM522 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 16, 2010 at 11:26 am
This is  insightful.  My aunt died  of  MS,  too.
tomtamtimmy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 25, 2009 at 3:59 am
hey. good story. i have heard about ms before. every year there is this fund raiser for people with ms. its called the ms read-a-thon. you read books and people sponser you. i donated $65
KevinJonas173 said...
Dec. 2, 2008 at 9:53 pm
Cool story confused me alittle but still cool
Hannah BenDavid said...
Dec. 4, 2008 at 9:17 pm
This is a good piece of writing! I really like how you tied in the promise of "till death do us part"
jaketwaugh said...
Sept. 17, 2008 at 10:23 pm
Best peice I've read for a long time, keep up the good work!
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