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My Second Act: Turning 50 with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

As columnist Jennifer Powell nears 50 years of age, she wades through nostalgia’s sweets and defeats. Her “second act” will be her grandest period of life.

If a cat has nine lives then I have at least twice as many. One day shy of my 50th birthday, my mind runs a vivid montage of years past. I close my eyes and I am there. I feel a heavy melancholy as the movie rolls. I see my family. I see my parents. I feel my home. I feel safe.

I see kindergarten, brownies, and Girl Scouts. I am at our annual campsite in Yosemite. I smell the bonfire and see the smiles of friends who have passed away. I see hikes to the beach over steep terrain. I see my dad carry me and I feel protected. I see myself sail, ski, sing, cheerlead, tap, swim, and play soccer and piano. I am confident. I see pool parties, birthday celebrations, and my mom’s special cakes.

I see myself travel through countless countries and experience incredible cultures. I see plays, concerts, symphonies, and operas. I am enthralled. I crave cultural literacy. I attend the University of California, Irvine, and am a college graduate. My family is there. I feel love.

I am a teacher and love children. I cannot have children due to severe endometriosis and a radical hysterectomy at 24. I mourn. I grieve. I drink to ease my heart’s ache. I cry. I grieve. I lose my way and decide I want more. I admit I am powerless and give up alcohol. I find a personal faith and embrace newness. I find strength. I write a book about endometriosis and reach thousands. I am a chat host for WebMD. I help others and in turn help myself. I begin to heal.

I meet and marry my husband. I move to Southern California. I feel love. I grow. We grow. I learn to be a woman and leave the girl behind. I love and feel love. I own love. I nourish my friendships and am grateful.

We live and we laugh. We love. We travel and experience beauty. We grow through trials and tears. We hold on. We learn.

I have multiple sclerosis. I fear my future. He has my hand. I can do this. I do daily shots, then monthly infusions. Three years pass. I progress to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. I begin Rituxan (rituximab). It makes me sick. I have new lesions. My body and mind change. I grow weary. I fight. I hope. I pray. I am grateful and I am blessed. I feel love.

Read on: My Second Act: Turning 50 with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

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