I recently sat down with inspiring author, blogger, writer, friend and survivor, Karen Magill, and talked about her books, how she finds the time to write, where she draws inspiration and her advice for new writers. Through talking with her via e-mail I found out she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This is her story, and it reminds all of us to stay in the fight, keep our head up and keep surviving.
I am not a cancer survivor and hope I won’t ever have to face that. I have multiple sclerosis.
On June 5, 2000 – exactly three weeks before my 35th birthday – I woke to find myself partially paralyzed on one side of my body. It was if someone had drawn a line down the center of my body, and one side was fine while the other was wrong.
I went to work and made a doctor’s appointment for later. He sent me to the emergency room at the hospital across the street where I sat for around six hours until they could get to me – St. Paul’s is downtown Vancouver, and there are many emergencies!
No one could give me an answer and after another hour, I was ready to leave. I had seen an emergency room doctor who told me it wasn’t a stroke and didn’t look like a brain tumor (My maternal grandmother died of a brain tumor, and it has always stayed in my mind). He called an intern from neurology who looked at me – did the same tests the previous two doctors had done – then left. He called a neurologist and made an appointment for me in two days.
On June 14, I had a MRI done and when I later went into see the neurologist, he told me it was a suspicion of MS. And that was it. As with many diseases that not a lot is known about, it is up to the individual to find out information.
I connected with the local MS chapter and took five weeks off work. After the five weeks, I went back to work and worked my full-time schedule. I had been warned that if I went part-time and had to go on disability, the pension would base my income on the part-time hours. So I stuck it out, but I couldn’t do it for long.
At the end of September 2000, I went to the MS Clinic at UBC – University of British Columbia. My MS specialist and I decided that the best thing for me was to go on disability, so that’s what I did.
That didn’t make my life any easier, at least not right away. I had months of stress while I tried to get the benefits due me. Part of the problem was that my diagnosis happened on the one-year anniversary of my hiring, which was when all my benefits became available. I will admit that this is a fact to be questioned – it looks as if I had known about the disease beforehand. But we got that straightened out.
My turning point came when a social worker visited to help me emotionally with all this. I explained how frustrating MS can be. Symptoms appear and disappear; it makes a person wonder what is really going on with his or her body. When the social worker left, she said that at least now I was admitting that I was making up my symptoms.
That upset me so I left a message on her machine cancelling our next appointment, informing her I didn’t need her help any longer. It may have been around that time that I realized I had been given a gift.
Because I had been a government employee, I have disability insurance, extended health and numerous other benefits in place. Now I get to write and not worry about how I am going to pay my bills. In January 2001, I wrote a poem that appeared in the MS Newsletter. It wasn’t much, but it got me started.
There have been bad times over the last thirteen years and good ones. Some of the negatives can be blamed on MS, and a lot can’t. That’s life.
Having a chronic illness can make a person more understanding of others. I know when I walk and someone is walking slowly in front of me, I am more patient if they have a disability. I know how it feels to not be able to make my legs work the way I want them to. I also know that coming down with a chronic illness is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
I know a few people with MS, and the ones who concentrate on how bad it is to have this disease and how unfair it is are usually the ones that have the most problems. Though there are exceptions.
If you are inflicted with any disease, try to find the bright side to it. Some days when I can’t walk properly or am exhausted and just lay around, it is hard to remember that there is a positive spin to all of this but there is.
Limit your exposure to negative influences. Recently, I realized that watching a lot of reality shows has a bad effect on me. It is so easy to be caught up in the drama, and it has a depressing consequence on me. In order to stay positive and focused, I try to surround myself with happy, upbeat entertainment. I am also always trying to improve myself, my writing and my life.
I dreamed of living in a downtown apartment and being able to stay at home and write for a living. Of course I didn’t mean living in a second-floor apartment in east Vancouver (I was thinking a penthouse right downtown or historic Gastown), and I wasn’t intending on living on a disability income, but I presume that is what it means when a person is told to be careful what they wish for! I am free now to spend my days writing, and it is a true test on whether I can make a career out of this.
Karen Magill is on a mission to make the paranormal, normal. Everything she writes shows extrasensory powers as a common ability because she believes that these attributes are within us all.
Forced to leave the workforce in 2000 by the onslaught of MS, Karen saw this as an opportunity to explore her lifelong desire to write. Initially she explored other areas of writing before deciding that her future lay with creating novels.
Missing Flowers is the start of a new series in which Karen will combine paranormal fiction with historical facts.
Karen lives in an eclectic area of Vancouver Canada and draws inspiration from the history and stories around her.
Karen, you are a true friend and inspire so many, including me. Thank you for being one of life’s heroes.