Posted by: Mark | August 24, 2013

My journey with Multiple Sclerosis

My journey with Multiple Sclerosis began a long time ago when my younger brother was diagnosed. The information about MS was sparse. Treatments were even sparser. A cure didn’t exist. A cure still doesn’t exist. I raised funds, supported Paul’s involvement with BikeMS, becoming a rider myself 15 years ago.Then, in the early 2000’s I began having unexplained symptoms – numbness, spasms in my hand, loss of leg strength and control in my leg. After much testing, I heard these words from my doctor:

“I’m sorry. You have MS.”

Much or most of what I’m going through now can be tied back to that one short sentence. Those words affect so many more than the newly diagnosed MS patient. Children, partners, family, friends and community are also affected, are also afflicted.

Currently, I’m training for next month’s BikeMS: Waves to Wine while I await medical clearance to do the ride. I’m doing my part both as a rider and ride committee member (14 years now!) I’m asking you to please support my efforts with a donation – $5, $10, $50, $100 or whatever feels right to you.

No one should have to hear the words:
“I’m sorry. You have MS.”
No one! Never again!

Go to: and do what feels right to you.
Posted by: Mark | November 22, 2012

49 Years Ago Today

Just heard this question asked: “Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on this day 49 years ago?”  Actually, I do (13 years old, riding my bike up Pasadena Dr. to a friend’s house when a woman burst out her front door screaming, “The president has been shot!”)  

We haven’t had a guns and bullets assassination like JFK’s in 49 years.  Now we have push button character assassination via Twitter, Facebook and other media sources.  

How about we take this day, the start of the holiday season, to find the things for which we want to give thanks and look for the gifts inside of each other as we launch into a new year of positivity and possibility.

Posted by: Mark | September 11, 2012

Just for Today – September 11, 2012

Just for today:

~Let’s take a break from the constant barrage of political messages from either side of the aisle.

~Let’s take a break from negativity in general. It’ll be there tomorrow if we choose to pick it up again.

~Let’s be a nation united in remembrance and purpose and not a scattered collection of adversarial souls.

Take a moment to sit down, close your eyes, breathe in and feel what it is to be human.  Remember…

“And let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”
~Robert F. Kennedy
Posted by: Mark | August 23, 2012

Seven Years

Seven years.  In not many days it will have been seven years.  Seven years since that morning when I awoke to go riding. Seven years since that day of speed and exhilaration.  Seven years since a sliver of time went missing.  Seven years since abilities and the course of my life were forever changed.

We talked of this at breakfast today.   It’s not a dream nor a vision that I often have.  It doesn’t haunt me or bring up feelings and memories of terror, pain and despair.  I sipped at the mug of tea; its warmth spreading out through my chest, mixing with the warmth of the feelings of gratitude that were also there.

I am  thankful to feel the sun on my face and taste the tartness of the berries.  I am thankful to have been given the chance to watch my daughters grow and become the amazing women that they are.  I am thankful for my family and my friends, whose lives have been  woven into the fabric of mine.  Some threads are short and some threads are long.   Others are still being spun and woven into this tapestry.  Each thread’s length doesn’t matter.  Its presence does.


We are given lessons in life.  Some are learned right away and some must be repeated.  Today’s lesson is an ongoing one.  Gratitude has no beginning and needs never end.

To everyone and everything for which I’ve been given the opportunity to be grateful…



“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice.”
~Meister Eckhart

I met w/ a newly diagnosed MS’er today. To say that he was freaked out would be a gross understatement. We talked about many things – dealing w/ symptoms, giving yourself injections, possible prognosis…

He asked if I would sum things up as he typed notes. This is what I said:

1) Everyone one gets knocked down. The only glory exists in getting back up again.

2) Ultimately, life is fair and there will be wonderful surprises.

3) DON’T WHINE!! It accomplishes nothing positive & it pisses people off.

4) Work your ass off. Make your own good luck. Then work some more.

5) Smile! You’ll feel and look better.


Posted by: Mark | June 7, 2012


It was thrown at me as an epithet.  Barely disguised disgust and muted rage were sitting right behind it in case I didn’t get the point.  Who was I to be so damn cheerful and positive?  Why didn’t I succumb to the crushing pressure of injury and disability?  Who gave me the right to laugh in the face of it all?

It upsets some people to see someone else go through their trials and tribulations and not get bogged down, not give up and not give in.  They’re looking for a chink in the armor, a rift in the fabric of the character, a sign that we’re still human and that they won’t have to up-level to such a performance themselves.  They won’t have to tap into their reserves and live up to a potential that frightens them.  People are far more afraid of their power than they are of their weaknesses.  Living in mediocrity can be a strangely comfortable thing for some.

To be fair, there are also those who jump right in and cheer.  They may not understand or have a grasp of the condition or have something to which they can compare or contrast in their own lives or maybe they do and haven’t figured out how to actualize their power and positivity for themselves, but they know they can.

Where do you stand on the issue?  Is it better to subscribe to a reality that has been laid out before you filled with “can’ts”, “won’t be able to’s” and other negative pronouncements or do you want to dream of rising from your ashes like the phoenix and take flight?  Be a Pollyanna but also be a pragmatist.  You can keep your feet on the ground and reach for the stars.  No one is stopping you from going beyond your current limitations other than yourself.  Accepting your situation and working in a never ending fashion to achieve a dream is not self-delusion or aggrandizement.  It’s not fooling yourself.  New possibilities are being discovered literally day by day.

Still, some will call you a Pollyanna, seeing you as having your head in the clouds and drifting away.  Have they even bothered to look at your feet on the ground and the hard work you are doing?  You can have the most well thought out plan, have sought advice and assistance in developing the step by step fulfillment of that plan and people will look at your starting point and your desired goal or endpoint and reach conclusions based not on your plan, but on their own fears of what would they would be willing to do in a similar situation.

Be outrageous.  Decide to go beyond the limits others have set and never, never take counsel from fear.   Go for your dreams of greatness.  There are enough people stuck in their mediocrity already.  Don’t be another one of them.

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Sounds like a good plan to me.  How does it sound to you?

Posted by: Mark | June 1, 2012

To Run?

In the period of time following my accident, during which my left side was paralyzed, I wouldn’t think about using that side of my body.  In fact, I hardly knew that it existed except as something foreign that got in my way, yet was always there, somehow attached and supposedly an integral part of the body that was me.

In every instance that I can remember, shortly before I regained use of some part of my left side (via time, brain healing and lots of therapy / hard work), I would have a dream in which I was using the soon-to-be functioning part in a pretty much normal fashion.

Fast forward to today:
I’ve been having dreams in which I’m running – not chasing after or running away from anything – just going out for a run as I used to do.  In fact, I woke up this morning having that dream.   I would love it if that was an ability that was coming back, though it has been so long that I’m reticent to let myself think about such things in my waking hours.  It’s exciting, intriguing and more than a little scary to let myself dream along those lines.
What to do with this?
Posted by: Mark | March 29, 2012

Recognizing You, Remembering Me

Two things happened this week.  When I wrote them down in my calendar, I didn’t know how much they were tied together – mirrors of me from different angles.  I got to see myself as I am now and as I could be one day – as I fear I might be one day.  It was unsettling.

I spent the day at the Lighthouse for the Blind on Monday.  It was a time to learn, to take in more ways of living in a world of shadows which at times becomes a world of clarity, limited as it is.  I watched my trainer “see”.  She saw differently than I do.  More severely impaired yet willing to take visual risks that, while they didn’t scare me, hadn’t been entertained as being part of my realm of possibilities.   I came away with a renewed and exciting set of possibilities that could be my future.

The other thing I saw was, coincidentally, right after that.  I had made plans to meet a couple – former patients of mine – for lunch.  I hadn’t seen them in a long while and didn’t yet know that Mrs. X had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Her ever-attentive husband, her protector and her guide, had brought along an iPad loaded with pictures of a life now slipping away.  A life’s worth of memories that were growing increasingly faint until they might become events that may have never happened or had happened in someone else’s life.

She would point to and tap a small icon and a picture of her children would appear.  I remembered some of those photos, taken when the children were five or six years old and also patients in my office  – in the office of a much younger me.  These children are much older now, with children of their own about the same age as the children in the photos.  I met these children recently on one of the bike paths in town, learning to ride their bikes, free from training wheels.  It was a measure of time passed for me.  For her, the photos were a measure of time passing out of existence.  Time was slowly slipping away from her – a tide receding from the shoreline, taking with it the memories of a life once lived.

It was a warm moment seeing them.  When I thought back on it, it was also an unsettling time.  Studies have come out as of late that point to an increased incidence of senile dementia in brain injury patients.  While I can argue that I’m not senile with some degree of plausibility, I cannot argue the fact that I have injured my brain.

Memories sometimes pass through my mind much the same as the fleeting, shadowy images that I have as I re-learn how to see.  Are the faces I am challenged to see the result of facial agnosia where I can see the parts, but cannot fit them into a recognizable framework or are memories slipping away as if they never happened?  I try not to let myself perseverate on such matters.  There is no current answer to the question.  Still, it leaves me with an unsettled feeling in my gut.  Will I slowly lose the ability to recognize my children, my family and my friends?  Will I need to tell and re-tell the stories of places and events in my life in an effort to keep them alive in my mind?  And most frighteningly, will I lose the sense of who I am and then, of whom I was, as the tide of my life recedes and I no longer recognize the person looking out from the mirror at me?

I count and name the bones of my hands. I call out the names of the muscles and the nerves that give them directions.  I touch them to augment my visual sense.

I am learning to see and to recognize anew.  Yet, I am scared.  Am I learning to forget at the same time?

Posted by: Mark | February 15, 2012

Healing, Cure, Death and Destiny

Some days are filled with lightness and joy and others…  not so much.  An old friend will be leaving us.  He reminded me of one of our last face to face conversations when he had come to the US to seek further diagnosis and care.

This is excerpted from what he shared with me last night.  Maybe it’ll help you, if you or someone close to you is in a similar situation.
“We don’t get to choose our destiny in life.  It is better said that we get to accept or deny the destiny that is presented to us.  There is no growth or profit in denial, only pain, disappointment and confusion.  Take your awful destiny and make it an awe-ful one.  Though you have had to leave active practice behind, never leave healing – yours and your patients – as something that is beyond your abilities.

It’s as you said to me.  Healing never implies physical cure.  This has been hard for me to accept, but there is no denying the truth of your statement.

Thanks for your counsel and for your friendship all these years.  I am entering hospice care shortly.  Know in your heart that while I may be ill, I am well.”
When my time comes, as it will to all of us, I pray that I can go with as much grace.

Fair winds and following seas…

Bless you, old friend.

Posted by: Mark | December 29, 2011

Thank you!

It’s that time when we tie up the old year and look ahead to the next. I find myself looking back over the SIX years since my crash in 9/05. From the paralysis of the first year to 2010 – 2011 when the lights went out on my sight, the words from the Grateful Dead’s Truckin’ are echoing in my head: What a long, strange trip it’s been…
There have been many people who have stood by me and, even more, have walked with me, guiding and protecting me and making sure I didn’t drift TOO far from the path.
People living with brain injury know and will tell you, we aren’t always the easiest people to deal with. I’m sure that those who interact with us on a day to day basis will second that. I am blessed to have friends and family around me and to all of them I want to say…
THANK YOU!! – for your help, your caring, and putting up with me during my more “difficult” times. My thanks include my re-dedication to moving forward and going far beyond what anyone is viewing as possible in 2012. It’ll be a year of hard work and working hard. It’ll be worth it.
Whatever it takes!!

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