As a new year begins, I find myself making the same resolution that I’ve been making for the past two decades – stay as healthy as I can and provide for my family.
The younger me found this easy. I was rarely ill and had a busy career running two jobs – one as an office worker and the other as a photojournalist. Being a professional photojournalist had been my dream job as a teenager and I’d worked hard at it for over a decade so that I could finally quit the office job and go full time. But then I went blind.
Sitting watching TV at home, the vision started to fade in my left eye and within three days had disappeared completely. A blind photojournalist is not a great job description and I lost all my existing press contracts literally overnight. A slightly nervous neurologist informed me as sympathetically as he could that I had multiple sclerosis. At the time, I’d never even heard of MS, let alone knew how it would affect me. So I asked him to tell me what it was.
As the words ‘incurable’, ‘degenerative’, ‘pain’ and ‘spasm’ filled the room my head began to spin. ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ I thought. I was totally convinced that my life as I knew it was over and that my future, if I had any at all, would be bleak. Every day I tried to hide my growing disability, worried about the social stigma and how my friends would react. But then I realised everyone was going through their own personal battles and that I needed to find a way to cope with mine. Inspired by my musical hero, David Bowie, and his ability to constantly re-invent himself, I set about figuring out how I could change what I did for a living. If a musician can change and adapt his styles, then why couldn’t I do the same with my career as my health declined? I thought.
Now, 22 years later I still make that same New Year Resolution as I did back then. The drive to provide for my family has taken me on an incredible journey as my declining health has prevented me from doing more and more things. Desperation can be a great motivator, and I have now reinvented myself many times in order to adapt. I’ve walked the Great Wall of China for the MS Trust, and worked as a professional magician and TV producer. Now I write fiction. My career journey is even stranger than the stories I write in my novels.
My life has been exciting, challenging and most definitely never boring. Had I never developed MS, I would probably have been in the same job for the rest of my life before fading into a suburban retirement. I would never have had the courage to try new things and continually reinvent myself. It has been a thrilling journey and one that I know will continue to evolve and surprise me. So, next year, I will make the same resolution as I always do and then hang on for the ride.