It’s that time of year again. I’m getting back on my bike, well at least trying to, in preparation for Bike Beyond the Beltway, my local Bike MS fund-raising ride.
If you are new to my blog, you may not now know why I ride. For you veterans who know my story, please indulge me, or go to the bottom of the page and donate now.
In September 2009, just one month after this picture was taken on my biking trip around Lake Champlain, I started experiencing some odd sensory symptoms in my left arm pit. Truthfully, I ignored them. My husband confirmed that my armpit wasn’t swollen like it felt. A mammogram confirmed no cancer. So I went on with my life, trying to get my budding pottery career off the ground.
Then one night in November, the tingling that had occasionally appeared went wild. It felt like ants had attacked my armpit. It was enough to wake me up – literally and figuratively. The next day I made an appointment with my doctor. She was stumped and sent me to a neurologist. By the end of December, after blood tests and a 2-hour long MRI, my life had changed in four words – “you have multiple sclerosis”.
I was the one for that hour of that day. You see, one person every hour, hears those words. Those words are then followed up with “there is no cure,” “sometimes it is aggressive, but we don’t know why”, “we have drugs now. they are all self-injectables.” And the words go on and on. They blend together until you walk out of the office, confused, tired and scared shitless.
What follows are a list of choices. Do you tell people? If so, who? Do you take the drugs? If so, which one? Do you try one of the MS diets? And if so, which one? (Can you really give up cheese and bread?)
And then there are the choices that aren’t yours. Will the disease progress? Will it inhibit you from doing the things you love? For me that last one struck fear. I had just become an associate artist at the Art League of Alexandria. I was hoping to become a full-time potter. Would I be able to make pots? And would I be able to make pots in the way I wanted – spending long hard hours stoking a wood-kiln. If you hate uncertainty – don’t get MS or it will become your new best friend.
There is no doubt that clay has helped support me through my diagnosis and transition to a new and gentler life. I have written about that both in this blog and in the current issue of Studio Potter. I sought refuge in the studio. As a result, my work got better. I think it also helped me get better.
I am grateful that the disease has not progressed in me. I’m grateful that my last MRI is spectacular – fewer and smaller lesions than the first one. I believe the choices I made – diet, exercise, stress management, attitude change, change of jobs, and more studio time – have allowed me to thrive. Since being diagnosed, I have fired two wood-kilns. I’ve lost 40 pounds. I re-discovered the fit and athletic body of my 20’s. (See the post-diagnosis picture of me in St. John). I have made a few hundred sassy pots.
But others aren’t so lucky. So between making pots and coaching others to thrive, I ride Bike MS because I can. I ride for all those who can’t. I ride because the MS Society not only funds research for a cure, but it supports those not as fortunate as I, and those who need financial, physical and emotional help.
Please help support me and others as we strive to live a life beyond MS. Click on the box below to donate what you can.
About the Author: Laurie Erdman has been making pots since 2003. She discovered the joy of mud when seeking a stress release from her day job as an attorney. Over the years she knew it helped ground her, but not more so than when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It was then that she realized how pottery had taught her some powerful spiritual and life lessons. In addition to designing a line of nature-inspired pottery, she teaches pottery and meditation, and helps others learn the healing powers of clay. Laurie lives in Arlington, Virginia, makes pots at the Art League of Alexandria, fires her pots at Baltimore Clayworks, and enjoys spending time with her husband, her Italian Greyhound Skippy and helping people with chronic illness thrive.