Real World Health Care Blog

What If You Want Politicians to Get Moving But You Can’t Move?

Editor’s Note: This MS Awareness Week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Neil Cavuto, Senior Vice President and Anchor, Fox News and Fox Business. Mr. Cavuto is an inspiration to many people living with multiple sclerosis, and he shares his perspectives on triumphing over the disease.

Neil Cavuto

Neil Cavuto

Perhaps the most maddening thing about having MS when you’re a TV anchor is that some days it hits you when you’re on TV and you’re “trying to anchor.” You’re trying to be on top of your game, but your body is playing games with you. That’s when “anchor” takes on a whole new meaning…not what I am on television, but the dead weight I’ve become in reality.

It’s at those times when I can’t move, that I often feel moved to explain to viewers, “it’s not me, it’s the MS.” It’s not me forgetting that guest’s name, it’s an exacerbation hitting my brain and causing me to forget that guest’s name. It’s at those times I lose my train of thought, that I question how thoughtless MS is. That’s when this illness hits home – when I just want to hit back, but can’t. This MS Awareness Week, it’s about reminding folks what it feels like to be…weak…to be vulnerable, to simply be unable to do the simplest things.

I can’t tell you the number of people who stop me and ask how I get through such moments. Fortunately, they’re moments, I answer. But sadly, sometimes very long moments. The one remarkable aspect of MS is how it quickly schools its victims to adapt…or perish. We either have to adjust to its wild, sometimes vicious swings, or face a life constantly succumbing to each and every progressive or remittent reminder.

That’s easier said than done, of course, but after more than 15 years of dealing with this, for me, it’s come to this: mind over matter. No matter what’s going on with your body, tell your brain it doesn’t matter. For me, the regimen for dealing with MS has been pretty much the same – once-a-week self-injections of Avonex, Biogen’s great elixir for slowing the progressive attacks, or at least, limiting their severity – over time.

But that doesn’t mean things don’t come up, and problems and complications still develop. For me, they’ve been everything from days-long blind spots that require me to “wing” my news copy on air…to allowing more time to make it to the news set, because I simply cannot walk.  I long ago concluded I cannot control these attacks – neither their frequency nor severity. But I “can” control how I react to them. That’s why I always try adapting and reasoning in my head that if the left eye goes out, coordinate better use of the right eye. The left arm weakens, get fairly competent enough with the right arm. These adjustments aren’t easy or fast but they certainly are now routine. That’s good for me, but it was hit and miss for years, perfecting this behavior for me.

I’m better at it now, but my nickel-and-dime advice for MS sufferers everywhere is, it’s a day at a time now…always. Part of doing what I do is understanding how I can keep making my body do it, even when it’s not cooperating. I mentioned how I often memorize copy and whole segments of my show in my head, for those moments I lose my vision. But there’s much more to it than that. After all, that’s fairly easy when I’m the one writing my shows…I kind of remember what I said. But it’s also about maintaining my physical energy, and that means denying the very progression of the disease itself.

Each and every morning, no matter what, I exercise my legs – certainly no Olympian workout – but on a treadmill or stationary bike, doing what I can to keep these legs going, even when they’re not cooperating. I’m forever panicked that someday they’ll simply fail, and then I’ll be a cripple. I fear that day is coming. Some neurologists warn me that given the progressive nature of my MS, it “will” be coming. But I fight like hell to push that day off. If I can pass along any advice at all, it is simply that – to simply never accept a prognosis as is. Fight it. Challenge it. “Will” yourself over it. Many doctors say it’s a naïve approach to the disease, but attitude counts a lot for me with MS, as it did for me two decades ago when I was battling advanced Hodgkin’s Disease. Then, as now, it was about one day at a time, and staying optimistic and positive all the time.

One of the things I’ve discovered about people dealing with illnesses is that sometimes they think they’re the only ones dealing with pain. There’s a natural self-absorption to that and to them, and when you throw in a guy who wears makeup and counts on viewers liking him, there’s a damn-near “fixation” to it. That’s not to say MS patients shouldn’t ask for support and understanding, they just shouldn’t demand it. As I’ve said many, many times, on the air and off, it’s not your spouse’s fault you have MS, or your kids’ fault, or your boss’s fault, or your colleagues’ fault. We may be surprised the world isn’t always understanding or caring or nurturing. But I’ve discovered all of us in life, bear some cross in life. Some are obvious. Some aren’t. But all do, if not at the time we literally first bump or trip into them…eventually.

I’ve become very philosophical with this disease, and concluded (heresy for a media personality) that it’s not always about me. It’s not always about us. It’s not always about our pain, or exacerbation, or what we’re forgetting, or what muscles are failing. I try to tell my kids we are the sum of our challenges, not necessarily the sum of our successes. I believe we are defined in life, not by the things that go well in our lives, but precisely by how we handle the things that do not.

I want that to be our greatest awareness this week – that we are not weak, that we are not victims, that we are not handicapped. We are challenged, yes. But we are up to the challenge. It might sound crazy to say that I’m grateful for MS, and grateful as well for having had cancer…but I am, and here’s why. It’s made me a better person, a better father, and a better husband. Now, I don’t know if viewers hearing my constantly compromised scratchy voice agree it’s made me a better anchor on TV. But “I” know it’s made me a more complete soul…just appreciating the fragility of life. That’s why I never take it for granted and have a healthy respect for just appreciating your health…compromised as it is. Because it sure beats…the alternative.

Make this a meaningful MS Awareness Week by promising never to stop seeing the strength that comes from being…weak.

Categories: General

Comments

  1. Pingback: Neil Cavuto on Feeling Moved to Tell Viewers: ‘It’s Not Me, It’s The Multiple Sclerosis’ - TVNewser

  2. Ruth Warren

    I found out at age 68 that I have MS. The doctor asked what drugs I wanted to take and I told him “none”. He said that if I didn’t take something I could be in a wheel chair in thirty years. After I stopped laughing, I told him that if I was alive in thirty years, I would be in one anyways.

    Reply
  3. Virginia Baus

    Your statements, strength and honesty are so helpful and insightful. I thank you for sharing and pray we all pull strength from your choices to make Better ones for our lives and those who love us.. God bless you.

    Reply
  4. ledoris chandler

    Great article, we have been watching Neil since Fox began. You are someone people can respect, admire and have confidence in.

    Reply
  5. Jean Pearson

    Thanks for your very inspiring article. I’m 87 years old and at age 28 had my left lung removed due to advanced case of tuberculosis. I have breathing difficulties which seem to worsen as I age. A. Very dear friend of mine wrote a poem. One Day at a Time. Since that’s your philosophy I’m going to send that poem to you
    Jean Pearson
    Dunedin FL

    Reply
  6. Sherrill Cook

    Neil, I do enjoy your shows. You are indeed a gentleman and a scholar. I just would like to recommend a book for you to read. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. You may find this of help and support.

    Sincerely,
    Sherrill Cook, Ringgold, GA

    Reply
  7. Virginia Christiansen

    I’ve always respected you and your comments, especially at the end of the show. You have inner values and, to me, it shows. God bless you and yours as you share your philosophies and help to build up others facing the same challenges.

    Reply
  8. Gladys Lance

    God Bless you Neil, we all have to take the cards we are dealt and do the best we can.
    I knew you had MS and I watch you every day on Fox and I admire the way you handle the disease. Hopefully, some day they will find a cause and a cure for Ms and all of the diseases that causes our bodies to waste away.

    Best Wishes and keep on keeping on. <3

    Reply
  9. Nancy Coburn

    I’ve watched you, Mr. Cavuto for years on FOX and enjoy your humor and knowledge. I have lived w/MS for over 30 years, the last 10 w/out medicine. Like you I try not to lament my loss of function, but am blessed to have family and friends with an arm I can hold on to for balance, ha. Stay strong and know you give hope to many! God bless you and give you peace, strength and joy daily!

    Reply
  10. R & N

    You are a family favorite & it’s because early on, we knew you were brilliant & a man of faith. You do just fine on the show & you are cute to-boot ! (caution: don’t mind that christian scientist recommendation; i.e. delete) !

    Reply
  11. John Humphreys

    Neil, you are my hero.
    I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease 7 years ago. I never want sympathy, just understanding that sometimes, like you said, I am not at the top of my game.
    A number of years ago I went to my 1st PD Support Group meeting. There I sat with all those Parkie”s shaking and I was terrified and wanted to run away and hide. I stayed and listened and afterwards made a point to introduce myself and chat with to as many as possible. On the drive home it came to me, “God took away the gene to produce dopamine, but he replaced it with the gift he gave to all of those other Parkie’s…………..a gene that made them the most kindest, most wonderful people in the world” Not one of them complained about their situation or lot in life and then I realized like you that PD will make me a better person and that I have PD, Parkinson’s does not have me !

    Reply
  12. Robert Markowitz

    Neil Cavuto is one of the most refreshing and honest voices on television news! I would trust his judgment and thinking with my life! Knowing now the challenges he has to deal with, well I just can’t imagine and I’m even more impressed with him. Keep up the good work Mr. Cavuto, America desperately needs you!!!

    Reply
  13. Barbara Peckham

    Thanks for sharing, Neil. Hearing your story, and Janice Dean’s, helps those of us who have been diagnosed with MS keep on fighting the good fight. I’ve adopted Diana Nyad’s mantra, “I’ll find a way”. Like you, I can usually find a different way to do the things I want to do. I accept help but don’t want to depend on it. Thanks again and best wishes.
    P.S. My son is riding in the Tampa to Orlando MS 150 mile bike ride coming up next month.

    Reply

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