It's a good idea to get comfortable with the words multiple sclerosis and MS so that you can talk about it more easily with someone who has it. Although it never happened before, somehow now that MS has touched your life, the words seem to get caught in your throat on the way out of your mouth. Although you may prefer to use phrases that are less direct, such as this problem or your illness, get over it. Dancing around the terminology is a signal that you're dancing around the real issues at hand. If this is a problem, try a technique used in sex therapy. When people are uncomfortable verbalizing words like penis or vagina, they are coached to repeat the word over and over until it's no big deal to say it anymore. Doing this with the words multiple sclerosis will help get you over this first hurdle of communication. After all, how can you solve a problem you can't talk about?
While on the subject of language, you may or may not have noticed that throughout the book, we usually make references to people with MS or people with multiple sclerosis. We don't use other common terms such as MSer, MS victim, handicapped, differently abled, physically challenged, or crippled. We don't even use the term MS patient unless it is in the context of being diagnosed, treated, or counseled by a physician. We strongly favor a choice of language that avoids both negative and patronizing undertones. Our choice, we believe, allows for the greatest degree of dignity, reinforcing the message that those who get this disease are ordinary people who have a specific medical problem.
Others may have different choices, so why not ask? You have to make them happy, not us. In her book, Plain Text, Nancy Mairs explains that she actually prefers the word cripple. She wants people to know the difficulties she faces. For her, cripple is an educated social statement. For most people, however, it can be a serious social slur.