Empowered by Activism

My husband, Dan, and I were talking with some women at lunch a few weeks ago. They were sharing stories about an exercise class they teach and how rewarding it is to see their students’ progress.

To stay involved in this exercise-related conversation, I commented about how I was looking forward to starting physical therapy (PT) to treat some weakness associated with my multiple sclerosis.

I often say that I’m weak. My arms and trunk feel weak. And my legs? Yeah, they just aren’t working for me anymore. This is not totally surprising considering that I was diagnosed with MS 17 years ago.

“There is such an empowering feeling when I am able to exercise,” I told the ladies.

Then it hit me: Empowering feeling? I truly know a thing or two about inducing a sense of empowerment, and it has absolutely nothing to do with exercising. Unless, of course, you think of advocacy as exercising your legislative muscles.

Dan and I just had our most recent workout when we ventured down to Lansing (Michigan’s state capital) in early June to meet with our State Senator Judy Emmons and Representative Kevin Cotter to advocate for issues affecting Michigan’s older and disabled citizens.

This was the sixth consecutive year we have actively participated in Older Michiganians Day to advocate for Michigan’s MI Choice Medicaid Waiver Program. This invaluable program provides the assistance I need for daily living such as helping me with meal preparation, accompanying me to my PT appointments, cleaning and grocery shopping, while Dan continues working full-time at Central Michigan University. Did I mention that Dan, my loving husband of nearly nine years, also has MS?

It is such a rush to meet with our legislators to show them the faces of two people with MS who live within their respective districts and explain to them why we traveled all the way to Lansing to meet with them.

On this trip, we reminded our legislators how the Medicaid program saves the state millions of dollars and how it is making it possible for me — one of their constituents — to continue living in my own home and positively contributing to my community.

What has become extra special is that we’ve developed such good relationships with our elected officials that we no longer have to formally introduce ourselves to them. They know us, understand MS and are all ears when we talk with them. Our annual trip and regular emails throughout the year continue to keep MS and the MI Choice Program in their minds so they are cognizant of these important issues as they make laws and set budgets for our state.

We’re doing what we can to inform our elected officials of the issues we’re passionate about and hope that as a result of our visit, our state legislators will protect Medicaid for the 19,000 people who live with MS in Michigan.

Dan and I always tell members of our MS self-help group they are and should be their own best advocates. We’ve realized that MS advocacy is our passion, and it has sparked incredible opportunities to make a difference in our lives — and others’ — lives. 

Nobody knows your personal situations and circumstances better than you, and you can help move us closer to a world free of MS by making your voice heard and opinions understood. Register for the National MS Society’s Action Alert to receive news and information about MS advocacy news and legislative issues.

Tags Activism & Advocacy      5 Appreciate this

Jennifer Digmann

Diagnosed with MS in 1997, Jennifer Digmann and her husband, Dan, who also has MS, maintain a nationally-recognized blog, regularly guest post for Healthline.com, have served as speakers for many MS events, and co-authored the book Despite MS, to Spite MS.