The Year of the Nevin

A place to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of my MS diagnosis.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ten Year Anniversary Party

Well, we had a little party last weekend. Kerri and I celebrated "10 Years of Success with MS" with friends and family on Saturday, May 15, 2010.

I've gotta give props to Facebook, who made the organizing a cinch. I sent out a mass invite to all our guests, plus a few email follow-ups to friends who are resisting the all-knowing presence of Facebook. In total, 87 people jammed into our backyard, including 39 kids.

We had absolutely perfect weather. Everyone brought their own meat and drinks, I made enough salad for 150 people and we hooked up karaoke. That, my friends, is the makings of a party.

Kerri made a big display of pictures of our family and a bunch of pictures of me since my diagnosis, fat and thin. It's easily one of the best surprises I've ever had. We also had a soccer game for the kids in the park, guests from across the country and four barbecues making sure people got fed when it was time to eat.

I've had a lot of people telling me how good it was to celebrate the day. We did something special with this. For some reason, it could easily slip by that I've had MS for ten years (approximately 3,620 injections and four relapses) and I have KICKED ITS ASS. We certainly didn't have a big reception on May 16, 2000, so if not now, when?

My wife, Kerri, is something special. We've had a fantastic time together over these last ten years, and we're not done yet. Thanks, Kerri. I love you.

Probably more exciting than anything is the precedent we've now set. 15th anniversary, anyone? It'll be my 40th birthday, too.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Uses of Adversity

I want this blog to be a resource for people that are living with MS, especially if you're early in the diagnosis and trying to figure out what it means. When I first found out I had MS, I think I intuitively saw a piece of it as an opportunity. It was my test, and I got to prove my readiness and grow from it.

Ten years later, I've come across Jonathan Haidt's book, The Happiness Hypothesis. One of his chapters is titled "The Uses of Adversity." As soon as I read that chapter title I loved it. I felt like I knew what he was going to talk about, though I didn't imagine how convincingly his systematic breakdown of what adversity does was going to resonate with me. I can't do Haidt justice, but this post is to let you know there's scientifically studied benefits to be had from the challenge you face.

The first benefit "is that rising to a challenge reveals your hidden abilities, and seeing these abilities changes your self-concept." You can gain confidence from learning that you can persevere even when things are tough. You've seen other people show an inner strength when they were challenged, and you may have said "Wow, I couldn't do that." Only now, you're proving that you can. That's confidence and power.

The second benefit is about how adversity changes your relationship with those around you. Like it or not, your adversity serves as a filter. You find that some people get closer and some get further away. While it may hurt to see it happen, it is easily argued that your life is richer for the kind of people that are still there when the dust settles. From a purely rational, logical, Vulcan sort of way, getting an "improved" list of friends makes for better relationships and can improve your day-to-day experience.

The third benefit is about perspective. "Trauma changes priorities and philosophies toward the present and toward other people." I experienced this in spades. As I've mentioned before, I lost a good friend to cancer a few years after my diagnosis. The combination of MS and that loss helped me not just say "don't sweat the small stuff," I actually live it. It's also changed my attitude and my approach every day. I'm motivated to be more attentive to people, to what my purpose is and to the welfare of strangers.

Please don't get me wrong, my experience has also had some very unpleasant moments. It has also provided some outcomes and growth that I feel very fortunate to have received. Haidt is showing that my experience isn't just mine alone, and it's more than just "seeing the silver lining" stuff, it's real. Regardless of whether you agree with the theory, you should find a way to make adversity work for you, too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Own Marathon

I had a really crummy run around the lake today. I run a route that’s about five kilometers. From the moment I started, my legs felt heavy. I ran for a while hoping they would lighten up as I warmed up. No such luck.

The Queen City Marathon is this coming weekend. There were signs of it around the lake, namely in the form of little spray-painted signals that are telling runners where to go. This was a pleasant reminder that this week, I won’t be the only one slogging through a run.

In a way, I felt like I was running my own marathon today. It was that same feeling of willing one foot in front of the other, plodding my way along the path.

It made me think of another event I should do next year. The Five Kilometer Marathon for People with MS, their Families and their Friends. The title could use some work, but I think the event has merit.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I've just shamelessly promoted my blog to everyone who got their picture taken on the bike tour. You're probably here because of that. I encourage you to subscribe (over on the right), in case I say something interesting. You can go back to my first post to see why I'm writing this, if you want.

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Adjusting to New Realities

I find with MS that my health and ability to do the activities we often take for granted just changes more often. My definition of "normal" moves a little more than most. I always find myself realizing (or acknowledging) that what I can and can't do has changed. Once I figure out that things have changed, however, I'm able to appropriately adjust.

I had a relapse last year where I got really tired, wasn't thinking straight and got run down. Eventually, with the help of family, I saw it and took steps to adjust. It was an interesting time as the gradual onset of symptoms made it difficult to see that my reality had changed.

I think I am getting faster at adjusting and I'm getting better at adapting to changes in balance, vision, energy or what have you. I can't help but improve with all this practice.

There's a lot to be said for having a talent at adjusting to a changing environment. Arguably, it's one of the essential factors for life and career success these days.

Having MS gives me a competitive advantage of sorts. The flexibility it builds is definitely helpful.

Pre and Post MS Accomplishments

Some things I'm proud of accomplishing before being diagnosed with MS:

  • Falling in love with my future wife.
  • Graduating university with a commerce degree
  • Being promoted to management
  • Replacing the engine in a 1977 Mustang. I've included a picture of that one.

Some things I'm proud of accomplishing after getting diagnosed with MS:
  • Getting married
  • Having two beautiful children (my wife gets more credit for that, of course)
  • Buying a house
  • Running two marathons, one with a decent time, the other not so much
  • Completing three sprint distance triathlons and one olympic distance
  • Running multiple shorter-distance runs
  • Choosing a job for fit rather than security
  • Coaching friends on my approach to MS and lecturing on work-life balance
  • Participating in the MS Bike Tour nine consecutive years
  • Biking from Jasper to Lake Louise through two mountain ranges
  • Getting a ChangeThis manifesto published
I've now spent more of my adult life with MS than without. I guess that explains some of the imbalance in the lists. My point, however, is that I can still do lots of cool stuff, even with a little extra baggage.

Now, here's a partial wish list. I think I can still do all of them, even if I get a little slower or less mobile.
  • Take my kids to Disney
  • Learn to play piano
  • Take my wife to Mexico
  • Make an unselfish mark on this earth
  • Build a deck in our backyard
  • Do a 200km plus canoe trip north of La Ronge
If it isn't obvious, I like lists.

Fun with MS

Here's the manifesto: I believe having MS should be a positive, life-improving experience. It has been for me. To share this attitude and to spread this message, I will live this belief. I will also create MS celebrations with my family and friends.

I have better ideas than I have follow-through. I think some of my best ideas take a little too much in the way of sponsorship to take off as easily as I'd like.

Primarily, we create a theme and dress up for the bike tour. Our costumes have included - circa Adam West batman characters (The Caped Crusaders), cows (The Udder Team), 70's athletic apparel and disco outfits (The Boogie Knights), wounded soldiers (The Early Discharges) and a team that was rival to the Corner Gas theme (Team Wollerton).

Last year, we moved our team from Regina to Waskesieu. We still volunteered at Regina, though, and set up a "Pimp my Bike" station at our rest-stop. We put cards in the spokes, streamers on the handlebars... you get the idea.

This year, and soon to arrive on this site, we did a Superheroes theme in Regina. We built a life-sized superhero cartoon with the face cut out and took pictures. We're going to be emailing them to cyclists soon.

If you go to my first post on this blog, you'll see the idea behind The Year of the Nevin. A sponsor for the big raffle is still being sought.

I also had an idea for an MS/Regina Little Theatre fundraiser that I need to say out loud. I talked about it with the Regina Little Theatre board, and they were receptive, but I never found a sponsor for the actual fund raising.

Here it goes: A sponsor commits to paying $10 a head for people who come to an RLT show one night. The RLT charges their regular admission, perhaps with a donation to the MS Society. We advertise the show as "Pack the House for MS", especially targeting MS Society members. The result? Cheap goodwill advertising for a corporate sponsor, funds for the MS Society, a new audience and full house for the RLT and a fun night out for the audience. Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't think I am. If you want to sponsor this, let me know. I'll do all the leg work, you stroke a cheque for $4,000 (max occupancy at the RLT is 400).