An article I wrote in connection with Annette Funicello's death appeared in yesterday's Palm Beach Post newspaper. Since most of you know about my decades-long wrestling match with MS, I thought I'd share this with you:
Like her, I lived in L.A. when (three years before she was diagnosed) I received the frightening news that I had MS, and needed to get my “affairs in order and plan for the future.” But (perhaps because I ignored the advice of neurologists and refused all medication?) I have managed to coexist with this disease without losing either the ability to communicate or to enjoy life. Click this link to watch a brief Canadian video about the former Mouseketeer http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/annette-funicello-her-life-with-multiple-sclerosis-1.984202
As you watch the completely paralyzed woman who was the Miley and the Britney of the Baby Boomer generation (she recorded 19 albums and made 19 movies), it’s impossible to believe that she was once celebrated all across America for her energetic beauty.
Over 400,000 Americans have MS (Multiple Sclerosis is named after the “many scars” or lesions that affect brain tissue and/or the spinal column). And because those lesions can show up in a wide variety of places, each case of the disease tends to be unique unto itself.
Some people retain motor skills and the use of their arms and legs, but lose their vision and/or the ability to speak. My diagnosis came in 1984, I’ve been wheelchair dependent since 1990, and although my voice and vision are strong, the only parts of my body I can move at will are my left arm and hand.
Like Funicello, I also have a loving (extremely patient) husband who doesn’t mind the expense and inconvenience of having a dependent and disabled spouse. Not all MS patients are so lucky…
Although I never interviewed Annette Funicello, my earlier (i.e., healthy days when I could walk and type) career allowed me to meet scores of entertainment celebrities. Without exception, Hollywood insiders have said for years that she was as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. And an inspiring example of her kind nature was that—in the midst of her decline and discomfort—she established the Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases to help finance research into the cause, treatment and cure of MS and similar diseases.
Now that she is gone, I refuse to remember her as the unrecognizable disease-ravaged woman who was dependent upon round-the-clock care. To me, it is unspeakably sad that only after receiving CCSVI vascular angioplasty could she even manage to blink her eyes in order to communicate on command.
As a fellow unwilling MS warrior, I choose to remember her smile, her sweetness, and her insistence that “My life has always been filled with happiness.”
Looking forward to your comments...