You’d be right on. I dislike cold and the winter that brings it. Given half a chance, I’d permanently derail the Alberta Clipper that blows cold winds into my life.
The cold of winter, though, is only half the problem. It’s also, and maybe more so, the lack of light. Those people with MS who suffer in the heat suffer in winter because the low angle of the sun causes essential vitamin D to bounce off the Earth’s atmosphere and out into space. (That would explain why no aliens have been found with MS. Put that in your clinical trial.)
If you have MS, you can’t win. My neurologist says get more vitamin D – the more naturally, the better. The dermatologist says slather SPF 90 over my whole body to block the sun’s D-giving rays. What’s a guy to do? I say put the docs in a ring and let’em slug it out. It might not help the MS, but it would give me a laugh. Which, come to think of it, might help the MS.
So it is that, until a couple of weeks ago, I had nothing positive to say about winter except that I’m occasionally able to escape from it. That opinion was nudged slightly in a favorable direction during a recent talk in which the speaker made a connection between winter and MS. He said that MS could be known as “the snowflake disease.”
I like the metaphor, which evidently has been around for a while without my having been made aware of it. (Who dropped the ball there?) The meaning is obvious to anyone who has MS or who is close enough to it. The most notable characteristic of snowflakes is their uniqueness. Each one (so they say, although I haven’t checked them all yet) is different.
So it is with MS. Each case differs in its onset and progression, symptoms and treatment, appearance and effects. That’s all the speaker had to say and I agree with him as far as he went. As I’ve considered it, however, I’ve found other parallels:
- Get enough of either together and they turn into a formidable force, as even the pharmaceutical companies are learning.
- Snowflakes are formed when water vapor crystallizes around a filthy little fleck of dust or pollen. In spite of the rather undesirable blemish at its center, something beautiful comes of it. What if all of us with MS thought of ourselves as that crystal, growing and becoming more intricate and dazzling with each day? I’m convinced God sees that potential in us.
- Some turn into motionless blobs if exposed to sufficient heat.
- Many of us are flakes.
As with all metaphors, the snowflake one breaks down eventually. It fails, thank God, in the transitory nature of snowflakes. (I’ve said before and I’ll say again that life is transitory. However, it’s no more so because of MS. Try telling that to life insurance companies.) The heat may slow us down, but it’s only temporary. With a little TLC, we can return, for better or worse, to our normal selves. Let’s see a snowflake try that one.
Yes, all snowflakes are different, but the same can be said about people, which may explain why MS differs so much from person to person. It seems to adapt to individual temperament and body chemistry.
Maybe MS should be called the fingerprint disease. Those little swirling patterns share the uniqueness of snowflakes. Contrary to the singer’s opinion in Paul Simon’s “The Myth of Fingerprints“, they are in fact all different.
That metaphor has legs. Fingerprints leave a lasting impression, indicating where we’ve been and what we’ve done after we’ve moved on.
Let’s resolve to leave impressions that point to the good we’ve accomplished and honor the One we serve. May the consequences of those deeds endure beyond the life span of the average snowflake, indeed beyond the extent of our own sojourn here on this planet.