Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
Finding Meaning in Life
Daniel Service -- Marion County, OR
I was a college student at Ricks College, Rexburg, Idaho, when I received my draft letter for the Vietnam War. Wanting to maintain some control over my future and, hoping to get a few more options regarding my deployment, I withdrew from college and joined the Army. I was in active-duty status for a little over 3 years, then was in the reserves, teaching for many of those years. I was diagnosed with MS in 1991 and retired about 6 years later, bringing my total military service to 20 years.
Before my diagnosis I had experienced just about every symptom of MS, but nothing was severe enough to make me seek the advice of a doctor. Until that one day, while playing catch with my children, I kept throwing the ball directly at my feet. While this seemed funny at first, I also found I couldn’t walk a straight line, my body zig zagging as I tried to move forward. I knew then that something was seriously wrong, and I made the decision to figure out what it was.
The following day, I researched my various symptoms in an encyclopedia. As I connected the symptoms I had experienced, I was led to the disease multiple sclerosis. When I read what that was, I knew I had it. Everything moved quickly after that. I was examined by a neurologist, had a series of tests, and was diagnosed with MS. Following my diagnosis, I applied to the VA for health care benefits. VA has taken good care of me, providing me with health care, medical and adaptive equipment, and even a clothing allowance every year.
However, my MS has still progressed over the years. I used to run 5 miles a day and took great pleasure from running. MS took that away. Sometimes, my speech is not the way I would like it to be, and I have days where I lose my train of thought or my memory doesn’t work like it used to. While I eat a healthy diet and take care of myself, which I’m sure help me do better, I don’t have complete control over how my MS will affect my body. But, I do have control over who I am.
When I reflect on my life, I don’t see a man defined by MS, I see a man who has lived a good life, has made a difference in this world, and is surrounded by people who love him. I find so much joy in life, whether it’s tinkering in my garage, spending time with family and friends, or reading my scriptures. My days are full, and they go by so quickly.
The importance of others, helping and supporting people whenever I can, helps guide my life. My wife and I have spent many days, through our church, helping people discover their family history. I volunteer with the Paralyzed Veterans of America and have held various roles in the organization over the years. I’ve been the Oregon Chapter’s Sports Director, Treasurer, and President, in addition to helping at fairs and expos. I even went to Washington, DC to advocate for wheelchair bound people on flights.
Through my experiences and actions, I’ve been able to meet and help so many people and I’ve learned that small acts can have huge impacts in the lives of others. There will always be things in this life that are out of our control. Yet, I have control over the person I am and so do you. Show kindness, generosity, and compassion to others. Be the change you want to see in the world, and through our actions, the world will be a better place.