Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
Reality is What We Make It
Kris Boudreau -- Whatcom County, WA
I enlisted in the US Navy through the Delayed Entry Program, beginning my basic training in August 1991. I was a 3rd generation seaman, with my grandfather serving during WWII, my father serving during the Vietnam War, and myself serving during Desert Storm. I was an electronic warfare technician, a position that works with radar detection. I served until April 1994, receiving a medical retirement due to my MS diagnosis in November 1993.
MS snuck up on me. My maternal grandmother and maternal great, great uncle had it, but when the left side of my body went numb for 3 days, I figured I just pinched a nerve. Then, the bottoms of my feet went numb, and I called my mom to tell her what was going on. She told me to have someone check if I had MS, and lo and behold, I had it. Years went by before I decided to deal with my MS. I led an active lifestyle, and my MS symptoms were mild, so ignoring it was easy.
Around 2010 my MS reared its ugly head, forcing me to retire from my job. I felt lost and found myself going to a dark place. The daily symptoms were a constant reminder that my body was failing me. I tried various DMTs. Several caused side effects I couldn’t live with, and I was unsure of trying more. At one point, suicide felt like my only option to escape everything I was feeling and dealing with. Luckily, my attempts failed, and I soon learned why I was struggling to escape the darkness surrounding me.
Through self-learning I discovered I'm an empath, taking in all the energy around me, positive or negative. I live in a Veterans’ home and am surrounded by people every day, people who have struggles of their own and traumatic experiences to overcome. Their emotions were flooding my senses, overwhelming me, and not allowing me to concentrate on my own thoughts and needs. It took me a long time to learn how to cleanse myself and block the emotions around me. Once I did my life was different, not just in how I felt but how I viewed the world.
One of the passions I discovered in myself was trying to help those with disabilities. While people with physical disabilities can do almost anything an able-bodied person can do, some of the mechanisms to help them achieve success have limitations. For myself, I’m a huge hockey fan, and though I wanted to attend one of the Kraken hockey games in Seattle, I found that because I was dependent on assistance to get to and from the games, I had no options for returning from a game in the evening. I wondered if others had this issue too and decided I would try to make the community more aware of the needs of people with disabilities, at least surrounding this issue.
Soon, efforts gathered to collect funding to help Veterans with disabilities attend Kraken games, raising almost $3K in less than a day. While I was the first to receive the funding, the group was able to get several other Veterans to Seattle to attend a game. While I had watched Kraken games on tv, I had never experienced the energy of an NHL team and the experience was amazing. I thought to myself, “this needs to keep happening” and soon, the nonprofit Kris’Krew, dedicated to getting disabled Veterans to Kraken games, became a reality. Someday, I’d like to expand to all sports and into different cities.
I’ve found helping others has given me more purpose in life, and sometimes motivation to crawl out of my dark hole when days are tough. In addition to Kris’ Crew, I connected with a friend in Las Vegas who volunteers with a nonprofit focused on healing, strengthening communities, and creating equity for all people. Being a part of a group of people trying to help others and make the world a better place helps me see my future, our future, in a better light. I get excited thinking of all the things we can do, and how the organizations will grow and help so many.
Over the years, I’ve learned that I can’t let someone else’s reality become my own. I’m careful in my thinking as the outside world can influence us in ways we don’t realize or even always understand. I’ve learned the importance of curiosity without judgment. While this isn’t always easy, I have a picture that I keep in the back of my mind to remind me that reality is what we make it. The picture is a small plant in a pot, with a quote that says “Sometimes, when you're in a dark place, you think you've been buried, but you've actually been planted.”