Kinda Like a Sunburn

3 Jun

People who have gone through chemotherapy regimens are cautioned to avoid excessive sun exposure for a time because of an increased risk of melanoma.  Being pretty well passed the danger zone, I hosed myself down with heavy duty sunscreen and got in the pool with the kids last week.  Well, I hosed down the front of my body.  I guess I thought my back, shoulders, and the backs of my legs were covered simply by being in the vicinity of application.

Twenty minutes was about all it took to leave me lobster red.

In the painful days that followed, I couldn’t help but think that this was about as close to MS feeling as I had been in some time.  I thought I would write about it to help some of you who might wonder about your friends who look great, but feel miserable.  Sunburn doesn’t mean you get to sit in a wheelchair and have meals brought to you.  Sunburn doesn’t excuse you from laundry, answering the phone, paying bills, or being nice to children and strangers.  All the same, sunburn makes every minute one in which you must determine to stay in the moment and avoid simply screaming, “I have a sunburn!  Please stop touching me!  Stop asking me dumb questions that you could answer yourself!  Let me check out of life until I feel better!”

I had two days where I was in a reasonable amount of pain.  During those two days I had to be careful how I sat, I changed my gait slightly to accommodate, I planned meals that meant little to no time in the hot kitchen, I scurried from ACed venue to ACed venue to avoid the heat from the sun on my already inflamed skin.  I was in a constant state of irritation.  At the end of the second day, it occurred to me that I was experiencing something that most people could relate to and that might help explain the invisible symptoms of MS to the layperson.

MS is a bit like a second degree sunburn that never goes away.  It makes you tired, cranky, short of attention, and very short on patience for nonsense.  Seeing an MS sufferer in a social setting and with a good attitude means that you are witnessing the constant turning away from one’s desire to lash out and/or hide in a cave.  If you know an MS patient who shows up with full make-up and a smile, you are witnessing something way more than you know.  If you see the occasional crack, please give mercy.

I still have some lingering symptoms, but I feel so much better than I did that I’m as good as cured in my book.  This silly sunburn gave me a bit of a pause to stop and reflect on just how far I have come, what I endured, and what hundreds of thousands of people who live among us quietly endure daily.

If you’ve ever had a sunburn, you still don’t know what it is like to have MS, but I think that in some way you can appreciate the constant, nagging undercurrent of torture that MS is for so many.

(Just wanted to add that I still cleaned out a super gross chicken coop, swept and mopped my floors, and did countless loads of laundry with my sunburn.  I said that it is kinda like MS, but it’s still nowhere close.)

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8 Responses to “Kinda Like a Sunburn”

  1. Amy June 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    You said that very well. Obviously, I don’t have MS, but this perfectly describes how I feel a lot of days. Just getting dressed, going out and talking to people seems overwhelming at times. I am glad that your bad days are limited mostly to sunburns these days. 🙂

    • ericswife June 3, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

      I think this pretty well describes most all chronic or lingering health problems. I love you lots and you have my deepest empathy.

  2. Mike Glenn June 3, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    WOW! A sunburn sure is no fun….and I feel for you having that to contend with as well….As you say your world goes on….It does not stop and no matter how you feel you need to do the chores….I commend you for what you did…..just truged through like a soldier that had no choce but to “just do it”. Thanks for sharing……It helps to put in some limited perspective what you go through daily. MS is a dreaded disease that zaps the energy and is characterized by pain all the time…..We have all experienced a bad sunburn sometine in our lives… to have this as a mild comparisson to what MS is like is really mind boggling…..Gives our prayers extra urgency to pray God’s grace and His strength to be your daly supply…..

    • ericswife June 3, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

      YES! It really does aid in knowing how to pray for those who suffer chronic illness. Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement. It means more than you’ll ever know.

  3. Gregg June 10, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Wow. Well said. I have had MS for 10 years now and have been relatively symptom free. The first 2 years I was in a lot of pain and barely able to walk. Since then I have been on a medication that seems to be working. However, its the “hidden symptoms” that are so hard to deal with. People see you, and think you are fine because you are not limping. But what they can’t see is the “sunburn” or the MS hug, or the bladder problems. Thanks for sharing a little of your story.


  4. Mari Shaff March 15, 2016 at 6:07 pm #

    Thank you Amy for sharing your very personal story. I myself do not have MS however, I can pass all this information on to those in who does. You are changing lives 1 person at a time.
    May the favor of both God and man be on you. Psalm 5.12

  5. ashley kong (@ashleykong992) January 9, 2017 at 2:55 pm #


  6. Isobel December 8, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    I’m a 22 year old girl from England and i’m afraid that I’m about to be diagnosed with PPMS as I’ve had my symptoms for 6 months, would you mind contacting me about the transplant? i’m scared out my mind

Honest Truth About Me: I'm going to need a lot of cheer leading to see this through. Your comments and encouragement mean the world to me.

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