When most fans logged on to their hockey websites of choice today to see if there were any updates regarding the lockout, I doubt any of us expected to see the headline that Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding was diagnosed with muscular sclerosis. We've been hoping for good news for weeks now, and instead we are greeted with more bad news.
Before I continue, I need to let you all know where I'm coming from as I write this. While I do not have MS myself, I was born with a rare hereditary spinal cord disorder called familial spastic paraparesis (FSP). My late father had it, as did his siblings and their mother. I have it but my younger brother does not, though he could carry the recessive gene. Like MS, it is neurological in nature. In my case, FSP causes weakness in my leg muscles and poor balance. At this time (I am 36 years old), I can still walk, although with the assistance of a cane. Eventually, I will most likely be in a wheelchair. It does not scare me as I have been blessed with role models in my family that have shown me that my disability doesn't have to stop me from doing what I want in life. While my legs might be weak, my determination is strong.
For those of you wondering exactly what MS is, it is an autoimmune disease that attacks the neurological system of the body. Ones own body attacks the central nervous system by eating away the important protective lining that surrounds the nerves. Those nerves are then left with scars and lesions. The result is dizziness, fatigue as well as balance and vision issues. In Harding's case, he started with a tick in his neck and then started seeing black spots in his vision combined with numbness in his right leg. Thankfully, he was smart and realized that there was something wrong and went to the doctor right away. He has been started on medications to help prevent future lesions.
In his interview with Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Harding seems positive about the situation. If you're the kind of person who wonders how one can remain so when they've received such a diagnosis, I can say from experience it's the absolute best thing he can and should do. Once you let bad news get to your mental well-being, you might as well just sit back and wait for your condition to take over your life. If you let your disease or disability take over your life, that is when there are problems. The most important thing is to keep a positive outlook and live your life to its fullest each and every day. Sure, that is difficult and Harding will face some setbacks on occasion, but at this time he is doing exactly what he needs to be doing. Living life and taking care of his health.
For Harding, if he ever comes across this, I'd like to tell him "you're not alone." There are many of us out here who struggle with various illnesses and disabilities. In a way, I'm fortunate because I've never known anything different. I've always known that I have FSP and know where it will take me. I know my limitations yet I know that I am more than my limitations. It will be harder for you Josh, because eventually it will take away your ability to play the game you love. However, you have accomplished something that the majority of us will never do, and that is play a professional sport. I am sure that your doctor has made this suggestion, but I will make it as well. Find a support group for people living with MS. You need to meet people in various stages of MS. They will show you that life is not over, it is simply beginning anew. I know you've met many young kids on Wild hospital visits who still smile and enjoy every day even though they're very ill. If you need a role model, just think of those kids. In the meantime, take care of yourself and enjoy this time with your family and friends. You clearly have a fantastic group of people around you, including fellow players. Do not be afraid or too proud to ask for help. People often want to help but don't know how or if they should.
And Josh, the fans will be here as well. When we finally get the chance to do so, we will be there to cheer you on.