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The Kids Were Gone, I’d Survived MS — The Only Thing Left Was to Write

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

By Kris Erin Clink

I wanted to write like Scott Turow. Or maybe John Grisham. Ideas swirled in my head and I figured they would sort themselves out, eventually.

I had a glorious life with children running around and my ten-year high-school reunion coming up. By day, I had Mommy & Me gymnastics. At night, my husband and I attended wine tastings and dinners. Our existence was so gratifying, so thrilling, that it sent a tingling sensation through my body.

At least I thought that’s what tingled in my mid-back.

With the help of a personal trainer and a workout buddy, I’d finally shed the baby weight. The nice surgeon restored the cleavage I’d lost to pregnancy. At twenty-eight, I had the world on a cracker.

The reunion came and went, followed by a wedding anniversary at a Ritz Carlton beach resort. The children began kindergarten and nursery school. My tan faded. I embraced the cool mornings pushing a double stroller around the neighborhood.

An electric jolt pulsed my right leg, but I kept moving.

Winter blasted through north Texas. And just like that, spring was upon us. I found little time for writing. A fleeting hour here and there allowed me to create content for the Junior League monthly. No short stories or poems, but I was writing, which was a miracle considering how busy I had become.

Summer inched closer. We took a family trip to Disney World and managed to book adjoining rooms so my husband and I could sneak in some alone time. Before we left, I scheduled a wax. The nice woman ripped the hair from one side of my nethers, revealing a smooth surface. But a cold sweat and visceral pain quickly followed. I girded my loins as she went to work on the other side. The satisfying rip hit my ears before I’d realized the deed was done.

A halfway-painless bikini wax? How nice.

Our existence was so gratifying, so thrilling, that it sent a tingling sensation through my body. At least I thought that’s what tingled in my mid-back.

A creeping numbness gripped my legs and then coursed up my hips and around my waist, lingering far too long below my well-restored rack.

With a small hand in mine, I walked around Epcot in legs I no longer controlled. We were at the happiest place on earth, for God’s sake! There wasn’t room in our itinerary for this unnerving feeling.

At the end of the week, a mouse-eared clerk pushed a pen and a credit card receipt at me. The pen felt cold and foreign, and my signature looked more like ransom note scrawling than too busy to care. Whatever it was, it would pass. We had flights to catch.

Back in Texas, I attempted to regain control, framing mementos of a vacation I would never forget. I unpacked the bags and folded the clean clothes. Resuming our regularly scheduled existence, everything was in its right place.

Everything except for me. My body disobeyed, tripping me when I trudged up the stairs. I avoided signing checks — my penmanship was starting to become embarrassing.

I pondered the prickly jolts shooting over my neck and shoulders. I didn’t have time for this. I was supposed to be living my idyllic life. People depended on me — a woman who was now hanging onto walls for support.

Two weeks after Disney World, I was in the doctor’s office. This time, as a passive observer, I listened as my physician husband and our internist discussed diagnostics. Didn’t they know I wasn’t yet thirty? I’d made plans to raise my children and become a writer.

At the hospital, I slumped in a vinyl chair beside my husband. He was preoccupied and overly quiet. Later, I’d learn he was convinced I had a brain tumor.

Most patients must wait for a doctor to call with the results. As a medical family, we were different. The radiologist had invited us into his crowded control room for a preview — a luxury I didn’t want. He pointed to blurry images. The white spots indicated scars on my brain and spinal cord. My husband nodded along, but the jargon couldn’t cut through the thick air filling the room.

Finally, I asked, “Is it MS?”

Glancing at my husband first, the doctor paused before turning to me.


My grand plans began to recede into the background, as nurses administered IV steroids at our house, and concerned friends distracted our children during infusions. People brought meals. My best friend washed my hair, pretending we were playing “beauty shop” so my three-year-old wouldn’t worry. We laughed, but it wasn’t all that funny.

I was supposed to be living my idyllic life. People depended on me — a woman who was now hanging onto walls for support.

Weeks passed and another doctor prescribed weekly shots to mitigate my symptoms. The nurses and my friends stopped coming. Hopelessness compounded as the reality of my situation cast a pall over our house.

I retreated to our study, where journals and textbooks lined one of the upper bookshelves. I threw them, one by one, into a green trash barrel, and along with them went my dreams of becoming a legitimate writer. I wouldn’t have time for that now. I’d count myself lucky if I could walk.

My world caved in a little more each day. All the while, my husband reminded me, “not to fall into that hole.” Like everything else, that choice wasn’t mine.

He tried to reinvigorate the woman he married, knowing I wasn’t built to rest quietly at home. God love him. On some level, he realized that writing might drag me back to him. He bought me a laptop and encouraged me to write — write anything.

Unfortunately, I had the time, but not the will.

Hesitantly, I typed out the first sentences. The pictures in my mind came to life, even if the words didn’t match up. I printed these crappy manuscripts, only to place them in boxes, never to see the light of day.

Time was plentiful but, as my work would indicate, talent wasn’t. I was no Scott Turow, no John Grisham. I was a mom, a wife, a woman who needed to save herself.

I typed out the first sentences. The pictures in my mind came to life, even if the words didn’t match up.

But the medications worked, and my body slowly recovered. The doctor prescribed an anti-depressant for fatigue, and I realized that the depression was real. After climbing out of that hole, I returned to graduate school and landed on the Dean’s List. After walking across the stage, I taught undergraduate communications courses, still poised to write fiction.

My confidence bloomed. I took a medical marketing job. Our kids were growing up. The writing would have to wait. Against the odds, I was busy.

The seasons changed. A new nonprofit job left no time for writing. Better drugs restored my gait enough that no one asked, “Did you hurt your leg?” A physical therapist taught me to jog again. From the outside, I must have looked normal.

A monthly infusion put me in remission, where I have remained for thirteen years. My brain and spinal lesions healed. Time settled my disappointment. Like joking about winning the lottery, I teased about the day when I’d finally write that book.

Years passed. Our youngest left for Texas A&M. Our house became eerily quiet and much too big for the two of us.

Finally, my husband asked, “When are you going to write that book?”

I was forty-six. He had a point.

Before I turned forty-seven, I had quit my job and completed an ugly first draft of the book I’d publish five years later. The fire that had flickered under the surface had survived.

For the first time in decades, I wasn’t too busy to write.

I was too busy writing.


Kris Clink called Texas home for most of her life, but now lives in Kansas, where she and her husband have filled their empty nest with two spoiled pups. Clink’s debut, Goodbye, Lark Lovejoy, is the first in the Enchanted Rock Series. Clink is the host of Kris Clink’s Writing Table, a podcast for writers and book lovers. You can visit Clink online at www.krisclink.com or on Facebook at @krisclinkbooks