Stories to Inspire: Challenged Yet Charming

By Mary C. Krapez

Photo of Mary Krapez riding Scooth
Accompanied by her friends (from left to right) Dr. John Tricou, Ken Tsui, and Claire Chang, Stories to Inspire author Mary Krapez enjoys a ride on “Scootch.” Owned by Barbara and Tim Mulry, Scootch is part of the riding program at the Sojourn Therapeutic Riding Center.

I live a challenged yet charming life. In my younger years, things were going pretty well for me. I was married to my husband Michael and we had bought our second home. Michael was a church deacon and I worked for a local parish as the director of religious education.

In 2000, my husband and I had a wedding to go to out of town. While at the reception, I noticed that something was not quite right; my vision in my left eye was faded and fuzzy. I was also walking a little strange, which I blamed on my shoes.

The next day, I called into work and went to find an ophthalmologist. I was smart enough to see a specialist… after all, my grandmother was a nurse and she instilled in me the importance of seeing the right doctor. After some testing, the ophthalmologist said that I had MS. I then went to see both my family doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis, and a neurologist.

“No big deal,” I thought. I was still walking, working, and driving at this point. Everything was okay until I became overwhelmed with stress. At that time, I began moving slower and had to depend on a cane. My husband had been diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away in 2002. My oh my, how life had changed.

I went from a cane, to a walker, to a manual wheelchair. I found that it is hard to wheel on carpeting! Moving to another home was not an option, so I had to make a few changes to the floors and stayed out of the carpeted living room…on the positive side, you don’t have to clean a room if you’re never in there! I finally returned to the living room after two years – once I got my power chair.

My MS took so much from me, such as my walking, clear talking, driving, and singing. It took away my work, both at the church and as a licensed beautician. But at the same time, it gave me things in return. It gave me unplanned time, with more time to pray and more time to ponder. I especially have more time to think before I act, as I used to be impulsive and found I would act first and apologize later. These changes all brought balance to my life.

I now even have time to pursue my passion for riding horses – a love that I inherited from my father. I used to ride horses back in high school, and in more-recent years, I have begun therapeutic riding. This is horsemanship for individuals who may have some type of physical, emotional, or other disability. By having more time to ride, I am able to get to know the individual horses better, adapting to the different horses on different days.

Here is my advice. Get on a medication that you are comfortable with and be your own advocate. Question everything that doesn’t sound right. And stay off the river called “Denial.” Try to stay positive!

My father used to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and these are certainly words to live by! How funny that one’s goals change along with his or her situation. My main goal in life has gone from dancing and singing to staying healthy. I try to do this by eating well, planning my physical activities, and praying a lot.

The people around me are important too, and I am so fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life. These include my partner – he also has MS – and my many caregivers and friends who are too numerous to mention by name. I am thankful to the members of my support group and to the people involved with the riding center where I go for therapeutic riding. I also have a cousin who was just diagnosed with MS; he too is very important to me, and we share our sense of humor. I am grateful to so many people – and feel blessed because I have them in my life.

As you can see, I have led a pretty full life so far! What will the future bring? As we all do, I hope to see a cure someday for MS. One area I may look into is stem-cell research, the kind that uses my own stems cells. And I know that more treatments for MS are right around the corner. In the meantime, I enjoy thinking about a cure, praying for it, and in this story, writing about it!