TV Host Montel Williams Explains MS to his Kids
April 23, 2003
There's no question that receiving a diagnosis of a chronic illness can make you feel angry, even depressed. But you can, you must -- for yourself and those around you, learn to cope and live your life to the fullest you are capable -- in spite of, not because of your illness.
Here's how one man, Montel Williams, familiar to us as a syndicated TV talk-show host, learned to cope with this kind of situation. After having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) -- a diagnosis that can leave anyone in a state of shock and despair, Montel embarked upon a determined course of activity through physical fitness to look and feel as good as he could. In his book Body Change (Mountain Movers Press, $13.95), Montel, co-authored with his fitness trainer Wini Linguvic presents a 21-day exercise routine for everyone to improve fitness through balance, coordination, and strength, and for Montel, "to enhance my day, to improve the quality of my life."
I had the opportunity to talk with Montel, and for him, physical fitness, an important end in itself, is also about a whole lot more. It's about how feeling good physically can help him feel good emotionally, and give him more energy to be with, and play with his kids, now ages 8 and 9. "Once you start thinking about your own physical health and well-being, it opens you up to be more concerned about the people you love around you -- your spouse, your kids." Montel paused, and started to tell me about how his inner-strength, enhanced through exercise, affects his own family. Believing it is important to be totally honest, Montel has fully explained his illness to his kids, including an understanding of how MS can lead to progressive degeneration. He also expressed how he has a need to his own time for one hour every morning to work out in the gym uninterrupted.
Montel clearly appreciates that explaining his illness and his needs to his children has helped them become more empathic not only to "dad's needs," but to the needs and feelings of others as well -- such as kids who are bullied at school, and victims of 9/11. Montel shared with me some stories about how his kids want to help people in wheelchairs, or who are walking slowly in the mall, or who seem to look sad. "They understand that even though I look healthy now, I have this illness, and they are well-prepared for any changes in the future."
Just as importantly as his kids' wanting to help others, Montel believes his illness has increased his own sensitivity to the needs and feelings of his kids. "It makes me more aware of their needs than I might otherwise have been."
Montel doesn't know how long he'll look and feel as good as he does today. By living his life to the fullest, and, in part with the help of his fitness trainer, doing everything he can while he is able, Montel appreciates that his positive attitude and his life style helps not only himself, but his family -- a lesson we can all learn about how showing our kids that we care about them will help them want to care about us.
Copyright ©2003 Myrna B. Shure, Ph.D.