Response to Mairs’ “On Being a Cripple”

Nancy Mairs uses vivid imagery in order to paint a stark portrait of the challenges faced with being disabled. Mairs describes her condition as “crippled”, parts of her body incapacitated due to degeneration from multiple sclerosis. A disease that affects the autoimmune system, MS erodes away at the myelin sheath  on the axons of neurons, scarring motor tissue. As a result, loss of mobility, eyesight, and control over bodily functions are some of the challenges faced by MS patients. Mairs delves into deep underlying issues of the disease. Not only does Mairs feels she is a prisoner in her weakening body, her mind is also under extreme duress. She resents the idea of being a burden to those around her, and as a result strives to remain an active individual, despite her condition. Mairs preoccupies herself through studying, teaching, and freelance editing; all while tackling the challenges of motherhood. Mairs details her experiences with MS through using a humorous tone, in order to inject light into such a dark topic: “I lead, on the whole, an ordinary life, probably like the one I would have led had I not had MS. I am lucky my predilections were already solitary, sedentary, and bookish” (48). Here, Mairs pokes fun at her condition by stating her life has not changed much, since she already preferred cerebral activities over physical ones. Mairs uses quirky anecdotes in order to portray that her life is not as grim as people assume.

Nancy Mairs’ story of the trials and tribulations of MS reminds my of my friend’s mother. All throughout Middle School, I had one good friend, who I spent weekends and holidays with. Her mother also had MS, and as a result certain activities such as blow drying her hair proved to be stressful on her hands/joints. As a result of MS, she suffered from a constant throbbing pain throughout her limbs. Despite this, she did not let MS control her life. My friend’s mother was always upbeat, active, and positive. Every year we would go to the annual MS walk on Jones Beach in support. Her zeal for life made me appreciate the small things that we often take for granted.

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