Olympiacos head coach David Blatt, 60, wrote an open letter about his experience with PPMS (Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) for the first time since he was diagnosed. The letter was published by the Greek team and stipulates that he will not retire regardless of his condition.
Sometimes life throws things at you that really have no explanation or rhyme or reason. Those are moments that upon recognising you have to make choices that test your true character.
A few months ago I was diagnosed with PPMS (primary progressive multiple sclerosis). Τhis is a disease that has many forms and manifests itself in different ways to different people. It is an autoimmune system disease that can and does in many ways change your quality of life and ability to do even the most basic of functions in ways that have always seemed normal to you.
When I got over the initial shock and pain of understanding how this would and could change my life from today going forward, I decided I wasn’t giving in to anything. I was only going to adapt and adjust and find ways to continue my life as normally as possible. Τhe first thing I did was go back to my basketball coaching methodology of solving and overcoming difficulties… it’s my three-step process. 1) what is the problem? 2) why did it happen? 3) How do we fix it?
Well, the problem is the PPMS, which in my case and in my age manifests itself primarily in the weakness of the legs, fatigue/balance and strength are real issues for me. I have taken on a specific regimen of strengthening and balance exercises as well as swimming and aquatic workouts to improve overall body conditioning and help with muscle pliability and motion. I try to be more active than less so even if it’s simple movements so as not to allow the muscles to have spasms. I challenge myself to do simple functions that are easy for most but now are very taxing at times for me. I work. I maintain and I ask more from myself than less.
Why did it happen? Well, the reason why one suffers from this illness is unknown. Given no particular cause or explanation, one is left to accept that it is what it is and to focus on making the best of any and all available resources to improve one’s condition. Today and going forward. It’s easy to fall into mental depression and physical lethargy. This fight is real and constant and non-ending as there is no cure for this disease, but it is not lethal. There are many that have even greater challenges and all must fight their own battles. All must have courage and determination and never give up attitudes to move forward and live life with the greatest quality possible. Forget the why in this case. It’s not an answerable question. focus on the next.
How do we fix it? Well, we go to work. We make a plan. We work hard every day. We keep our head up. We adjust, adapt, modify and seek ways to improve or maintain. We educate ourselves. We find people we can share with and can help us. We are open and honest with ourselves and with others seeking awareness and not hiding or shying away from the perception of vulnerability…
I have been blessed with the help of so many good and loving people. Those that support and assist and at the very least understand that while I look and function a little differently, I am still the same person. And they don’t let me forget that fact even when I am a little down or discouraged. Self-pity doesn’t do anything but foster and encourage a downward slide that is harder to get up from.
I am a coach and my job is to lead and teach and inspire a lot of people. Not being as agile or active doesn’t affect my ability to do those things. I am fortunate. I have great doctors trainers physical therapists and management that accept my disabilities and help me overcome these. How could I possibly complain? I absolutely cannot and will not. It’s wasted effort and while I ask my players and staff to be the best version of themselves, I must ask and even demand from myself to do the same.
The great John Wooden once said ‘Things work out best for people who make the best of how things work out’. My condition is no picnic but many have it tougher. It’s my responsibility to be an example for all to continue to live their life in the best way possible and to never, ever, ever give in or give up.