How Ted Lasso’s advice helps me in life with myasthenia gravis

His lessons on absurdity are very relatable for those with rare diseases

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by Mark Harrington |

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I’ve learned many lessons about living a happy life. Among the most valuable is the ability to recognize the absurdities daily life can toss our way. I believe we can choose to laugh at these absurdities and prevent them from gaining power over us. We can model the queen in Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come.”

Laughter can shield us from despair and depression. While life is full of absurdity for everyone, there are absurdities unique to life with rare disease. Laughter can make these easier to bear.

Myasthenia gravis (MG) has led me to some bizarre places. Rare diseases have a way of doing that. Often, I’ve had to make the journey by myself, as many of my MG treatments require me to be alone with medical professionals. The support of a loved one’s presence isn’t possible in the operating room, and I’m similarly alone when a technician and nurse perform plasmapheresis.

For me, this solitariness remains difficult. My sense of humor has become a crucial coping tool. It gives me the strength to get through difficult days.

During the early phase of my MG treatment, I took high doses of prednisone, which resulted in avascular necrosis in both my hips. For seven months prior to the diagnosis, I lived with excruciating pain. Four times I was treated in emergency rooms. In search of the cause, I underwent many painful procedures. My ability to find humor in the absurdities that accompanied these days helped me maintain my sanity.

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Lessons from Coach Lasso

I need to confess something. For two years, friends and family raved about the Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso.” I dismissed their enthusiasm. Finally, two weeks ago, I relented. I sat down with an iced coffee figuring I’d watch a few minutes. I thought that after 10 minutes, at most, I’d return to reading David Grann’s latest book, “The Wager.” Two hours of binge-watching later, I knew my friends and family hadn’t misled me. “Ted Lasso” is amazing.

Lasso is an American who has never played on a soccer team or coached any sport but football. Nevertheless, he accepts a position as coach of a British soccer team. The absurdity of this premise leads to situations fraught with pain and humor.

Coach Lasso models how the use of humor can lessen pain. He demonstrates how confronting absurdity can develop resilience and bring growth. As someone who lives with a rare disease, I know these lessons are applicable to my life.

When I first underwent plasmapheresis, I thought, “Here I am, hooked up to a machine that is removing all my blood, treating it, and returning it to my body. This is bizarre, lifesaving, terrifying, and absurd.”

In those moments, I learned a valuable lesson about living with MG. Coach Lasso put it into words when he said, “You know what the happiest animal on earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? It’s got a 10-second memory.”

I adopted this 10-second rule. It allows me to confront the absurdities of life with MG and release them. Over time I’ve released the fear, confusion, and absurdity of treatments like plasmapheresis and intravenous immunoglobulin therapy. I replaced them with thoughts of the incredible brain power required to develop such treatments. Now, as I lie in a hospital bed or infusion center, I send love and prayers to the thousands whose blood donations make my treatments possible.

During a 2021 hospitalization, while undergoing plasmapheresis for the first time, a physician asked if he could examine the port in my groin. This was a rather intimate situation. The doctor apologized for any embarrassment. My inner Ted Lasso surfaced. Recognizing the absurdity of the situation, and wanting to put the doctor at ease, I immediately replied, “No problem. Half the staff has seen it. I haven’t been naked this much since I was in my 20s.” He looked at me and broke out laughing. An awkward situation became lighter and easier for both of us.

I try to find a little humor in every day. One day I hope to be like the queen in Proverbs 31:25 and laugh at the times to come. Perhaps my goal will be the same one Coach Lasso set for his team: “Our goal is to go out like Willie Nelson — on a high!” Such a lofty goal. Pun intended.

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


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