Shortly after my initial diagnosis at 17, I received two cards: a glossy membership to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society with my name printed on it, and a yellow card with no gloss, no lamination, printed on card stock one step above construction paper. Temporary, like some insurance cards, but for a lifelong illness. In small black letters it proclaimed that the bearer of the card had multiple sclerosis, a disease which can manifest itself in a number of forms: slurred speech, unsteady balance, erratic gait when walking, and slowed motor coordination. These were not to be confused, the card instructed, with intoxication. There was a space on the card to fill in my name, and another for the doctor's signature. His office had typed his name, floating loose in yellow space. I was to carry the card with me at all times from that day forward.
Laurie Clements Lambeth’s MS diagnosis at the age of seventeen brought her to poetry. Her first book Veil and Burn (University of Illinois Press, 2008) was selected for the 2006 National Poetry Series. Currently at work on her second poetry collection and a book of creative nonfiction about MS, she also teaches in the Medicine and Society program at the University of Houston, where she earned MFA and PhD degrees in Creative Writing. To learn more about her work, please visit www.laurieclementslambeth.com.