I never thought a hockey player could have something in common with a fictional character until I heard about Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding’s announcement.
Harding revealed that he’s been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system by slowly destroying the covering of the nerves and scarring them. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, about 200 people a week are diagnosed with the disease, and approximately 400,000 people in the United States have it. Symptoms can be mild and not be associated with the disease, making it difficult to know exactly how many cases there actually are.
In Harding’s case, his symptoms began at the end of September with a neck problem that escalated to dizziness, black spots in his vision and numbness in his right leg. After an MRI of his neck revealed something wrong, a brain scan found lesions that were confirmed to be from MS. His doctor, Dan Peterson, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that from the moment of his diagnosis, Harding did not pity himself but dug in and began aggressive treatment. Once he was given medical clearance, he went back onto the ice to skate with fellow locked out players. He won’t give up hockey – his life – to the disease.
This reminds me of the main character of one of my favorite shows, The West Wing. President Josiah Bartlet, having survived being shot, revealed to the country that he had multiple sclerosis. Despite calls for him to not run for re-election, he did and won, and only later in his second term did he suffer a flareup from the disease. If you’ve watched the show (and you should if you haven’t), you know that he didn’t let it affect his job, nor did he use it to gain sympathy. He fought it while fighting Congress dealing with myriad problems that came across his desk. His mantra throughout the show, no matter what the outcome of the situation, was “What’s next?’
Josh Harding is like Josiah Bartlet, in that he’s determined not to let this affect his game. He’s vowed to fight the disease with everything he can while helping the Wild battle the rest of the Northwest Division. President Bartlet didn’t want people feeling sorry for him, and neither does Harding. For Harding, it’s not a question of “What’s going to happen to me?” but “What’s next?”
Best wishes to Josh Harding and Godspeed when he takes the ice again for the Wild.