I write about lawyers in love, with a dash of kink, and in my next book, Kinky Briefs, Thrice, I feature a lawyer newly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis—a disease I was diagnosed with in 2002.
Katia “Munk” Hrulata is a bright, spunky Chicago lawyer who suffered a severe MS attack (we call them exacerbations) three months prior. The attack took out her legs and she was relegated to a wheelchair. The story revolves around her need to adjust her life to a new reality. Not only is she suddenly confronted with accessibility issues many MSers face on a daily basis, she also questions the impact MS will have on her relationships, in particular with the man she loves.
I am pretty proud of this story, primarily because it takes on some common stereotypes about people with MS:
That people with MS are incapable of leading productive lives. Every disability is different and it impacts people in different ways. That is particularly true of MS. Some MSers may eventually become so disabled that they cannot work, some may not. But that does not necessarily make those who cannot work any less productive. It just switches their focus and their priorities. There is also a related assumption that when people are diagnosed with MS, their life is over. They should just give up. When I was diagnosed, I was appalled at how many family members suggested that I sell my home and start searching for a nursing home! (I fooled them all. I merely hired a contractor to make my home more accessible.) Admittedly, some MSers have made a conscious choice to give up, but for many others, MS provides the motivation to fight harder for what they want and need out of life.
That people with MS cannot work. Here’s the thing—there are many people out there with MS who hide in the shadows, but have flourishing careers, as lawyers, doctors, teachers, corporate CEOs, politicians, and a myriad of other occupations. And they hide their disability for a reason. When I disclosed that I had MS, my clients and friends hastily abandoned ship. MS is not only a cruel and fickle disease, it is one that frightens those who do not understand it. But here’s the thing: Managing my MS has forced me to focus on what’s important, such as family and a lifelong desire to write books. And I credit MS with my productivity: This year alone, I have written five books—all due out by the end of 2017—and am working on another. I have also ghostwritten four books for professionals. I needed to prove that I could write books, despite MS, and I have. Many other MSers are accomplishing their own dreams as well. People make a lot of assumptions about what people with MS and other disabilities are capable of, and most of those assumptions are wrong.
That people with MS can’t have normal, loving relationships. I must admit, the first time someone said this to me, it really burned my ass. First of all, let’s get the word “normal” off the table. What’s normal to some is not necessarily normal to others. There are many ways to engage in and experience love. A disability may require some adjustment to the physical aspects of love, but to strip a person of their sexuality because of that disability is cruel and unconscionable. Second of all, yes, people with disabilities have sex. Again, adjustments may have to be made to accommodate “the act,” but it is certainly not impossible. Sure, neurological disorders—such as MS--and drugs used in their treatment may impact sexual desire and sensation, but that is on a case-by-case basis. It is not a universal truth. Third, even people with MS actively seek partners/companions. We just handle it differently. I tend to be upfront about my diagnosis simply because I don’t want to start falling in love and have someone bolt when I disclose that I have a chronic illness. And despite some very negative experiences, I have never considered giving up my search for “the one” or disclosing my MS.
That people with disabilities do not engage in kinky sex. In researching my books, I have visited numerous discussion groups. The first thing I discovered was that there are many subgroups devoted not only to people with MS, but people with other disabilities. There are also many articles about the subject on the Internet. If you are interested, take the time to check them out. Again, it appears engaging in kink is more about accommodating MS and other disabilities, rather than abandoning specific desires/needs.
While I wanted my story about Munk to fairly represent the MS experience, in the end, it is intended to be a love story. I have no doubt people with disabilities not only enjoy romance novels, they also embrace and enjoy romance!