In Episode 055, Joan Patterson describes growing closer to God through multiple sclerosis

Today I am interviewing a woman from Pennsylvania who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It is a crippling disease that eventually confined her to a motorized wheelchair and required a service dog to help with basic tasks. Yet, through the ordeal, she saw God working in her life, and today she has a sense of purpose to help others see God moving in their lives regardless of the circumstances.

Joan Patterson lives in York County, Penn., which isn’t too far from Harrisburg. One day, she felt a numbness in the left side of her face, similar to what people experience when Novocain wears off after a trip to the dentist. Doctors felt she had a pinched nerve, so she was ordered to rest in bed for a while.

But, when her left arm went numb a short time later, Joan knew she had a problem. Being left-handed, she needed to figure out what was wrong and quickly. That began a one-year odyssey to try to diagnose the problem.

Even though many of the tests suggested Joan was suffering from multiple sclerosis, the MRI tests showed her brain was clear, so doctors ruled out the disease. But, in 1989, a specialist was able to diagnose the problem even though she had not had a flare up.

Two years later, Joan couldn’t sit up straight while attending a church service one day. Eventually, her conditioned worsened to the point she needed assistance to walk and, eventually, required the help of a service dog to retrieve items and turn on lights to help her enjoy a sense of independence.

I can’t imagine what it would feel like to watch as a neurological disease left me more dependent on others for my basic needs. But, Joan experienced that and thrived as she developed an even closer relationship with God.

Shortly after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Joan relied on a quad-cane to get around, especially at the school where she taught. When walking became more difficult, she moved to a three-wheeled scooter, but that meant her car had to be modified to accommodate it.

After two scooters wore out, her physical therapist recommended a power wheelchair, which needed a special van for Joan to drive, but it came with a price tag of $160,000.

One of her biggest answers to prayer was getting a service dog, which involved multiple miracles. First, her husband who had been allergic to dogs, tested negative for the allergy. Then, when attending a show for people over 50, Joan met a woman with multiple sclerosis who was using the exact same type of power chair, and she had a poodle sleeping beside her.

That’s how Joan found out about Canine Partners for Life and scheduled an interview. During that, she discovered it would require a wait ranging from six to 18 months for Joan and a dog to be trained to work together. In faith, she submitted an application.

A few months later, Joan got a phone call out of the blue from the agency announcing a service dog had unexpectedly become available. Ironically, its name was Faith.

Joan wrote a book recalling her experiences in contending with multiple sclerosis, getting her service dog and growing closer to God in the process. The book is titled “A Matter of Faith: Surviving Life’s Crises with Four Wheels, Four Paws and a Loving God” and is available on Amazon and in other bookstores.

People can connect with Joan by visiting her website at, or by email at

That’s all I have for this week’s show. If you’d like help in identifying a purpose for your life or to get help planning your next steps, I’m offering a complimentary brainstorming session to members of the Forward From 50 Facebook community. For details, connect with me on Facebook or visit

I’ll have another inspirational interview on the next episode of the Forward From 50 podcast. Thanks for listening. If you like this show, please consider leaving a review wherever you download the episodes.