Life on Medical Disability in Remote Alaska

View of Clarence Strait from Prince of Wales Island, AlaskaView of Clarence Strait from Prince of Wales Island, Alaska

Thorne Bay, Alaska – In 2011, I became medically disabled and left my remote Alaska teaching position. Over the next two and a half years, I stayed home “sick” before I realized that disability was life and started living it again. Then, I wandered my small Alaska community’s beaches, forests, docks, and streets.

I am not a poet and have only written one poem, and this is it.


Sometimes, I need a little help now and then, so I have learned to ask.
Sometimes, I have pain, so I have learned to manage.
Sometimes, I am lonely now that I am on disability, so new friends I have made.
Sometimes, I miss my career, so I have learned to write.
Sometimes, I feel sadness, so happiness I choose.
Sometimes, I must figure out how to do things differently, but I still do.
– Melissa L. Cook, December 8, 2014

Now, for the rest of the Alaskan story. – “Throughout my career in the classroom and as a district administrator in a rural community of Alaska, I dreamed of being able to visit with friends while out to lunch.

Melissa Cook in Thorne Bay, Alaska 2013
Melissa Cook in Thorne Bay, Alaska 2013

I have been on medical disability for two and a half years, and it finally occurred to me that I can do that now. I may not have the energy to make it through a full day of teaching or be able to remember the content needed for a lesson, but I can sit down with a few friends and order pizza while talking about our latest quilt project. It is as if I have spent the past 31 months out on sick days. Disability isn’t a sick day; it is life. It is about time I realized that and started living again.”
– Melissa L. Cook, November 27, 2013

Learn more about my Multiple Sclerosis in Alaska Story

I presented “Conquering Disability with Attitude” and talked about my Alaska adventure and multiple sclerosis journey to the Dragon Claw group on December 13, 2022. The presentation is on my YouTube Channel @AuthorMelissaCook entitled “Multiple Sclerosis in Alaska – Melissa Cook’s Story.”