Despite being wheelchair-bound after his first MS attack, Osmond fought back against denial, frustration, and fear to face his disease with the long-held family mantra, “I can do this.”
Written by Jeri Burtchell | Published on October 23, 2014
Ever since his diagnosis in 2006, singer David Osmond has been raising awareness of multiple sclerosis (MS) with appearances on “American Idol,” the “Today” show, “Entertainment Tonight,” and at countless events across the country. Now, this son of Alan Osmond, the eldest member of the legendary performing family from the 1960s and ‘70s, has teamed up with Novartis Pharmaceuticals to launch a campaign of hope aimed at those living with MS.
Our Voice In Song is the culmination of their collaboration, showcasing Osmond’s new song “I Can Do This,” a power ballad about his fight against MS that’s available as a free download. Although his is a personal story, anyone facing hurdles in life can relate. “I Can Do This” offers a universal message about the power of positive thinking to overcome adversity
Grandpa’s Prescription for Happiness
“[Music is] such a powerful medium of expression and carrying a message,” Osmond explained in an interview with Healthline. His challenge was to write a song about MS that addresses how he feels about it every single day “and not make it cheesy, not too warm-fuzzy.”
His first MS attack left him numb to the waist and sitting in a wheelchair, feeling frustrated and worried about what the future held. But he drew on a deep well of inspiration that goes back generations.
The phrase “I can do this,” a mantra he was taught as a boy, comes from his dad’s dad, George Osmond. A former drill sergeant in the U.S. Army, his grandfather was a “tough guy, a really strong individual, a strong spirit,” Osmond said.
Osmond described how his grandfather drilled the message into him that life is full of adversity. “You’re going to have trials and hardships, it’s going to happen because that’s part of life,” he recalls his grandpa saying, “But I promise you something: despite whatever it is you might be going through, you can do this!”
Osmond took that advice to heart and tries to live every day heeding Grandpa’s message. It’s the same mantra his dad, Alan, who has been living with MS for 28 years, lives by too.
David was only a small child when his father Alan was diagnosed, but he’s heard the story of that day. When the doctor gave the news, his mother said, “So this is MS? We can do this!” Osmond comes from a long line of positive thinkers, and the generation before him was recognized for their upbeat, lighthearted music.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals, maker of Gilenya, the first pill treatment for MS, has known about Osmond’s awareness and advocacy efforts for some time.
“David’s been an active member in the [MS] community for quite a long time,” explained Novartis spokeswoman Heather Swedin in an interview with Healthline. “We approached him a little over a year ago.”
Both parties were searching for new ways to empower those with MS and the connection just clicked “so serendipitously we hooked up and it’s been a great partnership,” Swedin said.
The partnership involved not only the launch of the website where visitors can download “I Can Do This,” but also a music video that Novartis produced. In it, there are several vignettes of people facing their personal adversities and pushing themselves to overcome. Sprinkled among the extras in the background are real MS patients who were invited to take part.
In the coming months, Swedin shared, “we’re looking to do kind of a ‘making of the music video’ video” where they will profile those with MS who played a part.
“It was cool having [the MS patients take part],” said Osmond. “They definitely were helpful on set and off — we had a great time together.”
More than a Mantra
Besides the video and free song download, visitors to the website can find David’s tips on how to live a positive life despite MS. Osmond has been taking Gilenya since it hit the market in 2010, but he’s quick to point out there’s more to taking care of yourself than popping a pill.
His message is about being empowered to take charge of your health. He told Healthline that he encourages people to “not just cope, to not just deny, but to really be proactive.” He hopes people with MS will speak openly and honestly with their doctors and “learn as much as [they] can.”
Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, a leading patient advocacy organization, will be honoring Osmond this month with the 2014 Can Do Award in New York City. He will be recognized for his contributions to improving the lives of people with MS. Starting next month, he’ll begin a multi-city tour to share his motivational story and perform his new song at local MS community events.
Photo of David Osmond courtesy of Novartis.