“We had better look into that MS thing,” I told my family doctor. I explained with fear in my voice, “something is happening now!” The tingling in the tips of my left hand had crawled all the way up my arm. The left arm was growing heavier and I was losing co-ordination and sensation in my fingers. I felt that a band of elastics was tightening daily around my rib cage. Within three days of the visit with my physician, I was being scanned by an MRI. The neurologist and family physician confirmed a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS. There was the tell-tale scar tissue in my brain. I was then given steroids intravenously and I continued with a dosage of oral steroids. I rested as much as possible. Although, can that be right? I can’t remember how I managed to rest. Taking steroids is like pumping caffeine directly into your veins. It was May 2001. My youngest child was two years old and her older brother and sister were four and six years old. My two teenaged step-daughters were with their mother in another province. My husband had a busy job. We must’ve hired a babysitter.
I only told a few people at the time. My husband went into a state of shock. I must’ve phoned both my father and my mother right away. We told a few friends. I remember telling one friend, who has since become one of my “MS buddies”. She had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis decades earlier, and, when I knew her got around exclusively in a wheelchair. Always an elegant and forthright woman whose friendship I enjoy; when I told her of my diagnosis, I whispered it to her in a hushed and saddened voice. She replied, “You’re destined for the wheelchair, girl”, as if she was inviting me to an exclusive club, that I didn’t to join. Was she implying that it wasn’t a bad thing? I was taken aback and disgruntled. I wasn’t ready for this! But she wasn’t going to let me feel sorry for myself. Her remark ensured Reality slapped me in the face. But, I had been avoiding the reality for quite some time and would happily continue to do so for years. I wasn’t ready to reconfigure myself into someone who needed a wheelchair.
(A photo I took of Tracy Arm fjord in Alaska)