Friday, April 29, 2016

76 Things #17: Bruised but not beaten

A hundred years ago, doctors would sometimes misdiagnose multiple sclerosis as chronic alcoholism.

Sounds a bit bizarre but in defense of early 20th century medical professionals, if you were to consider some of the common symptoms associated with MS – loss of balance, dizziness, impaired vision and slurred speech – they have a “had a few too many drinks” ring to them.

Loss of balance is a common occurrence in my day.  I’m very careful going up and down the stairs and have learned to try and avoid other situations that might lead to a fall.

But even with this extra caution, bumping and knocking into things is still a regular part of my life.  What results are random bruises on my arms, shoulders leg and feet. 

The pessimist might consider these markings a painful reminder of living with a chronic disease but I’d rather view them as moments captured in time – ahhh, the time I knocked into the dresser…oh, that was when I stumbled into the kitchen table – temporary tattoos that create a work of art illustrating that living with MS isn’t a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing.

It can be embarrassing...even during the middle of the summer I'll be dressed in a long-sleeved shirt to cover my MS-induced artwork might linger on my body for weeks, maybe even months. 

This unintentional body art is the #17 thing you might now know about (my) MS. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

76 Things #16: Cane and Able

I remember the moment I was diagnosed with MS.

Just three people in a room; the neurologist, my wife and me.  Angela was to my left and the doctor was sitting across from us.

He told me he'd answer any questions we had - no BSing - and just give it to us straight.

I don't remember the exact questions I asked but I do remember one of his replies was "What we don't know about MS far outweighs what we do know about it.  You could go the next 40 years, live a normal life with no relapses...or you could wake up tomorrow and be in a wheelchair."

It was honest...but it wasn't easy to hear.

Not many mornings go by when I don't think about his my I get out of bed and my feet touch the ground, I know it is something that is not to be taken for granted.

I'm blessed with mostly normal mobility still.  Do I stumble?  Of course.  I've had quite a few falls, too.  But I'm still able to get around and am thankful each time I go for a walk with my family or shoot some hoops with my children.

Standing...well, standing is not so easy.  I'd rather be walking than standing.  Last Wednesday, as bad luck would have it, events of the day required me to stand in place for about 5 minutes.

Five minutes.  300 seconds.  And I'm still paying for it today with agonizing pain in my left leg and foot. 

So, over the years I've become more accepting of my limits and bought a cane to help me get around - the #16 thing you might not know about my MS.

I use it sporadically - maybe I'm having a difficult day moving around or, in other situations, I know I'm going to need it (for example, when my family went on a trip to San Diego...which included a day walking around their zoo.)

I should use it more but sadly, my pride and stubbornness often prevail over logic. 

I fear my children will see it as a sign of weakness...or friends will pity my situation.  My competitive spirit refuses to let anyone think - for just one moment - that MS might be getting the better of me.

But, if I would have used my cane to aid me as I stood idle last Wednesday, I wouldn't be in so much pain still today, even as I type.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring, I learned that eight years ago when I was diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic.  What is still in my control is taking good care of my mind, body and spirit - and sometimes, my ego will need to take a backseat...or at least let my cane help keep it standing up.

My walking buddy


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