Thursday, January 28, 2016

My MS Story

It all began the Thursday before Halloween when my feet went numb.  I kind of have a bad habit of sitting on my feet so I figured it would go away.  The next day they were still numb.  As the next few days went on the numbness was spreading and I didn't know why.  Eventually I decided I better go to the doctor.  They ran a bunch of tests with no answers.  After a long drawn out struggle I had an MRI on my brain.
Various things were running thru my head.  What if I have cancer or a tumor?  What if the problem continues to spread?  How would my husband make it work if I were gone or unable to help?
A few days later I received a call from my doctor to go over my MRI results.  There were signs that the myelin covering of my nerves was breaking down in multiple parts of my brain. (these areas are called lesions)
My symptoms were spreading quicker than my doctor expected and she wanted me to get into the neurologist as soon as possible.  Along with the numbness, I was now experiencing some weakness/unsteadiness in my right leg.  When the neurologist heard how fast my symptoms were spreading she was very worried and asked me to go straight to the hospital.  My emotions were a whirl wind.  I was so scared.  
As urgent as everyone seemed for me to get to the hospital the first few hours were just one big waiting game.  Once the neurologist got involved things started happening quickly.  I had another MRI, this time on my spine. The MRI results came back and there were also two lesions on my spinal cord.  These are most likely what caused numbness and weakness in my legs.
From the day I first went and saw my family doctor she informed me that this could possibly be multiple sclerosis.  It was just a possibility then.  After the two MRIs, a spinal tap, and a series of blood tests my symptoms pointed to MS but no one wanted to be the first one to say it.
In order to stop the inflammation causing the damage to my brain and spine I was given high doses of steroids.  In all I was in the hospital away from my kids for 36 hours, having steroid infusions and trying to get back on my feet quite literally.  A physical therapist even came in and taught me how to use a cane and railings for stability.   
The effects of the steroids were more than I could have imagined.  I knew because of the doses I received in the hospital that the steroids made me feel crummy but I never expected them to have such an impact on my everyday life.  My brain was foggy, my vision was a little blurry, and my heart pounded out of my chest constantly.  It wasn’t until these symptoms started affecting my job that I realized how much MS could really change my life.
It took a few weeks, but I regained the feeling in my legs.  Now I am just trying to get used to my new normal.  I have a set of symptoms that rotate in intensity and location but never completely go away.  I have a cane for the days when my legs decide to act up.  MS is truly an invisible disease and how I feel can change within hours.  I was raised to always be tough and push through pain.  Now my doctor is telling me to listen to my body and not push myself or I can make my symptoms worse.  I am constantly trying to decide if I am taking it easy to take care of myself or if I am letting MS be my excuse to not do more.
As difficult as it may sound, I really am doing ok.  I have MS and it isn't a death sentence.  It isn't even a "life as I know it is over" sentence.  It is a "oh boy here's a hurdle let's jump over it."  In no way am I saying that it will not be difficult.  Sure life would be a lot easier without hurdles to jump over but we can still jump.  I came upon a quote the other day that states perfectly how I hope to face MS.

You either get bitter or you get better.  It’s that simple.  You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down.  The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.  ~Josh Shipp