Three years ago, I was diagnosed with MS. It took about six months from the time I first saw my neurologist to get the actual diagnosis, but he and I were pretty sure we knew what it was from the beginning. I loved my neurologist.
When I say “my neurologist” I actually mean my second neurologist. My first neurologist was a ball-licking douchebag with the bedside manner of a used tampon.
For a couple years before I was diagnosed, I felt “off.” My memory wasn’t as sharp as it had been. I had occasional periods where I would lose my train of thought. I had periods of shaking and twitchiness and I often felt like I was in a fog. My primary care doctor sent me to Dr. Douchenstein, who spent all of five minutes with me at my initial appointment.
He examined my eyes, asked me how I felt, banged my knee with the hammer and said he thought I was fine…but if I really wanted to pursue this….*deep sigh*….he would go ahead and order an EEG.
When my EEG came back with “some small slowing in the left frontal lobe,” he said it was no big deal. He saw nothing remarkable and that there was no seizure activity indicated on the EEG.
In short; I was fine.
I saw him about 9 months later and he spent even less time examining me and indicated that no further tests were necessary. I could see the receptionist on the way out to give her my co-pay. Wham-bam-thank-you-man.
My primary care doctor believed something was wrong, though she didn’t know what. She sent me to see a new neurologist and this dude was the polar opposite of the first one. The initial appointment was over an hour long and he asked about everything.
Through his questioning we found out something very interesting.
As a child, I’d remembered taking an orange liquid-filled capsule. I’d stopped taking it when I was around 16 or 17 and I never knew what it was for. The truth is that when I got old enough to question what it was, I had taken it for so long that I didn’t think twice about it.
Dr. Raddude had me ask my mom what the pill was for and (finally) at age 40, I learned that I had petit mal seizures as a child. You would think that would be the kind of info I would have known, but nope. With this new information in hand and an extremely thorough initial evaluation, the doc went to work investigating.
Approximately 15 MRIs, a CT scat a PET scan, two EEGs and a spinal tap later, I had a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I was having small seizures still but honestly, at the time our focus was on diagnosing the MS. The diagnosis of the actual type of seizures has been in the last month, mainly because they’ve returned and have been getting worse.
MS affects everyone in different ways and for varying lengths of time. If you’re not sure what MS actually is, it’s a degenerative disease of the nervous system. It’s not fatal, but it does lower your quality of life. There are four types of MS and each is slightly different than the others, but there is one common thread: no two people will necessarily have the same symptoms.
My symptoms tend to be dizziness, loss of balance and coordination, dropping things, stumbling over my words or slurring words, losing my train of thought, straight up forgetting things (things that I should absolutely know) and (this may sound funny, but is NOT a joke) I had one more symptom in my head to tell you, but I cannot remember what it is. Whatever it is, it’s kind of new to me and I was going to tell my doctor about it, but as I said, I forgot to write it down.
When I was first diagnosed, I was in the midst of my first big MS attack. It lasted about a year, and in that time I had to use a cane, could not walk more than a block or two without getting completely exhausted, had to write everything down in order to remember it, fell I don’t know how many times, including a half dozen times in the shower and went through a two-month period where I needed to sleep 16-18 hours a day.
This wasn’t stay-in-bed-like-I-have-depression, this was sleeping because my body needed the rest. My neurologist said it’s not uncommon for some MS patients to go through that and it completely sucked for me.
Throughout all of this, I had full custody of my daughter. Luckily, I had nearby family who could help me out. For a while, I was having a hard time with doing simple things like fixing dinner. There were nights when I would try to cut veggies and my hands were shaking so badly that I was afraid I would cut a finger off. Other nights, I repeatedly dropped whatever I was carrying–plates, food, knives, you name it.
I couldn’t drive for almost a year because of the dizziness. Luckily I got state disability for six months, but was denied SSI. Why? I really have no clue. The crack medical team that evaluated patients for Social Security was holed up in a shitty storefront office with 1970′s equipment and they said I didn’t need it and that was that.
The kicker was the woman I was dating at the time. She is a RN at a very well-respected hospital and one night she told me this, “If you can’t work and can’t do the normal things you should, what good are you?” And with that, she dumped me. Swell, huh?
For two years, I did pretty well. The symptoms were minimal and except for a couple of small episodes I remained symptom-free. Until about two months ago. Things haven’t gotten as bad as it was the first time. Yet. Maybe it never will. That’s the thing with MS–you just never know.
Since the first attack I’ve moved far away from my family. I have a new neurologist that I absolutely love. She’s as thorough as the first one and is the one who actually diagnosed my seizures as Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy or JME.
Thanks to the seizures, though, she is pulling my drivers license which means I need to look for a new job.
My current job requires a license. Plus, I deal with people on a daily basis and it’s tough when I keep stumbling over my words. I’ve been mocked by some co-workers on a regular basis as well. A couple of days ago, I was standing in front of my boss’ desk for about five minutes and we were talking. In that short time I dropped my pen three times. He never said a word, but the last couple of days I’ve had co workers pass me in the hall and drop whatever they had in their hand. They will generally bend down to pick it up and say something like, “clumsy me.” It’s childish and makes me feel both pissed and like less of a person–though I know I’m not.
Things are starting to suck ass again, but it’s not the end of the world. I have a couple of friends here that I can count on and I have a wealth of them back home and ones that I’ve made through my writing. I consider Aunt Becky (ed note: I love you, yo) a close personal friend and I would help her in a second if she needed it.
The bottom line is this: I have MS and JME and they will both (to a degree) diminish my quality of life and will make things more difficult for me, but neither disease is who I am. I will find a way to get by. I’ve taken this and put my own touch on it. I occasionally have to use a cane, but I found one that has flames painted up it.
It looks way awesome and it’s my way of looking at the MS and the JME and saying, “blow me.”