I remember my trips to the doctor when I was a child, and I smile. Aside from the occasional poke with a needle, those visits were mostly cheerful. I got to play with the strange-looking dummies with the removable eyeballs, and I stuck out my tongue as instructed. After thinking my doctor was some magician because he made my leg kick out by hitting me on the knee with a reflex hammer, he’d look in my ears, have me cough a couple of times, and that would be it. I’d get an admonishment to eat more fruits and vegetables, and then I’d get a lollypop and go home—nothing to it.
Yesterday I visited my neurologist. My visits with him are different from those visits to the doctor as a child—big time. After running through various tests to gauge how the Multiple Sclerosis has progressed, he sat me down in his office to go over the MRIs to tell me what they all mean.
Do you know all those medical tv shows that show abnormal x-rays against lit screens? Nobody ever pays attention to that stuff – until it’s them. It was freaky to look at my brain and the lesions inside of it. I equate it to those near-death experiences where people say they could see themselves above the operating table or hear people talking during an operation. Nobody really wants to see behind the face they see in the mirror.
But the freakiest part of my doctor’s visit wasn’t seeing the MRI’s. The wig turner for me was what the doctor said.
“You’ve had MS for years, and you probably ignored it.”
Ignored it? Who in their right mind would ignore their body shutting down?
“No way, Doc. Not me,” I responded reflexively.
“It’s okay,” he said. “Most people aren’t detectives. They don’t know the clues. But if you take 10 minutes and think back a few years, you’ll probably remember several incidents in which you should’ve realized something was wrong.”
My doctor then went out to retrieve some paperwork. While he was gone, I began to think about the possibility that I’d overlooked the symptoms. The number of incidents was startling. The longer I sat there thinking, the angrier I became with myself.
“How could I be so freaking stupid?” I asked.
- There was an incident about five years ago. I was driving at 8 pm, and suddenly all of the lights became very bright. The lights were so bright that I couldn’t see if I was following someone or driving into oncoming traffic. I couldn’t see cars at all. I pulled over to the side of the road. After driving at a speed so slow that I backed up traffic, I was able to get off of the highway and go home.
Now here’s the kick: Nothing about that was weird to me. Not really. Why? Because for all of my life, I had 20/20 vision and didn’t need glasses. The next day I went to the store and had my eyes checked out for eyeglasses. I specifically remember the eye doctor had a difficult time finding my right prescription.
- For years people have asked me the same question: “Why is your hand trembling?”
I never thought much of it. I was a heavy coffee/tea drinker, and I type a lot on my computer. I thought it was just something that happened when you drink too much caffeine. Wrong! It turns out those tremors were a sign that my immune system was attacking the myelin that protects my nerve fibers. The trembling in my hand was the signal not getting through clearly.
- And while we’re on the subject of hands, a few years back, I noticed a tingling sensation in my hand that would come and go.
“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome,” I said to myself. Wrong! Although Carpal Tunnel usually happens on one hand, somehow, I still think I should’ve caught it.
The bottom line is that most of us are guilty of that “Invincible Youth” mentality. Most people never take the time to check themselves out. After all, who out there hasn’t bruised a bone or puked their guts out on a crazy weekend?
Multiple Sclerosis has me pulling back the curtain on most of the crazy things I ignored about my life. Maybe this is what I needed to gain control. Life takes on a different perspective when you realize you’re not invincible and you’re not going to live forever.