I have always been the type to put off going to the doctor. This probably stems from my childhood and the numerous doctor and hospital visits due to having asthma. When odd twinges, numbing, burning sensations appeared while pregnant with my first child, I brushed these off and as my OB/GYN concluded, “it’s the baby pressing on a nerve. After my baby was born, I honestly did not have time to be concerned with anything I was feeling. I was an over-anxious Mom and this did not change with baby #2, #3 or #4. Truthfully, the anxiety has not changed with my babies currently aged 22 through 27. My Dad’s diagnosis and subsequent death from lung cancer took me to an extreme level of symptoms with burning so that sleep was not possible. My Dad suggested I see his neurologist and for a reason I do not know, I did.
This neurologist was a gentle, quiet man that spoke with an accent making it difficult for me to understand. He remained patient however, as I asked for him to repeat his questions. I rambled off all of the symptoms in order of occurrence beginning with the first, six years prior. This was what I now know is Lhermite’s Sign. Jean Lhermite, a French neurologist, described the phenomenon in a publication in 1924. When tilting the head forward, an annoying electrical pulse or wave runs down the spine. I would constantly bend my head forward to see if it continued or if it stopped. I concluded with the burning symptom bringing me to his office. He said an MRI would be ordered but I had one of three things. 1. A cyst. 2. A tumor or 3. Multiple Sclerosis. I remember he said, of the three, MS would be the best diagnosis I could have. Yes, he had to repeat that.
As this was not of the age of looking health issues up on-line, I turned to books. Every book I could find described MS as a death sentence. MS was ultimately going to kill me – only a matter of time. The closed MRI scheduled for a few days later took about three hours. The report and follow-up doctor’s appointment took two weeks. And, my life was chaos. My Dad was dying and I had four kids under the age of 5. All I could do was keep going and that is exactly what I did. Shortly after, my Mom was diagnosed with colon cancer and died. I had not learned to handle stress well and the medication (Copaxone) caused side effects. Again, I trudged through. I needed to take control of my health.
I looked at my life and my past and the triggers for the Multiple Sclerosis exacerbations I was experiencing. My first symptoms and my worst symptoms were when I was stressed. Calming my anxiety and learning ways to keep my stress at bay have made a tremendous difference although I am constantly searching and working on ways to reduce and eliminate. Some of my Multiple Sclerosis symptoms would seem to come and go. There must be something triggering it. I looked at my nutrition, keeping in mind childhood food allergies and adjusted my diet accordingly. Bonus to this was weight loss. And, the heaviness and weakness in my limbs was and is a concern. Strength training has been the answer.
I am still learning – practicing – trying – experimenting. Honestly, everyone should be doing this – not only those with MS. I do not believe this is a doomsday diagnosis. We are all living proof of that. I believe those with MS have the opportunity to show MS who the boss is by living the best life possible.