My MS diagnosis story - part one
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As I sit at my desk, prepared to tell this story, I’ve pressed myself a second cup of coffee. As I lean back and look at the blank screen, I wish there were something a little stronger in the cup. This past Friday was the anniversary of my MS diagnosis.
We’ve coursed through an awful lot of topics about multiple sclerosis here in these blog posts of Life with MS, however, this is the first time I have talked in detail about that day (or that week, really). I wrote about my five-year anniversary in the first month or so of this blog but it was more of a reflection than a recollection.
This morning, with unfortified coffee at the ready, I begin recall that week…
Monday morning, the 23rd of April, 2001 began in the dark. I was in rural western New York for the weekend and had an early, connecting flight from the Buffalo airport back to Seattle. I was tired, very tired that morning, but it wasn’t anything that caused worry.
In the previous ten days, I had traveled on business to San Louis Obispo, California, Hawaii (3 different islands), Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago and New York. So, maybe “tired” is a little bit of an understatement. I was to spend a night in my own bed on Monday and catch-up on office work, then fly back to San Francisco on Tuesday night. I didn’t end up making that flight.
The first sign (and we never see those until we’re looking back on them) was when the woman driving me to the airport said that I was “acting loopy” on the ride. My speech was erratic and I would zone-out, mid sentence. I chalked it up to the aforementioned travel itinerary; it was easily justified now that I look back at that schedule.
Passing through security (this was pre-9/11, so the stresses of travel were far fewer than they are today) I picked up my over-used mobile phone and started making my litany of business calls.
In one conversation, I remember remarking how the airport concourse was doing one of those “horror film” things; you know where the whole corridor expands in front of our doomed protagonist? In that conversation, I also recall saying that it was as if I were walking through a thigh-deep swimming pool, for all the difficulty I was making the slog to my gate; a symptom descriptor that I now know all too well.
“I have got to get some rest…”
Now, let it be known, flying over 250,000 miles each year has a few benefits. Not the least of these, and especially on this day, was the automatic upgrade to a first class seat. I would normally have spent the next several hours and two flight legs clicking away on my laptop computer and scouring paperwork. On this day, I slept.
I did not hear the security announcements, I did not feel take-off, I did not enjoy a first class meal, I did not feel our landing, I SLEPT. I was alone in my row of two wide, leather seats. Had the cabin not become boisterous during deplaning, I may have taken off again from Minneapolis on the same plane.
I hadn’t thought about it until today, but I think I actually had to travel from Minneapolis to St Paul to catch my connection. I now remember the pain I felt in my exhaustion as I trod my way step by increasingly difficult step from my arrival gate to my departure. Remind me to call my old travel agent and thank her for the two hour lay-over. I don’t think I could have made my flight otherwise.
Second verse same as the first when it came to the flight to Seattle.
Now that I think about it, I can’t believe I drove the 90-odd miles from the SeaTac airport to my home in Bellingham that afternoon. The trusty ol’ Jaguar must have known the route well enough to get us home safely that day.
It wasn’t until evening that I really knew that something was wrong…seriously wrong with me. Making my way from my study to the bar (Man! “Study,” “Jag,” “bar,” I’m making myself sound like quite the playboy, aren’t I?) I started to realize the severity of the situation.
My condo had the wonderful invention of radiant floor heating under the hardwood. On cold winter mornings (or cool spring evenings) the comfort of warm, wooden floors on bare feet can’t be described. On this trek, however, I heard (and that’s heard, not felt) my left, foot slapping the maple flooring with every step. Looking down, I realized that I was lifting my foot, and my leg, from my hip and that my left arm was starting to feel heavy.
“Good God, am I having a stroke? I’m only 35!”
The things the next morning (and week) brought were beyond my every imagination. This is already running a little long so you’ll get that half of the story on Wednesday.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.
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