Fast forward 3 years from my first symptoms, a regular appointment with my neurologist turned out to be my MS diagnosis day. I didn’t drive at this point so my brother Mark took me to all my appointments (he still comes with me to this day). The appointment was to discuss the results of my most recent MRI scan and lumbar puncture; also known as a spinal tap. Dr Bowen was a very serious straight-faced neurologist who never laughed at any of my comical comments. He once told me my brain was normal, I asked if I could have that in writing as many people would beg to differ……he said nothing.
Clueless doctor or difficult diagnosis?
My dealings with Dr Bowen were usually substandard, as I walked into his office and sat down; I expected this to be no different. He began explaining my MRI scan which showed no abnormalities, however my lumbar puncture did. He continued by saying that he believed it to be a condition called Multiple Sclerosis, but could not be 100% sure. The delightful Dr Bowen explained in his familiar monotone voice that usually people who have MS have lesions on their brain / spinal column, but I had none. He encouraged me to start treatment as it has been 3 years of struggling with intermittent symptoms. As part of his persuasive strategy, he added that “even if it turns out not to be MS, you will still benefit from the treatment”. Furthermore, the only way to get the treatment was to be diagnosed with MS. Sold! That was it; I was now the proud owner of an official MS diagnosis. I left his office with no understanding of the severity of the condition, not even an explanation of what Multiple Sclerosis is. I was confused but not too concerned. Mark was waiting for me and as we walked down the corridor I told him it might be multiple sclerosis. Hearing his concerned tone was the first time I felt truly worried, I started to think this might be bigger that I thought.
No more comebacks
Even though it was not a firm diagnosis, it was something. It was something to label my symptoms, something to tell my family and it was also something to tell my employer. I always felt discriminated against for being young and needed time off ill for an undiagnosed condition with peculiar symptoms. Just because I was young, somewhat healthy and some might say a “smart ass,” when symptoms flared up to the point where I had to take time off work, I felt no-one really believed me, especially my manager and oldest brother Neil (not to be confused with the good one, Mark). Being told I potentially had MS put a rocket launcher in my arsenal of comebacks for their snide, unsympathetic comments. I dropped the mic on their asses….boom!
While it gave me some relief from the negative comments, it also gave me something new to be concerned with. In the age of Google, I tried my best to stay away from trawling the internet for information about what this multiple sclerosis diagnosis might mean for my future. Instead, I chose to speak with my trusted circle of elders at work (Jill & Caroline). I learnt more about what MS actually is and what I may have to face. At this point I still felt indestructible and that the information they gave me would not happen to me. I carried on with my life as normal, ignorance was definitely bliss….for a while.
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