I was at MS clinic the other day. This is my once-a-year trip to the hospital to have a check-in with my neurologist. Well, as I've never actually met the supervising neurologist who is technically my doctor, it's usually with one of his registrars.... not that I have a problem with that.
It's usually a thoroughly depressing experience. I've got absolutely no complaints about my treatment: QMC is a centre of expertise for the study and treatment of MS, so I'm confident that I have access to some of the best care in the country, completely free of charge. I'm also lucky enough that my condition has been pretty stable for several years now, so I've never really needed much attention from them. The doctors are nice enough and the MS Nurses are lovely.
No, it's not my treatment that I find depressing, it's the other patients.
When I was first diagnosed with MS, I joined the MS Society. It only cost me £5 and it seemed a logical thing to do. After all, they're a charity that funds research into the disease and offer practical support to sufferers and their families. They send you a magazine every so often too. This magazine is interesting enough, featuring articles on the latest research work and interviewing prominent people whose lives have been touched by multiple sclerosis. Unfortunately, it's also filled with adverts for wheelchairs and other mobility aids. I understand that this is the demographic where I now reside and, believe me, I don't need anybody to remind me of the possible outcomes for me.... but at the same time, nor do I want to face into that stuff until I absolutely have to; I'm not in denial about what could happen, but I don't want to dwell on a possible outcome that may never arrive.
Sitting in the waiting room to see the consultant neurologist is similar: when I arrived, I was the only patient there not in a wheelchair. As I took my seat and looked around, I could also feel the eyes on me as everyone in their turn idly assessed me to try to gauge how affected I was. Of course, the irony is that nobody knows better than someone with MS how invisible many of the symptoms of MS can be, but that doesn't stop us all looking and judging. By the same token, for me to look around and to see that literally every single other person there in a wheelchair is a very depressing sight. No matter how many times I tell myself that it might never happen to me, the possibility is written large.
The session with the neurologist was short: I haven't had any major relapses, I'm tolerating the Avonex well (bar a low red blood cell count) and I'm fit and active. I'm always a little bemused how a neurologist can tell so much from a bit of simple push-against-this-ing and pulling-against-that-ing, but apparently they can. The bottom line is that we're not going to do anything differently: I may be starting to have problems with my bladder and I definitely have escalating disability in my left side, but in the grand scheme of things I'm very lightly affected by MS and count myself lucky.
I'm not in a wheelchair, anyway.
As a matter of fact, I've run 148 miles, cycled 320 miles and swum 11 miles since 1st January this year. No definitely not in a wheelchair yet.