On the whole, I reckon that I’ve been pretty lucky with my MS symptoms. Although I was officially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, apart from the moment I first woke up with a numb hand that morning in 2005, I couldn’t honestly tell you that I had ever experienced a definite relapse.
MS is notoriously hard to pin down and every single person seems to experience it differently, but the way it normally works is that sufferers experience episodes where their symptoms get significantly worse (relapses) before then easing off a little – but not completely – over time (remission). Typically, sufferers experience cumulatively more disability over time as the symptoms that remain after each relapse become more and more significant.
For me, it hasn’t quite worked out like that.
My initial symptoms were pinned down to a large lesion (or 'sclerosis') that had formed on the myelin sheath of the spinal cord in my neck, but my neurologist couldn’t find any other definite lesions (i.e. 'multiple sclerosis') and I was only diagnosed 4 years later after an analysis of my spinal fluid taken via lumbar puncture. My symptoms – mostly numbness, pins & needles and fatigue – have never got significantly worse or significantly better, but seem to have remained reasonably constant on a slight downward curve ever since. Slowly though, I’ve been noticing other issues: I’ve lost flexion in my left ankle and there’s been a general loss of muscle strength, particularly on my left hand side. I’m told that there is now a noticeable disparity in the size of the muscles in my legs, with my left leg now something with something like 10% less muscle mass than my right. None of this is anywhere near as dramatic as waking up unable to walk or to see or something like that (both of which are reasonably common amongst MS sufferers), but for all that it’s a waste of energy wondering where this might all end up, it is a bit of a worry.
My most recent symptom is muscle spasms in my legs. I’ve had cramping in my calf muscles at night for a while now, and if you look at those muscles in my leg, they seem to pulse of their own accord most of the time, as though something was crawling around underneath my skin. Now though, my thighs have started to spasm and twitch, sometimes causing an uncontrolled jerk in my legs. This most often happens when I’m sitting in front of the telly of an evening or when I’m lying in bed. I haven’t worked out if anything in particular is causing this, but my gut feel is that this happens less often if my legs are really tired after a run (although, it’s entirely possible that’s just wishful thinking). Maybe I need to run more to make sure they're properly tired? (I'm kidding!)
Apparently, spasticity is a very common symptom of MS, for whatever that’s worth, given how my MS doesn’t seem to have been exactly text book up until now. Whatever. What I do know is that it’s more than a little annoying.
On the plus side, one of the possible treatments is apparently cannabis……..