At some point on Sunday morning, I hauled myself out of bed, walked a couple of steps, and then collapsed in a heap on the floor when my right leg totally refused to respond and wouldn't bear my weight. Apart from a couple of scrapes and bruises, I got away pretty lightly from the fall, managing not to land on the edge of the bed or against the radiator or anything like that. Psychologically though, it's a different story. Why was my right leg - actually most of the right side of my body - refusing to respond? After recovering from the initial surprise of the fall, I found that my leg still wasn't working properly when I stood up, and I had to drag it behind me to the bathroom. I was still half-asleep at this point, so after a bout of headspin (not all that uncommon for me, actually, and in this case possibly brought on by the fall), I went about my business and then dragged myself back into bed.
As I lay there, I was actually pretty calm, although I could feel that C beside me was awake and worried. Ever since I was first diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis in August 2005, there has often been an underlying assumption that this could be the underlying cause of almost anything that happens to me: when I fell over in the shower a year ago, it might have been because of the loss of sensitivity in my feet, or it might have been simply because I slipped on some shower gel. Although I seem to have upswings and downswings, my symptoms have essentially remained stable for the last few years: I have pins and needles in my hands and feet, widespread numbness across my body and a loss of power across my shoulders and arms. The problem is that TM could be a transient diagnosis on the way to something else, and the neurologists are looking out for new symptoms that could be the first signs that my diagnosis is moving. No one knows when, or even if, this could happen. It could be tomorrow. It could be in twenty years. It might never happen.
With that in mind, I have chosen to be phlegmatic about my symptoms. I am a terrible worrier about things that I think I ought to be able to control. This manifests itself in worries over stupid things like (in the old days) the fit of my glasses or the scratches on the lenses (worries that have, to a smaller extent, transferred to my new eyes), I fret over a small imperfection on the heel of a new pair of shoes, or the fit of my new skiing helmet. I will obsess over each of these tiny little things until something else comes along to occupy my mind. The bigger stuff I generally find much easier to deal with. I have no control over the lesion on my cervical spinal cord that is disrupting the flow of nerve signals around my body and causing my current symptoms. I have no control over the progression (or otherwise) of whatever underlying neurological issue caused that lesion. I can't do anything about the numbness or the pins and needles that I feel, and I can't really do anything about the loss of strength either. I continue to exercise as best I can and I have added a regime, three morning a week, that is designed to slow the wastage of the muscles across my arms and shoulders. I take fish oil supplements every day. Beyond that, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to be gained by worrying about it.
Was my fall on Sunday morning caused by a new symptom? Was the lack of response in the right-hand side of my body a new symptom? were things moving on? Was this a sign of things to come? I really don't know. My symptoms are on a upwards curve at the moment generally, and I've been feeling more tired than usual and finding exercise a bit more of a struggle, but it doesn't follow that things are getting worse. I might be finding exercise harder because I'm older, because it's the middle of January and because I've been doing more than usual. I might have fallen over on Sunday morning because I slept on my right leg funnily and cut off the blood supply. Whatever caused it, it seems to me that there's very little to be gained by worrying about it.
All the same, I suppose I wouldn't be human if I wasn't a little concerned; that fall wasn't exactly a pleasant experience and it's certainly one that I hope isn't repeated any time soon. Apart from anything else, I'm going skiing next week, and I reckon I'm going to be needing the right-hand side of my body....