Thursday 12 February 2009


Shortly before I left the office to play football, it started to snow again. By the time I was in my car, the traffic was already well backed up and the snow was really starting to come down. The game was still on, but even as I ran out onto the pitch, there was already a fairly thick covering and it was still coming down pretty hard. I was wrapped up pretty warm, as you might expect from a man who runs in a long-sleeved Helly Hansen thermal base layer even in the summer: hat, gloves, a merino wool base layer, two other layers of football shirts. I draw the line at playing football in my running tights, but even though I was wearing shorts, I still thought I was wrapped up well enough.

Apparently not. After about twenty minutes, the snow was easing up a little, but now little crystals of ice were falling from the sky and the temperature was dropping. The game continued regardless, but I could now feel the cold starting to seep into my extremities. My neurologist told me in one of my earliest consultations after being diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis that the temperature could have a big impact upon my symptoms. He actually meant that most people find that their symptoms worsen as they get hotter. Personally, I've never really found that to be the case, but I have discovered that I am really affected by the cold: I lose all of the sensation in my arms from my shoulders and my fingers become extremely unresponsive; my feet rapidly become completely numb and then begin to really hurt. Although I'm generally okay when I go out running in the cold, and I have very few problems when I go skiing, for some reason football is the worst. In winter, I quite often find that I am really struggling to fumble for change at the end of the game when I collect the money from the team to pay for the pitch.

Today was the worst yet. We played for about ninety minutes in all, but after that first twenty minutes, I felt my arms and my feet slowly beginning to shut down, and I felt myself getting less and less effective on the pitch and more and more miserable. I played abysmally, of course, and I'm sure that was as much because of my state of mind as it was down to my symptoms, but by the end of the game, I was hobbling around and starting to actual think I might cry. I probably should have stopped at least thirty minutes earlier, but had decided to play on regardless. Ninety minutes after we stopped playing, and after a long, hot shower, I still can't feel my feet, my thighs feel a bit dead and my fingers are still numb and clumsy.

My symptoms have been a bit worse over the last two or three weeks anyway - since I fell over, actually - and as it's been two years since I last saw him, I was wondering if it might be time to go back for a checkup with my neurologist to see if anything has changed inside my head and around my spinal cord. My shoulders, especially my left shoulder, have been weak; my fingers have been buzzing and tingly; and my feet, especially my big toes, have been numb. I have found myself stumbling a few times when I miss my step or when my leg muscles don't quite hold my weight for a fraction of a second. I don't know if these are new symptoms, exactly, or if they're just a transient worsening of the symptoms that I already have. What I do know though, is that although I do my best to ignore my condition, when it makes me feel like I felt tonight, I'm reluctantly forced to acknowledge that I am being physically impeded by this thing, and I wouldn't be human if I didn't allow myself a moment to wonder if this is going to get any worse. It's not going to get any better any time soon, that much I do know. God forbid if it ever slips into self-pity though.

I'm going swimming tomorrow, my ninth consecutive day of exercise. That'll show my damn body who's boss.


  1. Just be careful not to over-do it!

  2. What anon said, just take care of yourself

  3. I know its easy to think that more is better - I train three times a week and play sports for two/three more days (i.e I only have one day of rest typically).

    True, I haven't put on much weight, but neither was I getting any lighter of fitter in that time.

    After taking a week off completely to go away for the Chinese New Year where I did nothing but stuff myself, I actually found myself feeling better (albeit a few pounds heavier) when I went back to the gym and even my trainer noticed I seemed to have gotten stronger

    Remember, its just as important to get adequate rest as it is to train. Better to push yourself really hard on the days you do train, and then enjoy the break than to train everyday but at increasingly lower levels of intensity because your body just won't respond.

    You take it easy mate