On some days, I get out of bed and I can't feel the soles of my feet. Other days, I get up and I've got a dead, pins & needles type sensation in my hands. Sometimes I awake with an almost painful loss of strength across my arms and shoulders. I've also started to notice that, on some days, I walk slightly awkwardly as a result of some stiffness in my legs. I don't suppose it's anything much to worry about just yet, but it's another thing I've started to watch out for when I get up in the morning. Most of these things I can handle: it's amazing what you can get used to. Yes, so I sometimes fall over when I get out of bed, and when I'm not feeling very steady, I have to consciously remind myself to be careful.... but basically I'm still able to carry on as I always have done. I get up; I go to work; I go running; I swim; I play football; I'm going travelling.... and all the rest of it.
When I went to the doctor the other day about my hand, my appointment was with one of those junior doctors who is doing his stint in General Practice. After he'd examined my hand, he asked if I minded telling him about how my MS first presented itself. Of course I didn't mind.... it's written all over my medical records, so it's hardly a secret. Besides, MS is notoriously difficult to diagnose, so I imagine that it's helpful for a young doctor to learn as much as he can about how things like this might present itself in his surgery. After all, when I woke up with the numbness in my right hand that turned out to be my first symptom in 2005, my first port of call was my GP.
After we'd talked about it for a few minutes, probably in lieu of anything else much to say, this doctor remarked that I "....seemed to have the right kind of personality for MS". That's a clumsy way of putting it, but I suppose I know what he was trying to say. Yes I have multiple sclerosis, but I'm damned if I'm going to let it get on top of me just yet and have been out running half marathons and things. Great, but really - what other choice do I have? There's no cure for MS and the best treatment option I have is designed to (hopefully) slow down the progression of my disability. What am I supposed to do when I wake up in the morning? Stay in bed all day bemoaning the hand I've been dealt? Feel sorry for myself? Curl up and die? No, ultimately I have to get up and get on with it.
I had loads of orthodontic dental work done as a child, and I was forever being called "brave" for putting up with all the various torture implements they used over a number of years to straighten my teeth. That always struck me as a bit odd: to my mind, I wasn't being in the least bit "brave", I was just getting on with things as best I could. What other choice did I have? It's a similar thing here. What choice do I have?
Of course, I'm acutely conscious that I have so far only been affected pretty lightly by my MS... so perhaps it's easy for me to be phlegmatic. I know that I'm lucky: my pins & needles, numbness, muscle weakness and optic nerve damage don't really do anything more than slightly inconvenience me. There are other people of my age with MS who have been far more severely stricken than me, many with serious mobility or visual problems. I'm fairly sure that most of those wake up in the morning and just get on with their lives too.
Perhaps we're all lucky enough to be blessed with the right kind of personality?
It's certainly not a trait that's unique to people with MS either, and I rather think it's a chronic symptom of the human condition: we're born; we try to make the best of it; we die.
That sounds depressing, but actually I find it oddly uplifting.
We just keep on keepin' on.
I like that.
But really, what other choice do we have?
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