Credits: A Book Of Me by Aprilisa Designs
The beginning of 2011 was agonizing for me mentally. I’d finally realized that my physical trauma had become more than I could handle. And I wanted to do whatever drastic procedure was necessary to fix my hyperextending knee and the lower back issues that had gotten to the point when I often doubled over at the sink when I was doing dishes because my back just gave out when I was standing.
It was pretty awful and I was trying to figure out and accept what I’d done to myself to cause the problem. Overweight, yes, that’s easy. But I know a number of people with weight problems worse than mine at my age or older who don’t have the physical issues I do. I’d spent many years as a cable producer climbing the ladder to the top of the production truck to set up rails for outside productions and for many years I walked at least a mile every day for health and leg strength and to just detox my mind. Maybe it was the physical things I’d done anyway that contributed to my physical woes. Regardless of the cause I brought on to myself, I needed to finally come to terms with it, get it fixed and focus on not redoing it to myself. I was pretty down on myself and vowing to “save me from me,” fix the damage I’d done.
Much as I disliked the idea, I knew I’d messed myself up bad enough that I was going to need back surgery. I got an MRI in January that confirmed that I had 5 discs in my lower back that ranged from bulging to herniated. Upon seeing the results my doctor sent me immediately to a neurosurgeon.
The neurosurgeon wasn’t as sure that lower back surgery was all I needed. The disk problems explained my gait and the folding over when I was standing for a while, but it didn’t explain my balance issues. He sent me for more MRIs.
In the mean time I was taking 2 classes towards my Networking and Web Design certificates. I took Photoshop and Intro to XML as online classes figuring I’d be in a nursing facility to recover from surgery and I’d be able to do my classwork between therapy sessions. I wasn’t sleeping well at night because of the back and even when I did sleep well it seemed it wasn’t enough. I was just tired all the time, sometimes falling asleep with my nose in the text books. What was worse, I just wasn’t getting XML. It’s a 100-level class and a continuation of the HTML/CSS class I'd aced a year before. It was very frustrating to say the least, but it just wasn’t sinking in. Add that to the “unexplained balance issues” and I was a mess!
The neurosurgeon was concerned with the additional MRI findings and ordered a CT scan. At this point, a brain tumor couldn’t be ruled out. Okay, now my nerves were on high alert. The CT scan results showed that my cerebellum was too small and I was sent to an immediate appointment with a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic.
The Cleveland Clinic specialist ordered a brain MRI. While the brain tumor was ruled out, they needed more tests to figure out why I had these problems that were bigger than a back problem.
My PCP confided that his brother has MS and that my symptoms were similar. I needed to be prepared because “it could be MS.” I was devastated. I really had no idea what Multiple Sclerosis was but my mother died of arterial sclerosis so the “sclerosis” part just meant “death sentence” to me.
Homework time; I discovered, much to my relief, that MS is not a terminal disease, although it’s incurable right now. More common symptoms, like severe fatigue and “brain fog” explained the trouble I was having at school. Drop foot explained what I attributed to my knee and called the "Igor walk.” It really could be MS
The Cleveland Clinic neurologist called me a couple days after the brain MRI. It’s never good when the doctor calls you instead of you calling him for results. He asked if I’d ever been tested for MS. An appointment with a neurologist specializing in MS was made and in-office testing with the MRIs confirmed it. In June I was officially diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. After talking with the doctor and tracing it back, the symptoms started in 1996, when I was still climbing on the top of a production truck at least once a week.
After six months of agonizing tests that started with self-loathing for what I must have done, to facing my mortality, I had a diagnosis that actually made me smile. MS happens to about 1% of the US population. I did nothing to bring it on and there is nothing I could have done to prevent it; it’s not my fault at all. MS also doesn’t affect life expectancy; I still have lots of years in front of me. There would be some changes that had to be made, but I face them with resumed optimism. It’s tough, but I got this!