Am I Getting Old or Is It MS?
Oh boy, am I having a fun time these days. I have a new game I get to play every day now. It starts in the morning and ends at night. It’s an unpredictable guessing game that pops up daily with new challenges. It keeps me on my feet with dreaded anticipation. It is a lifelong game with no prizes and I am never going to be a winner.
What? I am going to get old?
Until I was 27 years old I always assumed I would become an attorney. So did everyone else. My father is an attorney. My mother was a paralegal. My distant brother is a judge. And I have an uncle who is an attorney. I have had a love for the law since I was young and I still read appeals court cases for enjoyment. Yet, I knew it was not the life for me.
During all of this time, I never thought about getting old. Why would I? I have no extended family that would allow me the opportunity to watch the aging process in real-time. I only have one guide and she is incredibly useful. Knowing that I would age is one thing. Getting older is another. Having not had the benefit of older relatives, my understanding of aging depended upon absorbing everything that I saw and read. Without the experience that is observing a loved one age, I had very little clue of what was in store.
Aging with MS
I learned something new as I slipped past the AARP membership age - I noticed some new issues going on with my body. Of course, there were the creaky knees and more mature appearance. It was easy for me to categorize those things as part of aging. I've heard all of the mentions and know that there were some things that break down as we grew older. We have all seen the jokes about people in late middle-age beginning to complain about their health. Now as I face the reality of being an almost-elder, I have to distinguish between what is normal aging and what is multiple sclerosis.
What specifically is tied to multiple sclerosis?
To understand what is normal and what is multiple sclerosis-related, I did what I do best: research. I took to Google Scholar and typed my little heart out. I found interesting articles from the medical researcher's perspective. It was dry reading and not what I was looking to find. However, I did see one piece of information that caught my eye:
“Clinicians should be aware of the effects of older age of onset and advancing age on the clinical presentation and course of MS. In particular, one must understand how to distinguish normal aging phenomena from worsening MS and to identify other neurological disorders that are common in aging.”1
Not going it alone
In that one passage, I found the answer I needed. Instead of going it alone and struggling to differentiate between the two issues, I should be speaking with my multiple sclerosis clinicians directly. Duh! How had I missed this simpler solution? I am fortunate to have a great care team. They are invested in my health and well-being. My desire for answers led me to wrongly think I was alone. So, my creaky knees are from weight and age. My worsening spastic arms are not. My bad back? MS, age, and an older mattress. Go figure.
Do you ever swear you smell smoke or cigarettes but there's nothing there?