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I’ve Got a Feeling

I’ve Got a Feeling

Practicing medicine is an art in many ways. We go through school to learn anatomy, physiology, and how diseases can disrupt the body’s perfect harmony. Our hard-earned degrees make us feel like authority figures, but sometimes our strict education can set us up for failure. In the business this is what we call “real world” medicine, it’s where the art comes in. We may learn one thing in class, but once we get out into practice we learn that in real life things are not black and white like the text in a book. This is why I always found it a bit strange when clinicians dismiss patients who describe atypical symptoms of MS, despite the real world evidence right in front of them. Yes- MS can cause pain, hearing loss, and a myriad of symptoms that are not necessarily common. This shouldn’t be a controversial topic!

I personally experience one symptom that is questionable, but in the real world I have spoken to a few other people with MS who share it too. Before every relapse I get a feeling that something bad is about to happen. There’s a telltale lump in my throat like I’m about to cry, except I don’t feel sad or anxious at all. It’s not really an “impending doom” or anxious feeling for me, it’s just kind of a gut reaction that I’ve learned precedes relapses.

The concept of premonitions or warning signs, known as auras, is nothing new. People with other neurological conditions like seizures and migraines often get a telltale symptom such as a strange feelings, visual changes, or smells. However, as of now there is no evidence that says they occur in MS.
At first I thought I was a bit nuts, but I’ve had four relapses in the past three years and sure enough each and every time the same pattern develops. All of the sudden out of the blue that lump in my throat forms, and I just know that a relapse is imminent. The first couple of times I went into survival mode. I thought that if I was able to predict it, I could do something to avoid it. Maybe this feeling was like a siren wailing before a tornado touches down, allowing me to retreat to a bunker and ride out the storm. Surely if I rested, got plenty of sleep, drank lots of water, ate my vegetables, and avoided things that were bad for my health my body would reward me for good behavior! Well, no such luck unfortunately.

The second time that I got my “relapse aura” I was really scared, and the unpredictability was difficult to cope with. A week later I was unable to move my right leg, and developed foot drop. I had feared the worst, and as I picked out my first cane and sat in a wheelchair for the first time I felt as though my fears had been confirmed.

Luckily I have come a long way since that episode, both mentally and physically which is why when that familiar lump in my throat returned last month I wasn’t nearly as phased. Actually, I was even a little relieved that I even had some advanced notice. It gave me time to stock up on groceries, get ahead on some work, and just generally prepare for the worst case scenario of being out of work and unable to get around by myself. I have come to realize that I have survived every scenario MS has thrown at me so far, and it has made me more confident in my ability to continue fighting.

Does anyone else out there go through something similar, or am I alone on this one? I’d love to hear your stories!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Mary Phillips-Soriano
    4 years ago

    Catgirl66 You described mine to a tee!Its nice to know that others get this also. It was the very first response I saw and I’m so happy that you posted it. Now I don’t think I’m just imaging that it truly indicates a giant flare.

  • Catgirl66
    4 years ago

    My “aura” is that 24-72 hours prior to a flare I’ll feel incredibly good. Like normal again, only better. The longer the aura, the worse the flare. And, like you, following good health practices doesn’t prevent the flare or lessen it’s impact.

    11 months ago

    Okay this reply freaked me out a bit. I was just thinking this morning, I feel incredibly well today, and my mind is crisp and clear. I found this post and your reply after questioning Google on if feeling good can precede an attack. I pray not! :O

  • cw
    4 years ago

    I had my first flare in 5th grade. I was riding my bike home from school by myself. I usually didn’t ride alone. Went through a shortcut on a dirt path through some trees and my vision got all blurry. I walked my bike home the rest of the way and never told any one. It got better once I got home. I always had vision, not just of me but of other people. Almost always could predict what would happen next for people. Its like I understood them better then they did. My next flare wasn’t until my senior year of high school. Was a straight-A math student and then I couldn’t figure out how to add two simple numbers together. Reflexes were always slow. My ‘signal’ that I’m getting yet another flare is my cognitive difficulty- slow to figure out the normal stuff – like when to hit the brakes when I see a red light. Then the fatigue hits along with everything else. As things progressed I too developed trigeminal neuralgia. It is preceded by a large cold spot on the side of my jaw and face. Then of coarse there is the blurred vision. I wasn’t formally diagnosed until I was 27 1/2 (March 1990) just two months after my last child was born. I was scared to go to the doctor because I already knew there was something very wrong. I was working as a secretary and was very good at what I did and was always being given extra responsibility. I had had some dizzy spells, even while sitting down. Then I started to forget little things. One day I walked into work and was to type a quick letter. I got out the paper, put it in the typewriter and then nothing. I forgot how to format the letter – didn’t know if the date came first or the TO/FROM or Subject. I grabbed a manual and had to read the format section on How to Type a Letter. Then when I got to the end I had forgotten my bosses name and rank. I quickly found another recent letter and copied his name down in the signature block. I went down to the ladies room after that and sat down on the couch. I fell asleep for almost an hour. My oldest daughter’s optometrist is the one that got me to go see a neurologist. He was examining her and I was in the room. After he finished he asked me to stay for a second because he had noticed something with one of my eyes. Anascoria – my one eye was not dilating properly. I already knew. I also had a bout of what they called optic neuritis. Still I was afraid to go. Had the MRI done, then on that Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. (neuro’s closing time) I got a call say it looks like you have MS. And he hung up the phone. No way to call back with questions as the office was closed for the weekend. Monday I called the local NMSS but they said it would be a while before they could talk to me because they were setting up for the MS walkathon the following weekend. Someone finally mailed me some literature but I had known all along ever since that bike ride home in 5th grade. There has been many more instances. I also have many other serious conditions and I can tell when they are getting ready to act up to. Its just a feeling that becomes reality. I knew when my Aunt was going to die and when I heard the phone ring, that was the call. I knew when my Mom’s cancer was back, and it was. I just pick up on feelings. I never really told anyone stuff like this. Didn’t think anyone would believe me. Everyone thought I was an oddball anyway.

  • vikingkitty
    4 years ago

    I just have to say that’s awful the way your doctor told you about your MS diagnosis! Getting the diagnosis of MS is like getting a bomb dropped on you even when you have a suspicion you have it. It just confirms your fears in stone. I think he could have been a little more considerate and either made sure to speak directly with you that Friday afternoon or just waited until Monday when you could at least call his office back and talk to someone. He could have had a little more compassion…I guess to him it’s just “another day at the office”. Just my opinion.

  • linda h
    4 years ago

    I was diag in 2003 after having severe boughts of headches, doctors were looking for tumors and found all these white spots all over my brain, not in just one spot (which I am told is not the normal) so we went for a spinal which showed I had ms( I will never have a spinal tap ever again, bad headache for days after, went and had cafeine drip and ended up having a blood patch put in my spine to stop the leak of fluid) not fun. But to continue, the doctors felt that I had MS for a least 10 ton 15 years before due to my other symptoms(tripping,unable to use arms above head for more than a few minutes before they would go very tired and numb. I thought I was just getting old and tired cause I worked for a sandpaper manufactor in the factory 12hr days sometimes 7 days a week. No longer work due to an accident at the factory, which lead them to find the MS so I guess in that aspect I was lucky. But the way I can tell I am having a relapse is my eye sight gets real blurry in one eye or the other and I always get the shakes real bad, to the point I can hardly walk. I am not sure how long the relapse should last but mine vary from a week to a month. Thank you all and May God Bless and always watch over everyone.

  • vikingkitty
    4 years ago

    I too have had MS “auras.” In 2009, for about a 2-3 months before my first major flare in 11 years (and before my official diagnosis) I kept having the feeling of impending doom and as if I may have a heart attack (that’s how it registered in my mind) even though I had no prior signs of heart trouble and was fairly fit. The feeling was so strong that I signed up for health insurance being that I was uninsured. If I was going to have a heart attack, I’d better make sure I had insurance! Sure enough, I ended up having a stabbing pain in my stomach while at work and thought “this is it” although the pain went away after a couple minutes. By the next day, the left side of my body was numb. At that point I should have gone to the ER being I didn’t know it was MS. I ended up going to the chiropractor thinking I had a pinched nerve. Ok – so I was really trying to avoid the doctor….and reality!! It took months to recover from that flare and if I had been wise I would have gone to the neurologist at that point and gotten a diagnosis, some steroids to quell the flare and on some DMTs.

    In 2013, a year after my official diagnosis, I ended up having a weird aura for a few days that felt like jet lag. I was feeling very disoriented and like my body clock was off. It should have been no surprise to me that a MAJOR flare was on the way. The flare was so bad that it put me in the hospital for a 3-day course of steroids to stop the severe double vision and nystagmus. That one was the scariest flare yet. I believe in MS auras. I get auras before my migraines, so why not before an MS flare? Makes sense to me.

  • Miriam
    4 years ago

    Yes! I too get an “aura” before I have a really big flare. Typically my vision worsens and I get very cold. Cold that no amount of heat can take away. My worst symptom whenI have a flare is a condition called trigeminal neuraliga. It causes incapacitating pain and I have to be hospitalized and medicated with sedative hypnotics like versed to allow me to not remember the unbearable state of pain. This is followed by a procedure by a neurosurgeon called a rhizotomy where he actually goes through a sinus cavity and injects the affected cranial nerve to deaden the sensation. I’ve even had a craniotomy but the pain returns. I’ve had so many classic symptoms of MS for years but was never diagnosed. Even after the craniotomy I wasn’t diagnosed for 5 years. Finally after a really bad flare which I refer to as a crisis the doctors order another MRI. By that point I already had multiple areas with many lesions in my brain. That was a year and a half ago and since then Ive had the mega steroid treatment followed by disease modifying therapy that was not successful. My MRIs continue to show new lesions every time I have one ( which is every 6 months). This week I start tysabri. My symptoms continue to progress. I’m praying that with this treatment maybe I will actually known what remission feels like.

  • Paula
    4 years ago

    I am glad to hear this. I get a feeling of “doom” uneasy stomach. Never really associated the two. But I now can connect them. Will have to pay more attention to my “uneasiness”.

  • CatMom
    4 years ago

    Stephanie, I haven’t experienced what you describe, but as a child (8 to 11, maybe) as I was opening the screen door to walk into my grandma’s house, I just “knew” I would be the next person in the family to have MS. It was a split second happening.

    I never told anyone. I lived my life, had 2 children, raised them, they went their way.

    Then I had these strange symptoms. I went to my primary care Dr., she sent me to the hospital. On the way to the hospital, the event from my childhood popped into my head. I told mty husband they would find MS. He thought I’d lost my mind.

    Lo and behold, I was diagnosed with MS.

    People (Drs/neurologists included) always look at me like I’ve grown a second head when I tell them about “knowing” that I would have MS.

  • dakota
    4 years ago

    Without fail, every time I have a flair a few days before I start hiccuping uncontrollably. I’ll have several hour long bouts of them and can’t get rid of them with any of my normal moves. I also tend to get a little erratic emotionally. It actually does help to have a “tell” for flares, at least it makes waking up with half my body numb less terrifying.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    4 years ago

    That is really fascinating, Stephanie. I don’t experience that precursor, but there is lots of anecdotal talk in medical literature about the impending sense of doom you mention. I hope the only lump in your throat you ever feel again is from the feeling of emotion and joy welling up….. best, Laura

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