An older man squints through his glasses in the low vision conditions created by the hurricane behind him.

The Long Journey of Getting Older, or Is It?

Last updated: January 2023

We all enjoy our younger years, and as time moves on we tend to mature, or, are we just getting older? Oh, that reminds me of what my parents used to tell me, "Your mind stays young and your body gets older."

"Yeah, sure," is what I always thought, and, "No way does that happen." Well, guess what? Holy moly, mom and dad were on the money indeed. Although I had a little something else mixed in (MS).

My mind is always young, but my body...

The first time I noticed any change was during my runs that went from five miles to four, then three, then two, over time. Then at one softball game, I was trying to follow the ball after it was hit and thought, "Where in the world is it?" I thought it was night vision issues until a weekend day game. Again during softball, a ball was hit, and my mind said, "There it is, move forward!" and my legs said, "No, ain't happening."

Yep, I was 33 years young...what the heck is going on with me? I thought, "You're lazy and need to get back in better shape and sink your body and mind." Simple, right? Well, you would think so, and I gave it a shot for weeks. Months later, my body and mind were still on different levels.

I went from running to riding a bike, to walking, then lifting weights and riding a stationary bike. Hey, I was still active and trying to keep in shape!

Just keep moving down the road of life

Adjusting became my new normal and as time passed, I became accustomed to it and never gave it another thought. Besides, it wasn't as if I couldn't work, hang out with friends, or travel. Life was good.

Around 2004 my physical changes began to hinder my day-to-day activities. The first thing that jumped out was walking in narrow hallways. It was hard to walk a straight line and avoid hitting a wall or corner. As time passed, walking next to someone and turning my head to talk would cause me to lose my balance or wander in the other direction. I adjusted by walking close to walls or windows and running my finger along to keep my balance. Eventually, I started getting lightheaded while walking and would have to stop for a few minutes, then it would happen two, then three times in a row.

This isn't just about getting older

I know what you are thinking, "Go see your doctor!" I hear you and I understand. I originally thought, "Heck, I'm just getting older and need to adjust." Well, not so much. I decided something was going on physically, and the only way to find out was to see my family doctor. This decision began a five-year journey of visiting one specialist after another after another.

After three years, four specialists, and still no clue what was going on with me, my last stop was a neurologist. The years of tests and my MRI indicated all was clear. By this time, I began having numbness in my feet and lower legs, which was confirmed to be neuropathy. Once again, I received more tests but no answers.

Is it MS or aging?

As luck would have it, I talked with a friend's cousin about our similar symptoms, and he told me he was diagnosed with MS. "Wow," I thought, "I'm dealing with most of those symptoms as well." Being proactive, I ordered copies of my last 5 years of medical records and researched MS. After comparing my records to MS symptoms, the light came on. Yep, MS it was.

My next step was to visit my neurologist to discuss my research and diagnosis. After reviewing my paper, he felt my detail was excellent, however, he said I didn't have MS. I requested he order a spinal tap and after more discussion, he agreed to order it. What were the results of my spinal tap? Indeed, it was MS!

So, what was next?

For most, a diagnosis of MS is shocking with the future unknown and life questions. For me, as strange as it sounds, it was a big relief. Our plan included a medical referral to the University of Colorado Rocky Mountain MS Center, one of the best centers in the country. My first visit was to review my medical records and MRIs, and create a plan moving forward.

Again, as luck would be in my favor, my neurologist was attending a neurologist conference. He decided to take my case to include in a diagnosis course on determining the type of MS. Upon his return, we reviewed a hundred-page report of why they felt my MS diagnosis was primary progressive MS (PPMS).

Their report also outlined a game plan and approach to consider. The report suggested exercise, therapy, diet, and keeping active...sound advice.

What was your experience?

Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to read about my thoughts and my MS journey. I look forward to hearing your stories and thoughts. Until the next time, I challenge you to pass on kindness and help those in need.

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