After a long day of work, my wife came home the other day and joined me and my trusty dog, Ferdinand, on the couch. As she began to tell me about her day, she paused mid-sentence, and with a shocked look, asked “What happened there?”, as she pointed at my knee. Puzzled, I looked down and saw a large, reddish-purple bruise encompassing much of my right knee, to which I just shrugged my shoulders. It might sound odd to many, but this is not the first time this has happened. In fact, bruises, cuts, and other injuries appearing and not knowing how they got has become a pretty common occurrence in my life with Multiple Sclerosis.
Bruises are more common than I thought
For the longest time, I thought maybe I was the only one with MS that encountered this issue. Recently, I spoke to some of my other friends that fight this disease, and discovered I am far from the only one. It turns out that this can be pretty common for folks with MS. Bumps, bruises, cuts, sores, and various other injuries that we don’t always remember the cause of appear often. It was at least a little bit of a relief to know I wasn’t alone in this. While not an explanation, I think we all found not only comfort, but some humor in the situation. That may sound odd, but I guess compared to all of the other issues we encounter with this disease, it’s pretty minor. If anything, I guess I like to think of my bruises as purple and red badges of courage, showing that I do take a beating most days and I survive it. Rare visible wounds from my daily war with MS.
So what’s going on? How are we all ending up bruised and battered? Well, let’s face it, MS is a disease that has a huge effect on how we move. With trouble moving parts of my body, weakness, numbness, foot drop, and spasms, I know I tend to not only fall a lot, but to bump into things too. But wouldn’t you notice if you bumped into something hard enough to get a bruise? Not necessarily, the right side of my body tends to be pretty numb a lot of the time. I may have recognized I walked into something, but might not notice the pain that comes along with that. I then just go about what I’m doing because walking into things is a pretty common occurrence with MS. There is almost no way around it with the the way we can tend to stumble about (that phrase “I’m not drunk, I have MS” is often such a good descriptor!).
How could you not notice?
You may say “but that had to hurt, how could you not notice?!”. Well, aside from the numbness, many of us are used to a much more severe level of pain. I know that my pain tolerance has skyrocketed over my years with MS. So what might be super painful to most, really doesn’t seem like that big a deal to us. That’s not a good thing either. Pain is our body’s way of letting us know when something isn’t right. Not being able to determine when we are injured may not sound too bad, but it can be dangerous. I know I’ve sliced open my leg a few times and not noticed for hours, leaving me open to the possibility of an infection. Those types of things are extra serious when you have a problem with your immune system, like we do.
While numbness and pain tolerance definitely contribute to not noticing injuries, I’m sure there are times I do notice, but because my short term memory is such a mess, I completely forget about it. It doesn’t take much for me to forget. I’ve had reverse moments of what I described in the opening, where I’ve said to my wife, “whoa, what happened here?” and she then reminds me that I had a bad fall earlier in the day. “Don’t you remember?”, and I don’t, I have no idea. Pretty scary when you realize that I am home without anyone else around most days.
As always, this is my perspective, but I’d like to hear yours. Do you experience any mysterious (on non-mysterious) bumps, bruises, cuts, or anything else like this? I’d love to hear your stories or tips or whatever you want to say. As always, thanks so much for reading!