Teacher Still Learns Lessons

When I was diagnosed, I had been teaching high school English for about three years. As with nearly all other cases which I have read, MS came as a last resort. It started with a simple, yet annoying pain. My first response, being the sterotypical “Guy,” was to take a pain killer and wait it out. It lasted longer than expected. I became slowly (my eyes) and rapidly (in everyone else’s eyes) less and less able to walk, carry items, and keep my balance. At one point I even fell in the middle of class and startled about twenty students into a dumb founded chuckling laughter. Looking back, I can laugh now. That is how I deal with MS. At that time, however, I was mortified. Was my grasp on reality slipping? Finally, when she could stand me no longer, my wife gave me two options: Quit my complaining, or go see a doctor.

I went to a neurologist who, after a barrage of questions, tests, and an EEG, decided that my pain was the result of a pinched nerve. The remedy was to be surgery. I scheduled an appointment with a spinal/neuro surgeon and met with her office. On the way to visit the surgeon (a drive of approximately seventy miles) my body went numb from the waist down. I still could walk and drive, just without any fine movements. As I told this to the nurse, she stopped and had me perform one more test: I closed my eyes, lifted my shirt, and she ‘poked’ my stomach first, with her fingers, and then with a needle. I could not tell the difference. Later that week I received a call from the surgeon that she suspected MS. I was, needless to say, taken aback. My first thought was, “Is this going to kill me?” My first question to the surgeon was, “Is this terminal?” She was very calm, yet frank. I learned that IF it was MS, then yes it is incurable. But, I was also reassured of the hope that can still exist.

Returning to the neurologist, he was visibly shaken. He had been dead sure that it was merely a pinched nerve. I was asked if I had an MS doctor in mind. One of my collegues had suggested a center in Atlanta, and so I asked to be referred to the Shepherd Center. That was six, almost seven years ago.

Now, things are moving, albeit rather slowly. I have been on three different medications. I will not name them, as I do not know how legally responsible that would be. The first one worked amazingly for about one year. Then it tapered off and left me bedridden. The second medication followed about the same pattern. At that point, my doctor suggested a more aggressive medication. So far, it has been working well. A few weeks ago, I was even able walk almost one half of a mile using only a cane. Are all days that resplendent? The answer is an emphatic, “No.” Are there days in which I feel like stopping, yes there are. Are there days which are just fine? Yes, there are. Even though I have been dealing with MS for almost seven years, I find that I am still learning new things about the disease, about me, and about newer medications.

MS has taught me, rather severely, the meaning of the word, “Sporadic”. I have had to adjust, to change, and at times, to compromise. Do I wish that a cure could be found? Yes. Do I refuse to live until one is found? No. I am still learning, still taking notes, and still living.

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