It has been a joke in my house that things always happen to me when I’m on vacation. In July 2000 I experienced light sensitivity. I don’t remember much that led to my diagnosis of “dry eye” but I do remember having a brain M.R.I. and being thrilled when I was told I didn’t have a brain tumor – and nothing else. So, for 12 years I’ve used prescription eye drops for dry eyes and thought that I was the picture of health.
Over the years I’ve experienced ailments such as a pinched nerve in my neck from using the computer; I spent that summer in a sling and at physical therapy. During school vacation in April 2012 I was actually looking forward to spreading six bags of mulch under the bushes. I emptied one bag on the Sunday after crawling under bushes to remove leaves and branches and was exhausted. My right leg felt funny; I thought I must’ve pulled a muscle crawling under the bushes or moving the heavy bags of mulch (even though I’ve done the spring mulching for years). I emptied one bag on Monday and was exhausted again. My leg still felt different but I thought the “pulled muscle” would get better. I repeated this again on Tuesday. I didn’t think anything of the fact that I usually did three bags of mulch in one day. On Wednesday I had a meeting at the High School. I was able to get myself there and back dragging my leg through the school but spent the rest of the day on the couch. I had lunch plans on Thursday; as the morning went on I realized I shouldn’t think about driving. My friends brought over lunch and made sure I called the doctor. (I have good friends!) I saw my primary care physician who ordered two M.R.I.s for me. We didn’t hear back from insurance Thursday or Friday; on Saturday approval for one test came through. By Saturday my right leg felt totally numb so I had to get to the Emergency Room. (I have a great family too; they made sure I got to the hospital.)
Robin with her daughter Jillian, in 2012
In the emergency room, a neurologist came to see me and assessed my situation. He was ready to explain the procedure for the brain M.R.I. I told him I was familiar with it because I had one a number of years ago to rule out a brain tumor and was diagnosed with dry eye. He looked at the previous M.R.I. (which was still readily available at the hospital; I found out it was done in 2000) and sternly said to me, “Why didn’t you tell me you had M.S.?” I can still feel my jaw dropping. He realized that this was news to my husband and me. He was the first one to tell us that the original M.R.I. “indicated M.S.”
At this time I don’t know if my life would be much different if I was diagnosed earlier. There hasn’t been much change in my three M.R.I exams; I was told in February 2013 at my “six month” MRI that I was “stable”. I’ve made excuses for other symptoms over the years. For example, I’ve fallen but have always had two left feet. I’ve dropped things but have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome by other physicians. I do know that I would have gotten to a doctor on that Monday last April. I spent 5 days in the hospital getting intravenous steroid treatments to reduce the swelling in my leg. I then stayed 8 days in a rehabilitation center learning how to walk with a cane. I received physical therapy so that I could learn how to walk again having balance and coordination. I can walk fairly well but balance and coordination are still a work in progress. I give myself nightly injections of Copaxone and have gotten over my fear of needles (although I still think twice about routine immunizations!).
I am aware that great strides have been made in the treatment of M.S. and this is extremely encouraging. I know that extensive research is ongoing and information is readily available. I hear stories about others with M.S. and how well they are doing with the treatment specific to their case. My journey is still in the beginning stage. I’m sure there will be ups and downs along the way but I’m trying to stay positive. I want to think that with all the research and constant strides that the ups will far outweigh the downs for me.