Que Sera Sera . . .


Harry Callahan, played by Clint Eastwood

My first hint at a diagnosis came after driving home the weekend we took a pickup load of things to our daughter’s new apartment.  It was the summer of her 2nd year in college.  That was 20 years ago and I wasn’t aware of any symptoms before that time.

Anyway, on our way back I noticed the left side of my face and head had an odd – and disturbing – numbness-like feeling.  It was two days of worry before I was able to see my regular primary-care doctor.  I imagined all sorts of reasons for the numbness: was it because I had sprayed weed killer that Friday?  Or perhaps it was because as a kid in Indiana, we would run through the fog of the mosquito killing chemical being sprayed from the back of a truck.

I wracked my brain with worry and concern and most of my thoughts about what was causing this were unfounded and foolish.

After what seemed like an eternity to me, I finally saw my doctor.  He made what seemed to be a cursory examination then said, it could be one of several things.  He rattled off some potentials then curiously said “I would not say this to most of my patients but I believe you are the kind that isn’t freaked out by this kind of information: One of the possibilities is that you might have multiple sclerosis.”

My doctor was right: it did not freak me out.  I definitely did not panic or fret.  Besides, one of my sisters has MS and she was active and working.  Looking back on the way I reacted to my family doctor’s suggestion that — among other things — it could possibly be multiple sclerosis, it seems oddly calm.

He referred me to a well-known neurologist who only reiterated that I might have MS and determined “no conclusive diagnosis or apparent reason for temporary condition.”  Although the neurologist had ordered an MRI, I’m incredibly thankful he never ordered a spinal tap.  (To this day I hear “horror stories” about spinal taps from MS sufferers.)  Still, it took him more than 6 years to finally state “. . . there has been some progression of abnormalities since the original [MRI] scan.  I think this makes a diagnosis of MS seem most likely.”  And incredibly THAT was in a letter and never spoken to me!

We immediately began looking for a new neurologist and found a world-class one with whom I’ve been with ever since.

If I had it to do over, I would do nothing differently.  I did NOT assume the worst about my prognosis but was frustrated my first neurologist took so very long to even say I most likely had MS!  I realized worrying did me no good.  I also realized that my family doctor had done the right thing by not holding back.  For that, I am thankful to this day.

I have always confronted my fears head-on.  As Dirty Harry said, “a man’s got to know his limitations” and I also have no time for fear.  Kinda’ like another Dirty Harry line: “Do ya’ feel lucky, punk?  Well, do ya’?

Life gave me some lemons so I put them in my tea and made it into an Arnold Palmer. Que sera sera.

Arnold Palmer

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