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.