It felt like a bee sting. I was walking to my car after work in May 1993 (at the age of 31), and I felt a bee sting on the bottom of my right foot. I grabbed my shoe and shook it to release the bee, but there was no bee. During the following days and weeks, a numblike feeling moved from my foot to all the right side of my body. My doctor and the neurologist he sent me to, said it was stress. After about a month I recovered completely except for the numbness in my right fingers that I have since just learned to live with.
September 6, 1997 I was sitting on the front row of a youth ministry session at Ridgecrest Conference Center, and I was overtaken by a frightening sensation in my brain, like nothing I had ever felt before. A lightheadedness, a nausea, but something much bigger and indescribable. I asked for help to leave and passed out when I stood, waking later to the same neurological feeling. After a series of tests over the next several weeks, I was told everything checked out fine. I knew that not to be true, as I was unable to sit upright or stand in one position for more than a few seconds, without passing out. Fortunately I soon learned that I could control it by leaning my head on something. This has greatly improved over the past ten years, but it has not disappeared.
November 2004 I had another attack of numbness, beginning in my feet and moving up my body. I fully recovered after about a month. This time, however, my tests showed problems. My MRI was “significantly abnormal”, with 3-4 periventricular lesions. My lumbar puncture (spinal tap) showed a mild elevation of white blood cells to 6 with a differential of predominantly lymphocytes, positive oligoclonal bands and an elevated IgG index of 1.6. (lol – I have no idea what I just said!)
February 25, 2005 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A second opinion agreed with 95% certainty but believed my case was a “benign” one, meaning it seems to be progressing at a very slow rate, which may not ever reach the stage of disability.
Since that time, I had one more numbness attack, in December 2005, again starting in my right foot and moving up, I have had an MRI each year, and I have refused my neurologist’s pleas to begin treatment. Instead I have put myself on serious vitamin therapy and have made exercise a high priority in my life.
So far I am one of the fortunate ones. About one in ten MS sufferers seems to have a very slow-moving case of the disease, while many others quickly progress from ability to disability, often having to leave work and move around by wheelchair. Of course there is no guarantee that any case will remain benign. Every hour of every day, someone is diagnosed with MS. MS is a progressive disease of the nervous system, causing symptoms that may include numbness, fatigue, dizziness, incontinence, slurred speech, or problems with balance, vision, or cognition.
Yesterday I got the results from my latest MRI, opening it quickly in hopes of finding the same “stable, no new problems” message I had last year. But yesterday’s news was not so good. “A new lesion is present,” my neurologist wrote, “I am worried and would like to start treatment.” No, no treatment yet. I can be so stubborn, hopefully not stupidly so.
Why do I continue to refuse treatment? There is no known cause or cure for MS, and the treatments, although believed to slow the progression in most people, do not heal any damage that has already been done. No one (doctors, researchers, etc.) understands why the treatments help, and there are serious, even dangerous, side effects. Even the treatments themselves are life-changing. Daily to weekly self-injections, that seem to lead almost immediately to walking with a cane. Should that time come for me, may I accept it with grace (like I see exhibited and admire in many of our MyChurch friends), but I am not there yet. My work has been unaffected, and, not only am I walking without help, I am running 5K races occasionally!
I have become an advocate for those less fortunate, those whose news is more serious and whose lives are completely disrupted by the disease. Those who daily await a cure, which fortunately is being aggressively sought. Should God lay it upon your heart, please join me in praying for them, and in praying that I will know when my stubbornness is crossing the stupidity line!
46:1-2 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.
Psalms 46:1-2 RSV
56:3-4 When I am afraid, I put my trust in thee. In God whose word I praise, in God I trust without a fear. What can flesh do to me?
Psalms 56:3-4 RSV
You can learn more about MS at nationalmssociety.org.
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