Is this a death sentence? How am I meant to react to this? I thought MS was hereditary but no one in my family has it? These are just some of thoughts that came to mind when I was told I might have MS. I recalled giving just £3 to the MSReadathon when I was 12 and felt bad because I hadn’t even read a book. Was this my punishment? How long before I’m going to need an aid walking or a wheelchair? I only ever had one experience in my life of seeing MS first-hand. It was devastating. Not just for Thomas but to those close to him too. My GP soon put my worries at bay but I was hardly vocal about my concerns. I could barely talk. I told her about Thomas and she said it was very unlikely I was going to have the same experience. Peoples knowledge of MS and medications had improved greatly in the 10 years since Thomas had passed away. She arranged for myself and Michelle to come in and meet her a couple of days later so we could both go through our concerns with her. Within those couple of days we got slightly more educated but we still knew very little. The doctor arranged an appointment for me in the Institute of Neurology at the Mater Hospital so we had to wait a few weeks before we could know more.
After we knew more, and had a better idea of what was down the road, I felt comfortable enough telling my mam & dad and eventually my sisters. Telling my folks was never going to be easy. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to hear one of your children tell you they have a chronic illness. Particularly when they knew what I had seen years beforehand being so close to Thomas’ family at the time. We did it over a cup of tea, what better way is there? I had Michelle beside me and she was able to put their minds at ease as much as I was.
Telling Kerri was a bit more difficult because I had to do it by myself. I went over to spend a few days with her in England. She picked me up from the airport. We went out for dinner and I eventually managed to tell her back at her house while we were watching a movie. I was texting Michelle to say I couldn’t tell her but, once I did, it was such a relief. She knew it was going to be something like MS. I’d been suffering from a wonky head & blurred vision for such a long time that she’d done a bit of her own investigating. I think she start slagging me more or less straight away; no special treatment for me, I’d expect nothing less from my little sister 🙂 Then of course there’s Donna, who was over in Canada pregnant on her first baby. Her world was going great. I wanted to at least wait until the baby came along until I told her but this was around March and she wasn’t due until July. So my dad told her husband Dave and between us we figured out the right time to tell her. When I told Donna she handled it great like a real big sister – ya could hear the mammy in her already.
My fear in telling people was that they would associate me with really sad stories such as what I had seen with Thomas. I also followed Marie Fleming’s story quite closely. You’re only ever going to hear the extreme stories in the news. For the most part people didn’t really know too much about MS, when I told them that’s what’s been wrong with me, which was a bit of a relief. I suppose I’d only ever paid attention to news stories regarding it and never heard any stories were people get on with it and live relatively normal lives. Even in recent films I’ve watched (Trainwrecked and X+Y) MS comes across as harsh and brutal which it can be but not always. Now I really listen out for MS good news stories and they’re regular enough. Just like no snowflake is meant to be the same, no one person has totally the same type of MS. We’re all a bunch of MS snowflakes 🙂
Thomas’ daughter would say that her Dad loved life. I was young, foolish and didn’t really understand what that meant at the time. Not that I hated life or anything it’s just it is what it is; that’s what I used to think anyway. But I get it now. I wasn’t allowed cycle while I was suffering my attack. I started walking up to Drumcondra and down Griffith Avenue initially to try recover. It was a bit of a dreary route so I started walking to Clontarf instead. Up to the Moai Statue past the Sheds pub and back. Around 8km in the freezing cold most days, some days were sunny though. This was February through to March. I started back cycling in April just a week after returning to work. The weather was great and I craved going back to Clontarf and cycling by the promenade I used to walk by everyday. Every other lunch break during the Summer I would cycle to the Wooden Bridge at Bull Wall and back to the office. There’s a lot going on at lunchtime.
It takes just over 5 minutes to cycle from the office to Clontarf promenade. Greeting me would be the sun reflecting off the sea and glaring over Dublin, the chimneys standing proud as ever, dinghies floating on the water when the tide was in or parked in the sand when the tide went out, if it was windy you would see all the different types of birds struggling to make their way back to land, while I would be flying along on the bike with the wind behind me knowing full well it was going to be right in my face on the way back, families with their kids playing on the grass, couples having picnics, people bringing their dogs for walks and swims in the sea, people of all ages out walking & running, kids carrying canoes out to the water, if the tide was out you would see people with their wellies on gathering buckets of mussels, on the cycle track there was always a unicyclist, a lady who couldn’t be less than 100 years old cycling as well as anyone with all the proper gear on, a man cycling with his twin babies in a carriage at the back; a pink helmet and a blue helmet, and Howth in the distance (the place the Northside loves the most). That’s just touching on what you would see on any random day. We can get so hung up on all the bad things in the world that that we can forget we’re surrounded by a lot of beauty. I suppose it’s up to you what you consider to be beautiful. I’m starting to sound like a hippy, not much chance of me growing hair like one though. I couldn’t imagine having the same appreciation for life a year ago. MS has certainly given me that, not a death sentence in my case but certainly a kick up the arse.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.