Hi. I'm Vicki, and I've been following Health Central for quite awhile, and now here I am writing on Health Central. How Exciting!
It says "expert" by my name, but I'm not a health care professional. After more than 25 years since my first symptom, I think I earned that "expert" label next to my name when it comes to living with MS. I'm surely an expert at living with my own version of MS and with my own cluster of symptoms, and I write from that perspective.
I was a single mother of two boys. I worked in computer services for the Travel and Hospitality Industries. One day, my knee was suddenly numb. That was the beginning of my life with MS, but I did not know it then. I had periodic problems with walking, weakness, vision, but they were short episodes, and then they went away. I had medical tests, but no answers. When the symptoms were gone, there was no problem, and we continued with our lives.
When my boys were in high school, I was back in school at night for a master's degree. My episodes became more frequent and more serious. I finally found the right doctor who gave me a diagnosis. In 1989, after about seven years of unexplained episodes, I was told I probably had multiple sclerosis. I did not know much about the disease, but even without details, I knew it was potentially a life-changing diagnosis. I had much to learn.
When I joined my first self-help group for newly diagnosed MSers, I heard other stories of long and confusing diagnoses. In the 80's, an MS diagnosis took an average of six to eight years. It reminded me of my grandmother who had periods of walking difficulty before she was permanently bedridden. Her doctors said there was no medical reason for it. In fact, they said she just didn't want to walk.
My boys graduated and my MS developed. The Internet became part of our lives, and I had a new resource for research. I began blogging, and I also found a new avenue for socializing. I have found MSers who reach out with fear and confusion and some with curiosity and strength. We are able to share our MS experiences, and in each of our stories we see a similar thread, yet each story is unique and distinctly different. Many have taught me, and I admire them. As I was learning about other people's MS over the next few years, my own MS symptoms evolved from episodic nuisances to a full-blown disability.
I am lucky that I did not have a sudden drastic change from ability to disability; rather MS eased into my life allowing me to adjust to each new restriction. I am also fortunate that my good friend was with me when I realized I could no longer live alone, so I live with my sweetheart who has become my caregiver. I am lucky to have already seen so much progress in diagnosing and treating MS, to have learned from others who are managing their own monsters, and to have new opportunities to make significant contributions when I can.
My time living with MS and learning from others has taught me to focus on and appreciate the abilities I still have. My MS may be a stumbling block, but it is not a brick wall.