Last week, in Part 1, I shared a bit about how Mandy and I got together, what our lives were like before MS, and how, after a cursory examination of Mandy’s numb arm while visiting my physician father, it was suggested to us that she might be exhibiting signs of MS. Now, to continue...
Taking my father’s advice, as soon as we returned home, Mandy made an appointment with our family physician. By the day of her appointment, the other arm was now going numb. The doctor performed a thorough examination; some of his tests designed to check for neurological impairment. Interestingly, it was he who told Mandy that she was experiencing weakness in her right leg; something that she was not aware of until that moment. With the testing done, he too stated that she might have MS.
He even offered to begin treating her for it with injectable drugs. At this early stage, and without a confirmed diagnosis, neither of us thought it a good idea for Mandy to begin a lifetime of MS drug therapy; we opted instead for her to see a neurologist.
We went home a bit confused, not to mention more than a little scared. Remember, we had not been together very long. I can only imagine Mandy’s thought process during those early months. She had sacrificed a lot to be with me, as I had to be with her. It was only natural for her to be both afraid for herself, given what was happening, as well as afraid for us, wondering if I would stand by her when it would have been so much simpler to leave, or to ask her to leave. Despite my assurances, did either of us truly know for certain? Probably not.
The downward spiral continued, slowly at first, then quicker. Even before her first appointment with the neurologist, Mandy had become a shell of former self. She could hardly walk. I’ll never forget... two of the kids were visiting when, just days later, Mandy began to experience profound weakness in both her arms, then in her legs. Within days walking had become near impossible. When that happens today, we both know that it is the MS. Familiarity with the monster has tempered our fear and allows us to simply shift into different roles. Back then, that was not yet the case.
The kids watched in near-silent horror as their mother slid into a sort of hell that nothing in life had prepared them to witness. They didn’t know me very well back then, leaving us to wonder what was going on in their heads as they watched my ineffective attempts to care for their mother. We had no experience with the monster. We didn’t have a confirmed diagnosis. Quite simply, we did not know, but we all quietly feared, that Mandy was dying.
As for me, I was in a state of confusion. I hadn’t bargained for this turn of events, but then again, who does? I didn’t know what was happening. The only thing I was sure of was that I owed this woman. She had risked all on our love and I could not, and would not, allow her to have done that in vain. I guess it was then that I became, unknowingly, a caregiver.
Mandy was in the throws of this first major MS battle on the day of her appointment with the neurologist. She arrived weak, hobbling like a woman twice her age into the doctor’s waiting room. Following the requisite flurry of forms designed to give the doctor some insight into her medical history, we found ourselves sitting in an examining room. The doctor entered soon enough and, after asking a few questions, proceeded with the tests. Poke, prod, stand up on tip-toes. Walk across the room. Test reflexes. On and on... until finally he decided that he wanted Mandy to get an MRI. This would be her first, but certainly not her last.
Weeks later, we headed back to learn the results of the MRI. Mandy was feeling better by then, the monster having run it’s course. Upon entering the exam room, we really did not know what to expect. We were not, however, prepared for what came next.
The neurologist entered with the MRI films in a large manilla envelope. He stood out in the hallway, flipped on these wall-mounted x-ray film light boards, and proceeded to literally throw the films, one by one, into the little metal slots designed to hold them tight against the board. He flipped them into the slots so fast that they were, honest to God, falling out of the holders and onto the floor. He didn’t look so much as five seconds at a single one of those films.
After a minute or two, he popped a few more films into their slots and, looking at us, asked if we could see the white spots scattered here and there throughout the films – meaning throughout Mandy’s brain. We both said that we could, then prepared for the worst. “These white spots are common with people who suffer from migraines,” as did Mandy for most of her life. Continued the doctor, “I’m nearly certain that Mandy does not have MS.” Since, by then, Mandy was feeling pretty good, he told us to go home and to call him if the symptoms ever return.
[Continued Next Post]
Published On: March 14, 2008