Why you need a Pen Pal

I’ve previously written about my love for letters, and also about my group on Facebook, The Snail Mail Project.

images

It’s slowly growing momentum, we’re now up to 47 members, who are all sending gorgeous happy mail to one another. It really makes me happy to see so many people making friends across the world and receiving beautiful mail through the post!
Anyway, I was talking to one of the members of the group a week or so ago who inspired me to write a series of blogs on the subject, and I felt that a good starting point was “why you need a pen pal!” It’s such a dying art form these days, writing letters. It’s not common for people to put pen to paper in the digital age. So why do it?

Stationary.

If you’re a stationary fiend, just like I am with my mountains of journals, writing letters is an excuse to lay your hands on more beautiful paper. And there’s some stunning writing sets out there. Paperchase is my “go-to” but you can get plenty of beautiful sets from Amazon, TK Maxx and beyond!

Time away from screens.

In a day where we are glued to the screens of laptops, TV’s, phones and tablets, there’s something really relaxing about switching all that stuff off, and it being just you, a piece of paper and a pen. I feel like I’m living right in the present, and being absolutely mindful when I’m writing a letter.

You make a new friend.

How much fun is it getting to know someone new? Through the joy of both sending someone a letter and receiving one back, you also get to know a whole new person! You may even find that it opens opportunities to go and visit a new part of the country, or even the world.
It doesn’t just have to be words on a piece of paper

20180309_210648.jpg

You can get really creative with the letter. You can make it look beautiful. You can personalise it. You can even include a gift! If you want to keep it to the price of a stamp, different tea bags can be good (who doesn’t love a good brew whilst they either read a letter, or write back?). Post cards with inspirational words on might be included or photos of your favourite things, places or people, which can help to paint the picture of your life.

Local delicacy’s can be included too, although this might increase the cost of sending a little. This brings me nicely on to…

It’s cheap!

Sure, postage stamps aren’t as cheap as they used to be (I remember getting a 2nd class stamp for about 18p with my first pen pal as a child), but the price is still totally affordable. The only thing you need to be rich in, is time.

Personal

It’s difficult to be impersonal in a letter. When writing by hand, you’re more likely to write informally in comparison to typing. We type emails out at work all day long, so putting pen to paper breaks us from our usual habits. We pour a bit of a soul into the written word in comparison to when we express ourselves electronically.

You can keep them

I’ve not saved a text message since the guy I fancied sent me one that gave me butterflies when I was about 15. Text messages are so transactional I don’t want to keep them anyway. But letters. Someone has put their time, thought and effort into that. Even if I wanted to, I can’t put handwritten letters in the bin. I still have letters that I shared with my friends when I was a teenager, and that attachment to a letter hasn’t changed at all.

If you write a letter, you’ll probably get one back!

And it will be a lovely suprise when it arrives. It will make your day. And guess what?

You get to make someone else’s day!

What better feeling than knowing that you have been the part of the day that made someone smile. They may have had a rubbish day at work (or they may have had a brilliant one), but coming home to your letter, might just be the thing that makes it.

My MS Story (Part 9)

Today, I have woken up feeling the best that I have in a good few weeks, possibly even months. The things that particularly aggravate me daily, aren’t there. My head is clear and doesn’t feel like it’s stuck in an airless vacuum. I feel more awake and alert (surprising since I got less than six hours sleep last night). I feel present. The usual tingling in my leg has been at a real minimum all day.

My last blog post, as I said at the time, was not one I ever planned to write. This one here is the next part of my story. I got a lot from writing my last post though, and it definitely cleared my head. I was even able to find my “Why Me?” just a day later, which is a story I may share another time.

Two days after I had been in hospital and been told that I might have MS, Dave and I flew out to Athens for our holiday. That meant that I had two solid weeks, away from reality to come to terms with what I was facing.

I’m not going to lie – I spent close to the first three or four days flinging myself about crying. If Dave was asleep, I’d spend the time googling, trying to understand what MS actually is. This would set me off on a totally new wave of worry and hysteria and on a number of times during that holiday, Dave woke up to find me in floods of tears.

I just had so many questions. Was I going to be in a wheelchair? What happens next? Is there a chance that it’s something else that’s far less serious? What even is MS?

I learned very quickly, that forums were not my friend. They were helpful for about five minutes, but once you start trawling through posts, it gets really tough to read. It’s full of negativity and people discussing their struggles. It frightened the life out of me. The thing is, people only turn to a forum when they feel rubbish. They don’t do it when they feel good do they? No – when they are symptom free and feeling good, they’re out there, enjoying life.

I discovered a couple of apps too. One was called MS Buddy (remember the name of this. I’ve got a brilliant story to tell you about it some time). I liked the look of this one – it paired you up with someone who had the same type of MS as you. It also kept sending me these fab notifications for news stories about medicine progression. The only snag was, that I couldn’t actually read the articles as I wasn’t signed up to it yet. In order to sign up, you needed to have a diagnosis of MS.

Like the forums though, by and large, these apps were unhelpful.

I found reputable sources in the form of the NHS website along with the MS Society, MS Trust and MS-UK sites though, and I learned so much. What I write next is by no means the medical dictionary answer. There’s a possibility that parts may not even be quite accurate, but this is MS as I understand it…

MS is a neurological condition which affects your brain and spinal cord. The “insulation” that protects your nerves (myelin) gets damaged because your immune system mistakes myelin for a foreign body and just attacks it. Your body can repair that which is great, but it leaves behind scarring, lesions or signs of inflammation on your brain and spinal cord, and you may not recover 100%.

About 100,000 people in the UK have MS, so I’m certainly not in a tiny minority. About two-thirds of sufferers are female. People tend to get diagnosed in their early twenties, up to late thirties, but you can be diagnosed at any age. Nobody knows what the cause is, and there’s no cure.

There’s a number of different types of MS. Relapsing Remitting (which I have, along with roughly 85% of people with MS) is where you have obvious attacks of symptoms, where everything gets more severe than it usually is for a few weeks. Quite often, you’ll see new symptoms in these “episodes”. The good news is that with relapsing remitting MS, you can take medication, called a disease modifying therapy (DMT). It stops the relapses and prevents progression, or worsening of symptoms.

Progressive MS takes two forms, primary and secondary. In primary progressive, right from the start of developing the illness, symptoms just gradually worsen, without respite. Secondary progressive occurs when someone with relapsing remitting is no longer recovering between episodes as the nerve damage has gotten so bad.

There’s also progressive relapsing MS, where symptoms slowly worsen, but in additioin, there are attacks, or episodes along with gradual deterioration.

MS affects everybody that suffers with it in a different way. You can get symptoms in any part of your body. This means that if you know someone else who has MS, my experience is likely to be quite different, but there’s some things that are pretty common for all.

This great diagram shows what percentage of people with MS experience each symptom

Through researching, I learned that the optic neuritis I’d experienced is one of the obvious early symptoms of MS. I wouldn’t say it was an early one for me, but it was certainly the “concrete evidence” needed to go through with making a diagnosis. Neurological symptoms such as tingling, are perceived to be a bit vague, so doesn’t tend to lead to being tested for MS.

As I looked down the list of symptoms that I’d found, the whole previous six years fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle. I knew in my heart at that point that I would eventually be diagnosed with MS. I couldn’t see how it could be much else. They were all there:

  • Balance, walking and dizziness
  • Bladder/Bowel problems
  • Eyes and Sight
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of control of limbs
  • Memory
  • Spasms and Stiffness
  • Speech

Things that I’d not even tried to explain away and just thought were normal, were even coming up. I get this weird cramp and stiffness in my left leg from time to time, which often leads to my knee buckling. I imagine I look like one of those toys that I had as a kid. You know the ones – you pushed up the base and their legs gave way, and then as soon as you released the base, they would stand up normally again. I never really read too much into these. That happens to everyone. Right? (Wrong!)

Untitled image (1)

I googled “conditions misdiagnosed as MS” as well during this period of time, and although there were things that were similar to the symptoms I had, they just didn’t feel right.

After four days on an emotional rollercoaster, I had learned as much as I possibly could about MS. I resolved that I couldn’t ignore the fact that the ophthalmologist had pointed out “abnormalities on my brain” (yes I know what you’re thinking. I’ve heard that joke 100 times!)

I’d be naive to think that this was all something of nothing.

My MS Story (Part 8)

This is a short one today and it is definitely not one that I thought I would write. I had it all planned out, writing my story. I definitely didn’t factor today’s part of the story into it.

I thought about hiding how I feel today, because people reading this are all giving me such amazing comments. Like telling me what an inspiration I am, how strong I’m being and how positive I am. People are approaching me at work and telling me how much they are enjoying the read. How could I let people down by putting this out there?

But if I didn’t write this particular part of the story, I wouldn’t really be speaking my truth would I? I wouldn’t be telling you my story as it is.

Today I am not OK. Physically I’m OK, albeit a little tired. However, today I’m having my first real “why me?” day. I’m furious, I’m resentful and I’m scared. I don’t really know what’s brought it on. Possibly the fact that Dave and I were talking about my first appointment with an MS Specialist next Friday, and I’m terrified. I’m not entirely sure why. They can’t tell me anything worse than what I already know (I don’t think), except that maybe they need to give me a lumbar puncture so that they can work out what medication I need.

It just feels that today, all them questions and statements are coming out. You know the ones:

“It’s not fair”

“I don’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this.”

“Why me anyway?”

“How did this happen?”

Did I do something wrong?”

Today, I can’t believe that I have MS. Perhaps I’ve been living in a place of denial for a while and today I’m finally seeing it. Or maybe I have been seeing it all along, but today I’m just having one of those days. It’s all part of the journey though I guess.

I asked Louise earlier “why me?” Do you know what she said? “Because it will change you and make you an amazing person.”

How awesome is she?

Anyway, after an epic cry, a big cuddle with Dave, my favourite for tea (pasticcio if you’re interested) and a few more wise words from Louise, I feel a LOT better.

Sometimes all you need is a cry to put everything in perspective (and to put it in a blog post).

N.B: I feel better having written this. To the point that I almost didn’t publish it. But I really did feel like this just half an hour ago, so it’s going out there, warts and all!

My MS Story (Part 7)

All I could do was wait for an appointment, and in early August I got the letter that I’d been waiting for. Not a Hogwarts Letter (because we all spend August hoping it’s our year, right?) but a follow-up appointment for the 11th September, back at St Paul’s Eye Unit.

As the date rolled around, two days before Dave and I were due to fly out to Athens for two weeks, I almost considered not going, as my eye was more or less (I’d say about 95% ish) back to normal by then. It didn’t cross my mind that there would be anything underlying.

In terms of the progression of it, it had probably only continued to get worse over a two to three week period, remained as it was for a week or so, then got better within another two. I don’t think things were “wrong” for more than six weeks.

My Mum spotted the connection. Six weeks was the same duration as my “dizzy periods” four years earlier. She suggested that they might be linked, but I told her I couldn’t see (I know – I’m so funny!) how they could be.

Mum’s are always right though aren’t they?

Out of morbid curiosity about what on earth had happened, I decided to go to my appointment.

It was for 1.45 in the afternoon and I was called in for a couple of initial tests really quickly. I passed the ones I had failed so miserable just two and a half months earlier, with flying colours. My vision was back!

My high spirits didn’t last too long as I waited for an hour to be taken back in for a field vision test. I had to stick my head in this white box thing and click this device that they put in my hand everytime I saw a little light flicker – it could pop up anywhere. Then I was sent back into the waiting room.

After a lot of sitting around, I was finally called in to see the opthamologist at 4.15 pm. My high spirits at passing all the tests had long gone – I was really mad that I had an appointment time but still had to wait 2.5 hours to see someone.

He was very apologetic for the long wait that I’d had and started off by asking how my sight was now. I told him that I felt that was about 95% there.

He then told me that they’d diagnosed what had happened as Optic Neuritis. He explained that it was nerve damage to my eye. The myelin sheath was damaged which in simple terms meant that if you liken your nerve to an electric cable, the insulation had worn away. My eye was short circuiting!

Optic Neuritis explained

The good news was that my body, being the amazing thing that it is, had repaired it, but I was told that 95% is probably the best that I’d ever get. Sounded good to me! I could live with that.

The thing is, he wasn’t done. Finding what it was, wasn’t enough.

They wanted to know “why?”

He asked me if I suffered from mood swings. I said, no more than the average person (all the while thinking it was a stupid question after he’d made me wait 2.5 hours), and that leg tingling question came up again.

And then he changed my world.

“We need to send you for more tests. We think there is an underlying condition and that condition that we’re looking for is MS.”

I must have gone into shock. I was still so happy that my sight was back, I may as well have just asked if I could have fries with that!

He asked me what I knew about the condition, which was probably about the same as anyone that has had little to no contact with it.

I knew of two people with the condition. Both in a wheelchair. Both people suffering badly. The kind of people where a hint of sympathy, or perhaps pity, enters people’s voices when they’re mentioned.

Surely that wasn’t going to be me?

I told the doctor the extent of my knowledge and he told me not to compare myself to people I knew. The prognosis for me was probably quite good as I’m young and active. Plus, medicine is advancing all the time.

I said thanks to him and left. The second I walked out of his office, everything that had just happened hit me. It was so hard to hold it together until I could make it out of the hospital.

Then the floodgates opened. Despite how incoherent I was through the tears, I immediately called my Mum, followed by Dave and then Steph, my manager. Distraught does not even begin to cover how I felt and I don’t think I’ve ever cried like that in all of my life.

Somehow, in spite of all my tears, I made it to the train station and back home. When I got there, Dave had already done loads of research, and his words were “don’t worry. We’ll get through this together.”

It’s difficult to describe, but the use of the word “we” suddenly made everything easier. He was in it it with me and I wasn’t alone.

He has been the difference in all of this. He’s my strength. He’s the one who catches me when I fall (literally). He’s the one that comes to my appointments, and he’s the one who listens to, and comforts the tears.

I could have done it without him. I’d be selling myself short to say I couldn’t. But without him by my side, I don’t know if I could remain as strong as I do. It would have been far more of an uphill battle.

Find you tribe. Love them hard.

Over the years I’ve had some phenomenal friends. I’ve also had some pretty rubbish ones. I’ve told you about my soul sister, Lucy, before. Now I want to tell you about my girls, in the spirit of International Women’s Day. Because they all lift me up and make me a better me and they are remarkable women.

When I moved up North, whilst I knew I didn’t know anybody, I never really appreciated how hard it would be to make friends. I made friendships at work but they were friendships of convenience. I met people who were so welcoming and introduced me to their friends. But they’d all be friends for years and it’s tough to forge a friendship with people who have such a long existing bond. However hard they try to make you feel welcome, you’ll probably still feel an outsider. I made some great friends “for now”, but we drifted apart as our lives drifted on. Then I made some friends where the friendship became too intense. With the demands of my job and having to travel all over the UK for work, it’s difficult for me to have friendships where you’re constantly in contact. Once I’d met Dave, juggling friends, work and him became too much, and my friendships suffered as a consequence.

High maintenance friendships are not my thing. I don’t mind not seeing my friends for a few weeks and then having LOADS to talk about when we do see each other.

Jayne is my longest standing Northern friend and we met via Twitter. Back in 2012, she asked if anyone wanted to go to the “Guide Dog Convention” with her, or maybe I asked it (it’s not really a convention but it’s what I now fondly refer to it as! It’s actually an open day at the Guide Dog Centre in Atherton, where I used to live). Whichever way it happened, one of us responded to the other and off we went. And our friendship has blossomed ever since!

Jayne and I at Gin Festival 2017

Jayne is ace. She’s a single mum to 13 year old Olivia, and I cannot even begin to imagine how tough that must be. On top of that she’s a Nurse. And Wonderwoman. Ok, I made that last bit up but she may as well be. She’s run a marathon, something I can only ever wish to do, and she’s the most kind hearted soul I’ve ever met.

I met Clare through Jayne for the first time in 2014, at the Magic Weekend. For those unfamiliar, it’s a weekend where all the rugby teams in Super League play a match at the same venue, over two days. It’s a fab day out and you get to meet loads of ace people (and some not so ace. I once met this Leeds fan that latched herself onto me all day and she was just awful!)

I already followed Clare on Twitter but didn’t really have much to do with her. I was intimidated by her perfect eyeliner and opinions. I’m pretty sure she thought I was just like them idiots from TOWIE. We spoke a bit that day, but I was there with Dave and his family so spent most of my time with them. She wasn’t as scary as I first thought though, but beyond that, nothing really changed in our interactions with one another.

That was until November, Clare messaged Jayne asking if she and I wanted to go to the Gin Festival in March. My response was along the lines of “yeah, why not. I don’t like gin but I’m up for a day out!” By this point, much as I loved Dave, I wanted and probably needed a solid group of female friends. I envied people who had such a close circle of friends.

Gin Festival, which I’ll tell you about in another blog very soon, was the day I met Clare’s sister, Louise. Louise is my inspiration. She was recovering from a brain tumour at the time and seemed to me quite shy. But all I could see was this unbelievable survivor. Louise is one of my most favourite people ever. She just doesn’t care. She doesn’t care what people think. Nothing seems to phase her. She’s forever tagging me in memes on Facebook and Instagram that are along the lines of that message. It’s slowly sinking in!

Jayne, Lou, Clare and Me at our first Gin Festival in 2015

We had a fab day at the Gin Festival and I felt that I’d found some friends, as well as a new found love for gin. In 2016, we went again although this time, Clare’s friend Jaye came with us, as well as Louise’s best friend, Helen. They joined us on what was soon to become our annual outing.

On the 24th September 2016, we went to a beer and prosecco festival in our home town of Wigan. The reason this date sticks in my mind so much is that it was the day before my 30th birthday, which was coincidence rather than a planned celebration for my birthday. We were having a brilliant time, and by this point, a friendship had really started to form, but we didn’t really see much of each other outside of gin related activities. I don’t think that we had dome anything but get drunk together! I even referred to them all as my “gin girls!” On this day, Yamit was to become one further “gin girl”. A little bit tipsy from all the prosecco (I was turning 30! I could do what I wanted!) I proclaimed my love to all of them and told them that even though I’d considered them the girls I drank gin with, I felt that they were my real friends. They were so much more than just company for the gin festival.

I’d found “my girls”.

Helen, Lou, Jayne, Clare and Me – Wigan Beer Festival

I don’t know if the others felt it, but my drunken statement seemed to shift something in our friendship at that point. Clare and I in particular have grown really close, and I’d definitely say that she’s my closest friend these days. I sometimes liken my friendship with her, to like what blokes have. You know, where they hurl abuse at each other all the time?

I mean, the day I went blind, I text her telling her “I’m not being melodramatic or anything, but I’m going blind in my left eye.” She responded in the way that only she could, with “too much w*nking.” She did eventually follow it up with “are you ok?”

Friends like her are exactly what I need in my life, especially right now. She posted on her instagram today, saying that I always have a smile on my face, no matter how tough life gets. But it’s my girls, and in particular her, that help that. They don’t let me feel sorry for myself. And despite all the good natured abuse, I know that they care.. We all do.

As a bunch of girls group of women, we’re diverse, but we’re also so similar. We have so much going on in our lives that we don’t have lots of time for each other, but that works for us. We respect that. We all enjoy working and have careers that keep us busy. Jayne and Louise are both bringing up their own two amazing women as well. The one thing I do know though, is that if I called any of them needing their support they would be their instantly, without question.

Me, Yamit, Clare, Lou and Helen at Lou’s 30th

It may have taken me 30 years to find them (which was the best birthday present ever by the way!), but finding friends like these was well worth the wait, and I honestly can’t see them ever NOT being around.

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

My MS Story (Part 6)

I promise I’ll get on to telling you what MS actually is at some point soon – but for now I want to tell you the story as it has unfolded for me.

In June 2017 I was at Poppy’s play date. As is typical in the UK, the fact that it was June, didn’t stop it from raining. I was stood on a hill watching Poppy play with her buddies, Dexter and Til when I got (what I thought was) some rain in my contact lens. I wiggled it around a bit, sometimes that fixes it, but no luck. I’d slapped my make up on in a hurry as well that morning so perhaps I’d managed to get some foundation or mascara on my lens. That certainly wouldn’t be a first.

20180305_175633412069511.png
Poppy (in red) and her pal, Til

Once I got home, I gave the lenses and my eyes a good clean with saline solution, and popped it back in. No change. Enter the excuses. “Well it could just be the new prescription. It always takes a while for my eye to adjust.”

I carried on with this irritating, slight lack of focus into the next week. Making excuses such as “oh, I’ve just put them in back to front”. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d put the left lens in the right eye and vice versa. I have different prescriptions for each eye so this obviously causes me problems.

On the Thursday, I was trying to read the serial numbers off some computers and was really struggling. I REALLY knew there was a problem when in our team meeting on Friday I found myself having to walk right up to the projector screen on the wall to see what was on it.

Saturday, we were back at Poppy’s play date and I could tell that whatever was up with my vision had got worse. Those of you that are contact lens wearers will appreciate it feeling like I’d not bothered to put my contact lens in the left eye. If I covered my right eye up, everything went grey in my left. I had limited peripheral vision still but I couldn’t see straight ahead. If I looked directly at you, I could see you from about chest downwards.

The gravity of what I was losing hit me like a ton of bricks and I broke down in tears once we got home from Poppy’s play date. I was really lucky and managed to get an appointment to see my Optician within a couple of hours.

When trying to read the letters off the wall out of my left eye, I couldn’t see a thing. My optician said based on all the photos he took of my eye, he couldn’t see anything wrong with it, but also said there was clearly something very wrong because I couldn’t see. I felt so relieved at this – at least I wasn’t dealing with a detached retina.

He referred me to Boston House, a branch of the hospital and the eye specialist in Wigan, for further tests. He also suggested, if it got any worse in the meantime to self refer to St Paul’s eye unit, at Liverpool Hospital.

By Tuesday evening, I’d still not heard anything from Boston House about an appointment, and I was pretty hysterical. Following a conversation with mine and Dave’s line managers, it was agreed we could take the day off from our respective jobs to go to St Paul’s in Liverpool.

That first day in outpatients, went on and on. After going through Triage, I was eventually seen after almost 1.5 hours. They prodded my eye about, putting every drop in my eye you could imagine, and making me (attempt to) read coloured blobs with numbers hidden in them, and the letters off the wall. Where my left eye was concerned, I failed every single test miserably. My least favourite experience is where they dilate your pupil. They put a drop in which opens your pupils right up, so that they can get a good look at your eye. Kind of like this guy, except waaaay less cute!

Untitled image (1)

Your pupil being dilated, means that there is a hell of a lot more light going in than usual, and you’re in a brightly lit hospital waiting room. It REALLY hurts!

Anyway, I digress. After all that prodding I was informed I needed to come back the next day as the department that could take a photo of the back of my eye wouldn’t be in until then. But not before I’d been asked if I had any tingling in my legs.

Now, if you’ve been following my blogs so far, you’ll know that yes, I did have tingling in my legs. So obviously I lied and said no. To ask such a seemingly unrelated question frightened me. One, why are you asking me that and two, how do you know that?!

I duly arrived at the hospital the following day for an appointment to have photos of the back of my eye taken. I was then introduced to an opthamologist. She informed me that I actually had lovely looking eyes that were pleasant to look at, whilst asking me if I’d been Googling my symptoms. I told her that I’d stopped as Google may as well have just told me that my eye was going to fall out, and I didn’t have any interest in that rubbish. She laughed and asked me if I was experiencing tingling in my legs. There it was again.

I lied.

It didn’t really enter my head that this might be a really important question to answer and it definitely didn’t enter comprehension that lying about it wouldn’t change it.

She told me she couldn’t see my optic nerve, the bit behind my eye, and she wanted to send me for more tests to uncover any problems there. She assured me that just because she suspected my problems were nerve related, it didn’t mean anything sinister.

Just a day later, on Thursday, I got a call from the hospital asking me if I could go in for an evoked potential test the following Monday. I couldn’t do Monday. I needed to be in Nottingham for a really important meeting, so I asked for the next available appointment, which was in two weeks time.

I got off the phone and Deb, who I work with, told me I was an idiot for not putting myself first and to get back on the phone and see if I could take the Monday appointment. As it turned out I could, so on Monday I found myself back on my way to Liverpool to have a bunch of electrodes put on my head, around my eyes and in my eyes.

The electrode, it just felt like an eyelash stuck in my eye. But honestly, if you stick something resembling a stray eyelash in someone’s eye and then tell them not to blink, you’re asking for trouble! I couldn’t stop blinking, and I’m pretty sure I made the nice Irish doctors job very difficult. He stuck electrodes anywhere he could on my head, and then made me watch these really weird moving images. They looked a bit like those magic eye things we all used to do as a kid. You know, with the hidden 3D drawing? The idea is that the images put your eye under intense stress, and the doctor gets to see how it responds. I was pretty sure that the images would hypnotise me or something!

Maybe he did hypnotise me or something, because when I was asked (yet again) if I had tingling in my legs, I answered truthfully.

Apart from an invite to an MRI scan on my head, this was the last I heard for a little while. Whilst I understood that the MRI was on my head, I just thought of my eyes. I never actually made the connection that it was on my brain. Perhaps if I had, I would have realised what I was dealing with, but I simply didn’t.

My MS Story (Part 5)

I’m always cold. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt cold. Except for when I’ve been boiling hot of course. I’ve struggled to regulate my body temperature for most of my life.

Sometimes when I’m exercising, I completely overheat, particularly on a hot day. My personal training sessions with Sam are only 30 minutes. In my four years training with her, on two occasions I’ve had to stop at 20 minutes because I’m seeing stars and want to throw up. Not like I’ve over-exerted myself. No. This is different.

Now, in the last 18 months or so, the night sweats have started. The worst thing about these is that I feel freezing, and all the while, I’m sweating buckets. I’ve always struggled with regulating my body temperature though. It’s just one of those things. Nothing to read too much in to.

The day I got told that I might have MS (I’ll tell this story properly in another blog), I was asked whether I suffer from mood swings. Well, at the time I answered with a definite “No!” What woman wants to be accused of mood swings?

Upon reflection however, this is definitely something that is a bit of a theme with me. I’m a ranter. I’m also a crier. I cry in both sadness, and with laughter. Sometimes when I cry with laughter I get really confused and start sobbing with sadness. It’s a strange experience for both me, and anyone that witnesses it. I’m pretty sure Dave thought I was a complete fruit loop the first time I did it in front of him.

baby-crying-meme

The trouble is, it’s unlikely we’ll ever define that that is a result of MS. It could just be “Jo”. I’ve accepted that as “Jo” for the first 31 years of my life, so it doesn’t matter what the answer is, but needless to say, I’ll probably always wonder.

The “window-shelfy thing” is another example that sticks in my mind of things that weren’t quite “right” with me. I have always been academic. I was a straight A student, I have an upper second class honour law degree, and I passed my Bar exams with a Very Competent. I’m good with words. I have a great memory. I have awesome recall. Or do I?

I had to send an email to some work colleagues recently which involved talking about the “window sill”. Thanks to Kat I will never forget that word again! Much to their amusement, I called it the “window-shelfy thing” because for love nor money could I recall the word. I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too:

“I’m 31, there’s no more room left to keep words you don’t use often”

“It’s not that common a word!”

“Other people forget words all the time!”

Untitled image

But I don’t forget words. It’s not something that I do. It’s funny, because of all the random symptoms (not relapses) I explained away pre-diagnosis, this is perhaps the one that distressed me the most. I’m still trying to work out why. Maybe it’s because I’ve always prided myself on being “academic”, and this kind of thing coming so easily.

Like with my emotions, there’s a very real possibility that all of my excuses for this particular “brain block” are absolutely correct. Equally, I can’t ignore the fact that MS can affect cognitive abilities, like recall of words.

The more I write these blogs, the more I see how many things with my body haven’t been right for a very long time. These symptoms haven’t just appeared as a result of my diagnosis. I didn’t not feel them before. I just excused them away, without any medical or scientific justification for years. My excuses and explanations have been taken away from me though.

I’m sure as you have read this, and Part 4 of my story, you’ve wondered what the big fuss is. None of these things are huge (apart from maybe the MS hug and the fatigue is tough) but they’re there. Hanging over me, everyday. You’d be right to wonder what the big deal is. But the big deal is, that all these little symptoms mean that every so often a relapse will happen, and I really will find life tough when that happens.

Equally, all these little symptoms are nothing more than a mild irritant at the moment but they might get worse. They might become more than just irritating. But they might not. I don’t know. The nature of MS is that it’s that unpredictable. I see little point in worrying about that though – it’s out of my control.

If there’s one thing I would love people to take away from my blogs, it’s to not ignore your body when things don’t seem right. There is absolutely no harm in getting it checked out. I don’t want you all to turn into hypochondriacs, but if things don’t seem right, don’t ignore it!

The trouble is, all these little symptoms didn’t seem serious. They all came along over such a long period of time, that I was used to them and just accepted them.

But some things just cannot be explained away.

Like going blind.