I’m ready to write about my MS – my Multiple Sclerosis – today.
I am writing about it because something happened during my zumba class this evening, and it made me think that it was time to share it with you all.
It’s not like it’s a big secret, or anything. It’s just that I have to be in the mood to share – and I’m normally enormously picky about who I choose to share it with!
I was diagnosed with MS seven years ago, after presenting with symptoms that included numb legs, throbbing hands and isolated incidents of random nerve pain. Extremely painful, and very short (10 seconds at most) in various parts of my body.
After an MRI scan and a lumbar puncture, my condition was confirmed.
MS is a maddening condition because it follows no rules, which makes it annoyingly unpredictable. It is a disease of the nervous system and it affects sufferers differently. Obviously there’s more to MS than that, but this isn’t that sort of post.
I suffer from Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). It’s the most common form, and there are three further types.
RRMS means that I can suffer a relapse – another symptom – for a period of time, before then being back to normal.
And here’s the rub; there’s no telling what symptom you may suffer, or when, or how long it will last. Very bad news for a control freak like me!
Since my diagnosis, I have suffered two relapses – the first led to my original diagnosis, and then I had another relapse two years ago, which affected my eyesight (I was blind in one eye) and I also suffered from intense fainting fits. This gradually improved over a period of 10 days or so and then I was back to myself again.
But MS is one of those invisible diseases. Only my husband and son know when I occasionally encounter the chronic fatigue (normally exacerbated by stress) that’s so much a common feature of this condition.
And here’s why I consider myself extremely lucky.
I suffer minimal pain – so I don’t need to take any medication – just the odd fleeting intense moment of pain that I referred to earlier, and to all intents and purposes – as far as an onlooker could judge – I’m “normal”.
I do exactly what I used to do before my diagnosis. I work, clean the house, cook, go to my reading club, go on holiday, socialise with friends and family, etc. And I work out. I need to work out because I need to keep fit. I don’t know when my next relapse will be, but I need to be fit enough to deal with it!
Oh, but then there’s also my problem with balance. Not so great!
Which brings me to my zumba class. During our stretch session – after having spent an hour doing some intensive (and fun) cardio exercise, I found myself on the floor during a quad stretch. I’d simply lost my balance. Naturally, I reassured my classmates – and instructor – that I was fine, and we continued with our stretches.
At the end of the class, several people asked me if I was alright, and I reassured them once again. “But Yinka, you fell so gracefully”, said one. “I’m glad you’re alright, but the way you fell was beautiful!” said another.
It was only when I got home and was ruefully telling my husband what had happened, that I realised that I was used to falling – all part and parcel of my MS – and without even realising it, I had taught myself to land softly. And gracefully.
Because I sometimes fall when I am trying to hold a yoga pose.
And I sometimes fall when I lift weights that are too heavy for me.
And sometimes I fall when I get out of bed too quickly.
Even so, when I fell during my quad stretch (only the left leg mind you – the right leg behaved itself!) this evening, I didn’t feel like sharing my MS story with my zumba class!
After all, anyone can lose their balance, right?