The following is my true personal MS diagnosis story, including how my life moved along in those early dark years. It is not a pretty story, but it needs to be told so others will know they are not alone on this MS battlefield. I am going to format it into a series of five blogs that each will focus on a different part of the story. My history proves life is not all rainbows and butterflies, but we need to play the hand that we are dealt.
It is essential to understand that people who have MS have it lying dormant within them. My research shows that MS can lay silent until physical, mental, or emotional stress causes this beast to flair with ferociousness. Bad divorces, the death of a loved one, or even a car accident are examples of stresses that can activate MS.
I did not see it coming; after all, I was an Eagle Scout and a Marine who overcame every challenge I had faced. During my last year in the Marine Corps, I started experiencing little things that were a bit off. Looking back, I can see what the symptoms were, but at the time, I merely blew them off as clumsiness or stress. My buddy Mike and I were running and weightlifting regularly, so I continued to think these issues were stress-related. I did not know that something awful was stirring deep inside me, waiting for the wrong time to rear its venomous head.
After my divorce in 2000, I went off the rails as my life was full of dejection and rejection that thrust me into a major tailspin. I began drinking and clubbing with my buddy Mike who was also newly divorced and handling it much better than me. In my life, I had consumed very little alcohol, so its effects were now massively magnified on my body and brain. As an introverted individual, the results were mostly drinking as I did not dance, and I was too shy to talk to women. I was drinking and going to clubs nearly every weekend while working all week. Sadly this destructively debilitating lifestyle lasted over a year.
My divorce also left me in a banking deficit nightmare, which meant I needed to work two jobs to get financially on stable ground. I worked five days a week as an engineering draftsman and many evening and weekend hours at a local Walmart. I began to climb out of this destructive alcoholic lifestyle and pull myself together both economically and mentally. Although it was robbing Peter to pay Paul at times, I got on payment plans and slowly got caught up.
I was physically more rotund at the time of my divorce as the fantastic food of my marriage packed on the pounds. During my seven-year marriage, I had inched up to a forty-inch waist as I gained seventy-five pounds over my Maine Corps fighting weight. At five foot six inches tall, the two hundred pounds of body weight made me look much chunkier than my Marine Corps days.
I soon began to lift weights with my friend Mike, who had always lifted weights and looked the part. Steadfast in my determination, the weight started to fall off as I trained three days a week by lifting heavy weights and running. This new physical fitness went so well that I began losing weight very rapidly, too quickly, some said. I lost so much weight that I thought I might fall through a sewer grate. After my hard work, I became a svelte one hundred and a twenty-five-pound guy with a twenty-nine-inch waist losing seventy-five pounds in about a year.
One morning I woke up for work, and something felt inexplicably wrong. When I arrived at work, more chaos ensued as I tried to talk. When I began to speak, it felt and sounded like I had a mouth full of marbles, I thought it must be stress. Remembering the Marine Corps phrase that I learned many years ago, I began to adapt and overcome. I spoke slowly and carefully, repeating myself without being asked, although my coworkers were always extremely patient. I continued to think that this would stop, and I would go back to normal very soon, but this medical issue was relentless.
After nearly a week, my distressing verbal issues were still present, so I knew it was time to see a medical professional. After I finished explaining my problem to my primary care doctor without hesitation, Dr. Cook told me I had mini migraines. The doctor explained my issue, but it was nebulous at best though we were moving the correct direction. I was not concerned because I just wanted the medication that would make my issue go away. He gave me a two week supply of this low dose pill that was as he explained a receptor antagonist. Over the next few days, the sample medication Dr. Cook gave me did not change a thing. I went back to see him after nearly two weeks, and he recommended that I see a neurologist.
At this point, my speech issues had completely and strangely disappeared. I debated whether I should follow up and see this doctor of neurology. On the one hand, it was inconvenient, time-consuming and I had to miss the work that I truly enjoyed. On the other hand, I had the insurance that I rarely used, so I decided that I would get some use. I also realized it would be one thing if it was just my family doctor, but Dr. Cook was now sending me to a neurologist. Something told me that this new doctor visit was probably pretty paramount.
Here I was completely confused…