I Liked MS Better When it Only Stood for Manuscript
If I had back every dish I’ve dropped and broken in the last decade I could invite Wyoming over for a sit-down dinner. (I chose a sparsely populated state so you wouldn’t think I’m exaggerating.) I’m too stubborn to switch to paper dinnerware, but if Noritake introduces a line of Blue Willow in rubber I’ll be first in line at Dillards.
Breaking dishes isn’t the only thing I do routinely. I also trip over things left carelessly lying around the house—like loose threads and pet dander. I type yrkerl in a blog or a book and don’t notice that the word is Martian until somebody points it out to me. I say things like, “Someday, you’ll go to the aardvark to make sacred covenants.” I wish I were making that last one up, but I’m not. I also wish I hadn’t been speaking to Young Women at the time, but I was. No, I wasn’t touting a new anthropomorphic religion, it was just a random word my brain sent to my mouth when my heart was thinking temple. All things considered, it could have been worse.
I do all this—and ever so much more—because I have multiple sclerosis. It’s a disease that’s all in my head. No, really. It is. Little lesions, which in my case are on the upper part of my spinal cord, play havoc with the neurological signals my mind sends to various and sundry parts of my body. I think “temple” and say “aardvark.” I step on a piece of glass and never know I’ve cut my foot until I see a trail of bloody footprints across the carpet. I tell a sister in my ward at ten in the morning that of course I can drive her to the doctor at eleven, but by 10:03 I’ve forgotten that she called. (That sister still isn’t speaking to me, by the way.) The memory thing (or lack thereof) is probably the worst. While I can remember how fast Aquaman swims (100 mph), I often can’t remember the names of my four children. (Scott, Jake, Matt and, um, Edgar. No, Edgar’s the turtle. Amy. Or is that the chicken? Give me a minute. It will come to me. I’ve known that girl nineteen years now.) Or maybe the worst is to never know until I wake up in the morning what the symptom du jour will be. Will I be able to walk? See? Understand the words on my computer monitor? Pick up the salt shaker by the third try? MS isn’t a fun affliction exactly, but it sure is interesting.
I can scarcely believe I’m sharing this today with anybody with an Internet connection and a rudimentary understanding of the English language. Mostly I’m still in denial. For sure I don’t like anybody outside my family to know I have MS. Part of this is pride, of course, but part is self-preservation. You wouldn’t believe how many “cures” there are out there for an incurable disease—aside from the treatment my neurologist recommends, I mean. (His involves needles. Stuck in my stomach. Every day. Ick.) But according to one friend, all I really have to do is drink Perky Potion. It’s an amazing concoction of vitamins, minerals, papaya juice, and shoe polish that you can get for a mere $150 an ounce and, in my case, keep down for about three minutes. As bad as it is, I do prefer it to the miracle remedy offered by a former home teacher. This guy insisted that two dozen bee stings a day for sixteen weeks would fix me right up. Gee, as fun as that sounds, I think I’ll stick with my neurologist. At least his way involves only one sting—and no insects. I’ve heard lots more ideas, but I’m running out of space and I suspect you’re running out of attention span.
What brought this to mind was a conversation I had at church last week with a wonderful guy who’s at about the same place I am in the progression of the disease. We compared notes and, frankly, teared up a little at first because we’re both getting worse than we ever thought we would. But then he said, “You know, one day last week I couldn’t remember the name of our cat.” I said, “I got in the car, drove into town, then couldn’t remember what I’d gone there for.” (I haven’t told my husband this, by the way. Good thing he doesn’t read my blog or he’d take away my car keys. You are all hereby sworn to secrecy.) The point is that by the end of the conversation we were both laughing so hard our sides would have hurt except that our nerves misfire so badly that my right toe hurt and his left elbow itched. It’s a better week because of him. A better life, even. Sure, I still forget. I still break things—and one of these days that “thing” will probably be my neck—but I still laugh, too.
I admire Teri Garr for saying, “Sure I have MS, but I have lots of other things too.” So do I. One of the things I have the most of is hope. Someday I will walk into my aardvark's office and he'll have a real cow. I mean cure. In the meantime, I just have to remember to buy more dishes the next time I'm in town with my daugther Whatshername.