Once somebody tells you, you have MS, you start to put a jigsaw together. You wonder whether that strange tingling sensation you had in your right arm last year had something to do with it, or in my case the vertigo diagnosis from the previous year and the little numb patch between my big toe on my right foot and the others.
It all happened at roughly the same time, but seemingly by stealth as I can't put an exact time or date on it. My old office at work used to look out onto rolling Derbyshire scenery. In the distance there was a radio mast on top of one of the hills. I remember looking up at that radio mast and hilltop one morning to see two radio masts and hilltops, but weirdly, only when I looked left. Also, when I hammered away at my computer keyboard, I noticed that my fingers felt a bit tingly. 'RSI?' I wondered.
I had recently had delivery of a new computer at work and I moved my workspace around and shifted my desk from one side of the room to the other. When this sort of thing happens, my employer automatically sends a health and safety person round to look at how you are sitting, whether the new screen you have is causing any eye problems ("Yeah, well I do have this problem with double-vision"), or whether your seat is suitable ("Funny you should say that, but I get this strange electrical tingling sensation down my back and into my thighs when I put my chin to my chest"). The double-vision I put down to eye strain as I had other unexplained problems with my eyes a few years before (this particular jigsaw piece hadn't dropped into it's slot at this point).
The health and safety guy, barely into his twenties, was non-plussed. "Maybe ask your GP," was his suggestion.
"Yeah... maybe I will"
I recounted my recent problems to my brother shortly afterwards while watching Man City lose to Fulham at the City of Manchester stadium. "If you were a TV, I'd take you back to the shop" was his comment. This made a lot of sense, and I needed to see my GP about something minor anyway - I needed a wart removing from my lip. I could always mention this weird stuff at the end as an aside.
I saw a locum GP - Dr E. It turned out that the wart was the least of his concerns. He did various tests. I had my reflexes tested, I watched his finger move left to right, I stood on one leg, I touched my nose then his moving finger then my nose and so on. He booked me in for an emergency CT scan at the Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield - I should get an appointment within the fortnight he said. He thought everything I was experiencing was connected somehow, but wouldn't be drawn on what it might be apart from that it might be something pressing on my spinal cord. "Basically, where my expertise ends, someone else's begins..." were his words. "Take it easy, don't do anything strenuous, no heavy lifting, look after yourself, be selfish, let others take the strain for a while." A GP has never said anything like this to me before, my previous visits had always been met with a "don't worry about it, it'll go away" air about them.
I thought of the heavy suitcase that I had to load and lift into the car, ready for our family holiday in a couple of day's time. "I'm going on holiday at the weekend." I explained.
"Where are you going?"
"That's good. They have hospitals down there."
"You've got me worried now," I laughed. . . no flicker of a smile on Dr E's face.
As I left the surgery, I felt the weirdest sensation. Something other-worldly, like I had been given a serious secret assignment.
I had a door with what could be a monster lurking behind it. All I had to do was find the key.
Part 2 >