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When a Doctor Said I Might Have Multiple Sclerosis But 'Shouldn't Worry'

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My birthday falls two days before Christmas; it’s not too bad. I’ve gotten used to it. In 2013, we celebrated after dinner by driving around looking at Christmas lights. I remember closing my right eye and looking at the lights through my left eye only. “The lights look really weird when I do this!” I remember commenting to my husband. I thought it was kind of funny, and continued to do it off and on through the drive.

That Christmas was very different from any other Christmas I’d celebrated so far. I had just given birth at the end of October to twin girls, so I was trying to nurse two babies. Oh, did I mention I homeschooled three older children as well? Yeah, I was a little bit busy.

I was doing so much on Christmas Eve that I barely thought about the funny lights, although I did close my right eye a few times to see what happened. But by Christmas morning, it wasn’t funny anymore. We’d opened up our presents and I was across the room from the tree, changing a diaper. I looked up towards the tree, where my three older children were sitting. I closed my right eye to see how the tree looked through just the “funny” left eye, and realized I couldn’t see my children. Nothing was visible except a very blurry peripheral vision.

Understandably, that scared me. My husband was worried as well. Our eye doctor has an emergency number, which my husband told me to call. I figured I would leave a message and get a phone call ASAP once the holidays were over. Instead, an actual optometrist answered the phone and had me come into the office. On Christmas morning. When they are willing to do that, you know it’s serious.

I saw the eye doctor, who referred me to a neurologist and suggested that I might have multiple sclerosis, but that I shouldn’t worry. Not worry? I’m the mom of five, including 2-month-old twins, and it’s Christmas Day!

For the next few days, before my neurologist appointment, I read all I could about MS. It was the worst holiday I’d ever had. I was convinced I was dying, even though nothing I read said that I was. When I was a newlywed in college, a leader at my church was diagnosed with MS. Within a year or two, she had passed away; she was only about 10-15 years old than I am now! I was convinced I had a year or so left to live, and live poorly. I confess, I had a pretty rotten month or so until official diagnosis. I was unable to see my children clearly and I was convinced I wouldn’t live to see them grow up, and they wouldn’t remember me either.

I finally got the official diagnosis in February of 2014. By that time, my vision had returned with the help of IV steroids and I’d gotten the hang of being a mother to twins, homeschooling and just living life. I felt like my usual self. But in the office, hearing that diagnosis, I cried. My husband was with me, and I was kind of expecting it, but I still cried. But during the waiting, I talked to women who’ve had an MS diagnosis for years, and they are still alive.

I decided that was going to be me. I would do everything in my power to stick around for my husband, my children, my future grandchildren, and myself. I started taking medicine and taking care of myself, trying to find any triggers so as to avoid them. At this point, I seem to have a “milder” form of MS, in that I haven’t had any relapses since the big one that caused my diagnosis. I do have symptoms sometimes, but I do my best to mitigate them.

I have a lot to live for. I feel like I was given another chance at living, and I don’t want to squander that.

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Originally published: November 1, 2016
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