What Is MS: Multiple Sclerosis Awareness

Photo Credit: Pixabay

 

Many of you know that I was recently diagnosed with the relapsing-remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS). My diagnosis came after a life-threatening appearance of a demylenating lesion in my brain stem (specifically the pons region of my brain stem) in 1999. This was followed by more than ten years where I experienced a number of bizarre, seemingly unrelated symptoms.

Although I visited a number of neurologists and other physicians, all but one seemed to find my symptoms unrelated. Several times I was told unequivocally by neurologists that I did NOT have MS. Over those years, my husband and I moved several times, and I couldn’t any establish continuity with any doctor long enough to make sense of my history of dizziness, falling down, headaches, choking, foot cramps, finger tremors, hearing loss, nausea, and a changing gait.

Then in late 2014, I developed additional neurological symptoms and was ordered to undergo a brain biopsy of a new large lesion that had appeared in and around the area of my brain stem. The neurosurgeon was confident it was a glioma, considered to be an early form of cancer. The biopsy required a crainiotomy and resection (p. 8) , which was an additional challenge to my neurological system.

Why MS is Often Misdiagnosed
My situation is not unique. Many disorders share symptoms with MS, making diagnosis difficult. Those disorders include

Lupus: can cause muscle pain, joint swelling, fatigue, butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks, and headaches
Lyme disease: fatigue, fever, headaches, and muscle and joint aches
Stroke: loss of vision; loss of feeling in the limbs, usually on one side of the body; difficulty walking; and difficulty speaking
Migraine: intense pain; throbbing; sensitivity to light, sounds, or smells; nausea and vomiting; blurred vision; and lightheadedness and fainting
Fibromyalgia: headaches, joint and muscle pain, numbness and tingling of extremities, memory problems, and fatigue
Conversion and psychogenic disorders: conditions in which psychological stress is converted into a physical problem — such as blindness or paralysis — for which no medical cause can be found
Sjogren’s disorder: dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue, and musculoskeletal pain
Vasculitis: joint pain, blurred vision, and numbness, tingling, and weakness in the limbs
Myasthenia gravis: drooping eyelids, double vision, difficulty with walking, speaking, chewing, and swallowing
Sarcoidosis: including fatigue and decreased vision
Vitamin B-12 deficiency: fatigue, mental confusion, and numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM): fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, vision loss, and difficulty walking
The National MS Society has created the following short video. It gives a simple explanation of what happens in a person’s body when they live with MS and helps us understand why the disease can be so difficult to diagnose, since MS influences every function of the brain, and therefore, the body.

The video helped me understand that because one of my largest lesions damaged the pons area of my brain, it makes sense that my breathing, swallowing, taste, sleeping, vision, hearing, balance, and walking have changed.

WHAT IS MS?

Real Face Time: How a Diagnosis of Brain Tumor Can Change Your Priorities

The first week of December, my husband Dan and I flew to the Pacific Northwest forFamilyPix2014 our Very First Ever Visit with both of our children, their spouses, and all three of our beautiful grandsons.

Life doesn’t get any better than this–even though the babies had croup, were teething, and cried pretty much the whole time.

 Crying and mayhem didn’t matter because we were together, enjoying REAL Face Time.

But on December 30, I was lying on my back in the neurology unit of our local hospital, awaiting surgery.

My diagnosis: glioma–a nickel-sized tumor surrounding my brain and producing swelling.

My neuro surgeon had calmly explained the risks and realities of what my MRIs had shown. The mass was in an inoperable location. They would be able to take only half of it through a craniotomy procedure in an effort to biopsy a sample. Little had a I realized when I walked into my doctor’s office several days before Christmas for pain and tingling in my face that I would be facing brain surgery and a life-challenging diagnosis. What have in learned in these past several weeks?

1. Life is fragile–handle with gratitude.

That FIRST trip to see my grandchildren suddenly came into focus. It could well have been my ONLY opportunity to see my children and grandchildren together. Had I invested those moments well? Would I have gone back and done anything differently?

2. Reconcile, and do it today.

Holding an offense against someone? Don’t wait for them to make the first move–do it today. We’re called to a ministry of reconciliation as Christians. No ifs, ands, or buts.

3. Look and talk like Jesus.

The world pretty much despises Christians because we can be so busy judging the world, that we forget to love the world. And to love them the way Jesus loved them–sacrificially, and always in ways that would glorify God. He tells us that we can’t claim to love him if we’re not loving others. Even our enemies. My enemies–those people who have treated me unjustly and the people I love unjustly. I’m supposed to love them. (Which doesn’t mean giving them a free pass on the consequences of their actions, by the way). But it means releasing my bitterness and anger and praying God’s best in their lives.

I was blessed with five days between my diagnosis and brain surgery. I wrote some letters. Made some calls. Humbled my heart. I’m learning every day what these three lessons mean, and they’re HARD, but they’re sweet.

What about YOU? What would your priorities become if you were suddenly told you had inoperable brain cancer?