It’s not like it was ever meant to be. I lived an almost frugal life, not in a penny-pinching kind of way but willingly not accepting any chemical products in my system. No cigarettes, no alcohol, no mind-altering hard or soft drugs. You get the idea, straight edge, but without the punk attire. With the help of my family’s diet, I lived a very healthy lifestyle, that much is true.
So what went wrong? How do you become the owner of a chronic, neurodegenerative illness nobody in your family has, despite the supposed genetic predisposition people with MS have?
Did I stress too much in my adult life?
Did I have a difficult childhood?
Did someone else in my family have MS without them being aware of it?
It’s hard to know when the cause of an illness is yet unknown to research scientists.
I’ve never been one of those anti-pharmaceutical protesters who claim that all medication is just a load of sugar-coated candy that will never make you better. It’s extremely unlikely I’ll ever join those who protest, but I understand why some people feel the need to go on the warpath against big pharma. Each is entitled to their own opinion. My view is that sometimes you just have to get off the warpath and look after yourself, even if it means bombarding your body with pharmaceutical chemicals in order to get healthy, or better, at least.
If it wasn’t for “bad pharmaceutical companies,” my mum would still have regular epilepsy attacks. She hasn’t had one in over twenty years. All this, because of her medication.
If it wasn’t for “sugar-coated candy,” I would still have a serious allergy that used to cover my body in red blisters as a teen. I haven’t had a rash for approximately 25 years. All this, because of my medication.
If it wasn’t for pharmaceutical companies who invest millions in research and clinical trials, I would have no quality of life. I tried living it before my MS diagnosis and it was a modern day Dante’s Inferno. In fact, I still wonder how I ever went through my pre-diagnosis period without the medication I’m on right now. A decade later, I’m retired but because of my medication, I am living a life worth living. True, often in serious pain, but 60% of the time I am helped by medication researchers created.
Looking back now, I believe MS was in my life sooner than my usual ‘six-months-before-diagnosis’ talk. Looking back, I had intention tremors in my hands around 2001/2002, approximately three to four years before my diagnosis. Other times I also had head tremors and left leg nerve pain. Because I was very busy at work, I thought it was just professional stress and not worth investigating further.
So, I moved to Ireland with the grand possibility that I already had MS residing in my brain. The big question then is: would I have moved to Ireland if I was diagnosed before the big day?
Probably not. Not chasing my dream would have killed me mentally, though. You don’t dream of living somewhere for 15 years, and then not see it become reality because of a chronic illness. Knowing that dreams can come true if only you work hard at it, and if you dream realistically, is perhaps the biggest gift you can give yourself.
Of course my family is worried about my health, just like I am worried about them. Moving to Ireland hasn’t created a rift between us, in fact, my mum and I are in constant contact with each other. Skype, email, Facebook, phone, text messages… She will visit me over Christmas and we’re already quite excited. Counting down the weeks and days to come!
My mum knows everything about my life with MS, all the medication I take, and she met my GP. I also showed her around in the hospitals I attend, and she knows the dates and times of each appointment I have. She can now envision the hospitals when I say I have to go to this or that hospital.
With the help of big pharmaceutical companies, my illness is tackled somehow. I remember it was rough, crazy and insanity going from one doctor to another, not knowing what was wrong. I tried living it without the 25 tablets and one injection a day, and there’s no point, I simply need medication in order to function at a fairly normal level.
Just because you can’t imagine something happening to you, doesn’t mean it won’t. Me ending up with MS, shows exactly that.
© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.A