MS: The Diagnosis

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

MS: The Diagnosis

It is currently estimated that 2,500,000 people worldwide suffer from Multiple Sclerosis; a neurological condition that affects the brain’s ability to send messages to the rest of the body. It is not typically inherited nor is it contagious or fatal but there is currently no cure. MS has a wide range of symptoms that vary not only in length and severity but also person to person. When my other half sustained a concussion, we never expected that his lack of balance and inability to use one side of his body would result in an MS diagnosis.

In September 2014, by sheer accident, my other half hit his head and began to display concussion-like symptoms within 24 hours. While the throwing up, dizziness and headache seemed to be quite normal in the days after the concussion, the longevity of his symptoms was strange. He was reassured during a visit to A&E 2 weeks after he initially hit his head that it was just post-concussion syndrome and nothing else. It wasn’t until he returned to the hospital and pushed for a CT scan that he then started to get some answers.

While my other half never saw his CT scan, he was aware that something had shown up on his scan. He was referred for an MRI but that didn’t occur until December and things started to get progressively worse.

The only way he could get up the stairs was if he dragged himself, he had to use one hand to pick up the other and even the rate he ate at dropped significantly to the point where I, the very slow eater, finished a meal when he was still halfway through his. It was like he was deteriorating right in front of everyone’s eyes and there was no obvious explanation for it.

MRI Brain Scan
This image means nothing to me but it's from my other half's MRI.

When December finally rolled around, my other half had already self-diagnosed and was prepared for what was to come. His MRI confirmed it was, in fact, MS but, although he had self-diagnosed, he wasn’t quite prepared for how severe his case was. Most people will have 10 active lesions during a relapse but he had 20-30 at the time of his MRI.

Shortly after his diagnosis, his symptoms began to subside. He slowly went back to his regular self and it was almost like the relapse never happened. Weirdly, though, the MS specialist he saw was surprised by how severe his relapse was and how many symptoms he had. It seemed that he had the vast majority of them all in one go and his MS was adamant in making itself known.

While it’s been over a year since his last significant relapse, we can never be fully comfortable. Unfortunately, he has absolutely no idea what can bring on a relapse and although stress, vaccinations, infections and pregnancy (although I don’t think he needs to worry about that) can cause relapses, he’s just not sure. Sometimes he has numbness in his feet and legs or a ringing in his ears that could always be the sign of another MS attack but it’s hard to tell. There hasn’t been anything so significant (touch wood) since 2014 and I think it’s safe to say we’re all happy about that.

MRI Scan
I still have no idea what I'm looking at.

The concussion may have been the thing that encouraged my other half to get a CT scan but funnily enough, the concussion didn’t bring on his MS relapse. According to the MS specialist he saw, the concussion had absolutely nothing to do with any of the things that happened and was just a happy, albeit unfortunate accident. If he hadn’t hit his head, we may have never actually found out what was going on.

If there's one positive thing to come out of this it's how great my other half has been. If he’s ever dwelled in despair over his diagnosis, he’s never shown it. He’s always keen to learn more about his condition and isn’t afraid to talk about it when necessary. Although a lot of people in his life don’t quite understand what he’s dealing with, he doesn’t mind answering any questions that they have and has made them aware that if they’re curious, they can ask him. He’s not ashamed of his MS and has actively chosen to face it head on as opposed to questioning why it happened to him. I wish I could tell you how incredible he’s been throughout all of this but I really can’t, no amount of words can explain his brilliance.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post then I salute you but there’s a lot more to come. Up until my other half’s diagnosis, I had no real understanding of MS. It’s not exactly a widely discussed health issue as it’s not the most common of conditions. There’s a lot to cover in regards to MS including the treatment my other half will hopefully be completing at the end of this month (although a complication has occurred which may delay the treatment). Hopefully, I can do some justice in shedding some light onto the condition but if I don’t, at least you got to look at my other half’s brain scan.

*I've chosen to refrain from going into too much detail as to what MS is in this post as I wanted it to be completely focused on my other half for now. The real facts will come soon, probably with less brain scans!

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