“The Flare I Could Not Ignore”
For those of us with Multiple Sclerosis we know that stress may increase our symptoms. No one likes to be stressed out or go through something traumatic, but we never think this kind of situation will lead to a life-changing diagnosis as it did with me at the age of 26. Back in June 2006 my cat, Snowball passed away after being a part of my family for 24 years. Snowball was like the little brother I never had. Growing up, Snowball always knew when I was upset and would come into my bedroom to comfort me. He liked to lay down on my school work and always was ready to play. Even though I moved out at the age of 19, I visited home often and in 2003 when I started at my current job and got a full hour lunch break, I started having lunch with my mom at my childhood home and Snowball would join us always wanting in on people food. Snowball lived a happy and long life, but losing him was losing a family member. It took a toll on my parents, my older sister and me.
Less than a month later I started having tingling and numbness in my left foot and my left knee swelled to almost the size of a grapefruit. I went to my physician who thought maybe I hit my toe and pinched a nerve. Not before long though, my other foot became tingly and numb and soon it spread to my legs. One Saturday I was in the shower when I realized I couldn’t feel the sponge on my torso and stomach, and my fingers felt numb too. I knew something was really wrong. I called my physician’s office, not sure really what to do since it was the weekend, but found that they had a doctor on call. Luckily, it was my doctor and she told me to go to the ER. I called my mom and off we went to my first ER visit.
At this point I really had no clue what was going on with me, but never thought it was something serious. I had plans with my friends that night and told them I would probably get a prescription and would meet up with them later in the evening. I was in the ER all night and was admitted for 4 days, being released on Independence Day. I had MRIs, a spinal tap and numerous tests that lead to my diagnosis. Many of the doctors that came to see me during my hospital stay had asked if I had experienced anything traumatic and it all came back to losing Snowball.
Of course, now knowing the symptoms of MS, I know I have had it a lot longer than my diagnosis date, as it often is with MSers. As a child I remember experiencing Lhermittes, an electric like sensation that radiates from the neck and down the spine. I remember thinking it was kind of a funny feeling and every so often would bend my neck down to see if I would feel the shock again. I had no idea other people didn’t experience this until I learned about MS.
Another example is from 2004 when I took a trip to Disneyworld for the first time. It was during this trip I experienced optic neuritris, where I lost part of my vision and saw a flashing square light. It was like when someone takes your photo and uses the flash and you see that image for a few moments afterwards. For me, that little square didn’t go away for quite some time. I don’t recall how many weeks I had it for, but I didn’t think at the time it was anything serious. It is so interesting to think back to this time, knowing now I was experiencing a flare up. But, the stress and sadness of losing my precious little Snowball brought out the strongest flare I could not ignore.
Caroline Kyriakou was diagnosed with MS in 2006. She enjoys reading, blogging, and is working on her first book. Caroline volunteers as a mentor through MS ActiveSource. Find her Facebook MS Support group Friends Against the MonSter here and you also can ‘like’ Caroline’s page on Facebook by clicking here! You can find additional blogs by Caroline on MS Relief. Caroline lives in Boston with her husband, Abe.