Cold, the cold was attacking my right leg. It was if I had stepped into a deep freeze, and this normally active leg was freezing up. It’s movement slowed, making every step an effort. The muscles of my back were screaming in pain. I could not understand why my back was sore, when it was my leg which had the problem.
Four months earlier I had felt my first symptoms. Numb heels at fort and this disappeared. It happened again, but this time the numbness travelled firth up my leg. The feel was like I was walking using sticks, not feet. Then this faded away. Another week and it started again, travelling up my body as far as my chest. Of course, I went to the doctor and was referred to the hospital. A full week of tests and recovery. That was in late November, 1991.
It was my birthday, January 23, 1992 and it was the day of my appointment with a neurologist who had conducted all those test. January in London is cold. The cold was not my friend, it was stealing my ability to walk and I hoped the doctor would give me some idea what was wrong. The journey on the Tube warmed me up and I was able to walk, properly, into the hospital.
The discussion was brief, to the point. He said I have Multiple Sclerosis. The fMRI helped the diagnosis, showing white marks on my spinal cord, in the neck area. The results of the testing of my spinal cord fluid had oligoclonal banding, these clues, plus the relapsing/remitting nature of my symptoms added together for a clinical diagnosis.
In a state of shock, I asked what were the next steps. Was there a pill, or procedure to help? He looked at me and said, “There is nothing we can do”. My only choice was to keep doing what I was doing. Perhaps speak to the MS Society and to start taking Evening Primrose Oil because it contains GLA, something which might help repair of the coating on my nerves, a coating which my body was destroying.
I left the office and made my way back home, to phone my parents (there were no mobile phones then) and check the encyclopaedia to try and understand more. The future looked gloomy when I read this heavy book of knowledge. No cure, just continuous decline. As there was nothing I could do, I put on my suit, headed back to the Tube and went to work.
In the years since, so much has changed, there are multiple treatments to slow the progression, research is getting closer to knowing why we get this disease, and there is much better support and aids to help us manage the symptoms. I was fortunate to be diagnosed so quickly, a rarity 29 years ago.
A day which changed my life.