Are you sure you’re sick?

I am not a doctor and have no background in science. I am unwilling to study the why of my life. I don’t understand how my body works or why it won’t work.  It has been almost four years of this TMI life, and yet because I don’t wear a neon sign stating the obvious, smart and kind people dismiss my journey.

Second opinions were not enough for my diagnosis.  I have met with 4 Neurologists (two of whom were MS specialists ) and 8 Rheumatologists over my lifetime. I won’t include the countless PCP’s, OB/GYN’s, and all the extra doctors in the room during my appointments.

A conservative estimate of twelve specialists at the best hospitals in Boston questioned the diagnosis and have come to the same conclusion.  Please don’t see me for a few minutes and make a diagnosis from your kitchen counter.

Chronic illness can be invisible. Please keep that in mind when you hear about a friend with a diagnosis.

I stopped trying to categorize my symptoms and I don’t dwell on the hiccups of my life. I am, however, tempted  to get a neon t-shirt that says, “It takes a lot of work to look this good”.

I am not usually vocal about my illness unless I am sitting on a paper roll, but 93% of communication is nonverbal.   I was monitored for three high risk pregnancies and spent two months in the NICU with my premature baby. I listened to my doctor when she told me that my body was too weak to carry any more children.  After 26 years, my husband can read my pain with spidey sense. My cleaning lady knows when my sheets are drenched from night sweats. A keen eye can recognize my awkward gait after a long car ride. But, when people question my diagnosis it is painful and dismissive.

Last month, I had my annual MRI and my neurologist was impressed with everything.  I improved with every test except one.  I struggle to walk across a room with one foot in front of the other.  I promised that I would practice and next time I would dominate.  He laughed with my intense focus. I have learned that great warriors are neither perfect nor lucky, they just know how to handle adversity and know when to surrender. I am a warrior, constantly adjusting,

I run everyday and at the beginning it feels like I am Kaiser Soze from The Usual Suspects.  My gait is awkward and I can’t feel my feet.  It usually takes me about 2 miles to feel my body but I still run.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQv2-JCpKMk

My initial walk/run is awkward and slow but I can finish like Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible trailer. I like to focus on the Tom Cruise image but that is not who I am.

Three years ago when I dropped my daughter at college, I was struggling with daily fatigue and weakness. During orientation weekend I made a quiet arrangement with my legs. I would respect my body and walk up of those grueling Ithaca, NY hills, but by the time my girl graduated I would be running the hills, not walking. I am on track to reach my goal from three years ago, but I am not comfortable.  I did not walk up any hills this year during my visits to Ithaca but she has not graduated from college.  

IMG_5707

Visiting my girls at college one week apart.  Same legs but the difference between running in Ithaca, NY vs. Philadelphia

Lately, I have experiencing random numbness and weakness on my left side.  I was exhausted last month and struggled to get going during the day, but today I feel good.  I am not immune to my immune system.  My crazy intensity has not cured me of anything but I will move forward and adjust.  

I understand that I have some individual successes from the past four years, but I am not satisfied with the results. I will work this year to maintain and get stronger for her graduation and beyond.  I will own my weakness and make it my strength.   I will practice my walk with my regular insane intensity before my next 6 month neurology appointment. I will run today and finish like Tom Cruise.  Eventually I will surrender with the understanding warriors are not born , they are reinvented every day.

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