Published Friday, May 19, 2006
It often takes years to begin to come to terms with the unexpected diagnosis of a long term disease. Eight years ago David Price never expected that an appointment for a vision problem would lead to a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
An Ophthalmologist diagnosed David with Optic Neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve, after David began to feel as though he were viewing life through ground glass. The Ophthalmologist ordered an MRI, as Optic Neuritis is often a presenting symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. The MRI led David to be diagnosed with Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS).
The diagnosis was a complete surprise to David until the specialist began to describe the symptoms of RRMS. David had been experiencing symptoms other than his vision without knowing it, including tingling and a pins and needles sensation in his feet and legs, numbness, and extreme fatigue. David had assumed that he had pulled a muscle which would soon get better. He realized that wasn’t the case when the specialist “started explaining the symptoms and I thought, well, that explains that. I was basically making a mental checklist in my head thinking, okay, well this is happening, and that is happening.”
Multiple Sclerosis occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks normal tissues, particularly Myelin, an insulating sheath for the nerve fibres of the Central Nervous System. The attacks disrupt or halt the signals being transmitted to the brain and the brain is unable to send and receive messages.
Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis is when a person experiences a relapse, the onset of which can come without warning, during which new symptoms may surface, or previously experienced symptoms may worsen. The relapses are followed by periods of remission during which a person fully, or partially, recovers. This cycle continues throughout a persons lifetime.
David often questioned the validity of his pain and fatigue. He doubted himself and the disease. David finally began to come to terms with the fact that MS was the true cause when, during a visit, his specialist told him “that he had to realize that no, he wasn’t feeling well, and that he wasn’t faking it”.
David tried to push through the pain, to ignore it, or to try to prove that the diagnosis, and symptoms, weren’t going to change his life. David admits that he went through a lot of different things trying to deal with the diagnosis. Through “part denial, part moodiness, and part stubbornness” David tried to ignore the reality of the diagnosis but this past year he began to to come to terms with his MS.
David credits the support of the MS Clinic at UBC, particularly his specialist, Dr. Devonshire, with helping him deal with his MS. In addition to his specialist there is a “Relapse Nurse” available by phone in case he suddenly has a symptom he has never had before. Oftentimes the symptoms of MS can mirror flu symptoms and David takes comfort in knowing that a phone call can put his mind at ease as to whether he has the flu or has begun a relapse.
The biggest help in coming to terms with MS has been his wife, “I would say her being there, even though sometimes I didn’t realize she was there supporting me, was a big thing that helped me get over the hump.”
Last month David was a team captain in the Walk for MS. He explained that “everyone has been so great and I just felt it was time for me to give back.”
To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis and the MS Society visit www.mssociety.ca