When you breakdown life, your life, a picture will come into focus. A picture of a Rollercoaster. All human beings have moments of great height, followed by great lows. Some of the time you’re moving very fast!! While other times you are moving slowly, anticipating what may come next. I am not going to over exaggerate this reference with compounding statements, to me it’s pretty simple the way it is.
They way I interpret life varies, dependant on my current circumstance. There are times when I challenge the common thought of “everything happens for a reason”. While other times I convince myself “there is a greater purpose for what I am experiencing”. Neither one is wrong, one should never feel ashamed for having these thoughts, they are completely normal. Times where I challenge the thought of “everything happens for a reason” I must allow the process to work. At the time I am only thinking of the negative. Why is this happening? Haven’t I or we been through enough already? What the hell is going to happen to me next? What did I ever do to deserve this?!?!
I have learned these are completely normal and expected thoughts to have. The trouble may come when you must shift your mindset to the latter. To rest your thoughts, allow time for reflection and truly believe “everything happens for a reason”. This is not to say the shift in mindset will happen quickly. In my experience, this has taken years to realize. Having been sick with Ulcerative Colitis and going through the experience of an Ileostomy, lead me to my wife.
If I hadn’t fallen ill, it’s hard to say how future events would have played out. I know I still would have met and fallen in love with my wife, it would have come a different way is all. The character I am today may not have been developed if not for that experience. At a young age, growing up quickly set the tone for the balance of my life. After that, troubles at work, drama with friends and even finances were inconsequential. Those things will work themselves out, it’s far more complicated when you are sick.
I was at the pinnacle of my life, my job was going great, I was more than comfortable with my Ileostomy and most importantly I was at a point where I knew I was ready to get married. In my mind, there was only one thing that could bring me down, a NO! As you already may know she said yes! I proposed on Christmas Day 2006, after first asking her fathers permission. We were standing on a snow covered hill over looking the town where she had grown up, I got down on one knee and asked. She began to cry, as did I… as I stood up we both chuckled as I lost my footing and nearly fell down afterwards. Arriving back to her home and family it was a very joyous day to remember.
We had traveled to her home town in a neighbouring Province via Greyhound Bus. On the trip back, I remember resting my face on the headrest in front of me. In the coming days, it felt like I had gotten rug burn on my face from doing so. I also remember my feet would fall asleep in my shoes at work. I didn’t think too much of it at the time. Then on New Years Eve day, I was on a 6 lane causeway driving to work. I was having difficulty focusing my vision on the road. After being given Christmas off in a retail management position, I felt I couldn’t miss closing the store on New Years Eve. Driving on that road common sense and perhaps a survival mechanism kicked in.
To this day I don’t quite know how I made it back to our apartment. When I did, I took a moment trying to clear thing up myself. I then called my fiancé at her work, also retail management, to explain what happened. At first she thought I may have needed some rest. After explaining to her what I had been feeling previous to this she left work to drive me to the hospital. Given the day, the hospital was rather busy. We ended up waiting in the ER for 7 hours before being seen. Once I was assessed by a doctor, I was sent for a Cat-Scan. It was then I was told I either I had Mini-Strokes or Multiple Sclerosis.
Understandably this was devastating for both of us to hear. I was admitted that night to have an MRI the next morning. My fiancé went back to our apartment just before midnight as we were both exhausted. I was not put into a room, I was able to witness some very “electric personalities” come through the ER that night. I overheard conversations of a man brought in with a gunshot to the abdomen and he was in serious life threatening condition. Just hearing that, I had a moment of realization that I was not in life threatening condition. No matter the outcome of the MRI the next morning I would…well honestly I told myself I should, be okay.
I cannot recall the actual MRI I had New Years Day. What I can recall is the absolute sense of fear shared by my fiancé and I, not to mention our families. The resident doctor came to see us, along with a neurologist to discuss the results from the MRI combined with the physical assessments. The neurologist was fantastic, he had a way of explaining things without any grey area or room for self interpretation. He went on to explain there was no evidence to support Mini-Strokes. Although, compelling evidence to support MS. I was then diagnosed with CIS, Clinically Isolated Sydrome. This is to mean I would be tracked by him for a period of three months to see if there would be further physical symptoms disease activity. To help calm my current symptoms, I was placed on a heavy dose of Prednisone, 2450mgs every other day.
One of the notable physical symptoms I had was Optic Neuritis. Which is Blurred and or Double Vision. When a person is intoxicated with alcohol, double vision is typically horizontal. In MS patients with double vision this is vertical as shown below.
To have this every minute of everyday for over one month is incredibly disheartening. Words cannot put into context the feelings if you have not experienced yourself. Also makes watching hockey incredibly frustrating! All joking aside, when watching TV or even holding a conversation, I would often close my eyes.
In those first days and weeks back home with my new fiancé, I had obvious questions going through my head. Could I handle this? Was she going to leave? And the biggest question of all was, why me?!?! There is one moment that stands out, it was maybe one week after. I was laying up in bed next to my fiancé. I began to yell and cry, screaming
“Why me?!? What did I do to deserve this?!? Wasn’t 2003 enough?!?”
My was consoled by my fiancé and reassuring she would not be leaving. As much as I wanted to believe her, there was still a part of me that expected her to leave once my symptoms calmed down. Not only that, I already felt guilt for putting this on her, as silly as that sounds.
A few years after I was diagnosed and we were married, I asked her in a polite manner if she had thought of leaving our relationship after I was diagnosed. She answered me honestly with a yes. She explained she had to look deep down inside of herself, she spoke with family and close friends about it. Everytime the thought crossed her mind she felt an overwhelming sense of love for me. No matter the circumstance! She did not stay with me out of guilt or sense of obligation. She was and continues to be just as committed as I am to our life together.
As you can see these beginnings of my medical experience really did feel as though I was on a rollercoaster. Even to this day I feel I am on a rollercoaster at times. It’s all about outlook and perspective. Allowing ourselves to let go, be vulnerable, but have the courage to push through the challenges of life.