I've been thinking a lot about attitude lately. Not just my own, but that of others. When I first fell ill (like the old folks say), there was much concern surrounding my situation. Because a diagnosis was not immediately confirmed, speculation grew as to the possibility of a stroke. It made sense. I could not walk; the entire right side of my face was drawn up; and my speech was severely impaired. Stroke fit the bill and was something people understood.
People literally came out of the wood work to help my family.
The few visitors I had while in the hospital brought a wealth of advice and suggestions about what to do when I got home. Their stories of advice only make me shudder now. Note to self: NEVER offer a hospitalized individual un-requested advice on ANY thing. 'Cause it is un-requested. Duh...
But they meant well.
Before being released from that first (and only, knock on wood) hospital stay, a stroke was checked off the possibility list and I silently exhaled a HUGE sigh of relief. Even with a non-diagnosis, I knew that "stroke" was not something I wanted to hear. The little I knew about that condition was not favorable.
Little did I know what lurked amidst the shadows of my newly appointed doctor's lair.
"We want to run some tests to confirm, or rule out, MS," they said.
"Okay, fine. What are the tests and, more importantly, what is MS?" was my reply.
The second part of that question only brought about cryptic side glances and a grandiose amount of paper shuffling.
What I didn't realize then is that they didn't know how to answer the second part of my question. They, the professionals, could not define MS. That's when I knew things were spiraling in the downward direction.
After a CAT scan, an MRI, multiple blood tests, and a complete neurological scan, my team of experts proudly announced the diagnosis.
"We aren't sure, but we think it may be multiple sclerosis. The only conclusive test is a spinal tap."
After eleven days in the hospital and a pen cushion body, we were back to square one. the folks back home were getting a little weary and needed some juicy news to circulate around the neighborhood.
MS wasn't good enough, but, oh, a spinal tap. Now, that had the makings of tragedy and mayhem. I can even now imagine the wringing of hands and woeful moans of anticipation.
The diagnosis came back...positive. I had (and still have) multiple sclerosis. There was much back slapping and congratulatory hugging in the doctor's break room that day. They now had something to work with. News hit my street back home and the neighbors began baking banana bread for my return.
"Oh, my, Lisa. Let me know if I can do anything."
Don't you just love this generic sentiment?
Sure, there are a lot of things you can do for me. Clean my behind when I cannot make it to the bathroom. Inject that needle in that hard to reach location on the back of my arm for today's Beta Seron injection. Carry that hot cup of tea to me so that there is something left in the mug after my tremors deposit the contents all of over the floor on the way to my carefully arranged place on the couch. Carry my baby up those stairs for his nap and explain to him why his mommy can no longer hold him without fear of dropping him on his fragile little head. (Someone once told me that it is impossible to drop a baby. That person evidently never met MS.)
After it became apparent that my condition was not going to advance in any weird, news-worthy way, fewer and fewer people offered to help me. Fewer and fewer folks dropped by for a chat. My phone stopped ringing and my "friends" found comfort in other scandals. If I wanted banana bread, I would have to rally and do it myself.
So, that's what I did. I rallied. I baked banana bread and I got on with life. Oh, and I moved away from that neighborhood.
My MS is never going away and it is never going to get better. This news is only intriguing for a second or two. I understand that now. I really didn't then, but my journey has been a true learning experience.
I look at my life then, fifteen years ago, and I look at where I am today: In a smaller house (hallelujah), retired, very little social interaction outside the house, NO un-invited advice. I control my life, for the most part. In the words of Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), "I decide when. I decide who." And I do.
I like this newer version of myself. MS is not going to take away my desire to live a full life. I have seen that happen, and I bet you have as well.
It's all in the attitude, folks. I plan to get earn an A in that department. What about you?