As a mother of 6, I have very little time for anything. Simply using the bathroom takes planning and precise timing, so I clearly did not have time for the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. On August 24 2009, my life changed dramatically when I heard those words. I was a 34 year old emergency department registered nurse, a mother of 5/stepmother of 1, and a full time student at the time of diagnosis. My only symptom at that time was a sudden and dense numbness of my right torso, but I was feeling well and not very concerned about it. My husband is an emergency department physician, and I found out later that he was secretly extremely concerned about my symptoms. An MRI confirmed that I had many lesions throughout my brain and spinal cord, and I was admitted to the hospital for the first of many IV steroid infusions.
Who has time for this?? I have kids at home who need laundry done, dinner made, and my 10 page essay on nursing theory is due tomorrow! How is this even possible? As a child, I sat on the bed of my grandmother who was severely disabled and bedridden due to multiple sclerosis. My grandmother had 7 children and 13 grandchildren, none had been diagnosed. Why me? I have asked myself this question dozens of times over the last 5 years. Why me?
I have found that this day of diagnosis was a traumatic event, and I have relived it many times. Flashes of memories from that day haunt me. The phone call from my physician friend and coworker, "Your MRI is abnormal. Please come back to the ER right now." That ER was my place of work, and I was now a patient. Nurses are not used to being patients, and this just felt so wrong. That moment was the death of my "nothing bad can happen to me" youthful self.
Quitting school was something that I thought about over and over for months. I was halfway through my Bachelor's program, with the intent of becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner. Should I quit? I was just going to end up in a wheelchair. Bedridden. Nonverbal. Just like my grandmother. What was the use of finishing school? What was the use of doing ANYTHING now?
Fortunately, I decided to continue. I fought those voices in my head telling me to quit. The diagnosis of MS is a traumatic event for every patient. That new label: "Multiple Sclerosis," is a scary and demotivating one. I want every patient to know that diagnosis is not the end of your life, and not a death sentence. I finished my programs with a Masters degree in nursing and became a Family Nurse Practitioner in 2012.
I have my moments. I take more medications than most 80 year olds. I am fatigued, in pain, and I struggle to get through many days with my enormous load of responsibilities. I think I am learning to manage the diagnosis, but how do you manage 6 kids?? Now THAT is a challenge!