How long have you been sick?

“How long have you been sick?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m not sick,” I responded.

The dental assistant who was taking my information looked puzzled. I continued, “The neurologist who is treating my MS suggested I see the dentist as he specializes in jaw problems which I am having.”

She asked again, “How long have you been sick?” I saw a look of impatience sweep across her face. Then I realized her inquiry was not about my current health but my MS.

“I was diagnosed in 1999.”

She responded, “So you have been sick a long time.”

We proceeded filling out the paper work and I was reminded of a situation that occurred several years ago. We were at an after-hours urgent care because my son had injured his eye. He was in great distress lying on the exam table. I was sitting next to him in my wheelchair when the nurse came in and wanted to take my vitals. I explained that I was fine and that my son, the one in the room moaning, was the patient. She apologized for assuming I was having the problem, because I was in a wheelchair.

I don’t consider myself sick and I get very annoyed when people, especially healthcare providers, assume I must be unwell. Fortunately, the same week, I had a routine visit with my primary care physician who told me I was in very good health, except for having MS. We both laughed at the concept, and then he said, “That’s a good thing.” It is a good thing and I was happy for his positive affirmation and his ability to see more than just a patient with MS.

Having MS and dealing with the host of symptoms that can turn any day into a challenge makes it easy to see myself as anything but healthy. However, if I were to think of myself as sick it would bring my life to a standstill (so to speak) and this would be a bad thing. We can all try to see ourselves as vital, strong and able to contribute, even on bad days. I just have to remember that being well and having MS are not mutually exclusive.
10 Appreciate this

Susan Skoney, Blogger

Susan Skoney was diagnosed in 1999. She lives in western New York with her husband Michael and daughter Hannah. She worked many years in public relations and advertising, and has just started writing about her MS in the last few years.