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Fatigue

Muscle and body aches

Shooting head pains

Loss of taste and smell

Nausea

Mental confusion

These are some of the symptoms of COVID-19.

They also describe a typical day living with MS.

A couple years ago I wrote about how sometimes it’s hard to know where MS begins or ends. I suggested creating a TV show called “Law and Order: MS Victims Unit” to help determine what’s MS… or not?

In recent months, a random sneeze, bout with vertigo or even waking up with a sore throat has me wondering, “Is it COVID-19?” – creating yet another Law and Order spin-off.

To say I’m fearful about contracting COVID-19 is an understatement. In fact, I’m uncomfortable even writing about it. 

Over the years, whenever one of our children get sick, my wife is the primary caretaker. It’s a necessary precaution because, like most households, if one person gets a bug, there’s a good chance it will spread to everyone. Having a fever and being sick makes my MS symptoms worse – and any kind of infection and the stress of it all might send me on a tailspin of new symptoms.

While my wife plays nurse, I help out, but also go into pseudo-quarantine. So, I’m already quite familiar with isolating myself to avoid getting sick. 

Since March, when schools, offices and stores started shutting down, life has felt surreal. We ALL went into isolation. Our lives changed, seemingly overnight. It feels like we entered an alternate universe where the world both progressed 20 years into the future and regressed 200 years into the past.

Zoom calls have become a common phrase. As have virtual happy hours or birthday parades.  Quarantining was something reserved for books or the movies. Our daughter even had a social distance parade for her elementary school graduation. Contactless delivery became standard for food, furniture, or even a car… the only thing missing from this Brave New World is having it delivered by drone or robot.

But at the same time, we went back to the 19th century and stopped traveling, eating in restaurants, going to movie theaters or shopping malls.

We spent extra time working on our homes, yards, even getting to know our neighbors (from 6 feet away, of course).

Still, it’s the little things we miss. Taking my wife out on a date, hugging a friend hello or even just the mini-shopping trips I’d do with my daughter at Walmart to buy fun cereal for her and a sarcastic t-shirt for me.

After I was diagnosed with MS, I entered my own bizarro world of new beginnings and sudden endings. 

It consisted of words I had seldom (or never) used before like neurologist, MRI, Copaxone, IVIG, Gilenya, optic neuritis, vertigo, spasticity and drop foot. Each are now a regular part of my vernacular.

As my health worsened, I eventually stopped working, which was a difficult and rocky transition. But it’s given me time to focus on my health – that became my new career.

Much like how we remember life pre-coronavirus, I’ve always missed the little things from pre-MS when I still worked: The excitement of starting a new project, feeling proud and accomplished over successes and even the (often) silly banter with my colleagues. It all abruptly disappeared from my life.

I’m not making an argument that MS prepared me for this pandemic or that I’m somehow better suited to handle it. That’s nonsense.

But what I do know is the fear, frustration, confusion and loneliness that has accompanied COVID-19 has a very familiar, deja-vu ring to it.

Life is full of chapters. A mixture of emotions and experiences that are happy, sad, heartwarming, thrilling or even scary. The MS chapter has contained many of those, sometimes all in the same day.

On September 11, 2001 the world changed forever. It was hard to wake up the next day and experience life the same way. That was an awful chapter.

My wife and I lived in the Washington, D.C. area and our wedding was 25 days after 9/11.

In many ways, it didn’t feel right to be celebrating while a few miles away parts of the Pentagon were in ruins. Our city was on high alert, jet fighters can be seen flying overhead in some of our wedding pictures. Many family members understandably opted out of traveling to D.C. for our nuptials. 

On March 11, 2020 we had another life-altering moment when the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

It has left us scared, confused and unsure of the future.

But this I know - whenever I look back at our wedding pictures, I’m reminded of how wonderful life can be.

We will rejoice like that again. Maybe not tomorrow or next month… but, in time, this COVID chapter will close and we will turn the page to something new. And I’ll be first in line to buy another sarcastic t-shirt.
 

Editor’s Note: The Society continues to be there for people affected by MS. The recommendations referred below reflect the information available during the time of this blog’s publication. For the latest information and resources related to COVID-19, please visit the Society’s Coronavirus Resources Page. Find additional resources through our Ask an MS Expert webinar series.
Tags COVID-19, Relapsing MS, Symptoms      0 Appreciate this
Michael

Michael Wentink, Blogger

In 2008, Michael Wentink was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. At 31, he was a new father, a recent MBA graduate and a Director at a Fortune 500 company. MS altered this path and after an early retirement, Michael is now navigating life on a road less traveled. A native of Northern Virginia, Michael currently resides in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and two young children. Read about his journey with multiple sclerosis at mjwentink.com and follow him on Twitter.