Three months and 4 days after his birth, I woke up with both of my legs numb from the knees, down. With my oldest sister being a nurse, she was the first one I called. We kept in close contact over the next few days, and when the numbness did not go away, I got an appointment with a neurologist. It was not easy to get a "quick" appointment, but after pleading with them and explaining that I was home alone (while my husband was working) and trying to care for a 3 month old child, they found some room in the schedule. The neuro's first reaction was that the numbness was caused by the epidural I'd had during childbirth. Great theory, but I didn't have an epidural. (It was not intentional. Just ran out of time. Long story.) This forced the neuro to investigate further.He did a number of tests in his office. Balance was fine. Reflexes worked as they should. Not outwardly visible signs of issues. He then recommended an MRI, nerve testing, and eventually a spinal tap as the final test before diagnosing me with Multiple Sclerosis. No one told me, until they were ready to do the procedure, that I had to lay flat on my back for 24 hours or risk leakage from the injection site. If there was a leak, they had to go back in to "patch it up". Didn't sound like my idea of a good time. Problem was that we were scheduled to fly to Florida the next morning for a family vacation - with the family I had not yet told of the suspected diagnosis. I am still not sure why I didn't tell everyone right away. I tend to be a more private person, which is why it's taken me all of these years to really "go public" with it.
We made it to Florida, and I had to be extra careful around the pool. I could not feel whether I was standing on wet or dry ground or whether it was hot or cold. I had to look to see where I was standing. I figured it was probably also not a good idea to carry our son while walking around the pool. Out at dinner one night with the family (nearly 18 of us), I began sweating uncontrollably which led to severe anxiety that the injection site was leaking, and I was stuck in Florida, and no one knew what was happening. My husband and I left dinner at that point and went back to our condo. My parents came to check on me after they'd finished dinner. It was then that I told them what was happening and what the neurologist suspected. It's hard to make my parents speechless, but a potential diagnosis of MS did it. I had to wait on the spinal tap results for a final diagnosis before everyone was in a full-fledged panic.
That final diagnosis came the next week. It was for sure MS. I cried. My husband cried. And then I made some calls for a second opinion at the well-respected Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The neurologist there agreed with the original diagnosis and the MRI scan showing one lesion on my brain and one in my lower back. So that was it. I had Multiple Sclerosis.
I tried Copaxone, but had a bad experience, so I quit. My lesions had become inactive until the stress of our move. In the last 10 years I have cleaned up my diet, gotten my exercise in line (use it or lose it) and even run half marathons now, my family has moved across the country for a better life, and this past year I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take the year off of teaching, although I do spend a lot of time at my kids' school helping out in their classrooms. It has taken me a long time to discuss my MS publicly, but I have started mschangedmylife.com to break out of my shell. I have also learned cook and bake most of our food at home rather than buying processed food at the store. I now have 6 lesions in my brain, so I am trying to manage the stress component before trying meds again.