In the early days of my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 2011, everything about my neurology appointments in Beaumont Hospital caused me anxiety – from getting lost en-route and then kicking myself for driving through the city, instead of the motorway, out of fear of accidentally driving into the Dublin Port Tunnel and orientating myself within the hospital, to the cost of the car-parking.
Now, the MRI and follow up appointments are just another date in the diary. Until the day arrives. It’s here. I’m early. Without thought, I make my way to Clinic B. Neurology and the Fracture Clinic share a registration desk. It seems like an odd match, brains and broken bones. Still, it’s a people-watchers dream. The logistics of it all is like an awkward choreography, as patients hobble, or are wheeled about with various strappings and supports, making their way to somewhere else. Despite the busyness of the place, there is a comforting sense of calm. The linoleum on the floor is remarkably shiny and the space is bright and airy.
There is a lot to focus on, to distract myself about why I’m here. I’m experiencing a period of really good health and the appointment almost seems unnecessary. I don’t have time for this and I don’t have time to be sick.
I am called before my scheduled time. I abandon the blog post that I had started to tap into my phone. I am greeted by a neurologist whom I haven’t met previously. No student doctors shadowing this time. Like all of the neurology team that I have encountered to date, this woman is warm and friendly, compassionate. She is thorough in her physical examination of me, testing my strength and reflexes. It feels like I am as strong as I ever was. She is concerned that I haven’t had any recent blood tests and I feel silly saying that I forgotten to organise these in advance of our meeting - it is in my best interest after all. An award for ‘Patient Taking Charge’, I will not win. The neurologist talks me tells through the results of my recent MRI scan. No new significant lesions, but some minor ones. ‘How minor is minor’?, I ask. She excuses herself and says that she will speak with the senior neurologist.
The minutes seem long now. My head spins. ‘Is there something she doesn’t want to tell me? News that she would prefer her senior delivered'? I think of My Lovely Friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer very recently. She’s the same age as me, also with a young family and largely managing on her own. She’s a stunner. The type of girl who turned the heads of the handsome guys in college. I recall our phone call when she tells me her news and the plans for the next few months. Chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. She tells me that she has bought a wig. I can’t remember what I said to her, but I know that I cursed a lot. I think about her children and I think of mine. The uncomfortable 'what if'? questions they ask that I'd prefer not answer. I worry about how we will cope if I could no longer work to financially support them. I have thoughts of people I know with advanced MS and what an unforgiving disease this can be. I wonder if I could still feel feminine if I looked, moved, or sounded differently. I think about My Lovely Friend’s upcoming surgery and how invasive it will be on her womanliness. A strong willed lady, she has a plan, will roll her sleeves up and get through this. I wish I lived closer, so I could offer her more practical support.
The neurologist returns and the news is good. Really good. The minor lesions on my scan are old, in the sense that they were visible on last year’s scan. There are no new lesions. Those that are there have shrunk. The drugs are doing what they are intended to do, although it's not the case for other people. It's as good as it can be. I can feel the relief in my body as she completes the paperwork and refers me to haematology for blood tests. My needle aversion hasn’t lessened and I need to lie down. The blood flows easily. The sun shines. Today is a good day.