Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Everyone Has an Aunt

"It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof."--Bertie Wooster

Another of the disconcerting things I discovered after being diagnosed was that everyone has an aunt with MS. By everyone, I mean casual acquaintances, nosy old bats in the Post Office queue, and pushy people at social gatherings. You know the people I mean. The ones who firmly believe anyone with a chronic illness has abdicated all right to privacy.

Until I was diagnosed, I had never heard about these aunts but since the day my neuro showed me that spotty MRI, these aunts are everywhere.

The aunts are divided into two main categories--the Tragic Aunts, who usually belong to the people you barely know, and the Super Aunts, who invariably belong to people you are going to keep seeing unless you are very lucky.

The Tragic Aunts have sudden, rapid, and catastrophic disease progressions. One day they were right as rain—however right rain is—and the next they were dribbling incontinent paralysed wretches. The people who have these aunts always want to know all the details of your treatment plan. This is so they can show you the horrific fate that awaits you. If you are injecting a DMD, they will tell you of the time their aunt spasmed while doing her shot, broke the needle tip off in her thigh, and then spent three weeks in hospital with septicaemia. If you are on Tysabri, the aunt will have developed PML. If you are unmedicated using a good diet and physiotherapy, your new friend will sigh sadly and say that their aunt tried that, too...

The Tragic Aunts always “ended up up in a wheelchair”. This is spoken—no, intoned in the grave and ominous manner of Marley's ghost in a small-town am-dram Christmas Carol. The way it is said with such finality always makes me suspect the family just rolled Aunty into the spare room, closed the door quietly behind her and never spoke of her again.

Except to people who are going to end up just like her and should be prepared.

The second type of aunt, the Super Aunt, is an inspiration to us all. She was either cured on a pilgrimage to Lourdes or through following a very complex and expensive diet the niece/nephew is going to tell you all about. At great length and in excruciating detail. The aunt's life was changed by a health guru's book and you really need to read this book too. Super Aunt runs marathons and climbs mountains. She has overcome her MS through the power of positive thinking. \This time last year she had two leg braces and a catheter. Now she's on a book tour promoting her self-cure manual

Tragic Aunts are far more entertaining and I never cease to enjoy the looks I get when I say “Yes, I
know. That's why I;ve booked my trip to the Swiss clinic for next week.”

The Super Aunt is not so entertaining. The more petty and mean-spirited among us might enjoy a small frisson of the probable schadenfreude to come when Super Aunt's remission ends and she becomes a Tragic Aunt.

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