Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The relapse blues

I have Relapsing/Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. This means that much of the time, I can move through the world passing as normal. Apart from my two walking sticks. Which I suppose could be taken as an idiosyncratic style statement. And my unsteady stagger. And occasional cognitive malfunction. And the bladder thing. Let's say I can move through the world passing as a normal secret drinker with an a very large stick collection

But then every once and awhile, my brain remembers it has MS and decides show everyone what an exciting disease this can be. Muscle spasms, blurred vision, no co-ordination, lost bowel control—you know the drill

And always at the most inconvenient time.

My First Major Relapse

Well, major enough to get me a three day course of steroids

It was the beginning of July of 2007 and the Tour de France was starting in London. In those days I only had one stick and was very nearly mobile. Spry even. I could go out into the world more than 50 yds from a toilet and stay upright for a couple of hours. And for a year I had been planning on hobbling down towards the Serpentine to soak up the atmosphere and see Fabian Cancellara blur past in the flesh.

Suddenly I couldn't seem to grip anything. Or walk any useful distance without seriously concentrating on the actual process of lifting one foot and moving it forward, remembering to put it down before moving the other one. And of course I seemed to be wearing diving boots. And leg irons. Then there was the vertigo. Most exciting of all, I couldn't see. Well, actually I could see. I just couldn't see what I was seeing. I knew it was something there, I just couldn't quite process it. It was a very strange sensation.

So as the prologue of the Tour was happening a couple of miles down the road, I was lying on my sofa watching it on British Eurosport and feeling like 10 pounds of used kitty litter repacked into a five pound sack.

There is a cycling term that springs to mind. The French call it fringale. When a cyclist doesn't take on enough food during a race, he will get a horrific energy deficit that starts of with dizziness and shakes and goes on to a loss of ability to speak and total co-ordination meltdown. Bad enough fringale and he's out of the race and into a hospital bed.

And that's what my first relapse was like for me. I didn't even have to ride up an Alp. But neither could I gave avoided it by remembering to eat enough bananas

There was an irony there I might have enjoyed if I hadn't felt so crap. I have no athletic talent whatsoever. But MS had given me both plantar fasciitis--quite a common cycling complaint--and fringale. I could almost pretend I was one with Indurain on Les Arcs in '96.

At least I didn't get saddle rash and all....

1 comment:

  1. MS also gives you the poor cyclists complaint, road rash. Caused by falling on the tarmac too many times to mention.