Living with the unknown, living with MS

We drove home in silence. My wife didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. We were stuck in rush hour traffic and I searched for the right words to break the silence, but they never came. We had seen the umpteenth doctor and we still had no real answers. We had sought answers. We left with more questions.

traffic-jam-688566_1280For the previous three months, my wife had been experiencing pain and loss of feeling in her arms and legs. She would be fine one minute, the next her leg would give out underneath her. She complained constantly of her arms falling asleep or simply feeling like 20-pound weights.

We went first to our family doctor, then to a specialist. They gave her one test then another, and another. In particular, each time they would ask her to close her eyes and touch her nose. Each time, she would miss completely, touching her eyes, lips, ears, but nowhere near her nose.

doctor-563428_640The search for answers

We continued onward in our quest to get answers, traveling to some to the most respected hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After one such visit, we finally got the answer we had been searching. The doctor walked in the room and let us know that he thought my wife suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.

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Five reasons why I like my dog better than some people

My wife likes to tease me that I would be happier on a deserted island or deep in the woods in a cave since then I wouldn’t have to deal with annoying people. I ponder the question in mock seriousness for a brief minute or two and then ask if I get to bring our dog Nittany, a six-year-old Bichon Frise – Shih Tzu mix.

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Faith and the sound of metal on metal

I swerved the car left than right, skimmed off the concrete barrier and then back out on the road and crashed into the rear of another car. I looked up in the mirror just in time to see a third car strike us squarely in the rear-end. 

Seconds earlier my wife, daughter, our three-year-old family dog and I were enjoying a leisurely day-after-Christmas drive to my mothers. The next minute, we were sitting in our stopped car, too scared to talk, hearts pounding, wondering what exactly happened.

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Fifteen years later, the memories remain fresh

When I think about the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the fourth plane that crashed in Western Pennsylvania fifteen years ago, I’m struck by the smallest of details that I remember about the day.

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Bouncing back takes work

My legs felt like they were weighted down by 20-pound anchors. With each step, my lower back sent violent spasms of pain that fanned out to the rest of my body. My lungs felt even worse. I took in big gulps of air, but they burned and I couldn’t seem to get my breath under control.

My running GPS app let me know that I had passed the seven-mile marker.  I groaned at the reminder that I still had four more miles to go on my run.

I cursed myself for being too aggressive in my weekly long run. I could’ve turned around earlier, but had gone too far and now I had to make my way back or, God forbid, be forced to walk. I cursed myself too for posting on Social Media my goal to run a few races and possibly a marathon in the fall.

I really wanted to stop and walk, but I also had a goal of no walking. “Why did I do that?” I questioned. “You idiot, you can’t stop now.” A clear catch-22.

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‘Welcome to my parlor,’ said the spider to the fly

I pulled into the driveway recently exhausted from a long day. I had one of those days where I was running the minute I got into work, right up until the minute I left.

Unfortunately for me, my day wasn’t done. I left work and ran to several afterschool events and errands that kept me out well into the evening and left me physically and mentally exhausted.

I was ready for the week to be over and for the weekend to start. I felt like I had been gobbled up and spewed out by the events of the day. When I got home, I grabbed a glass of milk and stood in my kitchen flipping through the day’s mail.  When I looked up, I happened to notice a large imposing spider outside the kitchen window. The spider was attracted to the light coming from the kitchen and looked to be the king of its castle, strolling up up-and-down each side of its massive web.

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My first thought was to make a mental note to clean the outside window over the weekend. Prepare to say goodbye Mr. Spider. My second thought was to acknowledge the massive web the spider had created and the work that went into making it. I half expected to see “Some Pig,” straight out of the book, “Charlotte’s Web,” scrawled in it. The web was quite impressive, to be exact, it was an engineering marvel. 

While I stood there, a moth flittered against the window. I tapped on the window in an attempt to scare the moth away, but that only made the moth flitter even more. Before it knew what happened, the moth was caught in the spider’s web. The moth desperately tried to flee, but it seemed to get even more entangled.

Soon the spider looked to be playing with its prey. I learned later that spiders literally vomit digestive matter on their prey, tenderizing its food so-to-speak, before they eat it. Yes, I know pretty disgusting. 

Watching this scene play-out, I quickly lost my appetite. A small part of me, though, felt thankful, even appreciative that my day hadn’t been as bad as it could have been. My day was crazy, but certainly ten times better than the moths. When I started thinking about it, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started to think about all the things I was grateful for, including being busy.

Yes, I like to be in more control of my day, I like calmer, smoother days, but I’ll take a busy day over being the moth any day of the week. I remain no fan of spiders, but I have new perspective and am grateful for the spider for helping me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I reminded myself that I would soon have the weekend to recharge my batteries and get me rolling again.  

Now about that spider’s web in my window. Mr. Spider, let me grab the outside water hose, some window cleaner, and let’s talk about the “circle of life.”

 

In times of need, what do you say?

I stuttered and stammered and, later when I was alone, I shook my head in disgust for making a fool of myself.

I barely had a chance to take a sip from my coffee several weeks ago when I ran into a former coworker who recently lost his wife. She was involved in a serious car crash. She was coming home from picking up a few groceries, when another car rear-ended her stopped car, sending it into the other lane and into the path of an oncoming truck. She died instantly. My friend had taken a few weeks off from work to mourn and to help his kids adjust.

I knew my friend had been back to work for a few days, but we hadn’t seen each other. We used to run into each other on a regular basis in the local Wawa, both getting our cup of jolt for the day. I was looking for him because I wanted to be sure to pass along my best wishes. We’re not extremely close, but I wanted him to know that others were thinking about him. Of course, my thoughts were a jumbled mess and came out in a disorganized assault of words.

In my defense, what do you say to an acquaintance at his most vulnerable, in his neediest time?

I finished up by encouraging him to reach out if he needed anything and that he was in my thoughts and prayers. If he were family, I would have given him a long hug. Since we’re both men, in a cold work-like environment, however, we nodded, shook hands and went our separate ways.

He mentioned getting together some time for lunch. I said I would forward an email from another friend who’s working now in Boston. And with that we were back in full work mode like nothing ever happened.

I told my wife that evening about my awkward conversation and she laughed at me for “being a typical stupid guy unable to express my true feelings” and for worrying about it. “I’m sure he was just glad you asked about him,” she said. “It’s the thought that counts.”

Death can be a tricky issue. Life for that matter too. When my father died, I remember countless people offering support and kind words. I have trouble remembering most of them, but they were still very much appreciated. The mere act of reaching out, helped get me through a challenging time.

I hope that’s the case for my friend. I hope that he’s able to look past the stuttering and stammering and see someone that cares.