Touching Lives - October 2008
MS won't beat me!
"It all started when I had a fall in the bath. I banged my head, then got out of the bath and fell down the stairs. Slipping and falling was not unusual for me -- I just thought I was a bit clumsy. My mum used to say 'Oh, that's just Amy.'
"But the next day I was sitting at work, looking at the computer, and I noticed that my eyesight wasn't quite right. I thought I needed glasses so went to my optician. She checked my eyes and couldn't see anything amiss, so recommended that I go to my doctor.
"When my doctor checked me over, he could tell that something was wrong, but didn't know what. He referred me to an eye specialist.
"All this time I wasn't too worried. I really just thought I would end up having to wear glasses. But the specialist found that I was partially sighted and could not see out of the side of both my eyes. I was sent for a CT scan, and this revealed that I had inflammation in my brain.
"This was such a shock, and looking back probably the scariest time for me. I didn't cry -- I just couldn't take in that there was something wrong with my brain. My mum was with me and she was really upset.
##A waiting game "^We were told that there could be as many as 50 explanations^ for the inflammation, and although they assured me it wasn't cancer, I had so much running through my head -- everything from loss of memory to brain operations to dying.
"The next stage was to have an MRI scan, for which we were told we would have to wait -- for anything up to three months.
"This all happened in August last year, just as I was approaching my 18th birthday. As you can imagine, I didn't really feel like celebrating with all the uncertainty hanging over me, but my friends and family were determined to give me a day to remember and to take my mind off things. So I had a party with all my family and friends and managed to put my worries to the back of my mind and really enjoy myself.
"However, I had begun to experience new symptoms, particularly numbness in my face and cheeks. I was scared, but my doctor and eye specialist were brilliant -- they were there in a flash whenever I needed them. I kept asking my doctor to tell me what he thought might be wrong. He didn't want to speculate but eventually admitted that he suspected it could be MS.
##Diagnosis "After about a month of waiting, I was called to Newfield Hospital in Glasgow for the MRI scan. It revealed that I had a lot of scar tissue in my brain -- a sign of MS. I was told I'd probably had it for a while, hence all the stumbling and tripping, but just never had severe enough symptoms to suspect anything was wrong or go to the doctor.
"It took a lot of sinking in. I didn't have a clue what MS was, I just knew it was an incurable disease. An MS nurse came to visit me at home and gave me lots of information about the condition and what to expect, and explained the different medications that are available. I now take a drug which I have to inject on a daily basis -- luckily I don't have a problem with needles!
"I was off work for seven months in total, and had to change jobs for one much closer to home, so that I didn't have a long drive every day. I now work in a primary school, which I love. Especially the long holidays!
"Since I was diagnosed last September I have had one more episode of numbness in my face, but that passed and I haven't had a relapse since. Generally I'd say I feel more tired than I used to. I still enjoy a busy social life, going out with my with friends, but some things like dancing wear me out quite quickly and I notice more aches in my legs and back afterwards.
##Enjoying life "Some of my plans for the future have been made more difficult, or impossible, to achieve because of my MS -- like being a travel rep abroad, or joining the emergency services -- but ^my attitude is that, yes I have MS, but it is not going to beat me.^ Instead of moping around I'm still enjoying life, and am fighting it by raising money for charity.
"At the moment I am doing well, and fingers crossed I will be able to stay well for a long time." Amy, now 19, lives in Southwest Scotland with her parents.