I was 18 and my mum had been diagnosed with MS, I was just starting university to study a degree in physics and to be honest didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. They are meant to be the best years of your life but I’m not sure about that. What happened to me next knocked me side ways completely. I started getting a lot of tingling in my arms and hands, a lot more than you would put down to pins and needles. My walking was degrading and to be honest I just didn’t feel right. I wasn’t prepared for MS and well and truly knew the implications and what it meant for my life. It was horrible and thinking about it made me sick. It was difficult enough with my mum often stuck in bed never mind me coming down with a debilitating illness.
So that was my late teens and early 20s, luckily the symptoms dissipated once I got through uni and took up my first job. Life was good, good friends, MS nowhere to be seen and a bit of cash – what could go wrong. What about Motor neuron disease? How about that- well along it came when I was 33. Some similar symptoms to ME but more consistent and much worse a guaranteed death sentence. MND slowly decapacitates you until you no longer have control of any of your body functions, including the muscles that breath for you. Living 7 years is a very best case scenario but 3 is more realistic.
Luckily the MND was slow moving and I have been able to live a normal life into my late 30s. Well up until the point cancer came along. With a combination of a brain tumour, stomach cancer and bowel cancer I was in a bad place. The headaches, the aching stomach pains and constant diarrhoea was unbearable on top of contemplating death. Even though I had considered it before with MS and MND it didn’t make it any easier. I had and still do have a lovely wife and kids who just didn’t deserve it.
The final and most significant illness in my life of illnesses was diagnosed when I was 37. I clearly remember the morning, I was feeling awful, paralysed with pain and worry. I’m not one for going to the doctor but something made me go that morning, a voice inside of me if you like. I went along, almost on autopilot. Sat down in the surgery the doctor asked what the problem was. Instead of telling her all about the pains and illness something else took over me and I said “I’m not coping”, she said with what, and I said “life”. She said “well that’s tough, really tough. More common than you might think and luckily very treatable”.
That day I was diagnosed with Health Anxiety, also know as hypochondria and was probably one of the biggest turning points in my life. So you’ve probably guessed that I don’t have MS, MND or cancer, certainly not that I’m aware of. But it’s amazing what your body can physically make you feel if your mind instructs it. To me the symptoms were real, very real.
More about what happened next in my next post.