It Could Always Be Worse

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Two months after my daughter was born, I awoke one morning to numb hands.  I know.  I slept on them wrong.  They’ll feel better in a few minutes.  Minutes became hours.  Hours became days, and I found myself in the waiting room of our family doctor.  Dr. Capen sent me for a a nerve conductor test.  It could be carpel tunnel.  Of course, that’s what it was.

After being prodded with needles for about an hour, feeling electric shocks shooting from my hands and fingers down my arms, I was sent home to wait…imagine that.  Wait days for a medical test?  And while I waited, I convinced myself that it was carpel tunnel.  After all, I grew up playing tennis, writing a lot, playing the piano…yep, carpel tunnel.

“Is Stephanie there?”  I heard through the other end of the telephone line.  “Yes, this is she.”

“We have your results, and Dr. Capen said the tests came back fine.  He would like you to go get an MRI.”

“O…okay…so no carpel tunnel?”

“No.  So can you go to Hancock Memorial on …”

“Sure.”

With MRI complete and hands still in a constant state of complete numbness, I continued teaching my 8th graders, loving on my sweet Hannah banana, and going through the motions of daily life with a fear of the unknown lingering in my mind.  What could it be?

“Is Stephanie there?”

I received a phone call one evening after I had finished supervising the crowd at a middle school basketball game.  I was walking out of the building on the way to my car.

“Yes, this is she.”

“Stephanie, this is Dr. Capen.”

Wow, now that’s service.  That’s so nice for the doctor to call me personally…

“Stephanie, I think we know why your hands are numb.”

“Okay, what is it?”

“It’s MS…Multiple Sclerosis.”

“Okay.”  The thought of MS had passed through my thoughts a few times during the past few weeks.  I had known a couple of people with MS.  “Okay!”  I said.  “What do I need to do now?”  I asked with determination.  I wasn’t going to let this get me.

As soon as our conversation was over, I called my husband.  He told me to get home so we could talk.  I then called my mom.  I shared the news with her, and she and I cried and decided it was going to be okay.  Shannon and I cried and talked, and we too decided it was going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay!  I’ve never let anything get me down, and this was not going to be the one thing that brought me to my knees either.  It could always be worse, right?

From that moment, I decided I was going to own the MS.  It was not going to own me!  I started seeing a neurologist in Indianapolis and began giving myself shots three times a week.  Definitely not how I planned to spend my time as a new mom.  But what plans in life really go the way we expect?  I embraced it.  I researched it.  I talked with people who had just been diagnosed and realized that it could always be worse!  I dealt with the symptoms.  My balance was off some, I experienced numbness in my hands, nose, and feet, and I  felt extreme fatigue many days.  I continued the shots and told myself…It could always be worse.

We came upon the opportunity to move back closer to home…the sweet south!  Yes, we’ll do it!

Not long after we moved to northern Louisiana, I began to experience complete numbness in my right arm.  I could barely fix my hair, put in earrings, write my numbers on my Sudoku puzzles, or cut a steak.  I immediately began searching for a new neurologist.  She prescribed three days of a steroid infusion, and lo and behold, a couple of days later, the feeling returned.  Since I’ve been back in the south, I’ve been switched to a new drug…an infusion once a month.  I love it!  I have days of feeling off-balance, extreme fatigue, and other little tingles here and there, but all-in-all, I feel like a new person.

MS…what does it mean to me?  It means I am so blessed!  I have a healthy, beautiful, smart, and fabulously funny seven-year-old.  My husband and I are closer than we ever have been.  I have a job and now the opportunity to return to school to work on my masters.  I have made some amazing friends, and I’m close to my family in southern Arkansas.  I have learned to embrace the moment, cherish my loved ones, live each moment like it’s the last.

Some days I find myself saying…I have MS…I…HAVE…MS!  Thank you Lord for blessing me with MS.

It could always be worse.

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