Tag Archives: university

The Teenager Is Off To University!

awesomeNever have I been more proud of The Teenager than I am today.

He got his exam results and has secured his place at University.

When MS first raised its ugly head, he had just started out on his high school journey. When I think back to what he had to endure, I could cry.

He witnessed my first proper relapse in all its frightening, bewildering intensity. He saw me lying on the sofa, hour after hour, unable to carry out the most basic tasks. He asked around his friends for lifts to rugby, to football. My friend went in my place to Parent’s Evening.

He knew about the vicious bullying I was experiencing in work, culminating in my dismissal for MS. He heard about the legal proceedings, in amongst worsening relapses. And all the while he was trying to forge his own identity as a Teenager. A hefty burden at the best of times.

It’s always been just me and him, since he was a baby, and I’ve always tried to be independent, fearless and positive. MS changed all that. We both took a huge dip. It knocked us sideways. It took a while (years), but we got through it and we came out stronger.

Regular readers will know him really well – you’ll have heard about our fair share of ups and downs, run-ins and tantrums. I hope you’ve seen though, as I have, how he has grown in to quite an incredible young adult.

I know most parents boast, but if there’s ever a blog post for me to do that, it’s this one. He’s a totally amazing individual, with a real sense of who he is. He’s considerate yet determined. All fears I had that he would internalise the emotions he was experiencing with the MS have been laid to rest. I can only watch in wonder at how he goes out and grabs the world with both hands.

We had many quick text and phone chats this morning about his impending move to Bristol (according to The Teenager, ‘far enough away to be an adult, close enough to be handy’). I’ve been issued strict instructions for Drop-Off Day:

‘Mum, right, you can take me there with all my stuff and help sort my room out. You’ll make it nice?’

‘Of course, dear.’

‘Then I’ll have to say goodbye. You won’t cry, will you?’

‘If I do, I’ll do it in the car, don’t worry’.

‘Good. ‘Cause then I have to go to the kitchen and meet everyone else’.

‘I know. Do you think you’ll need an egg timer?’

‘Muuuuuuuum?! I’ve got a list of stuff to get, like don’t worry’.

‘Ok. How many shower gels do you reckon you’ll need?’

‘Muuuuuuuuuum’.

Today is beautiful – we made it. He made it. And in a way, The Teenager had a far bigger mountain to climb than me. I’d lived my life before MS came. He had it flung at him far too young. But he took it, dealt with it and succeeded despite it.

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How We Live Today

how-we-live-todayPeople say the strangest things when you first have a serious illness.

Haven’t we all been promised the earth by those who matter (I’ll be there, just ask). And the moon and sun.

It must be bad?

However, with The Teenager having limited contact with his dad this year (not my choice), raising him has been tough at times, but infinitely rewarding.

Since MS crashed into our lives in 2011, we’ve both altered our perceptions immeasurably. Gone were the  days when I was the parent who did everything. I now needed help.

Thankfully, my friends were on hand. We got through that dreadful time and came through the other side older and wiser.

And now The Teenager is on the threshold of 18.

As in common with any parent of a teenager, I am still failing. Of course. And he has had more than his fair share of challenges – as the single child of a single parent with a serious illness, he has had no one to share the long evenings (and my MS) with. If you don’t count the yells coming from his bedroom, when he has ten kids in there, all playing the same game.

I’ve been reduced to a cash-dispenser and provider of food. And that’s fine. It’s not the fish fingers that worry me, it’s the MS symptoms and how to work them around an Exploring Teenager.

Fatigue. A problem. Before sixth form, I set an alarm, dossing on the sofa and waking up in time for him to come back from school. It’s not so easy now he’s doing his A Levels. He returns at odd hours, shocked at me sleeping.

Nerve pain. A problem. I’m useless after 5pm. I walk funny. I could be seen as embarrassing.

Speech. My very first symptom. I still get tangled up in English when I’m tired, speaking a mish-mash of languages, the hangover of being tri-lingual.

So how do we live now? Precariously. We are forever on watch for the next relapse. I work, study and look after our house and The Teenager. I am trying my very best but the best is often not enough.

I remember saying, back in 2011, that all I wanted was to get The Teenager to University.

I might just manage it.

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Hurdy Gurdy, Bork Bork Bork …

hurdy gurdyI am teaching The Teenager how to cook.

He’s quite possibly flying the nest next year and bit by bit, I’m teaching him valuable life skills, such as:

  • If you hang your towel up after a shower rather than leaving it in a heap on the floor, it will dry!
  • If you lock the door after coming in late, we might not be burgled!
  • If you bring the tower of bowls and plates down from your bedroom, you’ll make your long-suffering mum very happy!

It’s taking a while and we still haven’t cracked the loo-roll dilemma (i.e. replace an empty one) or the milk carton angst (when it’s finished, it doesn’t go back in the fridge, d’uh).

But I live in eternal hope.

Today, he was deep in thought, sprawled out on the sofa, fingers flying across his iphone keypad as I was trying to type up some uni notes for my first dissertation meeting.

‘Mum. Muuum. Mum. How many calories in an egg?’ he asked.

‘Dunno.’

‘Four eggs?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘Three eggs?’

‘I. Don’t. Know. Why?’

‘Well, I went to the gym this morning – see, look, muscles (obligatory muscle flex), I’ve got 1367 calories left to eat. Minus the protein shake. Plus the jelly snake I ate on the way home from school.’

‘That’s nice dear.’

‘Muuuuum?’

‘What?’

‘You busy?’

Noooooo, why?’

‘It says here on my app that I should cook scrambled eggs with four slices of brown bread, no butter. How do I make it?’

I talked him through it. Twice.

‘I hate cracking eggs.’

‘Most people do.’

‘Can you help? Pwwwweeeaaassse?’

I abandoned my not-going-anywhere proposal, sighed deeply for dramatic effect and joined him in the kitchen. A carton of eggs lay decimated on the counter. There were four left un-bashed.

I demonstrated what he had to do and he massacred the remaining ones into a bowl.

‘Now whisk.’

‘Am whisking.’

‘Put your bread in the toaster. Heat your frying pan up, put in a drop of oil and wait for it to get warm. There. Now!’

‘Use the spatula. Spatula! Not the ladle. No, and not that one, that’s a potato masher.’

‘Mum, spatula is a funny word, isn’t it?’

‘Erm, yes, I guess so.’

I showed him how to sweep the eggs gently around the pan, then handed control to him. The eggs were pummelled into submission, not daring to become anything else but scrambled eggs.

Finally, all was assembled. He splattered the resulting meal with tomato sauce, grabbed a drink and ate it all within two minutes.

‘Mum! Mum. That was ace (a surprising, new word in his vocabulary). And it only took two minutes! Result.’

And with that, he tapped his food stats into his app, put his empty plate in the kitchen and sauntered upstairs.

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Now? Really?

sofaMS played a real blinder yesterday.

I left my house early to attend an important meeting.

When I got back hours later and put the key in my lock, I was hit by a swinging bunch of MS boxing gloves, all aiming straight for me. I was utterly hammered and poleaxed by MS.

MS is very rude and completely lacking in manners.

I collapsed into the nearest chair and stayed there for an hour. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think. All I could do was stare straight ahead, stunned by overwhelming fatigue.

Eventually, I crawled to the sofa and stayed there for another hour, shopping bags at my feet, the cat demonstrating her increasing annoyance that her food bowl was empty and I wasn’t playing with her.

Inside, I was screaming. Thoughts came rushing back into my battered brain – if I can get up, I must feed the cat. If I can get up, I have to cook dinner. If I can get up, I can tidy up.

If I could only get up.

I have never felt more alone. The skies darkened outside, the curtains remained open. The rain hammered down.

I knew what was happening – a complete MS blackout. I’m surprised it took so long.

These last three weeks I’ve been running on adrenalin and carbs, looking after my ill relative (with the help of my wonderful family), working, studying, sorting out The Teenager and the house. I’m a bruised duck, gliding erratically along, paddling frantically beneath the surface.

MS is never far away. It’s a dark shadow, stalking and lurking, just waiting to strike again.

The evening rolled on. If I could just get through it and fall into bed, the morning might look brighter. When I was able to, I feigned productivity – reading a couple of chapters of my ‘How To Write a Novel’ book, starting a shopping list – Bloo, bin bags, strawberry jam – , changing the loo roll in the bathroom. Result.

At 9pm I melted into my bed and stayed there for eleven hours.

Today has been better but I’m still battling to keep MS at bay. I’m exhausted but still trucking on. This is not the time to square up to MS. There’s never a good time, but, seriously, now?

Anyway, this evening I will mostly be trying to complete my homework for Uni tomorrow; I will be attempting to compose my novel synopsis – something along the lines of, ‘this will be a superlatively wonderful book and I’ll do lots of research, honest.’

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I Did It. *faints*

fainting with shockI check my emails most mornings while I wait for the kettle to boil.

Nestled among the offers to give me £100,000 if only I hand over my bank details to a very polite and sincere gentleman in The Gambia, lay the email I had been waiting for.

‘Degree classification notice – please accept and confirm’.

My finger hovered over the email. The moment of truth, the culmination of six years study. I took a deep breath and clicked.

Then I laughed. And hiccuped. Rushing to the printer to see actual proof before the email magically disappeared, I did a high five (ok, a very low two, but you know what I mean).

I am now the proud owner of a Bachelor of Science degree (with Honours, yay). An upper Second Class. A 2:1. Still can’t believe it. Thinking about it, I have studied for the last 10 years out of 11, my first qualification being a degree equivalent in Homeopathy (long story). My Glaswegian auntie, on seeing the letters I was eligible to use for that course (RSHom), said, ‘oh dear, if you say that out loud with a Scottish accent, it sounds a wee bit rude, doesn’t it?).

Well, now I’m a Bachelor(ette), which is rather fitting, given my present singledom. I’m supposed to attend a graduation ceremony next May, donning a cap and gown and walking up to a stage to accept a bit of paper tied nicely with a ribbon. I’ll sign up, but the logistics of doing this in front of hundreds of people will be left for another time.

It sounds weird, but this achievement is the positive culmination of a terrible couple of years. The last two years of the degree were excruciating. My brain died a slow death, slinking out of the room without a backwards glance or apology. I struggled with every single aspect of the course. I came so, so close to giving it all up. What was once fairly easy for me (I’m an unabashed girly swot), became unintelligible nonsense. Essays were torture. In tutorials, I sat with a slightly astonished look on my face.

But I didn’t give up and I’m proud of myself. I didn’t give up during the diagnostic process, during the legal proceedings against my ex-employer who sacked me for the heinous crime of having MS, during two lots of Campath treatment and their after effects. I did it. I actually did it.

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