Tag Archives: The Teenager

So This Is Christmas …

We are recovering – The Teenager from being attacked, my much lesser incident of a twisted ankle.

Damned foot-drop.

I remember lying at the back of the works van, having fallen and thumped to the ground, thinking, ‘this is just not happening’. But it did.

Do you remember those falls you had as a kid? That sickening thud of the pavement rushing to meet your head? That’s what foot-drop is like. Of course, it’s ‘curable’, if you concentrate on every single step you take and will your feet to rise to the occasion.

But who has time for that? So I fall. I trip. I can trip over dust, cables, pavements.

And it brings me up short, and maybe not in the way you might think.

Our dad died forty years ago this year from complications arising from his MS; I am one of four siblings he left behind.

When he died in 1978, nothing was available to alleviate his condition; he was sent home after brutal tests, with only a walking stick and a diagnosis of ‘crippling paralysis’, now known as Primary Progressive MS.

After eight years, he died at the age of 35, a husk of the brilliant man and scholar he once was.

I am lucky. I was born into an age of MRI’s, MS nurses, disease-modifying therapies, which is why I didn’t hesitate to accept the one that would allow me to be well enough to be around long enough to see The Teenager in to University.

So when I come up against seemingly impossible situations, such as The Teenager calling me in work saying, ‘Don’t worry, but …’, I am perhaps more sanguine than most parents.

He is alive, well, and healthy. It is him who called me, not a consultant, a police officer or an anonymous University staff member. I was only grateful that I could speak directly to him, despite his trauma.

Christmas is always a tough time for families. The Teenager will be home in a week, and the washing machine will be pushed to its limit. The cat will be giddy with delight and I will be over the moon to have him back in our little cottage.

However, gratitude is the most important emotion; gratitude that I can greet him at the door, welcome him in and be the same person (plus limp) he last saw at University. His bed is ready with fresh linen, the fridge will be stocked and we’ll have a great catch up.

It’s precious. I’ll never lose sight of what we could have lost.

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Never Rains But It Pours

It started innocently enough – my bargain Gumtree washing machine juddered and jumped around the kitchen floor with a full load and then died.

With one last gasp, it dropped its drum, then coughed some water out on to the floor.

My PhD student loan faced obstacle after obstacle and I was in danger of having my email access revoked for non-payment of fees.

The Cat decided she no longer liked Whiskas and a bumper pack of tender chunks lay dormant in the cupboard.

So far, so annoying.

Then that awful phone-call from The Teenager. I should have known; it was around 8.30 am, when few Uni students are awake.

He had been assaulted by a group of men after a night out.

What can you say?

I was numb. He had been to hospital, where they put his dislocated shoulder back into place. Two female students helped him and a homeless man bought him a bottle of water. He was bruised, upset and angry. The police interviewed him.

So far, so soul-destroying.

I went to see him last night. My overriding feeling is one of thankfulness that I am not in that group of parents who, instead of hearing from their child, have an anonymous police officer or surgeon on the phone.

He’s shaken up, bruised and shocked, as am I.

Driving back home in the vicious rain, my anger shook me to the core. It’s taken me 19 years to raise a fabulous child, through all the trials and tribulations, and yet a random group of people can flip that on its head, in an instant.

I collapsed into bed and got up for work four hours later.

As a random aside, foot-drop has been haunting me for a while and I thought I had the better of it, concentrating so hard on placing my feet where they should be. I had a narrow escape last week, tripping over a bit of dust and twisting my usually-weak right ankle.

This afternoon, at the end of a very long day in work, when I was at the back of the van, I saw it happen in slow motion. My left foot dropped, I regained my balanceĀ  (congratulated myself) and then foot-dropped a second time in a pile of mud.

I thudded to the ground, smashing my ankle and hands. Embarrassed, furious and scared.

I think/hope we have now had our run of bad luck. The Teenager will recover, older and wiser, sadly. We have new washing machine, ready for his Christmas break washing. My ankle will heal.

I’m hobbling around making our cottage Christmas-ready.

I’m still furious.

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Back On Track …

These last few months have been heartbreaking.

The Teenager has struggled with a good few issues, but with a lot of support he now seems to be back to his usual positive self.

All your amazing blog comments and tweets really sustained him through some pretty dark days and he’s told me numerous times how grateful and completely overwhelmed he is that people took the time to write to him.

And not only that, most of you have watched him grow up through this blog and I know you’re all rooting for him. He can’t thank you enough.

I spoke to him the other day and to hear the happiness in his voice was fantastic. From feeling helpless, and watching as he crumbled has been truly dreadful. Being a parent is beyond painful at times.

But ultimately, we both have only one goal in mind – to rise above the constraints MS may have placed on us.

He is in a brilliant house-share (newly-renovated, it puts my humble cottage to shame), is eating well, exercising and studying. Through all the turmoil, he has never locked himself away, no matter how bad he felt. His determination, at his age, is remarkable.

I just wanted to give you a quick update and apologise for not blogging recently – and to thank you all so, so much for being there for him when he needed it the most.

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Back Then, And Now …

In 2012, my only wish was to see The Teenager through High School.

Forward six years and we made it – it wasn’t easy, far from it. At times, it was soul-destroying and took us both to the edge of what we could reasonably cope with.

Yet no child can go through this hideous process without scars, and The Teenager has them in abundance. The support he could have received was patchy at best, mostly non-existent.

He wasn’t a ‘Child Carer’, at risk or falling behind at school, yet I could see the difference in him, and we navigated our way through the years bit by bit.

He is now at University, but struggling in his own way.

It would be great if you guys could send him messages of encouragement through this difficult time.

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It Takes A Village …

MS is hard enough on your own body and soul, but witnessing your child coming to terms with it in a parent is heart-wrenching.

Up until he entered High School, me and The Teenager did a whole lot of things together; I was forever picking up leaflets, magazines, nabbing numbers and ideas from flyers.

We fought dinosaurs, made shields in a castle and painted pottery.

I sewed badges on swim bags, then faithfully unpicked and re-sewed them on to new bags. I bought uniforms, day trips and packed the lunches.

I stood at the rugby sidelines weekend after weekend, freezing cold, following him to tournaments miles away, in the rain, without ever mastering the rules of the game. I picked him up after injuries and faced the long journey home, but with a medal or mini-cup clasped in his hands as he fell asleep in the back seat.

I’m so glad I had that time as everything was set to change.

Just as he put on his brand-new High School uniform, MS hit. His once-active parent was more often than not going through relapse after relapse.

We factored in three Alemtuzumab treatments to coincide with his summer holidays – after coming home with no immune system, I had less than two days each time to be back to ‘normal’ after he spent time with his father.

It takes at least a month to recover an immune system.

The Teenager saw a lot and he didn’t like it – the enforced sleep, the early bedtimes of his main parent, when I should have been the one getting him to sleep.

The utter fatigue and lack of immune system floored me. Luckily, kind parents filled in a lot of gaps, taking him to rugby, standing in on Parent’s Evening, inviting him along to sun-drenched trips to the beach.

But I cried; it should have been me. Yet I was so tired, I couldn’t get my head around it. Instead, I tried to ‘stay present’. If I could not move from the sofa, I would at least try to remember everything that was going on.

And now we have The Teenager at University, having the absolute time of his life.

It’s not just thanks to me, it’s thanks to friends and family, everyone who has ever followed him on my blog, or who has met him in real life and chatted with him like old friends, and to everyone who has ever made him feel that he is not alone.

Significant people may be absent from his life, but he knows that he has a whole support network to call upon.

Watching him at an MS filming session last weekend, I was stunned to hear him speak so coherently and poignantly about his experiences and as soon as I can, I will share it with you.

In 2012, all I asked for was to be well enough to see my son off to University. I firmly believe that thanks to everyone here, he made it.

I certainly didn’t do it on my own.

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