Tag Archives: The Teenager

Growing Old Disgracefully

I met with my fabulous MS nurse last week for my six month review.

I recounted my most recent symptoms (I keep a log book, MS brain).

After I’d read out the last one, we both looked at each other and said, ‘Hmm, age, or MS?’

It’s true – it’s becoming far trickier to work out which is which. Balance, fatigue, brain, all of it. I mean, I’m not ancient (cough, 45), but life does have a funny way of creeping up on you when you least expect it.

At Christmas, The Teenager mentioned he’d be twenty years old in August and it took me aback. Seriously? I quickly worked out the dates, and he was right of course. I just never figured my son would be … 20. Just as I never expected to say I had been diagnosed with MS for seven years. A bit surreal.

Not only that, as we’ve debated, what on earth will I call him? The Twenty-ger?

In some ways, I now think I’m ‘settling’ in to MS. It is what it is, if this it what it is. And whether it’s age or various busted neuro-pathways, it’s all the same – some sort of loss.

What I should be concentrating on is what I can do, not what I struggle with. So, I’m trying to come up with a list of things that encompass a more positive approach:

  • I’ve had an epic cold since November that only now shows vague signs of finally leaving. Rather than lament my neglected writing, I’ve been reading books to prove I’m still, just, studying.
  • Downside to that is I’m totally mired in Victorian times, but it’s quite comforting, all the carriages and fainting spells, horrid asylum episodes to one side.
  • I’ve sorted through my wardrobe, passing on clothes, buying some others in the Christmas sales.
  • I’ve dusted off the Nutri-Blast.
  • I’ve analysed the two new wrinkles that appeared overnight on the 2nd of January, initially dismissing them as ‘pillow-face’ creases. Nope, they’re here to stay Two days of anguish followed by, oh well.
  • Should I get a shopping trolley?
  • I’m four and three-quarters years away from a Saga holiday.
  • My lovely friend, who is 57, has found love on a dating site. Hope?
  • Our house is incredibly sorted, as I look for any excuse rather than study. Even my cutlery drawer is gleaming.
  • The little cutting I took all the way in the car from Geneva in March is thriving.

So all in all, a good result for January. The Teenager (I can still call him that for a while) is gaining confidence after a blip, I’m getting better, the cat is recovering from The Teenager’s procession of friends over Christmas and all is well.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Christmas, Present

I’ve finally finished work for the Christmas break.

Me and The Teenager have our schedules worked out.

His consists of an ironic Christmas jumper, pints with the lads and a catch up with old school friends.

Mine is a stack of books to read, chatting to the cat and not moving far from the sofa.

The Teenager asked me once why we don’t have a Christmas, ‘like you see on the telly, you know, the long wooden table , thousands of people around it all smiling, with snow falling outside the window.’

I’m sure, somewhere, those kind of Christmases exist, but for most of us, we muddle through and make the best of things.

It’s the one day of the year we know exactly where we were and what we were doing in years/decades gone by, which can certainly add a bitter-sweet twist to the day.

On the plus side, we celebrate the achievements of our children (The Teenager survived a nasty attack, he’s studying hard and appears to have an astonishing amount of emotional intelligence) and on the downside we remember family members who were so vibrant last year and who are now struggling.

And of course, the family and friends who are no longer with us. It’s hard to juggle all the emotions and still stay, well, present.

It’s been a tough year for me, in so many ways; fights with the Department of Work and Pensions, fights with Student Finance Wales. Dredging up thousands of words about how my life is difficult now I have MS (surprise!).

I’m a tough cookie, until I’m not, and this year has pushed me to the absolute limit. I’ve won battles and lost others. I’ve struggled to explain just how awful things have been. I’ve wished that people could ask how they might help rather than judging, however well intentioned.

Mental health is much more in the open arena now and I’m thankful for that. However, sometimes I feel I have more support during a physical relapse than an emotional crisis.

This Christmas, I would like to think that we could reach out to our friends and family, ask if they need support, and give it. It often doesn’t take much – a kindly word, a quiet conversation, the feeling that you can be in someone’s corner.

My Christmas, this year, is tinged with sadness; I’ve had to give up two activities which kept me grounded and in touch with the wider world.

However, Me and The Teenager are both looking forward to a brighter 2019, and for good reason. Opportunities are opening up for us and hopefully, with some support, we can catch hold of them and turn them in to reality.

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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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