Multiple Sclerosis is Not Brain Cancer

Getting the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis took too long from the time my wife first talked to her primary care physician about the intense headaches and shaking hands until the second neurologist completed his testing and gave us the diagnosis. The medical tests were frustrating, the feedback came too slowly, and living in a small town was limiting.

After too much time without definitive answers, we found a neurologist at a university medical school. He ordered new tests, repeated some that had been done already, and then scheduled a spinal tap so her spinal fluid could be examined for oligoclonal bands. (I know “oligoclonal bands” is begging for a definition and I’ll try to provide one in a later post.) The neurologist found them and diagnosed my wife’s Multiple Sclerosis.

One of the biggest arguments my wife and I have had was during the hour’s drive home from the neurologist’s office after he told us she has Multiple Sclerosis. I was angry about the diagnosis. But I was even angrier because she seemed so relieved to know she had MS. How dare she accept the news so peacefully and gracefully!

How can you feel good about this!” I yelled.

“Because I don’t have a brain tumor,” she replied quietly.

I’ve been so afraid this was brain cancer,” she continued, “and that I was going to die before my girls grow up. I can live with MS. I’ll see my daughters grow up, graduate from college, get married, I’ll live to be a grandmother. I’ll be here to see it all and enjoy them.”

How do you argue with that?

Caregiver Tip: Multiple Sclerosis can stir deep emotions in a care giver and an MS patient. Good relationships are strengthened when both people are free to share their emotions, particularly when they feel very different emotions.

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