Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)


Is MS gonna make me a germaphobe?

Eek! It’s a germ!

Multiple sclerosis warriors know the drill. We understand that this thing is still incurable, although we hold onto hope that a cure is coming, just around the bend. We have read the research, explaining how MS basically means our bodies are betraying us. Our immune systems like to go into overdrive, attacking us without just cause.

Toss in a real infection, and the sleeping giant that is the immune system rises with a vengeance. Then we can be in real trouble. When we catch a cold, the flu, or another illness, we sort of become sitting ducks for full-blown MS exacerbations.

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Germaphobia is a genuine concern for the MSer.

A slight bout with sickness just might toss any of us into MS distress. On the other hand, stress also aggravates MS. That means worrying about germs can be a problem too.

So what do we do about handshakes? (Read: Health and etiquette: Should handshakes be handed off?) How about handling shopping carts at the grocery store? Do we recoil at the idea of touching elevator buttons, sink faucets, doorknobs, stair railings, or light-switches? (Don’t get me started about airplane seats, arm rests, and tray tables.)

Maybe we shudder to think about pressing our fingertips on the control panels of the treadmill, stationary bicycle, or rowing machine at the gym (if we are still fortunate enough to be able to work out).

Personally, I try not to freak out about germs, but I am surely conscious of the possibilities of infection. I wash my hands frequently. I carry a tub of handy cleaning wipes in my car and tuck smaller pouches of them in my gym bag and my handbag. I also keep little tubes of antibacterial hand sanitizer around.

And I pray a lot. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if I pray more about food safety than provisional gratitude, when we say grace before eating. I want to work on that balance, but clearly both prayers are important.

Pixabay public domain photo.

What about mixing with sick people?

I think it’s important for folks to understand that the MSer (and anyone else with an autoimmune issue) is not acting anti-socially when canceling a get-together or declining an invitation. If we telephone or send cards, instead of visiting, when a friend or loved one is hospitalized, it doesn’t mean we care any less.

And, if we show up, we’re not being snobby or stand-offish, if we stand back from the hugging or give you a friendly nod in place of a handshake, especially if you are coughing or sneezing or complaining about illness.

We really just cannot afford to be laid up for days or weeks with an MS relapse after catching whatever you have. We want to be friendly. Most of us honestly desire to reach out. But we have learned (usually the hard way) that we have to guard our health.

Because with MS, our own bodies really are out to get us, especially when we’re under the weather.

This week, for example, I am wrestling with MS-related balance issues, nearly constant vertigo, and intermittent sudden-onset fatigue that knocks me flat several times a day. I don’t have stomach flu or a raging head cold. So far, the flu-ishness is just a matter of stuffy head, all-over achiness, and several county-clearing sneezes each day. But the harbinger is here.

Something’s a-coming. The MS MonSter is not on the porch yet. But something about this whole deal rings a bell.

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