Lauren was diagnosed with MS in June last year. Here she shares how MS was the wake-up call she needed to start living life to the full - and to write her first book!
When I think back to my life before June 2019, I seem to refer to the ‘old me’. I lived my life to the full, but I didn’t truly live each day; I was consumed in the rat race of life too busy to come up for air, with no real appreciation for living mindfully in the present. Admittedly, life was passing me by.
Something made me go to the doctors in June 2019 and whilst it felt like an out of body experience to make the appointment, I’m very glad that I did. I’d had certain symptoms, probably for well over 6 months, but until this point, they hadn’t been concerning me enough to warrant going to the doctors. I recall that I’d had sharp head pains that would last for about 10 seconds at a time. I’d also lost my balance at work a few months prior, but again it only happened once so didn’t feel like anything that should concern me. I’d noticed that swallowing my Weetabix in a morning was starting to become a conscious action and again, I dismissed it. The main symptom that had caused most concern and probably the symptom to make me go to the doctors was that over the period of a few months, I felt as though my memory was affected; I’d forget things and trying to remember the right word during conversations was becoming noticeable, for me. I told the doctor these symptoms and I was referred for a head MRI. The days spent awaiting the MRI results felt like they dragged yet only 5 days later, I received a phone call from the doctor’s surgery asking if I could go and see the doctor that day.
I sat opposite the doctor and two words that were unknown to me were mentioned; “the MRI scan shows lesions on the brain that are suggestive of multiple sclerosis”. I sat there and listened to the information that the doctor gave but admittedly, MS meant nothing to me and because I knew nothing about it, I showed little emotion.
During the months that followed there were trips back and forth from the hospital for appointments, blood tests and further scans, which showed new lesions on the brain and lesions in the spine. Also, from speaking with the neurologist, the symptoms of left sided numbness, pins and needles, and weakness that I’d experienced in November 2018 that I also dismissed now made sense.
The diagnosis was confirmed in August 2019 and by this point I was extremely overwhelmed, tearful, numb, and fearful for the future. I felt as though I now had a new label and I had high levels of anxiety and sadness for what the future had in store for me. I was so transfixed on the future that I lost sight of the here and now. Levels of anxiety and fear were building up and because my brain was so focused on what the future could look like, I wasn’t dealing with coming to terms with and accepting the diagnosis.
I decided that I needed to change my thinking.
I decided to dig deep and focus on the positives and focus on the present. I spent time practising mindfulness and started to quickly feel the benefits. I knew that I needed time to process everything and to accept the diagnosis. As part of this process I had counselling, and in late 2019 I decided to put pen to paper. I felt as though I needed to put pen to paper to help make sense of everything and to also use it as an opportunity to raise awareness of MS and to support other people.
I now feel alive. I feel happy and find happiness in the every day. I’m sure many other people diagnosed with MS feel as though it can be a wake-up call to start living life to the full and for me it certainly has been! I now take time to fully appreciate things around me and I take moments to be in touch with all my senses.
MS can be extremely scary and overwhelming when first diagnosed. My advice to others is to try and focus on the here and now and to not allow the uncertainty of the future to negatively impact on what’s going on right now.
I wouldn’t claim to be an author by any means but if anyone is interested in reading my recently published book, the link is here.
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