MS Melissa


“What are you going to do for the next 20 days?” Her voice was kind as she repeated her question. My initial answer was bullshit, something a social worker could pull out of her ass even after a couple of tallboys. She had no way of knowing I was currently gulping down Honey Brown and my apartment smelled of Newports, but she knew I was being superficial.  She had also spent time professionally hearing answers that few people meant.

Hours earlier, another kind but not as understanding voice told me I had MS. Specifically, she told me I had an upcoming  first appointment (in 20 days) with a specialist about “your MS”. Just like that. As though MS was a cold and not something that was currently fucking my life. She wasn’t even the doctor I had been pestering for the past month. The doctor who said he would call and go over my lab results. The doctor who didn’t even seem like he was going to give me a MRI until I said “I’m trying to make sure my balance problems aren’t MS.” They were fine blaming my fluctuating thyroid.  I wanted to blame my thyroid too because the devil you know and all that.

To be fair, I think I’ve known about “my MS” for quite some time. I’ve at least acknowledged the possibility of it since last May when I couldn’t do a long or even a moderate walk without holding onto sides of buildings. It was then that my friend told me that it wasn’t just because I’m fat. Fat people walk straight lines every day. I used to be a fat person walking a straight line. I haven’t consistently walked a straight line in almost a year.  So, I’ve known I could possibly have MS for a while. I knew for sure I had MS after reading my MRI results. I just didn’t have a medical professional confirm it for me.

“What are you going to do for the next 20 days?”

My friend’s mother was my second talk that night. She shared her journey with me and what keeps her attitude positive. She offered me support, guidance and permission to freak out. She reassured me. We even laughed at some point.  If I was given a choice of how I would’ve liked to find out about my second chronic disease, I would have chosen her voice.

“What are you going to do for the next 20 days?”

I would hear that question repeated in my head for days after our conversation. I would hear it when I engaged in some old fashion self-destructive behavior.  I would hear it when I cut conversations short with people who care about me. I would hear it when crying in bathroom stalls. What the fuck was I going to do?

It is difficult to freak out for 20 days in a row. You have to let it come in waves because freaking out is exhausting, especially if it includes fried food, Newports, wine and beer. It is also difficult to spend 20 days freaking out when you have to work. I had to work. I had already taken four days for the last test and, as the product of two hardworking middle aged Black parents, the thought of being let go never really left my mind. Even if I crawled into work, spent half the time under my desk weeping, I was going to go into work.

So, work. For the next 20 days, I’m going to work. I’m going to clean. I’m going to attempt to clean. I’m going to enjoy my family and laugh with my friends. I’m going to send dirty text messages while trying not to stare at his picture too much. I’m going to talk to myself naked in front of the mirror. I’m going to read books.  I’m going to attend church. Apparently, for the next 20 days I’m going to live my life. There will be some adjustments. I’m going to work on balance exercises. I’m going to record my symptoms. I’m going allow to myself to cry and freak out in spurts.

MS Melissa

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