Yesterday was Friday 13th February. Friday the 13th; the most unlucky day. Sally Smith tried not to believe in such superstitions. Her naivety ended with a trip to the Neurologist.
The numbness couldn’t be explained away or ignored any more. It had, slowly and convincingly, travelled up her body for the last few weeks. Firstly, she couldn’t feel her feet, then her legs were weak; she managed to stick pins in them without feeling anything. The children thought that was a fun party trick last Christmas! When the numbness reached her shoulders, she knew she could put it off no longer; the appointment was made. Friday the 13th of February.
She somehow walked in to the Neurologist’s office without feeling her feet; she felt sick and just wanted to turn around and flee but he already had her hand.
“Good afternoon, Mrs Smith.” It really wasn’t.
First of all, he posed almost unanswerable questions. Next, came the physical examination. He asked her to place her right foot directly in front of her left – so the heel touched the corresponding toe. Thinking he must have forgotten what she was actually there for, she obliged. Well, she tried to oblige. She actually couldn’t sit her foot closely in front of the other one. It just wouldn’t do it. She had never felt so incompetent, in her life. She kept trying, thinking it was just a blip – but no, there was just no way she could do it. Mr Neurologist almost leapt up, his curly hair shivering with the forced breeze, announcing, ‘Yes, yes, that figures...’. Well it didn’t figure to Sally Smith! She had just found out that after forty years, not only could she no longer feel her feet; it appeared she couldn’t control them properly either.
The neurologist questioned her and talked at her for a further twenty minutes: the longest minutes possible. The condensed version being, “Probable Multiple Sclerosis, Mrs Smith.” Sally didn’t hear anything else. Weirdly, part of her was relieved it wasn’t a brain tumour or cancer, but the rest of her zoned out with images of wheelchairs becoming floaters in her eyes.
Still numb, she left the hospital thinking that things could not, at that moment, be much worse. Sally knew there were people, small children included, far worse off than her, but in her world, the world of her and her family, it really could not get much worse.
Sally was given an appointment to go to the Physiotherapist’s clinic the following morning – Saturday 14th February. She hadn’t realised then that it would be Valentine’s Day.
Friday the 13th ended with a family meeting around their kitchen table. Explaining to the children why mummy had funny legs, and wasn’t feeling her usual self, was a task she never dreamt she’d have to do. The tears were so hard to hold back when Sally looked at their little, innocent faces. Multiple Sclerosis meant nothing to them – nor should it. They just wanted to know that their mummy’s legs would get better soon; they would just have to wait and see. The children were used to ‘waiting and seeing’. They would wait and see if they had chocolate pudding for dessert; they would wait and see if their grandparents were coming to visit; they would wait and see if Santa had ‘been’ – so ‘waiting and seeing’ was something they could do.
Valentine’s Day came. Sally’s hubby and children had cut out red hearts and hung them from the ceiling, all over the house. They busied themselves whilst she was in the bath mentally preparing herself for the next clinical chapter. The house was a picture. Sally was met with breakfast on a tray, a pot of coffee and some beautiful handmade cards. Those tears pricked again and with all her weakened strength, she forced them back.
With the children dropped off at their grandparents’ house, Sally and her hubby made their way to the Physiotherapist’s clinic.
“It can’t possibly be as bad as yesterday,” Mr Smith mumbled, “I mean what can be worse than him being certain you have MS? I’m sure there is nothing the physiotherapist can say that can be worse than that.” A part of Sally agreed with her gorgeous husband.
It got worse. The physiotherapist was ‘very concerned’ about Sally’s walking. Mr Smith was right; the physio didn’t say anything worse than they had heard the previous day. It was what she did. She set up a series of rehabilitation appointments to help Sally walking whilst she was so numb. That was helpful, Sally took that. Then...it happened. Sally knew her youth was a long distance memory, she knew she was now classed as ‘middle-aged’, but she didn’t believe forty to be really old. Apparently, in the Smith world, it was. The physiotherapist handed Sally a wooden walking stick. It reminded her of one the elderly might use on an outing to the coast, the shopping mall or something similar.
Valentine’s Day was even worse than Friday the 13th . Finally, Sally’s tears came.