Tag Archives: The Teenager

It’s all me, me, me

Having multiple sclerosis, just how hard is it to show sympathy to people who are a little under the weather but who make a lot of noise about it? Has MS made me less compassionate, and do I somehow think no one else has the right to moan to me about their own troubles?

I only ask as two friends and The Teenager have recently been struck down by a bad cold. All three are male, so naturally ‘man flu’ has been mooted as a possibility, but to be fair, they do seem very poorly and I am trying to be sympathetic, listen attentively and give helpful suggestions. I care about these people and hate to see them ill.

But a teeny-tiny-little part of me thinks it’s a bit like expecting a poor person to empathise with a rich guy when his Porsche is in the garage for repairs. Sure, it’s an inconvenience, but it’s temporary and normal service will resume soon enough. I feel like saying, ‘ill? You’re ill? You want to see what ill is?’ How awful is that? What sort of person am I, to even think that?

I have bored my friends to tears over the last year, constantly dissecting symptoms to the nth degree, analysing lesions and spilling out my fears for the future. They have sat with me through a merry-go-round of appointments, held my hand during MRI’s and kept my glass of wine filled. So I feel very small-minded to begrudge them that little bit of extra attention and help when they need it. I have offered to drive 18 miles through the rain to bring supplies to one friend and have tucked The Teenager up in bed with a book and hot Lemsip. This is one battle the MS Monster won’t win. MS may be for life, but so are friends and family.

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Back to school

It’s Autumn, it’s night class season and I’m ready. Tonight will be my third week back at school. I spent hours carefully selecting a new course, paid my money and filled a trolley at Staples. New notebooks, new pencil case, lots of pens, paper clips, highlighters, folders but managed to stop myself from buying a Hello Kitty school bag to put it all in.

I have a chequered history of night classes. A couple of years ago it was knitting, in a bid to join a Stitch and Bitch class in the local cafe. In my fourth lesson, the lovely teacher looked at my homework, sighed and shook her head sadly. Last year I tried a one-day course instead, learning how to make my very own Christmas wreath out of locally-source willow branches. Along with ten other eager beavers, I grabbed six foot lengths of the stuff, ready to bend it into a circle but ended up poking a rather serious-looking woman in the eye. My finished wreath was a square of twigs, held together by an awful lot of thread and withered on my door after only a week.

This year will be different. I have moved on from crafts and have chosen something scarily academic – a new language. Which is kind of ironic, as my first major relapse involved me losing the ability to string a sentence together (The Teenager still does a great impression of me). Ever the optimist though, I am determined to master it. So far, I can tell native speakers that I enjoy coffee and swimming and hockey (!), and there’s still 28 weeks to go.

I am a bit of a swot, always keen to get my homework done and learn new words, and have got into the habit of sitting in the car during The Teenager’s rugby training listening to a downloaded course. Note to self though – must get out the habit of sticking my hand up in class. There’s only four of us, I am in my thirties and the teacher is probably younger than me.

The best bit though, is that there is a Starbucks on site, so I can sit for a while before class, supping on a large double-shot Americano, checking over my notes and polishing an apple for the teacher.

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I kid you not

MS has made me more adventurous and given me a desire to ‘try new things’. I’m not sure why, perhaps a case of, what have I got to lose? I have an ongoing list of new things to try, more often added to than attempted. Yesterday, I set out to change this. Every weekend I buy a small child’s height of newspapers and every weekend I read the recipe pages, scanning through the ingredients, the cooking methods, the time taken, think, ‘hmm, that sounds nice’ and quickly turn the page, berating myself for not exposing The Teenager to more exotic food. But yesterday, I promised myself that I would try out the first recipe I came across. Perhaps I should have read The Mail on Saturday first (Jamie’s 15 minute meals – desserts this week, darn it), but I picked up The Guardian as I always turn to the ‘Blind Date’ article – living vicariously.

The divine Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is leaning casually against his Aga, pots hanging from a driftwood rack behind him. He asks, ‘why don’t we eat more goat?’ Oh. Um, because the local Co-op doesn’t stock it? But in the spirit of adventure, I read on. Perhaps Waitrose have it. Or that obscure butcher I always mean to visit (another tick on ‘try new things’ list!). First ingredient is hay. This is not going well. Helpfully though, Hugh suggests that if I don’t know a farmer, I can always buy small packs of it from a pet shop. Ok, quick visit to Pets At Home too, then.

So, assuming I have my goat and my hay, the next thing I have to do is to soak the hay in a bucket, then drain. I don’t have a bucket, long story. Quick trip to the hardware store too then, Hugh? Nope. Take the goat, the hay and the bucket off my shopping list, scribble down chops, potatoes and veg. Maybe try again next week, but for now, reading the recipe was adventurous enough for me.

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Friday…at last

Stumbling In Flats - life with multiple sclerosis I only work a couple of days a week, having dropped some hours (thanks, MS!) but I still get out-of-proportion excited whenever Friday rolls around. Only one problem with that. My expectations way exceed reality.

I sit there in work, idly scrolling through events listings, checking out the live music pages, the theatre, the cinema, new restaurant openings and all the rest of it. In my mind, I am dressed up like a goddess on steroids and even have some fabulously high heels on. My hair is swishy, my make-up is flawless and I have a zinging, Friday-night energy. I can picture myself surrounded by glossy, admiring friends, casually toasting each other in some brand-new bar, attracting envious yet welcoming stares from handsome men. I will be on top form, wowing my friends with fabulous stories gleaned over my busy week and perhaps impressing them by throwing a delicately-spiced wasabi nut in the air and catching it in my mouth.

Or I will be hanging out at the more alternative arts place, with my black polo neck and smart, slightly-distressd jeans on, accessorised with chunky, hand-made beads from a women’s collective in The Gambia. With my beret at a jaunty angle, I will toss out witty remarks, only pausing to applaud the experimental jazz band playing in the corner. We will drink Belgian-brewed gooseberry cider and dip artisan bread in olive oil flavoured with crushed Chilean peppers.

Which one do I choose? Well, neither. At the end of the week I am shattered, my sofa has been calling me and I just about have enough energy to peel the lid from a microwave meal. Oh, and childcare is a nightmare. The Teenager is at that awful age when he still needs a babysitter but doesn’t want one, unless she’s that blonde girl from the sixth form. The one with the big, you know. Brain.

So, the reality? Me, in pyjamas, facepack on, watching other people have fabulous nights out, on telly. Has no-one set up an events company, where they can bring the party to your house……?

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introducing the teenager

Stumbling In Flats – living with multiple sclerosisTeenagers, eh? Don’t you just love them. To be fair, I seem to have a pretty decent model. So far. Anyway, it was hard enough beginning to come to terms with me having MS, far less breaking it to him. He knew there was something wrong, he just wasn’t sure what. He realised I was tired, a bit snappier than usual and I was traipsing back and forward to the hospital, the doctor’s, etc. I was very organised. I had already ordered a kid’s guide to MS, full of reassuring pictures in primary colours and simple text. So, we had to have The Conversation.

The scene was set. I had cooked his favourite dinner, presented him with dessert (normally only on a Sunday), and managed to pin him to the sofa long enough to have a heart-to-heart. It went something like this:

Me: Um, you know, yes. Well, it’s like this. See?

Him: Uh, no?

Me: Well, you know all those appointments I’ve been having? It seems I have something called multiple sclerosis. Nothing to worry about, just thought you should know. Oh, and here’s a little guide for you to have a read of. In your own time, you know? Now, is there anything you want to ask me?

Him: D’uh. Like, I know? Like, I’m on all the forums. I can even pronounce it. I know all about it. Can I go now?

Me: I really think we should talk about this.

Him: Ok. Are you going to die?

Me: Not from MS, no.

Him: Will you be in a wheelchair?

Me: Not for a really long while, if at all.

Him: (jumps up) Cool. See ya!

And there you have it. How not to have an awkward conversation with The Teenager. As long as I don’t appear disabled or different to all the other mums he sees, everything is great. And maybe that’s the way it should be. As a little family, we have just absorbed MS as part of our lives.

He does enjoy calling me ‘special’ though….

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