LIVE LAUGH LOVE
The reason I have decided to write this book is not to garner fame and fortune, but should that happen I am not planning to object. I have put my thoughts and experiences onto paper so that everyone who has MS or who has a friend or family member with MS will know that I am with you as you undertake this unpredictable journey that does not appear to have a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am not a doctor, researcher or expert on MS, I am just a fellow patient in the same situation as you. Our symptoms may differ but our outlook on life may be what we have in common. I want to share my story with you so you will not feel alone and you will know that there is a faceless friend with you every step of the way.
You may feel that life can be incredibly cruel, without reasons, as I used to. But I have since discovered that there is a reason why circumstances occur, although it may take years to discover what, when and why me? I understand fully if you feel like throwing a tantrum – let us throw one together and we will all feel much better!
My story beings in what was then Rhodesia where I was born in 1970. As has always been the case, my brother Alan beat me to the punch and he met the world three years earlier. My father was a town bank manager so he was transferred every few years to a new town, a new environment and a new life for us all.
Each time we moved, I would say goodbye to the old friends and grudgingly try to establish a new circle of buddies. I was a shy little girl, it would take six months to say hello to someone and further six months to say “how are you”. Fortunately Alan was a godsend for me as he would bring home everybody he met and this helped me to increase my social circle. Problem was, he never remembered the names of his friends so they were all anonymous to us in the family. Although it was never his decision – much to Alan’s surprise – he would have much preferred a brother to a sister. He made this obvious by teaching me how to play cricket, how to ride a skateboard at 100 mph and how to take the pain of being shot with his pellet gun! I must give him credit though, he was kind enough to load the barrel with sticks as opposed to pellets and he always aimed for my butt as he claimed he needed a large target. Brotherly love – just the best!! While I am on the subject of my adorable brother, another tale comes to mind. I was born with a terrible squint so at the ripe old age of three I was wearing glasses and man, did I look cute! I grew very attached to those glasses and according to my parents, I would take them off every night and place them on my bedside table. After three operations to correct the squint my doctor finally got it right and he told my parents to dispose of my glasses as I no longer needed them. I refused point blank! Alan decided to help me out and pushed me out of a tree we were both climbing. I landed head first and used my face as a landing pad. Consequently, my nose swelled up terribly and I was unable to wear my glasses. As I said earlier, Alan – very sweetly – helped me to end my obsession with my most valuable possession.
In 1978 my family moved to a larger town in the east of the country and we were all very happy and content for about four years. Alan started high school and I was appointed Head Girl of the primary school I was attending. I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of success and I thought to myself – I could get used to this!
We were transferred twice more and Alan and I were settled into the same high school. Although our parents loved us to bits, – I think – Alan and I chose to become weekly borders so we stayed at the school during the week and went home for weekends. Every afternoon I was either on the field, the tennis court or in the pool. I really loved sport and I was pretty hot in the classroom too even if I do say so myself. Life was so good I could not have wished for better.
Then my Dad was offered a transfer in 1986 to Johannesburg and my parent’s thought long and hard about it. Long term, there wasn’t much of a future career wise for Alan and I and so the decision was made. Johannesburg here we come!
It was at this time that my life changed with far-reaching and long-term effects. As we drove across the border, I told my Mom I had a really bad headache behind my right eye. I never suffered from headaches so we both thought it would go away by the next day. The only thing that went away was the sight in that eye! After arriving in Johannesburg, we settled into our hotel and my Dad started working for his new boss. My headache and sight did not improve and Mom took me to see an optician who referred me to a neurologist. He did a lumber puncture and kept me in hospital overnight. No diagnosis was given, I was told to give it time and all would be well.
I joined a new school and just the same as before, I really battled to make friends. I missed my previous life and friends terribly but put my nose to the grindstone and ended my schooling with flying colours. The following year I earned my driver’s licence, which I thought to be a miracle, as my sight had never returned.
After obtaining my matric certificate in 1988, I had no idea what career I wanted to pursue so my father suggested I follow in his footsteps and join the bank. Of course, banking was not my real dream but at least it was a job and that I felt was better than nothing! I hated maths and figures with a real passion but I bit the bullet and thanked God I was employed. I gained work experience, met many people and thoroughly enjoyed myself. What also happened was that I met the love of my life and fell totally head of heals! Unfortunately there were a few problems with this cosy scenario as I was young and he was almost double my age. I will call him John for reasons better left unexplained, as you will realise later on. John was very successful, intelligent, worldly wise and everything I had ever wished for in a man. I was very naïve and ignorant so how could I go wrong with a lover, a tutor and a father figure rolled into one.
After living together for about two years we decided to uproot ourselves to the coast where John had property he wanted to develop into a small business centre consisting of a few shops and a liquor store which was his dream to own and manage. In order for me to keep busy and motivated, we opened a curio shop, which I absolutely loved running.
Life was good but cracks started to show in our relationship and yes, I am blonde – I was too naïve to notice. By now, I was in my mid-twenties, John was in his forties and I kept hearing the patter of little feet but I was keen to hear wedding bells first as I believed in doing things in the correct order as had happened with friends and family alike. I told John how I felt and he kindly gave me money to buy myself an engagement ring. I was so happy I did not realise the bell resounding in my head was not a wedding bell, but an instant alarm bell. John told me to wear the ring but I received no proposal of any kind. Never mind Janet, it will happen, just be patient.
A year passed and I realised that the jewellery on my finger was just that! I began to think long and hard about my future and where it was headed. Unfortunately, my thinking turned into incredible stress and then my life fell apart in 1993.
I woke up one beautiful morning only to feel extremely confused with regard to my whereabouts, the time of day and what I had planned, which was to go to the hairdresser for a major spruce up. I was at the salon for about two hours and when I arrived home I thought it was midday but it was actually about 4pm. Confusion over the time really worried me and I knew my mind had deserted me – whether temporarily or permanently I was not sure.
By now hysteria had set in and my parents rushed me to the local doctor who then booked an appointment for me to see a psychologist the following day. Again, my parents took me while John said he was too busy to take time off from his business! After a few questions the shrink determined I had not lost my marbles and referred me to a neurologist who immediately gave me an MRI scan. I was booked into hospital and my Mom rushed off to buy me pyjamas, as home was 70km away. Later that day, my parents came to see me and I could tell from the moment I laid eyes on them that something was horribly wrong.
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This is the story of my life from birth to present. My Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis charged my life drastically so I have shared my experiences in order to promote hope and encouragement to everyone who knows someone with MS or has a loved one with MS