Amazing how time flies – almost 4 years to the day since I was seated in a hospital wheelchair, Jami to my left, Dr. Patry across the room, scrolling through my first (and, sadly, far from my last) MRI, pausing here, pausing there, pointing out what were to be the building blocks for my diagnosis.
I knew it. I had known it for months; in December 2006, while home in Montreal from Calgary for the holidays, my suspicion had intensified to the point where I had my Mother go over the ‘discovery’ period my Father underwent prior to his diagnosis. This is when I first learned that the strange, electrical-impulse-like feelings running through my abdomen whenever I tucked my chin into my chest was a sure sign. I would later learn that this is called “Lhermitte’s syndrome“, though it is more commonly referred to (somewhat paradoxically) as “The MS Hug”. Sounds warm & friendly, as hugs generally are – but this hug was anything but. As is every other symptom brought on by this relentlessly insufferable disease, the way in which it manifests itself is different in every case; for some, it is extremely painful, for others it is simply awkwardly uncomfortable (as was the case for me, thankfully). It was at this moment, however, way back in December ’06 that I knew, unequivocally, that the same fate that had befallen my Father had made its way to me – that I had a new live-in roommate, one that paid neither rent, nor groceries, nor gas, nor hydro. A roommate that hindered as opposed to helped – it was just a question of how much and how quickly its ramifications would be felt.
And thus, denial set in. A denial that I held to so fastidiously that I waited for enough neurological damage to set in that to get to the Foothills Special Services building to obtain the results of that first MRI, my legs had completely given out, and for the bargain-basement price of $500, was the recipient of my first ride in an ambulance.
3 months of daily physical therapy, from rolling, to crawling, to sliding, to stepping, and the rehabilitative team treating me had me up and walking again. I was discharged from Foothills on July 1st, 2007. At the time, I was employed under the “Sales” side of my company, Parker Hannifin (NYSE: PH – a worthwhile investment to add to your portfolio; they’ve paid dividends through something like 32 straight quarters) which allowed me the flexibility of performing my gradual return to work from my home office until I was transitioned back into the “Operations” side of the business – I was, once again, a ‘desk-jockey’.
And so it went – Parker did more than I could’ve ever expected them to, finding room for me back in our Montreal office, allowing me to retain both gainful employment and access to the comprehensive group benefits that I continue to enjoy to this day. I don’t pretend for a second to understand the legalities behind having an employee fall victim to something as atrocious as MS, a life-long, degenerative disease that doesn’t kill so much as it cripples, but I know that Parker has gone above and beyond in my case. For that, I feel that I owe a debt of gratitude so deep and so far-reaching that I will never be able to pay it back.
And that’s why, 4 years post-diagnosis, I’m still the happy-go-lucky guy that they scooped up almost 10 years ago. They put me where I needed to be to survive; with my family, the troupe of people without whom I’d most certainly be in a convalescent home somewhere, wasting away in infirmity, instead of continuing to live mostly independently. While my MS has taken my ability to walk, my continence, my abilities to type, write, cook, clean (to a Gabriel/Durso standard, at least), has impaired my vision, demolished my endurance, robbed me of any ability to travel with relative ease (sure looks depressing when it’s all listed like that!), but for everything that it has taken away, I can find something good that it has given me. Whether it’s a newfound patience that I enjoy in all parts of life, or whether it’s the understanding of what it is that my own father has been undergoing for the past 25 years, there is some good to be found. You just need to look…
So as I head out to celebrate Easter with my family, I hope that you all enjoy the day, and are able to spend with your family, your loved ones, and the people that are important to you.