First: Wow- thank you so much for the giant facebook hug today. Your prayers mean everything. Ryan had texts and calls as well; I didn't mean to cause such a stir! But I suppose the picture I posted warranted worry... at the same time, please don't waste anymore worry on me.
Second, a recap:
I had been posting throughout the week about today's neuro appointment. Actually I think I've been posting about it since it was scheduled a few weeks ago.
I've been diligently keeping my "MS Diary." Ryan and I have had a thousand conversations about all of the "what if's" that today could hold.
Last night I was a wreck. I couldn't be around my kids. As I waited for Ryan to get home, I bounced Rosie on my hip; wanting to get my hands off her; leave and run- without the sensation of actually leaving. Does that even make sense? Ha. My brain is fried.
I went and got a pedicure and a smoothie. I grocery shopped. I sat in my driveway. I did anything I could to not get home until my kids were in bed.
This morning I woke up with peace. I really did. And I don't know why I find it so odd; I worship the Prince of Peace.
I got super lost trying to find the office but my heart remained steady, my head focused. Today was a day for answers. It was time to rip the band aid off and see the wound.
I love my neurologist. I just met him today; but he's a kind soul. He's compassionate and his bedside manor is like a cup of hot coffee; super warm and inviting.
We started with talking; he took notes, told me "I am so sorry" when I relayed the catheter stories. How simple those words- but to hear them from a doctor, my doctor, meant a ton. He cares about me. He wants to fix this. He's empathetic.
After talking about my life over the past 3 years (this is going back from my first kidney and bladder issue- right after Stella was born), he did an exam. I failed two parts of it. The peripheral vision part and the toe test. I had no clue what either was, but my report literally says "suspicious toes." (HA!) After getting home I looked up what toes had to do with MS and found some good info here (the Babinski reflex).
Then he pulled up my brain scan (the MRI I had done a few weeks ago.. the one I had gotten a "clear" on). He walked me through it; showing me the different parts of the brain and then he stopped right in the center. He leaned closer to his computer and zoomed in. And I kind of just knew then.
I think I asked, "Is something wrong?" And he said there were a few suspicious spots and pointed them out to me.
I didn't cry. I didn't hyperventilate like I did at the Mayo clinic when they told me I would have to learn to catheterize myself.
I asked, "What does that mean?" And he explained with the neurogenic bladder, the "suspicious" spots and toes and my vision loss he was going to call this MS. I watched him type each letter into the computer.
M-U-L-T-I-P-L-E S-C-L-E-R-O-S-I-S. There it was. No longer whispered, or suggested, but there, bold and recorded. It's presence was heavy, like each letter was a hit.
Here's where things get tricky. I asked him, "So, I have MS?" And he said, "that's how I am going to treat you. Do you have MS? It's looking like that. But your tests on Friday could blow us all out of the water and prove everything wrong. I am going to write Multiple Sclerosis as your diagnosis but before you leave I want you to know, this is not you. This is the start of an investigation and I'm rooting for you."
Checking out, I handed my papers over to the scheduling lady who ran through the tests I'd be getting, my next appointment, etc. Her eyes were so sad and I think she said "I'm sorry 3000 times." I know she meant well; her heart was sweet. But eventually I said, "I'm okay! I know, it sucks. But I think I'll be okay."
And then I walked out, paper in hand. Diagnosis: Multiple Sclerosis. Those black printed letters, stamped on my white discharge papers. All day I've felt like I needed to hold it. Physically hold the paper. Weird, I know.
My first stop was the parking lot and a twenty minute crying session, all the while holding that paper. I'm an instagramaholic; so as soon as I took a picture of the paper- this sacred paper- I was flooded with your words. I couldn't keep up with the comments and messages. Prayers. Love. Hope. Strength. Mom. Jesus. Our God. Those were the words that in between sobs, went straight to my heart and have stayed there and WILL stay there...
Jesus is so alive and His mercies were flowing this morning. Your prayers, He heard them and I was given grace and strength. Enough to call Ryan without crying and to drive to my parents house without having a panic attack. It wasn't until I saw my mom and dad, handed over the paper that I allowed myself to dig into the hurt. I had my parents with me; we cried and I stripped the fences. I let it all come out; every ugly thought, feeling- it was poured out onto their kitchen floor.
You see, I've stripped the fences before. Almost seven years ago my dad physically picked me off the floor to bring me into the emergency room because I was so stricken with panic and depression I literally couldn't move. Almost seven years ago, I had to break. I had to say words that made me feel ugly and worthless. I had to admit thoughts that haunted every cell in my body. Seven years ago my husband, mom and dad surrounded me in the ER and made a pact that we would get through this. I called bull on them. Never in a million years, did I think I could or would get through that. For a year Ryan drove me to the anxiety clinic at the University of Michigan every Monday and Wednesday night. While I went to group therapy, talked with my psychiatrist and learned coping skills, he sat in the car eating Subway with our sleeping newborn tucked into the back seat. Seven years ago I was broken. My white fences were stripped and I was vulnerable; terrified.
As I leaned on my mom this morning, I told her over and over, "I'm too tired. I'm just too tired to do this. I don't even care. I don't want to do this."
"Ashley, you have to care. You have four kids at home. You care." And then I said something snarky like, "Just let me cry and be mad mom!" (my poor mother). She went out to the patio and cried alone.
Their house is quiet now, as we've all grown and left it. It makes for a really nice place to get your head together. This morning it was like five different boxes of puzzles were dumped into my brain; each needing to be sorted and pieced appropriately. I'm thankful for the silence and time at my parents.
I thought back to the birth of Maeve; my dive into depression. My first experience with admitting I am less than. I thought back to when I accepted that; that I, Ashley McKenney, have anxiety and depression and I have weaknesses. Huge ones. Ugly, gaping ones that like to taint my view on how I think my life should look. My fences aren't white. They never were. And that's okay.
Let me say it again: that's OKAY.
My mom came back in and declared war on MS. I agreed.
This is ugly. This hurts. This is hard and I am tired. And I don't want to see my life through the haze of MS.
But that's life. It's my life. And it's worth everything I have to bare it all, come clean, and allow healing.
My dad, mom and I hovered around the computer looking up everything about MS. Diets, doctors, treatments, etc. We came across the benefit of ginger. HERE
One of the scariest thoughts of MS are the medications. I don't want to ever take a single one... I've looked them up; they sound awful and I'm not sure how its legal to put that chemical crap in your body.
After a few minutes my mom said "OFF to Smoothie Fresh! We're doing shots of ginger today!"
We toasted to imperfections and the kill off of pharmaceuticals.
The ginger burned, all the way down. It was hot and I felt it hit my stomach like fire. But I felt it and that in itself gave me something to work with.
I drove home feeling relieved. It was out. The words "multiple sclerosis" had been printed and I'm still standing. I'm still feeling. I'm here.
At home, I sat in my bathroom for a good thirty minutes, crying along with the sound of the shower. There's no getting around that this is depressing; that I'm scared, upset. That's part of this thing. Allowing yourself to feel that way, accepting what is (or isn't) and moving on.
Today I sit here in a familiar spot, rotting boards, paint flicking off my "perfect" fence. This time around I have four kids who love and want me, need me. If that's not motivation I'm not sure what is. I also have the brightest hope; I've been here before. I've been at the end of my rope, on the floor, and broken. And I've gotten back up.
I'll get back up from this.
Right now I'm thankful that its almost time for bed. I'm tired.
I'm thankful for a husband who doesn't care about having ugly fences.
I'm thankful for parents whose arms will always be home to me.
I'm thankful for those four sets of eyes that can and do bring me to my knees.
I'm thankful for your thoughts and prayers.
Ultimately, I'm thankful to have my God that sent His son to die, so that I can live, love, feel love, accept it and have hope.
In the days to come I have a cervical and thoracic MRI along with another MRI of my brain (this time with contrast). A spinal tap comes after those. (MRI is on Friday). We're moving into our new house this weekend. I'm going to a Counting Crows concert on Saturday. Rosie's snuggled up to my hip. My other three loves are having a "movie party" with their grandparents. I'm looking through texts from today and came across a simple one from my husband, "I love you. Forever, in everything." My bed is warm. My left foot is numb but my heart is pounding with a vengeance; each swish and pump, "hope, love, faith, hope, love, faith."
What more could I ask for? God is good. Praise be to Him for hope and strength.
xoxo- Ash ;)