I love being ill.
Not the long-term, chronic, progressive and as yet incurable MS-type-ill. Definitely not that. But short-term ill, yes.
Let me explain. I had a hernia operation ten days ago. Not connected to MS, just a run-of-the-mill hernia. It had been with me a while (long enough that I named it Phyllis) and was becoming more and more uncomfortable (imagine a grapefruit taped to your stomach). Actually, coupled with the MS pain and discomfort it was nothing short of intolerable.
Luckily the operation went well and I was fortunate enough to have two days to recuperate in hospital before heading back to an empty house, my son having now decamped to University after an epic summer break.
It was great being in hospital – helpful nurses on hand, pretty decent food and an easy-to-use bathroom. I had a stack of books with me, piled on one of those handy over-the-bed-tables, alongside my meds and hand cream. What more could I want? I spent my time dozing, reading, applying thick layers of hand cream (the only time I ever get to do stuff like that), then dozing off again. Bliss.
Back home, reality hit. There was a pesky cat to feed. Food shopping to do. Ever-encroaching cobwebs to stave off. But you know what? I woke up every single morning excited and full of joy. Which probably seems at odds with several layers of stitches and a mesh insert, but hey, let me explain. This experience has been a bit like when I had the ‘flu. Proper, full-blown, can’t get out of bed ‘flu. It was brutal, but I smiled through it. Why?
Because it wouldn’t last. I would get better. And I did.
It’s the same with the hernia. I know that every day I’m getting stronger, the stitches are dissolving and with them, the pain. It’s a joyous thing to behold.
When you have a serious, long-term illness like MS, there is no end point. Ever. And that thought used to scare the living daylights out of me. Not only was there no end-point, but it was more than likely progressive. So much so that I got to thinking each morning, ‘this day might be my best’.
Short-term illnesses are great. You’re sent cards wishing you a speedy recovery. People bring cake and flowers and send their very best wishes and heaps of chocolate. You have a great excuse for lolling around your sofa. Because you are ill. A big Frankenstein-like post-op scar on my stomach means that people can see what’s wrong –why I hurt and why I can’t drive or bend down to pick up an errant blueberry that’s rolled off my plate.
Back to MS and it’s suddenly really difficult to explain the hidden symptoms.
MS fatigue? Well, everyone gets tired, don’t they? Balance? I’m over 40, it’s bound to happen. Memory problems? Ditto. I’m resigned to the fact that I will never, ever be able to explain MS to people who don’t have it.
So allow me to wallow in my post-op scar. Keep bringing me home-cooked meals and cake and cards. Please keep offering driving-favours, shopping runs and taking my letters to the post box.
My stitches will heal and before long I will be back at work, and once again I will be attempting to explain MS fatigue, neuropathic pain and foot-drop to someone who clearly thinks I’m making it all up.
Until then, allow me to enjoy the short term sympathy. And of course, the cake.