EDITOR’s NOTE: This is the first edition in a new blog series by Flora E. Geronima.
Episode 1: The Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis in 2009, almost one year after the birth of my youngest son. I state this fact, because like many MSers claim, the signs of the condition were evident long before diagnosis. After the birth of my first son in 2002, I experienced imbalance, vertigo, and fatigue, but my symptoms did not raise concerns. I blamed my physical ailments on my new role as a mom. I figured that having been an incubator for this new life took its toll. As I cared for my newborn, I ignored my symptoms.
I had the same problems after the birth of my second child in 2008, but this time the symptoms were noticed. I tripped and dropped hand held items, such as baby bottles, almost daily. I feared carrying my child as I walked. Thus, I scooted around on my behind on the floor of my house as I toted my newborn. My husband and family recognized my fears, so they carried him for me.
By 2009, one year after my son’s birth, I was having more difficulty walking, and I started to use a cane at work. When informed of my ongoing mobility problems, my general practitioner insisted on an Urgent Care visit. She feared that referring me to a specialist could take months before I was seen, and predicted an Urgent Care visit might result in immediate answers. I promised to go when could manage an absence from work.
One day, a coworker saw me using a cane and asked if I sprained my ankle. I told her that walking had become increasingly difficult. Out of concern, she reported me to our Assistant Principal who insisted that I see the school nurse to establish ways of accommodating me on campus.
I saw the school nurse a few weeks earlier after a fall I had in my classroom when I lost my balance, fell, and hit my head on the white board pen frame. Fortunately for me, the nurse documented my physical mishaps at school. After my most recent fall, she instructed me to visit the hospital Emergency, and I finally complied with the numerous orders to seek further medical aid. She reminded me to share her notes with those who would attend to me. It described my physical problems such as “worsening, spastic gait’ and “inability to write due to arm and hand weakness,” in addition to descriptions of my school falls. I recognize now that her written evaluation was meant to ensure that I would have an MRI. Later, Lynne told me that she suspected MS, but did not want to scare me by sharing her thought. And when I did present her notes, an MRI was ordered and completed that day. I am forever grateful to Lynne, the nurse, for providing that letter. Ultimately, it led to a diagnosis of Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis.
I cried when I heard the diagnosis. My mom was with me, and told me not to worry. She said that she would take care of me, but my response was “I should be taking care of you” believing that I should be caring for her as she began the job retirement phase of her life. My only knowledge of MS at the time was Annette Funicelo in the latter stages of her MS progression. I was frightened as was my mom although she feigned bravery. We were in fear of the unknown.
Hello! My name is Flora and I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis in 2009. I am 46 years old and a married mother of two beautiful boys, ages 17 and 11. In addition to my family, academics was my life’s foundation. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from The University of California, San Diego and a Master of Arts in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton. Then, I was a teacher for a total of 19 years first at the community college level, then at a middle school and lastly at the highschool grade levels. Now, I am one year into my disability retirement. Homemaking, genealogy research, reading, writing and taking long walks are how I joyously spend my time. I was presented with an opportunity to blog about my MS odyssey which I eagerly welcomed. I will share how Multiple Sclerosis impacted my career, how it redefines my relationships, how it affects me daily, and how it continues to change me for better and for worse. Writing is cathartic for me, and I hope that by sharing my experience, I can open a small window of clarity to often confounding situations or at least offer some comfort in knowing that those of us with multiple sclerosis are all trying to figure this epic journey out.