It is often said that real life mimics television, and one hit TV series certainly reflects the theme: “my life is my own, MS cannot have it.”
During the 1960s, 1967–68 to be exact, an iconic television show ran on Sunday nights called “The Prisoner.” It starred Patrick McGoohan as a British secret agent who, after resigning, was abducted and woke up in a mysterious place known only as The Village.
This series developed what might be described as a cult audience, and I, then a 15-year-old, was a happy member.
There is no need, here, to delve any further into the show’s content, but it seems to me that all of us with multiple sclerosis are living in our own version of The Village. We all awoke one day to the realization that all was not well. We consulted a doctor and, once diagnosed, we were each abducted by multiple sclerosis to become new residents of The Village.
Viewers of the television series never knew the name of McGoohan’s character — just his number. Everyone in The Village had a number — he was Number 6.
Not that he accepted that. “I am not a number. I am a person,” he yelled at one point, being in a constant rebellious mood and hell-bent on freedom. In the same episode, he said: “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.”
From the way “Number 6” refused to accept his confinement and was always looking for a way to escape, we could draw a parallel with our confinement by multiple sclerosis and our constant desire to be rid of this disease for good.
What’s more, just as McGoohan’s character reacted so violently against being categorized as a number, so too we don’t want to be defined by this disease. I refuse to be labeled as a disabled person because that is not me. Yes, I have MS and so I have a disability – but I am a person and my life is my own.
Within the MS world as we know it, I own not just my life but my body, too. And this means that I won’t blindly follow any so-called “accepted” treatment routine. All patients have the right to know everything about any proposed treatment, both its advantages and disadvantages, before agreeing. Our lives and our bodies really are our own, and we owe it to ourselves to take the very best care of them both.
What that means is that we, not the doctors, have the final say over our treatment. Whether or not we accept a disease modifying therapy (DMT), HSCT, natural medications or simply a diet, doctors can only advise. The power is ours and we must not be afraid to use it.
This article, written by me, first appeared on Multiple Sclerosis News Today.
Ian Franks is Chief Columnist and Patient Specialist of Multiple Sclerosis News Today. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist MS, Health & Disability blog at www.50shadesofsun.com. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.