Spring of 2002 was a pivotal time in my life. It was when I discovered the cause of the symptoms that had been bothering me, to sometimes greater degrees but sometimes lesser, for a while.
It was the time that a consultant neurologist gave me his diagnosis. He told me that my problems were all due to me having multiple sclerosis but a very mild form that he then described as ‘benign’.
He explained that he had gone back over my medical records and found evidence that I had had MS since my early 20s. In 2002 I was 49, turning 50 in November. He said that as it had taken more than 25 years to reach the stage it had become, he had no reason to believe it would develop any more quickly in the future.
Having thanked the doctor, I walked out of his consulting room to be met by my then wife Jill (Lisa and I would not meet for another 7½ years). I had not let Jill come in to hear the diagnosis and now she wanted to know.
When I could not get her to wait until we got outside, I told her. She was relieved as she then, and only then, confessed she had feared it was a brain tumour.
Diagnosis was a relief
I was relieved too, being glad to at last know the truth. It was also obvious that there was much that needed to be learnt about multiple sclerosis.
So, it was back to work in my newspaper office.
Owing to structural changes within the company, my position was being relocated some 20+ miles away. Although I was offered the opportunity to transfer there, I took the decision to leave the newspaper and join a local tourist attraction as a senior manager. That role developed over my five summer seasons there to include PR, personnel & training, administration including finances, plus responsibility for all retail and catering.
By the end of the fifth tourist season, by now November 2006, my MS had developed and I was having more difficulty in getting around the 17 acre site. I mostly used a stick to help my walking; it was really too much and that led to my leaving the company. That was my last full-time job.
Life has been busy, indeed hectic, since then with so much happening. It started with meeting Lisa in an online game, falling in love, getting divorced from Jill, marrying Lisa and becoming secretary for three local voluntary organisations.
In November 2015, Lisa and I waved goodbye to our life in the UK and moved to Spain. We now live in sunny Andalucía, in the south of the country, just 10 minutes from our nearest beach on the Mediterranean.
Mobility problems worse but independence not lost
As time has gone on, MS is having a greater effect. Today, I find it impossible to walk any further than 10 to 15 yards without stopping to rest, often needing to sit down. Similarly, I cannot stand for more than a couple of minutes. That is why I now have a wheelchair to enable me to get about. I am not wheelchair bound, it is only used when I need it. At home, I get around by using furniture to give me support.
As far as wheelchairs are concerned, the lightweight foldable electric wheelchair is marvelous. I can load it into, and unload it from, my car unaided – and so enables me to get out and about independently.
Despite the mobility issues and other difficulties, such as chronic fatigue that can knock you out for most of a day, I have a bright outlook on life. Please take a look at the ‘can do’ attitude to life page for more about that.
Then, there is this blog where my years of journalist experience, including writing leaders or opinion columns, has come to the fore. Writing is something that I love, something I can do and, as such, is good therapy for me.
As said elsewhere, MS does not define me nor will it be allowed to control my life.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.