And the other foot-drops…

On the way to see my beloved neurologist last week I was thinking about my decision in December 2007 to use a walking stick- not an easy one to say the least.

For quite some time I had been tripping over nothing- though I never thought too much about it. I was branded a klutz at a very young age and always chocked it up the tendency to a flawed gene I had inherited.  So when concerned family members asked me if I had considered using a cane- I defensively claimed that if I needed a stick, my doctor would certainly have recommended it. And thus the phantom obstacles continued to block my path, with many a bloody knee and an embarrassed moment on NYC subway system.  I glossed over the absurdity of this all-to-frequent occurrence with a bit of performance art.  Brief moments of flight followed by random explanations announced to everyone and no one. Look that sidewalk is uneven! It’s these shoes! These practical rubber soled shoes tripped me.

And so it went unchecked until December of 2007 when the dizziness  arrived, an unwelcome guest who would never get the hint. What I hoped would be temporary became a new way of life. It was my husband’s inquiry that made me realize I would need to reconsider what I’ve assigned as my neurologist’s responsibility. Keith’s question has more power than my original family and it forced me to realize that my life requires another “foot” on the ground- a tripod if you will to help me navigate the concrete jungle as well as the bumpy green suburbs.

This need was reinforced when I visited with the vestibular neurologist who when testing my stability marveled that I would consider walking without a stick.  Placing his own stick near his desk reminding me of Joe Gideon’s exam as the doctor and patient both had cigarettes hanging off their lips hacking away during his physical— only less ironic. (see All That Jazz)

So, where was I? Oh yes- my doctor’s visit. After the routine performance of move this, touch this, walk like this, tell me this- my Dr. said,

“What are you using a cane for?”

“To compensate for my foot drop” I say.

“Well foot-drop doesn’t show in your reflex test or in your walking test.” he said

“But it does show when I’m kissing the sidewalk!” I hadn’t thought quickly enough to say.

So I’m leaving his office wondering why my Dr. would question my decision – one that was very difficult to make- and serves an important purpose in my life. Could he have said “Tell me, why have you decided to use a walking stick?”

I know, I know. Dr.s treat diseases and  symptoms while nurses treat  people. How is it that they can’t be housed in one person? Is there is no time to teach it in those advanced degrees?  And to think that I thought that my Dr. would have recommended it, if he felt I needed it. In addition to having this disease, and living with the constant symptoms and their physical/emotional effect- I have to be my own advocate. Any large company would view that role as a conflict of interests.

Hmmmh. I miss Linda Morgante more than ever.

I’VE HAD IT!

Okay.. I’m the queen of optimism here… Anyone who knows me- knows this fact. Since reports came back from my kindergarten teacher in 1973 it was on record. “Smiles, endless smiles. Amy is so happy, she’s a joy to have in class” Now granted.. this was news to my mom being that my home life was different. Ever since my sister came on the scene my role changed. Only 20 months younger than me, she catapulted me from center stage, and I hadn’t even sung my big number yet. So, my shining persona was not evident in the daily family experience. Imagine that.

Years later that sunny disposition and overall optimism “in-spite-of-it-all” has carried me through so many of life’s dire moments. And its that attitude that keeps me going no matter how hard MS pushes me back.

But I’VE HAD IT!!! (as previously stated!)

Of the myriad of symptoms I invisibly juggle everyday… Foot Drop has been an unwelcome repeat offender. To clarify..  Foot Drop is when your foot does not listen to the message to pick itself up~ so, at the all important moment, say when one is taking a step, the toe portion drops down… igniting a trip-stumble-fall scenario that is very unpredictable and usually humiliating.

Walking through the NYC streets and stumbling on nothing does not do much for your cool, unfazed city image. But since I was labeled a “klutz” long before diagnosis… it was not an unfamiliar feeling. I can only imagine how this disease impacts people who were dancers or athletes. For me, however, it was a couple of notches lower on the less than 0 scale of coordination.

And yes.. I’ve got many amusing/pathetic stories of kissing asphalt in NYC. This was one of my incentives for using a stabilizing stick on my commute. It has saved me from many falls since I added it to my routine. When I get to work (at NYU Film school) I walk the halls sans stick. Not because I’m working on a particular image amongst the students… it’s great to be an adult who is beyond caring about those things… but more because I’m comfortable in that space… and have things to carry- rendering the stick inconvenient.

So.. we are finally narrowing in on the story leading up to this interjection!

It was almost time to leave. A student asked me a question that I did not know the answer to… so I threw caution to the wind and walked 10 feet to someone I was sure knew the answer. On my return trip (as it were),  approaching the staircase that was situated between the start and end point- I did just that. I tripped dramatically. I was as horizontal as one can be without flying (or sleeping) until I righted myself. I was furious!!! The spectacle of the matter didn’t help. There were many around observing me trip over a phantom item.. and as I pulled myself back up I was standing next to a faculty member who was leaving the staircase and made a light-hearted joke. This would normally have been how I would have handled this exhibition, but this time I was pissed! Dammit! I can’t even walk a circle of 20 feet without displaying my brain defect! And for some reason I wouldn’t laugh it off. I was furious. So, I uncontrollably stated: “You know I have MS right!? This happened because of an MS symptom! I have foot drop! So I trip over nothing!” Poor guy. Talk about being caught in crossfire. It was me and my MS and we were yelling it out for everyone to see… and hear. This particular faculty member is a sweet guy… we’ve always had such a lovely “hello-goodbye-have-a-nice-day” sort of relationship. And now, he found himself in the midst of my tirade of frustration and anger and he remained sweet.

So I left for the day with my stick supporting me through the commute home as I grumbled to myself about how I can’t even walk 10 feet without tripping. I was angry and feeling sorry for myself.

I was diagnosed with MS when I was 20. I never had a period of my life where I felt in control of things. Just as I was leaving my tumultuous teens and embarking on a life of my own… taking over the role of “boss of me” from my parents, I had a new boss. One that appeared unexpectedly and told me I couldn’t do the things everyone else was doing. One that has a job plan for me, but refused to allow me to be prepared for it. And once I got used to my new job requirements they changed. Everything becomes more challenging and my ability to meet the requirements are much harder. But in the end… I always matched them.

Days later it feels like a distant happening. Another story to tuck in to my over-flowing-suitcase under my bed. I’m not sure if being pissed really served me. I think I prefer to be strong and humorous. I suppose that makes this ride more tolerable.

And so it evolves.