The Big Olive


I feel funny, somehow compromised...nervous... like a funambulist with too little tension on his wire, things don't feel quite's more difficult to balance....I have to work harder to do the things I used to do with's not automatic, I have to think about where I'm putting my feet...and if I shut my eyes, I fall over..

So I'm standing in my childhood den looking for an explanation....well, confirming my suspicions really, within the musty pages of my Mum’s late 60s medical dictionary.  I flick past the glossy plates illustrating the gruesome  exuviation of some poor boy’s diseased feet to find the section on neurological diseases.


Multiple Sclerosis

A neurodegenerative disease characterized by the gradual accumulation of focal plaques of demyelination particularly in the periventricular areas of the brain.  Cause....still uncertain....intermittent disease progression.  Common symptoms include double vision, extremity weakness, numbness, bladder dysfunction and movement or coordination problems

I knew it, ever since I went numb from the boobs down and my eyes went blurry and started jumping around like they had a stutter.  Weirdly...I just have a calm and quiet understanding that I know what the GP,  the Optician and the Osteopath have not picked up;  I can feel what they can not see.  I know...I've got MS.

My recent tiredness and confusion can be explained at last and, despite the mordacious comments from busybody strangers that I'm drunk or on drugs, at least I know why I can't walk in a straight line to 'the ladies'.

My eventual diagnosis some weeks later is more shocking for my parents who accompany me than it is for me.  I feel sorry for them, especially my Dad who seems to be taking it very badly.  On the way home, the busker on the train makes him cry with the song 'Don't worry, be happy.'  I feel sorry for the worry I have caused and  he, touchingly, makes the busker happy by giving him £10.

© JA Cornell 2010