While packing for an upcoming trip to several western National Parks, I’m reminded of an earlier trip we took to Yellowstone. Before we left, my mother-in-law commented that we would be visiting “one of the strangest places on earth.” Was she ever right!
We traversed the territory for roughly a week and were constantly amazed by all the bubbling, steaming, spewing, cascading and eroding we saw taking place at the geysers, the hot springs, the canyon, and the lake. We gawked at the mudpots, the steam vents, and the dead “bobby socks” trees which soaked up silicates from the ground, turning the base of the trees white. We were awed by the big creatures like moose and buffalo, and amused by those quirky little squirrel-like things (yellow-bellied marmots?) that ran around the foundation under our cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs. We studied how the forests regenerated themselves after the fire of 1988.
Depending on what sites two people visited, each could have a wonderful time, but when they compared notes they might not think they’d been in the same park at all!
It occurs to me that multiple sclerosis can be a lot like that. Because the nature of one’s symptoms depends on which part of his nervous system is under attack, different people can have very different experiences with the disease. The laundry list (oh yes…that’s what I meant to do…laundry for our trip) includes such wide ranging experiences as numbness, gait problems, coordination issues, vision problems, dizziness and vertigo, cognitive functions (or lack thereof), depression, spasticity, and fatigue. And furthermore, not only does the severity of the symptoms vary widely, they can disappear altogether, only to reemerge later. So two people could both be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but their experiences could be totally different.
The moral of the story is not to jump to any conclusions upon learning about an MS diagnosis. It’s the beginning of a journey, not the end of one, and everyone’s trip is unique.