Saturday, August 13, 2016

My MS Symptoms Top 10 Countdown - #8 Trouble Walking

Today's symptom may be one of the ones most people might think of when they think of MS. I know that when I was diagnosed and didn't really know anything about the disease, my major thought was that MS = wheelchair. I now know that that's not necessarily true, though difficulty walking is a major symptom for many people. Trouble walking isn't really a major part of my daily life these days, but it was a major symptom for me for the first year and an occasional issue in the last nine years.

What I mean when I say I've had trouble walking:
  • having to concentrate intensely on every single step
  • major foot drop issues
  • looking like I'm drunk
  • very slow walking speed
  • falling down (this was the symptom that finally made me go to the doctor)
  • unable to walk without some kind of assistance (holding onto something/someone)
  • tripping regularly (mostly because of foot drop)
  • sometimes physically having to lift one leg to go up a step
  • jogging/running = impossible
  • wearing heels = a terrible idea (good thing I don't care about this one!)
The first time I really knew for sure that something was wrong (the 2+ months of a totally numb leg wasn't enough for me) was when I was walking along and suddenly I was on the ground. That prompted the first trip to the doctor, a total disaster where I was told I had probably tripped over my own feet and that I was clearly depressed and unhappy. Shortly after this, I started to notice that walking was just weird. It was hard to explain why, or what exactly was going on. I just knew that I had to think to take steps, and that even with conscious thought, it just wasn't working quite right. But I could walk, and I don't even think anyone would have seen anything weird in my walking at that point.

Then a week or so later, my mom and I were moving my sister into her new dorm/apartment. The weird walking thing was a problem most of the day, but still just at that something-is-not-right-but-I'm-still-walking-basically-well-enough level, though I think the issue was probably visible to others at this point. On the 2 block walk back to the parking garage from my sister's place, though, it progressively got SO much worse. My walking speed got slower and s l o w e r and s  l  o  w  e  r. My right foot started to drag and have trouble fully lifting off the ground. Whatever was going on was very clearly a major problem. That walk was like being hit over the head with the overwhelming knowledge that something was really truly very wrong, and that this was serious. My mom and I both sat in the car in that parking garage and cried.

After that first experience, trouble walking was a big part of every single of my first 10 or so relapses. Walking problems haven't fully returned with a vengeance since then, but when I am overtired or overheated, some of these things do pop up. I generally don't have trouble walking most days, but I still can't run. As my old neuro said, running is very different from walking in your brain. My brain just can't process quickly enough. When I've occasionally tried (not going on a jog or something, just in playing with my niece) there's always a moment where there's a "catch" in the process and it's a scary moment where a fall feels imminent.

So, that's my story on walking problems with MS. Stay tuned for more symptom stories.

[my falls were never this awesome.]

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