Remembering My First MS Symptom
What was your first MS symptom?
Mine — the one that made me realize something was really wrong — was my inability to squeeze the toothpaste tube with my left hand one morning. Of course, there were earlier hints of trouble. I was unusually tired while attending a business conference. On the flight home from that conference, I felt spacey — there’s no other way to describe it. Another time, I accidentally drove through a red light because my peripheral vision suddenly narrowed and I failed to see the traffic signal to my right.
My wife made fun of me for complaining my legs were getting tired after only a couple of runs down an easy ski slope. One day she accidentally tapped my left foot and it began to shake. It was clonus, another MS symptom. I didn’t know that, but my wife, a physical therapist, did.
I saw a doctor, and when she tapped my left knee with a rubber reflex hammer, my leg shot out so fast and far that I kicked her in the stomach. But it was my weak left hand that bothered me the most. I knew, after trying to ignore things, that I wouldn’t be able to squeeze this toothpaste back into the tube. That was in 1979. I was diagnosed in August 1980.
A lot of symptoms on my chart
Since my diagnosis, I’ve lived with a medical chart full of symptoms, as most of us do. The most debilitating has been my left foot drop and my general leg weakness. It’s hard to walk more than about 100 steps, even using two canes and a Bioness L300 Go functional electronic stimulator. Other symptoms include fatigue, heat sensitivity, spasticity, restless legs in bed, and bowel and bladder problems. Oh, of course, there’s also “cog fog.” I almost forgot.
My bladder and bowels have improved over the past few years, as has my fatigue. My vision problem only occurred that one time, and my weak left hand returned to normal after my first infusion of the steroid Solu-Medrol (methylprednisolone sodium succinate).
Your symptoms may vary
I’m revisiting these symptoms because of a project recently started by my friend and former MS News Today columnist Laura Kolaczkowski. Laura has begun producing the podcast “MS Diagnosis Journey.” It’s a series of short chats with people with MS about how they discovered their illness, the diagnostic tests they took, their experience with neurologists, and the like. It’s all information that’s likely to be especially interesting and useful to MS “newbies.” The podcast can be found on all the major podcast platforms, or you can search “MS Diagnosis Journey podcast” to listen via a website. I expect my interview to be available on May 12.
I also just discovered an A to Z listing of MS symptoms in the latest issue of Momentum, the National MS Society’s magazine and blog. The story includes 23 symptoms, such as fatigue, the “MS hug,” and kissing issues. (The letters X, Y, and Z are rolled into a “ways to live well” lump.) It’s an interesting read.
What were your first MS symptoms and when did you notice them? Please share in the comments below. You’re also invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.