Someone in My Family Has Medical Problems, and It Ain’t Me

Columnist John Connor offers something completely different. Or does he?

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by John Connor |

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You get used to …

Hold on there, matey boy. Be honest and write “I.” This column has a reputation for brutal honesty (I’m sure someone has referred to it that way over the past five years), so don’t get all coy now that you’re not the center of medical attention in the house.

A few years ago, I joined the ranks of the dreaded secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) crowd. It was no surprise that I, er, dreaded it. I continually asked my various neurologists if I was likely to end up this way, as I am now. They all intimated that there was no way of knowing.

Quoting from our very own guide to SPMS linked in the previous paragraph, “Nearly all people with [relapsing-remitting MS] eventually will develop SPMS.” Which they could have told me. Admittedly, I wasn’t as clued up about MS as I should have been — too busy being calm and carrying on, I suppose. Very British of me.

It took me only 10 years rather than the usual 20 to develop SPMS, but then I have highly active MS, an affliction that is more likely to envelop you if MS drops on you in later life.

Highly active MS is profanity now, what with the need of a powered wheelchair, being unable to get in or out of bed on my own, catheters at both ends — I’ll stop the list as it’s depressing. My 49 years without MS, though, were extremely pleasant. Given the choice, I’d still rather have it this way.

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Anyhoo, my point has wandered. What a surprise! Last bit then: So far, the SPMS itself has been extremely restful. I may be in decline, but it’s an imperceptible one. The biggest problem I currently have is all of the ancillary health bureaucracy I have to deal with. And even then, my wife and carer, Jane, deals with a lot of it.

I’ve spent so many years banging on about my MS that it’s difficult to stop. Thankfully, these days, I also get to splurge to you lot. That’s a weight off my family. Except when I think I’ve penned a blinder and ask them to read it. If I get a grudging, “It’s all right,” I know I’ve done good. At least it held their attention until the end.

Back to the point

Now, I first inquire about how the person in question is feeling. I discuss their health. I offer to help in any limited way I can.

For the first time since I was initially struck down — and I truly was; my shoulder was wrecked by a fall on a tennis court, followed by three years of excruciating pain — by a sclerosis in 2006, I no longer think about my ailments first. For the moment, they’re actually under control.

I’m stepping out of meself here. (Hey, I can do that psychically, according to the origin story of Marvel’s “Dr. Strange.”) Sixteen years of strain on my family has obviously been enormous. You may well be a better person than I (it ain’t difficult), but MS is all-encompassing. If you’re self-absorbed to start with — oh dear, never mind. It’s a well-known fault of stand-up comics to constantly bang on about their careers. The few that take this too far get hilariously mocked by the other stand-ups when they’re not in the room. I have become the same way about MS.

I’ve tried to fight it off by working at what I can — producing comedy and journalism here at Multiple Sclerosis News Today — as it focuses the mind on something else. Surprisingly, in these moments, I no longer feel disabled. Like while writing this very sentence, for example, I’m lost in the reverie of composition.

So let’s finish off with an attempt at a joke.

How many billionaires and MS patients does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. Someone else always does it for them.

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.


Wendy Hovey avatar

Wendy Hovey

I got a little lost here. Is Jane OK?

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Yup, but I'll pass on your concern Wendy. She'll be touched. x

Laurie Warner avatar

Laurie Warner

Love your writing! I look forward to it. The ending joke was hilarious!

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Ta. Bit out of practice.

Juan avatar


Hello John, I am also John and I wrote to you from Valencia (Spain). Neither her wife has been affected by SPMS for 12 years, so we both "live" with her. We follow your witty columns and I want to thank you. We understand very well what you are talking about. Thank you so much for bringing some good humor into our lives! Your optimism is smart and contagious.
Good luck and may the force be with you!

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Love a Star Trek reference.



loved your joke and it is so true ....ahhahhahha....i do agree if we keep ourselves busy doing anything that can keep the mind centered on it to get it done or what ever it is ,i truly agree i forget that i have it also...feels great to not think about it or it isn't the one getting the attention for a minute or your post it makes me feel so good and of course get some education also ...great going and i want you to stay busy so it doesn't get any to you and your wife for you work together to try to keep you going ...take care and keep enjoying life...

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Neither of us enjoy life with MS. Humour is hard wired into both of us - we even met in the UK's leading comedy club!


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