Yesterday I rode my bike.
I was injury/illness-free for the first time since 19 March – 52 days ago. I was so relieved – joyously relieved – to be out, free in the fresh air again, that I had to wipe away tears.
All MS patients are different, and have their own variants of the condition, but my experience of these ‘relapses’ runs a pretty consistent pattern. And often, if not always, I go through a period when I feel as though there is no end in sight – and the relapse has become my new ‘normal’. I cease to remember not being tired, and have tears in my eyes for no reason at random times of day. I burn with cabin fever and frustration – and itch at life passing me by.
I write this now, not so much for others to read – but for myself, to re-read in the future when next I feel down – to, hopefully, take optimism and strength from it.
So, to my future me: things will be fine. Toughen up, pal – you will beat this.
I re-visit the following October…
…now I read the words above, but struggle to feel their power.
I’m now on Day 38 of my latest malaise and need to work out a way of ‘believing’ when I most need to.
Right now I feel like a blue badge holder… not much of a professional, father, husband or friend. Let alone an alpine cyclist, laughing with friends as we ‘race’ up little climbs and breathe in the fresh air of new views. These joys feel so removed, so distant from where I now am… I have to learn the techniques of keeping faith. These bi-annual bouts continue to get me down… too much so to be sustainable.
I return to other, older, posts Ive written. Bounce-backability. And Bruno.
When I was just a boy I had to spend some time in Whittington Hospital just before Christmas. To the excitement of the children’s ward, Frank Bruno arrived in full Santa’s attire to distribute presents and send our spirits soaring. A free-standing, inflatable Bruno punch-bag was put up for the great man to demonstrate – and then for the children to emulate. The huge smiling face of Bruno himself adorned the target as child after child took a hit and watched him enthusiastically bounce back upright – again and again. Again and again he’d be hit – but his smile refused to fade. This huge, great big, teethy grin would pop back up for the next child to knock back down.
Pop / bounce / grin / pop / bounce / grin.
I wonder if behind that smile there were tears and pain that we’d never see.
Pop. Then up again. Still smiling.
I look you in the eyes, MS. Still smiling, ready – if need be – to be hit again.