• Brian

When You Get the News

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

Strange thing, that meeting with the doctor. He had just watched my wife walk up and down the hallway and what we thought was a bad knee was apparently something far worse. "You're holding your arm like a stroke victim," he said. "This is not a physical condition, this is neurological." That bit of information - life-altering as it was - was delivered a bit too nonchalantly. I appreciate calm, but this was somewhat cold. A sprinkle of compassion would have been appreciated, though, to the doctor, I'm sure it was just Monday or Tuesday morning. Another diagnosis. Another round of bad news to deliver to patients fearing the worst.

"You're holding your arm like a stroke victim," he said. "This is not a physical condition, this is neurological."

My mind began to race. ALS? MS? Some other abbreviated condition that I didn't know? He coolly handed a box of tissue to my wife and gave us the next steps: spinal tap and a brain scan. Then the wait. Are we talking about a debilitating disease or are we now on the clock? Am I purchasing a wheelchair or planning a funeral? We just bought a house with a lot of stairs - now what? Each question seemed more ridiculous than the last and we would have several weeks to think of many more before the final diagnosis. At that moment we didn't know what it was or what it ultimately meant but one thing was clear - our lives were no longer our own. We would be sharing them with this condition that showed up uninvited

When the diagnosis of MS came back I was strangely relieved. At least it wasn't ALS. That was my biggest fear and it was ruled out. Then we had to come to grips with Multiple Sclerosis. I really didn't know what to do besides try to reassure my wife. It wasn't a death sentence. Life would go on. Sure, MS is a degenerative disorder, but we didn't know the rate of degeneration. Writing this four years later, that rate has been faster than either of us anticipated, but here we are. Looking back, I'm not sure I would have done anything differently. After all, the impact that day was simply news. My wife was still working, still driving, still 100% independent. It would be several years before those things were stripped away. I suppose that is a major difference from someone losing those abilities overnight due to a car accident for instance. Getting the news from the doctor that you'll never walk again. Yesterday you walked, now you don't. That is certainly a different kind of horror movie.

In any case, words like that from a doctor provide immediate perspective. Things that you previously thought were important simply…aren't. A life-altering, health-related crisis narrows your focus. There's no longer room for trivial matters. No time for the mundane. You find yourself emotionally bankrupt, unable to invest in normal family related challenges which now seem laughable in retrospect. Good or bad, that's what happens.

I would love to hear how all of you dealt with your news. How did you react? What are your stories? Leave a comment below or post to our Forum.


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