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Off the rails


by Rachel Coffey-Brittain

I started following the OMS (Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis) diet and lifestyle a year after my MS diagnosis and after being ‘retired’ from work. Why hadn’t I discovered it earlier? The scientific evidence was there, the lifestyle made sense and I’d been doing my best to follow it for about a year. Having met several other OMSers through the internet forum in a virtual sense, a real face to face meeting was planned for us ‘northerners’ to get together and swap stories and ideas. I’d been following OMS for a year by this time but it still felt new and not a complete lifestyle change so it would be good to meet 5 other OMSers at Dunham Massey in Cheshire for a chat and maybe a walk. (Scoot in my case).

So the exciting day dawned, I was off in my usual gung ho fashion. Dear hubby dropped me at the train station and I walked the distance to the platform (which of course is always one of the furthest away). Manageable with one crutch taking it slow and steady, avoiding those people staring at the ‘drunk’ person walking funny.

The train arrived and I’d hauled myself up the step to the carriage door when disaster struck. My elbow crutch decided to succumb to the laws of gravity and not stay on my arm. It found the path of least resistance down in between the carriage and the platform. I could only watch in despair.

So, ‘what to do now?’. I hailed the nearest station employee and explained my predicament. In typical Yorkshire mode there was some commiserating and I was explained the procedure for retrieving said errant crutch. Apparently things fall down there a lot: shoes, umbrellas, handbags … They would need to look at the train schedule and close the track to retrieve it safely. This could be in the next 15 minutes, or in an hour. I could wait and get one of the next trains as they were frequent, every 15 minutes or so.

Hmm, decisions, decisions … I was being met at Stockport by one of the group who was then driving to Dunham Massey. I needed to change at Manchester … If I was late getting there, when would the next connection to Stockport be? In my ‘gung ho’, ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ optimism, I made a quick decision to say goodbye to my crutch and travel on ahead without it.

Thanks be to modern technology and mobile phones! I called Catriona (my lift,) who could lend me a cane at her end, as she no longer really uses it, thanks to OMS (it works). Not as good with a cane as an elbow crutch but I’d manage … Just needed to play it by ear, wing it, at Manchester. An hour to worry about it, or simply take the time to meditate (my least well adhered to OMS aspect). I’ve always liked the saying: if a problem has a solution why worry? If there isn’t a solution there’s no point worrying (or something like that)!

So meditate it was. An hour later in we came to Manchester. Where did my next train go from? I staggered off the train, “sans crutch” and fortunately my next train departed from the opposite platform, only a short stagger away. Time to find a seat and plan my journey via handholds and supports to the next train.

All good, and the short train journey to Stockport went smoothly. As I descended from the train at Stockport I obviously looked a little bewildered and unsteady. A kindly station employee offered me a hand for support and we walked slowly to the car park exit - nothing moves fast anymore.

Catriona met me, the spare cane was offered and we were on our way! At Dunham Massey I had booked a scooter, thinking we might explore the grounds. But no, once we had gathered and sampled the coffee shop, soya milk pre-ordered, there we stayed sharing stories and strategies for Overcoming MS. It was a breath of fresh air to chat to other OMSers and not receive blank stares, or pitying looks when explaining why I now eat the way I do. And what’s more, these people also believed that their health and symptoms would improve with some effort and application on their part. In fact, some people’s already had. What further encouragement did we need?

The time went all too quickly and I soon had to reverse my journey and hope to be reunited with my elbow crutch at the end of it. Hubby, following a text, would meet me from the train and bring the wheelchair to make life easier.

My elbow crutch had been retrieved and we were reunited at Leeds and, although we’d both experienced our own adventure that day, mine was undoubtedly more fun and inspirational.

Rachel Coffey-Brittain (Secondary Progressive MSer)


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Edited by Nigel Bartram and illustrated by Olga Hendel