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  • Helen Lee

My mini Twin Towers MS moment


Imagine, if you will, that all too familiar scene: an interminably long queue at the Post Office, the very sight of which instantly drains the will to live the moment one claps eyes on it. So, we shuffled along in reverent silence, in that quintessentially English way. I swear the speed at which we were advancing would have tested the patience of most snails. Indeed, I’m tempted to say it seemed to be taking almost as long as it’s taking researchers to come up with a cure for my MS! Anyway, right now, my greatest concern was whether my MS enfeebled legs would be up to the job of getting me to a Nirvana closer to hand, the post office counter. Actually, I was doing pretty well, inching along, slowly but surely, very happy with the ability I’d retained to stay upright without the aid of any prop. Now the counter was just ahead. I was next. Joy of flipping joys. But wait. I’d forgotten one of the ineluctable laws of time and space, namely, that when you're in a queue and the next to be served, time stands still and so do you - for what feels like half an eternity. So, I had plenty of time to look around and study the next few centimetres of my latest vista. I was sandwiched between two display towers of celebration cards. Plenty to celebrate I mused, not least the prospect of getting out of here, soon. I peered over to look more closely at the cards. Then, all of a sudden whoooooops. I was losing my balance. In my desperate struggle to halt my downward plunge, my arms started to flail, involuntarily, whirring wildly and pirouetting like an out-of-control helicopter. As I lurched backwards and forwards, my flailing, outstretched hands hit both greeting card towers simultaneously, causing them to momentarily totter, then promptly keel over with an almighty clatter. Cellophane covered cards, by the gross, were suddenly disgorged skywards in an Agincourt style fusillade and ended up scattered across both aisles, like fallen soldiers, their bodies part buried under the two towers. The explosion of display items and my body parts hitting the deck was very sudden and, in its own little way, so spectacular and that it rendered that section of the Post Office into something like a battlefield, strewn as it was with fallen celebration cards. Happily, neither the combatant herself nor the innocent bystanders had sustained any injury. But there I now was, flat on my back, in front of the counter, with one of the card displays beneath me. My immediate thought was, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to get out of here PDQ’. But then, with what I guess must have been a mix of shock, relief and my sometimes bizarre sense of humour, I suddenly found it all funny. Very, very funny. I began to chortle to myself, in a quiet subdued sort of way, at first trying as best I could to contain what was rapidly building up to a full, diaphragm propelled crescendo of guffaws. But to no avail, as an unstoppable tide of laughter enveloped me. I shrieked and howled with laughter. As soon as I could summon up enough self-control, I looked around to survey the scene and was met by a sea of scrunched up faces. But these weren’t faces taut with laughter but, rather, communicating disapproval and disgust as became clear when I was able to discern some of the murmuring and censorious shaking of heads which then took hold. “Tutt tutt, too much Prosecco and so early in the day. What is the world coming to?” caught my ear, as did other admonishments. At the more understanding and concerned end of the invective was talk of menopausal women. Not a single hand was extended to help me back onto my feet, nor did anybody ask if I was okay. I swear that if that throng had been given an instant vote, they’d have unhesitatingly been in favour of bringing back the death penalty. Stiil on the floor I pleaded my innocence, putting the blame on MS, but it cut absolutely no ice. Thinking about it later, I guess my MS protestations weren’t believed because I looked normal. I’m certain many, many people with MS share that same yoke that unless you’re using mobility aids such as sticks, a frame, or a wheelchair, then all must be normal - when it’s anything but. Although I got to my feet, finished my business at the counter as quickly as I could and hot footed it out of there, my gait was manifestly all over the place, not because I’d been imbibing, but due to my MS. I was physically okay, but emotionally battered and bruised. This was a deeply unsettling mile post on my MS journey. Firstly, the episode finally forced me to admit to myself that, for my own safety, self-preservation and wellbeing, I needed to use a stick to maintain my balance. That bit was and is as plain as a pikestaff. Far less obvious to non MS readers, however, was the realisation that I also needed to develop a mini lexicon of ripostes and quips which, with altogether sharp reflexes, can be quick fire deployed to counter the general public’s ire about what they think are drunken people in public places. Those in the MS community will know only too well what I'm talking about! Needless to say, I’ve never been back to that particular post office since.

Jenny Ferguson (Secondary Progressive MS)


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Edited by Nigel Bartram and illustrated by Olga Hendel