• Clare McKenzie

My MS wonky MS walks

My name is Clare and I live in Burnham-on-Crouch, in the UK, with my partner, Gary, plus cat Cosmo.

I hope you enjoy my romp through some of many humorous moments my MS has gifted me and that these ramblings raise a smile or twenty. I need to start on a somber note though: namely the suicide of my elder brother aged 43. Ian had suffered from MS from the age of 26 and I dedicate this story to his memory, in the hope it may make a difference to other MSers lives and avoid anybody else going down the same tragic path that he did. In my family, illness was never allowed to be out in the open full stop nor was the MS support landscape as developed as, mercifully, it is today. The result was that my poor, poor brother got too little by way of psychological help and fell into and struggled with severe, clinical depression for almost 20 years, from which he never emerged.

As you might expect, my brother’s tragic experience seared me, especially when I too was diagnosed with MS, but not in the way you might think. I became acutely aware of the need to be very open about it and to search out and accept all the help on offer. I strive to continue living life to the full, avoid getting down about what I’ve lost and, most of all, I have a jolly good laugh about the curveballs MS sometimes throws at me. I was absolutely delighted and gung-ho to support Nigel when I heard of his plans for a funny book about MS. So, to my funny stuff.

I used to and still do love walking. Happily, I’m still a 20,000 steps a day person, despite my Relapsing, Remitting MS (RRMS), but my perambulations haven’t been without their moments, some with quite hilarious consequences, well in retrospect at least. As a child, my nickname was Clare Elaine Dizzy Brain. It was only some years later I would realise there was indeed some truth in this moniker, never more so than when MS began to sneak up on me, years before it was diagnosed. I have been tripping up for 20 years or more, with all manner of chaps gazing down at me and picking me up on London streets (sorry I should say picking me off London streets, lest you run off with the wrong idea!).

The first mishap was leaving Chancery Lane tube station, when splat, I ‘face-planted’ on the pavement, to be rescued by a rather dishy 'lawyer-type'. Every cloud! Shame we hadn't met in different circumstances, where he could have swept me off my feet, rather than me doing it in such an ungainly if not pitiful way.

On the next occasion, or more precisely, upending I managed to stop traffic on a very busy road in the heart of the City by falling flat on my face in the middle of the street. Sitting in a momentary daze, with the traffic rushing past me, I thought there I go again, me and my jelly legs. Fortunately, a colleague was by my side and hauled me back to my feet. All very embarrassing but I had the good sense to laugh it off with my colleague and scuttled to catch my train at Liverpool Street Station.

My next tumble was anything but third time lucky. On a very wet evening I was making my way home, in the rush hour, when I somehow lost my footing as I was approaching London Bridge Station. Being by now accustomed to plunging involuntarily earthwards, I think my brain had tried to develop a new coping mechanism, not to say capability. The result was nothing short of the standard of Olympic gold medal ice dance winners, Torvil and Dean. I elegantly glided, bolt upright, across the train station underpass. Unfortunately, the all too brief sense of wonderment came to brutal end. Although I may have had a tad of those spellbindingly beautiful champions’ straight-line elegance, with the added flourish of my arms impersonating a windmill on steroids, I singularly lacked their, or indeed any, ability to stop. Result? I slid and audibly clattered into an Evening Standard news stand display board.

The place was jam packed with commuters, all nose to home so, as you may imagine, inevitably there was collateral human damage. I took a few, hapless travellers down with me. Poor things fell to the ground like flailing dominos. The newspaper vendor (a sadly extinct species nowadays) was shaken to his core but gathered his wits enough to rescue his scattered papers, leaving me to fall, spread eagled to the ground, with a splat. I was truly a novice skater after all. Luckily for me, a lovely City gent picked me up from the ground, offering me his hand and checking I was okay. Happily I was. As it was a unanimous ‘Nil Points’ for stylistic interpretation, I resisted the temptation to take a bow and scurried off into the crowd!

Although I could near fill Nigel’s book with my MS (un)inspired public falls without grace, I’ll finish with a touch of class, well except it was anything but. I was out showing friends the sites of London, on foot (till the end anyway). We had walked from Lancaster Gate, through Hyde Park, all the way up to Piccadilly and I was beginning to flag. As an aside, in case you don’t know London, although we’d walked a fair stretch I remember thinking to myself at the time, why am I tired, when not that many years before I’d walked and romped home in fine style in a night marathon? I now know MS fatigue was the reason.

Anyway, one of my feet went on strike, as it so often does with MS. With no warning, it suddenly stuck to the floor when the gait position should have had seen the foot rising skywards, to form the next step. It was as though some prankster had smeared the pavement with Super Glue. Result? My body suddenly and involuntarily plunged forward. In a reflex effort to avoid falling, I managed to do a hop, skip and a jump along Piccadilly, (Jonathan Edwards couldn’t have done better,) launching myself quite stylishly, in the direction of the Ritz. But my MS has no shame, or sense of occasion and unceremoniously laid me to rest, face-down on the tarmac, staring up at that byword for style and elegance, when I was anything but. What was a girl to do? I’m pretty brass necked when I choose to be, but not even I could summon up the wherewithal to enter those hallowed portals. When I say wherewithal I mean grubby money. But for the lack of that I could have waltzed through the revolving doors. On reflection, perhaps not exactly waltzed and coping with revolving doors ………?. As it was, I managed to get to an altogether more prosaic watering hole for a swift drink, for medicinal purposes you understand. Plus a spot of lunch.

Looking back on all these incidents now, I guess I was very lucky to escape with just a few bruises and a bit of dented pride. Happily, it's the hilarity, not the potential harm that I could have come to, which sticks in my memory. As it needs to be!

Clare McKenzie

Relapsing Remitting MS

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