Mom has developed trouble with a symptom called spasticity in her legs. I don’t exactly understand what it is or means. The only thing I do know is Sister K and I like to do a funny accent to make Mom laugh and say “spaaasticity.” I did some scholarly research which amounted to googling and found this at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. I don’t know much about spasticity but I know when Mom is having issues with it she describes it as tightening and occasional feelings of shocks sent through her legs.
I think her use of the word “shocks” is interesting because it is also a good word to describe how I feel about this too. Shock because MS and the symptoms that come along with it are never ending. Everything I read, everyone I talk to has a new one that I never knew existed. No two people experience it the exact same way. Personally, I hate this part of this disease. I think it makes coping with it more difficult because there is no way to predict what will or won’t happen to Mom. There is no direct path of what usually happens or which symptoms usually occur. There are some symptoms Mom doesn’t have and others she has had for awhile. Will other symptoms surface later or is this as bad as it could get? All these questions make researching and reading scary too. It makes it scary because sometimes I enjoy living in the “dark” on big issues like this. So I struggle. I struggle because people tell me to do the research and get informed. I struggle with how to find a balance between the known and the unknown. One of which is scarier for me than the other.
One thing I can do though is try to understand. When mom talks to me at lunchtime and starts opening up about how she is feeling on a particular day I ask questions. I try not to ask general/basic questions but specific questions. What does that feel like, describe it to me, does it hurt, etc. I am finding that by asking her these it is also getting her to talk about her MS and giving her a way to vent about it. It is also making me more aware of what is affecting her. I used to be inclined to think she was exaggerating things or making them sound worse. I had a tendency to brush off her comments about not feeling well and change the subject. I am not proud of that but if I am going to be honest it is true. In trying harder to understand the specifics of Mom’s symptoms I hope to be able to help her through them better.
A few weeks ago when Mom was visiting we were hanging out at Sister K’s apartment and her lower back was really hurting. In the past I might have just brushed this off but I really sat and listened and thought of ways to help. I remembered my chiropractor is always telling me to use ice- 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. So I got up and headed to the fridge where I found a frozen bag of vegetables I knew full well would never be used by Sister K. So I came back and put the ice behind Mom’s back as she sat on the couch. For the rest of the evening while I was there I was taking it on and off to help her. She later said it really helped and she felt so much better. It made me feel good because I knew I had made a difference in helping to ease her feelings of pain for an evening.
I can’t help all the time but if I can every once in awhile it will make a big difference in helping not only Mom but also helping me not feel so helpless in our fight against MS.