Friday 30 November 2018

moodswing indigo

I started writing this while having Tysabri infusion number 16.

As part of each treatment the MS Nurses have to ask a series of standard questions. Are you allergic to anything. Have you had any infections, cold/flu symptoms, that kind of thing.

One question always provides an opportunity for hilarity: how has your mood been?  

Oh I'm as up and down / miserable as ever. Chortle.

This is because the delightful PML brain infection (Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, sprung from the JC virus) can cause personality change as one of it's first symptoms.

And due to Tysabri's efficiency in stamping on any foreign agents in the Central Nervous System (including the body's own immune system), once it takes hold PML can lead to severe neurological disabilities and - TA-DAAAH! - death. Marvellous.

The Nurse recently told me a story about another MS patient. He was known to be miserable, antagonistic and aggressive to his family and his care team. A proper arsehole.

After a few months on Tysabri he became noticeably more cheerful. He started being more pleasant to live with, stopped picking fights, laughed easily.

The nurses noticed this, became concerned and sent him for an MRI scan which showed the early stages of PML.

Luckily they caught it in time. I wonder how he is now?

Thursday 29 November 2018

the (work) conversation

When I was first diagnosed with MS I was working in a theatre. I tried to keep it on the DL but made sure that the colleagues I worked with every day knew what was going on.

The following year I had a couple of freelance roles. And in each organisation I made sure that I had The Conversation and at least one person knew about my condition.

After that I got my job at my most recent employer. I had The Conversation and told my boss (on the first day!) that I had MS. I was able to keep this fairly hush-hush until I had two relapses in the course of a couple of months. The large amount of time off meant that I couldn't really hide it any more.

So my employment history pretty much consists of a series of 'comings out'. And for the last few years - as my invisible disability has got more visible - I've been pretty much out.

As a member of the CULTURAL ELITE, the people I've worked with have stayed fairly constant - we all might've moved from organisation to organisation but the faces tend to stay the same.

So when I had the interview for my current short term contract, I was able to discuss my health openly, as I knew two of the people in the panel fairly well. Not to say what I couldn't do, but focusing instead on what I can do and do well.

My role offers a level of home working and on the whole it has been good so far. Even so, when I've gone into work, I've found waking up, washing, breakfasting, dressing and travelling to an office for the first time in two years utterly banjaxing.

I recently needed to have a variation of The Conversation with my line manager - the "I know this is part of the advertised role, and we skirted around it in the interview, but the thought of doing it is making me ill and I can't do it and I don't want to".

Y'know, the one where you feel like a complete liability and a dead weight.

I've said it before - and admittedly I've been burned by it before - but people working in arts and culture can be bloody lovely. When I told my line manager that I hated feeling like I was letting her down she said that she hated the fact I had to deal with these issues. Her understanding, and her comment that everybody really appreciated everything I was bringing to the project, was like a load off my mind.

Further proof that I was settling in came later that day. I'd left the office and said goodbye to two other freelancers working alongside me. I nipped to the loo and when I came out, one of them said "are you still here?!"

Then she darted off, saying "I'll race you to the lift!"

Cheeky sod.

Truly I have found my people. Again.