'Invasion' tells story of challenge and support

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'Invasion' tells story of challenge and support

DAVID LAUDERDALE<br>Packet columnist
Published Monday, October 16, 2006 in The Island Packet  |  736 Words  |  /IslandPacket/editorial/col/seaf

Thanks to Bob Hunter of Sun City Hilton Head for sharing his essay on a personal battle, which he calls "The Invasion."'
Bob is a member of the Sunscribers writing group at Sun City, and club president David Kerins encouraged him to share his essay with The Island Packet.'
"It's a brief glimpse into my life as I battle against multiple sclerosis -- my challenges, my good fortune and the loving care of my wife," Bob said. "It's also the story of many people with other challenges and the support we all receive from our partners and neighbors in the Sun City community.'
"The Packet has run other stories about people with MS and their support systems, which I appreciate. I hope this story can add to awareness of the disease."'
Following is Bob Hunter's essay:'
The Invasion'
Doris, sunglasses propped on her red hair, smiles at me from her craggy perch above a trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This picture, taken soon after we met in 1991, brings back memories of many such hikes with picnic stops beside waterfalls. She looks happy and relaxed, anticipating more walks that we would enjoy over the next several years.'
But, an invader hides beyond the horizon.'
Now, my wife must walk with others. The only times I walk unassisted are during my dreams from my bed in our Sun City home.'
How long had this alien, multiple sclerosis, been lurking in my body before the diagnosis in 1995? For several years orthopedists and physical therapists had treated my left leg and hip pain.'
Finally, and fortuitously, I casually mentioned to the orthopedist that it was difficult to clip my fingernails. Feeling between my left thumb and index finger, Dr. Van Herpe noted atrophy.'
"You need to see a neurologist," he said.'
Clipping my nails is but a little harder now -- a blip on the radar screen of life with MS.'
Did my January 2000 open-heart surgery weaken my body's ability to repel the next MS assault? During my daily walk a year later, a spasm wrenched my "good" right leg; I almost fell. My heart sank. I asked myself, "Is this leg under attack?" Sure enough, my strong, right leg was growing weaker.'
MRI reports, revealing new lesions in my brain and spine, measure MS's invasive progress. I read these offending words and then hide them away in the filing cabinet. Yet, it is impossible to ignore the relentless decline in my balance, coordination and walking.'
Thankfully, I've avoided some MS symptoms. My vision is fine, my optic nerves are undamaged, and I have minimal pain and numbness.'
While MS can't be cured yet, it can be combated with a combination of weapons.'
My arsenal includes a drug to slow the disease progression, a healthy diet, carefully selected supplements, physical therapy and an exercise program, coupled with determination and perseverance. Most days I perform some physical exercise -- stretching, balance, strengthening or water walking. Games and puzzles exercise my brain.'
Doris and I have also acquired other weapons for the battle. The first was a cane, then a rolling walker with a cargo basket and seat, and a shower bench. Hand controls allow me to continue to drive my car.'
A computer and the Internet highway bring the world to me. They also arm me with a way to express myself on many issues like stem cell research. This, with its potential for better treatments or even a cure, could become a powerful ally.'
Doris and I are now well located in Sun City Hilton Head. With its activities and amenities (including accessible pools) and caring people, it is a good place for those of us with MS and our partners to live a full life as we all resist this invader. I assume the community also serves the needs of its residents battling against other assaults.'
My wife has been my greatest ally throughout this invasion. Her love, encouragement, understanding and support continually sustain me as we battle our enemy. Yet, as I look back at her smiling face in that 1991 picture I have to ask myself, "How long can we hold our current position?"