When Symptoms Subside

As I mentioned in one of my recent videos over on my YouTube channel, I haven't had an exacerbation in a while. At least, not one that has resulted in obvious symptoms of MS. I'm phrasing things carefully here because multiple sclerosis can be a trickster, with pseudoexacerbations seeming anything but pseudo and very minor symptoms actually being indicators of full-blown exacerbations. At least in my experience.

These months without new symptoms have been both great and filled with dread, leading me to think that there are two main ways that I've been thinking about this period of relative smooth sailing in the sea of MS -- and the two ways are mirror opposites of each other.

The first I call "the earthquake model," and it goes something like this: Because there hasn't been a problem, then something big must be building up. No minor quakes means that it's easy to get complacent. But the big one is surely coming, and it's going to be a huge seismic event. This model, by the way, is informed almost entirely by fear.

The second I call "the cure for cancer model," and it runs something like this: The longer it is that the disease lies dormant, the better it is. The longer I go without any flareups, the more dormant the disease must be and the more likely it must be that it's never coming back. My friend C struggled with breast cancer a few years back, and the cancer worked like this for her: two years after chemo she was worried, but five years out things were looking much more like she'd beaten it. And this model, by the way, is informed almost entirely by hope.


From everything I know about MS, neither model makes sense. MS doesn't build up in your system and then suddenly erupt one day, with more "pressure" building up over time. And MS also never fully goes away, as the two main characteristics of MS -- a breached blood-brain-barrier and an immune system that likes to eat the central nervous system -- don't suddenly vanish. And yet, these two models (and ways of thinking) continue to compete within me as I wander through daily life, going a day ... and then another day ... and then another without a flare up. Today could be the last. Or tomorrow. And so on.

As I said, these two models are informed by the counter valencies of fear and hope. Those are strong feelings, drives, and motivations. I suppose where I want to get, as I move along with MS, is to a place where neither the fear nor the hope are overpowering. Instead, I hope to be just calmly moving forward, accepting whatever is when it is.

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