MS newly diagnosed at age 70

Diagnosed at 70; that’s good news!

By Connie from Arkansas

I always knew that if I lived long enough, I would become famous for something! I am the oldest living newly diagnosed person at two different MS clinics. I was diagnosed three years ago at age 70 in Denver, Colorado.

When my first symptoms appeared – slurring words, stumbling gait, and moving in slow motion – a mild stroke was the first suspicion. With this in mind, my family practitioner sent me to the hospital.

After two days of tests, the neurology team came into my room to bring me the grim news. I did not have a stroke. It was multiple sclerosis. I startled them by breathing a sigh of relief and then starting to laugh. I tried to explain that they had just told me that I did not have a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, cancer, or congestive heart failure. I could handle multiple sclerosis!

Suddenly, a lot of physical occurrences over the last thirty to forty years started to make sense. I had experienced the blurred vision, stumbling, periods of extreme fatigue, and one bad episode in 1985 when my right side became numb.

I was fortunate in that I chose dietetics for my major in college, teaching me how to eat healthy foods and to exercise. After a skiing accident, which led to six surgeries and a lot of nuts and bolts in both legs, I started swimming laps and attending water aerobics classes. I truly believe that water aerobics is one of the reasons I am still in relatively good shape at the age of 73. It is a wonderful program for keeping your muscles flexible and keeping you moving without additional stress.

Interestingly, my arms became numb about two months after I stopped taking estrogen tablets. I had read that a woman with MS feels very good when she is pregnant, at which time her estrogen levels are raised. I consulted a doctor friend, and despite information about potential heart problems, I went back on a low dose of estrogen. Within two months, my arms were no longer numb.

As for the memory loss, at my age it is difficult to determine if the memory loss is due to the MS or just old age. Most of my friends have similar problems. I simply buy more yellow stickies! (Also known as “Post-it®,” notes, used to leave little reminders around the house.)

Of course, I do need to prepare for whatever is ahead of me. I purchased a one-level house with no steps anywhere. I have taken doors off, put in sliding doors, hanging pot racks, slide-out shelves, and have generally made the home wheelchair accessible. My theory is, “If I am ready, it won’t happen; if I’m not, it will.”

I relate to Teri Garr, her symptoms, and her outlook; her story has convinced me that I am on the right track. I keep my eye out for new adventures, I keep laughing, I cheer up my friends when they get a sympathetic look, and above all, I surround myself with upbeat people.

I truly feel that in spite of the MS, I am a survivor, and one of the lucky ones! My husband says, “You are easy to live with 98 percent of the time!” I have a doctor who tells me, “You are in really good shape for the shape you are in!” And I have three sons who simply call me, “One tough old broad.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Editor’s note: Connie’s decision to stay on estrogen is based on her own, personal experience; MSAA does not promote any specific drug or treatment; readers are cautioned not to make any changes to their treatment regimens without consulting their physician.

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