Sunday, 18 May 2014

MS and me

It was a strange event, I was intrigued, my dad had come to visit me in junior school.  I was ushered out of the class and went down to the gymnasium where he was stood there waiting for me in his naval uniform.  It was quite a mystery why he had come to visit, the feeling I had was akin to creeping downstairs on Christmas morning, full of excitement.  Dad's face was serious, but I was too young to be fearful of stern faces about to deliver bad news, and in any event, I wasn't going to understand the news.  Dad had come to tell me that he and mum were getting divorced.  I didn't really know what that meant so I was quite excited when I returned to class and shared the news with my friends.

For a time, not much really changed, as dad was away at sea most of the time and I was at school I didn't see him as I was growing up, although it did begin to settle in and I began to despise my father.  Mum did a terrific job of bringing us up, she worked hard and my sister and I had lots of laughter and love.  Obviously funds were a little tighter than they had been, but I don't recall ever missing out on anything.  But at school I was teased for not having the latest trainers or the coolest sports top.  I struggled with that quite a lot and didn't handle the teasing in the best way, which just made things worse.  I guess as children we can be cruel sometimes and what we couldn't appreciate is that events at home were taking their toll, but it's easy to look back now and say we'd have done things differently.

Fast forward several years and my mum and dad had got back together and things were looking up and starting to feel settled.  Life felt good.

I remember the Saturday morning very clearly, mum, dad and I were going to head in to town for a shopping trip.  I was excited about the prospect of shopping for the latest trainers, but it was more important than that, it was an iconic moment that showed the Lashmars were back and I was bursting with joy.  I was sat in the living room watching television whilst mum and dad were in the kitchen, a few hours before our trip. And then it started.....

I froze to begin with, the noise was eerie and scared me, an inhuman wailing, like a wild animal was in the house and I was terrified, rooted to the spot.  Seconds seemed to last forever as the noise continued filling my young body with gut wrenching fear.  From somewhere I managed to summon up the courage to head to the kitchen to find out what was going on, by then mum was screaming and a huge part of me didn't want to know what was going on, but I was about to find out.

Dad was writhing on the floor, it was entirely unnatural, his face which was contorted in a way that scared me as he wailed and groaned, it was like he was possessed.  Mum was in a state of panic, but was in control, she was trying to force her hand into dad's mouth to stop him biting his tongue as he fitted, she instructed me to get help from our friends who lived nearby.  The rest is a bit of a blur, I'm not sure if I or our friends called for an ambulance, I do remember running as fast as I could in my socks to their house to get help, but not much else.

What I didn't realise at the time, but I do now, was that this was a seminal moment in dad's battle with multiple sclerosis ("MS").  I don't think I was even aware of his illness before then, he was still working in the Royal Navy and appeared to function normally, but this was the beginning of our MS story for me.  If you think of your nervous system as a vast swathe of electrical cables, insulated to ensure the signal gets from one place to the next, then MS somehow causes your immune system to attack the cables, disrupting the signals that are sent.  Dad had progressive MS, but not only was it affecting his nervous system, it was affecting his brain too, hence the fit.

From then on life for dad progressively got more difficult, he struggled to walk and eventually couldn't, lost feeling in his hands, struggled to swallow and more beside.  As he had it in the brain too it impacted everything from mood to memory and it was sad to see decline in the once sharp mind that propelled him such a long way from joining the Royal Navy as a school leaver to an officer charged with looking after weapons communication systems that were highly complex.

As a teenager I struggled to come to terms with MS, but perhaps that's a story for another blog.  Instead, now is time to focus on my fight with MS (and cystic fibrosis), and by taking on Land's End to John O'Groats there is a focal point that may help us raise funds to fund those clever boffin scientists to develop a cure for these diseases, because it's high time we gave them the heave-ho!  So if you haven't yet, I invite you to join me in our efforts.  Thank-you.

Training Update
This weekend was 100 miles, the first was a very hilly 60 mile route across the South Downs with Chris Moody, some beautiful vistas across the rolling countryside made the climbs worthwhile with some amazing weather to boot.  I must admit I struggled with the hills, it was definitely a mistake to miss out on my brekkie as I was short of calories.  Chris is a seasoned hill climbing cyclist, so I'm lucky he was patient with me and waited several times for me to catch up!  It just shows that with only 2 months to go there is plenty of scope for improvement and many small challenges ahead of the big ride itself!  Here's the ride from Strava:

And last but not least, some pics from my Jurassic Beast Sportive last weekend: