My arm went numb on Sunday. Left arm, right down to the fingertips.
I took it easy at work that night. Luckily, I could still keep the crowd warm enough for the TV show we were recording. Those 40 people crammed into the TVNZ studio had no idea I was on the verge of an MS (Multiple Sclerosis) flare-up.
I wasn’t 100% it was happening either, but this wasn’t my first rodeo. It would be my fifth.
I’ve never been to an actual rodeo, by the way. Not my thing. I’m more of a watch TV kinda guy. Also, I don’t think they even have a rodeo where I live. Because I don’t live in the American South and it’s not 1886. If I do ever attend one I will be sure to tell EVERYONE that it was my first one.
Monday, I woke up fatigued.
Not your household vanilla “fatigue”. I’m talking the heaviness that weighs down your entire body, like you’ve been glued to the floor. Every step feels like you’re dragging a school bus, and you mentally lose your breath with the thought of rolling over. It’s like wading through treacle.
An MS brain sends messages to the body, and every electrical impulse leaks out the gaps in your nerves – caused by your overachieving immune system. It’s like emptying a bathtub with a sieve. It’ll get there, but it’ll take a frustratingly long time.
Rugby commentators talk about the players fatiguing towards the end of the match. Players fall off tackles, and mistakes creep into the game. If the players were truly fatigued, they would be cemented horizontally to the ground. Just lying there, unable to enjoy the thousands they earn every passing moment.
That’s how I spent Monday – minus the money.
I got up, had my MS medication, then went to the couch to have a nap. 3 hours later I woke, had some water, then back to bed for my second well-deserved nap of the day.
To be proactive I went to ED where a series of doctors examined me like a Mazda Demio going for its WOF. They hoisted me up, checked my alignment, kicked my tyres, and determined I was still road worthy, but to add some steroids to my oil if my symptoms got worse. They were thorough and I was happy.
I returned home to rest the week away. My work commitments rescheduled; I could let the fatigue wash over me. Sleep, nap, sleep, nap, repeat.
Fast forward to the next Monday. It was as if the gym trainer had finally looked up from their phone and noticed I had been pinned down by a barbell all week, and overnight they had retuned it to the rack.
I’ve never been to an actual gym, by the way. I was once in a comedy sketch that was filmed in a gym, but there’s no evidence of it because my part got cut. You’ll have to trust me.
My arm is still a little weak but it’s slowly getting better.It’s quite fitting that I’ve had a flareup in the lead up to MS Awareness Week. It’s reminded me to be aware of it, and you should too. Let those people with MS in your life take it easy on the days that they’re struggling, and definitely don’t make them go to the gym or a rodeo.
Sam is a comedian, writer, and author living with low vision and MS. He writes for 7 Days, and Taskmaster among others, and is the audience warm-up act for most NZ television shows.