By Jeff Berger
Ten years ago, I woke up to find my right hand was asleep, but then it just would not wake up. This was the beginning of a walk-through hell. Doctors and tests and more tests. Words tossed around, like multiple sclerosis, cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and prognoses that would send shivers through any poor soul. As each week passed, I would have another appendage affected: left hand, right foot, left foot, lower torso and then upper torso. The pain was 24/7 and a twelve on a ten-point scale. No sleep and no answers, just fear of the unknown.
On April 8th, my body in its weakened state finally gave up and I passed away. I was revived and taken to a hospital where they finally discovered by an MRI that I had a lesion at the level of C2, and I finally had a diagnosis, transverse myelitis (TM). But what the heck is that?
I spent the next five weeks in the hospital and rehab. Initially I heard that I might not be able to walk again, but I resolved to prove them wrong. I had to learn how to walk again with no feeling in my feet. I had to learn how to use my hands again by using my eyesight to replace the feeling that I had lost in my hands. I progressed from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane and finally independent walking… but this took place over years. I wore an attitude that I could not just accept the status quo, I had to fight with every fiber of my being to maximize my remaining skills and learn how to appreciate each day and find joy rather than sadness over the “what ifs.”
It is now ten years later, and there is not a day that has gone by that pain has not been my constant companion. But… I have a full life. I can work out in my shop creating tables, bird houses and other projects, (currently working on building a 5-level cat tree). I can do the grocery shopping and clean the house. My wife and I have driven cross country three times and traveled to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and many other points on the map.
I consider myself to be the luckiest guy in the world. My point of writing is not to minimize the horrible after-effects of TM but to express to all who suffer that you can never give up, you have to stay positive and believe. It may not be perfect, it may not be how you envisioned life, but it is your life. Treasure life, and you may just surprise yourself, as well as the doctors. I send this message to all who are affected by these various neuroimmune diseases: I wish you peace, health and good miles before you.