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Laughter, legs and MS

Hello, every one. I’ll introduce myself to you and then I’ll tell you my story.  I’m Cathy. I’m huge - all of 5 foot - not forgetting half an inch more. My husband James is a well-built six foot two.

Reading this you also need to know a couple of other things. Firstly, as a child I loved and greedily practiced gymnastics and ballet. So I had really good balance.  Secondly, our family; James, our three (now grown up) children and I enjoyed, and thankfully still do, nothing more than a good laugh whenever we were together.

One day in the run-up to Christmas I was shopping in my local town, Staines (Middlesex), with James. We needed to cross a busy road so made our way to the pedestrian island in the middle, along with several other shoppers. By this time, although I could still walk perfectly normally, the as yet unidentified malevolent force which is MS had caused my balance to go to pot. James was holding on to me as he was wont to do because of this chronic lack of balance, ensuring that I didn’t fall into the road. Anyway, there was absolutely nothing unusual or untoward going on but when we were in mid-stream, as it were, waiting to cross to the other side of the High Street, I can’t for the life of me remember what James said to me, more’s the pity, but it made me laugh. 

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Something which I should have said earlier, perhaps, is that when I laugh, oft times it triggers a laughing fit. The more I laugh, the funnier whatever it is that has set me off seems. I end up convulsed, sometimes to the point of near hysteria. Nothing unusual in that you may be thinking, it may well happen to you on occasion. I suppose it must have been something to do with my MS, but by this stage laughter like that would also cause my legs to cease to work. Anything but normal. Even a good chuckle was the trigger for my legs to give out on me.

What a spectacle

Picture the scene: a busy suburban high street choc-a-bloc with Christmas shoppers and there, on a traffic island in the middle of the road, is a woman holding on to a man for dear life with her legs visibly giving way and all the while laughing uncontrollably. What would you be thinking confronted by the spectacle? The more I laughed, the further people moved away from me, careful to avoid any eye contact. As soon as the traffic permitted, they made a hasty getaway, scurrying without a backward glance, leaving my husband and me alone.  By this time I’d set him off in fits of laughter too! Seeing people in full flight had not the slightest sobering effect, the two of us were well and truly in a laugh-enraptured world of our own. We just had to let the laughter run its course to the point where we could gather our senses sufficient to be able walk to the other side of the road, me holding on to James as if my life depended on it. Even then there were still a few residual chuckles.                               

Later, when I reflected on what had happened, I wondered what other people had made of it all. There were two obvious possibilities as far as I could see. Either they thought I’d been at the Christmas sherry, or I was nuttier than anything in Christmas box of chocs.          

Being conscious that my balance was, and is, on a par with a toddler taking its first steps counts for little in terms of warding off such incidents. Years after my Christmas shopping performance, our children were with us at home so I needed  to open a room divider sliding door. It was something I’d done hundreds of times before. I started to slide one door, lost my balance, and promptly toppled over, landing with anything but the grace of the ballerina which I had once dreamt of being. I hit the ground with a dull thud, in a heap, visibly none the worse for wear. Cue for family to double up in hoots of laughter, me too from my temporarily prostrate position on the floor.     

There have been many MS driven incidents since then and all we can do is laugh.  As you say Nigel, MS is a funny thing (sometimes).