Cilla was right and little surprises me more than the daily servings of uncertainty offered up by body and frequently mind.
My sister had visited me in London for the weekend to celebrate her birthday. Kisses exchanged she headed north for home and my Sunday afternoon took on the familiar comfort of the local pub with friends. The appearance of my sister aside, all staggeringly normal so far. The date was 5 March 2000 and the happenings of that afternoon and evening have rendered that day somewhat significant.
I was twenty six, in fine fettle with a brilliant mind, breathtakingly handsome, a shade under six feet five and given to the occasional exaggeration (it could be argued that I’ve not reached six feet). I was leading a lifestyle which would have given Shaun Ryder cause for concern but enjoying it immensely. I had a decent job which was becoming a little humdrum as I could do it on autopilot. It was my first job in London and having given me the security to move there and funded the excesses of the last eighteen months had more than served its purpose. I was keen to move on to bigger and better things.
So here I was sat in The Hand & Flower in Kensington and it was my round. The following day would consist of little more than some top quality chair spinning whilst affecting an authoritative demeanour so no reason to take it easy today. On approaching the bar I felt a strange tingling sensation in my foot, no doubt just the way I’d been sat, I returned with drinks. An hour or so passed and I once again got up to honour my booze obligations, this time I was experiencing similar sensations in my hands. Taking extra care carrying the drinks I sat down, chugged on a cigarette and wondered if aspects of my lifestyle might be catching up with me. I quickly tossed that thought to a distant space at the very back of my mind. Later, the two minute walk to my flat took rather more concentration than usual but I’d long lost track of how much had been drunk so wasn’t unduly concerned.
In the office the chair spinning didn’t seem quite as fulfilling as usual, I soon diagnosed myself with an inner ear problem and poor circulation. My newly diagnosed problems worsened so I staggered to the doctor’s surgery only to be told by a locum that I was suffering from stress and a week off work should sort me right out. By Wednesday I knew I was in trouble so arranged to see the head gp honcho; this guy was onto it in a flash, I was flapping around like one of the more inept contestants on Strictly Come Dancing so it may not have been that difficult to spot. Although I wasn’t given a specific diagnosis for quite some time, I was exhibiting classic symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Many tests followed over a number of weeks and months including spending my birthday in hospital. One such test was a lumbar puncture where you lie on your side in a foetal position while a large needle is jabbed into your spinal chord. I’m not quite sure what it’s meant to achieve but loss of dignity was thrown in for free. The doctor asked if some students could watch, “of course” I said, “they’ve got to learn somehow”. Enter four attractive female medical students gazing upon my lower back, arse and a couple of stray balls.
Eventually I got the diagnosis. “OK, I’ve heard of it, get on with the curing as these chairs won’t spin themselves. What, no cure?! I’ve got it for ever?!!” Not what I was expecting.
And so began a succession of medications; some did nothing, some did something, some were hugely enjoyable, others less so. Painkillers, anti-inflammatories, self-administered subcutaneous injections, Viagra and many others, I’ve done the lot.
These days quite a lot of time is given over to trying to remember things, I wile away hours staring at the toilet bowl convinced I need to urinate only to concede that I must have already done so and forgotten about it. Throw in some pain, fatigue and blindness and it’s like narcotic withdrawal without the high. It’s not all bad though, I enjoy the guessing game I play with my limbs, it can be like having an unruly pet, sometimes they’ll do as requested, sometimes a rough approximation of what’s asked and sometimes something entirely different and unexpected.
Oh and I lost my job as well, those bastards are fooling themselves if they think they’ll find another chair spinner of my calibre.