Born Together

Eleven years ago, I had my beautiful baby boy, Elliot. Elation, excitement and anticipation
led the way for our small family of three. But within days of his birth my body’s ability started
to deteriorate-without warning or explanation. As the days and weeks passed I became less
and less able. As a new mum breast feeding on demand, it wasn’t raising alarm bells with
the medical world. But it wasn’t making any sense to me. My fatigue was shocking, my
coordination inexplicably poor and my walking strangely unstable.

 

After around 3-4 weeks I began to lose feeling in my feet and across my abdomen. That’s
when I knew there was something more sinister wrong with me. The timing seemed
impossible and certainly cruel. But it no longer felt reasonable to explain the changes and
deterioration in my physical ability simply as a result of giving birth. Diagnosed with
exhaustion and then post-natal depression, I was beginning to lose patience. I had a new
baby at home and I could barely walk. I could not carry him independently and I could not
feel my feet. From one of life’s natural and enviable highs of becoming a mum for the first
time to the shocking and fearful low of living inside a body that had suddenly and without
explanation stopped working for me. I was elated to have my new-born son and at the same
time terrified at what was going on inside of me. But I would march on and do all I could to
manage and to put Elliot’s needs first and foremost. I was still a new mum after all.
I returned to the doctor’s time after time as I refused to accept that it was post-natal
depression or the fatigue of motherhood. More symptoms appeared- loss of power in my left
hand and bowel incontinence. It really couldn’t get much worse. Eventually a senior doctor
referred me to neurology and tests began. It was a long and worrying winter and we faced
our first Christmas together as a family of three with the results of my hospital tests and MRI
scan hanging over us.

PENTAX Image

 

At the start of the new year I attended a routine doctor’s appointment, only to unexpectedly
be given a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. My immune system had attacked itself in error
and in confusion with the foetal cells, after giving birth. How could this have happened? I had
my wonderful baby boy all ready to start a new chapter in my life, but instead I faced my
future with a chronic and disabling disease. I was drenched in fear.
I was discharged from neurology within weeks of my diagnosis because I chose not to take
the Disease Modifying Drugs available at that time. I had a small baby at home and could
not afford the pernicious side effects of those drugs and any more disruption to home life. My
husband had already used up all his sick leave and unpaid leave from his employment. We
were struggling to make ends meet.

 

 

And so, I set off on my self- help and self-discovery journey. I would learn a lot and find a
whole new me and a whole new life out there. I would leave no stone unturned if my quest to
find ways to manage MS and to still be the mum I dreamt of being to my precious Elliot. I
was grateful to have him. I was grateful to have become a mum. It was up to me now to find
new ways to do old things. To turn negatives into positives. To turn fear into hope. Anger into
love and disability into different ability. To focus on what I had and not what I had lost. To
focus on what I could still do and not what I couldn’t do anymore. I would build my MS jigsaw
to give me hope, belief and ability. We are not defined by what happens to us in this life, but
we are defined by how we get up and deal with it. I would face everything head on with lethal
determination and with my son’s future as my motivation. I refused to accept my prognosis of
a life towards disability and vulnerability. My future would be different, but I set out to make it
positively different for myself and my beautiful son. Elliot and Multiple Sclerosis may have
been ‘born together’, but it was in my hands how they would grow and live together.

I have written a book, Born Together, about my compelling and uplifting journey. To find out
more information go to www.patriciagachagan.com Author Judy Graham has written my
foreword and says of Born Together:

“Patricia’s philosophy could change your life so it’s worth getting

your head around it.”

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