*with apologies to The Dead Milkmen
I’m a lefty; a southpaw from the start.
Unlike many who straddle the fence in a right-handed world, I have always approached everything from one side. In sports, throwing a ball, batting, and tennis were always natural from the left. Much to the chagrin of my Catholic school grade school, I even resisted the pressure to learn writing with my right hand. Everyday items which are made for righties (scissors, computer keyboard & mouse) are awkwardly used with the left; that has always felt natural instead of learning the ‘correct’ use them with my right.
When my MS first struck, I was lucky (sort of). Much of the damage and loss of feeling affected my right side. The difficulty created was most noticeable during activities requiring two hands. If only one was needed, my natural preference took over. There were times when I inadvertently used my right hand; occasionally the use was intentional just to see if I could… The result was often a calamity of broken glass, bruised/burnt fingers, or food scattered all over the floor (Monte always loved those moments)!
In late 2010 I started to observe changes; dramatic improvements in my coordination and control. I wrote about the theories of rerouting signals along the neural highway in January ’11 (Tools for Rewiring My Body). My 8-month old daughter did what no other treatment or drug could accomplish: Eleanor forced my body to overcome some of the nerve damage caused by MS.
Within a year or so, I could confidently state that the originally-diagnosed “60% loss in my right chest and arm” was probably closer to 30. The feeling in my hand never returned but I could now perform many basic tasks with relative comfort and ease. My favorite line of that story is the last: For the first time, I am excited to wonder what will happen to my body when I wake up tomorrow? About two years ago, I woke up. Damn!
It’s 2014. 15 years have passed since my battle with MS first started. My larger issues are now on my left side. Loss is now measured in different ways. Lost feeling, coordination and control have given was to pure physical weakness. There are days when I can’t lift or perform basic tasks with my left hand, arm or leg. Even on good days, there are intermittent times when everyday tasks become impossible. Eating with a fork, lifting my arm to raise a glass/brush my teeth/shave, or lifting my leg to put on pants are some of the most basic tasks that can now stop my day in its tracks!
Most leg-tasks require both to work sufficiently for me (walking, running, or biking) but there is a lot that I can do with one strong arm and hand. In the past, the fact that I’m a natural southpaw softened my MS challenge a bit. Now, I’m a 42-year old man learning how to use new hands.
For help, I often go to the experts on learning. I observe my daughter, as well as other children, to gain clues on ever-changing bodies and function. It really is a miracle to watch their developing bodies, and quite humbling to try and mimic their tasks. Slowly but surely, however, I am learning to function. When my left side is especially weak and immobile, I can perform the basic tasks I need through those tough days. I’m still not that graceful with my right side but, if required, I can finally eat without sticking my fork in my cheek!
I’ve seen this and wrote about it before…
This will change. If there is one thing I know about MS, I know this will change. Maybe my body will rewire again, allowing me the chance to recover some lost damage on my left side. Maybe it will get worse and require more significant Adjustments, Concessions and Embracing the New. The reality is that what eventually happens does not matter. In my fight with MS, I will continue to have the Want To dedication to do absolutely everything that’s required before we win.
So I will learn to become right-handed. I will train my body (and my mind) to become comfortable with moving and functioning in stark contrast to how I developed for the first 42 years. After all, how hard could that be?
At the same time, I will fight becoming right-handed every step of the way. While my left hand and arm continue to work I will rehabilitate, train, and condition. I just might find a way to overcome the damage and rebuild/regain my strength. Maybe I will just delay the inevitable. But maybe, just maybe, I will hold the damaging effects of my MS long enough until we find the treatments that will cure/prevent/fight this disease!
Any way this goes, I will Never Stop. Regardless of what it takes, I will Never Quit.
The stories I have been writing for over four years are my reminders.
It will never stop…nor will we
It will never quit…nor will we
This is why we fight!
My left on a good day…
My new right…
Kevin Byrne - Portland, OR