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Cartoon shows Anne, using walking aids, in a busy supermarket.

Life wi the Broons: the everyday effects of MS

Anne Brown

So whit are some o’ the effects o’ MS? There are a’ the yins you read aboot in the text books but there’s ithers that naebody tells you aboot.

They tell you aboot tripping, but dinny tell you that you’ll trip over somethin that isny there, or that anybody can tell yer trippy foot by the scuffs on the one toe o’ ivery pair o’ shoes.

They tell you aboot lack o’ coordination but dinny say that the dustpan an’ brush are yer maist used tools. They sweep up the broken stuff an’ the spilt stuff when things mysteriously fa’ oot yer hands. Wipes ur handy tae for the servin spoons that magically fa’ when fu’ o’ food, usually gloopy, that spatters over every surface o’ the kitchen.

Somethin as simple as beans on toast usually involves loads o’ washin up o’ spilt stuff, butter where nae butter should be, addin a new toaster tae the shoppin list, burnt fingers an’ a change o’ clothes includin soaking the ones ye take aff before the bean juice stains set. By the time you clear up the mess an’ sit doon tae yer cold beans, yer appetites gone.

None o’ the information mentions the lack o’ a fu’ set o’ crockery or glasses. I’ve got a fu’ set o’ crockery that I niver touch. They’re fur visitors, we eat aff the chipped an’ mismatched ones, the remnants left efter droppage an’ slippage.

They dinny tell you aboot the fear factor or embarrassment factor! Elder granddaughter’s been havin lessons on a friend’s wee miniature pony. Her Mum (elder daughter) was leadin her an’ I staggered along wi’ them.

I wis amazed that I managed one lap wi’ them an’ felt ok, further than I can dae in the supermarket, till daughter pointed oot ‘but you’re no scared here’. Everybody musta heard the clangin noise o’ the penny dropping! She’s right! If I fell at the stables, naebody would laugh or make a huge fuss, they’d jist pu’ me up and let me get on wi’ it.

In the supermarket it’s a different story. The fear factor kicks in. Everybody wi’ a trolley becomes a major obstacle. Will they bump intae you as they stroll roond lookin at the shelves instead o’ where they’re goin, or will they abandon their trolley in the middle o’ the aisle an’ wander off leavin you to struggle yer way roond it?

Worst o’ a’, will they let their weans run pellmell up and doon the aisles, causin you tae tuck in behind a display an’ brace yersel in abject terror till the wee horrors go by, in case they take you oot like a skittle in a bowling alley. This’ll cause the embarrassment factor tae kick in, where you’re back on your feet before you properly land an’ scurry aff tae hide in the toilet, an’ have a wee ‘moment’ alone.

So then, dinny stagger roon the supermarket you think, take the power chair an’ sit doon safely. Naw, that disny work either as the invisibility factor comes intae force. This, fur me was at its worst in a shoppin mall. There, hubby walks in front, blazin a trail fur me tae follow stoppin so many folk jist casually steppin in front of you withoot even noticing you’re there.

This time though, the culprit wis a wumman scurrying the opposite way, loaded wi’ parcels an’ bags, on a mission, dodgin in and oot the steady flow o’ human traffic. She tried tae squeeze past me, usin a space that wisny there an’ dunting my shoulder as she went. Next thing I knew, I wis seein her startled face flyin back past my shoulder in the wrong direction.

She’d brushed past so close that her shoulder bag strap hud snagged on the arm o’ my power chair an’ I was now draggin her wi’ me, by the throat! I stopped at once an’ waited till she’d regained her composure, apologisin profusely. She was furious, although it was her fault for no lookin where she was goin. She humphed off muttering. Maybe because I got in her way when she was rushin? Maybe somebody should walk in front with a bell or a flag to warn folk that I’m there, or maybe we just shouldny go oot?

Anyway a’ I know is these are things that we dinny get told aboot at diagnosis, but happen every day.

Illustration by our wonderful volunteer, Elfreda Crehan.