I really, really like my consultant. He is calm, with a natural tendency to provide information and – perhaps as a response to my incessant questions – is more than prepared to indulge my need for detail.
He began my consultation with a simple question; “How have you been?”. A good ten minutes later, I had ranted (without pausing for breath) about my horrible first relapse experience. I explained how I had been passed back and forth between GPs, receptionists, consultants’ secretaries, MS nurse answerphones… How, once I had eventually been granted an appointment at my local surgery, my GP had encountered insurmountable difficulty in sourcing the correct treatment (according to my printed NICE guidelines) and I had ended up hospitalised. I ended with a tearful summary;
“I was frustrated and felt utterly alone”.
He was both sympathetic and solution-focussed. Together we devised a clear plan for future relapses. I was reassured that I knew what to do and how to do it, should the need arise in the future. I like to have a plan. I like to know what will happen, how and when. MS is slowly teaching me that I cannot always foresee the “when” nor the “what”; the next relapse could occur at any time, without warning, and could involve any of an almost endless list of possible symptoms. But knowing how a potential setback can be tackled has given me some sort of safety net – some armour and security in knowing what to do. I hope this man realises how valuable this gift of a plan is to me, and I suspect he does, which is why he does it so well.
We then moved on to discussing the possibility of starting of Disease Modifying Treatments (DMTs). My consultant patiently and informatively outlined the range of options, the risks and benefits of each, and allowed me time to consider these carefully. He gave me the option to defer a decision if I needed more time to research or to think. It is a tough balancing act between the positives and negatives, weighing up the interaction between side-effects and likely effectiveness.
I feel ill-equipped to make this decision, and am surprised at how under-prepared I am. I have not researched this, as would be my usual style, even though I was fully expecting this conversation today. I have adopted a far more passive role, choosing to place my trust in the judgement of professionals, rather than turning up armed with facts, ready for battle.
This is new for me and, surprisingly, I find comfort in the idea that I can be guided by those who know more; I am not expected to shoulder the burden of responsibility alone. I feel as though the weight of this decision is a heavy load that I am thankful to be sharing. This is in stark contrast to the loneliness I experienced only a few months earlier during my relapse, when I was convinced it was me against the (medical) world.
It is a very welcome relief.