1. Diagnosis

During May, June and July 2010 I got some weird ass complaints which I never had before. Not to the extend of around this period at least.

To keep it short till I feel like updating this page:

  • I couldn't smoke a single cigarette without triggering, if not causing, the following symptoms:
  • fatigued
  • balance problems
  • problems walking, 'rubber legs'
  • orientation problems
  • vision problems
  • problems thinking properly
  • extreme dizziness
  • nearly constant weird mechanic noise in an ear
    Around that time it looked as is if all those symptoms were caused by smoking.

    Having been a pretty heavy smoker before, from autumn 1986 until December 2008, you could say I was familiar with the pros and cons of smoking, but the above collection of complaints was entirely new to me.

    At that point in my life, May, June and July 2010, I was sailing as a deckhand and an active sportsman. My main sports were cross country riding my mountain bike, and running. I have never liked running really, but I liked to work on my physical condition while working at sea and I had plenty of opportunities to run. Opposed to folding my bike into my suitcase, running shoes were a better fit.

    Earlier that year and the previous year as well, I had noticed a backdrop in my physical abilities. Was I able to continuously run 5 stories of stairs up and down around the beginning of 2009, I had a problem doing so at the end of the summer. It wasn't that an attempt was too tiresome, that I started panting like mad or something, but I just couldn't do it anymore. After too many flights my legs would start to feel very heavy, without me being able to force myself to keep on running. Alright, well, let's not run the stairs anymore. Not until I had done some proper training at least. Or so I thought.

    April 2010 there was a mountain bike race. Which I joined in the amateur class. The exact distance I don't remember, but we were supposed to make three rounds through the woods. Each round was around 4.5 miles. I barely made one and bailed out. Thinking back, I should have known there was something terribly wrong with me. With relative ease I used to be able to ride similar tracks of 25 miles. Food for #depression.

    Not much later, convinced I needed to work on my physical condition, when running a part of the harbor in Hamburg up and down, I found myself becoming unreasonably dizzy when running. I would have to stop moving and hold on to something in order not to trip and fall. This didn't happen just once, or twice, but every single time I decided to give it a go again. Food for #depression.

    Earlier that year, somewhere in March, I had my future plans of becoming a sports instructor shot to pieces. The school I wanted to attend had changed my education of choice from part time to full time. What made it impossible for me to do, I wouldn't be able to get it financed considered my age and I'd have to work next to it, to make a living. Food for #depression.

    Sports having become the drive of my life, I could hardly take it. #depression. Suicidal thoughts. Idealizing suicide.

    Well, if I can't enjoy sports anymore the way I want to, let me at least enjoy smoking. After all, sports were my main drive to have quit. And that's when I lit my first cigarette again in about six months. I regularly fell off the wagon anyway, I have never been able to completely leave smoking behind me. Not until present day, not even after what's happened the last years, it's 2014 as I write this, roughly 3.5 years after my diagnosis.

    Anyway, back to the ship I was working at at the time.

    The first smoke made me dizzy like crazy. More then usual when having a first smoke after a long time. It killed my ability to walk, it transformed my legs to more or less useless rubber things. In addition, my balance was killed. I could not walk without holding on to things.

    I realized I shouldn't smoke, it was interfering with my ability to do my job, mainly because of extreme balance problems. I needed at least half an hour to recover from having one smoke. I remember being crouched on the aft deck, fiddling with a rope which needed to be worked at. I had a major problem not falling.

    I was crazy not calling in sick. I was, and still am, surprised nobody seemed to notice something weird going on with me. Still, I kept on having a smoke now and then. I expected 'this situation' to be temporary, I expected with each new smoke not to experience this anymore. So, I kept on trying.

    My two bottom wisdom teeth started to hurt. Actually, I had had toothaches for a mighty long time. I just didn't visit a dentist. Why not? I never understood why not, I just didn't. My pain killers (mainly Ibuprofen) started to fail at their job. So: extraction.

    From the moment of extraction on, I didn't need to smoke anymore to have a failing balance. It had become a permanent issue. I then started to talk about this with colleagues. They blamed it on the anesthesia the dentist had given me. I hoped they were right. If I remember correctly, I then quit smoking until I left the ship.

    I had gotten awesome plans for that summer, I was allowing nothing to get in my way. I thought.

    I wanted to:

  • Visit my dear friend in Malmö.
  • Go mountain biking with another friend in the Ardennes, in Belgium.
    I had it nicely planned. I thought. Since I was working in Hamburg for a job agency, two weeks on and two weeks off, I planned to visit my friend in Malmö for two weeks, after which I would get back to Hamburg. Then, after two weeks of working again, I wanted to head for the Ardennes with my friend for an indefinite period of time.

    So, off to Malmö I went.

    Apart from the smoke I took aboard the ferry which we took with the train, the trip went pretty well, apart from the balance problems which haunted me. Smoke or not.

    Having been treated for Spondylolisthesis in 1995, yes I'm the proud owner of two steel pins in my back, I wishfully tried to blame my balance problems on that. I hoped that was playing up in some way. After all, I walked funny after that very surgery as well. Though I didn't have the pain which accompanied the surgery at the time.

    My friend and I were going for a walk downtown. It was only going to be a short distance. About 1.5 mile. So why not. We went. I hadn't told her yet about my recent issues, but that's when she found out. We went back to her place. from then on we went nowhere without her driving her car.

    I had, and still have, a drivers license. She offered her car to me, to get around with, but by that time I had developed some weird vision thing, plus a total lack of coordination. I expected to crash her car at the first crossing, I preferred her bicycle. Luckily my balance on a bike was still in good order, but I became easily tired.

    Not only was my coordination acting weird, my thinking was acting funny as well: I had problems with my Cognition. I remember us going to a supermarket and she let me waiting at an isle to save my legs a bit, I panicked. I totally lost her. Of course I lost her, she went through some other isles! I was totally thinking irrationally.

    Every morning I woke up I was feeling fine. Until I got out of bed. Then the whole misery of the previous day would repeat.

    Wherever I went, with or without her, my complaints went with me. The fun things we did were fun, but the misery of being in my body and brain was awful. We had Midsummer Night, a pretty big thing in Sweden. She had invited a friend, and we were celebrating it at her mums house. Me and her friend had booze. Unlike her friend, I had just enough to be nicely tipsy. But I lost total control of my balance, coordination and had terrible helpless laughter. About my own crazy situation.

    To summarize until this page is done: Summer 2010 I became chronically ill. Multiple sclerosis. After about two and a half months of hell, more or less.

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