the family business

by tinglyfeeling on February 11, 2009

img_1819I’ve mentioned on Twitter and in a couple posts here, that my sister also has MS. She was diagnosed with relapsing/remitting MS in January 2000 at age 27.

Several years before her diagnosis, which was finally confirmed by an MRI, she’d been experiencing some symptoms and was given a spinal tap. It was 1994, I think. I was a sophomore in college, not living very far from home, but far enough that no one told me what was going on until it was over. They didn’t diagnose her then, so the topic was dropped and we all went about our business.

But in the following years, she’d still experience mild symptoms like facial numbness and ticks. She finally decided to see a doctor in 1999 after she noticed that she could only smile with half of her mouth and her eyelids were twitching uncontrollably.

Our family barely knew what multiple sclerosis was. I remember stumbling over my pronunciation of those words when she told me, double-checking to make sure I was saying it right.

So she’s been living with it–as long as she’s been aware–for nine years now. Her symptoms, which seem to be getting worse despite a lack of new lesions, are different from mine, but there’s some overlap. We can describe the myriad strange sensations caused by our symptoms and usually we understand each other because we speak the same language now.

Which is funny to me for several reasons, but mostly because we are such different people and our lives and the paths we’ve chosen have very little in common.

When we were growing up, we shared everything but a room and had sets of matching clothes and toys–one of each, in different colors so we could tell them apart. But we still had very different tastes. She painted her bedroom peach, I painted mine blue. She’s a little bit country, I’m a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. We don’t even look alike. She has red hair, I have brown hair. I’m tall, she’s short. And we think differently. She votes conservative (assuming she votes), I vote liberal (I like to exercise my right).

Now, we’re dusting off and strengthening our neglected sisterly bond because we both have MS. Some have said to me that it must be a blessing in disguise because it’s bringing my sister and me closer. I see their point, but I’m not quite on board with that. I do love my sister, but I’d much rather have something in common with her that didn’t suck so much.

Like a shared passion for breeding cockroaches.

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