Home » Life with MS » “Labels are for jam”

“Labels are for jam”

A hiatus in the blogging and the news is I feel amazing! Well, to be accurate, I felt amazing ten days ago but since then I have done four night shifts and come down with a rubbish cold/flu-type thing and have spent the day in bed shivering, sweating and feeling sorry for myself. But up until last week I felt fantastic. My fatigue has diminished and my legs are all sprightly and fully functioning. I have decluttered the house from top to bottom as it is on the market and finally got to the bottom of my email inbox. I even tackled the nemesis that was cannulation and seem to be getting better at it each day. So all was good until I received a letter from my new job telling me there was a “problem.”

It seems that full disclosure will get you a summons from the occupational health doctor to decide whether you are medically fit to practice. Despite reassurance from my own doctor, the medical director of the medical school and an invaluable gang of friends that it was all just a formality I had a mild panic that now, at this late stage, they would say “sorry, this career is not for you.” And when I panic I turn to the internet to find someone for whom it has all turned out OK. And when you turn to the MS pages you hear lots of stories of people forced from the workplace by unscrupulous bosses or by the progression of this largely mysterious illness. You also hear the word “disability” a great deal and my reaction to the word always takes me by surprise.

For a while I worked as a trainee paramedic. I LOVED driving ambulances but the paramedic life wasn’t for me: partly because I was  ill all the time (it was just before my first relapse), partly because I wanted to be able to wear anything but a green jumpsuit, and partly because I was not very good at the banter. I have friends who work in each of the emergency services and one thing that unites them all is their acceptance of “black humour” as a way of dealing with stressful and distressing situations. Me, as a liberal, lefty fan of political correctness was no good at this at all. Oddly though, it is something I seem to have dabbled with since diagnosis – I have “joked” that living right at the top of a hill will be good “when” I’m in a wheelchair as my husband will just have to take the brakes off and I’ll be at Sainsbury’s in no time. I have “quipped” about how lucky I am to technically be able to jump queues at Alton Towers and I am quick to “josh” about being a blue-badge holder when people try to get me to do things I am literally just too lazy to do. I’m not proud of these things and I don’t really understand why I say them because as soon as anyone implies I am disabled I get all affronted and cross.

It just seems like one step too far on the path to acceptance. I can accept the need for daily injections, I can accept the importance of regular exercise and trying to watch what I eat, I can accept that, on some days, I will need a stick, I can accept that, on many days, I need to remind the members of my household quite loudly that I can no longer hold three separate conversations at once (especially if one of them is about Minecraft), and I can accept (all be it massively begrudgingly) that I can no longer dance. But the thought of being told I could not even start doing the job I have now sacrificed so much for to train to do, and that the reason for that was my “disability” was too much. And my outraged rejection of the term was, in turn, a bit too much for the kind strangers on the internet who had offered me advice. “Not yet” came back the reply, “not yet.”

I have no real answers to this, no conclusions to be drawn, but I suspect it made me slightly ridiculous in my OH consultation yesterday as I loudly declared myself to be “very well,” despite the fact I have red eyes, a streaming nose and an unsightly cold sore which tell otherwise. I suspect, however, I was not the first person he has met struggling with definition – he spent a good ten minutes telling me that although he had to write that I was protected by the Disability Discrimination legislation he was in no way implying that I was disabled! He was a nice man. He cleared me as fully fit so now all I need to do is complete these last three weeks of medical school and it’s all systems go.

But tonight I am going to lounge around under a blanket getting Mr C to feed me biscuits and tea because I have upgraded this label of “cold” to “flu!” Maybe next year I will be further along the path and I will accept the flu jab they offer me….



3 thoughts on ““Labels are for jam”

  1. I’m sorry to hear that there was some uncertainty about your professional future, it must have been worrying at the time.

    Hope your lurgy buggers off sharpish. I trust that the Dr Pepper is freely flowing 🙂

  2. You’ll need a flu jab. Mainly because infection control and occupational health chase everyone wearing an NHS name badge around the hospital until they’ve wrestled us all to the ground and jabbed us. It’s for protecting patients and whatnot innit. 😛

  3. hey, don’t be too quick to dismiss the Alton Towers queue-jumping! avoiding standing for upwards of one hour meant that the last time we went, we were able to do four of the ‘big’ rides before lunchtime – yes, we felt very very sick by then but (unbeknownst to us), my wife was pregnant at the time…

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