Rachel Cuthbertson – My MS Diagnosis

In my 20s, I was working in a laboratory, where I developed Occupational Overuse Syndrome, (OOS) in my wrist due to using a pipettor for long hours. Around the same time, on long uphill walks, I experienced moments of tightening of my calves and then periods where the calves would stop working until I rested for a minute or two. I was a runner at the time and was diagnosed with compartment syndrome.

In my early 30s, I experienced the same calf complaint but now it was happening when I was walking on flat surfaces, and it was affecting both my calves, sometimes swapping between the two. I tripped one day when running for the phone. At the doctors, they thought I had a partially collapsed disc brought on by helping a friend move flats.

They referred me to see a Neurologist. The referral wasn’t discussed further, and I figured the appointment would arrive, eventually.

Fast forward another year, two flat moves, the breakdown of a relationship and work becoming more full-on. I was now harbouring OOS in my right wrist, the calf problem was exacerbated, and my waking was dodgy. I was extremely tired and sleeping most of the weekend and my right eyelid was drooping.

I headed off to the after-hours doctor who offered to prescribe me antidepressants and suggested I see my regular doctor during the week. I explained I wasn’t depressed although everything else seemed off.

I fronted up at work on Monday, where my boss took one look at me and sent me off to A&E. I was seen by a Neurologist after just a short wait, sped up to the MRI which luckily had a small opening due to a cancellation and was given a provisional diagnosis very quickly.

A few final tests to eliminate other possibilities and I finally had a confirmed diagnosis, relapsing remitting MS. The relief at having a diagnosis was huge. It sounds like a quick process as I write this, but with visits to a series of locums, it took over a year for a diagnosis.

My GP even started using my case as a training tool for students at Otago Medical School. I now talk with medical students through ‘Friends of the Medical School’ as part of their training. Raising awareness is key to earlier diagnosis and treatment.