In the morning, I will be “going home” to Ohio. I used to think that I was the only self-sufficient, home-owning, bone-fide adult who still refers to visiting with my parents as “going home”. But I’ve since learned that I am not alone. I’ve noticed that other such people who like myself have moved around like gypsies during their adult life, never really settled down and established geographical roots of their own by having kids, and remain emotionally very close/connected to their parents often still think of visiting family as going “home”. I can hardly wait to board that plane in the morning, and take a break from what has been an otherwise utterly exhausting year so far, especially in my professional life.
While I am looking forward to spending time with my parents and my brother’s family, I have anxiety that I have never felt before: this is the trip that I tell them about my MS diagnosis. I have no idea how they will react. Their response will probably be strongly dependent on how I deliver the news. Do I show them the data (MRI, OCT scans) first, then explain what it all means? Do I start out with the long saga, that started last summer with an anomalous eye exam, and describe each doc visit, the test results, and end with the conclusion? Or do I just jump in first with the diagnosis, and backfill with the story as needed?
The scientist in me would like to start with the data, then draw the conclusions. But putting myself in their shoes, I would hate knowing there is something wrong but being dragged through a long story before finally being told the bottom line. Therefore, I think my strategy will be the last option, just jump right in with the punchline, and then fill in as necessary.
I am sure that they will have the same questions that I have, such as: what are the future implications? I wish that I had answers ready to give them. I wish that I could tell them that all is well right now. But if such were the case, then why did I have such a difficult time formulating a coherent thought and expressing it at work today (and on most days)? This afternoon, I was one of four female colleagues who served as panelists for a discussion on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers to a crowd of about 400 high school girls. I very much enjoy participating in these kinds of events, but the cognitive fog that is almost ever-present really does challenge me. Several times, in mid-sentence, I would struggle to find the word whose concept I knew but whose pronunciation escaped me. At other times, I would be in mid-sentence and forget what point I was trying to make. Needless to say, I was beyond frustrated, and probably left a terrible first-impression on these young women regarding women scientists. I really worry about my cognitive health and what the future holds. My career — no, my entire identity and self-worth — are dependent on my cognitive capabilities remaining intact. In a future post, I will discuss a cognitive exam that I recently took. The experience was exhausting, but quite fascinating. I don’t yet know the outcome, but I will be getting them from my primary neurologist, Dr. K., at my next appointment with her in late April.
Well, I have a long plane flight ahead of me, so there’s plenty of time to practice my lines before touch-down in Dayton…