Christine’s friend was diagnosed with MS sometime before telling her about it. They have maintained a close relationship, while living apart, though they have both struggled to come to terms with the disabilities that the illness brings.
Christine’s friend was diagnosed with MS in the year she met him 2005, but didn’t tell her about it until 2009. She suspected that something was wrong because she observed his difficulties with moving around. He told her over dinner one night that this was due to MS. Hearing this was a shock to Christine, knowing how much MS had affected other friends, and considering what it might mean for this closer relationship.
Christine’s initial reaction was to try and contain her feelings, despite being stunned and dazed at the news, and to think about what she would need to do to help him, in the immediate and longer term future. They talked together about the practicalities of anticipating and managing likely problems and difficulties, tending to avoid focusing on the emotional impact of the diagnosis on them both.
Dealing with the first year was very hard. Christine observed that with the onset and progress of MS, her friend found it hard to come to terms with being less able. She, too, felt a struggle in coming to terms with the fact that her boyfriend was disabled. His confrontational and argumentative behaviour, towards her and others, led to conflict and to Christine becoming upset on occasions, to the extent that her friends encouraged her to break up with him. She considered this carefully over a two month period but decided to stay in the relationship.
When he started to get worse, and to need her help more, her friend asked Christine to think about becoming a live-in carer but they have not been able to agree on this and, at the time of interview, still live apart. They arranged that she would visit every couple of weeks to help with cleaning, shopping and occasional cooking. Occasionally he has asked her to help him with foot massage and a bit of stretching, but doesn’t really want help and encouragement with physiotherapy exercises or with getting information about research and treatment. Christine thinks this is because he wants to deal with MS in his own time and in his own way.
At the time of interview Christine’s friend is in hospital, admitted for treatment of yet another urinary tract infection (3 episodes in 4 weeks). He reports that doctors want to get him to walk again, using a combination of drug treatment and physiotherapy. Christine thinks is good news because it appears that he has been accepting too readily, in her view, that he would be soon confined to a wheelchair. Overall, Christine has a more optimistic outlook for the possibilities of effective self-management and for the range of help available to people with MS.