Opinion

A reality check

It occurs to me that I haven’t contributed a column to the newspaper in a while. That doesn’t mean I haven’t written things. I have, but thought better of it; mostly items criticizing the latest Trumpian gaffe. The echo chamber can be deafening at times. 

Rather, my thought processes have been slowing down lately and I’m noticing it more often. I should elaborate on this point. The speed at which I think has pretty much kept its usual rate. The speed at which things begin to assemble themselves into coherent sentences has slowed dramatically. In part, I blame the MS wreaking havoc on the wiring. This is akin to having an internal electrician stripping all the covering on the body’s electrical wiring (that is, the nervous system) and forcing it to short-circuit. However, that’s my problem, not yours.

Where it becomes “your problem” is a general awareness that multiple sclerosis is distinctly more common in the local population than I once thought. Actually, I never gave it much thought until I was diagnosed with it. I’ve already written about that, so that subject’s been explained.   

The prevalence of MS in the St. John Valley is alarming. I’ve already encountered a number of people who have a cousin, a relative or friend who has it. I hear this sort of thing frequently. Well, not as frequently because I don’t get around as much anymore. MS severely limits one’s mobility, at least mine does. I wonder sometimes if others shut themselves away because of it. Are they merely not as visible as a consequence?

Another thing that I find puzzling is the “why” of MS. I go over my own experiences in life and don’t find many answers. Going the genetic route may provide some answers, but it isn’t the whole story. I share a lot of genetic inheritance with many in the area, but hearsay doesn’t provide much of anything substantial. Nor do environmental factors. We breathe the same air, drink the same water, etc., etc., and the only common factor appears to be that it affects people of the Caucasian race (mostly) who live in this northern latitude. Yet, even reliance on those factors can be shaky.

As a for instance, Scotland supposedly has the highest incidence of MS per capita in the world. Of that, the Orkney Islands to the north of Scotland reflect the highest incidence in Scotland. Yet, going even farther north in the Shetland Islands, the incidence is markedly lower. The thought originally was, due to the prevalence of Norse ancestry in both islands, they would share the same predisposition to MS. The results blow the latitude and Norse genetics theory to bits in Scotland, leaving them without any definitive causes for the disease. I was interested in the Scottish results because of my paternal lineage from Scotland, but ultimately, it didn’t help.

Nor am I fixed on race. There are afflictions that affect certain groups of people, but this is mainly due to their populations remaining static, intermarriage and other factors.

MS appears in certain groups more frequently, but this tends to prove little if anything. It can affect people of any race, though I get a little squeamish about using ‘race’ as a factor. I’m not certain it serves as a definition of who or what one is, as we all share the same origins. Beyond that, it gets complicated. To wit, some of my father’s people were abolitionists. It means something to me.

As far as the ‘known’ goes, women are prone to MS twice as much as men, but men get it more severely. I agree, based on experience. One can do without the slurring speech, precarious balance, and uncooperative left leg; all of which come and go in varying degrees. As long as the thought process remains intact, I can live with the speed. 

At my age, the need for frequent naps is its own excuse.

Dave Wylie’s life and work experience runs the gamut from newspaper editor to carpenter to grant writer to boat builder with lots of other work wedged in-between. Wylie currently is president of a management company that oversees an elderly housing complex and president of the local historical society. He resides in Madawaska.

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