Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Finding Out You May Have MS Could Be the Revolutionary Weight-Loss Solution

I have a theory. When you discover you “may” have multiple sclerosis, there are two typical reactions. a sense of relief to actually finding out what has been bugging you all these years OR TOTALLY FREAK OUT.

Having had symptoms only for a matter of months when MS was suspected in the fall of 2005, I fell into the latter category. Yup, carefree me. For three weeks I held my own pity party. And it was a rager of a party—picture a frat kegger and then toss in a fully loaded beer truck broken down in the frat house’s driveway with a sign “must unload to tow: free beer.”


It was great. In those few weeks of not eating, not drinking, not sleeping, and freaking out, I shed a full ten pounds.* Take that, South Beach!

*Results may not apply to every MSer. Eating food is recommended. Freaking out is not.

Originally published June 2006. Edited for clarity.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Les Toilettes: The French Folly

Traveling and multiple sclerosis go together like chocolate syrup and sardines. So those of us with this disease appreciate the little things that make globetrotting a little easier, like easy-to-access public toilets. Which, I discovered on a recent escape to France, virtually do not exist in a country that mandates diuretics—coffee, wine, champagne—at most meals. So I’ve come up with a handy set of rules to make it easier to navigate the bladder wars and dampen (no pun intended) your panic quotient when you’ve gotta go.
  • That cute café? The bathroom is down that narrow spiral staircase. And it might be an Indian-style toilet. If you are lucky you’ll have a grab bar so you can pull yourself off the ground after you’ve peed on your pant leg. And now you need to consume a beverage (more liquids!) as a thank you for using their marvelous facilities. 
  • Do not assume that the largest train station in Paris with dozens of tracks and thousands of visitors daily has a plethora of public bathrooms. They have three… toilets. There is always a long line and you get to pay for the privilege.
  • The vineyard-rich countryside of France is blissfully free of commercialization and such pesky things as devices that flush. Fortunately, the French love to cycle. Cyclists have to pee. They usually pee on the side of the road. Voilà!
  • Toilet seats are a luxury. Seek them out. Celebrate them.
  • You found a gas station? Great! Use caution when getting out of that car as that may turn on your I-gotta-go-now switch. They probably won’t have a toilet. And they’ll point down the way to facilities you now are guaranteed not to reach in time.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral.12 million annual visitors. 9th most visited tourist attraction in the world. 0 toilets. I am serious.
  • There are good odds you will not make it to a bathroom at least once. It’s in the MS rules. Pack accordingly and don’t beat yourself up when you have an oopsy. Heck, you are on vacation.

Now with all these issues, there are the odd restroom finds that make travel so special (in a good way). These gems make it feel as if you’ve found the lost Toilet of the Covenant. Like the hidden handicapped bathroom at Pier 2 on the Seine outside the Eiffel Tower (staff will guide you if you ask, and tuck a piece of paper in the door jamb so others will know it’s occupied—there is no lock). Or the line-free handicapped toilets tucked into corners at the Musée d’Orsay. Or the deluxe, sparkly clean bedroom-sized stalls at the Charles de Gaulle airport. No, you can’t live there, but you’ll want to.

No matter where you go in the world, you will have to, well, go. Just don’t fret about it. You are human. And with each adventure you’ll have more stories. I mean, how many people can say they’ve peed in a French mall parking lot on a sprig of a tree planted on a traffic island? Or on the banks of the Seine in the middle of Paris in broad daylight surrounded by pedestrian bridges? Or under the disapproving eyes of gargoyles at Notre Dame de Paris? Okay, that last one was a bit unfortunate. But I’m absolutely sure I’m not alone. And neither are you.