Outside, the spring sunshine warms the stately courtyard of a London hospital. Inside, it’s cool and dark. I’m lying in an air-conditioned room inside an MRI scanner which is using a strong magnetic field and radio waves to generate images of my brain.
The scanner sounds like a discordant orchestra as its magnetic waves penetrate deep inside my head, creating the images that will show doctors whether my brain is healing, or whether there is any fresh damage after the stem-cell transplant I had last winter, in the hope of halting the progression of my multiple sclerosis (MS).
It feels miraculous that the radiologist will be able to see and interpret what’s happening inside the tightly packed hills and valleys of my brain, even if not down to the level of the millions of neurons, dendrites and axons that chatter ceaselessly in chemical communion when the brain is working well.
Mine isn’t. Over the past quarter of a century, MS has nibbled away surreptitiously at my brain and central nervous system, finally potholing the once smooth superhighways of nerves that should carry the messages that spark movement and sensation throughout my body, and slowing the transmission to an agonisingly stuttering pace.
Yet what the doctors can’t see is what has really been happening inside me: inside my head, my heart and my soul. They can’t spot the seeds of doubt that have been sown as to the whereabouts of God in all this, or the questions that have grown and flourished like weeds in those metaphorical potholes over the past years, even before my diagnosis of MS in 2015.
In the years that I covered war and conflict for the BBC, sometimes seeing small children or pregnant women bloodied or torn to pieces by bombs or bullets, I’d often wonder how a merciful God could allow such carnage and human suffering.
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