Friday, November 21, 2008

Fast Forward to May 2008

Want to start at the beginning? Go to So It Begins...

I woke up on the morning of May 9, 2008 with a headache, so I called in sick to work and went back to bed to see if sleep would help. When I woke up, I started to walk to the bathroom, I felt like I had consumed copious amounts of alcohol! What the hell?! Everything was spinning and I was completely off-balance. I went back to bed for awhile, then decided I should do something productive, so I attempted to vacuum the living room. Two platinum-blond Cairn Terriers can make a mess of a burgundy carpet!

I think I tripped and hit my left foot on the vacuum cleaner about 10 times during that exercise in futility. I tried to eat something, but it didn't stay down long. I found some flat ginger ale and laid back down until the hubby got home.

He didn't believe I felt as horribly as I did. He thought I was exaggerating my illness to procrastinate the much-needed housework. BTW, housework is the largest bone of contention in our marriage. Hubby is a tidy person and I am not as particular. The biggest arguments we've had in our eleven years together are about the division of housework duties. Truly, if that's the worst thing we fight about, I think we have a pretty solid marriage!

At one point when I got up to go to the bathroom, he noticed the uneveness in gait. He said, "Walk to me." So I did. I kept leaning to the right, since my left leg was not responding properly. He then said, "Seriously. Quit screwing around." To which I replied, "Honey, really, I'm doing the best I can." Finally, he realized that I wasn't exaggerating, he went into caretaker mode, making sure I was OK and trying to find something that I could eat.

By the next morning, I was still miserable. The only position I could manage was lying down. Anything else made my head spin. I asked him to take me to the urgent care facility close to our home. Of course, this wouldn't happen during the week when I could see my regular doctor. So we went. I was pathetically miserable riding in the car and I couldn't fill out the forms; he had to write everything for me. I did manage to sign my name. When he saw my signature, he said, "You know, your writing looked really weird last week when we signed that rental agreement with our new tenant at the duplex." I replied, "Yeah," because that was all I could manage right then.

The doctor I saw looked like she was about 14. I almost called her Doogie Howser. ;) I mean, seriously, how much confidence can you have in a physician who wears a midriff-baring shirt to work? Although, honestly, at that point, I didn't care. Just give me something for the nausea. She made me do that neurological test that resembles the sobriety test. C'mon, you know the one, "Close your eyes and touch your index finger to your nose." Well, I could do that fine with the right hand, but I was missing wildly with the left. The sad part of that is that I am left-handed! Doogie was quite freaked by this. She insisted that I get an MRI first thing on Monday. She also prescribed some Meclazine for the nausea, which is the main symptom I wanted to control. I was really afraid I would get dehydrated if I couldn't keep anything down. The diagnosis she gave me was vertigo, which is what my brilliant powers of deduction had assumed, although I had never had vertigo before.

I went home and called my mom to let her know that we had to cancel the Mother's Day lunch we had planned. I was going to make a fabulous prime rib dinner with all sorts of wonderful side dishes. She was very understanding and told me to just get better. Since we already had the prime rib defrosted, hubby decided to cook it the next day. I got up long enough to eat about ten bites of the meal before I had to lie down again.

In the midst of all this, I had to call in sick to the first rehearsal in the theater space for Midsummer Night's Dream. I was playing Hippolyta; it was my first Shakespearean role! The stage manager was very sympathetic and told me to get better and hopefully be at rehearsal on Monday.

On Monday, I saw my regular primary care physician. He was pretty concerned at my situation, so he ordered an MRI and set up an appointment with a neurologist. He gave me some vestibular exercises to help redistribute the fluid in my head, hopefully curing the vertigo. I started doing the exercises 2-3 times a day and it seemed to help. I stayed home from work until Thursday, although I was going to rehearsals at night. The show was to open on Saturday!

I managed to make it through the first weekend of the show with help from many people. The director's mom did my hair, as I still did not have full use of my left hand. She also helped dress me. Other cast members helped me on and offstage, as well as up and down the stairs on the set. By the end of the week, I was feeling better and returned to work on Monday.

The MRI experience really deserves a post all its own. 'Til next time!

Next, The MRI of DOOM

Monday, November 10, 2008

So it begins...

My journey with multiple sclerosis (MS) began in August of 2001. I received a phone call that my mom was in the hospital because she had lost vision in one eye. I was unemployed at the time, so I spent a great deal of time with her at the hospital. I did not want my dad to have a hectic schedule, as he is diabetic and must eat and take medication on a very regular basis.

After a couple of days in the hospital on IV steroids and multiple tests, my mom received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. She was completely devastated. Although she was a nurse, the only people she had known with MS were either in wheelchairs or nursing homes, dependent on others for care. Needless to say, Dad and I were also shocked, yet relieved that now we had an answer. It wasn't a stroke, which is what my first thought was. Mom regained the sight in her eye and went back to work a few days later.

I went back to my busy life with my husband and two dogs. I was still searching for a job, preparing for the holidays, etc. I checked in with my parents frequently and finding Mom to be OK, just left it at that. In February of 2002, I started working at a university for a petroleum engineering research consortium. I was so glad to join the work force again!

Later that year, I noticed that my right arm felt like it was asleep all of the time. I had those "pins and needles" feelings from just above the elbow all the way to my fingertips. I thought perhaps I had been doing too much data entry and was suffering from carpal tunnel. I went to my primary care doctor and he recommended wearing wrist splints while I slept. Still the numbness and tingling persisted. I went to the neurologist, who did a test that measured my electrical conductivity. This was not pleasant, as it involved pricking needles repeatedly into my arm. The test results were normal. An MRI was ordered, which also showed no abnormalities. I was put on a month-long regimen of Neurontin. After that month of medication, my arm returned to normal and I never thought of it again.

In the meantime, my mother's mood had altered considerably. She was very irritable, had entered into feuds with family and friends and then slipped into a horrible clinical depression. She had been fired from her job and could not explain why. My dad did not know what to do or where to turn. After a long conversation with my husband, we decided that I would take charge of her care. I made an appointment for her with my primary care physician and her neurologist. I went to all of the appointments with her. We helped her file for Social Security Disability. I found a psychiatrist. After reading a great deal about MS and its effect on cognition and depression, I knew Mom had to see a psychiatrist in order to find medication that would not interact with her other meds. Mom was approved for SSDI the first time and slowly returned to herself, after approximately a year on medication.

Although Mom didn't have the outward appearance of MS, she displayed many of the invisible symptoms that the general public are not aware. After her diagnosis, Mom started on Copaxone, a disease-modifying drug, and has not had a relapse since.

So began my journey with the MonSter. I will post more about my experiences with MS in this blog. Come back for more info about me and my family.

Next, Fast Forward to May 2008