Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cold Day at the Casa

I cannot believe it, but the university canceled classes and closed the offices today. I'm really glad, because it is treacherously icy outside. Although GH had prepared everything in the event that we lost power like in the Great Ice Storm of 2007, we are happily powered here at Casa F.

I've spent the day cuddling with JJ and reading for my Mark Twain course. GH has been organizing all of our receipts for the accountant. He determined that our medical expenses went from approximately $2,100 in 2007 to over $8,000 in 2008. Damn you, MS!

Unless the road conditions deteriorate more, I have to be at work by noon tomorrow. Ah, another day of sleeping in! I didn't get up today until after 10:00. It was awesome!

I think the new drugs are working. I'll see my internist tomorrow and let him know everything is OK. Thanks for words of encouragement.

OK, I just updated on Facebook that I am getting on the treadmill, so I should really do that.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Who comes up with these drug names?

Skelaxin. What do you think this medication does? Is it something to prevent osteoporosis? No. Does it repair broken bones? No. Is it the newest character on Heroes who has the ability to shed skin and muscle to squeeze into tight places? No.

Skelaxin is a non-sedating muscle relaxer. My internist prescribed it for my ongoing shoulder problem. He also prescribed Meloxicam to reduce any inflammation that is present. Yet another weirdly-named drug. Meloxicam sounds like it should help with an upset stomach or a skin pigment condition.

Seriously, who comes up with the names for these drugs? I can't believe people actually get paid to come up with this!

I am glad my doctor is trying this method of treatment. I go back next week to see if these drugs are working. If not, we're going to assume this is an MS spasticity issue and possibly treat it with Baclofen. I hope it doesn't come to that.

To explain more about the shoulder, I received this injury in 1995 while in dress rehearsal for a charity musical revue. I was dancing in this number that was simulating the old-time fan dancers. We wore flesh-tone leotards and tights to give the illusion that we were nude while waving these lovely feather fans fore and aft to act like we were covering ourselves. Anyway, after the number was over, the lights went out and I started to descend the stairs of the platform where I had been dancing. Unfortunately, the stage manager had not put glo-tape on the stairs. As I went down the first step, the heel of my left character shoe broke off, throwing me off-balance. I pitched over the side and fell about five feet, landing on my left shoulder and thwacking my head quite smartly on the stage.

Long story longer, the lights came up and people rushed to me. A couple of doctors in the cast poked and prodded me and a firefighter (who was very cute; I was single then!) got an ice pack for me and someone volunteered to drive me to the ER. Someone got my bag for me and helped me on with some sweat pants (remember, I had on flesh-tone leotards and tights!) and a jacket to put over my shoulders. I went to the ER and determined if one more person poked my collarbone, I was going to punch them in the face. My brother met me at the ER and had me cracking up, although it hurt to laugh. He asked if I made a big thud when I fell. I told him it was actually very quiet. He said, "So, it was only a small splat!" Such a comedian!

Final verdict. I broke my left colloarbone. I still did the show, but not the dance numbers. I had something for the pain and went back to work. I healed eventually, but it was awkward because I am left-handed and I couldn't write or even wipe myself. Maybe it was good preparation for my flare last May when I couldn't use my left arm properly.

I have learned the valuable lesson that injuries one sustains in your twenties may come back to bite you in the ass in your forties. Or, MS spasticity really sucks. I don't know which is it for sure yet.

If it is determined that this is MS spasticity, I think I'll hold off on the Baclofen until the pain really gets persistently unbearable. Right now, it is minorly annoying (about a 2-3 on the pain scale. When it gets bad, it's about a 7-8. I can live with the 2-3 level on a daily basis, but not the 7-8. I would like to hear your stories of Baclofen experience or theatre injury stories!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Three Days of Weeping

Wow. What an emotional few days.

A friend at church passed away last Thursday. This was not unexpected, as she had breast cancer that had metasticized (sp?) to the brain. I was not sad for her, as I know she is in a better place and no longer suffering. I was sad for those left behind, especially her family and best friends, who are my dear friends in the choir.

Enduring Mass on Sunday was difficult, as I was there with my friends who were hurting so much, aside from the fact that we were singing a song that was so reminiscent of my choir at the parish where I was the choir director that I could barely make it through the song without crying. Then I went to the Rosary later that evening and that was SO sad.

On Monday, I had to sing with the choir at the Funeral Mass. I did OK for the most part, but the emotion of the day really hit me hard. I went home and did nothing for several hours but sit catatonically and watch completely mindless television.

Today, I called in "sick" to work to watch the inauguration. As contributors to the campaign and recipients of an invitation to the public events, I wept throughout the ceremonies. It has been all-inauguration all the time today, with the exception of one hour in which I watched American Idol. Needless to say, I wept again when President Obama and First Lady Michelle had their first dance at the Neighborhood Ball. Yeah, I'm a sap for good music combined with romance.

It is my fervent hope that the new administration will advocate for those of us with MS, as well as those who are under-insured.

God bless America!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When Is Pain MS-Related and When Is It Other Stuff?

I've been suffering with pain in my left shoulder for a couple of months. After the first week, I decided to seek some medical treatment, however, I did not want to take a medication that would make me drowsy or spacey, so I opted for chiropractic treatment. Then the chiropractor referred me to physical therapy. I was on board with that, since working through this and learning how to stretch and exercise to strengthen my upper back and other muscles seemed like the sensible thing to do.

After my last session before Christmas, my pain level went from about a two or three (mildly annoying) to a seven or eight. This lasted for about a week. I was not happy about this, and car travel to San Antonio and sleeping in a hotel room did not help the situation. The pain finally subsided a few days ago.

I went for my re-evaluation today and determined that I was not going to continue PT until I see my primary care doctor. If he deems that PT should continue, then I'll go forward with that.

Here's the one thing that really bothered me about the chiropractor referring me to that particular physical therrapy facility. I learned that the chiropractor is one of the owners of the PT facility. This walks a thin tightrope ethically, in my opinion. Yes, it is a brilliant business move, but I don't completely agree with it. As I stated earlier, if my PCP refers me to the same facility, I'm fine with that. It's a great facility that is very capable in dealing with MS patients. My therapist is always concerned about my fatigue level and makes sure I don't get overheated. He has also given me exercises to do at home for other issues like balance that are not related to the shoulder.

One of the frustrating aspects of having MS is determining if things that are going on with your body are MS symprtoms or if it is something unrelated. This thing with my shoulder could be arthritis from a broken collarbone received in a 1995 theatre accident. I'll save that story for another time. Another possibility is MS spasticity.

My question for you MSers out there is, how do you determine what is MS-related and what is other stuff? And can you ever receive a definitive answer? I know that's probably making you laugh, since MS is so unpredictable. Enjoy your laugh!


Friday, January 2, 2009

It's a New Year! And a New Copay! Bastards!

Thanks, health insurance company. Because I take a specialty drug, I now must pay $150/month copay for my Copaxone, as opposed to the 2008 copay of $50/month. Bastards!

I knew this was coming in November and have adjusted the budget with GH accordingly, as well as counting this new expense in re-figuring my flexible spending account for 2009 health care reimbursements. When I received the lovely package outlining our new options for 2009, I really nearly started screaming at someone. There was a separate brochure, all pretty and shiny, outlining the drugs considered "specialty" drugs. Before this list, there was a paragraph explaining why these drugs are so expensive. And, I kid you not, the first sentence says something to the effect of, "injectible drugs that treat conditions like multiple sclerosis." I was feeling a bit persecuted. Bastards!

I contacted Shared Solutions and they sent the paperwork to enroll in their discount program. I was accepted, so they will pay $50 of my copay. So now, my copay for 2009 is only double what I paid in 2008. Bastards!

All bitching aside, I am grateful that I have the income to pay for Copaxone. But what about those who can't? I know there are other programs for which they may qualify, but how do they find out about them? Since I began my MS journey, so many people have told me that you must be proactive about your health care. It is so true!

To all my dear readers, may you have a very healthy and happy 2009!