Category Archives: Symptoms and Treatment

The Relapse Silver Lining …

brightI’ve had to think hard and dig deep, but there really is an upside to coming out of an MS relapse.

Bear with …

I’ve looked over my previous blog posts and, wow, I’ve written some fairly depressing stuff, but I guess that’s the point of blogs – honesty and real life, warts and all.

I’m not one for sugar-coating MS, as regular readers will know. There’s highs and there’s lows. Lots of them.

So now I’m emerging from this MS relapse hibernation I mentioned previously, it’s time to move on and concentrate on the positive.

I don’t know about you guys, but coming out of a relapse is like slowly waking up to the world again and all it can offer. Dullness is replaced with bright, blinding colours. Clarity snaps through my mind like a tornado. The impossible becomes ever more possible.

It’s so difficult to explain. For months, life has been lived in a sludgy, treacle-like substance. Putting one foot in front of the other has been the sole aim. Sure, to anyone else, I’m holding it all together. Only I know how disastrously things are collapsing inside.

Fear. That’s the worst symptom of a relapse. Fear of MS progression, fear of treatment failure, fear of the future. And above all, where do I fit in to this world where everything is a battle – parenthood, work, studying, being a capable member of society?

I might feel like I have achieved nothing during the relapse, but in hindsight I have. I’m still taking part in research projects, still attending MS meetings, still contributing my voice. I can do a lot with a laptop, despite the Wifi being a bit wonky when I’m lying down on the sofa.

I stood outside my back door yesterday and looked at the plants I had nurtured since seedlings. Achievement? Absolutely. I heard The Teenager singing in the shower; a confidant, blossoming young person with a bright future. Achievement? Hell, yes. My proudest and most shining example of hope over adversity. We’ve shared an incredible journey through MS together and now it is time he branches off and heads towards his dreams.

I am aspiring to be grateful for everything life throws at me. My first lesson has already happened – The Boss is picking me up at 7.15 tomorrow morning and my job is to write down lots of boring stuff.

No matter what, I will be the epitome of cool and count roof tiles and bits of wood. Just when I thought my life couldn’t get any more exciting …

 

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Could Someone Rewind This Year Please?

tiredWell.

It’s almost May and it might as well be February, as I’ve been in an MS-imposed hibernation since then. All my Grand Plans for 2017 have come to zilch.

This latest relapse has been tough and it’s taken all my diminished strength to get through it.

As always, life shrinks to the absolute bare minimum. It’s a case of getting through the day. The pain has been crippling, the fatigue all-encompassing.

As I emerge from my MS cocoon, it seems the world has moved on. I’m still wearing my Nordic sweaters and ordering ready-made hearty soups from Tesco. I’m watching dark Swedish dramas on telly and wondering where to introduce dramatic black paint into my house. In short, I’m still in Winter-mode when everyone else has dusted off their shorts and barbecues. S’not fair.

If I had the energy, I’d host a pity-party for one, just like I did way back when I was first diagnosed. It’s been an incredibly long relapse compared to the usual three-weekers.

Anyway, enough whingeing. The Teenager and The Cat have been getting on with their lives in the meantime and handily for them both, I’m pretty much always available to speak to as I loll on my sofa trying to maintain a semblance of normality. I’m a captive audience:

  • The cat enjoyed her course of steroids (it cracks me up that she was on the exact same ones as I’ve taken for relapses in the past) and her fur is growing back. Mind you, her tail looks a bit weird as it’s still fairly bald at the bottom.
  • She’s being bullied by a new cat on the block, resulting in sudden scamperings into the house, nearly giving me a heart attack.
  • Two mice have been left right outside the back door. I stepped on one of them.

As for The Teenager:

  • He pushed his way through the 1000-strong crowd on the Common outside my house to get a selfie with Jeremy Corbyn when he spoke here last Friday. Random, but true. Jeremy looks slightly bemused.
  • He has finally worked out how to use the oven; luckily the house didn’t blow up when he left the gas on overnight after cooking a couple of chicken breasts. But at least he got his protein.
  • I attended an overnight MS Society Council meeting at the weekend and said to him in a misplaced spirit of generosity, ‘why not have a couple of friends round?’ And, ‘feed the cat’. Long story short, ten hulking teenagers were squeezed into my house, my recycling bags are filled to the brim with beer cans and I’m still finding bottle tops down the sofa. The cat is alive.

Hopefully, I’m turning a relapse corner and I can start playing catch-up on the year which is passing me by in a blur of supreme inactivity. Or maybe I should throw the towel in and start writing my Christmas list …

p.s. I know there’s a spelling mistake on the picture – just too tired to correct it …

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Commiserations and Celebrations …

listeningThis post is a very big thank you to everyone.

I’ve been going through my own personal relapse hell these last few months and it’s thanks to you guys for keeping me sane; here and on Twitter.

Meeting with my MS nurse yesterday just showed me how important it is to be listened to, both by the MS professionals and my MS peers.

You haven’t shirked from my odd symptoms, you’ve sympathised with my sofa-bound enforcement. You’ve cheered me up and empathised when times were hard.

In a way, I’ve made sense of this relapse thanks to you. Each post I’ve written during this time has given me the most insightful comments, a lot of which I took to yesterday’s appointment.

MS for me is isolating and lonely. Get the violins out, but there is no Significant Other. No one to pick up the pieces, to cook dinner or flick a duster around. So the camaraderie I gain from you means the absolute world to me.

The knowledge that no one has to go through a relapse alone is empowering and comforting.

I hope you all know just how much this means to me.

Thank you.

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Slapped Around The Face With A Prawn Sandwich …

prawnI saw my wonderful MS nurse today.

We discussed my relapse (which started 18th February – I write everything down; dodgy MS memory). It’s still rumbling along and the symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Out-of-proportion MS fatigue
  • Walking round in circles
  • Falling over
  • Numbness, tingling, massive increase in nerve pain
  • Problems with hands
  • Problems with walking
  • Slurred speech

And so on. It was incredibly therapeutic to go through them all, linking the dots, feeling that what I’m in the middle of experiencing is … normal.

If I was asked to describe how this particular relapse feels, I would say it feels exactly like being slapped around the face with a prawn sandwich. Repeatedly. You kind of know what to expect at first, and if it was a posh sandwich, the bread would be firm and the little embedded seeds would annoy you. Then the spinach leaves would fall out and finally the spiny bits of the prawns would really annoy you.

It’s a subtle build up. Before you know it, you’re deep into a relapse.

I was asked how I felt, emotionally.

‘Trapped. Isolated’.

My home is my absolute focal point right now and I spend an inordinate amount of time making it look nice. I’ve constructed an Easter tree from abandoned branches, picked up leaves from my back garden (sitting on the ground, gathering them in a pile and shuffling to the next circle) and ordered everything I need online, from food to new underwear for The Teenager.

I go to work, come home, recover, sleep, go to work, come home, recover, sleep.

It’s incredibly boring. To liven things up, I Plasti-Kote’d a plant pot with black spray and spent a good few hours arranging my Sharpies in it. I have counted how many loo rolls we have left and divided it by The Teenager. I changed the bath mat. It’s that exciting.

My MS nurse asked why I hadn’t come in to the clinic at the start of the relapse and I proudly told her I was now an experienced person with MS and sort of knew what to expect. I didn’t fancy the all-night-party element of steroids and felt I could Go It Alone.

I was wrong. I should have called. The sheer relief to talk to someone who knows. I feel significantly less alone this evening and that means the world to me. It won’t change the barrage of symptoms but I know that somewhere I am cared for.

During the worst of the relapse, The Boss hooked me up to his Netflix account and I can confirm I have now seen every single episode of each of the four series of ‘Orange Is The New Black’. That’s 52 hours of telly.

I’m being sent for another MRI (yay, claustrophobia here we come), and we’ll take it from there.

To be frank, I’m a tad concerned …

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Going Round In Circles

circles When I’m experiencing them, I’m never quite sure if a sudden surge in MS symptoms is a relapse or not.

I only get the definitive answer when I wake up one morning (days, weeks, months after) and I just know it’s over – it’s kind of a retrospective thing.

Today, hallelujah, is one of those days. The murky fog has cleared, my energy is restored to its usual low level and the world seems a much brighter place. I look back over the last couple of weeks and realise just how awful things were.

To begin with, I ignored the numbness down my right side, the dodgy tingling hand, the weak arm. Then came the beyond-out-of-proportion tiredness and jelly-brain. As is usual with a relapse, my world shrank. I did the bare minimum and I did it badly. Work was a nightmare (Boss not happy) and when I got home I slept (Teenager not happy), woke up and barely moved from my sofa.

After that came the symptom that left me stunned – my body seemed to want to pull to the right, so walking in a straight line was a bit tricky. I ended up turning right an awful lot, so much so that I might as well have been walking in circles. I slammed into walls, fell with a thud into my washing machine and tripped down five stairs, ending up lying dazed on the floor, squished between the bottom stair and my bureau, finding a long-lost catnip ball in the process.

The most worrying episode was when I was in the shower the other day. Again, my body wanted to jerk to the right. Unfortunately this meant I fell out of the shower and cracked my head against the toilet. As I was lying there, I was ever so grateful I hadn’t knocked myself out as the thought of paramedics finding me naked on the floor, crying and trying to cover up with a single flannel was unbearable.

After counting the cobwebs on the ceiling and noting the gaps in the silicone seal around the shower screen, I staggered to my feet, put my dressing gown on and sulked on the sofa for the rest of the day. Again.

So it’s over, for now; I’m back to the baseline, which seems to rise with every relapse. Whereas before I fretted about every tiny symptom, diligently jotting them down in my ‘MS Symptom’ book (one from 2013 – ‘my nose seems to itch more and swallowing is a bit of an issue’), I now have a much more ‘yeah, yeah’ attitude. It’s about accepting it and living day to day.

I can say that now. If you’d asked me last week however, I’d have given you a withering look and sighed.

Progress?

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