Then, along came Multiple Sclerosis. And with the disease, I slowly began losing several million brain cells with each popping lesion that appeared in my head. But even WITH MS, we all know each of us possess several BILLION brain cells...what's a few million gone over a life time when the ratio is THAT high?
Well, I'm here to tell you...yes, I'm quite certain I STILL possess that gazillion ratio of firing brain cells up in my noggin (MRI proves it...I DO still have a brain), but it seems those several million cells that have vaporized into MS lesions may have accumulated in some important areas of my brain. Like speech, and word-finding, and calculating critical or complex problems.
For all practical purposes, my MS seems to have stopped boiling my brain of late and is instead running at a very low *simmer*. Whether it has been the effect of the Tysabri, a change in my routine, or simple planetary alignments, my personal brand of MS appears to have stabilized for the time being. **Insert big WOO HOO here** I am happy to report a stabilizing of physical symptoms currently in my life...this is a "good" thing, by anyone's standards and I am certainly NOT complaining. Far be it for me to annoy the MS gods with balloon-squeaking, fingernails-on-chalk-board whining. LOL
What has NOT stabilized and appears to be worsening over time, are my speech patterns...my ability to THINK in words and construct meaningful sentences. My friends poo-poo my notion that it is my MS causing me to bumble/mumble like the town idiot...they sight OLD AGE, hormones, and stress as primary factors, telling me they, too, have a similar experience. I personally think *they* have lost much of their long-term memory and can only recall I have recently celebrated a birthday...it's what's on *their* minds right now and *their* only point of reference. But I also know I have friends who are 10-15 years OLDER than me, and THEY do not appear to be experiencing the degree of aphagia I have developed.
For those of you not in the know or just too lazy to Google *aphasia*, the word loosely refers to having difficulty producing or comprehending language. It comes from the Greek word, "aphatos", which translated means "speechless". Aphasia can be a primary symptom in certain types of traumatic brain injuries (strokes, TIA's, physical trauma, etc.), where the ability to speak meaningful sentences is interrupted. More often than not, an aphasic person can KNOW what they want to say, but cannot WORD FIND or pull up the word(s) that represents the concept they are trying to form. This, of course, is NOT true for all types of aphasia and *aphasia* is just too large a topic to cover here...seriously, Google it (can I use that as a verb?!?) if you want to know more! G-O-O-G-L-E.
Our primary speech centers are located (usually) more in the left hemisphere in the frontal cortex (Broca's Area) or in the posterior temporal lobe (Wernicke's Area)...both of these speech-producing and comprehension areas are not that far from the corpus callosum (relatively speaking...pun intended). And anyone with half a brain and Multiple Sclerosis knows what the CORPUS CALLOSUM is famous for, right??? MS LESIONS!
OK...before everyone with MS who reads this starts panicking and signing up for American Sign Language courses (in the event you can't speak, right? Sorry folks...if you develop expressive aphasia, you STILL won't be able to formulate sentences even with your hands!), let me say this: The human brain may be small in size (about 3 pounds normally...you won't notice drastic weight loss from losing brain cells), but millimeters between areas in the brain are like MILES on a road map...THOUSANDS of miles. And our brains are always working to form new pathways around anything that sets up a road block in the communication process between parts of the brain (see NEUROPLASTICITY for an entire WORLD of information about this subject...that's right...GOOGLE it!). So just because you might develop a MS lesion in a particular area of the brain, does NOT mean you will necessarily lose functioning of that area...but you might...and like me, you "might" blame a particular problem/symptom you are having on MS. Whew...I think I've come full circle to the topic again...I think.
The ability to speak and comprehend speech is so very important to me...it is, after all, a necessity in my job. I have to be able to speak to patients and comprehend what they are saying back to me...no matter how off the wall or crazy they may sound! And even then, I have to RECOGNIZE that what they are saying isn't making much sense. Confused yet?!?
I have noticed my word-finding abilities tend to worsen when I am tired or more stressed than usual...this is typical of almost ALL MS symptoms. Because our nerves/axons slow down their firing processes as WE slow down or become distracted. And yes, (for all you naysayer-it's-just-old-age friends that might be reading this) this simple fact IS true for everyone, not just MSers. But piggy back onto NORMAL aging processes/tiredness the idea of MS FATIGUE or MS SYMPTOMOLOGY, and you've got a higher than average probability word-finding is going to be a *betch* (used that spelling for YOU, KoKo!). And I find I am *betching* more and more about my inability to formulate meaningful sentences these days.
Typing for me has been a godsend of late...I can use a thesaurus or GOOGLE (there's THAT notion again) concepts to find the appropriate words I am looking for...then, plug them into sentences that have blanks in them. This unfortunately does NOT work for public speaking! The thesaurus in my brain often appears to have white, unused pages blowing in the wind that whirls around in my noggin. I struggle to find a SIMILAR word to the word I CAN'T find in my head. And sometimes, I will find a word that SOUNDS LIKE the word I originally wanted to use, but it is soooo far off, I end up sounding/looking like a complete dunce. Like "feline" and "feminine" or "extrapolate" and "extricate"...or much worse, "masturbate" and "masticate". Those last two words are certainly NOT words ANYONE would feel comfortable misusing!
Fortunately, in many situations, these same naysayer-it's-just-old-age friends will finish my sentences or fill in the blank(s) FOR me...my life becomes a game of "sounds like" charades. Everyone readily participates in coming up with whatever word they THINK I mean or I'm wanting to use. This is helpful...to a point...but much of the time, the only *point* I readily feel is the one at the end of my cap...