Saturday, March 03, 2012
Is It MS Or "Something" Else?...
Every morning when I first get out of bed (or afternoon, depending on your time zone...heehee), my body creaks and moans like an old farm gate swinging in the breeze. This joint is stiff, or that muscle aches, or...the list of questionable ailments an anomalies is quite lengthy. From my teeth to my *innards*, there always seems to be some little annoyance or pain garnering my attention.
Before I left my childbearing years (that time frame where I strangely "forgot" to bear *child*), there seemed to be a monthly pattern of exacerbating aches and pains...of fatigue...of worsening Multiple Sclerosis symptoms...of FOUL MOOD. :-) It would pass, generally like a finely tuned atomic clock and usually with anatomical precision...shortly after dear friend "Flo" began her monthly visitations.
Sometimes, I get these involuntary muscle twitches in my arms, legs, or face...something the medical world calls, "fasciculations". These annoying, non-painful, under-the-skin-rippling-like-a-worm-crawling sensations are at best labeled *interesting*, and at their worst, labeled *freakin irritating*! They usually occur following a highly stressful situation (such as my work), after working in the garden, or sometimes without any rhyme or reason.
Lately, I've been gathering inflamed tendon diagnoses...Calcific Tendonitis of the shoulder, Achilles' Tendonitis of the ankle, de Quervain's Syndrome (tendonitis) of the wrist. My TENDONS appear to be irritated with ME lately as they inflame and aggravate my joint movements. Lifting an item or walking from my lounge chair to the refrigerator (something I choose to call "exercise"!) can be nearly impossible without excited utterances such as, "Dayum, that hurts!"
If I didn't know better, I'd be inclined to worry any and all of the above could be or ARE signs my Multiple Sclerosis is getting worse or I'm having an exacerbation/relapse! And, although my worries/ruminations/obsessive thinking "could" be true, it's not likely...and I'll tell you why.
Let me first put on my lab coat, stethoscope, and straighten my diploma on this virtual wall...the diploma I earned studying at the University of Internet, the esteemed College of Wikipedia (because we all KNOW everything on Wiki is true and correct...ehem), and the School of Hard Knocks. As I've said before, I only PLAY a doctor on the Internet! But, I AM one of the experts regarding my OWN body, so I will (and can only) speak to it. DISCLAIMER: YOUR body is an absolute mystery to me and any advice you seek should be obtained from a qualified medical professional who has earned a degree from an accredited school, NOT the Internet.
We've all done it...we've all had strange or new onset *stuff* happen in our bodies that concerns us...we've all wondered (either pre-diagnosis or post MS diagnosis) and uttered those four, fear-laden words, "Is it Multiple Sclerosis?" We've all waited and pensively observed, or immediately dialed our medical professionals, or ignored it hoping it would go away, or have been relieved when it DID go away, or demanded multiple medical tests to "rule out", or tried a new treatment our friends read about on the Internet that involved a chicken and a trapeze cure, or endured unwanted poking/prodding in our spines, heads, and muscles because our doctors felt a need to *just be sure*, or endured side effects of steroid infusions or pills because the quality of our lives diminished due to the "new stuff". Yep, YOU are a liar with MS if you haven't *wondered* about what might be going on in your body and *if* you should be concerned (or at the minimum, in denial about your finely honed coping skills). Just sayin...
When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, now some long and trying nearly 9 years ago, EVERY, sniffle, pain, creak, or fart that blew sideways coming out of my body was cause for alarm...EVERYTHING, from major to minor, and even unrelated to my neurons (such as a cough), was suspect of worsening MS. Fatigue felt after a 3 hour insomniac night HAD to be MS. Blurry vision (not aging eyes and need for a new lens prescription), HAD to be MS. Stiff legs after gardening? MS. Diarrhea? MS. A failed love relationship? MS. OK...I'm exaggerating a bit here, but I think you get the picture. :-)
It was my fear of the unknown that fanned the fires of doubt and uncertainty within my MS-riddled pea brain...not science, not statistics, not facts, and certainly NOT anything anyone said to reassure me. I felt I had no experience with this new MS body and, therefore, *should* be hyper vigilant. After all, the diagnosis snuck up on me during what I had come to believe was just another attack of bad posture, overuse, and arm/neck pain...I could not trust my own, inner voice, and chose to listen more closely to the loud alarm of fear ringing in my head.
Fortunately for me, time has been the best teacher...even when I've been screwing around in class and not paying much attention to the lecture. Time DOES heal many wounds...especially the large lesion that was eating away at a primary area of my brain called, "REASON". This area of my brain, although scarred by fear, has seemed to scab over nicely and it is functioning much better as I age with MS.
I have learned FOR ME, most things are not MS. I have learned MS "most likely" won't kill me and statistically, I am in far more danger of death at my JOB than I am from dying afflicted by Multiple Sclerosis. I have learned the fine art of "wait and see" before frantic 911 dialing of my doctors. I have learned if it interferes with my functioning enough, I SHOULD seek advice/call my doctor. I have learned there are many "home remedies" and healthier choices I can make to assist in coping with MS, such as diet, exercise, social stimulation, rest, etc. And, I have educated myself by devouring information about MS...weighing out the pros and cons of my learning, and listening to my inner wisdom to tell me which pieces of this learning are important for me to incorporate into my own well-being. I have taken my neurologist, Dr. She Who Will Not Be Named, off speed dial and added speed dial numbers for massage, supportive friends, physical therapy, calling in sick for work when I need to rest, and an assortment of *other* urgent numbers that support my wellness.
Wisdom and time have taught me to first look for the *Something Else*, then the MS when dealing with new "stuff" in my body because, either way, the outcome is going to be the same. I am going to seek medical advice and attention when my functioning is limited in some way that causes me to have difficulty coping. Some things should NOT be ignored or approached with a *wait and see* attitude...like chest pain or blood gushing from my aorta. It is the every day, more chronic and unknown origin issues like muscle aches or pains, that I am talking about here. THESE are the things I have grown confident in addressing as my own, personal expert on my body.
Not everything is Multiple Sclerosis...and not everything is *Something Else* I should be alarmed by. Just like my car, as I age my exhaust is sputtering more and I'm a little harder to start in the mornings...I too, one day will go to that great junk yard in the sky when my parts wear out...but until then, I'm choosing not to clutter my already failing brain with fear of the unknown and continue to put one foot forward into this world of *surprises*...