Dance of the X-ray and MRI…

The Veterans Administration decided to send me to an MS specialist. This civilian doctor wanted to look at my most up to date MRI that I had. “I have not had an MRI in over twelve years,” I said in a matter of fact tone. I explained to her that my last MRI was done at a hospital downtown in 2005-2006. I then remarked that the VA has copies of these images if you cannot get them from the hospital. I told her that they should be available upon her request. She decided that she wanted to get a new MRI of my brain.

To get the most accurate results this doctor sent me for this MRI at her facility. However, in my back I have four pieces I will call them metal confetti for a more fun term. Because of these metal pieces, they had to take an X-ray before the MRI to verify the location.

I was taken into an office for an abundance of check-in questions. The clerk verified that I was the same person who was in their computer system. She did this by asking me many verifying personal questions. Things could have gone much faster if she had asked me for my state ID. I suppose that there is a reason that they do things this way and I am not privy to that reasoning. The entire session in her office lasted about five minutes.

She then handed me off to a new person who had a tiny three-walled room. This medically trained individual began to ask me a plethora of health questions. She was trying to ascertain if I was healthy enough to get an MRI. The MRI contrast chemical has been in the news recently because it has been poisoning people. She wanted to verify my health and make sure that I would not also be poisoned. These questions gave her insight to the rest of my general health as well.

Next, I was taken to the X-ray and MRI preparation area. I learned that I apparently do not weigh as much as I thought that I do. The medical staffers picked me up out of my chair and carefully placed me onto the bed. At that point in one smooth movement, one staff member removed my shorts. I had removed my shirt earlier. At the same time, another person adorned me in a hospital gown. They also took my watch and told me that they would take my gasses later. Lastly, they put an IV in my arm for the contrast chemical.

I was asked if I was cold and would I like a blanket. I said no thank you and the nurse double checked by asking if I was sure. When I said that I was comfortable, she came back with a blanket that felt like it was from an oven. I respectfully said thank you and proceeded to pull it down to my belly button and up to my upper thighs. “Is that too hot? Would you like a sheet?” she asked. “Yes please,” I said smiling. I was trying to hide my annoyance since I said that I did not want a blanket in the first place.

Then my Marine Corps training came into play with four little words: hurry up and wait. Sadly, they had no music playing, and there was no television in sight. Every once in a while someone would come in and annoy me. I say that because they would come in for twenty seconds ask a question and then leave. I was board out of my mind as I could hear their conversation happening elsewhere. I only wish that they had brought the conversation near me, alas I was not in their click.

The building that these images were taken in was an old structure. Everything definitely looked clean. However, the imaging equipment was on the lower level, and the surroundings looked dark. This is in contrast to newer hospitals that tend to be extremely bright and white.

They wheeled me through the halls and down the corridor and into a smallish room. The x-ray tech had a flat panel of some sort that was approximately two foot by one foot. Her mission should she choose to accept it was to slip this panel under my back and rump. She completed the task with ease. “Take a deep breath and hold it,” she requested. When I did, I heard a click. “Ok you can breathe now” she let me know. The image showed three pieces of this metal confetti-remember happy term. She was not sure if they would be impacted by the magnets in the MRI machine.

I was then taken back to the dark and dull area for more waiting. Sadly, I was not tired, so I could not sleep nor did I have my phone so no music, book or internet. There was only time for more waiting.

After what felt like several days I was taken ten feet to the MRI room. They pulled the bed next to the table that slides into this giant magnetic tube. She asked me what type of music that I wanted to listen to. She put headphones in my ears as well as earplugs of some sort. The final task was to put a cage over my head and glide me into this narrow magnetic tunnel.

A minute later her voice came through asking if the volume of the music was acceptable. “This session will last five minutes. Squeeze the ball I gave you if you need anything.” She let me know. Two seconds later the jackhammering sounds began. I realized that now I need that oven baked blanket. There was enough of a cool breeze in the tunnel that I could have flown a kite.

When the banging ended her voice asked me if I was ok and if I needed anything. “Can I have a blanket please?” I asked “There is a cold wind showing signs of an early winter” I proclaimed. She apparently did not have a sense of humor and quietly said sure and covered me with a blanket. The entire scan was filled with more jackhammering. Peppered in the loud banging was her voice asking if everything was ok.

All said and done the entire appointment took three and a half hours. After the MRI they moved quickly to send me on my way. Without haste, they carefully removed the IV from my arm. MS has taught me to have the patience of Jobe because nothing I do is fast except when I race a turtle. However, one of the nurses got fidgety when I put my watch on as I was not moving fast enough.

I could tell that I was not moving expeditiously enough for her as she preferred. As we walked towards the waiting area, she kept asking me if I wanted her to push me. I pulled my big boy pants on and made it to the car all by myself. I even got into the SUV with no assistance or difficulty. I was very apologetic to my dad the driver because I did not know that the appointment would take so long.

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”

I am lost without your help…

I was asked: Multiple Sclerosis what is the one thing that you cannot live without? I pondered this perplexing puzzle for a few minutes. I suppose that this question is genuinely up for interpretation. Otherwise, most people might just say that family is the most essential thing in their MS world.

This question is impossible for me to answer. I cannot specify one thing alone that I could not live without. Of course, I would say, friends, church family, and family, but none of these are things as the question states. I would say that my current friends are the cornerstone of my life. The Veterans Administration is also not technically an object, but it has been vital to my existence.

As for the irreplaceable items in my life, there is a bountiful list. Let me start with my wheeled chariot. Without this magical manual mechanism, I would be bedridden and merely be waiting for the end. It helps me stay active by requiring me to propel myself from one place to another. It is essential to keep the body in motion, and my chair demands that I do just that.

My microwave helps me to keep my independence. This happens because this technology allows me to cook the sustenance that I need to stay alive. I do not have to try and see down into it meaning that my microwave cooks at my eye level. I have even figured out how to cook dry pasta and not merely reheat in it, I love spaghetti.

My smartphone and internet banking are essential for keeping my self-reliance. I am a private person with lousy handwriting. Internet banking eliminates the need for writing checks to pay my bills. It also means that I do not need to wait for my monthly statement to verify my banking activity.

My computer and smart technology are both paramount to my true freedom. When items are connected to my smartphone or computer, it means that they can be done safely. It also says that these tasks are simple to complete. The fact that they are Wi-Fi connected means that I can be anywhere in the world as long as there are internet and Wi-Fi.

Music of all genres is vital to my total well-being. With no music the silence of my house is deafening. As I roll around my house, I do not merely want the noise of the television. I enjoy the rhythmic and melodious sounds of music echoing through the house.

The community center swimming pool and my swim instructor are imperative to my life. It has been said that people do not count for this query because they are not things. However, in this case, I am putting my instructor in the category of tools and not people. The pool has made me a stronger person both physically and mentally. This strengthening ensures that my daily tasks are possible for both my brain and body. My instructor taught me how to use the pool fitness equipment to build the muscles that I depend on daily.

Although not things my fortitude and tenacity are fundamental to my existence. My attitude and ability to adapt and overcome the adversities before me have made me a better person. It has made every breath that I take exceptional and worth having.

These are just a few of the things that I cannot live without. As you can see if any one of these items were not in my life it would be a sad existence. Instead of giving one item I have shared one list so in the spirit of the question I have answered it correctly.

What to expect when you’re not expecting…

As a seventeen-year veteran MSer, I am sometimes asked to give advice to the newly diagnosed. Sometimes I am the one to welcome the recently initiated into the fraternity or sorority of MSers. Questions get posed to me all of the time typically asking the same queries in different forms. Is MS a death sentence? No. You have MS, how do you look so good? Oil of Olay. What now? Hold.

Then one gentleman’s query put me in a quandary. He asked: What should I expect from an MS life? I thought for a moment and came up with this answer. This is the way that I look at it, and it is my opinion. My explanation had elucidated our strange medical condition in this simple sentence. With Multiple Sclerosis you must expect anything and be ready for everything.

There are a plethora of variables that make planning for MS an impossibility. Just to give you an idea of some of these issues: age, how healthy you are and your geographic location just to name a few. Multiple Sclerosis neophytes need to know although there are many similarities there are even more differences. If you ask any ten people with MS, you will see commonalities in the indications. However, the impact of these symptoms on their lives can vary drastically.

People will gladly share their stories and how they dealt with the adversities that they faced. The problem is that you will not understand until you experience that symptom. However, even if you have the exact same sign, your body will likely respond differently.

All of that being said focus on several things in your new MS life. First and foremost keep your bodies moving! Keep as active as you can by moving anything that you can for as long as you can. No matter if it is running, walking, swimming or something in between stay in motion. I always say that if you sit still for too long, you will rust. A rusty pair of scissors does not work correctly and neither will you. I went for nearly ten years without moving, and I deteriorated so much that I am currently in a wheelchair. Learn from the mistakes of others.

Food is life, but the wrong food can be the opposite. There are plenty of MS focused diets to choose from. It is more important to pay attention to the similarities of those diets and not the differences. They all tell you to eat reasonably and smartly. Portion control is imperative just like not overdoing the unhealthy food. Although many argue what they look like health and wellness are both critical.

When something unexpected happens, do not panic! Someone has gone through it before you, and they will deal with it after you as well. Remember that life with Multiple Sclerosis is the new normal so adapt and overcome. Do not give up doing things but find a workaround for you. Wear a cooling vest or carry a notepad for reminders just do not deprive yourself of life. Take it one day at a time.

No matter what happens, keep a positive attitude and always wear a smile. When you need help, and you will require help, people will be willing to assist you if you are smiling. Grumpy Gus’s get a bitter rejection when assistance is needed the most. Learn your limitations but never give up. Live your life to the fullest using any adaptations required. Do not ruin a good today thinking about a bad yesterday, let it go.

Build a stable support system filled with family and friends who are supportive and understanding. Find a Multiple Sclerosis support group and in that group find an MS buddy. Stress and MS are mortal enemies so do not let them use your body as a battlefield. Avoid stress but if you cannot avoid it find ways to manage your stress. Meditation, music or religion might help.

These are some of the most important facts for those new to MS. Experience removes fear and builds your MS confidence. Remember: today you are better than yesterday but not as good as you will be tomorrow.

MS, the stress chronicles…

I visited a friend at his new house as he moved and wanted to show his new digs. When I was there, he had to take an urgent phone call. After he was put on hold, he looked up and asked me to feed his bird. “I’m sorry, what,” I asked. He told me to put some fresh seeds in the bird food holder. “His bowl has food in it” I clarified. He explained that the food dish has bird feed that is stale and needs mixing with fresh feed. He saw me hesitate and said, “The bird will not bite.”

He began explaining the proper procedures for feeding this pet of his. First, open the cage and remove the food bowl. I followed his directions to the letter, and the bird quickly escaped. I apologized for the next hour as we tried to capture the creature and put it back into its cage. I felt terrible even after we finally caught and re-caged this flying creature of his. I went home and slept for the better part of the afternoon as the stress was significant.

This is an example of mental stress and since we jumped around physical stress too. Stress and multiple sclerosis go together like oil and water. Keep in mind that every MSer is impacted differently by all forms of stress. I personally have flare-ups of several of my manifestations all at once. The exacerbation of my symptoms is the reason that I run from pressure. I avoid stress like a squirrel avoids the neighborhood dog.

Also, think about physical stress. When I began heavy weight lifting with my buddy, the goal was to lift a lot of weight eight to ten times. If we could lift twelve times then moving up in weight was the next step. I remember that when I was lifting weights, I dropped my body weight faster than an Indy 500 racecar.

A car accident is another example of this physical stress. The wear and tear in the few seconds of a traffic collision can do significant damage to a non-MS body. That same destruction can do untold damage to an MS body in various ways by causing severe flare-ups. Many times the stress of a car crash can awaken someone’s dormant Multiple Sclerosis.

Lifting heavy weight, dropping pounds very quickly and even car accidents are examples of physical stress. This corporeal pain can be just as detrimental to the MS body as the psychological stress. I believe that the physical stress may be overlooked because many MSers sit on the couch and naturally deteriorate. This occurs while other MS patients, rightfully so, are leery of crossing the line. This line that is not to be crossed can put them out of commission for days. Since this line can jump around like a kid playing Double Dutch, there is deeply seated trepidation.

It is entirely correct that we are all superheroes in our own way. The problem is that some of us carry kryptonite called MS with us at all times. We must decide how our bodies may handle every movement that we make. It is imperative that we choose which actions will likely put us in a long recovery and avoid them.

The truth is that I currently live alone making avoiding stress a simple endeavor. I realize and look forward to the day that I can tell my significant other that everything is ok. I am eager to show her that we can handle everything with some essential communication. There is nothing as bad as losing your cool and losing your stance just before a possible ER visit. When you are aware of the possibilities, everything becomes extremely clear.

On a different topic: The magazine that I will be blogging for is the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. My first blog for the MSAA will be published in August or September. I have a due date of August 25th, so I will keep you up to date as to the posting. A heads up: the title is dissolution confusion. Just like when I had a book report to do in school, I will start writing it on Aug 24th. I am kidding of course as it is done! Like Gomer Pyle used to say: surprise, surprise, surprise! Any younger readers will have to look up Gomer Pyle and his catchphrase.