Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“Culprit in skin damage is exposure to sun”


So, while reading the newspaper this morning my eyes fall upon this headline. I find it ironic since that very sun is what is plaguing me today. It is a beautiful summer day in West Viirginia and this evidently is praying on the minds of a group of my teacher colleagues who are getting together next week for a day of fun in the sun. We are to meet at a swimming pool in a neighboring town for some laughs and visits and then off to a popular watering hole for dinner and drinks. It sounds lik so much fun. I used to partake in these randezvous quite often in my early teaching days. The memories flood my socially hungry brain and I see myself young, lean, tanned and ready to play with my pals.

Sure, I reply to the FB invite. I’ll be there!

Then I step outside and am instantly slammed to the ground by  the heat. My legs get weak and my head spins. And that is on the shady premises of my back porch. What will it be like at a swimming pool in direct sunlight? I panic. I really want to see my buddies and I really, really want to have somefun. But I know that will not happen. I will make all of my excuses and be seen as Lisa the Party Pooper once again.

And I begin to think about Mother Nature’s hand in my disease. I spent most of my youth in the sun. I life guarded my way through high school and college. I dreamed of living on the ocean and training to guard on the beach. I was one of those fools who slathered baby oil and iodine all over my body in order to sizzle away all of my healthy skin cells. I loved the heat.

After reading the article in the paper, I took a better look at my skin. Yes, the signs of sun damage were apparent on my dry, wrinkly body. Even with generous use of lotions and oils, there is no reparing  the damage done to my skin. That’s history and nothing can be done to fix it now. I actually really do not care that much. I had a blast growing up in the  sun. That was another distant chapter in my life. Unfortunately, what I did to myself then is catching up to the way I live now.

Because MS is such a mysterious condition, I must pose the question. Did my extreme exposiure to the sun’s rays have anything to do with my diagnosis? I doubt it, but the great sun gods are paying me back now. I have become that old cat lady who  prefers to lounge in the comfort of my air conditioned house, looking out at the day rather than participating in it.

The article says that our skin undergoes a number of changes throughout the years and with age it looses essential moisture and oils that cannot be thoroughly repaired. The skin becomes less elastic, much like a rubbver band. Gravity “tugs on the skin”, and instead of bouncing back, the skin begins to sag. That is when fine lines start to appear and areas of the body hang down. The article goes on to say that the single biggest cause of damage to the skin is not aging itself, but exposure to the sun. Of course we are preached at about this all of our lives; but, there are folks like me who prefer to turn a blind eye and grab as many rays as we can. So, I get to suffer the consequences now; but that’s okay. I’ll live with it.

What I do not partidularly want to live with , though, is the absence of the sun in my life. Just thinking about exposing myself to the heat of the day is exhausting and is a real killjoy. I have absolutely no desire to hang out at a pool knowing what I do about the diverse  effects that will most likely follow. No amount of drinking water or cool clothes will repair what I know will happen to me after laying out in the sun or even floating around in the pool. Because I have to get out of the water at some point, right? Out of the refreshing pool water and back into the proverbial frying pan.

My head will spin, my face muscles will slacken, and I will most likely start to slur my words and become somewhat incoherent. My drop foot will totally drop off and there will be no walking for me. Which is bad, since my drop foot is also my accelerator foot and will make driving extremely uncomfortable as well as a little dangerous. Sure, I could hitch a ride, but that will not eliminate all of these other symptoms and fears.
I still have several days to conquer my fears and make acceptable plans about the day; but right now I feel that it is not in my best interests to attend. MS has made me such a fuddy duddy. I don’t like this part of me and I do not like the unwelcome attention it gives me. “Oh, Lisa can’t go because the heat is bad for her.” “No, Lisa won’t be there. Y’know, she has MS.” Of course I rarely give such honest excuses. It’s not fair to make my friends and colleauges uncomfortable with the ill effects of my disease. They understand it as much as I do, but at least I was invited. Right?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

MS isn't always the worst of the bad things...

This is my week in a nut shell: It's Spring Break (yes, we didn't get enough days out of school this year:) and my family normally spends a few days at our home away from home...Bemis, the Center of the Universe. This year, how ever, I get to stay home for most of the week, entertaining doctors. For some time, I have suffered weird chest pains that was orginially diagnosed as some kind of chest inflammation that required 3 daily doses of high power Motrin. It helped for a while but after several months I became nervous about the amount of Motrin that my body was ingesting...and the pain was not going away. So...I took my concerns back to the physician who has now decided that a pain pill (when needed) is more the ticket, in addition to a muscle relaxant at bed time. It's done wonders, but a further precaution is the heart monitor that I am wearing for the next 24 hours. My heart rate is (I guess) alarmingly low, (Isn't that a good thing?) so I have been referred to a cardiologist and am proceeding with caution. I just hope that this new doctor journey does NOT interfere with Westest. Oh, the complications that would create! (Seeing as how this educational measure of student achievement and teacher competency is more important than ANYTHING in my profession.)

But...I will dwell on that later. My main focus right now is to endure the next 24 hours so that I can get ready for my original Spring Break occupation.

I'm not worried about the heart monitor and I actually appreciate the fact that I have to avoid using the telephone or the microwave while wired to this gadget. I find public interest in this visual indication of an infliction fascinating, though. Just because the little black box and accompanying grey wires are part of my attire today, complete strangers are compelled to sympathetically comment on my "situation". It doesn't hurt that my drop foot is acting up today so my gait is a bit "off". For nearly 13 years I have evidently passed off my MS as just an annoyance rather than a daily complication. Now, because I am connected to a physical reminder of a possible "condition," my fellow Earth occupants dig into their generosity banks to offer encouraging words. Hmmm.....

I try not to call attention to my MS and mostly do a pretty good job of that. I have been using my cane more often of late and that has produced questions, especially from my students since I don't really go any where else but school. Two comments in the last week, one from a student and one from a colleague: "Mrs. McCombs, what's with the cane?" "Oh, my. How did you hurt your ankle?"

When I admit my MS, I do not do so with shame, and I do not mind offering an abbreviated desciption of the disease. I just hate admitting to a weakness, regardless of the fact that it is nothing I caused. It is humilating enough that I need to justify my physical limitations, but the confusion exhibited by an onlooker is sometimes even worse.

FIVE DAYS LATER
Ah...but it gets better...
The heart monitor was no big deal and all test results are encouraging. There is supposedly
nothing wrong with my heart (but I am anemic), but considering my family history I fully intend to see the cardiologist any way. What's another day away from school if it assures me more days to enjoy my son? Westest be damned. (Oops, did I really say that?)

So...I finally spent some of my break in the Center of the Universe; but it was short-lived. I felt horrible when I got there, went to bed early, and awoke even earlier...in tears. And I mean full blown hysteria. I could not stop crying, my chest hurt, my mind was imploding with terribly depressing images of anything and everything bad that could happen to me and to my family. I was so jittery that I could barely dress myself. After a LONG, hot shower, I packedmy things and drove home; scared behind words and unable to squelch my periodical bouts of crying. My poor son had to witness this and he did his best to make me feel better. My baby is becoming such a wonderful young man.

We drove immediately to my doctor, where I underwent another EKG and more blood work.
The diagnosis? I have an ear infection, which was causing my dizziness. Better yet, the muscle relaxant was the main culprit. "Some people experience periods of depression." Lucky me, I'm one in that statistic.

The anitibiotic is working miracles. I am no longer dizzy or jittery. My chest pains are even gone.

I'm still going to the cardiologist; but I will NEVER take another muscle relaxant.

My son and I had a long talk about drug consumption. ((Yep, forever the teacher in search of that "teachable" moment:) I am totally blown away by what that teeny, tiny  little white pill did to me. In fact, I only consumed a fourth of it. He agrees that recreational drug use is NOT in his future. Good boy.

So..I am now on an essential oil kick. Noni juice has all ready proven its benefits regarding MS. Vitamin D is crucial. Peppermint always calms my tummy and there's nothing more relaxing than a hot cup of camomile tea. Honey is an awesome natural remedy for many things. I'll keep my anticiotic for now, though.

My goal is to discover a good medical reason to eat all this yummy Easter chocolate in my kitchen!
 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let's get positive!

Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace
English Quotes: http://goo.gl/udl654

So, last week I devoted any postings to negativity, and I kindof forgot to let go yesterday as I continued my venting about the unfairness of MS. I titles my post WHY? and I wish I had given this more thought.

Who am I to question my life and all that it holds? I love my life. If I am supposed to have an incurable disease, I guess that's just how it is. No, I don't necessarily like it; but, it is what it is.

I also do not like that I have married three times and that I will be sixty years old when my only  child graduates from high school.

But, guess what? There is a reason for all this. I am now married to the most wonderful person I could ever ask for. He supports me and looks after my needs. He is a wonderful father and protective husband. I wish I was a younger mother, but I really believe that God saved this experience for me whedn I needed it most. The birth of my son pretty much saved my life.
With a birth and a diagnosis six months apart, I was finally galvanized into action and I made a HUGE decision to take on motherhood and MS all on my own.

One of the best decisions I have ever made! At the age of 41, I finally grew up.


So, today I am positive. I am also lookingfor funding for a small community library. I've go tthe building and I've got the public. I just need to find financial support to help this venture come true. The Marion County Readignni Council iagreed to sponsor a  Little Free Library in Onongah, for which I will be the Steward and I am beyond thrilled abou that; but I've still got my head wrapped around the idea of a small public library or reading room. My dream retirment job...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why?

I awoke in the middle of the night, thinking about my MS and how it has affected my life and the lives of those around me. I really believe that the effects of this disease began long before I was aware of its existence. The tingling in my fingers and arms when I learned to play raquet ball in college and even prior to that when I used to fool around with tennis. Those many times when I inexplicably fell with no warning or dropped items without any knowledge of letting go until the damage was done. The experiences with memory loss that were in no way hrelated to late night beer bashes. These were all red flags begging for attention. I just had no idea what kind of attention to offer.

During my latest research I found that an estimated 1 in 3 children are diagnosed with MS symptoms. Does that mean that I might have been carting around this inconvenient condition for much longer than I coul guess. I reallyh do believe that my hand numbness and aversion to heat might have been early MS indicators; but that doesn't explain all those years of sun worshipping I enjoyed while life guarding in my youth. I do not recall any episode of numbness or dizziness occurring all of those years. Does that mean that those years of severe heat exposure could have possibly been an accelerant to the diagnosis of the disease? Did my child hood illnesses of measles, mumps, and chicken pox contribute to my diagnosis? What about the unexpected bout of hepatitis that I contracted in the fourth grade after eating licoriche shared by a friend who had it? Does one disease lead to another?

And there are the zillioin questions concerning MS progression that attacks different individuals. Why did a former art teacher, a retired doctor, and a friend's mother all die as a result of the diease; especially when it is well publicized that one cannot die from MS? Why am I ambling along with a stumbling gait when my dear friend is in a wheelchair with limited mobility?

I just do NOT understand this disease. There is nio rhyme nor reason for it.

Did you know that years ago individuals experiencing what we currently recognize as MS symptoms were actually institutionalized or even punished as being in cohorts with the devil?

Well, if there  was ever a devlish disease, this is it. I definintely hdo not want to be tried as a witch, though! At least not for exhibiting traits of multiple sclerosis!

Okay, I've rambled enough for today.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just too depressed for words!.

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I really wanted to post earlier, but I just could not fight through my tears long enough to put anything down on paper.
 
A dear friend, wheelchair bound, missed an important day in her son's life yesterday. He was inducted into the National Honor Society at his school. This is a big honor and one that looks great on a college application. Her pride in him stole my heart; even more so becuase she was unable to attend the ceremony in order to witness her baby receive this award. MS took this aware from her. I certainly hope that he knows how much his mother wanted to be there.
 
I also hope this week of negativity ends soon. I reallyh believed a week devoted to venting about the suckiness of MS would be therapeutic. Instead, it has just brought me down. It has helped me not to feel sorry for myself, though.
 
I have looked at my disease differently this week. I have noticed the many times that my own son has come to my rescue and has verbalized his concern that I am doing okay. He has gone out of his way to help me carry things to and from the car. He has reminded me to take a few minutes to rest while he has also urged me to spend some time exercising.
 
My love for him is so great that I just shudder when I imagine not being "there" for him. If I was forced to sit at home while he receives an honor, any honor, I would be crushed. I can only imagine the disappointment my friend suffered this week. But, I am also grateful for the existence of our sons.
 
Yes, MS stinks; but we do not have to bow down to its ugliness.
Just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

There are so many reasons why MS sucks, and I could go on forever beging negative; but that's just not my thing. Negativity can do more harm than good in the events of life. If we constantly think that the world is out to  get us, then there is no convincing our pre-programmed mind that this is the truth.

A dear, dear lady with whom I have had the opportunity to become  reacquainted, saddens me with every conversation. She is miserable in her job. She cannot stand her boss. None of her co-workers talk to her anymore; presumably because they have gone "to the other side".  She is so loaded down with all fo this negativity that there is  no bright side for her any longer.

She has a lovely family and is married to her high school sweetheart. Her life is filled with blessings.

I do not understand her discontent; and if her professional life is so miserable, she needs to make adjustments. She can suck it in and make the best of it, even if it requires some creative acting. She can confront her boss and have a serious conversation concerning their relationship. She can find another job. She can make an effort to become more involved with her co-workers. Nothing is impossible here; and if her proclamation of faith is any indication, she believes that God will provide.

My blogging goal this week is to vent and to release as much negative energy as I can regarding multiple sclerosis and the many reasons why "it sucks".  Spring is upon us and, after the long winter we have had, I want to be void of the grey skies so that I can embrace the sunshine. I refuse to allow something as minute as a job (I mean, really!) drag me into the depths of despair. It's just not worth it. Life is full of celebrations, if we just look for them.

A life with MS demands that we are open to anything woth celebrating, no matter how small or how large.

Lately I am celebrating any day that I do not fall, especially in public. Two days ago my face met my classroom floor when I lost my balance crossing the room; and , yep, twenty eighth graders witnessed my humiliation. I had to celebrate the fact that the fall did not result in blood shed or a loss of bladder control. I have a bruised knee and a "touchy" wrist, but life is good in the long run.

Yesterday I remained on my feet and I plan to keep that upright stance all day today...I hope.

So, yes, life stinks sometimes; but at least I am upright today....for now.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I got my flu shot early this winter. I know I did. My son got his also and we both agreed it was totally painless. We were prepared and we anticipated the dreaded winter illness with our armors on.

So far it's worked for him and I pray that continues. As for myself...well, I believe my luck may not be as solid as his. I have had a headache since Friday and awoke with an ear ache, sore throat, and nausea this morning. Thank goodness we had a snow day. I just do not think I can take a "sick day" from school with a clear conscious. We have missed so many days of school this year because of Mother Nature's desire to provide the first real winter we have had in a while. With any luck I will rise tomorrow with no residual effects of today's ickiness.That was two weeks ago.

Last week a flu of a different kind ravaged my body. This time the chills were accompanied by diarhea, fever, and nausea; as well as two nights of restless sleep and painful leg aches.

Unfortunately, MS doesn't always allow us to let go of little, everyday common illnesses. A common cold can assume the personality of a much more serious condition. Allergies attack with the vengeance of the flu. MS, like many chronic conditions, magnifies symptoms with the result of low immunities.

I am not a whiner, but I don't mind admitting that I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself today. I even cried a couple of times over the weekend. Yep, I gave into that self-indulgence after tripping up the steps with my arms full of groceries. It happened again when I lost my balance and fell over the coffee table and again when I slipped on the kitchen rug and landed on my back. Normally all in a day's work for me, but this constant lack of balance should have been a red flag since my ears were ringing and I even fell over while standing upright and not moving.

I really hate the unpredicabilty of this disease. I do not look forward to going out or visiting friends. I am becoming a hermit and can think of no other place I would rather be than within the walls of my own home. I'm even sometimes afraid to go to work and have entertaineed the idea of keeping extra underwear in my car just in case I have an "accident" while there. MS has taken away my independence, but I don't feel sorry for myself. I have been blessed with the intelligance to understand that this is where I am happy.