Losing it

My local supermarkets must have me on their blacklist.

The school run was delayed this morning as I frantically searched the house and my car for my wallet.

I lose my wallet a lot but never really feel like I’ve truly lost it as it often turns up on the floor of my car where it has fallen out of my pocket on the way back from the shops.

I visited both my local Tesco and Sainsburys last night and last remember whipping it out of the rather too shallow pocket of my new jacket at one of the attached petrol stations.

Today it couldn’t be found. Not in any of my pockets. Not in the kitchen where I dumped all the shopping. Not on the floor of our porch or the floor of the car or anywhere in between.

So I phoned each supermarket to see if some kind soul might’ve handed it in but drew two blanks.

On the way to school I thought about what cards might have been inside that I’d need to cancel. It was only when I turned round to kiss my kids goodbye that I caught sight of my work bag and just wondered…

Zipped into the safe outside pocket of my bag was my wallet. I had obviously come home from the shops (late) and stashed it away in a safe place ready for the next day.

I do this a lot. I even once lost a camera and after retracing my footsteps for hours in the rain, I discovered it in a “safe place” at the bottom of the washing basket.

The brain is a funny thing and normally I don’t have that many cognitive problems – I think this was due more to fatigue – it was late and I’m still a bit jet lagged after a trans-Atlantic flight.

I can find the funny side afterwards. I just hope my family and local retailers do as well.

One year on…

I finally made it to my local MS Group’s social evening and AGM the other night. Great to meet people and compare notes.

Funny to be in a room full of people who, for the most part, look like they would rather be at home taking it easy.

Also funny to hold a conversation about concentration problems and really having to concentrate. I forgot the name of the person I was talking to and had to look it up later.

Found my usual inhibitions difficult to overcome. Someone asked me if I was “feeling wobbly” as I stood with a cup and saucer and I found myself breezily saying “No… er, yeah!” as the realisation dawned that the questioner was empathetic rather than making mockery. I have been wobbly all my life – always had a tremor, so I get all defensive when it is noticed.

Had an interesting chat about poetry and creative writing.

A couple of people remarked that I was brave attending (I turned up late, halfway through the Chair’s address). I didn’t particularly think so as I have always remained positive and have never been in denial. I am a bit shy socially, and I was one of the youngest there but was made to feel welcome. One person recognised me from work.

There was a first birthday cake for the branch. Coincidentally, today is the first anniversary of my initial GP visit. See my MS History – Part One.

A number of thoughts and ideas came to me as a result of attending the meeting. I will blog about these later.

Reading and MS

I used to read a book a week. Every lunchtime, I’d grab some fresh air and sit by the canal with the latest piece of weirdness that I’d picked up at Waterstones. Every evening I’d lounge with my face buried between the pages while my wife sat next to me watching telly.

That all disintegrated five years ago at the same time as my first major MS relapse. I had a stressful time of it, working in a new job that I hated and a newborn baby waiting for me at home. The stress probably triggered the relapse but I didn’t really have the time to read anything in the evening, anyway.

These days, I really like the idea of reading but find that I simply can’t. My MS makes it difficult to concentrate when I get tired and at the end of a day spent in front of a computer screen, my eyes will jump around. Any attempt to read more than the few pages I read to my daughter before bedtime requires great effort and sends me to sleep and the very prospect of reading makes me feel tired.

I have tended to substitute for it by immersing myself in films instead.

I am wondering if graphic novels might be a way of re-building my reading stamina. If I only have to read dialogue and the odd caption, it may take a lot of the fatigue out of reading and restore the enjoyment of a good book. It is something I intend to explore.

Life with MS – Part One – Symptoms

I don’t want to come over all “woe is me” because there are plenty of people out there on the internet trying to out-do each other with their bad symptoms and there are many others with MS who have it much worse than I do (my old neighbour who also has MS, doesn’t recognise me now when I see her).

I thought for the purposes of this blog that it might be useful to document some of the symptoms I have experienced both now and in the past to give readers some idea of what it is like to have MS. Please note: this list does not include the marvellous array of drug side-effects. More on those later.

Symptoms happening now:

Doublevision (since March 2008)
when I look left I see two of everything side by side. Simple as that. The more I look left, the bigger the displacement between images. Makes crossing the road and recognising people in the street difficult. Constantly closing one eye takes it’s toll too, in terms of fatigue and people thinking you are crazy.

Nystagmus (since summer 2008)
When I look right, I get nystagmus. My eyes flicker and won’t keep still. It gets worse if I’m tired or have done some exercise and I can sometimes get jumpy eyes looking straight ahead. It makes reading and watching telly very tiring and I don’t read as much these days.

Intranuclear Opthalmoplegia (since March 2008)
Looking left to right or right to left my eyes travel at slightly different speeds so it takes time for the two images to match up when looking right. Things can look a bit trippy when glancing round all over the place.

Oscillopsia (since 2007 or earlier)
my vision jumps around all over the place if I am running or walking strenuously – a bit like running with a video camera.

Pins and needles (intermittent until March 2008 and constant since then)
I get tingling sensations in my fingertips constantly. Sometimes it subsides to a faint tingle. Once or twice I have had a window of half an hour or so when they have disappeared completely (the drugs working). Mostly I get the electric tingling sensation in my fingers only, but it can spread to my hands and even my forearms. I also get these sensations in my feet, particularly my right foot. My right leg feels fuzzy for most of the time and walking can be troublesome on a bad day. I have numb patches on my right foot. This all gets worse if hot or tired. Also according to a 2004 diary entry – I had a week where half my head had pins and needles.

Bladder problems (not sure since when)
I sometimes find it hard to go. I don’t always fully empty my bladder – I simply can’t – and I can need to go to the loo several times during the night giving me a disturbed night’s sleep.

Cognitive Problems (not sure since when)
I have difficulty with concentration and short term memory – a particular problem with routine tasks, such as making payments to the child-minder, credit cards etc. My mind can wander in the middle of conversations as well and I lose the thread of…. erm… …anyway I have an old pre-diagnosis diary entry where I thought my memory and concentration had improved since taking Omega 3 tablets, but I was probably documenting a remission period.

Pain (not sure since when)
Apart from the pins and needles, I get sharp shooting pains from my finger tips occasionally. The worst pain I get is a weird cramping sensation in my legs which feels like insects (ants in my imagination) moving around under the skin. This is unbelievably uncomfortable and when it happens I can’t keep still and I can’t relax. This happens almost daily and can start as early as mid-day.

Fatigue (since March 2008, but also during hot days in 2007)
Like someone has taken my battery out. I had this at work once and found my mind blank as if I was sleeping with my eyes open. It happens intermittently and when it does I might as well be made of concrete. I will just want to sleeeep.

Other symptoms:

Stiffness / Muscle spasm
(Spring 2008)
I had a problem with this in the spring of 2008. I was an old man for three days – stiff as a board. I found it very difficult to move. It coincided with having hives – I think I had an allergy to some washing powder which brought this on. I also had involuntary movement of my calf muscles in March 2008 – in a relaxed state they were moving and twitching all over the place.

Optic neuritis (March/April 2004)
Flickering lights in my vision. Some pain in my eyes when looking round. Flashes of milky white light in my vision when looking round in the dark.

Headaches (July 2004)
I reported in my diary of the time that I had a headache that had lasted for four weeks. Of course, I could have had any number of MS induced headaches, but when one lasts for four weeks, it’s a dead cert.

L’hermitte’s sign (March 2008 to Autumn 2008)
Placing my chin on my chest created an electric shock sensation travelling down my back and into my thighs, or, on a good day, like someone pulling a tickly, twiggy branch up my back. I think drug therapy may have cleared this one up for now.

Vertigo (2004 to 2008)
An intermittent symptom – it comes and goes. I felt a mild wave of giddiness the other day when I was bending down for something, but at it’s worst vertigo can make the whole world spin and induce a feeling of seasickness. Even turning over in bed can make me lose my balance completely and I have to sit up to regain my bearings. In 2004 and 2007, this was one of the major symptoms I had to deal with and I spent a night of hell intermittently spinning and vomiting in 2007. I also used to walk into the walls along the long corridors at work. It’s very unpleasant – I would rather have doublevision over this any day.

Ultra-sensitivity (pre-2007 to 2008)
I have patches of skin that can be ultra-sensitive and uncomfortably ticklish.

So there you go. Quite a wide range of stuff, sensory and visual mainly.

I guess since diagnosis I am more aware of everything that is going on, so I may have missed out a whole heap of weirdness that has come and gone over the last few years. Now I am on beta interferon, the length of time between relapses should lengthen, but I should be able to recognise when one starts when new symptoms start appearing or old ones start re-appearing and I will document it here.