Tag: diagnosis

The come down.

I’m suffering from writer’s block at the moment. I’ve just not really had much to say or write, but I’ve also been enjoying spending my time reading A LOT! I’ve also been starting to read a bit more about Reiki Healing as I’m so excited to share that all being well, I’ll be doing my Level One attunement on the 15th September!

One of the books I have recently finished reading. I can highly recommend it. It was brilliant!

I know that many people who follow my blog are people who want to know what to expect from going through Lemtrada. With this in mind, I thought I’d give a summary of how things have gone for me over the last couple of months. Trying to get a picture from my other blogs probably gives you more of an idea on how my mood has fluctuated more than anything! I’m moving towards a better head space now which means I’m way better positioned to collate my thoughts!

So, where am I eleven weeks on, apart from sat eating a veggie burger with sweet potato fries and suffering from writer’s block?

The intense “MS fatigue” I was suffering in the run up to  treatment has more or less lifted. I can’t say that there aren’t days when it’s not there but it had got to the point that I was suffering every single day. I’m still shattered though and sleeping ridiculous amounts. I think this is just because my body is working hard to increase the bit in my blood that Lemtrada wiped out. It’s different to MS fatigue. I actually do feel refreshed when I wake up in the morning and getting ready for the day doesn’t feel like the plight it was becoming. As a result of my exhaustion not being even close to what it was, the Cog Fog isn’t so bad. Sure, words are falling out my head like it’s going out of fashion, but I’m definitely finding it easier to remain present in a conversation.

I can count on less than two hands the symptoms I’ve had to deal with as a result of going through treatment. And most have worn off now. For three weeks after I felt like I was coming down with flu and slept a lot. By five weeks after (just before I was going back to work), I started suffering with a bit of anxiety, but that disappeared by being open about it and having Reiki therapy. I’ve had real issues with stabilising my body temperature, but since the weather has cooled down, I feel loads better. It’s difficult to tell if that’s MS in general, Lemtrada, the fact that it’s been disgustingly hot and we’re ill equipped to deal with it in the UK, or a combination of all three. I suspect the latter. I was struggling with an iffy gut every other day at first, but my stomach of steel seems to slowly be working it’s way back to normal!

Then there was the itchy scalp. This still hasn’t really let up and I’ve tried changing shampoo and all sorts. My hairdresser said he can’t see a rash and my scalp looks in great condition. Whatever it is, the occasional anti-histamine when required seems to keep it under control.

​​Finally, there’s my legs. This is really hit and miss. Today, I’ve had no bother from the pain in my ankle in spite of the fact that I’ve been dragged round a car boot sale in the pouring rain. On another day however, with no explanation, it’ll reduce me to tears because the pain is so bad. Or the weakness means I can’t face using the stairs. I’ve started parking on the site car park at work which is making a difference to both the comfort levels of my legs, but also in managing my energy levels. I feel at the end of the day like I’ve got enough energy to go to the gym after work. Or at least I would have if I didn’t have the pain in my leg! I really want to get back to the gym actually. It’s getting me down a little at the moment that I’m in too much pain to go. I’m hoping to try going this week though on the basis that I might be surprised by what I can do.But that’s it.

Tiredness. Dodgy Gut. Flu-like. Anxiety. Unmanageable body temperature. Unreliable legs. Itchy Scalp.

That’s really not a lot is it? Not in the grand scheme of things.

It was getting me down though. To the point that there was a suggestion that maybe I’m depressed. I categorically disagree with this. I’m miserable, sure. I’m not disputing that but do you know what? I have every bloody right to be. I’ve been diagnosed with MS. I challenge you to find someone who wouldn’t feel at least a little bit pissed off!

I think what’s triggered it, is now that I’m through the diagnosis and the treatment, everything has just…stopped I suppose. It’s almost a come down. Not that I was on a high, but I can’t really find the right words to explain it. Things have changed though. Nobody is calling me brave or inspirational anymore so I don’t have to worry about living up to that (I’m ok with this by the way! I’ve said before, it gets kinda annoying because I’m only doing what anyone else would do in my shoes). But life is more or less back to normal now. What that means is it’s time for me to come to terms with everything. I’ve found the trick is just not think about it and to bury my head in the sand but I’m not sure that’s productive. I’m now allowing myself to feel my emotions whether that’s anger, sadness or confusion. A sense of “why me?” This means that emotionally I’m on quite the roller coaster right now. This could be being mistaken for depression.

Just on this point, I’m pretty sure that the place that the suggestion came from was 100% a place of love. I’m grateful for being looked out for like that actually. I’m not dismissing it entirely as depression is a well documented symptom of MS. I just don’t think it’s something I’m suffering from right now. I think I’m just fed up and need to work on my self-care to get me out of that place.

On an unrelated note, someone who didn’t yet know about my diagnosis found out last week. And he gave me the most honest response I’ve heard from anyone. He looked at me and just said “I’m so sorry to hear that Jo. That’s shit innit?” He said the one thing that couldn’t be closer to the truth and he didn’t run scared from it. It was genuinely music to my ears, to get such the response that I got. There was no trying to empathise, and there was no sympathy either. He just said exactly what it is. It just felt so real.

Maybe we can all learn a thing or two from that.

Coffee and Cake is always wondeful therapy!

Autumn is coming.

Reading back my last couple of posts have made me feel really sad. I’ve obviously not been in the greatest place in recent weeks. In spite of the amazing self love summit that I attended which really did leave me buzzing for at least a week after, things just haven’t felt right for me.

Tuesday was a bit of a turning point for me though. I had my second blood test done and it presented me with a bit of an opportunity to just “offload” a little. And I am so glad that I did. Firstly, being asked to list all of your current symptoms was quite humbling. A list of five, which aren’t really that big a deal certainly put some perspective on things. The nurse that I saw told me that there was a tablet she could ask my GP to prescribe for me that would tackle the pain in my ankle (which hasn’t let up), the itchy scalp, my up and down temperature and the thigh pain. Possibly even help to lift my mood a little.

It feels weird to accept medication. I rarely even reach for the pain killers when I have a headache, but if it can help all of those things, I’m game. Although I’m still awaiting confirmation that my GP knows to prescribe it to me, it feels like a weight off my shoulders just to know that there’s something that can give me a little relief.

Honestly though, my mind has been heading into dark places over the last week or two. It’s not being back at work. I’m happy to be back actually. No, it’s about the pain in my ankle. I recall, somewhere some years ago a similar pain. Back then, of course I didn’t know it was MS and even now I’m only just making the connection. I probably put it down to dancing the night away in cheap high heels. You know it’s no good for you. I don’t remember it ever being this painful and unrelenting though. Certainly not enough to give me an occasional limp.

I was warned that post Lemtrada, because my body has had a bit of a battering and it will take quite some time to recover, some of my old symptoms would resurface. What nobody warned me of, was that there was a chance they would come back worse than when I first had them. But that seems to be a common occurrence. I didn’t know that. Lemtrada has also made me all kinds of irrational, so obviously I started to fear all sorts. As it’s taken so long to diagnose my MS I wondered, is there a chance it’s been misdiagnosed as relapsing, and is actually secondary progressive? I feel more or less comforted that this is highly unlikely, having spoken to others that have experienced worse symptoms than the original relapse.

On top of all of that, the irrational mood? The spontaneous crying? Generally feeling pretty miserable? All comes with the territory but I’m assured, it does eventually lift.

And I’ll tell you what’s helping my mood lift. Autumn is definitely on its way! I could practically smell it yesterday morning. The slight chill in the air, dew on the cars and the sun a lot lower. All that’s missing is a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks!

Photo Credit: Starbucks UK

Thinking about how much I love Autumn, made me start reflecting on what else I love. What else fills me up? What makes my soul happy? What is it that I need from a self-care point of view? I’ve accepted that for the next couple of years things are going to be up and down. That sounds defeatist, but I see it as a pragmatic approach. I’m going to do everything in my power to keep a smile on my face and make myself feel good.

I love writing, so starting this blog has been a huge thing to keep me happy and I have some great ideas of how I can branch out with it. I’m really keen to share the stories of other MSers. I tell you time and time again that it affects us all differently, so coming soon, I plan on sharing interviews with others affected by MS.

Through this digital age we find ourselves in, I have realised that I no longer read anymore. When I was a kid, in the school holidays I’d be at the library every other day getting a new haul. I’d complete the summer reading challenge several times over. But now there’s always a Netflix series to watch, a social media notification to respond to or my lives have refilled on whatever mindless game I’m playing. So less screen time for me, in order to give me more time to get lost in a book, which is all I ever did before those distractions existed.

I’m contemplating participating in “Scroll free September”, but depriving myself seems like an extreme thing to do. I’ve realised that I’m so all or nothing about everything and because of that, it always ends up being unsustainable. I end up trying to do something positive in my life and it actually ends up making me unhappy, stressed or left feeling like a failure. What I’d rather do is set some principles around how I use my phone. I’m thinking along the lines of “no phones after 9pm”. That kind of thing. Restricting Netflix binges to a couple of episodes a night. Nobody likes to admit it, but it’s only when you really take a critical eye to yourself that you see how addicted you are to your smartphone. I want my smart phone to add to my life and be useful. Not something that takes over my life.

screenshot_20180812_1743107942962665689683725.jpg
One of the most beautiful pieces of music you could ever listen to

I LOVE music. Any music. But I’ve realised how much calmer and in tune with myself I am when I listen to classical piano. More of that please.

I love being crafty, and I love being warm. So I’m going to finish my patchwork blanket. I’m so close to it being completed so that has got to be an absolute priority.

img_20180716_222543_4113840588224653675301.jpg
My blanket! Each patch is representative of one week in 2017, and each stripe is a day. I picked the colour based on my mood.

And finally, I love learning. I’ve had a couple of Udemy courses sat on the back burner for a while, so I’m going to pick those up once I’ve finished my blanket. I need to get better at doing one thing at a time and following through.

But most of all, I need to get better at doing more of the things that make me happy.

 We all should.

The Authentic Me 

Tomorrow night, I’m heading down to London on my own. I’m staying in a Hilton (thanks to the copious amount of points I acquire through staying away for work), and on Saturday, I am attending a Self Love Summit, hosted by Mel Wells.

If you read the “off-topic” posts on my blog, you’ll know that last year I read Mel’s book, “The Goddess Revolution.” And it was life changing. Years of yo-yo dieting ended and I started to accept me for who I am. That’s a journey that I’m still on, but as part of that journey, there was the option for me to go to the Summit.

At the time of getting tickets, I didn’t know when I was going to be getting MS treatment, or where I would be at in my recovery. I’d more or less written it off and that was that. Admittedly, I was getting a bit of FOMO, but I also knew regardless of that I needed to prioritise ME.

But on Sunday just gone, a ticket was going for free. With a quick check on train prices and seeing if I had enough hotel points to cover the cost of the hotel (London ones at short notice are generally not very cheap!) I realised that going to The Summit was something that I could make happen. I snapped up that free ticket and tomorrow my adventure begins.

The Summit is billed as “revealing the most unapologetic, untamed version of you.” Or as I like to refer to it, as the authentic version of me. 

Empowering women such as Megan Jayne Crabbe and Rebecca Campball will be guest speaking at the event, helping to motivate, inspire and teach you to love yourself that little bit more. 

Why do I just NEED to do this?

Well firstly, I deserve a treat after the year I’ve had, don’t you think? But mostly, I kind of feel like I’ve had an identity crisis of sorts. Trying to work out “who Jo is” and “who Jo is with MS” has sent me into a tail spin. Slowly realising it doesn’t actually matter and now trying to accept that, is something I’m working through. For the most part, I’ve got it sussed but I’m still having moments (albeit rarely) where it really hits like a train crash what’s happening to me. And it’s upsetting and scary.

I feel like this year has been the start of a real journey of personal growth and development, and going to the Self Love Summit will be a key part of that journey.

I’ll undoubtedly be back to share my experience after the event, but for now this is pretty much all I can tell you! 

On my soapbox. Literally. (Part 2) 

Before reading, if you missed Part 1 you can catch up here! It’s also important to note that the topic of this blog is focussed on Relapsing Remitting MS.

**********************************

The day after my previous blog about Corrie, I was reading some spoilers (one of my favourite past times!) so I knew that Johnny becoming unwell was imminent.

During Friday’s episode, following being caught having kidnapped baby Suzie, we found Johnny in hospital. He’s not doing so well. He’s not doing well because he’s not been taking his medication for his MS for weeks. And this is where I think Corrie have got it a little wrong. 

It’s great that Corrie are finally remembering to do something with it, but I feel the need to clear up a couple of “misrepresentations”. 

Misrepresentation One: Johnny is only having a relapse (new symptoms) because he’s stopped taking his medication.

This is inaccurate. It’s not entirely clear what medication Johnny is on, but it’s easy to work out he’s on a daily self-administered medication rather than something like Lemtrada (which if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know is how I’m managing my MS). 

No medication is proven to completely stop relapses. The only thing it will do is slow them right down i.e. reduce the frequency in varying degrees of success. That means you can still have a relapse regardless of whether you take your medication or not. Of course, it is more likely that you will have a relapse if you don’t take your medication, but the reality is, no medication is 100% effective.

Misrepresentation Two: Johnny experiences no  MS related pain or problems as long as he takes his medication. When he’s between relapses, he’s completely fine.

Again, this isn’t a fair portrayal of MS. Once you’ve had a relapse and got yourself a few new symptoms, they never really 100% leave you. It’s rare to be symptom free. The extremity of it usually eases significantly after a relapse, but depending on what it is and how it affects you, it lingers. 

For example, my legs have “tingled” for eight years. When it first started, it was an awful numb feeling through my entire  body from the waist down. I had no sensation. Since that relapse, sometimes it can be all the way up to the tops of my legs and even into my lower back. Most of the time it’s a light tingle I barely notice, that doesn’t go further than between my feet and my lower leg. At other times it can be on the verge of pain. Heat can be a factor in making it “flare” as can tiredness or picking up infections. Oh and you guessed it, stress (amongst a whole bunch of other things).

It could be argued that Johnny has clinically isolated MS or it’s not that active or serious. But if that was the case, chances are he wouldn’t be medicating in the first place. It just doesn’t add up.

I get it must be hard to explain an invisible illness. How do you portray something that nobody can see? There are ways. People could simply ask Johnny how he is from time to time and he could complain about an invisible symptom. He could have the occasional bit of poor balance or walk with a limp. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Soaps are well placed to raise awareness on all issues, I just wish that when they do give somebody something that’s a lifelong condition, they do more than just remembering to portray it when it suits them, or it fits with the storyline.

Hidden.

Shift.ms have worked with directors to produce this short film (10 mins ish). 

The story is of a girl who is experiencing the hidden symptoms of MS. She’s not diagnosed and the doctors say there’s nothing wrong with her.

Her next door neighbour however is diagnosed with MS, and her son spots the girl struggling and asks his mum to speak with her. Once she knows she has MS she’s able to manage the “beast” that she’s dealing with.

The scene with the stairs is a great visualisation of what it can feel like trying to make it upstairs sometimes, and the struggling with the wrists when the mother is working on her laptop. You also see the mum zone out of the conversation with her son. All of these things really resonated with me.

If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, it’s definitely worth a watch.


 

On my soapbox. Literally.

I’m an avid follower of Coronation Street. I’ve watched it on and off over the years but I would definitely say I’m in my most devoted phase to it ever at the moment. I just got so caught up in the Pat Phelan storyline!

But something has annoyed me.

In June last year, not long before I found out I might have MS, they decided that one of their characters, Johnny Connor, was to be diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. The same as me. 

For those of you that follow Corrie, you’ll know that Johnny has had a tough old time of it recently. His son took his own life, his poor wife couldn’t do right for doing wrong and it was clear their relationship was at breaking point from the stress of it all. His family business was left to someone outside of the family in the will. Then if life couldn’t get any worse, his son’s ex gave birth to a daughter who she gave away to her half sister’s sister. Or something like that. Anyway, Johnny now knows the identity of said baby and is trying to fight for custody of her and is apparently ***SPOILER ALERT*** going to kidnap said baby imminently. Oh and there’s still the tiniest chance that the baby isn’t even his grand daughter. 

Are you still with me?

Anyway. Although I’ve said time and time again, MS affects us all differently, I can more or less say with confidence that the vast majority of MSers would not go through his level of stress without experience of a flare up of symptoms, or a full-scale relapse. 

Now I don’t really want poor old Johnny to have a relapse. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But what I do want is for Corrie to have the decency to portray an already misunderstood illness with a touch more accuracy. It seems to me that Jenny (his wife), who at the first sniff of him getting stressed, dramatically shrieks at him to “calm down Johnny, you’ve got Multiple Sclerosis”, is the only person that remembers that he’s got it!

I did ask in a group on Facebook with other MSers their thoughts on this. I got quite a big response from people who had been wondering the same thing for weeks. A couple have suggested that they normally relapse after the stressful event, but my argument to that is that the first stressful event was the unexpected loss of his son. Which was weeks ago. Surely by now we’d be seeing some fallout from that? 

It will be interesting to see what happens to Johnny in the coming weeks – he may be one of those that can hold it together through the stress, and then will fall apart once he doesn’t need to hold it together anymore. Or maybe it will just get forgotten.

Johnny could be somebody who has really inactive MS. Some people have it but it’s years between relapses. My question is, what are they (Corrie) trying to achieve? If it’s an awareness of the illness, although it’s useful to be aware that some people are diagnosed with MS and it never really (or very rarely) resurfaces, I feel that right now it’s not the right balance. If you want to tackle an invisible illness, you need to give it a bit more than somebody reminding the character, and viewers what he suffers with just because he’s got a bit stressed. 
In my view, soaps are in a unique position and have a social responsibility to portray these issues. I just wish they’d do it accurately.

I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of others with RRMS on this one! We’re all different so it’s always good to get another perspective!