What the hell was I thinking?

DO NOT SCHEDULE 2 MRI’S ON THE SAME DAY!!!!!

I know better!  I’ve even written about it in…. Not the Tube.   Of course, I didn’t listen to myself. SMH  Then again, when I do listen to myself, I often make bad decisions.  When your done reading and or watching please share your opinion about whether YOU think I should listen to myself.  I’m pretty sure the answer is not a simple Yes or no.

Ok, so my dumb ass not only scheduled two MRI’s for the same day, but I also attempted to do it drug free.  I will NOT be doing that again!  In fact, I’m pretty sure the hospital put a great big caution sign in my chart saying that I have to be sedated. SMH again

Thing 2 picked me up on Friday and drove me to the hospital for the procedures.  I found that she REALLY enjoys pushing me in the wheelchair.  ( into the curb, into the wall etc)  I went through my 200 question checklist about whether I had metal implants, tattoos, etc in or on my body and was surprisingly ok’d to get in the tube.  Then the nurse asked if I was claustrophobic.  Um yeah….”OH SHIT, how had I forgotten to take the medication?!!??!?”  She told me they could reschedule the MRI, or I could take the medication and wait 45 minutes for the medication to take effect.

I TOLD her I would be fine as long as the tech talked to me between pictures.  SHIT SHIT SHIT!  As she wheeled me to the dressing room to change into the scrubs they provide, I could feel my anxiety increasing, and discreetly slipped a xanax into my mouth. Work work work!

The MRI tech was back within moments to take me to the MRI room.  I’m sure the terror I was feeling (yes terror) showed on my face when he also asked me if I was claustrophobic, but I also told him I would be “ok” as long as he talked to me between pictures.  (I told him all 5x that he asked me)

I wasn’t ok.  I freaked out!  I pushed the panic button before the first set of pictures where complete.  I passed out before he pulled me out of the machine, and vomited on the floor as soon as I came to. SMH again.

Fortunately, the MRI department was very forgiving and not busy that day.  They cleaned my mess, and allowed me to clean myself up.  They told me if I wanted to take medication I still could, but I would have to wait 45 minutes for it to take effect before we could try again.  Perfect! I thought.  I would probably only need another 25 minutes to be “calmer” since I had already taken one, but the least I could do was wait 45 minutes after the ordeal I caused.  Unfortunately, they needed to see me take the medication.  Ah fuck!

Um OK.  I do know that I CAN take two pills, as I have previously been prescribed a higher dose, but I also know that it pretty much puts me ‘out’ for the evening.  So OF COURSE, I made Bad decision number 3, (if you’re counting) and took the pill.  While waiting to retry the MRI, I noticed an empty wheelchair in the hallway, and asked Thing 2 if she would like to have a race or 2.

We did.  Here is the video to the only race I may have won (my foot dropped and I think I may have pushed off).  Wheelchair race  After several races, (I encouraged other patients and visitors to get involved as well)  I did survive the two MRI’s to test for PML and am waiting to hear the results.

So what’s your opinion?  Should I listen to myself or not? 😉

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

The other day, my Best friend Gary and I had our overdue ‘catch up’ conversation. I’m not sure if I have said this before, but Gary lives halfway across the country and most of our time spent together is on video chats.  Our friendship began in a facebook group about Tysabri, and has continued for more than 10 years.

During our “catch up call”, after we talked about each of our grandkids and our children, the subject of my health, more specifically two of my recent posts, Are you prepared to Die? and Are you ready to Live?,  came up. While Gary understands my fears, he is concerned that I may have scared other people (especially those newly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.)  He feels that someone reading my posts may feel that because they have ms, they will die.  I quickly argued that I only wrote the truth.  I never said that MS kills people.  (At least I didn’t think that I did.)  I AM SCARED!  I don’t like my choices.  I honestly feel that I am playing Russian Roulette and I am MAD!  BUT, None of that excuses the fact that he may be correct.

Before  I continue today…..

I want to apologize if I have mislead anyone, making them believe that being diagnosed with MS is an automatic death sentence.  While I feel that this may have been true many years ago, medical advancements and scientific research have made LIVING with MS much more manageable.  However, I promised myself when I began writing this blog that all of my posts would be honest, no matter how embarrassing or unpleasant they may be.  I would talk about the uncomfortable parts of MS in addition to sharing tools that I have found to make living with this MONSTER a little easier. I believe that 80% of the time, I prove in my writing that laughter IS the best tool I have for managing living with MS and the many other injuries I frequently obtain.

Today however is not that day.  Today I am angry!  I am angry because even though we can try to take steps to live more comfortably and possibly slow disease progression, the disease ultimately has control.  In the post “are you ready to live“, I said that I would be doing more research into the newer MS drugs available and I have.  When I am done VENTING here, I will share my latest conversation with my MS specialist about my concerns and my next steps.

But first please take a walk or a read with me, and see my fears through my eyes

First drug on the table…. OCREVUS  (the full list of potential side effects can be found here.)

What sticks out to me are these words…

OCREVUS increases your risk of getting upper respiratory tract infections, lower respiratory tract infections, skin infections, and herpes infections.

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): Although no cases have been seen with OCREVUS treatment in clinical trials, PML may happen with OCREVUS. PML is a rare brain infection that usually leads to death or severe disability.  ( remember this is the reason I am being urged to stop Tysabri)

and finally

OCREVUS may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Risk of cancers (malignancies) including breast cancer. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about standard screening guidelines for breast cancer.

My brain does silly shit here.

Ok Cancer? …. Just keep having mammograms, if I get it, just get a boob job. (That’s what I did when I had cervical cancer)…. just take it out!!!!

PML, are you fucking kidding me?

and Herpes…hmm  How do you see this conversation going, “Um Einstein, would you care if I took a drug that could give us both herpes”?  Let me save that prospect for Valentine’s Day don’t you think?  Before I even talked to my doctor, sadly enough the deal breaker for this drug, was that Thing 1 said I wouldn’t be able to kiss my grandkids anymore.  “Mom you know that herpes can be lethal to babies right?”… um no I didn’t, in fact I don’t know much about it at all.

Next drug on the table, Aubagio (teriflunomide)

Severe liver injury including fatal liver failure has been reported in patients treated with leflunomide, which is indicated for rheumatoid arthritis. A similar risk would be expected for teriflunomide because recommended doses of teriflunomide and leflunomide result in a similar range of plasma concentrations of teriflunomide.

Hair Loss

Maybe I should be embarrassed that I wasn’t so worried about the fatal liver failure as I was about the hair loss,  but again I am being honest.  YES I know it sounds pretty vain.

My research of the above mentioned drugs, also talking to other patients that have previously been on Tysabri and switched to Ocrevus or Aubagio.  70% of the people I talked to regretted switching.  They stated that they immediately went downhill after the change.  I also discovered there are now several studies being conducted about The “Rebound Effect” after stopping Tysabri or the development of “IRIS” (Immune-reconstitution inflammation syndrome) which can also be fatal or cause rapid acceleration of disability.   Did I mention this news really made me angry?

Last week, I got the results of my JC virus retest back.  It was not a false positive. 😦  In fact it is a pretty high positive.  I sent my doctor an email to discuss the information I had been hearing/reading, and asked him to call me back.  When he called, the first thing he said to me was, “I don’t believe you have PML and just because you are high JC, also does not guarantee you will get PML but it greatly increases your odds”.  I shared my concerns about changing drugs with him.  He did chuckle when he responded that Ocrevus does not cause a sexually transmitted disease, or breast cancer.  The herpes virus that they are speaking of is shingles…EWWWW I had chicken pox at 25 and was hospitalized because of the fever and hallucinations.  I hear shingles are many times worse.  He also explained that Ocrevus does severely weaken your immune system though making you more susceptible to cancers and other infections.  The final concern with this drug is that it does not provide the “energy burst” that you get after receiving Tysabri.  Often times it causes the exact opposite effect.  😦

Next we discussed Aubagio.  He feels that not only does the drug not possess the strength of even the previous MS drug I was on. (that didn’t work) but also because it is a pill, my body may not respond to it because I also have Gastroparesis.  How did I forget about that?!?!?

Well crap there goes the next drug I had started reading about, Mavenclad.  SMH.

BUT, There is another up and coming drug for MS (not yet named) that is delivered in the form of a monthly shot. That may be something to consider.

The doc, I call him the wizard, and I decided that I should still have new MRI’s done to rule out PML. At the very least, this will give me a new baseline for the activity of my disease.  He has also ordered all of the blood tests required for each of the drugs I was considering to see if I am even eligible.  For now, I am going to stretch out the time between my Tysabri infusions to every 6 weeks instead of every 4 while I make a rational, NOT angry decision.

The girls and I are going to a drug talk hosted by the makers of Ocrevus in the beginning of March.  If I do change drugs, it will probably be to this one.

I do realize that being angry doesn’t solve anything.  It won’t help me make a decision any quicker, and it won’t change the outcome of any decision.  But I am angry and it’s ok.  I do believe feeling anger AND talking about it is part of the process!

A little over a year ago, (maybe two years ago) I made two videos on Youtube.  One is My story about how I was diagnosed with ms, and the other is what I still feel is Good advice for someone that is newly diagnosed.  I went back and watched them the other day and they helped ‘calm me down’.  They also reminded me of what I have been through, and what I have survived.  If you are interested, please take a look but clicking on the above links.

 

 

Are you ready to live?

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some admittedly pretty scary information with you in my post, “Are you prepared to Die“?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, reading, and otherwise researching what my next steps should be.  While doing this, I have created two more quandaries for myself.  The first being not knowing who or what to believe.  People that claim to be specialists tout one thing, while other people claiming to be specialists tout the exact opposite.  You also have your everyday ‘average people’, also equally divided, demanding with as much fervor as two rivals debating politics that they have the answer.  (They must, they live with it everyday)?????  I find that I am overwhelmed not only with all the information available, but also by verifying the ‘credentials’ of the sources.

I’m going to table this quandary for now because I honestly feel like I am playing Russian Roulette.

The other decision that is plaguing me is, “Am I prepared to live?”    You’re probably thinking, “OF COURSE YOU ARE!!!”  At first it seems like a no-brainer doesn’t it?  Well duh, of course you want to live!!!  But is it really that simple?

Let’s say your doctor tells you that in order to live you have to murder, and eat someone once a week.  Apparently, the nutrients in another human would allow you to not only be disease free for a week, but they would return you to a more ‘youthful’ state with unlimited energy etc.  While some people may feel that this would be acceptable to them, for me it’s a deal breaker.  I would probably go so far as to purposely end my life to prevent some well meaning person from TRYING to save me.

I know that my example sounds extreme, but as a “professional addict” I assure you it’s not.  Do you know that smoking can kill you?  I still smoke.  Being overweight can also kill you, yet I won’t turn down cheesecake. etc etc…In addition to taking away those vices, you should change the things you eat.  Yes take away the things you enjoy, and ADD eating dirt (the food you most abhor) or  only being allowed to eat something that someone else has chewed up and spit out.

I am purposefully being facetious because what one person finds an acceptable another would NEVER do,  and I’m trying to make a point.  DECIDING TO LIVE takes a lot of work.  It requires many changes and some sacrifices. while at the same time knowing that you are going to die at some point anyway.  Up the ante by adding the FACT that there is no guarantee these changes will help, they may even make you sicker.

But it worked for my neighbor’s sister’s third cousin once removed’s dog?!?!?!? 

All sarcasm aside, I am beginning to accept the fact that in order to continue living, I have to make some serious changes in my life.  None of them are appealing to me, but I find I’m not quite ready to die.  I’m not prepared to swear to a course of action yet, but I have begun making changes. I reduced the number of cigarettes I smoke from more than a pack a day to 2 cigarettes a day.  I have been tracking everything that goes into and out of my body. ( I promised no more sarcasm today so I will just leave that one alone for now)  I have been investigating 4 MS drugs that I have been introduced since I began TYSABRI.  To be honest, the side effects of all of them are scary as hell so discontinuing any disease modifying treatment is also on the table.

It’s very dangerous for me to “get all lost in my mind”, so if you are willing please take a minute to share something you have struggled with or are struggling with and how you are working to overcome it.  It helps so much to know that we are not alone.

Are you prepared to die?

Before I continue, let me assure you that this is NOT a suicide note, nor is it a notice of my impending death.  This is a question I’ve asked and answered myself many times in my life.

If you’re not dying, why do you bring this up now?

I just received some unsettling blood tests, and I have some choices that I have to make.  When I receive bad news, in order to not “freak out”, I look back at all the things I have survived in my life to remind myself that I can be pretty damn tough.

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with MS over 20 years ago.  What you may or may not know is that I have had 3 family members die from complications of MS.  This disease has been “in my face” for many years before it actually caught me.  When I was diagnosed, I asked myself if I was ready to die, not if I was prepared, but if I was ready.  The answer was, “HELL NO!”  For the first year though, I didn’t do much to FIGHT it.  Instead, I began drinking ALOT.  I also started behaving very manically, (well if I’m going to die anyway, I’m going out with a bang)

About a year after my “MSaversary”,  I finally stopping running and faced the diagnosis. I began taking the disease modifying drug Betaseron.  For 10 years, I gave myself an injection every other night, yet my MS symptoms continued to steadily progress to the point that I was in a wheelchair more often than not.  I was constantly depressed.  During this time, my kidneys began shutting down, AND I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  Around the 10 year mark, I think I WAS ready to die.  Not prepared, but ready.

At then end of 2009, my girls and I made the very long hard decision that I was going to begin receiving monthly infusions of Tysabri even though it could kill me.  I decided that QUALITY of life meant so much more to me than QUANTITY!  I have previously written about how the decision was made in a Five part series if you would like to read.  The decision to start Tysabri Part 1The decision to start Tysabri part 2, The decision to start Tysabri part 3, The decision to start Tysabri part 4, and finally, The decision to start Tysabri part 5.

To date I have received 121 infusions of Tysabri.  I credit this drug for giving me my quality of life back.  I do not regret my decision in anyway, in fact I have even argued with my doctor about NOT switching medications when he suggested that I consider it. Last year, I wrote “Who’s the boss anyway”? explaining my reason for denying the change.

At the end of last year, I had to see my neurologist so he could perform my yearly neurological exam, refill my prescriptions, and send me for the required JC virus test to be allowed to remain on Tysabri.  My son in law was nice enough to drive me to Chicago for the visit.  Because of my newest list of injuries, the doctor was unable to provide a complete exam.  The parts of the exam he was able to perform showed that I had increased numbness (lack of feeling) on the left side of my body.  I have also been having some issues with my vision (though I have been attributing that to my age).  He wrote the refills for my prescriptions, and the order for the bloodwork, and we agreed I would come back for a full exam once my foot healed enough to be able to walk on it.  (hopefully March)

NOW let’s talk about these unsettling blood tests….

My bloodwork came back stating that I was now JC+, meaning I had the John Cunningham Virus (JCV).  Not only did I test positive for the virus, but my titer levels are considered very high. 4.8!

hmmmm now what?  I have a decision (well several to make)

Here are the drug facts

In addition to revealing that I have now become JC+, my bloodwork revealed that my Absolute Eosinophils are high.  What the hell does that mean?  A quick Dr. Google search said…

Eosinophils are a type of disease-fighting white blood cell. This condition most often indicates a parasitic infection, an allergic reaction or cancer. You can have high levels of eosinophils in your blood (blood eosinophilia) or in tissues at the site of an infection or inflammation (tissue eosinophilia).

OF course the first thing I saw was CANCER……cmon!!!!!!!  Seriously?!?!?

After speaking with my Neurologist, WE have decided first to have the bloodwork performed again.  (there is always a chance for a false positive?)  Because of the decreased sensation on one side of my body, the increased balance issues, and vision changes, IF the test still comes back with a high Titer level, the first step will be to undergo further testing for PML.  I haven’t even thought about further testing for the High Eosinophils, I honestly believe that everything else going on in my body is causing that.

I have so many questions and decisions to make that I find myself asking again, “Am I prepared to die?”

 

 

 

 

I do all my own stunts, though not intentionally

I would tell you to grab a bowl of popcorn before reading my latest drama, but if you are anything like me, you would choke on it from laughing too much.   I would suggest kleenex if you’re the sympathetic type, but to be honest I have done enough crying for all of us in the past few days.  Instead, I ask that you find humor in my latest  WTF story. If you’re willing to, please share one of your wtf’s with me.  I could really use a laugh.

I mentioned briefly in my last post, It’s certainly been a minute huh?, that I had been taking more of the caretaker role lately and that although I had had a couple more falls, they really hadn’t been anything out of the norm.  For some reason my brain translated this information into, “You should go big or go home Grace”, or “let’s really create some damage”.  As it happens, I now have quite the story of my own to tell…..SMH

Where to begin though……….

In the middle!  Let’s jump right in the middle.

So hey guess what…. I’m not pregnant!!!!!  Yay me?

I’m actually kind of sad about that, not because I want anymore children, but because after the lawsuit or news stories, I would be as rich as midas.  Are you confused yet?  So am I.  Maybe this story would be better told with less sarcasm?  Let’s go back to December 4, 2019.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

I am sitting up on a hospital bed answering the 1000 pre op questions I have been asked before, like it’s just another day. ( After more than 50 surgeries, it does feel just like any other day).

Nurse: I’m going to need a urine sample, and then we will get your IV started.

Grace:  For a pregnancy test?  No need, I had a hysterectomy over 15 years ago.

Nurse:  Was it a total hysterectomy?  I mean did they remove your ovaries also.

Grace: Um no but……

Nurse:  Then we still need to do the test.  While the chances are like 1 in a million, it can still happen.

As I am thinking, “Have you met me?!?!?!?  I am the queen of being 1 in a million”, it dawns on me that next Friday is Friday the 13th, and I start to feel sick.  Not because I am superstitious, but because I have two children. I found out I was pregnant with both of them on Friday, December 13th.  ( 1990 and 1996)

It really doesn’t matter that multiple nurses blew my veins multiple times trying to start an IV.  (I have a port for that reason)  It doesn’t matter that the anesthesia they were trying to use didn’t knock me out for 15 mins.  (Burned like hell, but wouldn’t put me out)  It doesn’t even matter that although the doctor was able to repair a lot of the damage in my knee, I am still going to need a partial knee replacement…..

At least I wasn’t pregnant.  SMH

Want to take a break and come back in a minute?  Believe it or not, I’m not even halfway done with this WTF story.

I spent the rest of the week in bed with my knee above my head attached to an ice machine.  I was able to walk (slowly) within a couple days and the pain was minimal.  I was even able to drive to Einstein’s within the week.

Friday the 13th came and went.   I am still not pregnant!!!  So life is good right?

HA HA HA HA

Saturday, Friday the 14th

Maybe I am a little superstitious, but not about the 13th.  I have had several bad experiences on Saturday the 14th (any month) that have even included being arrested.  Yes I have been arrested before, but that’s a whole different story, which ironically does have to do with me getting pregnant.  :O  Let’s stick with this Saturday the 14th though.

I am leaving the kitchen at Einstein’s and I kick or trip over the 1 inch lip at the bottom of the dog gate.  Oh Fuck, I know I am going down…. NOT MY KNEE NOT MY KNEE!!!!!!

The good news….. I didn’t land on my knee.

The not so good news ……I can’t get up.

While going to get my wheelchair from the other room, Einstein jokes, “why did you put this away already?”  NOT FUNNY!  I am in so much pain, I start to cry.  I really can’t stand up.  Einstein had to pick me up to put my in the chair.

High Ho, High Ho, off to the doctor we go……. smh

Before scrolling down, care to guess the diagnosis?

1214191421

While waiting for the xrays to come back, I am imagining the worst.  foot-top

Did I fuck up last years surgery on this foot?

(You know the one where they put a plate and screws in my right foot?)

Earlier this year, I fell while holding my grandson and broke the lag bolt while trying not to hurt him…

BREAKER OF TITANIUM….

not quite as cool as Mother of Dragons, but applicable nonetheless.

 

Ready for the verdict?

I broke the 3rd and 4th metatarsals.  (the long bones in the middle of your foot)  I don’t remember the terminology  “the breaks appear to be clean”.  With luck I am in a non weight bearing cast for a couple of months and that is it.  I see the orthopedic doctor on Thursday to see if the swelling has gone down enough for a hard cast and hear his opinion about surgery.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me.  I am truly feeling that if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.  But hey at least I’m not pregnant?