Monthly Archives: July 2010

Yeah. Like she said.

I read this woman’s blog entry about learning that she had MS, being terrified, and then continuing on with it, almost like nothing had happened as her symptoms abated.  It made me want to write a bit about how it happened to me, too.  So I did.

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The film from an MRI of your brain looks like a brain.  You can see the brainy shape of it, just like a biology text book or a scene from Grey’s Anatomy.  And there was my brain.  With a big white blob in the middle of it.

The neurologist had put the films up on a light board at the beginning of my meeting with him.  And then he started talking about… stuff.  All I wanted to talk about was the big white blob in my brain and I couldn’t really listen to him talking about treatment considerations and symptoms.  He eventually got around to the big white blob and admitted that it was a lesion.  In my brain.  And then he said “I’m not sure why someone else hasn’t given you the diagnosis already.”  Which reminds me that the neurologist in New Jersey had said that she was putting the diagnosis down as Multiple Sclerosis, but only because she “had to put something.”

The back of my neck started to get really hot.  Just like when I find myself in the middle of a break-up conversation.

And that’s how I found out that the previous few months of dizziness, double vision, pins and needles, and exhaustion were not just in my head.  They were real.  And stemming from a chronic debilitating disease called MS.

I went to visit a dear friend in Seattle for Thanksgiving 2006.  While it had been planned as a long weekend of girl times, excessive eating, and booze, all I wanted to do was sleep.  I took naps.  I wanted to sit down or just hide out in the car when everyone else was strolling around town.  It might just be that I was too out of shape.  There had been too much smoking.  Too much drinking.  Maybe I was coming down with something.  But it was weird.

Then, home again, I started having a funniness about my vision.  It seemed oddly fuzzy and not quite right and my eyes just felt tired.  I chalked it up to stress and tiredness and maybe just the end of my reign of better-than-perfect vision.  But it didn’t get better.  In fact, it started to get worse, until it became clear that I was actually seeing double.  I became increasingly nauseous on the bus as the weirdness with my vision started fucking with my general equilibrium.  I started feeling dizzy and unsteady.  I unconsciously reached out for walls and something solid any time I was walking around.

The double vision got so bad that I got into the habit of closing one eye all the time.  Like a perpetual wink.

I had a PPO at the time, allowing me to just go see any doctor without a referral, so I started making appointments.  My family doctor agreed that something was wrong and referred me to neurologist, but I couldn’t get in there until after the new year.  In the mean time, I saw an eye doctor who said that something was definitely fucked up, but that there was nothing wrong with my vision.

Back home in New Jersey for Christmas, I saw an Ear-Nose-and-Throat doctor and a neurologist who gave me a bunch of test that watched my brain while I looked at flashing and moving lights in the dark.  They also gave me a test that involved blowing toots of air in my ears to simulate vertigo, a sensation so unpleasant that I cried in the car on the way home while the effects lingered indefinitely.

That was the doctor who created a report for me to take back to San Francisco with me and who said that she was putting Multiple Sclerosis as the diagnosis because she “had to put something” until it was confirmed.  If those tests weren’t for confirming it, then I have no idea why I had to have them.

So back in the Bay Area again, I got the scheduled MRI, which is long and boring and weird, but not terribly upsetting.  Armed with these pictures of my brain (which I refused to look at) and the report from the New Jersey doctor (another thing that I would not look at) I went for my long awaited appointment with the local neurologist with my friend Jessica.

By this time, it had been two months since the initial symptoms started and they were pretty much all gone already.  I was weirded out and stressed, but the double vision was clearing up.  The pins and needles in my hands and feet were mostly gone.  I didn’t feel like puking on the bus any more.

So while the news from this doctor was incredibly scary and upsetting, I was actually feeling pretty ok.

Two days later, I lost my job.  But that’s another story.

This story continues with the status quo.  No more symptoms.  So far so good.

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thoughts on justice

Yesterday, a jury in LA found the cop who shot Oscar Grant on New Year’s Eve guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which means that he could be sentenced to something like 4 to 14 years in jail.  The cop is white and Oscar was black.  So the black people – all kinds of people – of Oakland are mad.  Indignant.  They cry.  They yell into microphones about justice.

And yesterday, after this verdict was read, they protested in downtown Oakland and then started breaking windows, and well, throwing shoes.

I get a little afraid when I think about this.  Just because I don’t think that cop should go to jail for life, does that mean I’m racist?  Really?  I don’t know what to say about myself if that’s true.

But it’s not as though a white cop saw a black kid and just shot him.  Oscar and his friends were fighting – or maybe just being unruly – on a BART train.  He wasn’t just minding his own business, making the world a better place.  It probably makes me sound like an 80 year lady, but he was being a hooligan.  And then when the police stepped in, he struggled and gave them trouble.

He didn’t deserve to die.  Absolutely not.  It’s tragic that it ended the way it did.

But he wasn’t an innocent.  And the cop wasn’t a monster.  There were a lot of people acting badly.  It was definitely a bad scene, and people were acting in a sense of fear.

Instead of protesting the bad things that happen when people feel fear, I wish that we protested the culture and society that creates that fear in the first place.  That they took guns from several young black men that night.  That the police can’t create order without having to intimidate because they’re not respected.

I feel sick to think of so much anger.  And I feel afraid when I think of myself as a person who doesn’t have compassion, who isn’t liberal.  So I wish that we could function without this anger and fear.  Wishing isn’t enough though, is it?

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a whole 5 kilometers

I ran in a 5k race today, which wasn’t the first time I’d run that distance, but sure is the first time I actually put myself in a race.

It’s 8 weeks since I started doing the Couch to 5K training, which I’d kept at pretty darned tootin religiously.  It was all going great until about half way through, when the running intervals started getting a longer.  The day that the training called for 2 x 8 minutes running, I really fell off my pace during the second 8 minutes.  It happened again in the next workout and the one after that, and I finally decided that I just had to slow it down.

So technically, I was following the training plan, but going at a pace so slow, I’m hard pressed to call it jogging, let alone running.  Things haven’t gotten much better in the last few weeks, so I knew going into today’s race that it was going to be a long journey.

I got myself there this morning, signed in, and lingered around waiting for the start.  When that finally happened, I swear, all the people in the crowd just took off and I never saw them again.  The back of the pack was pretty darn thin; I mostly ran alone the whole way.

The race took place on the Fourth of July parade route through Alameda, so there were loads of people camped out on either side of the road.  I imagined that would be the case, but it was so much more embarrassing than I’d anticipated.  Lots of people would cheer and since I was all on my own… well, they were cheering for just me.  As I trudged by, very, very slowly.  I don’t really like to think of anyone seeing me running, let alone properly watching me and oh my god, let alone cheer for me?  I wasn’t terribly fond of that whole aspect of the experience.

It was pretty sucky the whole way, and I had some very good, long thoughts about taking a walking break.  But I didn’t.  After like a million years, it was finally over.  I don’t feel so super about it and really wish I had been able to go more quickly, but I finished it.  And that’s a start.

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