Sunday, June 27, 2010

Medical update - 6/27/10

Let's start with the good news. My back is doing much better. It was giving me the usual problems last Monday (6/21), plus some extra aching in my middle back, to the left of my spine. Then at about 9 or 10 that evening, I was able to stand fully upright once again, and have been able to do so ever since. Physical therapy has helped as well, especially the electro-massage on my lower back. My spine still looks like it's out of alignment, I've got a cortisone injection tomorrow morning, then two more physical therapy appointments next week. I'm trying to avoid overexerting myself at work. I'm using the spare roller backpack to "carry" my laptop, using the cart to move equipment around (regardless of size), and taking the elevator to my desk (I know the building only has 2 floors, but still...). The ultimate test will be to hit some golf balls; will have to MAYBE give it a shot next weekend (depending how this week goes, painwise).

The bad news? It's REALLY bad. Met with my doctor on Wednesday, and he informed me that I likely have MS. He can't say with 100% certainty, though. The lumbar puncture indicates I do. The MRI and vision problems do as well. But since my vision problem is the first and only attack, they can't absolutely confirm I have MS, until I have another one.

What does this mean? I'll start treatment to prevent additional symptoms soon. The doc gave me a bunch of homework on various steroid medications that I'd have to go on. I need to go through it and pick one. All of them are about the same; it's a question of how often I'll need to inject them and where I need to inject them (subcutaneously or intramuscularly). Also means I'll need to get yearly MRI's. It's not going to be cheap, either. Insurance will cover most of it, drug companies have programs set up to cover a good chunk of the rest. My doctor is also looking into getting me into a study program for a new oral medication; we'll see how it plays out. Follow up with him is at the end of July, but I'll probably select a treatment program before then. However, there's no guarantee that I'll fully get my vision back.

I'm not too worried about all that, though. I'm trying to think more bigger picture. How this is going to interfere with my life, which I've decided is zero. I'm going to continue being me, like nothing was ever wrong. In fact, I'm gonna start living like tomorrow's my last day on earth (even though it isn't). Prime example: I'm going to the Twin Cities in a couple weeks to see Weezer in concert. I had some concerns about my back problems stopping me, but this whole thing makes me realize that I can't be passing up opportunities like this.

On the other hand, this does handcuff me to my current job, I had thought about quitting so I could move to the Twin Cities and go full-steam on my search for a new one. But I certaintly can't do that now, or I'd lose my insurance coverage (I've been told by friends if I actively have insurance going into my next job, the new provider can't play the "pre-existing condition" card).

Again, I don't want to talk about this much further. That's all I've got to say about that. Let's talk about something else. Go out, grab a drink, maybe a bite to eat and discuss sports, music, movies, stories. I don't care, just anything but my impending doom.

Thank you all for all the good vibes you've been sending my way. Please keep 'em coming. And I hope to hear from you soon.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's a dark day...

Whatever happened to the good ol' days when vampires and werewolves were primal, bloodthirty monsters to be feared, not whiny, emo-listening, angst-ridden, pansy-ass teenagers? And where are Blade, Abraham Whistler, and the Nightstalkers or Buffy and the Scooby Gang when we need them most?

It truly is the darkest before the dawn...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Medical update - 6/18/10

Updates on my medical condition (originally reported on 6/16):

In addition to the vitamin B12 deficiency, I'm also lacking D. I've started a daily vitamin regiment to try resolve both of these problems, but it may not be enough to take care of the B12. I had the first of six (6) weekly injections for B12 this afternoon. After that, they want me to come in monthly for the shots. I'll be re-evaluated on this front in a few months.

Saw my back doctor yesterday afternoon. She sent me back to physical therapy, and signed off on another lumbar injection of steroids to take care of the pain issues I've had since Sunday. First PT session is Tuesday, waiting to hear back from the pain clinic on the lumbar injection. My back doctor was also the one who informed me of my vitamin D problems and suggested taking supplements to correct it. Back doctor was also telling me my neurologist is hoping the vision and back problems would be fixed with the B12 shots.

I have not heard anything back yet on the lumbar puncture and blood work from Monday, with the exception of the vitamin problems (and I'm assuming that's how the docs knew about those problems). Follow-up appointment to discuss the results still scheduled for Wednesday.

Back is feeling a bit better today, as I had the day off. No noticeable change in the vision in my left eye.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I admit it; life hasn’t gone the way I wanted it to. I don’t like my job, but can’t find a new one. I still live in Fargo. I’m single. Most of my friends have moved away and/or started having kids. The Yankees won the World Series last year. I’m working on making some lemonade; I got my recipe, but can’t seem to put it all together yet. Through all this, I’ve always had my health. Or I did…

Three weeks ago today (May 26), I woke up with a problem with my left eye. The vision from it was dark and fuzzy. At first, I thought my brain was still trying to boot up, or maybe I just put my contacts in wrong. I sat through my first meeting that morning, waiting for my eyes to get it together, but no luck. I went to the walk-in clinic, and about 90 minutes later, I was seeing an optometrist. She found nothing wrong with my eye itself, but discovered I was suffering from optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve. Then my optometrist said that this could be caused by multiple sclerosis (MS). Optic neuritis is the initial symptom for MS in 20-30% of the cases.

I didn’t really react to this news. Mostly because it wasn’t conclusive, nor was it proven to be MS. I kind of continued my normal life (as best as I could), but the possibilities bounced around my head like a super ball on speed. I tried to reach out to some of my friends so I’d have someone to talk to, but couldn’t find anyone. I was losing my sight, losing my mind, wishing someone would tell me I was fine. My parents came down to Fargo Memorial Day weekend (because they already planned to, not because of this). I stood out on my balcony as they arrived and started bringing everything up to my apartment. I started to lose it a little bit. No crying, but you could hear my fears and worries in my voice. After about 20 minutes, I pulled it together and got through the rest of the night OK.

They came with me to my MRI the following morning (May 29). I was getting the MRI because the doctors wanted to look for white matter lesions on my brain to help them confirm or rule out the MS diagnosis. My folks stayed at my place for the rest of the weekend, but came back down on Thursday (June 3) to accompany me to my appointment with a neurologist.

There was nothing conclusive on my MRI in terms of the MS. A couple of spots on my brain that maybe looked like white matter lesions, but nothing definitive. We kicked around the idea of me going on a steroid regiment to restore my vision, but we didn’t catch it early enough (not sure how that worked, I came in the same morning I was having issues…), so it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. I decided against it, because I was not a fan of having to give myself multiple injections a week.

I was scheduled to take a few more tests. I went in for another MRI the next evening (June 4), this time to check my spine for MS. I had an issue where I was experiencing tingling and numbness on my right side from my mid-torso down to my knee in mid-April over the change in my pay schedule, due to the IT realignment at John Deere. They wanted to see if this was also caused by the MS, and not anxiety as my primary physician originally stated. A VER test (not sure what that acronym stands for) the next Tuesday (June 8), which consisted of me staring at a pulsating red dot in the middle of a moving black-and-white checkerboard pattern on a computer screen.

And to top it all off, a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) this past Monday (June 14). That procedure was relatively uneventful, or at least as relatively uneventful as getting a big needle poked into your spinal column so they can draw fluid out. Also got some blood drawn. Again, they’d test for MS, but they are also looking for Lyme disease and other possible infections. Most of the tests are being done up here, but some have been sent down to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

The results will come back early next week. I’ve got another appointment to follow up with my neurologist’s office next Wednesday (June 23). Until then, I’m going to continue living my life. Doing all the things I’d normally do. It isn’t that bad, it just looks like I forgot to put one of my contacts in.

Well, this kind of thinking got me into more trouble. I know, what else is new? I purchased floor tickets in January to go see Nickelback, Sick Puppies, Shinedown, and Breaking Benjamin at the Fargodome on May 27. One day after I started having vision problems. I told myself, “Hell, my vision might be screwed up, but my hearing OK. This isn’t going to stop me from going to the show and having a good time.”

I had a great time. Mostly. I got into the concert at 5:30, went down to the floor, and proceeded to enjoy all the excellent rock music. But as the night progressed, my back started bothering me. I tried to turn and twist and bend and stretch to relive the pain, but around 8:00, I started going down into a crouching position for extended periods of time (about 2-3 minutes each). I willed myself to make it through the rest of the show, as I had paid $70 and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. This may have been a bad decision. I was hurting bad by the end of the night. I continued to have some pain in my lower back and my left leg. Nothing I was doing (ice, pain relievers, ointment) alleviated the pain. It wasn’t too bad; I was able to work through it…

…Until this past Sunday (June 13), when I needed to do my laundry. I had to wash everything: towels, socks, underwear, bedsheets, shirts, pants. As the day progressed and I carried loads up and down the hall to the laundry room, I started feeling more and more pain. I finally had to stop before it was all done because I was in such rough shape. Since then, I can’t stand up straight. I’m walking around like a caveman, all hunched over. I’m in considerable less pain when sitting or lying down, but it still lingers there.

In case you’re not aware of this, this will be the THIRD problem I’ve had with my back, and I’m more than SIX MONTHS away from my 30th birthday. The first round happened in the Fall of 2000, when I was a sophomore at NDSU. I think it all started by standing outside the Fargodome, starting at 8 AM, waiting for the doors to open for the NDSU/UND football game that afternoon. Then, once we got inside, we continued to stand throughout the game. Somehow, when we picked a place to sit, we chose a spot were there wasn’t enough seats for everyone, and then ended up one row above my friends, again where there wasn’t a spot for me to sit down at any point in the game. A couple weeks later, after persistent sharp pain in my left hip, I thought rollerblading would help stretch out the stiff muscle I thought I had in that area. Wrong. Made things worse. A month later, after spending a Friday working on my laundry, the pain in my leg and back got so bad, I went to the emergency room at 1:30 AM. Saw a neurologist, a physical therapist, and a chiropractor, but they couldn’t fix it. I kept telling them and my parents I needed surgery to fix it, but they insisted against it. I was barely able to fly home for Christmas break, and when my mom and dad saw how bad of shape I was when I got off the plane, they yanked me out of college and got me to a doctor who confirmed my beliefs, though it was still ANOTHER month before I finally was treated.

This past summer, maybe after going to the Green Day concert on July 11 (and again standing on the floor the whole evening), and maybe after playing hockey all winter, spring, and most of the summer, I started having the same pain in my hip that I had as a college sophomore. I was worried that I was going to go down that same road and be put under the knife again. I stopped playing hockey for the rest of the year, but the pain continued. I saw the doctors (not any of the same ones as the last time around), who sent me to physical therapy. I also got a couple of monthly lumbar injections of steroids. This time, the non-surgical treatments worked. I became completely pain-free (except after one potentially last hockey game, but I was fine again after a couple weeks of rest).

And when it comes to back problems, I’m already playing with the deck stacked against me. My dad has had three back surgeries by the time he was fifty. A couple of his brothers have also had the same problems. It’s one of those degenerative things, since my dad’s family went through it, I was kinda doomed from the start.

I’m going into see the doctor tomorrow afternoon. Same one as my most recent bout with backitis. They’re going to take some x-rays, and look at my most recent MRI (they found some disc bulging in my back, but no one ever told me WHERE it was). Not sure where this is going to go yet, but I’d like to get back to normal ASAP, with the trips I have planned for the first couple of weekends in July.

Well, you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse right? No. A nurse from my primary physician’s office called me this afternoon, telling me I have a B12 vitamin deficiency (barely, I’m just slightly under the lower limit for a normal range). Not sure if this discovered from testing the blood drawn from me on Monday or not. I’m gonna go in on Friday to get an injection and get this taken care of. I don’t think a lack of B12 is causing either of these issues, but looking at the symptoms, I found a number of things on that list I have been struggling with lately (fatigue, weakened memory (in the form of more brain farts than normal), irritability, depression).

I just want to get all this over with and be healthy again. I’ve got too much other stuff to worry about, and I don’t want to put my life on hold, like I did 10 years ago before, during, and after my back surgery.

I don’t want to talk about this either. Please, let’s talk about something else. Sports, music, video games, puppies. Tell me what’s going on in your life. Call me, e-mail me, find me on Facebook. I don’t care, just as long as it’s anything else.

And until all this is fixed, I’m going to see if I can find the receipt for this body I got from God, so I can exchange it for a non-defective one. I know I have it around here somewhere…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

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