Lesions – #AtoZChallenge

le·sion  /ˈlēZHən/ noun   
1. a region in an organ or tissue that has suffered damage through injury or disease
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. – Marr/Morrissey

Multiple Sclerosis gets its name from the lesions it causes on the tissue of the central nervous system. Sclerosis means “scarring,” and when the immune system destroys the myelin coating on the nerves, it leaves telltale scars. Multiple scars, if you will.

Now, the majority of people with MS have lesions in the brain. Some also have lesions on the spinal cord. Fewer have spinal cord lesions only. Guess which group I fall into! Yep, my brain is clear; I have lesions on my spinal cord.

Now, the spinal cord is divided into sections (from neck to tailbone, that’s 8 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral, and 1 coccygeal, for those of you keeping score at home), each of which is identified by its section and its number. My spinal cord is damaged at T10 and T11; for reference, T10 is right at the navel.

Why is this important? Well, the area where you have damage/scars/lesions dictates the location of your symptoms, so I could have problems from the waist down, but not from the waist up. I also have symptoms on one side of my body only (the left side! Another L!), which means the damage to the spinal cord is only on one side. Still, it affected both sensory nerves (those that carry information back to the brain) and motor nerves (that bring messages from the brain telling your body to move).

Thus, I have the following: nerves that send too much information about soft touch (making innocuous things like clothing or stepping on the floor feel really really uncomfortable) and not enough about sharp pain (so being pricked with a pin feels like it’s happening through a wetsuit); various areas that are numb; and muscles that don’t work properly and end up making my leg weak or my foot droopy or my bladder unresponsive.

Yet again, I’m afraid this sounds whiny, which isn’t my intention! It’s just meant to be informative, to let people know what MS is like. Believe me, I know how lucky I am.

Kumfs – #AtoZChallenge

(David said my “K” word should be either kleptomania, Kansas, or keratin. These have nothing whatsoever to do with MS. Or with me, for that matter.)

I have been known to fall a lot in my life. I think I had stitches in my head three times before my fifth birthday. I was teased mercilessly by my friends in junior high for falling off my brown leather platform sandals while standing still. (I just keeled over. There’s no explanation.)

Mine were like “G,” although — had I seen them — I probably would have wanted “K” back in the day.

If I’m completely honest, my friends have teased me my entire adult life about my inability to wear heels of any height. (It’s like Joey said about Chandler and bras. I can’t work ’em.)

Now, throw Multiple Sclerosis into the situation!

When I was first diagnosed, I was falling pretty regularly. I had foot drop in my left foot, so I’d catch my toe on the floor all the time. But, just like in 7th grade, there were also plenty of times that I just fell over for no apparent reason.

It got to the point where I was constantly checking in with David on it. “Would anyone have fallen right there? That was kind of uneven, right? I mean… right?” Sometimes he was able to reassure me, sometimes not.

I fall a lot less now. I wear what I call “orthopedic shoes” (almost exclusively walking shoes from Ziera, which used to be called Kumfs), because they are comfortable, supportive, and don’t irritate my sensitive foot. I can get most of the styles in whatever color I want, which is black. (They sell other colors for you people who don’t want to own ten pairs of black shoes.)

I sound like an ad, I know, but it took me a lot of trial and error to find shoes that would work, so if this helps someone who has similar issues, I’m glad. These shoes are spendy, I won’t lie; they probably average about $150 a pair, but it’s an investment in my health. I’ve decided to consider it a fair exchange for all the money I have saved by not dyeing my hair.

Judgment – #AtoZChallenge

MS is one of many “invisible” diseases. Because people can’t see what’s wrong with me, and because I look perfectly fine, they figure I’m doing great. And most of the time, I am, thanks to the wonders of pharmaceuticals! But other times, those invisible symptoms leave me thinking that people are judging me. (Lazy. Unreliable. Hypochondriac. Skiver. Unproductive. Antisocial.)

Then again, perhaps I’m projecting. Perhaps I’m the one doing the judging. I definitely think those things about myself when I spend days in bed, when I have no energy, when I have to call in sick to work, yet again. I’m the one putting expectations on myself and beating myself up when I can’t meet them.

There’s definitely a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I could beat this if I wanted to, if I just worked hard enough. It’s no wonder I expect others  to think that, too.