Infection – #AtoZChallenge

It’s hard to explain to people how infections are related to Multiple Sclerosis, since MS doesn’t technically cause infection. But I’ll give it a try!

Think, for a moment, about sinus infections. Most people can relate to the congestion, the headache, the face pain. But it makes no sense to most people that when I have a sinus infection, I’m liable to have tingling in my foot or an achy leg. How could that possibly be related to my sinuses?!

Well, when anyone’s body gets an infection, their immune system kicks in to fight it. Just like when Pac-Man has to chase down and chomp up the ghosts in the video game, your immune cells seek out infection and attack and remove it, to keep it from harming your body.

Unfortunately, Multiple Sclerosis is a disease where your body misidentifies actual good cells — those that make up the protective myelin sheath that covers all your nerves — for bad cells, and sends your immune cells out to chomp that myelin right off the nerves. The worst part? For a person who has MS, every time the immune response is turned on to attack another infection in the body, it turns on to attack the myelin again, as well. So every infection is a double whammy of the expected symptoms  of that illness and a flare-up of MS symptoms, too.

I’m especially cursed by this phenomenon, because I have damage to the nerves that lead to my bladder. I have trouble realizing that I have to pee, because the signals don’t reliably travel from bladder to brain, and I often have trouble peeing, because the signals don’t reliably travel from brain to bladder. This puts me at great risk of urinary tract infections, which can be caused by residual urine. And every UTI causes a worsening of MS symptoms, so it’s a vicious circle.

It’s frustrating. I don’t want to be a whiner, constantly going, “You don’t understand! Yes, I ‘only’ have a UTI or a cold or an infected paper cut, but it’s worse for me than it would be for you!” But it’s true, and it’s hard to make people understand that when I’m dealing with those things, I’m also getting slammed with extra-bad MS symptoms on top of it all.

(If we were in Notting Hill, I’d be going for that last brownie.)

Hudson Taylor – #AtoZChallenge

I haven’t yet worked out exactly how Hudson Taylor (the band, of course, not the missionary or the wrestler) relate to my having MS, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. I need to shake this month up a little bit.

Hmmmm… Do Hudson Taylor sing about MS? (No.) Do either of them have MS? (Not that they’ve ever mentioned to me.) Support MS awareness of any kind? (Probably not, although they are so nice that I bet they would.)

Meanwhile, I’ve let days go by without posting since I can’t come up with anything to tie in the band, so I guess I’ll just leave you with a gorgeous recording of their new song, “Old Soul.”

P.S. Harry and Alfie, on the incredibly remote chance that you are reading this, please remember that you said you’d come back to Portland in May. And that you’d be headlining. And that you’d bring your whole band. And that I could have two free tickets. Okaythanksbye.

Gabapentin – #AtoZChallenge

Gabapentin was originally developed as an anti-seizure medication for epilepsy, but was also found to help with neuropathy (nerve pain) and dysesthesia (altered sensations, pins-and-needles feeling, tingling). Thank goodness for that! There’s no way I’d be able to get through the day without it.

See, normally our bodies can screen out unimportant sensations of things like clothes or blankets or the brush of a purse against your side as you walk. I mean, it would be pretty weird if you put your clothes on and then felt them against your skin all day, like having to wear a shirt over a badly-sunburned back, wouldn’t it?

Yes; yes, it would.

I really have a problem with dysesthesia on my left side. I don’t feel pointy, sharp pain well enough, and I feel soft, glancing touch way too well. Without gabapentin, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house, because I wouldn’t be able to wear clothes without feeling like I was being slowly irritated to death. I wouldn’t be able to sleep in the same bed as my husband for fear of him accidentally brushing up against me. Walking would be particularly difficult, as my foot would freak out every time it hit the ground. Gabapentin has helped tremendously; it’s not perfect, but it turns the neuropathic pain from a 10 down to about a 4.

I just have to remember to take it on time; missing doses really does a number on me. I have a sectioned pill box and I’ve set alarm reminders on my phone, but still I mess up the timing, and I usually don’t know I’ve done it until I feel the nerve pain start to creep back in.