Europe – #AtoZChallenge

Oh, my. Traveling to Europe for a six-month trip was impacted by having MS in a variety of amusing ways.

First off, I decided that the best way to enable myself to be active was to take along a cooling vest, since heat can really exacerbate the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. The deal was, the vest looked puffy but was actually fitted with these long gel packs that you would freeze and then stuff into pockets that encircle your torso. It was so bulky and heavy that I had to wear it on the plane to save room in our bags, so I looked, basically, like a mild-mannered, middle-aged suicide bomber.

Modeling the cooling vest. Note the handy Velcro shoulder and side straps!

That was only the first thing that caused problems for airport security, though! The other was that I needed to bring six months’ worth of medication, so my entire carry-on bag was packed with drugs. Nothing to see here, security people!

Being gimpy and slow had two main consequences on the trip. First, David and Quinland would inevitably drift farther and farther ahead of me. Honestly, this didn’t bother me much, because I like to window shop and they don’t, so I’d have been falling behind anyway, and this was a good excuse. One time in Portugal, though, I tripped and fell while strolling down the street (very gracelessly, I should add; I just pitched over, face-first) and my family was just out of shouting range. Thankfully, I was immediately attended to by the wonderful local folks, whom I tried to assure, without actually knowing any Portuguese, that I was scraped up but otherwise fine.

The second thing was that — and this holds true today — if I over-exert myself on one day, I usually am laid up on the next. D and Q thus got to go on many adventures without me, though we tried to make those days either sites-I-was-less-interested-in or physical-activities-I-probably-couldn’t-do-anyway. It would have been fun to mountain bike in Istria or kayak in Norwegian fjords, but I can’t complain — I can still travel, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.

I’m also grateful that I got to visit massage therapists all over Europe, from the relaxing one in Lisbon to the near-chiropractic one in Barcelona to the health-club vibe of the one in Hannover. (After being introduced to hot yoga in London, I also got to explore yoga studios in Paris and Dublin!)

I need to keep my cool…

"Eerie" Ice
Photo by laszlo-photo

See that ice in the photo?  I need some of that.  Dr. Z told me to watch out for heat, because it makes MS symptoms worse.  He suggested I get a cooling vest, which is apparently like a fishing vest that you can pack with ice packs to keep your core body temperature down (and in a pinch, as my friend Christine noted, you could keep people’s beverages chilled).

I unconsciously decided to put the whole “heat is bad” thing to the test this weekend.  I went directly from the Multnomah Days Parade (and another sunburn) to my first real workout with Charles (totally overheated) to a barbecue (with plenty of shade and cool drinks but no A/C), all on the hottest day we’ve had in Portland all year. By this afternoon, I was completely wrecked. I spent most of the afternoon in bed, managed to drag myself to Lorraine’s 30th birthday party – where I am sure I was not good company – and back home to bed again.  Then, a miracle occurred. Okay, not a miracle, exactly, but after I went down to the basement to watch Glee Project with David and Quinland, I felt a million times better. We have air conditioning, but there is still probably a 10-degree difference between double down and upstairs. It’s crazy how cooling down gave me back some energy and some mobility in my leg. I actually got up and did a load of laundry just now.  Amazing.

Now, off to look at those cooling vests!  Do you have any good tips for keeping cool on hot days?

  • {Clutter} released: 15 magazines!  I “processed” them completely, too – I even filed away my saved articles in the correct binders.  Go, me!
  • {Stress} released: Worked with David on a weekly schedule for “life after school starts.”  It’s still a work in progress, but David took the initiative on making this plan, which was awesome.  I like feeling that we will all be on the same page.