Archive for January 2006
If I’ve been sounding a little “foreboding” in previous posts, well, call it a side-effect of having too much information at my fingertips – by which I mean Internet access at home and work. Troubleshooting and investigation is what I do for a living, on computers, so I could hardly avoid applying the same logic to myself.
To recap: the MRI scan I had last November gave me the all-clear on my spine – only a barely noticeable disc deformation, no other damage to the neck. What did stand out, however, were a few white spots in the central spinal cord. Knowing some of how the spinal cord works, with nerves branching out at various points, this looked like a “smoking gun” for the symptoms I had; the further down the body, the more central the nerves serving it, and I was feeling the effects in my feet. I found it had a name, L’Hermitte’s Sign.
Next stop, a neurologist, in mid-December; he read the spots on the MRI images as scarring due to transverse myelitis, inflamation of the spinal cord. OK, but what caused it? It wasn’t an acute infectious case of the type described in most of the literature, since I certainly would have remembered collapsing and being hospitalised (I think). The next steps ordered by the neurologist were a) blood tests, and b) another MRI scan, this time of my brain.
This is where the “foreboding” kicked in, since it did not take me long to figure out what the scan was for, and what he was hoping not to see in there. The blood work took me a little longer to get my head around: there have been cases where a chronic deficiency of Vitamin B12 led to spinal cord damage.
After the scan, about a week and a half ago, I had to wait until Monday this week for a return visit to the neurologist. It didn’t take long: the blood tests were clear, with cholestrol a little high (though in the normal range). The brain MRI showed at least two small areas of scarring, similar to those in the neck MRI. With two separate scarring incidents, in different parts of the nervous system, almost certainly at different times, the diagnosis was the one I had been expecting: I have a “mild” case of multiple sclerosis.
Next up, I’m being scheduled to see a specialist MS nurse, and may be referred to the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland for discussion or counselling. I’ve also told the neurologist that I’m up for being a guinea pig on trials, and he already has at least one in mind. This is a big year for MS treatment, apparently, with a major new drug undergoing final trials. New patients are what trials need, since patients with a longer history will usually have undergone previous treatment that could interfere with new tests.
Since the MS is obviously going to be a big topic on this blog, for the foreseeable future, I’ve added a category for postings on it. The category name is the default tag on a post, used for flagging the topic in “social networking” services like weblogs.com and Technorati. The abbreviation “MS” is not going to work, it is more typically an acronym for Microsoft (though I prefer M$). What about M§? Nah.
I’ve told a few people at work about this, and they understandably don’t know quite how to react. We have two known MS patients in our building, both of whom were hit harder, at a much younger age, and have restricted mobility (to put it politely), so I think they’re concerned I might end up the same way. This is very unlikely, any time soon.
One person asked whether I had been worried by his reaction when I told him the news, whether he hadn’t reacted the way he was supposed to. Since I have no idea how people are supposed to react in this kind of situation, I’m assuming that everyone reacts in the correct way for them! People would like to know what they can do for me, but there’s nothing I need at this point, except perhaps a little understanding if I wake up one morning with too little energy to put my shoes on, never mind drag myself to work.
The other question is: how do I feel about this? I have no idea how to feel: as a rule, I concern myself with the practical implications of any event or situation. There aren’t any major ones yet, and probably won’t be for a long time. I described my symptoms – the L’Hermitte Signs – as “annoying”, and that’s the way they still are today.
The advance research definitely prepared me to receive the news in an equitable fashion. If I think about the risks I face every day – such as crossing two busy roads on the way to and from work – and all the things in my life that are “not right”, then this is simply “one more thing that’s gone wrong”!
Heading back to work on Tuesday wasn’t as much of a shock as I thought it might be, and I’ve enjoyed a gentle ramp-up of work. Alarms every morning, but no surprises. It takes two to kick my brain into gear – a radio tuned to the Classical FM station, and the beeper in my iPaq.
As mentioned, I’m heading for a second MRI scan on the 14th, a week on Saturday; until I have results, my life is effectively on hold. Based on what I’ve been told so far, and what the radiologist has been asked to look for, a little internet research immediately pointed at what the neurologist suspects. On a purely medical level I hope I’m wrong, and I hope he is too.
On a mental level, however, the diagnosis I suspect would answer a lot of questions about the past and the present. It would tie together some things that have bugged me, and some I didn’t pay much attention to, things it could be a relief to have an explanation for. I could be totally wrong, so I don’t think I should get into specifics just yet, after speculation on my part. So… back to work.