Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Five Years with Multiple Sclerosis

It's almost surreal to think five years ago today I started this blog.  It was also the day I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  As poor as my memory is these days, October 22, 2008 is a date I will never forget.

We have a lot of meaningful dates and anniversaries in life.  The anniversary of a relationship, or a birthday, or even the date we start working at a company.  Not all anniversaries are good, such as the anniversary of a loved one's death.  So, what about the anniversary of being diagnosed with an incurable disease?  Surprisingly, I consider the day I was diagnosed with MS a good anniversary.

It's important to realize I had MS for years before I was actually diagnosed.  They know I've had it since at least 2005 if not longer.  I strongly suspect it became active after the birth of my son in 2002.  Before I was diagnosed, I spent years "sick".  I lost my job, I lost my house, and I even lost my car.  I was forced to live in a horrible ghetto apartment with my two young children and try to function despite feeling like an emotional and physical wreck.  I spent years with doctors, family, and friends accusing me of "faking it" or that my illness "was all in my head".  Essentially, most people around me thought I was a lazy hypochondriac with developing psychological issues.  To put it bluntly- I was in hell.

Then in October 2008, I woke up one morning and was unable to see.  I had complete double vision, and if you've never experienced this before, with both eyes open you may as well be blind.  I stumbled into the living room and closed my eyes, thinking maybe if I just gave it a moment it would go away.  No luck.  Starting to feel panicked, I woke my then husband and said "I need you to drive the kids to school today and then I need you to take me to the ER.  I can't see".

At the ER, they assumed I'd had a stroke.  They did a CT scan, x-rays, blood work, and a battery of neurological tests.  All the tests came back negative and I was essentially released with a shoulder shrug and told to see an Ophthalmologist.  That same night, I saw one and he did a thorough examination of my eyes.  He found that nothing was physically wrong with my eyes but my optic nerves were inflamed and asked "Have you ever been tested for MS?"  I didn't even know what MS was but he advised I schedule an MRI to be tested for it immediately.

That night I went home and Googled MS and learned it stood for Multiple Sclerosis.  As I sat and read about this disease, I felt my heart sink.  I read for hours before finally getting up and going to my then husband in tears saying "Oh my God, this is what's been wrong with me for all these years.  I have Multiple Sclerosis".

Later that week, I got my very first MRI.  The week after, I was diagnosed with MS.

Why do I see the anniversary of my MS diagnosis as a good thing?  Because the enemy I was battling finally had a name.  After years of being sick and miserable, I knew what was wrong with me and I knew how to best fight it.  I was no longer the unstable, lazy hypochondriac and there was a sense of satisfaction in being able to say to the critics "You were right, it is all in my head.  I have lesions all over my brain".  Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis was the first (necessary) step in regaining control of my life and health.

In the five years since my diagnosis anniversary my life has changed drastically.  I divorced the parasite I was married to back then (thank God!), I quit smoking, I bought a house, I lost over 230 pounds, and even found love with a wonderful man.  Do I still struggle?  Of course I do!  But I choose not to focus on what I can't do and rather focus on all the immense blessings in my life.  Blessings I wouldn't have I wasn't diagnosed with MS and given the tools I needed to fight the MonSter inside of me.

So, Happy Diagnosis Anniversary to me!!

Be well :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Per your requests...

Since my last post, I've received a number of private messages and most were asking why I haven't posted any pictures of my weight loss.  So, I'm going to address that now.

The reason I haven't posted any pictures is twofold.  The first reason is out of concern for my privacy and the second is out of humiliation.  Yes, that's right, humiliation.  Even though I'm over 230 pounds smaller and less than half my original size, it's still incredibly humiliating to admit I was ever that gigantic.  I look at my "before" pictures and I still cringe.  I ask myself... how the hell did you ever let yourself get that huge?  Honestly, it's almost like looking at a bad movie of another life when I remember the way I used to be.  A life I'm more than happy to leave behind.

So, I have a compromise.  I'm posting my "before & after" pictures but I'm not including my face.  I figure this way it allows me to retain my privacy while still showing the weight loss.  As for the humiliation?  Yeah, it's still embarrassing, but I at least take comfort in knowing I'm not that miserable fat girl anymore.

The picture on the left was taken in January 2012 and the picture on the right was taken October 2013.  There is an over 230 pound difference between the two pictures taken 21 months apart.

Until next time... :)

Be well all!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bitter Sweet

I know, I'm the biggest slacker ever when it comes to this blog! I hope everyone has been doing well over the last year.  My year has been bitter sweet.  First, the sweet: The kids and I are still very happy in our new home. I've been seeing a wonderful man for over a year now, too.  I've lost a lot of weight- about 230 pounds total. Needless to say, the weight loss has been very dramatic.   People who haven't seen me over the last two years don't even recognize me. I'm told I look a lot younger.  It's still almost surreal for me. I catch my reflection in the mirror and do a double take because I can't believe it's really me.  Being as I had been in plus sized clothes since I was about 16 years old, to be able to shop in "normal" sized stores now is nothing less amazing(and addicting).  Who'd have ever thought the girl who started out in a 7X would now be trying on size Large shirts to find them too big and need to buy a size Medium?  Unreal.

The bitter?  It was a REALLY rough spring.  In April, I had to have my gallbladder removed.   No surprise there being as it's very common after massive weight loss. When at my post operative appointment, my surgeon commented that it was time to remove all the excess skin from weight loss and finally fix my hernias once and for all.  So we scheduled the surgery for three weeks later- and then my beloved grandma died the week before the surgery was scheduled. It was extremely hard but we knew it was coming.  Thankfully, my mom and I were able to be at her side as she took her last breath and comfort her as she passed.  A week after my grandma's funeral I had over twelve pounds of skin removed, my hernia fixed, and came home with about seventy staples from hip to hip and two drains.  The recovery was nothing less than brutal and resulted in a pretty severe MS exacerbation, too.

A couple weeks after surgery, I noticed my legs were swelling considerably.   At first everyone just thought it was from surgery but soon it became apparent it was something more.  While all this was going on, my uncle died unexpectedly from an embolism (blood clot) after abdominal surgery for Pancreatic Cancer. He died almost a month to the day after my grandma (his mom) died.   By the time of his funeral, the swelling and pain in my legs had become very bad.  A week later, I ended up in the ER because I couldn't even walk to the bathroom without tears.  Turns out I had bilateral DVT's- blood clots in both legs.  They were very severe, reaching from both my knees up into my abdomen.   Needless to say, considering we just buried my uncle the week before for an embolism everyone freaked out.

I was told there as a scarily high chance these blood clots could kill me because of their severity so I was immediately sent a hospital about 70 miles away via ambulance.  I spent eight days in the ICU receiving a treatment for life threatening blood clots called tPA- Tissue plasminogen activator.   I have to be honest, that was the scariest and most painful experience of my life, not to mention emotionally draining.  Being that far from home and unable to see my kids was awful but knowing there was a chance I would never make it home again to them was terrifying.  Thankfully, either my mom or boyfriend were there with me daily so I wouldn't have to go it alone.  The doctors essentially thread catheters in behind both my knees and immobilized me for almost five days while they pumped in the tPA to dissolve the blood clots.   During that time, I was bleeding out pretty much everywhere.   I had gigantic hematomas (massive bruising) all over my body and needed six blood transfusions.  I also had angioplasty to remove the small pieces of clot not dissolved and four stents put in to keep the veins wide and flowing.  But, it worked.  The clots were completely gone and I was released from the hospital the day of my daughter's graduation.  I looked like walking hell from a torture chamber but I was there and able to see my beautiful daughter graduate from high school.

Fast forward three months later to today- life is finally back to normal.   I still have to take blood thinners daily and will until at least Christmas but there are no signs of blood clots or narrowing of the veins.  My boyfriend and children are extremely relieved that whole ordeal is finally behind us.  I've spent the summer enjoying my family and being thankful that God allowed me to heal and remain on the Earth with my loved ones.  So, that is where I've been.  Hopefully I'll find more time to post again now that life is finally normalized and good again :)

Be well!