Ocrevus, the Future and the Past

I have had a helluva time getting my first infusion of Ocrevus instead of Rituxin.  No, my doctor is not the problem.  Indeed, she has been a champion.  What happened?  Well, I was initially scheduled to have the 2nd bit on December 21 in the afternoon.  This means that I would have been in Penn Station, late on the Thursday night before Christmas.  Everyone agreed this was a bad idea.  I began to lose strength.  I scheduled for January but it was just above zero degrees, not healthy or positive.  I really began to weaken.  We decided to try and find a local place to do the infusion only. This became problematic.  I had to sort insurance out.  The place we eventually chose wanted me to become their patient.  I didn’t want to change my doctor.  They started asking for all sorts of things.  Every time we gave it to them and they wanted more.  Despite having authorization, they told me I had no prescription.  Then, they said Ocrevus had no idea who I was.  Back to my original doctor and back to NYC.  However, a combination of factors led to my being unable to walk for any distance with or without walker, no escalators.  We determined we would need car service to get into and out of NYC.  Why didn’t I just do this one way December 21?  Hindsight is a great quarterback.

Now, every time I have been to the infusion center, I have been offered a wheelchair.    Our plan this time was to take them up on the offer.  Well, the best laid plans….  None were available.  And we went up the elevator bank on the wrong side of the building.  We discovered this when Reception had no record of my appointment.  More gimping along.  They did intercept me in the hall though and put me in my “room” straightaway.  I was assigned my favorite nurse, Nicholas.  He understands my phobia, terrors, and how my body works or doesn’t.  I have really bad veins.  Luckily, I saw the shooting heroin film in fifth grade and decided needles were not for me.  I used to do alright with shots and blood until my college roomie said she always became faint.  Not me, I was the big sister.  Until my roommate opened her mouth.    I cannot look or deal.  My husband gives platelets on a regular basis.  This is a several hour process. I had to use the restroom once and it was  comic to see me try to walk and not look.  After one of his operations, I nearly passed out when they tried to show me how to change his blood bag.  Nicholas “gets” me.  So, bad veins, infusion and Nicholas.  I used to have a doctor who could find my one good vein.  He died.  For this treatment of several hours, they insert it in my hand.  Nicholas knows where my vein is.  Just typing this is making me lightheaded. Well, Nicholas missed.  It wasn’t really a miss but a malfunction.  He announced he had to go in again.  At this point, I felt  myself going out – cold sweat, hot, red faced, nauseous. The guys tell me no.  Seriously?  Deep breathing and ginger ale.  He gets it in.  Mind you, I keep my head averted the entire time, not just the sticking but the infusion.  Nicholas is good so even when my blood pressure goes to 95 which is not bad for me, we keep on going.  I did get the slight metallic taste with the steroids.  It finished faster than the Rituxin.  I was kept for an extra hour to make sure I was alright.

 

The car service both ways drove past the house I grew up in.  I usually try to avoid it.  After it was sold, it was completely altered.  Driving back, I look carefully and see how the other houses have changed. I am amazed that I am still in contact with half of the people I grew up with on that block.  It’s over 50 years.  Many of   their houses have also changed.  Well, after all that time, of course, houses change.  A couple of things.  I grew up in Levittown where all the houses were supposed to look alike.  They so did not.  The basic floor plan was the same so when people asked where is your bathroom; same place as yours.  What also strikes me is that I used to call it Leave It Town.  Guess what?  I am the one that stayed.  I only live a few miles away.  I only officially moved when I sold my mother’s house.  My life has been so different than what I thought it would be.

My house was across from the parkway with its woods.  I walked everywhere.  I went to the wrong high school.  It  was almost 2 miles away.  I used to walk back and forth several times a day.  Now, I wall surf. I used to walk at night with my dad for hours on the curvy lanes.  It’s too distressing.

 

The following day I didn’t wake up looking like a boiled lobster as I used to with the Rituxin.  I was just a little thirsty without craving sweet things.  And best of all, only half a pound weight gain.  I gained 5 pounds overnight with the Rituxin.  Shallow, I know.

 

I was like the energizer bunny the next day.  For the first time in months, I was able to walk without holding on.  Toddler steps but still big.  Now, I had a slight bump after the Rituxin.  My feeling  was that I was not strong enough the last times to benefit  from the infusions.  So, this time I tired to do more exercise before the infusion.  Physical therapy has been denied by my health insurance as not being medically necessary.  I have not been physically strong enough to go to the gym . My instinct is that if I amp up the exercise, it will push the drug in my body.  Just a thought.  Two days later, as Tom and I are literally discussing this, Ocrevus called.  Any questions?  Yes, is what I am doing helping with making the drug stick?  I spoke to three people and no answer! No one has asked this question? So, I am trying my hardest to power through the fatigue and minor pain to give my body a chance.

 

I appear to have had a minor bump up in stamina and walking.  My therapist noticed and Tom continues to reinforce this.

 

My next one is next week. I wouldn’t say I am looking forward to it.  I want it over and done with.  I am pushing so that I will be able to take the train and hopefully  the  bus there and back. I am hoping for a bigger bounce from the 2nd go round.

 

And my “secret” weapon?  I am going to try some mj after the Ocrevus.  The more I learn about it, the more optimistic I am.  I hear people are walking.  That is my goal.  What do you think? What has been your experience with Ocrevus?

 

A Third Spectral Leg and Other Woes

I hate the idea of a brace, appliance, AFO or whatever you want to call it.  So, I have always called it the Spectral Leg.

I had my first one fitted after a visit to an orthopedist.    SeeDoctor Visit, the Spectral Leg and the Motivation of Ugly

So, I finally made the appointment to be fitted with the new ugly.

I commuted for years into NYC and took the same trains.  You recognize the people after awhile.  Around the time, a couple years back when I knew I was going to lose my job, a man came up to me on the train platform and said he had been looking for me.  “You’re the woman with foot drip, right?”  He told me he used something called a WalkAid that I could be fitted for not far from my home.  We looked it up and it appeared to be similar to the Bioness which we had “discovered” a year or so before. When I had asked my doctor about it, she had told me my existing brace was working and it would do pretty much the same.

Well, the place I had to go for my fitting was the same place for the WalkAid.  We were determined to inquire about it.

My second one has always hurt me.  It has caused my foot to burn and I actually get blood blisters on the ball of my foot from it.  Originally I was told it was in my mind or a nerve thing.  Most recently, I was told that my nerves made it worse.  The last doctor didn’t address it at all as he was replacing it.

The fitter asked about what the doctor wanted as he usually writes something more detailed than was provided.  He also asked who had prescribed my current one and how.  My neurologist wrote it as I wanted something less obtrusive and one that would give me better shoe selection.

He looked at it and the way I walked.  By the way, I made my fifth public appearance with a walker.  The brace has hurt me, not only in terms of the physical pain but also because of its design.  It has hurt my walking.  The first one extended to just before the ball of my foot; this one to my entire foot.  Apparently, this has not allowed my foot to work properly which is why I find myself walking so peculiarly.  My knee and hip are more messed up.

Options?  Well, the to the hip one that the doctor knew I wouldn’t wear and thought might be too heavy for me. One that’s like the first but halfway up the ball of my foot – limited shoes and it won’t help the knee problem.   And then a massive ugly one, front, back and sides.  Oh, I do have a choice of white or black and I can have purple butterflies.  I am a woman of a certain age so purple is regal but butterflies!

And while we waited, we read the WalkAid brochure.  Any shoe!  Walk barefoot on the beach.  The beach is my sanity and peace and it’s been denied to me for years!  Plus because it sends electric impulses through the nerves, it could refire them.  The fitter says I can have it but it won’t help my knee and the way I walk now.  I feel like weeping in frustration and anger.  It’s a little bit me, a little bit them.

So for now, my plan is to get and wear ugly and fight.  And TRUST MY INSTINCTS.

My instincts say wearing it all the time creates dependency and weakness.

How does anyone navigate this mess?  And this fitter doesn’t believe I can improve.  Maybe I am a fool but I don’t buy that.  My plan is to really max healing my knee and getting the WalkAid.  Beach here I come.  Maybe I am delusional but that’s me.

Jennifer’s Way, MC and Me

Recently, I read Jennifer’s Way by Jennifer Esposito.  If you don’t know, she’s an actor who suffered for years with undiagnosed celiac disease.

This is a must read even if you do not have a celiac problem.  If you have been on a journey to discover what’s not right with you, this is informative.  It took her years and tons of money.  What hope do the rest of us have? It also reinforced what I have learned on this journey.  It’s up to you.  You are the one who needs to do the research.  You have to keep on asking the questions, over and over. And then, question it again.  It’s up to you to coordinate it all.  This is brutal because to begin with the reason you are on this journey is something is not right.

Three years ago, I started playing and playing is the right word with diet for overcoming my condition.  That’s what we like to call it “MC” for my condition.  A doctor told us that’s what we call it when we don’t know what it is.  And no, not MC.  My belief is, if you name something like that, you give it power.  So, I may be in denial but  that’s how I deal.  Anyhow, just for fun, I cut gluten for one week.  Then I went out to dinner and there were popovers.  Can I tell you, I got a headache immediately.  Yes, there is definitely a relationship between my walking and gluten.  I had an iron stomach as a child.  I could and did eat anything.  And it fascinated my father, who was afraid of vomiting, that I could throw up, most times, and return to the table.  I was sure when this started that I  had no food sensitivities.  I was told that when I was little I was allergic to peaches.  My mother would not have that and fed me little bits until I could eat peaches.

After the gluten, I stopped dairy.  I drank tons of milk as a child.  I only stopped when my brother became chubby and we switched to skim milk.  I also had yogurt for lunch most days.  This started when Dannon was the only yogurt and there were only 8 flavors.  This was hard for me.  Guess what?  The stubborn weight dropped off!  And something else, it was always a family joke.  Right after I was born, the people from my father’s office came to visit.  I passed gas so loudly that this woman nearly dropped me.  Ahem, once I stopped dairy that stopped, too.

One of the things discussed in the book was the hereditary nature of things.  Hmmm.  Another thing that immediately struck me was that for years, Jennifer lived on Pepto Bismol, ginger ale and crackers.  So did Daddy!  I knew once that he really loved me when he gave me his bottle of Pepto when he was leaving me at uni.

I drifted back slowly to the gluten.  Not a lot.  I’ve never really been a bread or pasta fan so no problems there.  I do stay away except for pastry and the occasional piece of cake.  No yogurt but yes to ice cream. I’ve noticed in the last few weeks, yeast triggers stomach pains and weakness.  Oh and secret vice, frozen condensed milk.  I get violent stomach cramps.  Hmmn

It’s just about a month to my birthday so here we go again.  I am going to strive for no gluten or dairy and see what happens.

Read her book.  See what journies it leads you on

April 2016 Check In

How did I feel this past Month?

March definitely was a combination of the lion and the lamb.  I am actively looking for work.  I fear that my age and infirmity are preventing me from getting a job.  Yes, I try not to focus on it but it is the elephant in the room.  Sometimes, I say that too.  Then, my Jawbone hasn’t been working so even though I am not walking enough I can’t tell.  I am deteriorating.  No one likes to hear it or see it.  I fell three times.  The last was a week ago and I really hurt my left hand.

What did you do for yourself this month?

Still with the gym and less so Zumba due to the weather.  I can’t really go out in rain or snow, too much chance of falling.  I have started to write again.  I started journaling in January and am writing in the day.  I have continued to clear clutter.  I am trying to reach out to people.  I am reconnecting with the creative  bits of me, a little writing, a little art.  Decoupage again.  Something I started to do in 7th grade.  I was always good at it.  And I am starting to take some glasses.  It’s both an outlet and a way to meet people.

What did I eat this month  and how did it make me feel

More smoothies.  A little off the rails with gluten due to holiday.  And a little more meat.  Getting back on track.

Did I exercise?  What did I do?  How did it feel

More time in the gym.  I am really liking it!

For whom or what are you grateful?  What matters most in life?

Faith helps lots.  My friends are awesome.  Some came into my life, some left.  The ones that are here are my rocks.  My stepsons continue to amaze me with their love and support.

Do I have a higher purpose or driving force in my life?   Make a mission statement

A higher purpose is kinda grandiose.  I stand by fighting for what’s right.  Hopefully, others can benefit.  Living with integrity and never ever giving up.

Conventional medicine  Still just Ampyra and Baclufen

Symptoms – Hands are getting weaker and my balance is off.  My fingers are going white and numb which is freaking scary.  My right hand turns purple sometimes.

What symptoms are most troublesome  – Independence and mobility.  I also have been falling more.  Part of it I know is  stress.  But the rest of the time, it’s balance. And the fingers!

Do I blame myself for things – Yes, I am still believing it’s food, stress and exercise.

How is stress level?  Well, I am  still not working. So it’s getting to me.  I am able  to sleep later though.  I’d like to wake between 6 & 7 in the morning.

What can I do tomorrow to make it better than today?

Faith, food, exercise.  Creative work. Never give up!!

March 2016 Check In

How did I feel this past Month?

A very mixed month with peaks and valleys.  Getting a job and maintaining funding has been consuming.  Some days are great, others less so.  I am fighting the blues. It’s winter so that’s not abnormal. The season distresses me.  My condition makes me housebound more than I’d like.  Also, not having income makes us stay at home – no joy-shopping.  I am in a waiting mode.  It’s never easy for me.  Sometimes, I am a slave to that e-mail, waiting for news, for any movement.

What did you do for yourself this month?

Still with the gym and less so Zumba due to the weather.  I can’t really go out in rain or snow, too much chance of falling.  I have started to write again.  I started journaling in January and am writing in the day.  I have continued to clear clutter.  I am trying to reach out to people/

What did I eat this month  and how did it make me feel

Back mostly to smoothies.  They really help my system and mitigate my sugar cravings.  I created an alert on my phone to remind me to have fruit in the afternoon and my Bac pill.

Did I exercise?  What did I do?  How did it feel

It’s exciting.  I am feeling achy at the gym.  I am taking it as a sign my nerves are reconnecting.  On the flip side, I seem a little less flexible and continue to experience balance problems.

For whom or what are you grateful?  What matters most in life?

My friends. The gift of faith.  I have been playing with “The Power of Positive Thinking” and it has reconnected me to faith.  The love that is in my life.  My stepson brought me the most beautiful rose on Valentine’s, unexpected and lovely.

Do I have a higher purpose or driving force in my life?   Make a mission statement

No surprises.  No mission statement.  Purpose?  Let others benefit by my fight. Integrity.  Principles do count.

Conventional medicine  Just the Ampyra and Baclufan.  Really beginning to get that the right food and rest will do a lot.

Symptoms –  Hands are becoming a problem.  Fighting it of course!  Balance and flexibility which can be addressed with increased determination

What symptoms are most troublesome  – The lack of freedom.  As I write this, the newspaper is in the driveway and I just can’t go out and get it.  My increasing reliance on the cane is hindering me in my job search.

Do I blame myself for things – Of course, between stress, wrong food and not enough exercise

How is stress level?

Still high and who wouldn’t be between money, job and health.  This is becoming my new normal.

What can I do tomorrow to make it better than today?

Remember to breathe. Have faith.  Eat and exercise properly.

Resiliency

I have been without work for 4 months today.

On the positive side, I have been able to have some much needed rest.  I haven’t had to wake up at 4 a.m. ish since then.   My body clock has adjusted or righted itself to a 6:30 a.m. – 7 a.m. rise.  I go to bed around 10.  Finally, after years like a normal person.    I go to the gym.  I eat healthy food – read I have not gained weight at home.

On the negative side, I walk less.  I try but most days can’t get in near the amount of walking I did when I worked.  I would have thought I would have been improving significantly.  I am stressed but in a different way.  I need and want to work.

My walking has impacted my job search.  I know the first interview I went on was ageism and the “disability”.  They couldn’t get me out of there fast enough.  Other ones have been more subtle.  I had two companies that I went through several phone interviews.  I had to get on a shuttle bus for one.  When I was well I couldn’t get in those.  Ask anyone who ever had to take an airport shuttle with me.  The second one was the same day as the shuttle one.  I wobbled.  I need to use the cane.  It is stylish.  I try to wear non cloddy oxfords.  I wear loose pants over the spectral leg.  I disclaim that when I worked I took two subways everyday!  I work into the conversation how many steps I walk in a day – over 8,000.  This is seriously more than most “well” people do.

I have explored some opportunities on Long Island where I live.  The company recruiters have been upfront with me.  I am not cheap.  However, I have lots of experience and am excellent at what I do.  I had several conversations with a major national company out here that would have met my salary requirements.  I didn’t have to walk as my experience in and of itself was kind of threatening.  I was OK .  I made it through phone interviews to an in person assessment.  One person saw me with the cane.  And I walked well!  We had a really great conversation.  I had the experience and the approach they wanted.  This company told me when they made the initial call that they raised the salary because they knew with my experience, it was expected.  I received the standard thanks but no thanks e-mail today. I am finding it really hard to take.  My husband says it wasn’t my walking  but the expense.  I don’t know.  I usually believe everything happens for a reason.  Numerous times in the past I have not been offered jobs that I wanted and maybe should have had and it all worked out.  Sometimes, I didn’t see it at the time but later I did, including two jobs at the World Trade Center where in all  likelihood and seriousness, I would have died.

Finding work has always been hard for me.  This time has been easier for me in a certain way.  I almost always have something in the pipeline.  Years ago,  I was almost always one of two and almost always came in 2nd.  I don’t know where I am now.  Last time I had a termination like this it took me almost ten years to get back to where I was.   I don’t have the time, money or energy for that.

Normally,  I take these setbacks in stride. I was relatively calm four months ago.  Today I wept.  I almost never cry about anything.  My husband  was lost.  I am the strong one.  I don’t get blue.  I snap back.  It’s freaking hard.

It looks like I need to head back into NY.  Like Willie Sutton said, “that’s where the money is.”  I was liking sleeping like a normal person.

I am trying to find that resilience.  I know I am a resilient personality.  It’s hard.  It takes energy.  It takes faith..  If I don’t use the cane, I’ll lurch more.  I don’t know how else to address this.  My mind is fine. I feel “normal”  until I stand up.  I forget my physical limitations.  For the past month or so, in my dreams I find myself walking.  I wake and am crushed.

Digging down to get out.

Badlands

I have discovered Amazon Prime Music and I am in love and enthralled.  The music of my life at my fingertips, for free.  Well, for the annual membership which I use for tons of other things so this is just bonus.

I think I may be like many people in my age range.  I have albums of my music or as my little nieces say “What big CDs you have:.  I have downloaded some of it on my ipod.  But….  There are all those albums and memories.  I am in Amazon download frenzy.

This weekend  I found Badlands.  Serendipity.  I get through my life with music.  When I lose the music I know I am in bad shape.  After a long bad time years ago, I knew I was going to be alright when I heard Springsteen on the radio and felt joy again.

But Badlands is more .  Years ago I lost the job that I loved.  Why do we say lost?  I didn’t lose it, they let me go.  Eight and a half years of mostly love.  I believe the roots of my present condition hark back to that time.  I used to work insane hours happily.  I didn’t understand why people couldn’t wait till Friday or were upset at Mondays.  I travelled  all over the world for that company.  However, there was one trip.  I was really sick before I left.  I was going to spend two weeks in Japan and Taiwan and fly back to California to work a trade show.  Then I would stay a few days in Los Angeles with my boyfriend’s best friend.  Men who did that trip used to spend some days in Hawaii and their wives would fly out to meet them.  I was unmarried and wanted to go to the beach in Thailand (bucket list though the term wasn’t used then) .  Instead, I had to fly back to California to work.  One of the guys gave me advice on how to fly so sick.  “Blow Afrin constantly up your nose before landing.”  Well it worked.  I made it through landing.  Who knew half an hour later that the pain would be excruciating .  I was really sick.  I was the company’s “little girl”.  The men I had to meet for business were terrified that George (the president) would be furious if anything happened to me.  I was constantly plied with soup. I slurped my way through Japan and Taiwan.    There is a reason for everything .  I was in the same hotel in Tokyo as Mike Tyson.  His posse insisted that I “party with Mike.”  I couldn’t even croak.  Just nodded “no” numerous times and kept on going.  My brush with “destiny”. When stories came out about those girls later,  I totally believed.   I left Taiwan at 11 a.m. in the morning, landed in Los Angeles at 11 a.m. the same morning (international date line) and worked till 11 p.m. that night.  I was so sick I couldn’t think of staying in LA after the show.  Back in NY, I collapsed  in JC Penney’s.  I was diagnosed with pharyngitis.  I truly believe that disregard for my health is a source of my ultimate conditions.  And ironically enough on my return I found as scared as everyone was of telling George being furious if anything  happened to me they were also terrified of telling him that I was too sick to undertake that trip.  So, after all that dedication, passion and bad health, I was cut loose in the world.  I was gutted.  I lost my livelihood and most of my friends.  Well, I guess they weren’t my friends.  Actually,  I do still have some from those days and some have died.  In fact,  I had a card this week from one of them.  But with no money and no job ,  a disastrous marriage, I felt cut off from everyone including myself.  I would wake in the morning feeling as if there was a huge pillow in my face.  I left my then husband ( I love that phrase “my then husband”) and moved back with my parents.  They couldn’t acknowledge depression.  My mother was a pull yourself together type. She said to me at the time I had to learn how to do it myself because she wasn’t always going to be around to do so.

I was back in my childhood bedroom.  Me and my record player.  I started to play Darkness on the Edge of Town and Nebraska obsessively.  Badlands helped me through.  “Talk about a dream, try to make it real.  Spend your life waiting for a moment that just doesn’t come.    I believe  in the faith that can save me .  Raise me above these badlands. For the one who had the notion, notion deep inside, that it ain’t  no sin to be glad you are  alive. I’m gonna find one face that ain’t looking through me.  I want to spit in the face of these badlands.”  And that’s what I did.  I made it through the badlands.

 

And here I am again years later.  Another job “lost”.  Financially crunchy.  Up against those Badlands again.  It all came rushing back again.  This time I do not have my mother to put me back again.  I am starting to crash.  One thing I know I can’t and won’t go back to that freefall again.  Well, I still feel the joy of the music again.  And I still retain my resiliency.  Resiliency feels like a curse sometimes.  I used to tell my mother I felt like a Joe Palooka punching bag.  Every time you hit me I spring back.  My spring is getting kind of rusty.  This time there’s the extra wrinkles:  no parents, my condition, uh, actual wrinkles, a mortgage.  We wonder when I go for a job with my outfit coordinated cane/walking stick what the impact is on the hiring decision.  I had an interview where I had to get in and out of a van.  I would have and have had the same difficulties in the past with heels.  I am not the most graceful or coordinated person as numerous airport shuttle drivers can attest.

I see my resources dwindling as I hold onto faith.  And yeah, I’m blasting Badlands again