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The Hardest Thing I have Ever Done

It is quiet.  The air is still. I hear a soft pounding in my chest and my feet on the asphalt.  My heart reminds me of the task at hand: kee...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Total Pain In The Neck!

What would you classify as a total pain in the neck?  Itemizing deductions on your taxes?  Cleaning out rain gutters?  Finding the perfect gift for your Secret Santa pal at work?

How about Occipital Neuralgia?

Yesterday, I woke up with a pain in my neck.  Not a constant, aching headache-type of pain.  No.  This pain seemed more sinister.  It started coming in sharp waves-- feeling totally fine one minute and the next wincing from a searing and sudden pain radiating from my spinal column up to my left ear.  This continued throughout the day and on into the evening.  I was functioning normally, interacting with friends at a potluck, when suddenly I would be hit by a jab of pain so severe I would need to stop talking and even sit down.

Could I have an ear infection?  There's a chance, sure.  Could I have a vertebrae out of alignment and need a chiropractic adjustment?  Also possible.  But the thing that makes me dismiss these benign ailments and move directly into a self-diagnoses of Occipital Neuralgia is because I have M.S.

Was I always a hypochondriac?  Maybe.  But these days when anything comes up in terms of my health I seem to move automatically to worst case scenarios.  I do this for two reasons:

1) My age.
When I was initially diagnosed with M.S. (nearly nine years ago now) my doctors had little information about my form of M.S.  As the years have gone by, I have been told by my neurologist that I am at the end of the bell curve for people with M.S. and the age during the progression of the disease.  He tells me this to give me hope.  If, by the magical age of -say- 43 I am not experiencing advanced exacerbations I likely wont and can go about my life as if the M.S. is a ghost disease, present as a thin wraith within me but nothing more.

2) I worry. 
Inherent within me is my general predisposition to create large amounts of drama from empty vats of nothingness.  My ancestors have all excelled at this sort of behavior (just ask them).  We have a knack for rubbing the dry sticks of pre-fire creation and producing bonfires of narcissism.  Perhaps I am exaggerating (also a component of worry).  Couple worry with a chronic illness and there is a perfectly set stage for self-diagnoses in the form of Occipital Neuralgia.

But what is Occipital Neuralgia?  And could you also have it? 

Occipital Neuralgia is a pain that is experienced usually on one side of the back of the neck and typically radiates up to the ear.  Usual characteristics include sharp and searing pain that comes in flashes or waves.  It involves the occipital nerves and can be triggered by neck injury or lesions in the spinal column. 

Exhibit A: My largest lesion is in my spinal column, very near the base of my neck.

Exhibit B: I may be a hypochondriac.

(I hope by now you are not too alarmed.  I should note that I have written this blog entry with a slight flare of the dramatic.  See section 2 from above: I worry.)

Listen; I'm pretty sure that any ache or pain that comes across my diseased body for the next 40 years or so will cause me to panic and consult WEB MD (or whatever is current in 40 years) so that I can exercise my inherent right to dramatic flare, my penchant for all things over the top.  Or, I can make an appointment with my doc.  Rule out the severe and inflicting and maybe discover the ear ache that this thing will turn out to be.  Either way, there's never a dull moment.  Nope.  Not too many anyway.

So, I don't intend this to be negative.  Let me be clear about that.  It's more that I find wonder at myself in my ability to go to the worst case scenario.  I wonder if this is because I have M.S.  Can't I just have a pain in the neck without it being a major ailment?

Hmmm.  I wonder.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It's Okay To Inspire

Me: I guess I inspire some people.
Dave: That's good.
Me: It's weird.
Dave: It's not weird.  It's wonderful.  You are keeping yourself healthy and fighting back.
Me: Well, I guess the thing is, I would rather just go out there and be any other runner and not have M.S., than be an inspiration.
Dave: But that's not the case.

This morning I ran the Ridgeline Trail with my good friend Stephanie.  She and I are training to run a trail half in November called The Happy Girl Trail Run, in Sisters, Oregon.  It is mostly downhill and so we are back in the woods, gathering our miles.

As we ran this morning, I was telling Stephanie about Joe's group last Sunday.  I had started about 15 minutes before everyone else because I didn't want the water volunteers to have to wait at the end for my slow finish.  One of the coolest things about being on a team is the camaraderie and support.  Many of my teammates know that I have M.S.  They are very encouraging and supportive. And this was certainly the case last Sunday during my 10 mile run with them.  Lots of high-fives and "Way to go, Rhonda"s.  It really lifted me up.

Another thing that has lifted me up lately is the newest stem cell research for M.S. treatment.  It seems that they are now able to extract stem cells from ones own bone marrow and use it to encourage regrowth of mylin.  Crazy, right??!?!  Here's a brief article that explains it to the laymen:


See, I feel like it has been a long time since we have cured anything.  Am I the only one who notices this. 

Then, just yesterday I received a call from my Dad who has been fighting his own battles with chronic disease.  Guess what?!  He is cured.  Cured.  Not just extending treatment and trying new things and ...blah, blah, blah.  Cured.  No sign of disease.  I was so happy and so awestruck and so...well, grateful!  My dad has inspired me, so why not let people be inspired by what I am trying to accomplish.  I mean, if I have to have M.S., at least there is hope on the horizon.  At least I have the luxury of training for another run, and another.

Yes, please bring on the high-fives and "Way to go, Rhonda"s.  See, I believe we are beating this thing together.  And I do believe we are beating it.

By the way, I ran about 7.3 miles this morning, and as Stephanie says, that puts us in a slim percentage group for our overall population (M.S., or not!)

Here is a picture of me before I was diagnosed with M.S., fall of 2004.  I had just ran my first 5K with the help of my dear friend, Johnny (now gone to the big trail run in the sky).  Johnny told me that the first and the last miles are always the hardest--not the best thing to contemplate on your first 3 mile distance.  He really pulled me in that day, as he has done in my spirit many times since.  He has been my inspiration on many occasions.  See; it's okay to inspire.