Sunday, January 31, 2016

If Not For RA or MS, Would I Still Be Childless?

When I was around 20 years old, I had hopes that I would complete college, marry my sweetheart, and that we would have 3 kids before we turned 30. It was a nice dream, but instead I went to graduate school, we broke up, and I continued on to a doctoral program after completing my Master’s degree in Music Performance. Serious relationships took a backseat.

Just before turning 30 years of age, I moved to the Washington, DC, area to check out the performance opportunities. I wasn’t concerned with finding ‘the right man’ and starting a family, instead I was working on building a successful freelance career which was really picking up nicely when I first experienced an attack of optic neuritis. Until I was diagnosed with MS five years later, things were moving along smoothly.

Shortly before the MS diagnosis, I was introduced to ‘the guy.’ Of course I didn’t know that Rob would become ‘the guy’ until I had known him for a little while. Rob was there when the MS diagnosis became official; he was there for lots of tears and hugs; and he was there when I woke up in the middle of the night screaming and crying in pain from early RA symptoms.

I was 38 when I was finally diagnosed with RA and one of the first things we (my doctor and I) did was begin a medication for which pregnancy was strongly warned against (ie., methotrexate). This was a little late in life to consider starting a family, but it wasn’t TOO late. Women are having children even in their 40s nowadays.

Sometime after my RA symptoms were brought under control, I did run a small experiment to see whether or not I might consider going off treatment to prepare for a potential pregnancy. I stopped taking my methotrexate for a short period of time. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of 2-3 weeks before symptoms began to return. Knowing how AWFUL the pre-diagnosis, no-treatment time period was for me, I started back on methotrexate immediately.

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If Not For RA, Would I Still Be Childless?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Passing Your Cold Onto a Loved One

Oh man, now I really feel bad. My husband had to stay home from work today…sick. He’s finally caught whatever crummy bug I’ve been dealing with over the past several weeks. He’s miserable. Now it’s my turn to help take care of him.

The past month has been a bad one for being sick. First, I developed some type of infection with a fever that caused me to become a sweaty, achy mess with lymph nodes that had doubled in size. Since my body temperature normally stays in the 96-97 degree range, it was quite uncomfortable when my fever approached 100 F. But my body seemed to do what it’s supposed to do and took care of the problem. I was sick for less than a week and never did identify the source of the infection. No GI problems, no congestion. Just a high fever.

About a week later I developed an earache. Not too bad of an earache, but definitely present. On day three of the mild earache, my throat started burning and I could hardly swallow. I finally called the doctor and tested negative for strep throat. Her diagnosis: a cold. Congestion began that evening.

Now it’s been two weeks since I saw the doctor and I’m still not over this cold virus. I’ve been coughing, dripping, congesting, sneezing, aching, sleeping, humidifying, chicken-souping, and tissuing my way through the days and nights.

I finally started to feel a little better over the weekend, just in time for my husband to start feeling like he was getting sick. Uh oh. His is a dry cough while I’m still congested. He’s sticking with chicken soup and clementines, while I felt good enough to bake cookies yesterday and do laundry.

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Giving Your Loved One a Cold is a Gift You Wish You Could Take Back

Friday, January 22, 2016

Celebrity Actress Reveals MS

When former Soprano’s star, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, publicly revealed her 15-year MS diagnosis in this week’s People Magazine and on Good Morning America, the news spread through the MS community like wildfire. Reactions were quite positive but many people wondered why it took so long for her to openly discuss living with MS.

Jamie-Lynn is one of 2.3 million people worldwide who live with multiple sclerosis, a progressive disease of the central nervous system that damages the insulation around nerves and results in a variety of symptoms. Some symptoms may be “invisible” such as numbness, tingling, impaired vision or pain, while others may be more noticeable, such as impaired mobility, weakness, tremors, or cognitive difficulties.

At the age of 20, Jamie-Lynn experienced heaviness and tingling in her legs, symptoms that led to her MS diagnosis. "It was a shock. I didn't feel sick. My ideas of MS were limited. I thought it meant, 'Wheelchair.' I thought it meant your life was over," she told People Magazine. As a public figure with invisible symptoms, there was no obvious reason to reveal her diagnosis so Jamie-Lynn kept it a secret with the full support of her family and close friends.

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“No superhero roles for me,” says Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler Who Lives With MS

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Feeling Better Through Diet and Exercise

I am amazed at how much health can change dramatically in one year.

Last fall, I was in excruciating pain from osteoarthritis. After learning that I have grade 2-3 cartilage loss in the left knee, my orthopedic doctor gave me three hyaluronic acid injections to help ease the pain. He also suggested that the only truly effective way to get better was to ride my exercise bike.

My rheumatologist (the one who just retired) was kind enough to order physical therapy for me so that I could receive expert guidance on what types of activities I should be doing to delay possible knee surgery in the future. She also suggested that I consider weight loss surgery because being morbidly obese was not helpful.

Slowly, I began to ride the exercise bike at home more frequently and for longer periods of time. My physical therapist worked with me for two months to build strength and flexibility. She also determined that my knee cap was “frozen” in place which wasn’t helping matters either. Correcting that situation was enormously painful, but worth it in the long run.

Around the same time, I began to honestly assess what I was eating, document meals and snacks, and use my FitBit to monitor activity. I started slow but began to lose weight after a couple of months. I noticed that if I continued to exercise and document everything, I continued to lose weight. One month that I couldn’t ride the exercise bike the scale didn’t move as much, which strengthens the message that a combination of diet and exercise is most effective for weight loss/management.

Over the course of one year, I was able to drop 54 pounds (and still counting). The pain in my knees is almost a non-issue as long as I continue with the at-home plan my physical therapist created. I have achieved actual remission of my RA, which is different than low-disease activity or near remission. And, I feel pretty doggone good.

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Diet and Exercise Have Helped My RA

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Is There An MS Diet?

How might diet have an effect on MS?

What you eat may have a direct effect on the immune system. The National MS Society shares that “recent immunological research has shown that metabolism plays an important role in the function of several types of immune cells,” with receptors for dietary metabolites, such as vitamin D or fatty acids, found on immune cells. Food may have an indirect effect on the immune system through modulation of gut flora, shifting the immune system towards a pro- or anti-inflammatory state.

Research is investigating the effects of diet and altered metabolism on the central nervous system. Various foods and diets are being studied for their effects on cellular components of the central nervous system such as neuron and glial cells. Diets could have a beneficial role by providing factors that could protect these important cells. 

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MS Diet and Nutritional Approaches to Treatment