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Last week, while writing up about the workings of my mind, I don't think I mentioned much about how i was doing physically.
Read more... )
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So I have started physical therapy for my neck issues. One of the procedures involves lying on a styrofoam arch running the length of my back and stretching. Keeping my balance is a little difficult, especially since Ike thinks that it's snuggle time, as I'm conveniently on the floor.
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Saw the neurologist yesterday.

The results of my nerve conduction tests showed no nerve compression damage, which is good. However, they're just as asymptomatic as everything else has been so far. There is definitely neck problems occurring however. But he is reserving surgery as a last resort, mainly because they just don't know exactly what is causing the problems. He feels that there is a very good chance that my body will figure out a way to work around this problem in the coming months, and has prescribed 6 weeks of physical therapy to build up my neck muscles, and the neurotin I take can be increased as well if the symptoms get worse. 4 months from now, we'll re-evaluate and see how things are going.
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My doctor thinks the leg trouble is medication related, so doses are being juggled. I had less trouble over the weekend, although today isn't so great. But it gives me hope to having this resolved in a week or so.

Wednesday I visit the neurologist. Hopefully, I can get some answers there as well. The neurotin is controlling the pain in my hands as well as it used to, unfortunately. It's not unbearable or anything, but I can tell something isn't right.
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I have another neurologist appoint on October 14th, the first since I had the nerve conduction tests done.

This is good, because as much as I've tried to ignore it and pretend it isn't happening, the same difficulties I have with my arms I'm now experiencing in my legs. Although it's only in the font of my thighs so far, which is weird. Makes it hard to get up and sit down properly. I do not like this.


Sep. 26th, 2009 07:57 am
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Had surgery yesterday to fix an umbilical hernia. Pretty sore today. Everything went fine, although I had to wait seven hours for my turn in the operating room. I watched more tv in one day than I have all year.
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I know I have medical bills and I feel old and broken.
But really this is just adding insult to injury. )
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I've been too silent for too long here, so ... here's my life:
My life for the sleep impaired )

Up in arms

Jun. 1st, 2009 11:08 am
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The Neurotin continues to yield results. I have very little pain in my hands, and decent control as well. I haven't had any numbness all day. There is some tingling going on, but I'm able to ignore it. I do get the occasional twitch in my arms, which is strange. It's like when you get cold enough that you're just about to shiver- those little pre-shiver twitches, if that makes sense.

I am experiencing a little bit of brain fuzziness and the occasional disassociating zone out, just like the doctor warned, but it's bearable. If I can learn to control it, however, I'll never have to deal with annoying co-workers again! I'll just slip into a drug-induced happy place...

I wish I worked this out months ago. Hell, I wish we'd figured this out a year ago. But at the time I went to the doctor with the symptoms, carpal tunnel was the most obvious diagnosis, considering I spend nearly every waking moment using a computer. So, I don't blame anyone for a misdiagnosis. We just had to work through the obvious.

What this means for me is that hopefully I can make up for lost time on Dead Future. I've missed the deadline (today) and I'm badly behind, which frustrates me more than I can express. I've always prided myself on beating deadlines to a pulp and grinding them under my heel. I'll be contacting the editor [livejournal.com profile] mavlock  soon to basically throw myself on his mercy in hopes of getting more time. If I continue to improve, I should be able to catch up relatively quickly. I really like the guys I've worked with so far, and I don't want to disappoint them. I ESPECIALLY do not want to piss off [livejournal.com profile] mattdocmartin ; not only do i respect him but his temper is legendary in some circles. Did I mention he also reads my livejournal?

In vaguely related news, I learned that charcoal pencil and heavy-handed applications of Aqua Net do not get on well at all:


Meanwhile ... I have a lovely layer of bubble wrap around my brain right now, it seems. It's kinda fun.

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I've been inking for the past hour. There's still a lot of pain in my hands, BUT- no cramping. Not shaking too bad. Wrists actually feel... ok.

The best part is, I don't feel like I've reached my limit and need to stop. I feel like I can ink all evening. My arms felt like crap when I woke up, but this is heartening. I'm on my third day of Neurotin- goddamn I hope it's working.
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Thursday morning, I woke up with out any pain or numbness in my hands or arms. It's hard to describe what that's like. I have become so used to just living with the way things are.

I'll keep this post short.

I went to work and filled in my boss all that had happened, then got to work. I typed fast and sure, with few mistakes. No dropped letters, no extra capitalizations.

But by noon, the weak feeling in my wrist was beginning to return. I put my compression gloves on for the first time that day. A few hours later, I noticed my hands were tingling. Then at 3:45, while just sitting and calmly staring at my computer, hands in my lap, I felt a sudden sharp pain in my lower neck, like I had just wrenched it violently. I gasped in pain, and the muscles in my upper back twisted and bunched from the tension. I arched m back and neck, and popped like a series of firecrackers. The pain was gone in a few minutes, but stiffness settle in my muscles.

When I woke up Friday morning, my back and neck was still stiff and sore. I noticed my hands were shaking when I sat down at my computer, and as the day went on, my wrists felt weaker and weaker. By the end of the day, the pains in my fingers and knuckles had returned.

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted, I suppose.

I took my first dose of neruotin yesterday; hopefully it helps some. I'd say I'm at about 85% of where I was before the treatment, except now I have neck and back pain to go along with it, which I didn't before. I'm hoping that will pass and is just a reaction to the injections. Earlier this evening, I noticed my arms were tingling all the the way to my shoulders. That has passed, but was disturbing at the time. My typing has returned to its previous poorness as well.

My follow up appointment is in July. At least I've learned two things: the nerves that the doctor suspected of casuing the problem seemed to be where he thought; and injections aren't going to help.
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First off, here are two images of my spine; my chin is pointing to the left.The story continues ... )
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The good news is, I won't be having surgery on my neck any time soon. But that's about all there is.

(This is the first half of the write up, and went on for far longer than I expected. If you want to skip ahead, I highlighted the diagnosis and prognosis.)

We left yesterday morning at 8 a.m.; grabbed some noms at McDonald's, took a quick tech support call from the hotel, and hit the road. What I thought would take us 4 hours took 2.5. I'm bad at judging those things, apparently.

We're not hungry yet, so we go to Wal-Mart, where I pick up a few things (Like a frame for my new poster)(thanks [profile] asia_sky for pointing me its way!), look at the games, and then drive across the highway to Staples to get some drafting vellum. Yeah, they don't got that. They do have a lot of other fun looking things, but I resisted buying anything. Sadly, I realized that already in my life I have built up a collection of art supplies and tools worth hundreds of dollars and then given it all away not once, but twice. This time around, I only try to buy the things I need, instead of want.

Which is why today when I went to the local mom & pop office supply store to buy some drafting vellum off the shelf, I ended up spending $50 on pens and ink and neato erasers ... :D

Back to my story.

We left Staples and went to the mall, across from Wal-Mart ... so, back across the highway once again. The place was practically empty, a few patrons milling around the bored attendants at the remaining stores that were'nt boarded up. We got some frozen lemonade, and still had some time to kill, so we drove back across the highway to Target. Pick up a few things there that I thought about after leaving Wal-Mart, and then decided to hit the road and find the doctor's office.

My appointment was scheduled at 1 p.m.; they had asked that I arrive 30 minutes early, and it was now noon. I figured that gave us time to get lost a few times, even though I had printed out directions from Google Maps.

We nearly missed the exit, but Andy spotted it while I was thinking it was still some miles off. We then followed the numerous quick turns Google maps had us take, reched the end of the directions ... which was also the end of the road; no doctor's office in sight. And no street numbers matching what we needed.

We circled the block, and I dug out the map that I remembered was included with the packet of preliminary paper work I had been sent to fill out. Google had failed to take into consideration that a major hospital and medical school existed between where we needed to be and where Google left us. Our destination was on the other side; we navigated around the boundry of the hospital campus, found a parking space where the new directions told us we should be, parked and started looking around. Found the building, found the suite, and checked in at 12:20.

And then found out that because I had already done all my paperwork, I didn't really need to be there early. We sat in waiting room for 45 minutes, left with a choice of reading material that was either American Hunter or Martha Stewert Living- but at least there was plenty of the magazines. At 1:05, I was finally called back, and the fun began.

I got my vitals taken; every thing was fine. The woman doing them was having some trouble with the blood pressure cuff, so I told her the story of how one overinflated and exploded off my arm once. I'm sure it made her feel better, even though she became more clumsy than before.

The physician's assistant came in, and began reviewing my notes, asking my symptoms, looked at me knwoingly, nodded his head, and told me it was most likely carpal tunnel syndrome.

I did take some satisfaction in telling him that this is what was thought a year ago, but that the surgery on both my hands didn't help any. He frowned, looked puzzled, and began reading through more of my paperwork. He jumped up and loaded up my MRIs on the computer, looked through them quickly, grumbled a lot when he found that the one he really wanted to look at had noise distortion, and then started asking me a lot of questions, did some strength tests on my hands, some basic nerve response tests, and then sat back and looked at me for a moment before he started to talk.

He talked fast, and gave me a lot of info, and to be honest I didn't have any more questions at the time, but I also can't remember word-for-word everything he said to me. I've seen meth addicts sit still longer than this man did. I liked him; he seemed brilliant; but somebody gave him more sugar than he should have had.

So, basically it turns out that I have the neck of someone 20 years older than me. He gave it a name, which included the word Degenerative. The disks between my vertebrae are breaking down and slowly collapsing, squeezing out and compressing nerves. He said that I was an oddly complex case, because I was asymptomatic; none of my symptoms matched up correctly to what he was seeing in the MRIs and from the tests; the pain in my arms should be starting in my neck and working down, instead of starting in my fingers years ago and working UP. And he was totally bewildered at my complete lack of neck pain. He showed me a cross-section of my neck, length wise, and pointed out where the worst problem was occuring, but also showed where every other area in my neck was also being affected. He pointed out my spinal cord; in a normal neck, it would be perfectly smooth. Mine was dented at each intersection of vertebrae, with one disturbingly deep dent in the most problematic area- which leads, finally, to the explanation of why I won't be having surgery soon.

When vertebrae are fused together and can no longer move as they should, this places additional stress on the other vertebrae as they try to compensate. Because of the overall condition of my neck, he feels strongly that fusing one set of vertebrae would cause a cascade of failures throughout the rest in as little as three months, leading eventually to my entire neck needing to be fused together.

Not really something I want to deal with in my early 40s. He explained to me that this was not the result of anything in my lifestyle; I wasn't sleeping wrong or sitting with bad posture, it was just genetics. While neither of my parents have this, they could easily both carry a recessive gene that I happened to luckily inherit.

So with surgery not an option, he explained what was possible. Primarily, he feels the goal is to keep me going for another 10 years, in hopes that technology will catch up and I can get bionics. Or something. What can be done is treating the symptoms. Unfortunately, it seems that nothing can stop the progressing damage, and it's very likely that what has been done is irreversible. However, as he pointed out, surgery can NOT be undone, and considering the probable eventual outcome ... anyway, he suggested two immediate treatments. He gave me a prescription for Neruotin, a drug used primarily to treat seizures by helping nerves to work better; even though I don't have seizures, he hopes it will help the nerves. I'll start at 300 mgs nightly, and then work up over a few days until I reach 1200 mgs a day or I start seeing some improvement, whichever comes first.

He also wanted to try injecting steroids and a numbing agent directly into the area where the bundle of nerves beig most affected left the spine, as a diagnostic measure to make sure that the right area and condition was being treated, as well as hopefully providing some relief if this turned out to be so. Unfortunately, that was something that had to be done as an outpatient at the campus hospital, because it was done using a live x-ray, which my local hospital is not capable of doing. While I was mulling over the prospect of yet another 150 mile drive, he got a pensive look on his face, and stepped out to have a word with his secretary.

When he came back in, he hesitantly mentioned another possibility, surgical in nature. While the fusion surgery involved entry through the front of the neck by the throat, there was another surgery that would go through the back of the neck, expose the tunnel through the spinal column where the nerve bundles left the spinal cord, and then grind away the surrounding bone to give the nerve bundle more space to expand and breathe, so to speak. As I was processing that, his secretary stepped in and said that the steroid injection could be done but I needed to go NOW.

This led to a blur of activity as I was processed through the remainder of my visit, my payment processed, my surgical orders prepared and faxed, and roughly 3 minutes later seemingly, I ws being escorted out the door and given walking directions to the hospital admissions.

For now, it's way past my bedtime, and this is taking longer than I expected. Tomorrow I'll write about nurses and graham crackers; kindly, wizened old ladies in pink vests; not having my uterus removed; needles to the neck and what results they brought.

Hand jobs

May. 20th, 2009 09:15 pm
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I realized over the weekend, probably around the 8th Washington Apple, or maybe the 10th vodka & Red Bull, that the weirdness in my hands goes back waaayyy further than I realized.

March 1, 2007- I quit smoking. Besides the obvious reasons, something that had really been bothering me for the previous 10-12 months  was waking up to tingly finger tips and sharp shooting pain, like needles being stuck in my finger pads. A few months after quitting smoking, I was really annoyed that these pains hadn't gone away- because I thought they were being caused by bad circulation to my hands due to smoking.


Eventually, those pains did subside somewhat, or were supplanted by other weird pains in my hand over the course of the year, until June of 2008, when the pain in my hands and the odd wrist weakness led me to go to the doctor. Considering the symptoms, as well as the fact that I use a computer for close to 16 hours a day, the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome was kind of a gimme. Flash-forward to the end of November; I've had surgery on both hands, and now I just have to wait six months for them to heal and viola- no more pain.

Except, that never happens. Yeah, there is some improvement- my grip got better, and some small twitches and pains in the hands went away. But the knuckles in each hand began to feel ... it's hard to describe. Broken, but fully mobile? Painful, definitely. And my hands got shakey. And numb ... and as time went by, I noticed it was spreading up my arms.

In 2005, I also noticed that my outer fingers were getting lazy while typing. I primarily use the ring fingers for operating the shift keys, depending on where my other fingers are (My typing style is a little bizarre, but it works for me. My pinkies are almost never used while typing.) I would type a capital letter, but with increasing frequency the next following letter would also be capitalized, because I hadn't released the shift key in time. My fingers were moving at different speeds, but in my head, all the commands to my hands were going out correctly.

Back in the present, I'm noticing increasing typos due to greater loss of digital control- letters aren't getting typed, because I won't hit the key with enough force; the same thing is happening with the space bar, leading to runtogetherwords. Each time it happens, it comes as a surprise, because I can feel my fingers hitting the keys; I _know_ it's happening ... but there's no results.


Wyoming is a big state, but with very few people, and not many large cities. Medical specialists tend to have a home office in one of the larger towns, and then travel around the state for much of the month, visiting different towns and seeing patients there. When I talked to the neurosurgeon, I was given the option of either waiting for him to come to my town on July 18th, or I could drive the four hours to his base town and see him on May 27th.

I choose the earlier option, and I'm glad. I have questions I want answered, and problems I  need fixed. The sooner the better.

Because fuck, I'm frustrated. I've got freelance projects I need to work on, people who are counting me to meet deadlines and live up to my word, and it takes me numerous tries to draw a proper line or correctly type a paragraph. And it's rarer and rarer that my hands are normal in any way- if they don't hurt, they're numb. If they're not numb, they're weak. If they're not weak, they're not doing what I think they are. I was doing some charcoal drawings this evening, trying to work on a technique that I was hoping would look really interesting for one of my projects. I got close to being finished, when I realized I had been dragging my right hand through my work for who knows how long, and it was ruined. I never even felt my hand on the page.


This morning, I was working on typesetting an ad, when my left forearm started twitching. For the next ten minutes, the muscles twitched and jumped visibly underneath the skin. While fascinating, I felt an odd mixture of annoyance, frustration, and a little shame, I guess. I don't like being slowed down; I don't like being weak; and I REALLY don't like losing control.

Right now, there's nothing else I can do but press on. Tomorrow's another day; the weaker I feel, the harder I'll work.

It took me 45 minutes to type this in and correct the mistakes. *sigh*

I see all

May. 15th, 2009 08:27 am
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My MRIs were put on a disk so that I can take them to the neurosurgeon when I see him on the 27th.

Of course, I looked at it. It only loaded up four pictures, and I can't figure out how to navigate to more (yet), but I saw my brain.

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Last week, when I talked to my doctor about how the surgeries on my hands had done very little to help me, and that they were seemingly getting worse, he suggested I get two MRIs, one on my neck, and one of my head. The one on my neck was to check for damage to the spinal disks that may be causing problems.

20 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). For the past two decades, I've watch her health slowly (and sometimes, speedily) get progressively worse, while admiring her stoic bravery in the face of the disease.

The MRI on my head was to check for signs of MS.

Since Wednesday, I've been thinking about what I would do and how I would react if I was diagnosed with MS. How would I tell my best friend, who once told me he would never be able to watch me die? How would I tell my family, and how would I be able to not tell my mother, who would some how blame herself, no matter how blameless she may be. What would I do for the next ten years to prepare myself for the following ten years when I'd be less and less able to care for myself, and how could I possibly live up to the example my mother has set with her quiet acceptance of the disease and her optimistic outlook on life?

I thought about this so much, I reached the point where not only had I accepted the forthcoming diagnosis, but came to realize that it was truly the only possible explanation.

The disk between C6 and C7 in my neck is protruding and placing pressure on my spinal cord.

The MRI of my brain was clean. I do not have MS.

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No word yet from the doctor. The MRI tech said that the results _should_ be in today. Ah well. I'll just calmly continue my internal freak-outs.

Meanwhile, here's a camera-at-arms-length photo we took Saturday night that I really like:


ETA: Which I already posted. I get scatterbrained when I'm stressed. Call this Exhibit A.
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But no. I had two MRIs this morning of my head and neck. I knew what to expect, so it wasn't too bad, especially since my head scan only took about 20 minutes instead of the 35 they expected.

I guess my brain is small or something...

ETA: The reason for the MRIs is to try to find out why I'm still having so much trouble with my hands. The surgery last year did practically no good. My doctor is checking for a pinched nerve in my neck, as well as one other very frightening possibility that I really don't want to go into.


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