Taking inventory

I’m not sure if everyone does this, or if it’s just me, but during the year before a Milestone Birthday, ( 21, 25, 30, 40, 50 etc) I do an “inventory” of where I am in life versus where I want to be.  If I died tomorrow would I have any regrets?  Do I need to say anything in particular to anyone? Are my affairs in order?  What do I want to accomplish in the next 10 years?  and so on and so on.  I also do this everytime I get another scary diagnosis.  I will be 49 in less than a month which will start the “OMG I’m gonna be 50 reflections”.  This year I get to kill two birds with one stone I guess?  lol

When I was 29, I received the “wonderful news” that I had cervical cancer.  As the doctors were talking about chemo and radiation, I asked, “why not just take it all out?.  ( do a hysterectomy)  You should have seen the shock on their faces.  I heard, “but you’re not married!  What if you want more kids one day?”  For me it was a no Brainer, I was a single parent. I kind of had to be alive to raise the two children I had.  If doing a hysterectomy would allow that to happen, that was the decision.  I had to go see a psychiatrist to make sure I was capable of making such a decision all by myself?!???!…. I did. Still smh about that.  Yay the hysterectomy worked!  No more cancer! 

I think this was the first time I did the whole “inventory” thing.  My biggest fear during all that time was that my kids wouldn’t KNOW me.  The real me.  The one who makes mistakes 2 or 3 times before learning a lesson.  I started making photo album journal diaries for the kids.  I made albums containing my deepest darkest secrets, and ones for each year of each of their lives.

But I digress.  As I look back over the last 48 years of my life, I can honestly say that I’m not disappointed.  I have made ALOT of mistakes, and have learned most lessons the hard way, but there is no doubt that I HAVE LIVED!  Looking into the future, I am not even a little bit worried about girls and their families.  If something were to happen to me, I believe they would both step into the role of taking care of my parents.  They would even check in on Einstein for me. Can I really ask for more?

With all of that being said, I think I am ready to take the next step and make the switch to Ocrevus. The 3 disease modifying drugs that I was considering all require a certain blood tests before beginning treatment. I have had the tests completed. The next step is waiting for approval from the insurance and drug company. I won’t be “sitting” here waiting. I have a life to live, and Monday morning I’m heading out to see the grandkids to do just that!

Decisions, decisions, decisions

I can’t tell you how many times or with how many different people I have had this SAME conversation. This time something changed.

I have been on Tysabri for almost 13 years. That is means close to 140 infusions. I don’t know the exact number, but I’m pretty sure Biogen (the company that makes the drug) could give you an exact number, as well as my JCV number, how many lesions I have on my brain and spinal cord, etc.

Facts we know:

  1. The longer you are on Tysabri, the more likely you are to develop a deadly brain virus called PML. Because of this, most doctors only prescribe Tysabri for a few years before recommending a different drug.
  2. While on Tysabri you have to have blood tests for the JC Virus every 6 months and an annual MRI to monitor your risks for developing PML.

Two years ago, not only did I test positive for the JC virus, but my numbers were quite high. (1 is bad, I was at 3.43.) My neurologist suggested that I consider changing to a different MS treatment. I refused. Tysabri has been a miracle drug for me. (Many posts about it) I did however agree to more frequent JCV testing and MRI’s. I am supposed to go every 4 months, but I haven’t because….well life.

Over the next 6 months, my JC numbers continued to climb to 4.69, so I made what I feel was another concession. Instead of getting an infusion of Tysabri, every 4 weeks, I would allow them to extend the time between doses to 6 weeks. (Personally, I hate the longer time in between infusions, because the last 3 weeks are slump weeks” for me, but my numbers have stopped increasing.) They are still high, but haven’t gone up, so that’s a good thing.

This last year I’ve noticed that I am more fatigued. I have trouble finding the right words and expressing my thoughts, and my legs are heavier and painful each night. I have been shrugging it off, and attributing it to the longer intervals between Tysabri infusions, the fact that I am getting older, and the additional stresses in my life. (taking care of my parents, covid, and dealing with people in general) , but my last MRI shows that I have new lesions in locations that correspond to my symptoms.

The entire time I was taking Tysabri (at 4 week intervals), I had no disease progression or increase in lesions. (Apparently a six week dosing schedule does not prevent relapses for me) The medical community considers the risks of pml too high for me to go back to a 4 week schedule, so maybe it’s finally time to change?

I’m scared that I am going to start having frequent relapses. I don’t want to go down that road again.

Before Tysabri, I was in a wheelchair. I know it’s not the end of the world, but still. I was severely depressed and was being hospitalized for MS flares approximately every 3 months. Not the kind of life I wanted to live.

I am also pretty scared of some of the side effects of the other drug options available. 😦

I come to wordpress when I need to “get out of my head”. Thank you for allowing me to do that, and reading along. It helps to not feel so alone.

Enter the “How Grace-ful are you?” Contest

Grace-ful- knowledgeable about Grace Fullnot or msgracefulnot.com

On Saturday evening, I mentioned that there would be a contest today. In case you did not see the previous post, let me explain the terms here.

  1. Please do not post any answers to the questions until Sunday, September 6th between 9 and 3pm central time so that more people have a chance to enter.
  2. When answering a question, please include information as to where you found the answer (post name, guess, etc) *If you have the time, this part is not necessary to win.

Here are the questions:

  1. How old am I?
  2. Why did I select msgracefulnot as the name of my blog?
  3. How long have I had MS?
  4. What is the “address” of my advice to those diagnosed video?
  5. What is the name of the disease modifying drug I am on for Mulitple Sclerosis?
  6. How do I refer to my daughters in my blog? Can you tell me why?
  7. Which of those sweet little demons did I leave at the store?
  8. Name at least 3 places I have traveled to via plane in the last 2 years.
  9. How many times have I been in a boot for a broken foot? (this is a trick question, even I don’t know the answer)
  10. What is the most annoying symptom of MS that I deal with? Please list at least 2 treatments I have tried.
  11. Do you remember my German Shepherds name?
  12. One of my happiest memories from 2018?
  13. What do I call my significant other?
  14. What are my grandsons names?
  15. Do you remember how we met or how you found msgracefulnot.com?
  16. What is your favorite post that I have written?
  17. What 2 three letter words, or acronyms, internet slang do I use the most? Can you tell me what they mean?
  18. Bonus points if you share this post on social media, and share the location you posted to!!!!!!
  19. This is a “freebie”… If you are a blogger, can you create a post with links to past posts you that you have written that you feel would give a new reader a good sense of what your blog is about? If you do I will share the hell out of it….FREE ADVERTISING HERE!!!!
  20. If you are the winner, which rose would you like? With or without stem?

The winner will receive their choice one of the above pictured roses that I printed with my 3d printer mailed directly to their home or office. (more about 3d printing to come)

Thank you in advance for stopping by!

On second thought….

About a week ago, I wrote a post called “saying goodbye“. My credit card was billed $94.00 for a word press subscription that I wasn’t using, so I figured it was a good time to cancel. After posting said post, several of the friends I have made on WP advised me that WP had free version and I would only need to pay $18.00 a year to keep my domain name msgracefulnot.com. Hmmm ok that I could do, so I took down the Saying goodbye post, cancelled the paid subscription, and here I am.

Thank you again to those of you that reached out to me!!!!!

Why I stopped using Word press

For the greater part of last year, I made the conscious choice to avoid social media as much as possible. My personal plate was full and I couldn’t deal with all the negativity, fear, and hate being passed around between people. I saw sides of people that I could not imagine they were capable of, so after writing, Say what you mean, and mean what you say, I pretty much “disappeared.”

When I created my blog, my original intention was to provide PROOF that with the right amount of determination, creativity, and humor you can survive almost anything.  I wanted to help anyone that was feeling alone or overwhelmed with their lives, to see that they were not alone.  I believe that on many occasions I did that.

  1. I have written about  being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 
  2. I’ve written about choosing a disease modifying therapy.
  3. I’ve written about how insurance companies like to “play doctor”.
  4. I’ve written about my children and not winning the mother of the year award.
  5. I’ve talked about air travel with MS.
  6. I’ve talked about Train travel in a wheelchair.  and the importance of knowing your equipment and your limits.
  7. I’ve talked about being full of shit.
  8. I’ve shared some of the treatments for bladder incontinence and urge incontinence due to MS.
  9. I’ve shared some of my most painful moments.  (Mentally and physically)
  10. I’ve shared some of my happiest moments.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve had a full plate this year, but I’ve not been at all specific. There are multiple reasons for this.

In some instances, the stories I want to share, are not entirely mine to tell. For example, both of my parents are going through life changing medical issues. I can tell you how it’s been affecting me, but I’m not sure how much is TOO much to share. I’m still working on this.

Another reason for the vagueness is because the “jury is still out” about many of my health issues. While I can share what I have been experiencing, and why I’ve been doing what I have been doing, I still don’t know if my decisions were the right ones to make, so I don’t want to lead anyone astray if they are dealing with anything similar. I will work on this as well.

In the meantime, I would like to reintroduce myself, and invite you back into my world. If you are joining me for the first time, my About Me page, is a good place to start. (I wrote it a year ago, but I believe most things still apply.)

When I thought I was leaving wordpress, I was trying to think of a way to “go out with a bang.” I began creating a “contest” to attempt to draw everyone in, one more time. It has occurred to me, that I can use the same contest to “Come in with a bang”, or “get back in the saddle if you will.” Giving away prizes, opens the door to discussing some of the positive things that I have been doing over the last year as well.

On Wednesday, September 2nd at 9 am Central Time, I will post a list of questions about myself, or things I have written about in this blog. I do believe that most of the questions can be answered by reading the posts that I have linked above. (if not THESE posts specifically, the answers will still be available within my website) The prizes will go to the first two people that post the most correct answers to my questions in the post “How graceful are you?” in the comments section of that post no earlier than Monday September 7th @ 9 am central time and no later than 3 pm Central time of the same day.

I hope you will all participate. See you soon!

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

The other day, my Best friend Gary and I had our overdue ‘catch up’ conversation. I’m not sure if I have said this before, but Gary lives halfway across the country and most of our time spent together is on video chats.  Our friendship began in a facebook group about Tysabri, and has continued for more than 10 years.

During our “catch up call”, after we talked about each of our grandkids and our children, the subject of my health, more specifically two of my recent posts, Are you prepared to Die? and Are you ready to Live?,  came up. While Gary understands my fears, he is concerned that I may have scared other people (especially those newly diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.)  He feels that someone reading my posts may feel that because they have ms, they will die.  I quickly argued that I only wrote the truth.  I never said that MS kills people.  (At least I didn’t think that I did.)  I AM SCARED!  I don’t like my choices.  I honestly feel that I am playing Russian Roulette and I am MAD!  BUT, None of that excuses the fact that he may be correct.

Before  I continue today…..

I want to apologize if I have mislead anyone, making them believe that being diagnosed with MS is an automatic death sentence.  While I feel that this may have been true many years ago, medical advancements and scientific research have made LIVING with MS much more manageable.  However, I promised myself when I began writing this blog that all of my posts would be honest, no matter how embarrassing or unpleasant they may be.  I would talk about the uncomfortable parts of MS in addition to sharing tools that I have found to make living with this MONSTER a little easier. I believe that 80% of the time, I prove in my writing that laughter IS the best tool I have for managing living with MS and the many other injuries I frequently obtain.

Today however is not that day.  Today I am angry!  I am angry because even though we can try to take steps to live more comfortably and possibly slow disease progression, the disease ultimately has control.  In the post “are you ready to live“, I said that I would be doing more research into the newer MS drugs available and I have.  When I am done VENTING here, I will share my latest conversation with my MS specialist about my concerns and my next steps.

But first please take a walk or a read with me, and see my fears through my eyes

First drug on the table…. OCREVUS  (the full list of potential side effects can be found here.)

What sticks out to me are these words…

OCREVUS increases your risk of getting upper respiratory tract infections, lower respiratory tract infections, skin infections, and herpes infections.

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): Although no cases have been seen with OCREVUS treatment in clinical trials, PML may happen with OCREVUS. PML is a rare brain infection that usually leads to death or severe disability.  ( remember this is the reason I am being urged to stop Tysabri)

and finally

OCREVUS may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Risk of cancers (malignancies) including breast cancer. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about standard screening guidelines for breast cancer.

My brain does silly shit here.

Ok Cancer? …. Just keep having mammograms, if I get it, just get a boob job. (That’s what I did when I had cervical cancer)…. just take it out!!!!

PML, are you fucking kidding me?

and Herpes…hmm  How do you see this conversation going, “Um Einstein, would you care if I took a drug that could give us both herpes”?  Let me save that prospect for Valentine’s Day don’t you think?  Before I even talked to my doctor, sadly enough the deal breaker for this drug, was that Thing 1 said I wouldn’t be able to kiss my grandkids anymore.  “Mom you know that herpes can be lethal to babies right?”… um no I didn’t, in fact I don’t know much about it at all.

Next drug on the table, Aubagio (teriflunomide)

Severe liver injury including fatal liver failure has been reported in patients treated with leflunomide, which is indicated for rheumatoid arthritis. A similar risk would be expected for teriflunomide because recommended doses of teriflunomide and leflunomide result in a similar range of plasma concentrations of teriflunomide.

Hair Loss

Maybe I should be embarrassed that I wasn’t so worried about the fatal liver failure as I was about the hair loss,  but again I am being honest.  YES I know it sounds pretty vain.

My research of the above mentioned drugs, also talking to other patients that have previously been on Tysabri and switched to Ocrevus or Aubagio.  70% of the people I talked to regretted switching.  They stated that they immediately went downhill after the change.  I also discovered there are now several studies being conducted about The “Rebound Effect” after stopping Tysabri or the development of “IRIS” (Immune-reconstitution inflammation syndrome) which can also be fatal or cause rapid acceleration of disability.   Did I mention this news really made me angry?

Last week, I got the results of my JC virus retest back.  It was not a false positive. 😦  In fact it is a pretty high positive.  I sent my doctor an email to discuss the information I had been hearing/reading, and asked him to call me back.  When he called, the first thing he said to me was, “I don’t believe you have PML and just because you are high JC, also does not guarantee you will get PML but it greatly increases your odds”.  I shared my concerns about changing drugs with him.  He did chuckle when he responded that Ocrevus does not cause a sexually transmitted disease, or breast cancer.  The herpes virus that they are speaking of is shingles…EWWWW I had chicken pox at 25 and was hospitalized because of the fever and hallucinations.  I hear shingles are many times worse.  He also explained that Ocrevus does severely weaken your immune system though making you more susceptible to cancers and other infections.  The final concern with this drug is that it does not provide the “energy burst” that you get after receiving Tysabri.  Often times it causes the exact opposite effect.  😦

Next we discussed Aubagio.  He feels that not only does the drug not possess the strength of even the previous MS drug I was on. (that didn’t work) but also because it is a pill, my body may not respond to it because I also have Gastroparesis.  How did I forget about that?!?!?

Well crap there goes the next drug I had started reading about, Mavenclad.  SMH.

BUT, There is another up and coming drug for MS (not yet named) that is delivered in the form of a monthly shot. That may be something to consider.

The doc, I call him the wizard, and I decided that I should still have new MRI’s done to rule out PML. At the very least, this will give me a new baseline for the activity of my disease.  He has also ordered all of the blood tests required for each of the drugs I was considering to see if I am even eligible.  For now, I am going to stretch out the time between my Tysabri infusions to every 6 weeks instead of every 4 while I make a rational, NOT angry decision.

The girls and I are going to a drug talk hosted by the makers of Ocrevus in the beginning of March.  If I do change drugs, it will probably be to this one.

I do realize that being angry doesn’t solve anything.  It won’t help me make a decision any quicker, and it won’t change the outcome of any decision.  But I am angry and it’s ok.  I do believe feeling anger AND talking about it is part of the process!

A little over a year ago, (maybe two years ago) I made two videos on Youtube.  One is My story about how I was diagnosed with ms, and the other is what I still feel is Good advice for someone that is newly diagnosed.  I went back and watched them the other day and they helped ‘calm me down’.  They also reminded me of what I have been through, and what I have survived.  If you are interested, please take a look but clicking on the above links.