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.

 

 

Are you prepared to die?

Before I continue, let me assure you that this is NOT a suicide note, nor is it a notice of my impending death.  This is a question I’ve asked and answered myself many times in my life.

If you’re not dying, why do you bring this up now?

I just received some unsettling blood tests, and I have some choices that I have to make.  When I receive bad news, in order to not “freak out”, I look back at all the things I have survived in my life to remind myself that I can be pretty damn tough.

As many of you know, I was diagnosed with MS over 20 years ago.  What you may or may not know is that I have had 3 family members die from complications of MS.  This disease has been “in my face” for many years before it actually caught me.  When I was diagnosed, I asked myself if I was ready to die, not if I was prepared, but if I was ready.  The answer was, “HELL NO!”  For the first year though, I didn’t do much to FIGHT it.  Instead, I began drinking ALOT.  I also started behaving very manically, (well if I’m going to die anyway, I’m going out with a bang)

About a year after my “MSaversary”,  I finally stopping running and faced the diagnosis. I began taking the disease modifying drug Betaseron.  For 10 years, I gave myself an injection every other night, yet my MS symptoms continued to steadily progress to the point that I was in a wheelchair more often than not.  I was constantly depressed.  During this time, my kidneys began shutting down, AND I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  Around the 10 year mark, I think I WAS ready to die.  Not prepared, but ready.

At then end of 2009, my girls and I made the very long hard decision that I was going to begin receiving monthly infusions of Tysabri even though it could kill me.  I decided that QUALITY of life meant so much more to me than QUANTITY!  I have previously written about how the decision was made in a Five part series if you would like to read.  The decision to start Tysabri Part 1The decision to start Tysabri part 2, The decision to start Tysabri part 3, The decision to start Tysabri part 4, and finally, The decision to start Tysabri part 5.

To date I have received 121 infusions of Tysabri.  I credit this drug for giving me my quality of life back.  I do not regret my decision in anyway, in fact I have even argued with my doctor about NOT switching medications when he suggested that I consider it. Last year, I wrote “Who’s the boss anyway”? explaining my reason for denying the change.

At the end of last year, I had to see my neurologist so he could perform my yearly neurological exam, refill my prescriptions, and send me for the required JC virus test to be allowed to remain on Tysabri.  My son in law was nice enough to drive me to Chicago for the visit.  Because of my newest list of injuries, the doctor was unable to provide a complete exam.  The parts of the exam he was able to perform showed that I had increased numbness (lack of feeling) on the left side of my body.  I have also been having some issues with my vision (though I have been attributing that to my age).  He wrote the refills for my prescriptions, and the order for the bloodwork, and we agreed I would come back for a full exam once my foot healed enough to be able to walk on it.  (hopefully March)

NOW let’s talk about these unsettling blood tests….

My bloodwork came back stating that I was now JC+, meaning I had the John Cunningham Virus (JCV).  Not only did I test positive for the virus, but my titer levels are considered very high. 4.8!

hmmmm now what?  I have a decision (well several to make)

Here are the drug facts

In addition to revealing that I have now become JC+, my bloodwork revealed that my Absolute Eosinophils are high.  What the hell does that mean?  A quick Dr. Google search said…

Eosinophils are a type of disease-fighting white blood cell. This condition most often indicates a parasitic infection, an allergic reaction or cancer. You can have high levels of eosinophils in your blood (blood eosinophilia) or in tissues at the site of an infection or inflammation (tissue eosinophilia).

OF course the first thing I saw was CANCER……cmon!!!!!!!  Seriously?!?!?

After speaking with my Neurologist, WE have decided first to have the bloodwork performed again.  (there is always a chance for a false positive?)  Because of the decreased sensation on one side of my body, the increased balance issues, and vision changes, IF the test still comes back with a high Titer level, the first step will be to undergo further testing for PML.  I haven’t even thought about further testing for the High Eosinophils, I honestly believe that everything else going on in my body is causing that.

I have so many questions and decisions to make that I find myself asking again, “Am I prepared to die?”

 

 

 

 

Makes you wonder, “Who’s the Boss?”

“Kind of makes you wonder, who the boss is here, doesn’t it?” This was the last thing my neurologist said to my son in law as we left his office on Thursday.  You see, being on the MS drug Tysabri, requires me to perform three actions each year to remain on the drug.   I believe the three things I am required to do are CYA (cover your ass) for the doctors and drug company, though they present it as for my safety….shrug

A little bit of the back story here.  When Tysabri first came out on the market, it had to be recalled twice because the risks outweighed the potential benefits.  (it killed people)  Ok while it didn’t kill people itself, it caused some to develop PML (Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is a rare and usually fatal viral disease characterized by progressive damage (-pathy) or inflammation of the white matter (leuko-) of the brain (-encephalo-) at multiple locations (multifocal).) which did kill people.   Either way it had to go.

Back on the Market

I began the drug shortly after it was released the 3rd time.  (YAH sign me up?!?!?)  SMH, actually for me, the risks were nothing in comparison to the potential gains. I was going downhill fast.  If you would like to read about how/why I started Tysabri, the first post of the “series” can be found here.

When they released the drug for the 3rd time, doctors had to require patients to meet the following conditions each year to remain on the drug.  The first is that they have to have an MRI of their brain yearly to look for signs of PML.  The second is that they have to have blood tests to determine if they are positive or negative for the JC virus.  Finally, they have to see their neurologist at least once a year to be reminded of the risks, and that the longer you are on Tysabri, the more likely it is that you will develop PML.

Having completed the first two requirements this summer, meant that I needed to see my neuro.  Not an easy feat considering I still can’t drive and his office is 2 hours away in Chicago.  Thankfully, my son in law said he would take me and spend the day with me.  (I really am blessed)

Z arrived right on time to pick me up.  During the two hour drive to the city, we discussed (debated) the pros and cons of Technology.  I will write more about that another day though.  Basically, I agreed to let him tell me about some apps that may make things easier for me, if he agreed to let me play devils advocate about the potential risks.  I think we both learned somethings.

The wait to see my doc was short.  He came to the waiting area and said, “C’mon Grace follow me”.  He didn’t notice my boot until, he turned around to see how I was walking.  (nothing like a having the pressure of having someone judge your balance as you try to balance) smh  He asked, “What happened now?”.  I briefly told him, he shook his head, and we entered the exam room.  We all sat down, and he said, “I was surprised to see you on the schedule, I never see you unless something is really wrong.  What’s going on?”  I chuckled, “just doing the yearly thing.”

First we reviewed the MRI of my brain.  There were no real changes to report, other than a little bit of atrophy and brain shrinkage.  (this also happens as we age, and was nothing major)  I did tell him about the newer symptom of “spins”, but only that I wanted him to put it in my chart, nothing else at this time.  He asked if I wanted to check disease progression in my spine with MRI.  (most of my lesions ARE in my spine)  I declined.

Next were the JCV test results.  The results were indeterminate.  (not negative or positive, literally indeterminate)  ok?  NEXT?

Doc: “You don’t want to talk about switching medications?”

Grace: Nope!  Thanks though

Doc:  “you do know that there is a new drug out  called OCEVERUS?”

Grace: Yep!

He began to shake his head again.  So I pulled the pamphlet out of my purse, and said listen Doc…let me be honest with you…. “I’m aware of the drug and the benefit of only having to have an infusion 2x a year, however at this time I’m just watching”.  I continued with:

  1.  I’ve done my stint as a guinea pig in the clinical trials for Botox
  2. It’s still too new, and carries the same risks as Tysabri.
  3. Basically the amount of time I “lose” getting this drug is the same amount I lose getting Tysabri ( Oceverus 2x a year 8 hrs each time vs.  Tysabri 12-13 x times a year 2 hours at a time)  Besides, I have a port in my chest that has to be flushed every thirty days regardless of whether or not it’s used, so it would be the same
  4. I also explained that I used my Tysabri infusion to meet my Medicaid spendown each month (but more on that another time)

He asked if the surgeon was going to send me to physical therapy after the boot came off.  I think I surprised him when I not only agreed to use a wheeled walker, (if Medicare will cover it of course) but that I would also like to go the PT, not only to aid my foot in healing, but to help with my balance and gait issues.  I asked HIM to write the prescription for both (pt and the walker) knowing that the likeliness of insurance covering both would be increased if they were given more reasons to approve it, (gait, balance issues, strengthening etc) than just “to aid in post op recovery”.  Isn’t it sad that it’s all a “game”?  Fortunately? for me I’ve been playing a long time.  SMH  We shall see.

Before I left, I did ask him for his opinion on the  various “diets” that are out there and how they may affect MS.  I know that I am not easy to “work with” sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to do everything I can to fight this monster.  I just don’t believe that taking more drugs is the way to do it.

The diets I mentioned were the Wahl’s protocol, Paleo, and the Ketogenic diet.  I am not sure which if any I will follow, but I am in the process of learning about all three.  I have to admit that even a simple reduction in carbs and the addition of colored veggies to my to my normal SEE FOOD (see food and eat it) diet would be a good place to start.

Before we got up to leave, the doctor asked me if I would be willing to talk to other patients with MS.  I told him I do, all the time.  He was inquiring in more of a professional  capacity to which I responded that I was happy to  anytime, if he wanted to give someone my name and number, but never representing the hospital or his office.  (My use of the F bombs would disqualify me from that position.)

In closing,

The answer to the question of who is the boss…. I am!

It’s my body, my right, and my choice.

I am very fortunate to have a doctor that understands my feeling on this.  He also knows that while I do take some, I hate taking medications of any kind, and am always very reluctant to call, so when I do, he gives me priority.  I hope that if you are dealing with MS, or another chronic illness that you have found a doctor that is willing listen to and respects your opinions as well.

*The featured image is the inside of my daughter’s Beast for work….but doesn’t it make you wonder who is in control, or responsible?