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!

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?”

 

 

 

 

Leaving your phone in a Lyft driver’s car

I walked into the hotel room at 12:30 am to drop off my bags and to park the wheelchair.

How do you reach your Lyft driver if you forgot something in their car?

When I walked into the room, “T” was awake, and still fuming about the height of the bed.  I unburied my tablet and asked T to use her phone.  Actually, I don’t think I asked, I think I just said I was taking it.  She  continued to complain about the hotel saying I needed to talk to the manager.  I put my hand up and said,  “we need to be awake at 4:30″, I can’t do this now.  I have to find my phone, or I won’t be going anywhere tomorrow”.

I headed back outside with phone and tablet in hand.  I sent several text messages to my phone hoping the driver might see them on a pop up.  I called Thing One to tell her that I had lost the phone and maybe I needed her to put a hold on it.  (My family each pays her $50.00 a month and we share unlimited everything on her account) I asked her to find a phone number for Lyft to report the loss.

She responded with the following screenshots:

This is all good in theory,   If you know your passwords.  I don’t!  My niece set up the Lyft app on my phone during my Boston trip over a year ago.  Crap ! Crap! Crap!

I filled out the Contact Lyft form using the hotel’s phone number and my email address for which I also don’t know the password.

ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I suspended myself from most of my accounts trying to guess the passwords.  Those that didn’t suspend me, sent a verification email to my LOST cell phone. SMH!!!!!

Just as I was going to surrender… I remembered that my neighbor works nights…maybe I could call her?   IF only I actually knew her phone number instead of only having it stored in my phone?!?!?!?

Ah but wait a minute…we are friends on Facebook..and that is the one password I remember.  I sent her a message on Facebook messenger asking for her phone number and then called her from “T’s” phone.  It’s probably a sad thing that she wasn’t surprised in the least that I needed “bailing out”.  I asked her to go to my house with her key, and I would tell her where to find my list of passwords.

When I logged into my email account there was a message from Lyft that the driver had found my phone.  Somehow I was able to contact him and beg him to bring my phone back to me.  Lyft charges a $15.00 returned item fee.  I paid that and tipped him $20.00.

At 3:15 a.m. I finally crawled into bed.  Exhausted

At 4:45a.m, there was a knock on the door.  It was the front desk guy Brent.  He had spent most of the night/morning outside smoking with me while I tried to get my phone back.  He promised that if he didn’t see me surface from the room by 4:45 he would “bang” on the door.  He had also set up coffee and set out some of the cold breakfast items even though they don’t start breakfast until 6.  Yes I wrote an outstanding review for him and the hotel.

Grace: “T” We need to get going

“T” (from the bathroom), I’m working on it.  I’m gonna need you to help carry some of my bags.

Grace:  Growl….BAGS?!?! As in multiple?!??!?! How am I supposed to carry anything while I’m in a wheelchair?!?!

LOTS of cuss words

probably even a few more

I don’t even remember her response.  I loaded all 3 of her bags and my one bag onto the wheelchair and headed to the lobby to arrange the LYFT.

I’m going to insert a copy of the review that I left for Rosebud Taxi Service which explains in more detail how we ALMOST missed our train.

I am from the Chicagoland area, where Lyft’s are frequently used and also usually readily available. I made the poor assumption that they would also be readily available in Holland, MI. While I was able to use their services from the Amtrak Station in Holland to my hotel where I was staying, I was unable to locate a driver to get to the station at 5:30 in the morning. My companion and I were both traveling in wheelchairs, so I began requesting a ride using the lyft app at 5 am even though we did not need to be at the train station until 6:30. From 5 to 5:45am I could not find anything. At 5:45, our hotel receptionist had found the number for Rosebud Taxi Service. I called and explained our situation to a very nice gentleman, who not only apologized profusely that they wouldn’t be able to help with both chairs on so short of notice, but also gave me a phone number for a competitor who might be able to help. Who does that?!?! Wow! After speaking with his competition, I don’t think they are any competition at all, their response to my dilemma was, “sorry nope nothing we can do.” I went back to trying to obtain a ride from lyft, only to have the one driver cancel the ride because in his words, “I’m 20 mins out for a 4 minute ride, not worth my time.” I did explain that we would tip very well and would probably have to be transported separately. He said, “ no I’m cancelling.”
I think I literally cried to my companion to please call rosebud back while I continued to try to use the Lyft app with no luck. After explaining our tale of woe again, the owner of the company stopped what she was doing in her personal life and came to pick us up herself with a vehicle large enough to hold both of our wheelchairs. I have to ask again, “Who does that?” I am so grateful that there are people in the world who will still go the extra mile to help “rescue” someone in trouble. I truly feel that she “saved” us. It is also important to note that she didn’t charge us any extra for our additional “luggage or needs”. I wholeheartedly give Rosebud Taxi Service 5 stars and would recommend them to anyone!

I didn’t feel it necessary to add that the owner and T could/did not help me load the wheelchairs or luggage into the SUV.  BUT that’s when the BREAK happened. Everything happened in such a rush, I honestly don’t remember the exact point it happened.  Maybe I dropped one chair on top of the other?  Maybe I closed the seat on my finger?  In fact I am sure I did both of those things.

In the short 10 minute ride to the train station, my finger turned black.  Oh shit…. The ONE thing Einstein said before I left, “DON’T BREAK ANYTHING!!!”.  There was no doubt that it was broken :(.  Didn’t matter though, we had a train to catch.

I didn’t even try to use the wheelchair other than for baggage on the way home.  The fact that “T” was able to though without the use of her legs also supports that it is doable.

In closing, other suggestions I have for traveling alone in a wheelchair are:

  • pack as light as possible
  • print your tickets etc Do NOT rely on your phone
  • TRY to get some sleep.  (I’m pretty sure the 1 hour I got is what lead me to getting sick when I got home)
  • Plan for back up options should your original plans fall through.  (multiple transportation and hotel options.)
  • Know your limitations
  • Call your hotel or transportation method to check heights, dimensions etc.  It would not be unheard of to ask for pictures of your accommodations before committing.

As a side note, while the ADA suggests a bed height of 20-23 inches in handicap accessible rooms, although, it is NOT a requirement.

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