Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Normal Person vs. Hypochondriac: "The Neckache"

First, let me apologize for the quality of the drawings. Clearly, I am not an artist. Now that we've established that, here's a delightful little slice of my life as a hypochondriac with MS. In case it's not entirely clear from the drawings below, a Normal Person is featured on the left. Hypochondriac resides on the right. I call this one "The Neckache." Enjoy! (If you click on the pictures, you can see them in all their fantastic detail.)


Saturday, January 26, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different

What ever could I mean? That Capt. Nap has NOT done something gross? That I've expanded my culinary horizons from Tofurkey into something even MORE hideous? That I have decided to stop sharing embarrassing life and/or pet-related events and focus my energies on fundraising for a cure to MS? No, no, and no. Had you all worried there for a minute, didn't I? Although, let me warn you, this post contains some things that have made me happy over the last several days. (I realize this doesn't always make for the most entertaining reading, but don't you fret; I'm bound to eat something nasty or do something embarrassing or witness one of my cats do something gross in short order, and I'll certainly post about it.)

In part, I'm inspired by a new blogging "friend." (At the risk of seeming like a creepy blog-stalker, I feel as if the people I've connected with through this blog are part of a new circle of friends.) If you haven't already, check out Stumbling in Flats. The author regularly cracks me up, but in her most recent post she talked about the delightful way a disease like MS (or any other, I expect) can lead someone occasionally to wallow in bad feelings.

I thought: do I wallow? (Yes.) But why? Aren't good things happening to me? (Okay, yes.) Should I post about good things and not just crappy things? (ALL RIGHT! I guess so. Jeez, get off my back already!)

So here goes:

Arts and Less Crap, Plus Being a Demanding Customer Pays Off! 

In case you've forgotten, I made a...well, a thing called "Ugh" in the post "Arts and Crap." In spite of being temporarily crushed by the humiliation that was "Ugh," I forged ahead and tried something new. Two things, actually. This time, though, I had the sense to stay away from bits coated in glitter pasted on wooden boards. These (called "Rather Cute" and "Not So Crappy") are pictured below:

Rather Cute

Not So Crappy

In "Not So Crappy" please note the subtle application of glitter. I learned my lesson from "Ugh." Both items have one of my favorite things on them: birds.

So, all in all, these made me happy. 
The other thing that made me happy was an awesome manager named Juan at a local restaurant. I explained to him that I was on the Swank Diet (not without some cringing; I hate to cause a scene of any kind). He could not have been nicer. He went over some options with me that didn't have butter, and this is what I got:

It isn't Tofurkey, but it will do.
It was a lovely grilled salmon with lemon oil, along with some spinach and broccolini, also in lemon oil. Guess what's now on my shopping list? Yes, lemon oil. (Sorry for the photo quality; I was so busy trying to stuff it in my face, that I didn't want to take too long with the damn picture.)

So, these are some recent things that have made me feel good. Next post: something embarrassing, I promise.

Ms. CrankyPants

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tofurkey Round 2: A Hideous Mistake?

Call me a glutton for punishment, but god help me, I did it again: I sampled another item from the Tofurkey line of vegan treats. You may recall my first experiment, detailed in the post "What the *(&$ Did I Just Eat?" If you haven't read it, and you can't tell from the title, I'll give you a clue: it sucked. So, you may be wondering (and rightly so), why on earth would I try Tofurkey AGAIN?

That's precisely what I was asking myself last night, as I hauled out the Tofurkey "Italian sausage," which I was planning to add to pasta sauce. Before you ask, yes, I am on medication that may affect my judgment. Heavily medicated or not, as I investigated the package I thought, "Looks harmless. And it can't POSSIBLY be as bad as the pizza, right?" (See blog post "The Beginning" for my thoughts on people who make foolish proclamations such as the preceding.)

Hey! This doesn't look too bad! 

I wasn't a total idiot. I hadn't entirely forgotten the horror that was the pizza. This time I was planning to disguise the Gourmet, Meatless, and Delicious! "sausage" with onion, spinach, and lots and lots of tomato sauce. First step: slice the "sausage." It was starting to look a bit less appealing at this stage:

Oh, dear. Maybe this was a mistake.

The "sausage" was resting in an off-putting puddle of orange-y oil, and as I sliced it I detected a texture I had to force myself not to think about. Let's just hurry past this part and get this thing in the pan, my judgment-impaired, medicated self said to myself. Once it's covered with onions and spinach and sauce, it will be better. Into the pan with you, Mr. Sausage Swimming in Orange Oil! Now that does, indeed, look better:

If you squint a bit, it actually resembles sausage! 
Next step was to stir in some spinach and add some tomato sauce, which I did before I even dared to try the concoction. Gingerly, I raised a spoonful to my mouth and...it wasn't bad. It would fool no one who has eaten gen-u-wine Italian sausage, but it definitely was not bad. In fact, I ate the entire plate, as did my husband. So, in my book, this recipe counts as a Swank Success!

Today, I'm hitting the store to get some items for a new Swank recipe, so be looking for a report soon.

Until then!
Ms. CrankyPants

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What the Neurologist Said...

Or, rather, what he DIDN'T say. See, he wasn't even at the appointment! I had the first one of the day (8:40 am), which meant my poor mom and I got up at the crack of dawn to be sure we made it to D.C. in time.

After two large cups of coffee (which I was regretting about halfway to my appointment, IF you know what I mean), we hit the road and got there in plenty of time. Oh, the vagaries of D.C.-area traffic. Had we slept longer and left later, no doubt we'd have been late. But I digress.

The nurse practitioner (NP) led us to Dr. M's office, where she informed us that he wasn't in yet and that she'd get started. Well, I'll spoil the ending for you right now: he never arrived. How nice to have a job where you can decide whether to show up... At any rate, the NP was very competent and thorough. She led me through the same drills that Dr. M usually does: had me walk in a straight line, tested my reflexes, jabbed me in various appendages to see if I could feel things. She asked a ton of questions and, all in all, it wasn't that much different from seeing Dr. M. Then it was time to look at the MRI. This was the part I had dreaded and why my stomach had been roiling.

The computer monitor was facing away from me as she loaded the disc. She was quiet. All I heard was whirring. She said, "Hmmm, that's weird..." I prepared to (a) faint or (b) bolt from the room. Then she said, "Something's wrong with this computer; the images aren't loading."

Now, a normal person would think, "Oh, what a crappy computer." I thought, "Oh, the images probably are so riddled with white blobs [both MS and not MS] that they're slowing down the computer."

Sigh. It's truly exhausting. After what felt like an eternity, during which she kept murmuring and the computer kept whirring, and I kept feeling like I was going to vomit, the images loaded. She scrolled through them and noted...one or two tiny spots, and none of them enhancing, which means none of them are active (for a more scientific explanation, please consult someone smarter than I am).

"Nothing to worry about!" she announced cheerfully.

I wasn't about to press her. She did point out that I have some bulging discs in my neck (here I thought the pain in my neck was my husband - hahahahahaha! Folks, I'm here all week!).

For the persistent and sometimes debilitating  fatigue, she prescribed Provigil, which my insurance promptly refused to pay for. Out of pocket, it would be $600 for 30 tabs. Ironically, I was too damn tired to get on the phone and start arguing with them. That's a battle for another day.

And what about Swank? She, as I had expected, was skeptical about the benefits as they relate to MS, but said as long as I'm getting enough protein and vitamins, there was no harm in trying it.

So, off I go for my morning's Swanky breakfast. For those keeping track: 42 shredded wheat biscuits and 3/4 C almond milk, and a tall glass of OJ.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Cheated on Dr. Swank

Oh, the shame. But let me quickly point out that this was entirely our neighbors' fault. That's right, I will accept zero responsibility for shoveling in yummy pasta with homemade sauce (only the teeniest bit of meat), half a cannoli, and to-die-for garlic bread. Oh, yeah, and some salad. How are our neighbors to blame for forcing me to stray from Dr. S? Well, because they invited us over. And I HAD to eat what they made, right? Yes. Yes, I did. So there.

Since then, I've been Swanking, baby! I made the Skewered Scallops last night in the broiler. They had a nice mustardy/honey baste and were really, really good and easy. Tonight my mom is coming over, so she can accompany me to the neurologist's appointment tomorrow, and I'm busting out a classic (in that I've made it once): Baked Fish au Chablis. Another easy, tasty dinner.

Now about that appointment: I'm nervous. As a hypochondriac I hate going to the doctor perhaps even more than "ordinary" people do. I've been feeling kind of sh!tty for a few days, in fact, but I didn't figure out what was bothering me until today when I talked to someone about why I was down. It probably sounds very silly to someone who doesn't know where I'm coming from, but I hate looking at the MRI of my brain and cervical spine with the neuro. He has already gotten the written report, but tomorrow will be the first time he sees the images. I will watch him, trying to gauge his response. Inside I'm a nervous wreck, anticipating a slight intake of breath on his part and a, "Hmmmm, I don't like the looks of THAT," as he points to a whitish blob on the screen. From there my imagination goes completely wild, and if you can think of a horrible disease (besides MS), I'm way ahead of you. Not only do I *have* it, but I've had it for years (it was missed or misdiagnosed on earlier MRIs).

In short, that's why my wonderful mom is going with me -- for moral support. My husband usually has this delightful job, but he's started working at a new place, so he doesn't have enough time off accumulated. I'll get him next time!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Arts and Crap

I told myself I wasn't going to do it. Wasn't exposing Capt. Nap's, er, hygiene problems embarrassing enough? Apparently not, for now I am going to show you something. Something embarrassing. Something I made. But first, let's play a game. Look at the two pictures below. Can YOU tell which one was made by a professional and which was made by yours truly?

Lovely Fairy

Take your time, this is tricky. On the first item, which I call "Lovely Fairies," note the pretty ribbon, and the subtle glittery effect. Now examine the second one, which I call "Ugh." Would you believe it was inspired by the one above? Yes, indeed. Note the cheap, bent, plastic hanger instead of the ribbon. Also, observe if you will the heavyhanded application of glitter, which accidentally covers the words on the banner "Forget Me Not." See also the thick tacky birds stuck on the bottom (which kept popping off). What you can't see too well, because the pictures are so small, is the wrinkling of the yellow flower paper that I (oops, or the "pro") stuck on as a background, because I/the pro misjudged the size that paper should be cut to. 

Give up? Okay, okay, I'll tell you. *I* made "Ugh" and someone talented made "Lovely Fairies." Friends and relatives, you can breathe a sigh of relief. I'm not planning to give "Ugh" to anyone as a birthday gift. Once I have attained a level of competence, however, you never know...

Monday, January 14, 2013

What the *&$^ Did I Just Eat?

Tofu or not tofu? That was the question as I stood (yet again) in Wegmans, looking in great dismay at my pizza choices. For Swank dieters, choices are slim. At the recommendation of a friend, I bought one Amy's no-cheese, roasted vegetable pizza and (at the recommendation of no one) a Tofurkey pepperoni pizza. Oh, the desperation one feels when one is not allowed to eat real pizza.

Last night I decided it was high time to have pizza!! Yay! The picture on the box, incredibly, did not dissuade me:

No, I do not know how to rotate this damn picture.
"No matter!" I thought gaily. "The picture is probably bad!"

Besides, there were many encouraging and cheery proclamations on the box, such as: "Meatless and delicious!" and "Cheese that actually melts!" (This one should have been sufficient warning.)

Buoyed by the idea that, yes, I might be able to Swank AND eat delicious pizza, I scampered off to give myself my Copaxone injection while my husband did the honors and stuffed the Tofurkey in the oven.

I was upstairs, gleefully giving myself a shot, when the aroma of -- could it be? -- pepperoni wafted my way.

"Mmmmm," I thought. "This is going to be GREAT!"

I heard my husband rustling around in the kitchen, removing the pizza from the oven. I trotted down to make sure he didn't take the biggest pieces...and froze when I saw the pizza. It would have been handy to have seen it before it went in the oven; I might have been better prepared for the horror that now sat atop it. In short, the picture on the box was good. What was sitting on the pizza pan looked badhamster droppings pepperoni tofu bits in an alarming shade of red, resting on a circle of cardboard  crust with tiny flecks of "cheese." (To be fair, yes, the cheese flecks had melted into small whitish globs scattered here and there among the bright red bristling chunks of tofu.)

I felt a surge of nausea and disappointment. I'm embarrassed to say I lurched out of the kitchen and flung myself into a chair in the living room like a bratty child. I didn't weep or even curse, I just hunched there, quietly lamenting the fact that, for me and for the foreseeable future, great or even good pizza was not to be.

Soon, hunger got the better of me. After insisting my husband try it first, I glumly sat down to eat my half. (I also insisted HE take the biggest pieces!) In sum: it turned out to be edible. It sort of tasted like pepperoni pizza. Some tips, if anyone actually is considering trying this:

  1. Eat it while it's hot (for me, this required reheating, after my sulking-in-the-chair episode). 
  2. Don't LOOK at it while you're eating it.
  3. Repeat in your head as necessary: it's much less disgusting than real pepperoni or sausage, which is made up of snouts and tails and who the hell knows what, exactly? 
  4. Eat a large piece of angel food cake afterward. It helps remove the taste. Also, brush and floss and use liberal amounts of mouthwash.

It will likely be a while before I return to the Tofurkey pizza, but as the weeks of no pizza stretch on and on, I may decide it wasn't that bad after all. Next time, though, I'll try the Amy's. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 11, 2013

MS? Flu? Bubonic Plague?*

*Yes, I suspect it's that one too.

I'm tired. I have a headache. Moving around the kitchen putting away dishes gets me winded. I think this diet is kicking my ass. My system is totally unaccustomed to the dramatic reduction in all of those yummy fats I used to eat with abandon. If I don't make a point of eating something every couple of hours, I find myself  collapsed in a heap on the couch like a pile of mashed potatoes. That's one of the hardest things about the Swank Diet so far: ensuring I have enough "right" food on hand at all times so I can quickly and easily make a snack. (Despite his claims, I don't believe Dr. Swank when he says, "A glass of skim milk is a great pick-me-up." In what universe?? A Twix bar is a great pick-me-up, thank you very much!)

My husband and I are on Day ?? (my notebook is all the way downstairs and unless Capt. Nap or his nimble assistant Squeaky trots right up the stairs with it, I won't be telling you what day we're on). Let's call it Day 7. There's been no straying. In that notebook ALL the way downstairs are details of everything we've been eating, and apart from last night, the recipes we've tried have been quite tasty.

Last night's Fish Bake is one we probably won't repeat. It was just so-so; not horrible, but not fantastic enough that I want to make it again. But the Savory Halibut, the Pistou, the Fish au Chablis have been good and have provided enough for us to have leftovers, which is key in conserving energy. It's been fun to get in the kitchen and make these new recipes, as well as get some fun gadgets and cookware, but if I had to do it EVERY night, well, that might be more than I'd be willing to tackle.

On the menu tonight: Puffy Omelet with Creole Sauce. If I have the energy, I'll also make corn muffins. Also if I have the energy, I'll shuffle downstairs and retrieve that notebook so my next update will be more accurate. Oh, damn, I have to shuffle downstairs eventually. We took (okay, "we" didn't) out the desiccated Christmas tree this morning and the floor/hallway is strewn with needles. Vacuuming that mess is one job I don't trust to the other love of my life, Roomba. If only the cats would get on board with doing some housework. They could make a game of it, and I think they might have fun! Trouble is, they just look at be balefully whenever I run the idea past them. Kind of like this:

"You want me to do WHAT?" - Squeaky the Cat

Ms. CrankyPants (aka Ms. HeapOfMashedPotatoes)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Poo Paws": Capt. Nap's Cure for Fatigue

Oh, Captain Nap.


This is Napoleon (of recent "Thank You for Vomiting, Napoleon" fame). He's saved the day again! You'll recall, I have him to thank for feeling too ill to eat a bag full of Butterfingers. This morning, he cured my fatigue! Clearly, this cat is an MS miracle waiting to be discovered by the medical community. Here's what happened:

I had just had my Dr. Swank-approved breakfast (the same as yesterday; I'm a creature of habit/too lazy to be creative at 7:30 a.m.) and went upstairs to do...something important, I'm sure. There was Capt. Nap, curled up on my bed, cute as can be. He stretched and rolled over upon seeing me, even letting out a small meow as if to say, "Hi! Come lie down for a sec. You look like you could use a rest." (I know that's a lot to interpret from a small meow, but you'll have to trust me on this.)

Because I didn't want to be rude, I hopped on top of the bed and curled up next to the good captain. As I was lying there, I began to notice a strange, unpleasant smell.

"Hmmm," I thought. "Could I have a brain tumor?"

How else to explain this out-of-nowhere smell? Let's check in with our friend Napoleon. He had begun flexing his paws in that adorable way cats have when they are super-content, and as I was about 1.2 millimeters from said paws, I noticed something on those charming little appendages. Something that looked like...POO. Yes, friends, Capt. Nap had "poo paws" (PPs).

Despite recent, published evidence to the contrary, Napoleon is not a disgusting cat. These incidents have been aberrations. He's really quite neat and tidy. The reason for this story is to illustrate how he cured my fatigue. See, I reared back from the PPs and seized (gently) the cat. I marched (carefully) downstairs and proceeded to wipe off the offending appendages, for which he was enormously grateful. I then stuffed the bedding, pillows, and clothes I was wearing straight into the washer. After all of this, my fatigue and any thoughts of napping had vanished. My little MS miracle cat, Napoleon! He doesn't know it, but he's helping me.

As for my diet (sorry for getting sidetracked), yesterday was another Day of Success!!!! In addition to the already-mentioned breakfast, I had 2 toasted crumpets with 4 teaspoons of peanut butter (Smuckers' all-natural variety, because it was the only one I could find that didn't have hydrogenated oils), plus a few random snacks, such as a banana and some grapes. For dinner, I tried Pistou, from the Swank Diet Book. Pistou, apparently, is the French version of pesto. It had, among other things, potato, carrots, onion, pasta, zucchini...all in all, another simple-to-make and tasty-to-eat dinner. The recipe made 8 servings, so we'll  be having that again tonight.

So far, today is shaping up to be Day 3 of successful dieting. For breakfast, you'll be astonished to learn, I had the SAME DAMN THING I had on Days 1 and 2. For lunch, well, 7 Triscuits and smoked salmon, plus, um, 2 toasted crumpets and peanut butter. At least I'm consistent. Dull, but consistent.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Let's Try That Again: Swank Diet Day 1

After the dismal failure that was my first attempt at the Swank Diet, I am mighty pleased with myself in reporting a Day of Success!! The diet allows a daily total of 50 grams of unsaturated fat (and a *maximum* of 15g saturated). So there's definitely an initial pain-in-the-ass period of reading labels and adding up fat grams and counting pieces of cereal to be sure you are having a serving, as well as trying to guess how many ounces of protein you are eating. (I'm buying a food scale today.)

For those of you interested in what you can eat, here's what I ate yesterday:

Breakfast (3.5 grams unsaturated fat):
  • 42 Frosted Shredded Wheat biscuits
  • 3/4 C almond milk

Lunch (12g unsat. fat):
  • 7 low-fat Triscuits
  • 2 ounces of smoked salmon
  • 2 fat-free toasted crumpets with raspberry jelly

Dinner (21g unsat. fat):
  • Fish au Chablis (an Official Swank Recipe!)
  • Green beans with olive oil and crushed almonds (an Official Ms. CrankyPants Recipe!)

Snacks/dessert (0g unsat. fat):
  • 1 banana
  • Small bowl of fat-free chocolate/marshmallow swirl frozen yogurt

All in all, it was a lot of yummy stuff. I was already using almond milk for my cereal, so that wasn't an alarming change. The Triscuits are whole grain and quite filling, especially with the addition of the smoked salmon. The Fish au Chablis was very easy to make and turned out to be quite tasty! The beans I improvised, crushing some almonds (1/4 cup) and sprinkling them on the beans, which had been drizzled with 2 TBS of olive oil.

So you may be asking yourself: how crappy was that fat-free frozen yogurt? Well, I'll tell you! It was DG (damn good). Here's something else: I feel DG! It's probably nothing I can attribute directly to the diet, but it was nice yesterday to actually make a dinner, rather than reach for the phone to order pizza (mmmmmmm, cheese!!!) or Thai food. I'm enthusiastic and hopeful about the difference this diet could make to both my MS and my overall health.

On the menu tonight: a pasta, vegetable, and bean soup called Pistou from the Swank Diet book. That also sounds fancy and French; I'm becoming oh-so-cultured!

Hasta la vista, baby! (So much for cultured...)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Walking Dead

BLRSFHYSRHG!! No, that isn't Capt. Nap vomiting. It's my imitation of a highly irritated zombie. I just returned home from the grocery store. Wegman's, to be specific. It's huge. It has everything I'd need to have readily at hand Swank-friendly food. On a Saturday afternoon, it also is jam-packed with cranky people. I overheard one woman say, as she tried to maneuver her cart past people standing aimlessly in the middle of the cereal aisle, "That's IT. I'm never coming here on a weekend again!"

I was too weary and annoyed by then to do more than nod feebly in agreement. By that time, my husband and I had been there for 2.5 hours. Yes, 2.5 hours. Did I mention the store is huge? But, on the positive side, it did indeed have everything on my list: whole wheat flour, fresh halibut, sesame oil, frozen strawberries, wheat germ, green beans.... Much of this I could have gotten at a closer, much smaller, store, but that particular store always has a funny smell if you get within 25 feet of the fish counter. Off putting, to say the least. However, today will be the last time I go to Wegman's on a weekend. By the end of the expedition, my husband was talking about needing a stiff drink, and I felt like the walking dead. Hence the outburst at the beginning of this post.

Home at last, all the groceries put away, and my husband is out with a friend (I was, of course, too tired to join them). It's super-exciting to have a well-stocked pantry and fridge, so I can embark in earnest on this diet. With the exception of the Pizza Incident, I've been extremely conscientious, but I haven't yet made an official Swank recipe. The one I planned to make last night (Fish with the Fancy French Name) I realized much too late would require more time than I had; instead, my husband and I ate a low-fat stir fry of chicken and vegetables.

Tomorrow night is the Fancy Fish. For breakfast, I'll try either the whole-wheat waffles or pancakes. And, to  remove every iota of temptation, I'm sending my husband to work with those damn Butterfingers. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

YOU Again! An Unwelcome "Friend" Pays a Visit

I'm sitting here browsing through the Swank Diet Book (SDB), deciding what to make for dinner. Well, that makes me sound more organized than I really am. In fact, I am noting all the ingredients I'll need to get at the store tonight after my husband gets home (my car battery died).

We've agreed, via text messages, on seafood. I've noted in the SDB many, ummm, interesting recipes, such as:
  • Salmon Loaf II (yes, there is a Salmon Loaf I)
  • Tuna Balls (hahahaha)
  • Seafood Stroganoff
Okay, those don't sound so delicious, but there really are some promising recipes, and I've picked out ingredients to make Baked Fish au Chablis. It has French words in it -- surely a good sign! 

While thumbing through the SDB, I paused to read a section in the beginning of the book on fatigue. As Dr. Swank refers to it, an "old unwelcome 'friend.'" Darn tootin', Dr. S.! Fatigue is one of those delightful "invisible" symptoms. Whenever I say, "I'm too tired to do [fill in the blank]," I feel as if the person I say it to (usually my husband) will have a flash of irritation. 

"Oh, she's TIRED again. Sure. She hasn't done much today; why the hell is she tired?" he might think. 

Let me be clear: he's never said anything resembling that, or even made an exasperated face (at least, not while I'm looking). He's incredibly patient and kind. So it's probably my guilty conscience that fills my head with such worries. See, I remember when I wasn't tired so often; when we used to go hiking and out to parties -- sometimes staying out 'til the wee hours!  I worry that he'll eventually get sick of being with someone who's, well, sick. So that's a large part of the reason I decided to do this diet. I want to have more energy, remain mobile, feel enthusiastic again when he suggests going out on a Saturday night. I don't expect it to cure me, I just hope it will help me feel better. Lots better. And I'm most assuredly ready to make my relationship with that old unwelcome "friend" fatigue a lot less familiar. 

p.s. I'd be remiss in my duties as a hypochondriac if I didn't say that of COURSE I've suspected my fatigue is related to a lurking deadly disease. But just in case I'm among the 80% of MS patients who experience fatigue, I'll try to remain rational about it.  :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thank You for Vomiting, Napoleon

I have a confession. I'm ashamed to admit this, because I already reported one dismal failure in the form of a tasty pizza last night. But, because I feel I'm among friends, I will share. I almost slipped AGAIN. Here's why:

I got these yummy morsels in my Christmas stocking. They had been stashed in a bag, which was wadded up and jammed in a cupboard. You know: out of sight, out of mind? HA! Those damn Butterfingers have been shouting at me for 24 hours: "Eat me! We're sweet and crunchy and delicious! One or four won't hurt! EAT ME!" (Does this happen to you -- food bellowing at you? Yes? Good! I was worried it was only me.)

Like yesterday, I ate a wholesome breakfast, super low-fat lunch, a banana, some grapes...and then I heard the muffled yet irresistible siren call of the Butterfingers. Somehow, the wadded up bag ended up out of the cupboard and on the couch next to me. I successfully ignored it for a couple of hours, thinking about how lame I'd feel when I was finished shoveling them in.

And then Fate intervened. Immediately after cat dinner time, I heard plaintive mewling from the living room. I assumed it was Napoleon (aka Captain Nap) and his sister Squeaky the Cat playing. The mewling grew louder, and then it turned into a repeated "blerph!" Yes, old Capt. Nap regurgitated his half of the duck-flavored canned food he has to eat because of a food allergy. That stuff smells gross from the can; you can imagine how it smells upon being expelled. I cleaned it up and, feeling slightly nauseated, put the Butterfingers away. So, thank you, Napoleon, for vomiting.

Swank Diet Day 1: A Dismal Failure

Last night, at approximately 6:30 pm, my husband and I were looking glumly at the computer, reading about the Swank Diet and what we could/could not eat. One of the things you are not allowed to eat is cheese. Well, you can eat fat-free cheese, but does that really count? I had done well all day: wholesome breakfast, snacks of fruit, super low-fat lunch...and by the time we were perusing the dos/don'ts of Swank, I was mighty hungry.

Cheese. I had become fixated on cheese. We were Googling "what are the tastiest fat-free cheeses" and "will I go insane if I eliminate cheese from my diet" when it hit me: I WANTED PIZZA! (Full disclosure: This is not a new phenomenon; I want pizza every other day.)

"You know," I began, turning away from the depressing Google reviews of fat-free cheese, "we COULD have pizza tonight...kind of a 'last meal'-type deal. Plus, we could get it with light cheese and only vegetables!" I finished in a rush, because I could see I was losing him. After all, this diet was my idea, and he had bravely agreed to go along with it.

"Okay!" he said. Much too quickly. I guess I wasn't losing him.

So my first day on the diet was, er, not entirely successful. It was a step in the right direction, but I need to be totally committed for it to work. Today, I will be. I promise.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Beginning

I guess I should start my story where all good stories start: at the beginning. Huh. Okay, not at the beginning, as in, "I was born in..." because that would be incredibly boring. But the beginning as in: it started with a little numbness and tingling in my fingers.

Now, as a hypochondriac, I'd already have stopped reading my own blog, because the instant I hear about a symptom of any kind, I am convinced I have the hideous accompanying ailment. For those of you brave enough to soldier on, here's what happened next:

I ignored these symptoms for several months, as any scared-of-a-death-sentence-diagnosis hypochondriac worth his or her salt will do. My coworker Charlie helped me adjust the level at which I held my hands when I typed. See, I had decided by then that it was most likely carpal tunnel syndrome. Yep, that can cause numb hands, and my imagination failed in its usual task of conjuring up fatal diseases. When the adjusting trick didn't work, I figured it was time to see a doctor. "What's the worst that can happen?" I thought. Did you ever see a movie when the main character says something ridiculous like, "Well, it can't POSSIBLY get any worse!" or "Phew, glad that's over!" and you shout at the screen, because you know it will get worse and it's most certainly not over. So, yeah, that was me. Had I for a second suspected I had a serious illness, I would not have been so cavalier about making that appointment.

The Appointment

"I think I have carpal tunnel," I announced to my primary care physician. "And I've been under a lot of stress."

The doctor asked me about my symptoms. There had been a new, odd thing I'd noticed: an electric-like jolt down my neck when I bent my head. And there had been an incident at my 35th birthday party.

My niece had given me a pair of earrings. When I went to take the ones out that I was wearing, to swap them for my pretty new ones, I couldn't feel my fingers. I thought I was holding an earring, but in between my thumb and pointer finger was nothing. I laughed it off at the time, and tried to again at the doctor's office, bleating more insistently about the stress and my theory of carpal tunnel. He appeared unconvinced and then did a scary thing. He said I should see a neurologist.

The Second Appointment

The neurologist turned out to be my dream doctor -- kind, patient, warm, and reassuring in the face of my ever-increasing unease. She did an exam, the details of which escape me now, and then ordered some more comprehensive tests. There was bloodwork, an MRI, and, horrifyingly, a spinal tap.

"Do not go home and get on the internet," she cautioned me, saying there was a wealth of misinformation that would only frighten me. (Apparently, my wobbling voice and panicky attempts at being funny clued her in to my state of mind.) There was no chance I was going to do something so foolish. I've looked up the most innocuous medical-related items ("how to remove a splinter?") and found 2,345,987 links to "cancer." I wasn't ABOUT to start Googling my symptoms. Better to bury my head in the sand and pray for the old stress/carpal tunnel diagnosis.

The Followup

Alas, that was not to be how my story went. I was at another family party (we're really not big party animals; not sure why this tale involves so many festivities) when I got a call on my cell phone. It was my neurologist. She wanted to see me in advance of my follow-up appointment, which was scheduled for about a week later.

"Bummer," I thought. Okay, not really. "Sh!t! F*ck!"is probably more likely. I've seen my share of movies and TV shows to know a "We need to see you early to discuss your test results" call is never a good thing.

The next day I was with my husband, drowsing in the waiting room. No, really, I was! But only because my neurologist had prescribed Valium for me to take before my spinal tap, and I decided this appointment merited another dose. When it was our turn, she didn't waste any time.

"It's multiple sclerosis," she said, very gently.

I cried a little bit, and then we talked about my options. She wanted me to begin taking disease-modifying drugs right away and recommended Rebif, a three-times-per-week injection. Overwhelmed, but confident in her advice, I agreed. She said a nurse would come to my house to show me how to give myself the shots.

My Very First Relapse!

Apart from the benefit of being in the care of medical experts, as well as the probable benefit to being on medication, it's a damn good thing I was diagnosed when I was. It couldn't have been more than two weeks after my diagnosis when I had a major relapse. In the MS world, that means something fairly scary happens. In my case, I was at work and began noticing a weird feeling in my right foot. I was supposed to go to a karate lesson with my friend Cleo that night, and I was secretly relieved to have an excuse not to go, mostly because I sucked at karate. The weird feeling got worse, and then it spread to my right hand. In just about an hour I was literally unable to walk or hold anything in my right hand. (Had I not known about the MS, I would have assumed I was having a stroke.)

"This could be it," I thought, sobbing as I tried to make my way down the hall at work. "I'll never walk again."

A kind soul helped me into a chair and my husband came and stuffed me in the car. We went to the ER to be sure I wasn't, in fact, having a stroke. One CT scan and several hours later (by then I was able to shuffle around on my own), I was released with instructions to call my neurologist the next morning. When I did, she prescribed a three-day course of intravenous steroids.

The first day of steroids, I went to a center where a nurse put me in a cushy recliner and monitored me to ensure nothing terrible would happen, like an allergic reaction. Once it was established that I could tolerate the steroids, a nurse came to my house to show me how to administer the following two days' worth. I had a catheter in my arm; she told me about changing the bag with the drugs in it, keeping the spot dry, and how to look pathetic while dragging around one of those stands with the IV attached.

The steroids worked wonders. After the three days were up, I was able to walk again and use my hand. I wasn't walking at what anyone could call a brisk clip, but I was just so damn happy to be WALKING that I didn't complain. (That's probably not true; I'm sure I did complain.)

Fast Forward

Now I'm going to fast forward several years, because (a) I'm getting tired of typing, (b) this entry is really long, and (c) my memory sucks. My Very First Relapse was the worst. I've had two other occasions to be given steroids. In the second instance, I was experiencing the MS Hug, a delightful feeling of intense pressure across your midsection. It's like wearing a very thick belt that's meant for someone four sizes smaller than you. During that episode, I lumbered around the workplace like the Hunchback of Notre Dame; I literally could not stand upright.

My third episode was a little more than a week's worth of shooting pains in my head. I called them "brain zaps," because I am incredibly clever. They were about a second's worth of stabbing pain and were totally random, although I could count on one every morning when I woke up and got out of bed. A pleasant way to start the day, indeed.

Little more fast-forwarding...I am no longer on Rebif, and I no longer see my kind neurologist. I am on Copaxone, which is a daily injection, and I see a doctor at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. After a routine MRI, my neurologist decided that I had too many lesions (and at least one big one, which makes me think my brain looks like Jupiter with its giant red spot) for her to be comfortable handling. She wanted me to see an MS specialist. The doctor I'm seeing now is also very nice and patient and thorough. I have an appointment to see him Jan. 18. At that appointment, I'm going to ask him about the benefits of a dramatic diet that purports to work wonders in MS patients. It's called the Swank Diet. I am in no way affiliated with anyone related to the diet; I'm just hoping to share my experiences here. The diet looks pretty freaking hard, but I am lucky enough to have a husband who's willing to give it a go with me.

Here's a link that explains the basics:


I'll be checking in as I face 2013 with NO CHEESE (pizza is my favorite food). Ideally, in time, I'll have some tasty recipes to share.

Happy new year!

Ms. CrankyPants