Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cooking with Jenny: A Multiple Sclerosis Relapse

My perfect recipe for a MS relapse:
1.  Have a baby.  Childbirth is amazing.  It’s also a fairly traumatic experience for your body.

2.  Put your house on the market.  Watch as the first offer falls through.  Then the second.  Jump up and down when the house sells and the buyer lets you rent while you finish building your new house across town.  Building a house is awesome.  It's also a little stressful with all of the appointments and decisions to be made. 

3.  Approach the holiday season with a large dose of excitement and a pinch of anxiety with all there is to do.  Send 80 Christmas cards.  Bake 10 dozen cookies and 2 trays of fudge.  Decorate the new house one week after moving.  Get a beast of a tree and take the kids on a few memory-making holiday outings.  Watch as your daughter has a panic attack when Santa calls the house.  Promise he’ll never call again.

4.  Get up with your infant son every 3 hours and swear you’ll get him sleeping through the night by 4 months.  OK, maybe 5 or 6.  7 months at the latest.  Continue to wake up with him each night then cake your face in the morning with products designed to help you fake the "awake" look.  Thank God for coffee.

5.  Visit the urologist’s office for your 8th UTI in 5 months.  Suggest a prize for having the most in the shortest amount of time.  Suggest that perhaps prescribing the same antibiotic every time isn't working. Notice for the 8th time in 5 months that you're the only person in the office who doesn't have white hair.  Awesome.

6.  Care for your two lovely children under the age of 4 and marvel at parents who decide to have more than 2… On purpose!  Try to be patient as they struggle with the adjustment of moving to a new house.  Remind yourself that it’s possible to love a child more than anything in the world yet have moments when you just don’t like them very much.   Google “explosive toddler tantrum” to read horror stories and make everything feel more normal.  Google “Bipolar disorder diagnostic criteria” to rule it out… Just in case.

Mix all of this together and see what happens…  MS is unpredictable and affects everyone differently.  For someone else, perhaps nothing would have happened.  In my case, my symptoms became worse.  Then I got some new ones.  I look goofy when I walk and have some trouble with balance these days.  On the upside, I have a handicapped parking permit now.  Finally a perk!

I had a 2.5 hour MRI on Monday.  An hour later, my neurologist called to tell me I have not one new lesion, but three; two in my brain and one in my thoracic spine that is apparently “active.”  In my post-MRI Ativan haze I pretended to understand what that meant and agreed to begin a 5-day course of IV steroid infusions the following day.  I called the next morning to have him explain what exactly I'd signed up for.  Apparently the steroids will reduce the inflammation around the newest lesion and hopefully keep my current symptoms from becoming permanent.  Unfortunately this means I can't breastfeed for an entire week. 

I have an amazing support system.  Friends and family are offering their prayers, dinners, childcare.…  I've told everyone I'm fine and really don't need anything.  My first dose was yesterday.  I stupidly went alone and suddenly felt very overwhelmed.  I can't breastfeed my baby for 7 days?  I've been storing milk, but not for this...  I'm actually very saddened by this.  I've never had an IV infusion and was more than a little scared.  The nurse came to the waiting room looking more like a loving grandmother than a nurse, held my hand and said, “Hello, Dear…  It’s time to come with me.  How are you today?”  I said, "Um...  Actually, not very good" and then I began sobbing!

I get it, of course.  She’s safe.  I can fall apart in front of her and it’s OK.  I just didn’t think it would be so hard to pull myself together again!  I was mortified when she asked what I do for a living…  “I’m a psychologist.  But I promise I’m not usually so mentally unstable!”  Phyllis is great.  I use humor to cope with stress and she kindly laughs when I joke inappropriately about putting someone else's name on the infusion bag (so that maybe someone else can get it today?)  "If you give the drugs away, you’ll also have to give that person the disease, too.”  Fine, Phyllis...  You're obviously a better person than I am.  Give me my drugs.  Today my loving husband came with me.  I confirmed my name and birthdate on the infusion bag again.  Jason noted, “An excellent vintage.”  Indeed.  It was easier today.  By Christmas morning I might even be OK with all of this.  On the 26th I can nurse my baby again. In retrospect, I really did cook the perfect recipe for a MS relapse!  I promise to be more careful in 2012. 

Thank you to my friends and family for all of your support! 


  1. You are so incredibly inspiring! While you may be feeling so very overwhelmed, the underlying tone to your post is nothing but positive and strong! I can't believe that with all of the stresses you're going through that you're still amazingly positive. I wish a million wishes that I could be there to help in some small way ♥

  2. Thank you, Sara. Your comments always make me happy. :)