Sunday, 1 March 2009

Daffodils and life with MS

A strange title, I know. It's just that this is such a lovely time of year and to see the snowdrops flowering at the roadside, and crocuses and daffodils pushing though, is just absolutely wonderful. The feeling that the long dark winter is over and spring is very, very near.
I love it!
I was chatting to Susie about updating my blog, reiterating that I don't want it to be a place where I tell everyone about my aches and pains and simply complain and moan!
She suggested, and I think correctly, that I can make it factual without being negative - because, I don't feel negative. Restricted in some ways, yes, but managing nonetheless. And I think, quite well.
Good things that have happened this week: I met Anna! Anna is the new arrival in the Crighton household. A sister for Matthew and a beautiful daughter for Mum and Dad Rosalind and Andy. She is absolutely gorgeous. She was also blissfully unaware that I was there as she was sound asleep. But, I whispered those endearing words, that much loved lullaby in her ear...."the dentist is your friend, the dentist is your friend..".
I had my annual appraisal at the dental school, which went OK. It seems to be one of those paperwork exercises that we've all got to go through. I've got to update a portfolio showing that in various areas I can provide evidence that I'm up to scratch. The only problem is that the template given to the teaching staff (of which I am part) is the same as the NHS clinical staff. So, a lot of the sections are not applicable. And the areas I would like to elaborate on are absent!
However, I put in some super close up photos of a bur (dental drill) shaping a tooth for a crown. I asked our resident professional photography department to do the pics and they were stunning as you can see.
Also, Matthew called home a couple of times, which was nice, and I managed to get out to Church this morning (Sunday), which was great.
Less than good things, or should I say 'challenges' that happened this week, were:
I got a virus, not the computer type, the microbiological type. It had the best of me for a few days, but then the tables turned and it's well on the run now! That led to me being off work for a couple of days and not achieving all that much when I did actually get there. However, I'll hopefully be back to normal this week.
So, life with MS - what's changed?
I find the effects of MS fall into three categories:
  1. problems walking

  2. fatigue

  3. pain

The problems walking are a real nuisance. Actually, so are the other two, but hey, one thing at a time! I have two problems associated with walking. A balance problem which is there all the time, and a weakness in my legs, which gets worse as the day goes on. If it wasn't for the balance problem, I could walk without a stick probably until late morning when the weakness in my legs passes the point where I can manage without a stick. By teatime, I can have real difficulty walking - it varies. But, the balance problem means that I'm a lot safer using the stick to save me wobbling around too much, even when I don't feel my walking is too bad! It doesn't look good at work if a member of staff is staggering along the corridor! At least using the stick gives the world some sort of explanation and stops them wondering, I think. The nuisance part is simply that I've always loved walking. Just over a year ago I could easily do 5 or 6 miles a day! The dog didn't always appreciate this and I remember her sitting down on the path (after about 5 miles) and looking at me as if to say "You've got to be joking, I can't go any further!" But, she had to! Now, a few hundred yards is a problem, and if I do walk that far, sometimes I wonder how I'm going to get back to the car!

The second is fatigue. It's well recognised in MS that fatigue is a problem. I find that I'm trying to live each day with a lot less energy than before. Imagine driving to London from Glasgow and you use up a whole tank of petrol in your car. Now, you're given a third of a tank of petrol and told to drive back to Glasgow. That's the problem! So now, instead of getting up in the morning and seeing how much I achieve in the day, I now have to think: "What do I need my energy for today?" and plan my day around the important things I've got to do - and also plan rest times to recharge the batteries when I can, like a short nap at lunchtime. Simple things like driving an automatic car instead of a manual have made a difference and using a stool with locking castors rather than having to consciously balance all the time, and unnecessarily uses up precious energy.

Thirdly, pain. When I first became ill, I had a strange numbness in my head. After a few months this turned to pain. Unbelievable pain! Luckily, the specialists were very familiar with this symptom. 'Neuropathic pain', as it is called, is common in MS. It's the result of damaged nerves and can affect any part of the body - in my case the left side of my head. It doesn't really respond to ordinary painkillers (which I was swallowing like smarties!), but responds to drugs originally developed for epilepsy which produce a synthetic analogue of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain and target the pain quite effectively. It's not known exactly how these drugs work on this type of pain, but, I'm glad they do! I'm currently discussing the pain control with the hospital and one or two medical colleagues as there may be an alternative with less side effects. We'll see! Luckily, it doesn't stop me sleeping, which is very refreshing.

So, that's it. It's been a difficult week because on top of everything else, the virus knocked me for six. But, meeting little Anna Crighton eclipsed all these difficulties. And getting to Church was a real bonus.

On a positive note to end this post, I have been making an effort to get back to writing and arranging some music. I've got a few pieces in my head that have never made it beyond a scribble on a piece of manuscript - so, I'm determined to get them written out properly. I've also been reading the modern biography of Gerhardt Tersteegen a 17th century Christian 'mystic' whose writings and poetry are just like a breath of something beautiful.

Enough for now.


  1. Paul, I am so glad our wee girl has been a blessing to you. I pray that she will always be a blessing to others throughout her life.

    Great to see you today :-)

  2. Paul, although I'm living with this on an minute by minute/hour by hour/ day by day basis, it still makes a real good read!! I think you missed out the bit about how much of a blessing your wonderful wife is to you in these hard times......!!!!!

  3. The picture of the drill makes my teeth feel sore, is that normal?

  4. Oh Kristeen, I wondered if that picture would upset someone! I love it! I also like the way the diamond particles sparkle on the drill! If the diamonds were any larger they could be put in a ring! Sorry if this upset you. Anyway, when's your check up due?

  5. Diamonds! I like diamonds :0) Re the check up - pass.