Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MS Leg Pain

Over the last week my wife has had leg pain off and on. The pain is specifically in her quadriceps, the muscle running along the top and side of her thigh. She describes the pain as a cramp that lasts for a few seconds to a few minutes. She also says it can be dull pain to sharp pain between these cramps. She will use pressure to help with the pain and will often use heat to release the pain. I can massage her leg and that seems to help, but rest seems to be the only thing that will completely stop the pain. The pain only happens periodically, but when it does, it can be pretty intense.

I am very curious to why the muscles along the top of her leg are the only ones really affected. She has had cramps and pain in other areas, but it doesn't seem to be MS related. Most of the time the pain only comes after a long time of standing or walking, and it usually starts with her leg(s) feeling heavy and tired. The left side of her body seems to be affected more than her right but it can affect both sides at once. This past week both of her legs were cramping and in pain. Even last night she was having some heaviness and dull pain, then came the spasms. Her muscles will spasm for a few seconds and cause her leg to jerk and kick. I can squeeze the top of her thigh and it seems to help, and it is crazy how the muscle feels as it spasms.

With my wife, it seems like her legs have issues before anything else does. If she is rested she may go weeks or months without many problems, but when she gets tired her legs are usually the first thing to start hurting or having issues. A few things we have used to help with these issues are chiropractic, massage, Stress Aid (a natural vitamin), heat and ice, Aleve or Ibuprofen and mainly rest. For my wife this issue has not become an everyday problem but more of a nuisance every once in a while. I would be curious to know if others experience the same pain in the same way or if there are other similarities.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Depression And Multiple Sclerosis

The last few weeks I have sat through training on depression and had a dear friend lose his wife to depression. I have also sat in the car for hours this week and had time to discuss this topic with my wife. It amazes me how depression can take over and control your life. I know that my wife's MS has led to depressed states and moodiness. Every once in awhile she allows her MS to get to her and I can see her slip into a depressed mood. I can usually catch it and help her to handle the emotions, but there have been times that I am clueless and she is dealing with issues that come out later.

For my wife the depression seems to come from the way MS messes with her life and the unknown of the future. The "what ifs" can grow at times whether it is out of frustration with her body not cooperating, or an attack, or if life is just giving her struggles. She worries about being a great mom, great wife and being able to feel like she has something to offer the family. When you add in the unknown of what her MS will do from day to day and sometimes minute to minute, it can really stress her out. She gets overwhelmed and then begins to sink into a depressed state. I know that there have been times when she feels like she is receiving more than giving, and my daughter and I have to reassure her and love on her for who she is.

Multiple Sclerosis is so inconsistent in the way it affects my wife, and at the same time the inconsistency is always consistent. The inconsistency stresses my wife out when she is wanting to accomplish a goal or is focused on a task or her work. Right now she is nervous about going back to school because she doesn't know how her memory will affect things or if her body will hold up while trying to juggle school, work and our family. I know she can do it and hate to see her stressed when we are all here supporting her. At one point in our marriage she gained 30 lbs in 6 months due to depression from the work environment we were in. Over the years, we have learned to recognize the signs of depression for my wife and then take immediate action.

My wife has commented over the years that we are very fortunate to have a relationship where we can be raw and real with each other. More than anything else, I really think this has helped to release emotions and feelings that my wife carries with her. I know that over the last year my wife and I have grown more aware of her tendencies and as we learn more about how her body is affected by MS, we have been able to take more control over emotional highs and lows. It is hard to work through our junk, but as we work through the mess she is able to find more peace in her life which directly affects her health. Depression is serious and MS adds a whole different element to the struggle, but we will continue to press into each other and God to find peace.

Going Back To School With MS For MS

My wife and I spent 42 hours on the road this week looking at schools for our future. Over the last few years it has become clear to us that we both want to go back to school to help MS patients. Because of the doctors we have encountered and the research we have done, my wife feels like it would be best for her to become more educated on nutrition and the affects it has on the body. We have learned so much from other nutritionists and doctors, but feel like we can do so much more with the right knowledge. So, after years of trying to go back to school part-time, we have both decided to go back full-time.

While my wife is working on her nutrition degree, I am going back to chiropractic school. Chiropractic is the one thing we have found that helps my wife's MS more than anything else. And since I will be going into the doctorate program with previous knowledge of the disease, I am so excited to see how chiropractic works through the lens of MS. The first two years of the doctorate program follows the same track that medical school does, which should really help me understand the body and the affects of MS. Our ultimate goal would be to have a MS clinic where we could treat the whole person with MS. I have looked for a clinic like this, and haven't found anything quite like what we want to do. So, life is going to take a huge shift for us soon and we are excited about the possibilities. How great it will be to work with MS patients directly and be able to use our experiences and knowledge to help others.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tension In Life With MS

A few weeks ago we picked up a massage chair to see if it would help alleviate tension and stress in my wife's body. It has multiple settings and works your legs, feet, back and neck. We have used it often since acquiring it and I have seen a noticeable difference in my wife's tension in her shoulders and back. She carries a lot of her stress in her shoulder area, especially around her shoulder blades. When this tension increases, she usually will have a headache and feel tired.

A few years ago she would see a massage therapist weekly to relieve tension and stress. The massage therapist was phenomenal and helped my wife to feel better, have more energy and be able to live life more fully. We have tried to find another therapist with this skill and have not been able to do it. So we have tried other things and have been really surprised that the massage chair has helped as much as it has. We have wanted to buy one before but have not had the money. I even think that some doctors can give a prescription for the purchase of a chair to help with the costs, but we haven't been in a position to do it. We were fortunate because we didn't have to pay for the chair that we are using now.

Our family has had a very tension filled week, and we have spent a lot of time talking about where that tension is coming from and what we can do about it. Just with things that have happened this week we have been able to see that much of that tension comes from trying to control things we can't control, allowing ourselves to be controlled by outside influences, and generally allowing small things to matter more than they should. When we deal with these issues, we feel peace and feel the tension melt away. It always surprises me when I look back on stressful situations and see how much I have allowed those situations to control me. I have watched this week as my wife has let conversations roll off her back and how she hasn't allowed stress and tension to control her. She has been able to keep that tension and stress from causing her MS to flair.

As a spouse I can play a huge role in helping or hindering my wife's health. The better and stronger our relationship is, the more transparent we are and the less tension my wife feels she has to hold and keep to herself. In our marriage, I want to make sure she can talk to me about anything. For me that means that I need be an endless well of grace and mercy for her. She needs to feel safe, secure and know that I will love her no matter what. I have noticed that when I am not nurturing our relationship it can directly affect her health. We have so much to learn in our marriage and with our health, and this week has been real life experience in that journey.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Much Stress Do We Bring On Ourselves?

This week has been an extremely tough week. We had to deal with co-worker issues, kiddo issues and then our dachshund had puppies but two of them didn't make it. So, we have had highs and lows this week and then my wife became sick from the food we at last night. She was up most of the night vomiting and trying to get some sleep. This week is also our week to have the young children on campus. They woke up this morning to new puppies, but now we have to explain to them about death and how two of the new puppies had to have a funeral today. Life is just full of ups and downs and sometimes a lot of them come at you in a short time frame.

With all the stress this week, my wife has had minimal MS issues. One night her legs ached a little from the emotional stress and physical stress of the young children we are taking care of. She was able to take a bath and with a good nights sleep she didn't have any other leg pain or issues. Through everything this week I have been so proud of my wife. She had very personal attacks on her ability to do the work we do, on her integrity, on her parenting, and on just about every other aspect of her life. All of this came from one co-worker that felt compelled to blame her for their life problems.

Now, we know that stress is a major enemy of good health whether you have MS or not. She has handled it so well this week and not let any of it affect her. Many years ago Dr. Swank told her that she would need to control stress in her life and be able to let things go. This week was a real challenge for this because of the personal nature of all the stress. My wife and I have spent a lot of time this week talking about how our actions today will directly affect the stress of the future. If we choose today to not confront issues with co-workers then we have to deal with the ramifications of that as it can fester and grow in us or them. If we choose today to gossip or talk about someone else then we have to deal with the backlash of things we said.

We made a personal vow to each other when we moved to the children's home to confront issues as they come and to keep things between us instead of gossiping or sharing our frustrations. This has proven to help this week because we have clear consciences about how we handled the situations and confrontations. It is so much easier to control stress when you don't bring that stress on yourself from your own actions. Our bosses know that we will bring any complaints or issues to them which has kept our relationship solid and respect from them. When you are "parenting" kids together with two other sets of house parents, it can be very fulfilling and frustrating. This week we have learned valuable life lessons from the confrontations and from the outcomes. We have made a commitment to learn from our experiences at the home, and this has been a great teaching tool. I know that we definitely bring some stress on ourselves, but we do have a choice whether we make good choices and can feel good about our actions or we make poor choices and create issues.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Is This Job Worth It?

Today is the first time in my life that someone accused my wife of not pulling her load due to her MS. We have never dealt with this before and were very frustrated. It was a very interesting conversation because they couldn't give any specifics or times that it had caused them any extra work or issues, but they asked specifically whether this job was for her or not because of her MS. The ironic part of it all is that the person asking has had physical issues that have been an issue with his ability to work at our job.

Much of this accusation came out of ignorance of the disease. Most people that I have spoken with about the disease only know progressive cases and assume that my wife will be wheelchair bound or have major issues. As a spouse it is hard to watch someone speak out of ignorance when it directly affects your wife and family. My wife and I tried our hardest to control our tongue today and speak only things that would be helpful in the situation to educate, but neither one of us feel like the other couple understood. My wife's MS was an easy target and was used against us even though it hasn't affected her ability to do her job.

Our bosses, other co-workers, kiddos and others involved with our family know that my wife is awesome at her job. She has never had any negative comments from our bosses or anyone involved with our work. She not only pulls her weight, but she goes above and beyond in her actions and activities. It is hard when you have one co-worker that doesn't know you and makes assumptions about your health and abilities. So we now have to deal with something that is a false accusation that has to do with something as complicated as Multiple Sclerosis.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Brown Spots On Skin With MS

Over the past few years my wife has developed more and more brown spots on her skin. A few of them are on her face and cause her a lot of frustration. They don't hurt or itch or cause any discomfort. They are just dark brown spots that have grown and cover small areas of her skin. We have been told they are age spots but we both feel like they are caused by something going on in her body. There are too many concidences that we see day to day from her MS that makes us feel like the spots are being caused by something going on other than age.

My wife also has a few small raised bumps on her skin that have formed over the last few years. These bumps don't itch or hurt, but none of them have gone away. They formed and have stayed for years now. They are raised like a bite or something, and are either skin colored or red. When we used to see Dr. Swank, he recommended lots of fish oils to compensate for the lack of oils in the diet. When she was taking the oils, we did notice improvements in her skin and hair, but are not sure where the spots or bumps have come from.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tripping and Falling With MS

A few nights ago my wife came into the house limping. She had just come back from the grocery store and was bringing some food into the house. On her way up the sidewalk she slipped trying to step up onto the porch. Her foot came out from under her and she hit her elbow, side, leg and foot very hard on the concrete. She limped through the house and showed me the areas that she hurt. The bruises were already starting to show, and her foot began to swell.

My first reaction when something like this happens is to worry that there will be lasting effects. Many times when she falls or hits something very hard it stirs up her MS issues. She may hit her foot and not be able to walk on it for weeks due to other MS problems. This time her foot became swolen and she was having major pain just trying to move her foot up or down. She went to bed early and used heat to help her foot loosen up. The next day she had a bruised side, bruised elbow, bruised leg and bruised foot. All of those areas hurt, but there was no numbness or other issues. It is amazing to me how much better her health has gotten over the years and how she can handle more than when we first met 14 years ago.

My wife has had balance issues since her first MS attacks. She has also lost her eye sight multiple times so her vision is not great in one eye due to the eye being "dark". This causes her to be clumsy at times and it frustrates her horribly. She competed as a gymnast for 12 years of her life so it drives her nuts when she loses her balance. This time she has bruises all over but no lasting effects. She had to deal with pain for a day or two, and the bruises are healing, but I think it hurt her pride more than anything. I think that is one of the things that has been the hardest for my wife, not being able to do what she always has. She is not as balanced, not able to do what she always has, and having to deal with constant limitations. That has to be frustrating!