Monday, November 30, 2009

Holidays And Multiple Sclerosis

Thanksgiving is over and we have Christmas done with one side of our family. Every year I am amazed at the stress that the holidays cause for my family, and especially my wife. With the family visits come emotional stress, physical stress and mental stress. Trying to figure out what to buy and how much to spend, and then trying to make sure you don't upset anyone can become overwhelming. On top of that are all the normal family stressors. My wife and I are both people pleasers so this can be a very frustrating time if we aren't aware of our tendencies going into the holidays.

With my wife's MS, we have to be careful we don't overdo and try to "please" everyone for the holidays. We have to have a plan for the visits to our families and make sure she has a place to rest and recoup from all of the activity. We have to think through snacks and food items to take with us and have to choose what we are going to participate in while we are there. We can't be at everything and my wife can't stay up late the whole time there or we will be asking for problems. So, we miss some stuff and that's OK because she can enjoy the time she does spend with the family.

We have found that it is easier for us to set budgets so that we are not stressed about money. The more prepared we are with the gifts, money etc., the less stress we feel and the more we both enjoy our holidays. My wife also watches what she eats during this time because she knows there are some things that she cannot eat without consequences. She is also good about preparing for the stresses that come along with being around family. We have some family members that can stress both us out so we limit time around those family members and are aware when we start to "feel" the stress. It takes some effort to really plan out our holidays, but we have enjoyed them so much more when we take the time and really become proactive about eliminating stress the best we can.

This year we even purchased a smoked turkey and a cooked ham instead of worrying about cooking them. We eliminated as much cooking as possible and tried to prepare easy side dishes so that everyone could enjoy the fellowship instead of being stuck in the kitchen the whole time. We decided to make "movie" kits for our gifts for each family instead of individual gifts for all the kids and adults. This eliminated a lot of shopping and other issues and made the gift purchasing a quick and painless task. They loved the gifts and we loved putting them together. Overall this was an enjoyable Thanksgiving that had limited stress and my wife came through it without any issues.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Headache With MS

This last week my wife had two evenings where she had headaches so extreme that she couldn't eat and began to be physically ill. After a few stressful weeks and some very long days, my wife's body began to fight back last week. We both knew she needed extra rest, and we both know she is eating poorly, but life has just taken over. We didn't force the issue and she paid for it with two evenings of headaches. We can tie some of the issue to blood sugar and missing a meal, but she has struggled with headaches for years.

I think the real issue this last week was the severity of the headaches. They started pretty minor, but built up steam quickly. She even had issues eating those nights, which just made her headache worse. By evening time she was vomiting and trying anything for the pain to subside. She went to bed early those nights and by the morning the headaches were gone. She dealt with that for two evenings and finally resigned to the fact that she needed more rest and better eating. She goes through spells where this happens and she will have severe headaches for sometimes days or even weeks. This time she only dealt with it for a few days, and it just reminded us one more time how important it is to build rest and healthy habits into our schedule.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Work Related Stress Affecting MS

Last night my wife was almost in tears. She had been working on a project for weeks that she just can't seem to find an end to. The project has shifted and changed since she started and every time she thinks she has a handle on it, it seems to fight back and she becomes frustrated. Last night she found herself struggling with emotions from weeks of work. When I went by to get her she was so tense that her stomach hurt, her head was beginning to hurt and her shoulders were so tense she physically hurt. We went out to eat and she wasn't even able to eat because her stomach was so upset from the stress. During these moments we have to really take a deep breath and realize that an MS attack will soon follow if we don't alleviate the stress of it all.

By the time we arrived at our house last night, she knew that it was only a matter of time before an attack. We have been through this sooooo many times in the past 15 years we have known each other. A stressor, which can be physical, mental or emotional, impacts my wife and within a matter of time she begins to have symptoms of MS. The symptoms may be pain, numbness, eyesight issues, sleep issues, fatigue, mood swings and many other issues that can come out within minutes, hours or days of the stressor. Last night we took the time to use heat, massage and rest to relieve the tension and this morning she is feeling pretty good. She took off this morning to try and finish the project, and we will continue to use stress relievers to help with the issue.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Am I Really Losing My Mind?

I read an article recently that really stirred up some concerns about my wife. The article was published in the InforMS magazine written by the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center. In the article, Dr. Tim Vollmer is being interviewed about a new study that shows how inflammation affects MS and how MS patients can lose gray matter in their brain which affects their physical state. He spends time explaining how inflammation can cause damage to the neural component of the body. In turn, this neural damage can lead to disability and many other issues in the body. He states that the brain is capable of re-wiring itself to compensate for the gray matter loss during the inflammation, but over time the brain will run out of ways to compensate, thus leading to disabilities.

This article really got my attention. Over the last 7-8 years we have been on a course of natural health and focusing on overcoming MS with diet, rest and other natural therapies. We learned quite a few years ago that my wife had spirochetes in her blood and when we treated the spirochetes, her MS became better. We weren't able to completely treat the spirochetes to the point we would have liked, but a main issue they cause is inflammation. These same spirochetes were found in my father's blood who has Rheumatoid Arthritis. We know that inflammation is a major issue for arthritis, and I wonder how much of this is tied together. If our bodies are stressed from spirochetes, poor dietary habits, life and any number of other factors, is it any surprise that inflammation is the culprit of many of the issues.

The reason this article bothered me was that Dr. Vollmer states that at some point the brain is not able to compensate for the issues. He says in the article that he feels many times in remission that there is inflammation, issues and damage being done, it just isn't showing itself in the life of the MS sufferer. He ends the article with the thought that we should be trying to limit the amount of damage done by the inflammation and to try to reduce the neural tissue loss, with the later years of the MS patient in mind. I wonder at this point how much gray matter damage has been done to my wife's brain. This week has been an example of her struggling to keep a clear head and to stay on a train of thought. It really concerns me about how the damage done now will affect her in her 50's, 60's and 70's. This article brings a whole new meaning to taking care of yourself now to have a better life later. This just reinforces how important it is to make wise choices now about health and life. So, I guess I have to ask the question, "Is my wife really losing her mind?" According to Dr. Vollmer, she may be literally losing her mind, and the only way to stop the loss is to stop the inflammation.