Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not So Fine Motor Skills

I purchased a new cordless phone for the house last week. Once I brought it home, I had to have someone charge the phone and set the system up. Then, I had to actually read the manual and program the phone with my frequently called numbers. This would probably be a fairly simple task for most people, but it just wasn't that easy for me. I read through the manual and needed to keep going back to it when I started using the phone. To make matters worse, my fingers had difficulty pressing the right buttons. I had created a list of the numbers and names for the phone's directory, but I had to input them slowly to avoid making mistakes. I have a bad tendency to invert numbers, so the whole phone number thing is a constant challenge to me. I often copy down phone numbers only to find that the number I wrote down is the wrong one. My adaption to this problem is to always repeat the number back to the person with whom I am speaking.

Cognitive difficulties combined with hands and fingers that no longer work very well is a bad combination. At least on the cordless phone, the buttons are fairly big. With many technologies becoming smaller and smaller, I feel left out. I have difficulty using many cell phones and my MP 3 player has a scroll function that I can barely feel with the decreased sensation in my fingertips. I even am finding it harder these days to enjoy my PlayStation because of the little buttons. I do own a Nintendo DS that uses a touch screen instead of buttons and I have even tried a Wii, only to find that my hand-eye coordination is worse than ever too. I guess that I shouldn't be surprised.

The thing is that I am a technology junkie. I love my toys and I am frustrated by my diminishing dexterity. I have a digital camera that would be considered ancient by most, but I am still using it because it is big and so are its control buttons. I have looked at some of the new, fancier cameras out there and they are far too tiny for me to use. I may need to buy a Fisher Price model when mine breaks down or becomes obsolete. I hope that when inventors are trying to make something smaller and better, they stop and consider people like me who want to keep "in touch" with technology.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Going Green

I am reading "Living Well with Montel" by talk-show host, Montel Williams. Most people know that he was diagnosed with MS in 1999, but his disease and mine are very different. His symptoms are invisible ones such as pain and numbness and mine are very visible, i.e. I can't walk. Anyway, I wanted to see what he had to say about healthy living and its affect on chronic diseases. I find myself in this mode fairly often where I decide that the conventional medical treatment isn't doing enough for me and I need to explore complementary medicine.

Montel holds a mirror up to me and my fellow Americans and says that we have two major problems, poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Unfortunately, he's right. I know that for me personally, I don't eat well and never have. I'm not a big fan of vegetables, especially anything orange. As for the sedentary lifestyle, of course I'm not walking 5 miles a day, but some days I'm pretty lazy about exercising my upper body. The good thing about the program in the book is that it's all about taking baby steps, changing bad habits slowly.

I decided to try a recipe for a smoothie in the book designed to get more fruits and vegetables into my diet. A smarter person would have started off halving the recipe, but not me. If Montel could do it, so could Lydia. I would be drinking myself to better health. My aide wrote down the ingredients we would need and off we went to the grocery store. We needed two bananas, three oranges (and this is the best part), one head of romaine lettuce. You're probably already salivating. We brought home these precious, life-changing ingredients, cut them up, shoved them in the blender, added water and let the machine rip. Needless to say, the end result did not look very appetizing. It was algae green and smelled odd, but that was not going to stop me. We poured a small glass of the elixir, I took a deep breath and then a big gulp. I instantly made a face before I could say, "it's not that bad."

Now, Montel says that this is a great way to get veggies into your children and they will love it. I think a parent might be charged with child abuse. The only reason that I didn't spitting the goop out was the cost of the ingredients. Also, I'm an adult technically and we don't behave that way. I understand that my perception of what tastes good is biased by my love of fat, sugar and salt. After I tried the drink, I was really craving a double cheeseburger, French fries and a tall chocolate shake to get the nasty taste out of my mouth. I don't think that it could've been much worse if I had used Brussels sprouts instead of the lettuce.

If you are to go into my refrigerator right now, you will find a big jug full of a dense green liquid. I have drunk several tall glasses of it, but I think it's multiplying in the container. It hasn't given me more energy or greater sense of well being, only gas. My body must not be only programmed for things that are good for it. Oddly enough, I haven't been able to convince anyone else to try it and I'm a bit worried that it will clog the sink. Maybe it will make good fertilizer?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Am NOT One of Jerry’s Kids

I guess it's what I get for trying to be good. The other day, a woman asked me why I was in a wheelchair and I told her I had MS. Then she said to me, "Oh, you're one of Jerry's kids. I watched that telethon every year." I just smiled weakly and said nothing. It makes me tired having to explain myself and my condition all the time. Sometimes, I can understand why people with disabilities would rather just stay home and out of sight. At least at home, people I interact with know me and my situation. We take for granted things that might seem strange to an outsider.

I can vaguely remember a time when I was fairly unfamiliar with the medical acronyms myself. In fact when I was told I had MS, I thought about the kids and the telethon briefly, but decided that wasn't the right disease. I remembered that MD stood for muscular dystrophy. For a while, I told people that I had multiple sclerosis so they wouldn't confuse it with the telethon disease. However, when I had to fill out what I had on a form I would put MS because I wasn't sure how to spell "sclerosis." It's really not a good idea to give difficult names like Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis to diseases that include cognitive dysfunction. We're confused enough already without having to be in a medical spelling bee. Fortunately, there's spell check because there are some days when I spell a word and can't decide if it's correct or not. It makes you appreciate the complexities of the simple task like writing down a word.

Well, my train of thought has totally derailed but that's the way it goes for me in the late afternoon. Blame it on my disease, my age, the alignment of the planets, whatever, but remember you won't be seeing me with Jerry Lewis anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Routine Maintenance

Yesterday, I did something the rest of the world has to do. I went to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning. Just because I have MS doesn't mean that I'm exempt from routine maintenance. If anything, because of my condition it is very important for me to stay on top of the few things that are in my control medically. I have always been fastidious about my oral hygiene. My father is a dentist, I worked in his office and I've seen firsthand how gross teeth and gums can get when a patient avoids having them cleaned regularly.

There are some very specific reasons that I visit the dentist's office every six months. Since MS is an autoimmune disease, I need to have my mouth and gums checked regularly for signs of infection and periodontal disease. To complicate matters, many of the medications I take dry my mouth out so plaque is more likely to build up on my teeth and harden. This can irritate the gums and lead to tooth decay. As a matter of fact, I did have a small cavity at my last visit. Because it was caught early, the filling was small and done quickly. There was a fee involved, but it was much less for this small restoration than it would've been if it hadn't been taken care of right away.

Beyond the practical side of regular dental checkups, there's the aesthetic part. Everyone looks better with clean teeth and a healthy mouth. You're not afraid to smile when your teeth aren't rotting and your gums aren't puffy and bleeding. My teeth may have yellowed some with age, but I take good care of them. After all, I will always be a dentist's daughter and a girl never wants to disappoint her father.