Summer’s Lasting Vibrance

Hello, Friend! I hope you are well.

It’s been too hot around here to get out of the house much these last few weeks. However, I did ride my scooter early one morning down to the lake in our neighborhood to enjoy the dragonflies and flowers for a spell.

Crepe Myrtle ablaze in red
A little skipper atop white clover
Blue dasher perfectly aligned on a blade of grass
Tail up!
Halloween pennant – gloriously orange
Amber wing, easily my favorite dragonfly.

I braved the heat for a few minutes one day to get a pic of this lovely female cardinal hanging out in one of the birch trees behind our house.

Since I can’t get outside much I’ve been filling my time sewing. I got a new serger and have been absolutely floored by the steep learning curve. For the first couple of weeks I was convinced that not even NASA’s best could get the crazy thing to work consistently! I have read everything I could get my hands on and watched hours of YouTube vids in a determined effort to conquer and master the beast of a machine. Perseverance, about 15-20 hours of practicing on scraps, rethreading the booger, and adjusting knobs a million times AND…

I FINALLY figured out how to consistently get good seams on my serger! I made a cute nightgown that I love. I ordered this knit jersey on super clearance from Joann’s. The snails are very appropriate 😉.

I had my Ocrevus infusion yesterday so I’m fuzzy-headed with a bit of a headache. Around 4:00 this morning I started flushing from the steroids they served up to go along with it. I should start feeling better by tomorrow. For the first time ever I got to have the drug infused at home – so much easier for me! My newest bestie Bill, the infusion nurse, and I spent five quality hours chatting and sharing the ways God has worked in our lives. God is so good!

Thanks for stopping by. God be with you! ❤️, Amy

The Day After I Toothed My Brush

I was wiped out after 8 1/2 hours at the hospital getting my 4th Ocrevus infusion yesterday. The first three hours were spent waiting for the pharmacy to compound the drug and get it up to the unit for me to take. At a whopping $100,000 a pop they won’t start getting it ready until the nurses call and say they see the whites of my eyes.

Dangling an IV, waiting for the Ocrevus.

My head ached all afternoon and evening and I struggled to make sense. My favorite was when I told hubby I had “toothed my brush”and was ready for bed…at 8:30. I slept pretty good until about 4:40 this morning. – thanks, steroids I laid in bed daydreaming while snuggling Laudy and finally gave up and got out of bed around 5:40. I’d had three cups of coffee, eaten breakfast, read the news, showered, and was dressed all before I normally get up.

It’s been a long, slow day of flushing from the steroids and a still relentless headache as a side effect of the Ocrevus. It usually takes about 3-4 days to feel normal again. In the meantime, my arms are full of cats and there are plenty of birds at the feeders to entertain us.

The steroids are seeping out but the company is good.

I’ve pasted a link to my personal Walk MS page. Please consider making a donation, it would mean so much to me ☺️. I’m already a little more than halfway to meeting my $1000 goal. It’s way past time to find a cure! https://secure.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Walk/KSGWalkEvents?px=18236733&pg=personal&fr_id=31565

Thanks for stopping by. May God be with you! ❤️, Amy

A Hairy Situation

WARNING: The following is an extremely exaggerated, fanciful description of a much less exciting story. No one was injured in the actual exploit. Names are not used to protect the identity of those involved.

She opened the top drawer of her cabinet and paused thoughtfully. She ran her fingers over the neatly aligned collection of scissors of various sizes, thicknesses, brands, and purposes. Nothing there seemed quite right. Suddenly, I saw the flash of inspiration turn her usually dull, milky-garnet eyes into lustrous gems. She quickly closed the drawer, bent down, reached under the cabinet, and pulled out a large plastic case. I heard the release of two clasps as she opened it on the ground directly behind me. Strangely, I noticed a faint whiff of gasoline mix with the scent of hairspray, botanical shampoos, and foamy mousses.

With absolutely no warning and the simultaneous feeling of fight or flight that only true terror can create, the whine of a two-stroke, single engine weed eater filled the retail space. The din reverberated off the mirrors, tiled floor, and rows of adjustable metal chairs. A deafening “thunk-tunk, thunk-tunk, thunk-tunk” whirred into life and ramped up into a high pitched scream just over my right shoulder. It swiftly came closer until I felt the very hair on my neck begin to move. I could tell the length of trimmer string was too long and was flicking past the protective case, like the tongue of a cobra tasting the air. Instinctively, I pulled away from the droning sound and was nearly out of the chair when I heard the stylist’s voice filtering somewhere through the bedlam. “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing. I’ve done this hundreds of times and you’re going to love it!”.

Was she like a chainsaw artist and could sculpt ordinary hair into a beautiful pixie cut with this outrageously deadly tool? After all, I’d shown her a picture of what I wanted. Wasn’t that her license hanging right in front of me on the mirror saying she knew what she was doing?

It’s strange how much faith we put in a little slip of paper with an embossed seal. It gave me the courage to sit back down. As I felt the first chunk of hair whacked off, I squeezed my eyes as tightly as I could and hoped for the best. Thirty minutes passed and I was still alive when she told me she was done.

Because it was a really tired MS day and I didn’t want to be out any longer than absolutely necessary, I got a wet cut without having her blow out my hair and style it. I don’t know if she was trying to cover up the mess, but she showed the back of my hair to me through a small hand mirror. The little bit I saw looked pretty short but okay.

When I was about 10 years old I remember my Mom telling the stylist to cut my uber thick, long, blonde hair into something more manageable. Somehow the lady translated that into a female mullet. I cried uncontrollably until Mom took me back an hour later and had the stylist rid all traces of Liza Minnelli from my head. I haven’t felt like crying about my hair for 40 years. I tell that story because this is what I saw when I got a closer, fuller view in the mirror at home…

Disast-hair!!!

Obviously, I couldn’t leave it like that and I certainly wasn’t going to go back and let her take another whack at it (😜😂). Though I’ve trimmed up my own hair before, this was way beyond my skills. Besides, it’s hard to see what you’re doing through misty eyes. So, I ended up going to my Hubby’s barber. Though I had to wait my turn for two hours, he was able to get me in on the same day as the disast-hair and, well, see for yourself…

Aft-hair Hubby’s barber shaped it up.

Ahh, much better! Hey, local friends, do you have any recommendations for a good stylist who can handle short hair?

Photos from the last few weeks.

Southwest Missouri got a lot of snow last week, about 5-6 inches in our backyard.
All the snow had melted by the middle of this week. These are the last few water droplets draining from our gutters. Isn’t that a pretty piece of bark? It reminds me of a tunnel.

We have had some beautiful birds at the feeders this week. These are a few of my favorites.

White-throated Sparrow
Eastern Bluebird
American Goldfinch and Eastern Bluebird
A study in balance
I read that American Goldfinches weigh about the same as five teaspoons of granulated sugar.
Female Northern Cardinal
Male Northern Cardinal
Early in the week I added this corn holder to give the squirrels their own feeding spot. They still prefer to eat under the bird feeders. 🙄

I had a moderate amount of energy on Monday so I decided to squander it by going to the lake near our house. (And I do mean squander. I’m still recovering 😒.) Though it was still a bit cold, the sun was shining and it felt good to sit in it by the edge of the water. The lake was still frozen over but the ducks and geese didn’t seem to care.

There’s always one who doesn’t like to get in line.
Mallard pair
Just look at that patch of purple 💜!

I’ve been practicing using portrait mode with my camera this week. It’s impossible to take a bad picture of these two beauties 😻!

Laudy
Pip

I get the next dose of Ocrevus for my MS on Monday of this coming week. I have to wait three months after I get the infusion, but then I will FINALLY be able to get a Covid vaccine, Lord willing. I wish you health and happiness! ❤️, Amy

Doctor Day Dread

I don’t like “doctor day”.  I have one with my neurologist every six months, at least.  I had one today.  Although she is the best doctor I have ever had, has seen me through some really rough MS transition periods, and I like her as a person, I dread going to see her.  Though I live with MS and all the limitations it enforces daily, seeing a doctor specifically for the disease always brings the horribleness of it to the fore.

Firstly, I drove myself to the appointment, which required two days of vigilant rest in order to scrape enough energy together to do so safely.  I got home completely drained and, six hours later, I’m still sitting in the recliner exhausted.

My walking is worse so I get to go to physical therapy…again.  I’ve had P.T. several times over the last 30 years – something else to drive to.  It’s worth a shot though if they can help fix the hitch in my “get along”, causing pain in my hips and spasms in my legs.  I know I need to work on my balance and coordination, as well.

We discussed my bladder and the medicine change the urologist suggested – it’s always fun to talk about your bladder.  She said she wished there was something to do for the interminable, insufferable MS fatigue but it’s just part of it.  And, despite my trouble walking and the need for a cane, she said I’m lucky to still be able to walk after 30 years.  She said it’s likely due to the fact that I have dauntlessly exercised in some form or fashion nearly every day for the duration of my diagnosis.  Nearly all her other patients have moved to motorized wheelchairs this late in the game.

I’m going to get my next Ocrevus infusion the first of March, Lord willing.  My doctor told me to continue to stay away from people from now until four weeks after I get the medicine, after which it should be safe to get the Covid vaccine (if I can find one available).  As an aside, there was a lot of initial concern over whether Covid vaccines would be safe for people taking immunosuppressant MS drugs.  Thankfully, it has been deemed safe and, though they may blunt the full effect, they still seem to work their magic.

Seeing my neurologist is a reminder of all the fear and uncertainty that surrounds the future living with multiple sclerosis.  I wake up every day wondering what kind of day it will be.  Will I be able to walk?  Am I going to have enough energy to make lunch and dinner?  I try to take it one day at a time, and I usually succeed.  However, when I see the doctor I have to look back over the last six months or year and compare how I am now to how I was then.  The last several years, as the disease has slowly progressed, I see changes that are not pleasant to look at but over which I have no control. 

No one knows what the future holds, I know that.  It may or may not be as bad as I fear it could be.  I pray for a cure.  Realistically, I think they will have to figure out what causes it in the first place before there’s a cure.  It’s hard to win against an unknown, moving target.  So much more is known now than ever before and there are some solid theories about what triggers the onset and drives the progression of MS.  I hope I live to see the day when no one else dreads “doctor day” because of multiple sclerosis.

August Is About to Adios

August has provided us several opportunities to enjoy time outdoors, as the pictures below document.  We had a few unseasonably cool days for this time of year that allowed me to get out of the house and explore a few outdoor spaces close to our house.  I ramped up my own self-isolation the past couple of weeks in anticipation of my next Ocrevus infusion.  Matter of fact, I am writing this in the hospital while the O-juice goes in.  The drug was supposed to start dripping at 8:00 but it got held up in the pharmacy until a little after 11:00 😖.  It takes about five hours to infuse then I have to wait an hour before I can leave, so it’s going to be a long day.  Even so, I’m thankful to be getting it at all since so many others with MS don’t have any options this late in the game (#30yearsofMS).

Hubby had a couple of weeks off between semesters so he tackled restoring the fence around our backyard.  The days he worked on it were boiling!

In no particular order, Pip and Laudy have become my favorite muses.  I am still enjoying my new hobby.
This bee probably thinks the center of the daisy is as big as the moon.
I think this is a strawberry clearwing.  I found all the following insects around the lake park in our neighborhood.
I can’t believe how good the pictures turn out in sports mode, very clear images in motion.
Buckeye butterflies are plentiful around the water and are a personal favorite.
Swallowtail
I especially loved finding these amberwings ❤️.
Jimmeny Cricket!
Ugh, I stepped off the path to get a good shot of a flower and ended up being covered in these little burrs 😖.  It took 30 minutes to pick them all out of my hair and off my clothes.  How they got in my hair I have no idea!

The road back home from the river. 

I have had a lot of things floating around in my mind to write about, but I haven’t decided if I want to share them or not.  Writing is very pleasurable and cathartic for me and I want to guard it so it remains that way.

May God be with you. ❤️, Amy

Bike 150, Jammies, and OJ #2

Hello Friends!

It’s time for my next heapin’ helpin’ of Ocrevus! I’m writing this at the hospital while the Ocrevus Juice (“OJ”) is going in.

Thursday, August 29, 2019 was the big day for my first infusion. I was excited to get the OJ going…
… and today I keep thinking that I am willing allowing this whole business to happen to me at a cost of $17,000 per infusion.

My life has been a pretty low key affair since I posted last. As far as the OJ is concerned, I felt decent and it seemed I even had a bit more energy than usual for the first couple of days, despite a light, chronic headache. Naturally, the penny eventually dropped and on the third day a monstrously oppressive fatigue settled in. It felt like I was trying to balance a bowling ball on my neck instead of my head. My legs were concrete pillars and my feet were made of iron. This tyranny lasted for five days before finally releasing me to a much kinder, though still pretty strict, general tiredness. I wonder how it will play out this time. I’m hoping it demands rocky road ice cream 😉.

Todd and I did have one HUGE outing this past Saturday.  He rode in the MS Bike 150 in my honor 🥰. I was so proud of him. It was brutally hot that day but he pushed on and completed 102 miles! As I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, I don’t drive much anymore because it makes me tired. So, it was a ginormous effort for me to drive 80 miles to the finish line to pick him up. Both of us gave it all we had in the name of fighting this crazy disease. I ended up paying for the effort for a couple of days. On the upside, I spent two days in my jammies snuggling with our cats whilst alternatively watching TV and reading.

My hero closing in on the finish line.
Sweating it out in order to cheer my Todd the last 100 feet. If you squint you can see the orange finish line behind me.
Time spent with cats is never wasted.
~ Sigmund Freud

I have no idea when I will feel lucid enough to write another post. But I do sincerely thank you for joining me as I meander through the wilderness that is MS.

May God be with you.

First Dose of Ocrevus Is in the Books!

I kept a running log yesterday of how my first experience with Ocrevus went. It was a long day for me, but it went pretty smoothly. Even so, I’m glad it’s over because the anticipation of the unknown was getting pretty heavy to carry. In hind site, I don’t think it was the best decision for me to join a Facebook Ocrevus group. There were some pretty extreme experiences shared and a fair amount of misinformation conveyed about both MS and Ocrevus. Each person’s body reacts differently to the ever growing range of MS Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs), though. This was mine.

7:15 Checked in at Hospital Admissions
7:30 Rode up to the Infusion Center via the scenic route with a blue haired volunteer who got lost in the hospital 😂
7:50 All checked in and IV lead placed then taken to a chair. Waiting for pharmacy to bring my drugs up.
8:33 Drugs arrive. Benadryl, Solu-Medrol, and Saline into the IV first… I’m getting sleepy. Solumedrol is flowing, it feels a little cold as it hits the vein. They gave me a couple of Tylenol, too.
8:40 The nurse starts the Ocrevus Juice (O.J.😉) and says, “You’re off like a herd of turtles, Sister.”
8:51 I have a funky sweet metallic taste in my mouth😝.
9:50 They’ve now bumped up the infusion rate twice and all is well other than a mild headache.
10:15 The rate of infusion was bumped up again and all is well.
10:35 Well, I just had a mild reaction consisting of a worsening headache and dizziness. They are pausing the medicine for 30 minutes and then they are going to slow the rate of infusion down when they resume it. So… it’s going to take a bit more time than the originally planned 4.5 hours.
11:00 I feel better now that they’ve stopped the med and are just running saline.
11:24 Infusion resumed and I’m eating the lunch I packed for myself.
11:55 Bumped up the rate again and I still feel fine.
12:24 Last bump up to the same rate that gave me the headache and dizziness. Fingers crossed it’s okay now. There’s not much left in the bag.
12:40. I have the slightest of headaches but the bag is so close to empty that I’m going to ride it out.
12:52 Ocrevus half dose #1 is in the books! I have to stay for an hour to be monitored but then I’m free🕊️!!
1:50 The last drop of the saline has dripped, IV is out, and I’m heading out for a dear friend from church to drive me home
2:20ish I’m home, ready to shower, and put my jammies on. I have still have a headache so time for some Advil. The icky metallic/sweet taste won’t budge. The metallic part is the very familiar taste of the Solu-Medrol. I guess the sweet part is the Ocrevus because it started within seconds of it beginning.
3:40 I walked around the house for about 25 minutes doing little chores here and there before I felt the usual, sudden onset of fatigue settle in and bind me to the recliner. I’m going to be here a while, but I don’t think it’s related to the Ocrevus, just my typical MS. The headache remains entrenched, though, and it’s definitely from the infusion. I’m not sure which drug has caused it, Solu-Medrol or Ocrevus or even the two together. I do regularly get headaches from Solu-Medrol, but not typically until closer to the 24-hour mark and Advil or Tylenol shuts it down pretty quickly.
6:00 Ate dinner and resting. The headache is still slowly throbbing away. It’s not terrible, just there.
8:15 Added a couple of Tylenol to my handful of night meds and got ready for bed.
8:30 Tucked up in bed, getting ready to pray, and hoping the headache gets tired of hanging around and runs away with the dish and the spoon or hitches a ride with the cow jumping over the moon.

Friday, August 30th
7:20 The headache is gone!! I’m flushing red from the steroids and feeling tired but other than that I’m great😁.

I just have to survive the next couple of days while the steroids ooze out. I go for the second half dose two weeks from yesterday, September 12th. And then…I don’t have to go back for six months in order to get my first full dose!

Thanks for hanging around to read this and for the many who have reached out to me to let me know they’ve been praying for me. I know the prayers have made all the difference!

God be with you,

Amy

Date Set for Ocrevus and I Have Two New Friends

So, last time we met here I told you my Neurologist and I decided it was time to try a new Disease Modifying Therapy (DMT) named Ocrevus. It turned out that making the decision to try the drug was easier than tying to get it going.

Somehow my insurance got my name mixed up with someone else’s. It took about a week to get it all sorted and prove I don’t have Hepatitis B and can walk more than 5 feet. I told my dad about the mix up and he said that the same thing happened to him years ago. He got a letter in the mail saying that his hysterectomy had been approved 😂🤣!

The next step was to schedule with the hospital the first two infusions, given two weeks apart. Over the course of trying to get my insurance information straightened out I had to speak with my neurologist’s medical assistant several times. She had warned me that the Outpatient Infusion Department at the hospital was “understaffed and didn’t have enough chairs” so to expect a bit of a wait. Wow, was she ever right. The nurse I spoke with apologized when she told me the earliest they could get me in was (at that time) a little over a month out, August 29th.

Five days ago I started a regimen to get my current DMT out of my body before beginning Ocrevus. I’m mixing two packets of finely ground prescription death into water and forcing myself to drink it every eight hours. I live in dread of 6:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. for another six days 🤢.

About two weeks ago I was introduced to two new friends. They’ve turned out to be very supportive and affable, as they are willing to go just about anywhere I want. It’s nice to have friends.

Hopefully, I will be able to post something soon after my first dose of Ocrevus.

Thanks for following along!

The Next Step: Ocrevus

The last few years it’s been hard to tell if I’m climbing higher up the rugged mountain of MS or going down deeper into the barren desert of it. Whichever way you look at it, I can’t see the end point.

About three years ago my neurologist and I discussed changing my disease modifying therapy (DMT) drug to one of the new, top-tier, “aggressive”, infusion drugs. These new DMTs carried long-term risks that made both my husband and me very nervous and reticent to hop on the bandwagon. We hoped there might be other options in the pipeline and/or there would be more information about how others managed on them before starting them myself. This decision was not a zero risk scenario, though. By not taking one of these newer DMTs, there was a good chance that my MS would continue to advance and I would accrue more irreversible damage manifesting as additional physical disabilities.

Sure enough, I’ve slowly (thankfully) accumulated more disability while staying the course with one of the medium-tier drugs. I saw my neurologist this past Thursday and she had a very frank conversation with me about rethinking my options. She has earned my trust and loyalty over the years and has gone far above and beyond the call of duty for me on numerous occasions. So, when she told me that I have only continued to worsen, albeit slowly, and it was time to up the game to one of the top-tier drugs, I listened. Within the span of time between our conversation three years ago and last Thursday, over 100,000 people have switched to the newer drugs making the risk to benefit ratio much easier to see. The data looks good that the drugs have helped slow the progression of MS for a majority of people. They are not cures and nothing can repair nerve damage that has already occurred, but these top-tier drugs really do seem to the best thing out there by a pretty big margin.

The next step is to get everything squared away with my insurance–it’s already in process. I will then have to endure an 11 day regime of meds to washout the current drug from my system. That doesn’t sound like much fun!

We settled on a drug called Ocrevus because it seems to have the least scary possible side effects and a tolerable protocol. The first infusion will be half of the regular 600mg dose followed by the other half two weeks later. Thereafter, I’ll get the full dose every six months. To decrease reactions to the medicine, they will infuse steroids and an antihistamine before beginning the chosen drug.

It’s been a lot to wrap my head around. So much has changed within the realm of MS since being diagnosed 29 years ago. But for me personally, one thing has remained the same. I had no idea what the future related to this disease held for me back then, and I have no inkling how far it will go in the future. I suppose that’s fitting in it’s own way because the only thing MS has ever promised to be is unpredictable.

I’ll keep you posted as I go through this next step along the way.