Vibrating Back

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Multiple Sclerosis.  Part of the reason is things have been going ok.  I’ve been doing the Copaxone injections since early May.  Since I started the injections, I haven’t really had any symptoms/issues.  This changed in late September.

I ended up having some tingly/numbness sensations on the right side of my torso.  I noticed it a few times when I would scratch an itch or something along my rib cage, or just below.  I didn’t think anything off it.  On 10/5 is when this feeling was persistent for the entire day.  Before that, it was on and off and honestly I didn’t really notice it.  The following day, 10/6, that feeling had moved down into my right leg.  Most noticeable in my right foot and lower leg (half way up calf).  I had sent a note to my doctor as it was lasting over 24 hours.  They had prescribed some Steroid pills to try and get the symptoms to subside.  I picked them up, but couldn’t start them until Tuesday morning as it said to take them in the morning and at lunch.  I read the side effects and it mentioned to take them with antacid and could cause heart burn.  On Tuesday when I was taking them though, there was no heart burn.  I didn’t have any side effects.  The issue wasn’t going away though.  The next day, Wednesday (10/8), the symptoms actually got worse.  the feeling had moved into both legs and had general weakness.  I could lift my legs, but they felt like they had a bunch of weight on them.  Also, heart burn had kicked in, and it was probably the worse I had ever felt. 

The symptoms I was having were pretty much gone by late Thursday, and this was the last day on the meds.  The heart burn was unbearable.  I started taking the antacids, but they weren’t really helping.  The following Tuesday, 10/14 was really the first day that I had felt normal again.  The side effects of the meds made that a very miserable time.  Was hard to eat, sleep and really do anything. 

My Back

So, the main symptoms of the September/October episode were gone.  Then I started noticing something very odd.  When I would tilt my head down, with my chin getting closer to my chest, I would notice this vibration down my back.  Pretty much every time I would lower my head.  I thought it may just go away, and showed up after the episode had subsided.  Looking back, it’s possible it was happening during the episode, but with everything else, I just hadn’t noticed it.

Over time, the vibration/sensation has strengthened a bit, but it is more of an annoyance.  There is no pain associated with what I’m feeling.  There have been a few times where I’ve felt it go down into my upper legs in addition to my back.  Out of curiosity, I did a search on Bing to see if I could find information if this was related to MS at all.  I was guessing it was and that it was something neurological.

I found some references to  Lhermitte’s sign.  Reading the description, this is exactly what I was experiencing except for the pain part.

is an electrical sensation that runs down the back and into the limbs. In many patients, it is elicited by bending the head forward. It can also be evoked when a practitioner pounds on the posterior cervical spine while the neck is flexed; this is caused by involvement of the posterior columns.

The sign suggests a lesion of the dorsal columns of the cervical cord or of the caudal medulla. Although often considered a classic finding in multiple sclerosis, it can be caused by a number of conditions, including transverse myelitis, Behçet’s disease, trauma, radiation myelopathy, vitamin B12 deficiency (subacute combined degeneration), and compression of the spinal cord in the neck from any cause such as cervical spondylosis, disc herniation, tumor, and Arnold-Chiari malformation

Needless to say, it is an odd feeling.  Most times I’ll know it is coming.  But occasionally, I will jerk a certain way and it will catch me off guard, or be overly strong. 

I have a checkup with the doctor on November 17th, so I will bring it up then. 

Getting out of debt!

Crystal and I have decided to get out of debt and to change things up in our life.  Between the credit cards, car, Disney Vacation Club, House and other minor things, we are just fed up with our money just disappearing.

A little over a week ago, we started in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  We actually signed up about 3-4 weeks ago and are not ones to wait. 

The biggest thing we have done is the budget.  We had a budget before, but it was very loose, and upside down.  It only really listed the major things such as the house payment and car payment, along with the bills. 

What we have now is the Monthly Cash Flow plan that Dave Ramsey talks about doing.  Also called the Gazelle Budget.

Free Download: Monthly Cash Flow Plan
http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/free-download-budget-form

When we went through this, we found a lot of areas where our money was going that we could re-adjust to pay down debt.  As a result of that, we are going to be able to make over 3x the amount on the Car payment that is due to really start cutting it down.  This is after we paid off a few other items and snowballed them into the car, along with adding extra to it that we found from doing the zero based budget.

Currently we are on Baby Step 2 (Debt Snowball) of the Total Money Makeover plan, but up to be on Baby Step 3 (Emergency Fund) soon.

Some other things we’ve done to try and cut some debt down. For both our house and our car, we are paying twice a month to help shave down on interest.  We also listed stuff out that we know will be coming up between now and Christmas and have some sinking funds to set money aside for when we need it.  We also talked to a Tax Accountant and are going to be readjusting our withholdings as we think we are over paying.  It looks like we won’t need to pay any more federal tax this year which will help.

Our goal is to be completely debt free, with no credit card accounts and no mortgage.  As Dave puts it, we are going to live like no one else, so later we can live and give like no one else!

What I Wish I Knew Sooner

Mike Walsh started a blog titled 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA.  This was followed by other folks tacking on with their thoughts.  I had commented on Mike’s blog with some of my thoughts, but figured I should just post it directly and link off to the thoughts of others as well.  While some of the titles may suggest a technical slant, most of these apply to just life in general and any walk of life.  These are soft skills and not anything particular to technology or any one career path.

Relationship Building

Relationship building is a big soft skill. It helps in numerous ways. You could be the smartest person in the world, but without building relationships, it will be challenging to get places. I see that all the time. It’s not just what you know, but in reality it is also who you know. Personally or professionally.  That may sound unfair, or biased, but it is true.  My kids are in elementary school, and there was an example my younger daughter shared with me about her day yesterday that echoed that – even at 6 years old. 

For some this comes naturally.  For others, this is very difficult.  For me, I think I’ve naturally done this my whole life looking back.  I didn’t realize until more recently that this was what I was doing and how important it was.  But this has helped me throughout life in everything I’ve done.  If you find yourself struggling with this, there are lots of material out there on the webs to help you.  Also, if you feel you are too late to start doing this, you aren’t.  Get to it!  You never know what is around the corner.

Be Consistent

Don’t just show up to some triage, or group meeting once every 6 months (if it is a regular meeting) and expect to be known as the go to person. You need to establish yourself, and to do that, you need to be consistent.  Doing things regularly shows that you can be relied on.  People will recognize you and will start to utilize you more as they get to know you.  This isn’t the one thing that will make everything work for you, but it is really important to get you there.  You may be doing everything else right, but if you aren’t doing this, it will be more challenging that it maybe needs to be.

I still struggle with this one in a lot of areas, but I do recognize this is important.  I really need to do this more in my home life.

Participate

I see a number of people that keep their heads down and do their day to day job/activity. Then they wonder why they aren’t moving ahead, or being asked to do the fun projects, or be that trusted advisor. You need to step out and show what you can do, or are willing to do.  Some people may have a fear of this for risk of failing.  Failure is a way to learn and you should work on getting past that fear to move forward. 

We continue to teach our children this at home.  We encourage them to do this at school.  Even if you are wrong, you took a chance.  Ask questions!  Provide your thoughts!  Help out with a project!  Be a part of the team!

Be a part of the Team

Trying to do things on your own can be challenging.  One thing I’ve loved about the team I work with at Microsoft is the ability to Rally when we need to.  I’ve been a part of some challenging cases that required the work of a bunch of people to get things done, across many days/weeks around the clock.  There have been an upwards of 10-20 of us all working together to get it done and releave others.  Even when that isn’t your area of strength, you can help.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the leader of a team.  It just mean helping others around you to work towards a common goal.  I’m as much of a follower as I am a leader in things.  Even as a leader, I want to listen and, in some cases, follow others as it may be a better path then what I had first thought.  We can draw on each other to get a better outcome than what would have been done otherwise by one person.

Depending on your situation, this may be difficult.  The culture where you work, or participate in, my encourage an individual mindset instead of a team mindset.  Even in an individual mindset, you may still be able to find way to show that you can help others without sacrificing where you are, or putting yourself in jeopardy.

 

Links to others thoughts:

Mike Walsh – 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA

Tim Mitchell – Four things I wish I’d known back then

Erin Stellato – What I Wish I Had Known Sooner…as a DBA

Brent Ozar – What I Wish I Knew Sooner as a DBA

Tim Costello – 4 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner as a BI Consultant

Chris Yates – What I Wish I Had Known Sooner…as a DBA

Kathi Kallengerger – What I Wish I Knew Sooner

 

– Adam

Injection Time

I finally got the syringes for my treatment.  We also got this worked out with Shared Solutions.  That is who Copaxone goes through.

I’m on the 40mg/ml three times a week treatment plan.  We were expecting this to be about $2,000-2,500 for a 30 day supply.  Shared Solutions has a Co-Pay Assist program though that we said we were interested in.  It turns out that that covers the payment of the drug, so we actually didn’t pay anything.  Woot!  That really is awesome!

It comes in a box, and has four stacks of three glass syringes each.  So, four weeks worth.  It has to stay chilled.

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I’m taking it Monday/Wednesday/Friday and last week was my first week.  I didn’t have really any side effects.  Actually I had worse side effects when I was doing my allergy shots.  It was warm for a little bit and then was itchy for a few hours, but then was fine.  With my allergy shots, I had a big bump, was really warm, and itched for a few days. 

I did my left hip last Friday and for that, I think I went too deep.  I went with 6 and for today, I’m going to go with a setting of 4 for my hip.  I think I got into some muscle and I could feel it for about 24 hours.  Wasn’t horrible, but wasn’t comfortable.

On the Copaxone site, they also have a WebTracker.  So I’ve been filling that out as well.

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This is helpful because of the rotation. Not only are there 7 different areas to rotate through (Left & Right arm, Left & Right Hip, Left and Right Thigh and Stomach), but within each area you have to rotate.  For example, today I’m doing my right hip, and there are 6 spots I have to rotate through.

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That’s where tracking becomes helpful.  So, today, I’ll do the upper left spot.  Next time I come around to the right hip, I’ll do the upper left, and then work through the rest over several weeks.  This is to minimize skin damage and potential necrosis. 

The next fun thing will be having to take this with me when I travel.  That will be Disney World in mid-May.  I’m getting a travel kit and already have a letter from the doctor for the syringes.  I’ll blog about that when we get back.

Official Diagnosis

This posting is a little late from when it happened.  I went to UT Southwestern’s MS Clinic on March 26.  This was a much better experience than my other Neurologist.  The doctor I met with talked with me for almost 3 hours. 

We went through the 21 page questionnaire that I filled out, and just talked about things in my past for her to gauge what may or may not be relevant. She then did a physical work up to test strength, nerve reaction using the tuning fork and looked at my eyes.  At the end of it, she looked at the MRI info that I had from when I went to the Hospital last December.  She indicated that the MRI didn’t look really bad, but there was some indication of lesions and items that were a classic sign of Multiple Sclerosis.

Based on our discussion, my description of what has been happening, some items from my past and the MRI, she said she was comfortable giving me an official diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and she agreed that based on everything it seemed like the best fit.

We then talked about a treatment plan, and also about general diet and health. I will be starting on Copaxone which will be a self injection 3 times a week.  It used to be daily, but they just recently came out with the dosage to do it less frequently, which I’m in favor of. I already got the Autoject for it.  And I talked to Shared Solutions to give insurance information for the medication itself.  I will hopefully have it within a week or two and get started on that.  Shared Solutions also indicated that they have a program where I may not need to pay for the drug at all, or they will assist, as it is on the costly side.  So, that’s pretty awesome.

I need to do two more MRI’s with contrast.  I need to get those scheduled.  I’ve also been starting to take some Vitamin D supplements along with some other stuff to get more vitamins in me.  The doc indicated that most doctors like the Vitamin D number to come back 40/100.  She said she likes it to be 60/100 for people with MS.  Mine came back at like 26-27.  Also my ANA came back as negative so that’s good.  She indicated she was checking that to see if it may be lupas, although she didn’t think it would be.

All in all, my new Neurologist was way more thorough, and I felt a lot more comfortable.

We will see how the treatment goes and take things a day at a time.

On COSMOS and my beliefs

I love science!  I love technology!  I love space!  Can I love Jesus also?  Most definitely yes! 

I just got done watching the premier of COSMOS on FOX.  Leading up to the premier, I read a lot of comments from folks bringing up God and science.  Some of the folks I know are not believers.  And even listening to comments from Niel deGrasse Tyson, outside of COSMOS, you get a certain impression. 

I didn’t know what to expect going into the show.  Although I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I thought they presented it in a very tasteful way that didn’t seek to bash ones own views.  They did a great job of presenting facts of early astronomers and the persecution they went through from the Church.  I don’t doubt those facts.  They did happen.  There was a lot of ignorance in those time.  There is also a lot of ignorance in our time.  I’ve listened to folks on the Church side of the equation, and I cringe when I listen to them. 

While I do believe in Jesus, I still am on a journey of understanding God’s picture.  I’ve learned a lot in the last two-three years.  I try to square things between science and faith, and have come to the understanding that they don’t have oppose one another. 

A lot of people will argue that God can’t be real because we know that, ignoring the universe as it is, earth took more than 7 days to form.  I think the trap is when people try to read the bible as a literal work.  The Bible is filled with parables and illustrations to help paint God’s portrait.  We have the Book of God as well as the Book of Nature.  When I look at science and the discoveries we find, I don’t sit there and think that these disprove my faith.  Rather I look at them and see how they enhance my faith.  I also respect those that feel differently.  And I appreciate when they respect my personal view, which for the most part they have.  Usually it ends up being a great discussion, and we end on that we agree to disagree.  At the end of it, I will believe what I believe.  I can’t un-see the things that I’ve seen and experienced.  Or that I can see God’s fingerprints on my life in many ways.  It is personal for me.  But, that also doesn’t mean that I close my mind.  Although, sadly, there are those that do. 

One of the things I took away from watching COSMOS was that, while we have facts about a great many things, there are still items out there that are more theory than fact.  I thought Neil did a good job of pointing those out.  And I have to think about that. The really big items are theories.  I count Evolution as one of those.  I’m not a believer in evolution.  I think there are too many unanswered questions from the science side of the house.  And, I know a lot of people I know will roll their eyes and probably even scoff me on this point, I have to point back to the Cambrian Explosion. Even Charles Darwin pointed it out as one of the main objections that could be made against his theory. And, Darwin said the following:  “The distinctiveness of specific forms, and their not being blended together by innumerable transitional links—is a very obvious difficulty.”

The biggest thing I struggle with is how something comes from nothing.  The Big Bang theory is predicated on that.  If there is nothing, then how can something come of that without help?  I have yet to see science answer that one.  Again folks have theories about the Big Bang and the origins, but they can’t answer how something came from nothing. I don’t necessarily disagree that the Big Bang may have happened and allowed for the expansion of the universe, but again, how did it begin?  Maybe someday we will know even more than we do today, but for now it is theory.  Mind you, theory based in some pretty substantial fact, except for the something from nothing part. 

When I look at science, I see it as a way for me to get closer to God.  To learn more about his awesome ability to create complex things that blow our minds.

I love science!  I love technology!  I love space!  And, I love Jesus!

Eye Update and what’s next…

I went to see an Ophthalmologist last week. He had indicated that he did see some items relating to the nerve in the left eye.  Some irritation.  He didn’t get very specific.  He was also hesitant to call it optic neuritis due to the fact that I didn’t have other symptoms that typically go along with it.  Ultimately he wanted to wait to see what happens.  He also recommended that I see a Retina specialist as they have some laser tools that can do more specific imaging that he couldn’t do.  Although he said to do that in 6 weeks or so. 

The pain I was feeling appears to have subsided.  Last Saturday was the last day I recall feeling it.  So, that is good at least.  Still leaves a ? though. 

I also got a call from the MS Clinic at UT Southwestern this morning.  They are going to get me an appointment!  That was pretty quick also.  Only about 2 weeks or so.  It is scheduled for March 26th.  I’m really looking forward to that.  While I’m guessing I’ll still have unanswered questions, I have a more confidence in that center than my current doctors.  From what I’m told I’ll be in better hands regardless.

So, it looks like I have a month before any more real news…