Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Oh Won't You Stay?

Just a little bit longer. Here goes the rest.

The wonderful thing about having the internet at our fingertips everywhere we go is that we have unlimited resources to learn whatever we want, whenever we want. The terrible thing about having the internet at our fingertips everywhere we go is that we have unlimited resources to learn whatever we want, whenever we want.

With access to sites like WebMD, it's all too easy to get sucked in and fall victim to medical student's disease. Every symptom we read sounds at least vaguely like what's going on, and before we know it, we've got every illness known to man (and possibly some yet to be discovered). I experienced this while studying abnormal psychology, and I experience it when I'm trying to self-diagnose. In most cases, I'm wrong. I've found lumps that I worried endlessly were cancer but turned out to just be fat (ah, lipomas, you sneaky bastards). I've had minor colds that I thought would be the end of me (though, to be fair, who hasn't had that feeling?). It seems like every time I take a stab at it, I've been incorrect.

Until now.

For (potentially) the first time ever, I had correctly self-diagnosed. I had Optic Neuritis (ON). To hear the doctor say it felt simultaneously awful (because of what it could mean) and strangely satisfying. Thankfully, he also said it was a very mild case of ON, and that since I didn't have any other symptoms, he was inclined to believe this was an isolated case. SO. MUCH. RELIEF.

When he brought up ON, and I kind of nodded, he asked if the optometrist had mentioned it as a possibility. "No, but I read about it online." He went on to say that there are steroids available for treatment. IV steroids to start, and then I finished for him, "Followed by oral steroids. Because oral steroids alone show a higher rate of recurrence." Yes, he said that was correct, though they don't have an explanation for it. (In case you're wondering, there was a whole study on ON called the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial, which is where these findings come from.) He also said that for such a mild case, he wouldn't suggest the steroids, as they're both expensive and can have side effects that are less than ideal.

However, he did say he was going to refer me for an MRI, just to make sure nothing else was going on that might be causing the ON. He asked Hubby if he had any questions about any of this. "Is this the one you were worried because it has ties to..." "MS? Yeah. That's why he's been asking about numbness and tingling and stuff." Doctor nodded and wrote up my referral. He told me that he was "cautiously optimistic" about the outcome and told me that I should try not to dwell on things over the weekend. Then he told me it was a pleasure to meet me, and said, "I doubt I told you anything you didn't already know. I don't think I've ever had a patient so well researched about their condition before." I think he was pretty amused. I, on the other hand, was mostly just relieved.

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Anime eyes FTW!
I had the rest of the day off from work, so when I got home I just tried to relax a bit. It was hard because my pupils were still massively dilated. I had to wear sunglasses over my glasses to watch TV, and I tried playing video games, but that just wasn't happening. The MRI clinic called me that afternoon to set up an appointment for early the next week. The earliest appointment that would really work for me was 8 AM the following Wednesday, so I took it. The woman said I'd be there for about 2 hours total, so I braced myself for going it alone. And by "braced myself" I mean that I started a whole new round of freaking out.

Thankfully, Hubby's boss told him just to come to work once my appointment was done. I cannot thank her enough for that, I really can't. He held my hand through the whole scan, which was between 40 minutes and an hour because they had to do both my brain and my orbitals, and they had to do it without and with the dye. He couldn't bring his phone in with him, which I know was hard for him. All he really had was a pillow, his own ear plugs, and a chair. But except for a brief break when they injected the dye, he never let go of my hand. <3

For those of you who have had an MRI, you already know what it's like. For those who haven't, I can explain it in one word: LOUD. Yes, you get ear plugs. Actually, mine were a combination of ear plugs and headphones, and I got to choose which XM station I wanted to listen to (Pop2K), at least between scans. The headphones also served as a communication tool, as the woman running my MRI would pop on to tell me how long each scan would be. "This one is 3 minutes." or "Only 30 seconds this time, stay still."

Trying to stay still is torturous. It's not really a problem at first, but once you've been in there for 20-30 minutes, you kind of start to psych yourself out. Did I move? I can't move. Gotta stay still. Crap, I'm totally moving! I just kept trying harder and harder to keep my head still, which really just meant I was straining my neck muscles like crazy. At one point, she had to come in and put extra sponges around my head because I'd moved too much (she thinks I might've dozed off). Another time she came out because I had squeezed the emergency ball (which I had totally done by accident). She said she had to re-do a couple of scans, but overall I did pretty well.

When I left, they gave me a CD of the scan images and told me they'd get the results to my doctor later that day. I didn't hear from him until Friday, so there are 2 things that happened. First, I poured over those scans looking for... well, I didn't really know. I had seen images online of brain scans with lesions and plaques, but I wasn't sure what on my scan was supposed to be there and what (if anything) wasn't. The other thing that happened was that I had another 2 days to freak out.

Braaaaains... BRAAAAAINS!!
I finally got the call on Friday afternoon. "Everything looks completely normal." I have never in my life been so happy to be called normal. EVER. The amount of relief I felt was tantamount to nothing I'd ever experienced. And as wonderful as it felt, I so badly hope I'm never again in a situation where that amount of relief is necessary. I don't even think I knew how stressed I'd become until that point.

So the ON is still happening. I have to call up my doctor in about 6 weeks to let him know how things are going (since ON can take weeks to start clearing up and months to actually resolve). There's a small chance that I won't completely recover the sight I've lost. And there's also a small chance that I will still develop MS. But instead of dwelling on what might be, I'm trying to concentrate on what is.

I am healthy. I am happy. I have a husband who loves me. I have friends and family who will support me through whatever comes my way. I have two adorable pups that lift my spirits just by being here. I am fed, sheltered, and clothed.

Oh, and I'm headed to Disney World. :)

Life. Is. Good.

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