Got 5 minutes? And a clean carpeted floor?

Good! That’s all you need for this! If you have MS… or if you have a busy life… (I see you out there, sheepishly raising your hand) there’s a tendency for hunched posture. (Those of us with MS, moreso, as we lose strength in the stabilizing spinal muscles that hold us up.)

Here’s a quick 5 minute yoga sequence from one of the handful of quality channels I subscribe to. It’s labeled as a full body stretch, but it does focus on the chest. Open chest = less hunching! And… you’ll feel better if you stop to do this during your day. Good stuff all around!

Sarah Beth Yoga’s Quick 5 Minute Full Body Stretch

Here’s my challenge: find 5 minutes to do it today. Then, post in the comments about how good you felt afterward!

(And, while I’m not a doctor, I’m a rehab Pilates instructor, so I do have to advise you against the prone twist if you have osteoporosis or any spinal fragility… disclaimer, disclaimer!)

Enjoy this yummy stretch! :)

mri and ms


Marching forward into a new month! Spring is almost here–hooray!

Continuing with my series on education about MS: part of our diagnosis (and continued monitoring) is through magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. Why, and how?

Well, those of us with MS have damage to the myelin sheath–the protective layer around our nerves. This is composed primarily of fatty tissue. MRI scans can detect the difference between fat (myelin) and water (everything else)–so, at a glance, a trained technician is able to see where someone might have damage to myelin, since fat and… “non-fat” show up differently.

I have four different scans done routinely, to monitor my disease progress (and, so far, my only disease activity has been with my first big noticeable flareup!): two scans on my brain, and two on my cervical spine (neck region). One is done with a contrast dye, and one without. The contrast dye (gadolinium) is injected into the bloodstream. Normally, it stays in the bloodstream. But someone with currently active MS (rather than in remission, like mine) will have “holes” in their blood-brain barrier, which allows the gadolinium to leak through. In this case, the areas of disease activity in the brain (and any other scanned areas, such as spinal cord) will light up. Good news for me is that I’ve only had that happen on my first MRI series that diagnosed me! (All the rest have shown old lesions that don’t “light up”. Yeah, it would be even better to not have them in the first place, but you do the best you can with what you have, right?)

For our MRI scans, we also can’t use just any old MRI. I’d had several MRIs in the past for knee injuries, hip injuries… and have just gone to clinics to have those done. But the magnet in the scanner is not strong enough. There are a few hospitals around here that have a stronger MRI, which provide the necessary resolution. (And, I know which one is the cheapest–it’s still a sizeable copay! I’ll go 10 extra miles to save a few $100.)

So, that’s some of the basics about how MRI is used in monitoring MS (and a little in diagnosis, though it’s not necessarily the ultimate diagnostic tool). One final note, though:



(taking a break from your previously-scheduled MS content to be teachery for a moment.)

I teach at a downtown community college. We get quite the range of students: returning to school, a large international population, students just coming back from drug addiction and/or homelessness, high school students earning college credit… and often in the same classroom.

The past few quarters, in my non-majors classes, I’ve seen an upswing of students with autism spectrum disorder. Unbeknownst to me prior to this, Washington state has a program which allows autistic students (and students who need help with basic life skills) to work toward a degree. As someone who is a scientist and not a social worker, it’s challenging to integrate these students, especially if they’re farther from “normal” on the autism spectrum.

Last fall quarter, I had an especially challenging situation, which was short-lived. (And I wonder about the consequences…) First week of the quarter, in one of my classes that was especially discussion-based, I had a student who made some frightening comments. (I guessed he was autistic, and later found out he was.) His comments were regarding violence to himself and to others, multiple times, in group discussion. Some of my students looked nervous. I was petrified, as well… but kept my cool. (The guy was small and didn’t appear capable of gun violence… but you never know, right?)

I reported the situation to our counseling department. To make a long story short, they didn’t handle it well–just tried talking it out with him, which made him more mad, especially at me, for having reported him. (Which made me more nervous. But no violence occurred. Despite his tweeting about school shootings. Yes. Oy.)

So, I had to have Security come and remove him from my classroom…

I felt a lot safer, though he was still on campus taking other classes. Which made me wonder: is there a point when he’s going to improve? He was in my colleagues’ classes, but with less group discussion, it all worked out for all involved parties.

But shortly after that, I also wondered: is he representative of the ultra-creative types? The Charlie Parkers, the Kurt Cobains–the ones that just never got understood, and were just a little “out there”, personality-wise? I hoped that my actions–removing this kid from my class–didn’t quench any of his creative juices… assuming any were there.

After that situation, I looked at all of the students in my class in a new light. Yes, this one who acted out was extreme. But there were (and are!) the others who are sullen and difficult to draw out. Are they just a milder version of this same guy?

Are we all a little bit autistic, in our own way? Food for thought. Understanding, rather than labeling and fingerpointing…

But coming up with a better solution than mainstreaming the extremes.

For the first time in my life… I’m having issues with consistent high blood pressure. I’m usually just within normal range… normal is 120/80, and I’m typically just below, roundabouts 115/70 or so. Just fine–not too low.

Then, I started taking this new (to me) MS drug, for which one of the side effects is elevated blood pressure. Immediately after taking it in the clinic, I noticed this effect. The entire day, while being observed, I was around 130-140/90. Whoa.

But I thought… just for a day or two, right? And it’ll drop back down, right? This is what all of the literature says…

But when I went to another medical appointment about 3 days later, it was the same. Sigh.

Now, I’m almost 3 weeks out from the initial dose, and I haven’t been checked, but I’m curious. I’ll have to wait for my recheck in a little bit.

But not only does this put the obvious strain on my body, but I take supplements to help with my MS (and migraines, and digestive issues…) and some of them say not to take with high blood pressure. (Specifically licorice root, which aids with stress, digestion, etc… I don’t know if my blood pressure is high enough to cause a problem, but it makes me wonder.)

Anyway–another issue of the treatment possibly being worse than the disease itself? We’ll have to see where my blood pressure stands…

A few years ago, I taught at a Pilates studio that had a rehab-oriented clientele. (Geek-out work for me! I love this type of problem-solving.) One of my clients had chronic lower back problems–both pain as well as a structural issue. (I won’t bore you with the biomechanics.) When I chose exercises that might challenge her condition, I always asked how they felt, and her response was always a single word: “fine.” Monotone, expressionless. I often tried drawing her out to no avail. (In the end, while I got on “fine” with this client, this was a point of frustration for all of the instructors who worked with her.)

Just a few weeks ago, now, when I had my Gilenya first dose, I was observed every hour for 6 hours. Each observation, the assistant asked me how I felt. Since nothing changed for the first 4 hours, I always said, “fine”. Looking back, I should have elaborated that nothing had changed… but I had to laugh, since I was immediately taken back to my former Pilates client. I guess she wasn’t the only one who was “fine”!

Next time, hopefully I’ll remember to be a better communicator! :)

I’m finally linking this up with social media…

In Search Of My New Normal on Facebook

Like my page! Tell your friends! :) I do let readers know of select posts, but I also share photos and random anecdotes.

It took a while to do this, because I’ve been fearful about “coming out”, as I’ve mentioned before. But as my husband said, it’s not like HIV was in the ’80’s… so while I’m not alerting the local papers about my condition, it’s time to take it a step farther.

Why? I keep on hearing so many fears, misunderstandings, and misconceptions about MS. Since I know a thing or two about health… I almost feel duty-bound to help. It’s certainly my calling. :)

Check it out! Thanks.

Happy Valentine’s Day! How appropriate that I write something dealing with both my husband and me… :)

A little bit ago, I wrote about how the anti-vax trend has led to the spread of measles, and how that could have bigger consequences for those of us with autoimmune disease and screwy immune systems.

Well, my husband recently reminded me of something…

Growing up, we all get measles/mumps/rubella vaccines, right? Apparently, he is part of a very small percentage of people who do not produce antibodies to the measles vaccine. What does that mean? Does it mean that he’d get measles if exposed? We don’t know. He’d certainly have natural immunity in that case, but it would suck in the process.

But as I mentioned, to complicate things, I take a medication that slightly suppresses my immune system. If he brought measles home, I would most likely get it… and I work at a medium-sized public college… I can see this snowballing from there.

Anyway, ’nuff said. Vaccinate against measles, please!


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