Friday, July 26, 2013

MS - Back to my life? (Part 4)

It was a glorious time! My eye recovered (almost) completely and no more patch was needed. I went back to work at the insurance company. I went back to college (nights and weekends) and graduated with my MBA. I found a part-time position teaching Business Communications as an adjunct college professor. I found the courage to leave the insurance company and obtain a position as a writer for a software firm, and then found enough courage to leave that position to leap into my first role as a writer/manager in a startup software firm. I bought my first Condo (A property owner - yahoo!). I learned to love baseball and the Red Sox. I learned how to ski. I travelled with my friends around the US, and I traveled back-and-forth to England and Germany to see family. After many fits and starts with romance, I finally met a man that was smart, funny, and sent me letters and called me to talk and discuss personal and world issues - we had yet to have a first date.  It was a wonderful life!

It had been 6 years since I lost the vision in my left eye. The likelihood of me developing this MS illness was getting more distant as each day passed...

And then, the rug was pulled out from under me!

I was talking to my new love on the phone in the condo dining area. Suddenly, I noticed that parts of the vision in my right eye were 'milky' - just like what I had experienced 6 years earlier in my left eye. I found this amusing as I described my changing field of vision to my friend. He and I had just set a date for a first 'official' date in one week (he lived at a distance, so arrangements had to be set). I was starting work at the new software start-up in 10 days, and my mortgage payment was due. Why not find humor in the sad position I found myself in with my vision?? The call ended and I called the hospital. An appointment was set for the next day.

I drove to the hospital Neurology center, and was immediately taken to a back room where this long 'coffin-like' machine stood. The doctor informed me that this was an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine. MRI is a technique used in radiology to 'see' detailed internal soft structures (e.g., the brain) of the body than are not possible with x-rays. I didn't realize at that time that my journey with MS would touch upon key historical moments in the scientific discoveries that would come to further MS diagnosis and treatment. 

When I initially came down with Optic Neuritis in 1984, there were no MRIs, only CAT Scans. But I've come to discover that CAT Scan technology was a necessary step in the growth of MRI technology. As presented in the History of MS, by Loren A. Rolak, M.D., Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield WI, "CAT scanning technology was refined to produce the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan, which shows the brain in greater detail. The first MRI scans of people with MS were performed in 1981 by Dr. I R Young, in England. By 1984, it became apparent that MRI could actually see MS attacks within the brain, including many which did not cause any symptoms. By 1988 sequential MRI scans changed the entire concept of MS by showing that it is a constant, ongoing disease even though relapses with symptoms may appear only sporadically.

The 1980s may legitimately be called the “treatment decade” in MS. There was an explosion of new drug trials. Guided by the National MS Society, scientists reached a consensus on the design and conduct of research for new treatments, and dozens of different therapies were tested in attempts to control or cure MS. Major clinical trials conducted during this decade finally found the first drugs in history shown to affect the course of this disease. As the final decade of the 20th century approached, the Congress of the United States made a special effort to accelerate medical research. Recognizing theparamount importance of neurological disease, they designated the 1990s as the “Decade of the Brain” and purposefully funneled funds, time, and talent into the treatment of illnesses that affect the nervous system. Multiple sclerosis benefited enormously from these efforts, and an explosion of drug trials occurred during this period."

So, I was getting my first MRI - knocking sounds, tight quarters and MRI Contrast injections - and I was afraid of what this process would uncover. Of course, no conclusion was presented that day. It required another visit to the Neurologist to find out that it looked like I may have MS, but it would require me to undergo a spinal tap to reach a definitive conclusion. 

No thanks, I'm too busy.

I walked out of the clinic and stepped back into my 'non-MS' life. Funny thing, I was still taking the vitamins that I had been given during my initial run-in with Optic Neuritis. I think part of me knew that my sunny days could get cloudy in the future.