Wednesday, 11 January 2017

a new one just begun

The image above is from the not-really resolutions that me and the divine Mrs. D made last year. We uncovered them during our New Year's celebrations a couple of weeks ago.

If you can read my serial-killer scrawl, I think that we can agree that the second and third items on the list ("I'm going to be more... positive" and "I'm going to be less... of an arse") were not exactly met.

And on first glance, my initial reaction to the top one ("I'm going to give up... less often") was disappointment at another failed goal. But looking at it again and thinking back, I don't think this was the case.

I stuck it out at work in a demoralising and HORRIBLE situation and kept keeping on submitting the same piece of work for NINE MONTHS - taking the frustrations, knock-backs and feedback on the chin. No, it didn't work out but when the time came I left on my terms.

With support I'm sticking with the OMS lifestyle - which is genuinely not a hardship. I'm currently on a 101-day unbroken streak of meditation - I'm seeing it as my version of Pokemon Go or something; I can't lose my High Score now! And food is more interesting now (although admittedly more expensive) - this quote is something I keep coming back to, from the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis book:
I don't understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.

More than anything, I feel mentally clearer and more with-it generally.

Which is handy, because I received a letter in the post a couple of weeks before Christmas saying that my Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was finishing and that I would have to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - you don't get moved over automatically. So for the last couple of weeks I've been filling out my application.

I don't know if you have filled out one of these forms, but it is single-handedly one of the most depressing things I've ever had to do. Speaking from the viewpoint of something as personal and infinitely variable as MS, you have to put yourself in the position of you on your very worst days - toilet problems, personal care worries, mobility issues, the full nine yards.

To say that it isn't fun in any way would be an understatement.

But at least I had a lot of "issues" over the festive break so a lot of it was fresh in my mind - #feelingblessed #luckyme.

Don't get me wrong, we had a BRILLIANT Christmas - I'd say it was in the Top Three, alongside Christmases where I got this and this.

But there were far too many times when issues to do with my mobility and my bladder just got in the way a little bit too much.

Later this week I'm getting a home visit from the nurse who'll be introducing me to the world of intermittent self-catheterisation (as my brother said, some people pay good money for this sort of thing).

And despite a bit of mild belly-aching last time, I'm genuinely hopeful that this will be a really positive thing - thanks for the supportive comments (and the email, Patrick).

Saturday, 24 December 2016

dignity... always dignity

As I mentioned previously, one of the things we really wanted to talk about at my MS MOT was my ongoing issue with my bladder. Longtime visitors here may remember that I've been taking Solifenacin for a couple of years now (Oxybutynin before that) and have been through a bit of light Bladder retraining - who could forget my self piteous bellyaching about completing a Void chart?

Anyway, I've been feeling even more put upon recently with endlessly numerous trips to the toilet, before taking even the shortest journey. It's been getting harder and harder to leave the house, especially if I (or we) need to be anywhere at a particular time. And I can't remember the last time I was able to sit through an entire film at the cinema without having to nip out. Frustratingly, when I do go, although I do GO, it never feels like I've GONE enough.

As I've had the same issues and have been "dealing with them" for at least three years (if you can call planning all travel by toilets along the route "dealing with things"), the fact that I haven't had a UTI by this point is frankly miraculous.

I've recently been through a period where I've had to get up to use the loo in the night. But I've always been able to put this down to a variety of other things - too much booze, drinking anything too late, work-related stress. Even taking into account the fact that I haven't had any "accidents", it needs sorting out.

So earlier this week I found myself back at the QMC in Nottingham. The MS nurse I saw last week had suggested that I might be able to increase the dosage of Solifenacin which she thought might go some way to solving the issue.

Now bear in mind that before my appointment I had been to the toilet:
  • Twice at home
  • Once at my parents' house on the way
  • Once at the hospital
All things considered, I was fairly confident that my tank was as close to empty as possible.

So I'm sure you'll appreciate how surprising it was to hear the urologist say that my bladder was close to full - holding around 380ml.

The long and the short of it is that there's no benefit from upping the dosage of Solifenacin and no other drug options.

So in January I'll be visited at my home by a nurse who will talk me through intermittent self-catheterisation. Not really what anybody wants to hear.

But the urologist said that these issues won't go away, not the way I've been managing them anyway. And using a catheter once a day should give me a bit more control and maybe get my life back.

(I know that sounds dramatic but even at this stage it really has had a massively limiting effect on my life and the life of my family)

Even so in the walk from the clinic to the front of the hospital I went from frighteningly stoical about it all, to depressed, to full-on enraged, all in the space of 2-3 minutes.

I'm writing this with a couple of days distance. Now? I'm still pissed off about it.

I can talk a good game about certain things being necessary tools to get my life back.
  • Walking sticks? I have used at least one every day for the past 5-10 years. But I still really hate them.
  • Wheelchair? Sometimes necessary and often totally life-enhancing. But I hate it and will do anything I can to avoid using it.
  • Self-catheterisation? I can see that this could really be beneficial - plus I know all too well the affect these issues are having on my day-to-day life. But I can't imagine anyone has ever been overjoyed at the thought of doing it.
Yes, I know there are worse things in the world that people deal with on a daily basis. And whining about this makes me sound like the sort of "poor me", cry-baby Bad News Blogger that I despise

More than anything I feel bad for Little Steve. We've had good times over the years!

I feel like a guy who's looking fondly at the family dog, knowing full well that in a couple of weeks I'll be taking him to the Vets to get his nuts snipped off. Does he even know what's going to happen to him??!

Whatever. Like always I shall prevail!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

a picture from life's other side

The last day at work was every bit as weird as I'd expected it to be. And that's considering that I almost came to blows with a colleague the day before whilst clearing my desk

This actually involved throwing away a lot of documents that I haven't looked at in all the years I've been there. There was a lot of crap there, but some great finds including:
  • A sheet with instructions about Proper Apostrophe Usage (liberated from my first real post-uni job when I left there over ten years ago)
  • Inexplicable examples of work from random print agencies.
I was determined to keep it low-key - the whole situation isn't really something I want to be celebrating. I did get some nice stuff though, not least a bit of Bowie vinyl from my boss. He's a complete Bowie-nut, so we've had many conversations about Zavid's life and work over the years and particularly over the last 12 months, obviously.

So I'm sitting here on my fourth day post-work. The first day doesn't really count as it happened to be the day for my annual MS MOT. Key take-home from this was that when I mentioned I was trying out the OMS lifestyle, the nurse didn't run screaming from the room. In fact, she said that she'd read the book too, and that it contained a lot of good convincing science. Which was good to hear.

Also good was the fact that my white blood cell count had started crawling back up - I've been having monthly blood tests as this is a standard side effect of Tecfidera.

We had a chat about my perennial bladder issues which have been rearing their head recently. There wasn't much else we could do about it though, as the bladder scanner was being fixed (the physio was off too, and the nurse we were talking to was the only MS Specialist nurse in that day).

After a bit of monkeying-about with my walking sticks (they've been giving me a bad back. SPOILER ALERT - they might've been set too low) and (fingers crossed) a final monthly blood test, that was it.

Yesterday and today I've had a crash test in how bloody exhausting it can be trying to stay on top of maintaining a house.

When I picked Ms. D up from school yesterday, a friend asked me how I was getting on (she and her partner know all the details of my recent situation). I said that prior to this, the idea of being a house husband was really attractive. But right now, I'm exhausted and scouring the job pages for anything to fill my days!

Friday, 9 December 2016

the blue bus is calling us

* post title from "The End", obvsly.

Just waking up on this, my last day at work. Mixed emotions, really.

The last year has been dreadful and I'm looking firward to just stopping for a bit - no regrets there.

But it's undeniably a scary biz.

I'm hoping for a low-key exit - but I've been picking up that my "a few drinks in the pub next door" edict has been.... not quite overruled, more expanded like a deluxe-edition CD reissue of an album that you haven't listened to in a while.

I hope there won't be any speeches. I certainly won't be making one, lest it becomes reminiscent of Father Ted's acceptance sppech for the Golden Cleric award.

Let's be honest, this is the leaving speech that everybody wants to make, right? Mixed in with Scarface. Just me?


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

the poor historian

I had a brief conversation with someone on Twitter the night before my interview last week. She'd shared something really interesting which I retweeted. We had a brief conversation the following day and I said that I'd recently read something online which was about the different personality types of people with MS. I planned to dig it out and share it with her as it kind of backed up her point.

It took a couple of days and several hours rooting around in my browser history to discover that the article I wanted to share was the one she'd shared in the first place.

Like I say, the first time I read the article was the night before my interview so my being distracted might be excusable.

But seriously. What a div.

Anyway, the article, "Who Is The Poor Historian?", appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1984. I reproduce it in full below because I think it mirrors a lot of things I've noticed since I was diagnosed, both in myself and others.

Personally I can be all too ready to kick off if a medical professional doesn't appear to be listening. At the same time I've always recognised that I can be like the third patient in the penultimate paragraph who is too eager to minimise or deny symptoms.

Similarly, I've met many people who can go the full on drama route (as an aside, I wince when I think back to the early days of my diagnosis when I went to the Neuro team in Nottingham practically begging them to give me steroids because I had pins and needles in my hands. True story).

Yep it's another example of somebody pointing out a personality trait which I've long recognised in myself. And making it feel like a huge, eye-opening epiphany. Go figure.

Anyway, this also serves as a bit of a kick-up-the-arse as I have my MS MOT next week. Let's get real.

---

In other news, I didn't get the job. I'm waiting for some feedback as I felt like I did a really good interview. I certainly didn't embarrass myself, and I'm still proud to have got an interview with a national, big-deal organisation. Plus I drove 109 miles there and back to attend the interview.

Anyway - heartfelt thanks for all the good vibes and well-wishes that I received here and elsewhere. It - genuinely - meant a lot.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

worlds collide

The other night I was standing outside of work waiting for a lift home when an old work colleague passed by, so we had a brief chat.

Now this job was a crappy part-time retail thing which I fell into after university. But - as is the way - the further I get from it, the more attractive it seems.

For a start, this job happened to be in a record shop (for younger readers, imagine a download store as an actual physical space where you hand over your money for actual physical media, both musical and visual).

In reality the people there were (on the whole) lovely and the discount was more than welcome (25%! It's amazing I came out with any money at all!). Plus I was also given part responsibility for the running of the Jazz department.

This was air-conditioned and separate from the rest of the shop, so it had a distinct and entirely bespoke playlist. The only bummer was that if I ever put on anything really good, some bugger would come in and buy what would invariably be the last copy - in all the time I worked there I don't think I ever got through Giant Steps.

Anyway, Steve (who I saw last week) went from being a shop floor jockey during my first seasonal role to vying for management when I got more regular hours. Despite that (Cuh! What a loser! Trying to have a CAREER!), he was still one of the good guys.

When I saw him last week we had one of those general catch-up conversations and then he said, "oh yeah, I've been reading on your blog about your work situation". Turns out his wife is having non-MS neurological health-issues herself and I guess that's how he found my blog.

It was a reminder that everyone is going through their own stuff. And that if you WILL put your life online, you should be prepared for it being picked up by anybody.

In other news, yesterday was the first time that I met someone IN REAL LIFE who I'd up until that point only 'known' online - one Mr. Swisslet of this (and other) parish(es). It's frankly shocking that it took us so long, especially because we actually live around 13 miles away from each other. And although I had been looking forward to having a good bout of competitive moaning about our health, we managed to natter on for a good amount of time before the subject of MS came up. It was great and I hope we'll do it again soon - although my wife did wonder why on earth we didn't document this historical meeting of minds with a selfie.

Honestly it never occurred but the meeting did happen. And anyway, he's way taller in real life than he is on the internet. Turns out he's the guy who ends up standing in front of me at gigs (and I'm 6' 3").

Anyway, there's a lot of waffling in this post and it's not the middle of the night. So I'm clearly not at home.

That's right, oh most-perceptive-of-all readers. I'm spending the night in a hotel because I've got a JOB INTERVIEW tomorrow morning. Do send all good wishes if you can spare any!

Friday, 18 November 2016

will work for (pesco-vegan) food

So without going into too much detail, in three weeks I will be - how can I say it? - between jobs.

I've not been fired and I haven't resigned. It's not even due to that old chestnut, artistic differences.

Maybe Gwyneth had it right all along - we're consciously uncoupling. It's mutually beneficial.

I can't go into too much detail - confidentiality - but as my issues with work have been such a preoccupation on the blog this year, it seemed daft not to mark it on here in some way.

Earlier this week I was in a position to start telling friends and colleagues at work. I've been getting some lovely messages (and many, many hugs) but the question I keep getting is one I don't have an answer for:
"So where are you going?"
It's only natural when this has - to people outside the process - come out of nowhere.

I suppose on the whole I'm feeling pretty good about it all - mentally lighter certainly. And it's great to know that I'm going out on my own terms. Plus I get a bit of breathing space before Christmas.

But every time someone asks that question I get the fear.

It's all going to be fine, yeah?