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Quick update

  • MSconceptions article will be posted ASAP. Things have gotten a bit crazy lately so I haven’t really had the opportunity to throw as much work at that particular piece as I’ve wanted to. 
  • EMG went well and had for the most part normal results (there was 1 thing that was unusual, but not overly concerning). The test ruled out some diseases my neurologist was concerned about. The neuromuscular specialist and neurology resident raised a few possibilities, so I’ll be talking to the neurologist about a few things next time I see her. The test was not painful at all and was really, really interesting. Never thought I’d say this about a medical test but it was actually a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
  • My cold has gone away for the most part (still a little bit of sinus congestion but nothing major, at least I can breathe through my nose now). Unfortunately the day of my EMG I noticed some symptoms of a possible UTI despite taking cranberry pills as a preventative measure every day (oddly enough it didn’t become extremely apparent until I was at the hospital leaving from the test). 
  • I had also noticed that I started grinding my teeth in my sleep again, so I felt like I had some pressure under a tooth for about 2 days. I figured it was related to a wisdom tooth that needs to come out, but can’t because of insurance problems. Things took a really bad turn, and I ended up waking up in agony after cracking a molar from grinding my teeth so heavily in my sleep, which quickly lead to an infection. 
  • Since there are major problems with my insurance (technically I have some dental coverage, but for silly reasons have to leave town to see a dentist), I ended up going to the ER this morning because I was in so much pain and needed antibiotics. So now I’m on a strong antibiotic (which will deal with both the UTI and the tooth) and a narcotic pain killer for just under 2 weeks. 
  • School is at red alert stage. Getting close to the end of the semester, so for every day this week there is either something due or a test. Will be extremely busy getting everything finished and in on time, trying to make enough time to both rest and study. 
So, I won’t be posting much (if at all) this week. Once things quiet down I’ll get that article finished and posted as well as a thorough entry about what the EMG was like (since there are so many horror stories online about that test, I think it needs to be balanced out because the stories I’ve seen about it were just….I don’t know, either I have incredible luck or a lot of those stories are highly exaggerated). 

Awesome possum

Feelin pretty damn good right now. On my week long break now, took the first two days to just relax, sleep, and do absolutely nothing productive, felt wonderful. I must’ve needed that more than I realized because my energy has improved greatly (haven’t had any bouts of random, crushing fatigue or intense vertigo that past few days). Right now all I’m really feeling is a buzzing sensation in my hands, so that’s pretty awesome.

Starting to do a little shopping today to start amassing a little stockpile of things for next school year because I’ve officially landed myself a single dorm room. So happy about that. A bit concerned about cost still, but there’s no stress about where I’m going to live anymore. I’m still not overjoyed at the thought of the mealplan and not having a stove, but I’ll manage. It will be so nice to have less space to take care of because taking care of the place I’m in now is just overwhelming at times, it’s just too big for one person (I’m also kinda excited to be moving from an old, energy wasting home to a place that runs on solar and wind power. I’m a bit nutty about things that waste energy). Really saddened by the thought of not being able to bring my cat with me, but my parents will be taking her in so at least I know she’ll be going to a good home. I’m working out a little plan for making dorm living as easy and cost effective as possible, so if you have any tips or know of any good articles send em my way. I bought a bunch of space bags today to help save room with clothes (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re those bags that you can stuff like, 12 sweaters into and it ends up being super small because you vacuum all the air out of the bag). I’m working out my wardrobe so I only have to do laundry every 2 weeks (saves money and energy). I would attempt the whole hanging bed thing, but that requires a lot of physical work that I just can’t competently do and I don’t want to end up damaging something and having a big bill at the end of the year. I have no idea how big the bathroom in my room will be (expecting it to be super tiny) but I’m hoping it’ll be big enough to put a laundry rack in so I can hang some clothes to dry instead of using the dryer.

The mealplan really is my biggest concern about moving though. I don’t count calories or even weigh myself regularly, but I’ve tweaked my diet so I’m eating healthier and it has paid off. After my stint in the wheelchair, I noticed I was getting really well, jiggly, and I didn’t like it. I felt like garbage because I had gone from doing a military style exercise routine with lots of jogging, chin ups, push ups, weight lifting ,etc to being a bowl of jello, it drove me nuts. I know I can’t get right back into my old routine quite yet, but the change in my diet and the exercises I’ve been doing have helped enough to get me from size 7 jeans back down to a size 3 (man that feels GOOD!). I want to maintain that, and I’m not sure how I’m going to do that with eating cafeteria food most of the time. I’m starting to feel healthy again, and I don’t want to lose that (at least the school has a gym, so I won’t have to travel to work out, just walk to a different building). One big bonus of the dorm room is that smoking indoors or within….either 9 or 12 meters of an entrance (can’t remember, I think 9 for most places and 12 for hospitals) is banned here (as it should be). I’ve tried quitting numerous times and have always fallen back into the habit. So, having to go outside and walk through the snow to a designated smoking area any time I want to light up is definitely going to help deter that (if I’m still smoking by the time I move). I bought an electronic cigarette today to help me cut down, so we’ll see how that goes. I know a lot of people don’t like them, but it’s a pretty neat little tool. There’s no nicotine or harmful smoke, but it really helps with the habit, which is what I need. I tend to light up when I’m working on the computer or playing video games without even thinking about it, so having that thing next to me instead of a pack will help with that habit. Less money wasted on garbage, and less garbage entering my lungs. Win win. Plus the vapor from the e-cig tastes good (mmm, cherry).

The entry on MSconceptions is coming along well and will be up in a few days (have to get some reports and such done for school first). Had an incredible amount of input from so many people, so thankful for those that took the time to share their thoughts with me.

Not so hot

Haven’t been feeling 100% the past few days. Not quite sure why though. For a while I was spiking fevers here and there and feeling like I had a flu coming on, but it never seemed to set in completely. My allergies have been a bit crazy lately, but that’s to be expecting being indoors most of the time without fresh air circulating and a dust allergy (mmmm, snot. bleck).

On the weekend I ended up so tired I felt drunk and ended up falling asleep for a few hours, just from vacuuming my living room. Random bouts of fatigue like this have been hitting me out of nowhere every now and then, but more commonly it’s dizziness and vertigo. I noticed tonight that it seems to come along with reading, so I recorded my eye movements and they are oddly jerky, but it doesn’t quite look like nystagmus. I’ve been getting so dizzy that I have to lay down and try to sleep through it because it makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. I’m also have periods where it feels like everything is slanted upwards, like I’m walking uphill constantly, trying to limp my way out of a hole.  Also, bouts of intense numbness in my hands and feet. Last night I had the bright idea *sarcasm* of trying to take a hot bath by taking breaks out of the hot water into cold air. My back has been a bit sore from carrying books and well, I just miss being able to take a hot bath. This ended up being disastrous. I quickly developed a migraine, extreme weakness, dizziness, numbness in part of my face, my entire left foot, and parts of my hands went completely numb. Today at school, I had to use my cane off an on because my legs were getting very weak very quickly (to the point where they were shaking when I stood) and my balance was very off. I looked like a drunk person. Those that know me were concerned and quick to offer help, but there was a lot of gawking and snickering from the newer students. Honestly, I had kind of forgotten how horrible that feels. It can be incredibly difficult to not get bitter and angry when you see a stranger mocking you for something that is out of your control. I’ve been having a bit of difficulty managing my TN today as well. I haven’t had a full on attack, but I’ve been able to feel dulled jolts of pain throughout the day that lead me to taking my medication early (which helped).

At the moment, I have some dull aching in my legs and back, my legs are shaking, and I’m dizzy to the point of nausea. My legs feel extremely weak, and my back is very, very tense. It feels like….it’s like when you’re shivering really badly, and you tense your muscles to stop the shivering, which makes your back ache. That’s what it feels like in my back right now. I’ve had a mild tremor in my left hand all day that is quieting down a bit at the moment. I have a paper due tomorrow that is not finished yet, so I’m going to have to move everything into the bedroom soon so I can finish the paper laying down using my dictation program. The migraine I had from last night quieted down in the afternoon with the help of a hefty dose of OTC pain relievers, but the base of my skull is aching and feels like there is pressure building inside the back of my head (this morning it was mainly the front of my head that felt like it was going to explode).

I really don’t get what is going on with me right now. I’ll have a day feeling completely fine, then things start hitting me all of a sudden and I really can’t figure out why. I’m not going to bother going to the GP about this as I have my appointment for the EMG and consultation with Dr. Kickass’ colleague coming up fairly soon. Whatever it is, it sucks but I’ve had worse and it will pass.

On a non-symptom related note, I’m compiling a list of misconceptions about MS to try to break down some of the BS there is floating a round out there and would love to get as much input from MSers as I possibly can, so if you have any particular in mind, please feel free to reply or send me a tweet about it. I will be posting the list of fact vs fiction sometime next week when I start my holiday.

Moving stress

The move at the end of the summer has been on my mind a lot lately so I might as well just get it out of my head and write it down. I’m starting to stress out a little bit about it, so I’m hoping writing down all the pros and cons of possible options will tame that a bit.

I’ve been looking around at various possible living spaces. I’ve been looking at apartments just for me, apartments with the possibility of roommates, and at a dorm room. All of them have their plus, and all of them definitely have some downsides. I’m leaning heavily towards a dorm room right now (though admittedly it’s going to take a lot of warming up to the idea before I’m happy about it). I applied for a single room, but may get put in a double room if I get accepted into residence. So this entry is really just me trying to convince myself that a dorm is a good idea. If you have any input, please share.

Plus sides of the dorm: all amenities included, which can be hard to find in an apartment. I won’t have to worry about paying a high heating bill all winter on my own, and I won’t have to worry about roommates not paying their share of the bills. If I end up in a double room, at least my roommate will have somewhat similar interests thanks to the questionnaires that they make you fill out for matching roommates (definitely not the case with an apartment). I won’t have to worry about travel at all, since I’ll be living on campus. Distance from a grocery store, pharmacy, entertainment, and doctors won’t really matter since residence includes a mandatory meal plan, and the bus route going straight to the school. There’s also the campus health center and visiting nurse practitioners until I can find a doctor that is accepting new patients.

A dorm would also be much more safe than an apartment, what with the security cameras, guards, and all that jazz (especially the guards). There would be much less space to take care of since it’s just a room, which is a big up side. I haven’t seen the rooms yet in person, but the pictures look better than I thought they would and a sibling confirmed the size and quality of the rooms so that’s got me feeling a bit better about it.

Residence fees only over a school year, not the summer, but if I choose to stay in the dorm over the summer the per-month cost is cut in half, making it cheaper to stay in the dorm over the summer instead of finding an apartment for the summer months. They also have new AC units in each room, so that would be a major plus side for me since heat turns me into a spasming, thoughtless slug.

Down sides of the dorm: obviously, I will have to condense my life down to one room. It’s not as big of a problem as it seems at first, except when it comes to books. I have a LOT of books and am not ok with getting rid of them. I could leave some of them with my sister and just take them back when I’m done school, but I’d have to be awfully careful about which ones I take with me since I use a lot of them for reference on research papers and whatnot. Clothes would also be a bit of a problem, but I could just get some of those vacuum sealed bag things to store things I don’t wear too often. I would still have to get rid of a lot of clothes first though. There are some ways to maximize the room in a dorm, but if it ended up looking cluttered it would drive me insane. The size of the room also means I would have to leave my instruments behind. The noise from them wouldn’t be an issue since I use headphones when I play, but they would just take up too much valuable room.

One of the biggest downsides of the dorm is the price. It’s a bit more expensive for a single dorm room than it is for an apartment with a roommate, and double room is about the same price as a room in a large house with several roommates. It’s not the per-month cost that is the problem though, it’s the fact that it is not paid per month, it’s paid in 2 chunks (fees are paid once per semester). Second semester would be fine since they defer fees until you get your student loan, but that is not an option for the first semester so I would have to pay a few thousand in one chunk during the summer, which may not be possible without working myself to death considering my current living expenses. I have enough in the bank right now to pay both the deposit and first semester fees, but that money is put aside for my current rent for the rest of my current semester. The deposit isn’t a problem, since I can earn that money back fairly quickly from my tutoring work. I may be able to work out a deal with my parents to borrow part of the 1st semester fee until I get my student loan, we’ll see, though I hate borrowing money from them.

Another downside is the roommate. Yes, with the dorm you’re more likely to get a roommate with similar interests and whatnot, but you are also guaranteed a roommate of the same gender. I don’t usually get along with women very well, so this could be a problem. At least with an apartment, I could get a male roommate, but that presents a whole other set of potential problems (particularly safety and whatnot). That is assuming I end up accepted into residence in a double room instead of a single room like I applied for. I have applied fairly early though, so I have better chances of getting a single room.

Tied with the price for the biggest problem with a dorm is accessibility. There are wheelchair accessible rooms, and I’m doing fairly fine now, but that may not stay that way. If I end up relapsing while in a dorm, I’m kinda screwed unless I get a diagnosis before I start school and can fill out paper work. Since I’m still in limbo at the moment though, I could not check off the “accessible room required” option on my application. I’m not quite sure what to do about this situation. Finding an apartment that is accessible has proven to be damn near impossible (I have not found a single apartment or room that is accessible yet).

The meal plan also presents some problems. While the variety is much better when it comes to food than my current campus, it’s still pretty limiting. There are healthy options, but eat the same thing every day and you get sick of it really fast. The meal plan is a bit pricey as well, and there’s no guarantee that I would use it all (and if you don’t use it all, too bad, that’s just money down the toilet). There are some options for cooking in your room, but without use of a stove, they aren’t very good options. There is no opt out of the meal plan, it is mandatory. At least there is a small fridge in each room.

 

Well, this has been…..not all that helpful really. I think I’m going to e-mail the residence manager and ask a few questions about room size, what food things are allowed in the room, etc. *sigh*

Student stuff

I’ve become a bit of an app addict lately and have been trying out anything and everything I can get my hands on to make things easier when it comes to school, so I thought I’d do an entry to review the top 6 things I can’t live without (note: I mentioned a pain management app a few posts ago that I said I would review….it was horrible, and since it didn’t have a reminder function, I quickly forgot about the app completely and stopped using it so I can’t write a fair review for it).

1. Publication Manual of the American Psychology Association – Sixth Edition (anything BUT the 1st printing**)

If you have to write papers using APA format, buy this book. Having the current publication manual at your disposal is so much more useful and efficient than having to search around the web for information. It’s surprisingly easy to use, well organized, and has examples. Stick a few post-its in the sections covering things you use frequently and you’re golden. It’s also extremely helpful if you find your references and such being marked wrong incorrectly. It’s always easier to just show your professor the publication manual than to try and find the site you got your formatting information from and convince them that the website is up to date and correct (not that I would do such a thing…*cough*). I bought my copy online from Chapters, and with express shipping it was under $40.

** Take note, the 1st printing contains errors so make sure you do not buy the first printing. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re buying it new, but if you’re buying a used copy, double check.

2. Anki

I. Love. Anki.

This is the coolest little flashcard program. It allows you to make multiple decks and set schedules for studying them. You can rank the cards as you go through them based on how easily you answered the questions on the cards, and the lower a card ranks, the more often it will come up. You can share decks and sync them with other computers and mobile devices. If you have a Blackberry like I do, you’ll have to use the web-based version on your phone instead of an actual app or bring your laptop with you. This isn’t really a problem though since my school has great wifi coverage, so I can review my cards between classes without eating into my data plan even if I don’t have my laptop with me. The program and web-based version are both free, but of course donations are appreciated.

3. BarCharts

I use so many BarCharts products, the campus bookstore staff just assume that I’ve come in to  buy more of them anytime I go in there. I’m especially fond of the laminated reference guides (the only class I don’t use them for is sociology), but I do have some flashcards as well (bought before I found Anki, but still worth the money). Their wee little books are nice too, particularly if you’re looking for something that will show you a different way of remembering certain pieces of material.

4. SpaceChem

Yes, a videogame, but hear me out on this one. Ever get stuck trying to remember something? Ever get stuck while writing an essay, just not sure how to word something or where to go next? Do you study the smart way and take breaks? That’s what I use this game for. I find I always end up over-thinking when trying to solve the puzzles in this game. So, I start my study break, maybe after getting stuck on a particular piece of content, then start playing this game for a bit. Listening to the music (which can be quite soothing) and watching the molecules float around the screen gives me time to think about the content I was studying without staring at a page trying to hammer the information into my head when it just doesn’t want to go in. Then I get stuck on the puzzle, so I go back to studying, ready to go with a new way of thinking about the content. This goes back and forth until I’m finished studying for the night. And of course, it’s always nice to reward yourself after a long study session. You won’t actually learn anything about chemistry from this game aside from maybe the names of a few elements, but it can help keep those neurons firing and open up new pathways if you’re stuck. You can download it straight to your computer or play through Steam, the demo will keep you busy for quite some time, and if you choose to buy the full game, it’s only $10 (and yes, the take paypal). The only danger is getting hooked on a puzzle and refusing to give up on it once you get stuck, eating up all your study time. That’s why you should use #5 on the list as well.

5. A timer

Do yourself a favour: the next time you study, write down the time you start to study. Once you start to get sluggish and feel like the information just isn’t getting in anymore, stop and check the time. Figure out how long you were studying for, then take a break. Get up, get away from your study area, stretch, have a snack, play a game for a few minutes, or just sit and relax. Then once you go back to study, set a timer for the same amount of time you were studying for before. Once the timer goes off, take a break again. The length of the study period and the length of the break will vary from person to person, but 20 minutes of study to a 5 minute break is a good ratio to start with if you don’t want to time yourself to figure out how long to go for. Try to keep the timer out of the room as well so you don’t end up sitting there staring at the clock waiting for your break (I use one with a magnetic so I can stick it to my fridge since I can’t see my fridge from my dining table where I study).

6. Toodledo

Toodledo.com is an extremely easy to use site for making very nicely organized to-do lists. You can have separate lists and view them all at once, or view one list at a time. You can set dates and times for each event, or have no date and time for it. You can also rank events by priority, and once you’ve finished the task you just click a little checkbox and it will remove the task for you when you refresh the list (or you can go through a list, checking things off without refreshing so you can see how much you’ve gotten done). I love that you can add notes to each task as well, extremely helpful I find when it comes to listing homework and such. You can access it from a mobile web browser, but it doesn’t seem to have a mobile version of the site so the only downside is you’ll have to scroll side to side to view your full list and all your options. But, with everything on one screen, multiple ways of organizing lists, no cost, the ability to share your list with others and add collaborators (great for organizing group projects or just sharing with your significant other), and just how unbelievably easy and user friendly Toodledo is, I highly recommend it not only for students, but for anyone that is very busy or has a tricky time remembering things.

Cheers!

Aaaand breathe

No more worrying about my GPA. No more freaking out thinking I won’t get into the courses I want for next school year because the grade for one glass from my current program. Stress from my current studies significantly reduced to being almost nonexistent.

I just confirmed an offer I received a little while ago. I will be moving at the end of the summer to start an advanced diploma in biotechnology (with internship). I will be able to get some good, solid lab work experience in my field under my belt before going after a degree in a few years if I choose to do so. A wee bit nervous about moving since it can be hard to find a place to live, but I was pleasantly surprised by the average rental costs in the new city (living costs will be lower than what I’m paying now). I’m really excited to start, the list of classes I’ll be taking makes me want to squeal out of joy and do a happy dance (OMG genetic engineering). I’ve yet to see all the places that offer internships for this program, but I’m impressed with the ones I have seen so far. That part will likely mean moving again once internship time comes, but I’m fine with that.

On top of that, I’m officially caught up and starting to get ahead in my current school workload. Feeling really good despite feeling kinda shitty physically (coming down with a flu). Was starting to feel like I was just treading water, so all this is a wonderful change. My current course doesn’t feel like a hurdle anymore, it’s a challenge (and I love a good challenge). Plus, I may be able to exempt out of some of my 1st semester classes next school year because of some of the credits I’m earning now. Everything is falling into place.

Back to Dr. Kickass today. The gabapentin trial run is officially over, and it’s going to be sticking around. It’s working beautifully for me. One of the few things I’m not looking forward to about moving is finding a new GP. Maybe I’ll be able to stay with Dr. Kickass and just have an annual checkup, that’d be nice. I’ll have to ask her about that today.

Either way, now I can breathe and really enjoy my current classes for their content instead of panicking over which things I’ll be tested on.

 

**I just noticed that I’ll have to change the little description blurb in the header of the blog. I can’t seem to remember how to get to that particular section on my wordpress dashboard, but I’ll figure it out eventually.

I’m not dead yet

School has kept me very, VERY busy so I haven’t had much time to write anything that isn’t an essay or lab report. Despite being so busy though and the amount of tests I have coming up, things are going really smoothly. I’m managing stress much better than last semester, eating healthier, and getting more exercise. Despite the amount of work, I’ve been good about having me-time regularly. I’m a bit shocked at how much better I’m doing this semester in terms of grades (OMG I UNDERSTAND PHYSICS! I’m probably going to jinx myself, but I never thought I’d be an A student in physics). This can definitely be attributed to the increased energy level, significant reduction in pain, new study methods, and clearing cog fog.

I’m taking 400 mg of gabapentin per day, and the side effects are gone. It’s working very well for me, but I have to stick to timing my doses strictly. If I wait too long to take it or miss a dose, I can definitely feel it (usually deep, aching pain in my legs like I was beaten with a baseball bat and my skin gets extremely sensitive to touch). If feeling this good means taking 4 pills a day for the rest of my life, well I’m just fine with that.

I’m not as worried about my future since I have a more thorough plan laid out for my education with multiple fallback options. I’m going to start going through some MCAT prep stuff during reading week. Aiming pretty damn high, I know, but that one is more out of curiosity (I want to see how well I could possibly do). The plan I’m hoping for most involves a BA in a field of biology to start with.

Off for now, work to do, lectures to attend. Hopefully it won’t be so long between posts.

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