Exacerbation Exasperation

Exacerbation: make (a problem, bad situation or negative feeling) worse

Exasperation: irritate intensely; infuriate

MS comes in several forms. The first and kindest is known as Relaxing-Remitting. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society defines it like this:

People with this type of MS experience clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks—which are called relapses, flare-ups, or exacerbations —are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), during which no disease progression occurs. Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

That one is a walk in the park as far as MS goes. I’ve had MS for over 25 years, and as evidenced by recent Facebook posts, some friends I’ve known for 30 years didn’t even realize there was an issue with my health. So what if I’d stagger around a little bit ~ it’s no secret I like my wine and perhaps they thought I’d had a tipple a little earlier than usual (really, 10 am? It was the music business, but anyway…).

Next comes Primary-Progressive. Apparently I opted to skip over this one completely.

This disease course is characterized by slowly worsening neurologic function from the beginning—with no distinct relapses or remissions. The rate of progression may vary over time, with occasional plateaus and temporary minor improvements. 

Then we start into the big daddy part of the equation. Secondary-Progressive.

Following an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, many people develop a secondary-progressive disease course in which the disease worsens more steadily, with or without occasional flare-ups, minor recoveries (remissions), or plateaus. 

My beloved neurologist Dr. S wrote a letter for me in support of my disability claim stating that I had moved from relapsing-remitting to secondary progressive. Silly me, I thought maybe he was just being nice and exaggerating my exasperating exacerbations for the benefit of my pending claim. On the inside, I knew better. Dr. S wouldn’t do that (be nice, yes; write an untruth, no).

Finally, there is Progressive-Relapsing. This one starts out bad, stays bad, and gets worse.

In this relatively rare course of MS (5%), people experience steadily worsening disease from the beginning, but with clear attacks of worsening neurologic function along the way. They may or may not experience some recovery following these relapses, but the disease continues to progress without remissions.

I thank my lucky stars daily that I am not further disabled. I still hirple around pretty good and manage on my own for the most part. Except. Except for the monsoons.

Spasticity is a common symptom of MS. Again, the NMSS: The word spasticity refers to involuntary muscle stiffness or spasms (sudden muscle contractions). In laymen’s terms, it means that (in my case) I either walk like Frankenstein, or my knees suddenly give out, or my foot drags and I trip. To give you a better idea, I recently visited my surrogate granddaughter who had just learned to walk 3 weeks earlier, and we walked just about the same. It also causes muscle weakness and it is wreaking hell on my gorgeous gams, I can tell you that.

Major triggers of spasticity are heat and humidity. (Southern Arizona! Good plan, Erika!) One of my favorite things about living here in Tubac are the monsoons. Big, huge, towering white spires of clouds that can bring wind, torrential rain, flash flooding, hail and magnificent thunder and lightening ~ it is a spectacle like no other. These storms are often followed within minutes by bright blue skies and enormous full bodied rainbows. It is magical.

But the humidity is hell. And wouldn’t you know that when I was in California last week, they had an unusual and unexpectedly hot and humid spell that brought…monsoons.  So for 2 weeks now, I have been staying inside, sleeping like 15 hours per day, and unable to walk more than 2 steps unassisted.

I realize my best bet might be a move to Siberia. Cool weather, hunky Slavs, vast lowlands and fluffy dogs. Instead, I’m heading moving back to Southern California this fall and leaving my little desert paradise. Hopefully the monsoons there were an anomaly this year and not an ongoing trend. That would really exasperate me!