Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cyst Begone!

I will spare you the details of the goopy stuff I had to drink yesterday beginning at 4PM in preparation for surgery today. Suffice to say, it took several hours to finish it all as every sip made me gag and grimace, and I can only hope everything's out of my digestive system. It sure seems like it. OK, TMI.

The Wookie will be here in a couple of hours and we'll head to the hospital. Which, by the way, sent out a press release yesterday saying that they're installing a new computer system throughout the complex and that wait times for labs etc. may be delayed and if you really don't have to go in, put it off for another day. The day for the new computer system? TODAY!! Anyone who knows me or has read my post about the Pauli effect knows that this is not a good omen. I have rotten luck with those systems and while I won't actually be using it, I still feel this is not a good sign. Hopefully, I'll be in and out of there in just a few hours.

I haven't had any solid food or coffee since 9 yesterday morning and I'm definitely cranky. And slightly sleep deprived. I will post, or have the Wookie post, as soon as we're back. Cheers!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Creative Bugs

On the weekend, the Wookie and I took a little stroll along the Sackville River and stopped to look for caddis fly larvae. I found three beauties, at least I thought they were, and took some underwater green stuff growing in a pond connected to the river. We took them home and put them in my aquarium which I had prepared beforehand with beads on the bottom. I ended up adding some aquarium gravel as well, as the poor things couldn't get a grip on the bottom of the aquarium or on the beads to propel themselves forward.

After watching the little guys for a while and doing some interweeb research, I thought maybe I had diving beetle larvae instead of caddisflies. The pump in my aquarium also went kaput so I had to pick up a new one yesterday. And after thinking I had diving beetle larvae, figured I better get them something to eat. So I bought some feeder fish, making many apologies to the fish. But last night after putting the fish in with the larvae I really think now that I have caddisfly larvae. Which means that the fish will live and not be eaten.

There are two small and one very large mean-looking caddisfly. They brought their homes with them when they arrived, which means the hollowed out twigs they drag around with them for protection. It's quite amusing to watch these things. On their rear ends they have two pincer like legs to hang onto their home and they pull themselves along with the front legs. Depending on the species they eat plants and other animals. The ones I have appear to be quite content with the plants in the aquarium, perhaps eating decaying material and microscopic animals living on the plants.

My first task is to remove the "twig" homes to see if these little fellas spin silk or glue and use the beads to construct a home. If they are of a species that doen't spin glue then I'll have to go find other ones....I'll keep you up to date on this little experiment. And for a look at what these things can make given the right material take a look at this website:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Atlantic Pedaler Column #3

Here is my third column for Atlantic Pedaler E-Zine to be published this week. The material will be familiar to blog readers as I've written about the subject matter before. Putting the whole of the ideas into one column has consumed a fair bit of energy over the past few weeks.

Several weeks ago I attended a lecture about neuroplasticity. That is a fairly new word and a fairly new area of study. Scientists are discovering that the brain is amazingly plastic; that is, able to adapt to change. We are now discovering that the brain, in certain areas, is able to grow new cells, something once thought impossible. And it makes new connections constantly. There is a whole new industry being promoted around "brain health", making new connections, and regenerating brain cells. Exercise your brain! Do crossword puzzles! Stave off Alzheimer's- do Sudoku! You've seen the headlines and heard about different "programs" that aim to improve your brain fitness.

There's no doubt that some mental exercise can help you relax, learn to concentrate, and perhaps help you become better at certain puzzles. But the best thing you can do for your brain is exercise your body and give your brain an optimal environment.

Exercise improves blood flow to all parts of your body, including your brain, and that improves oxygenation and the circulation of vital nutrients required by your brain for energy and function. Exercising your body involves a complex set of actions in the brain, causing neurons to fire all over the place in response, reorganizing and reinforcing the neural networks you already have and making new connections.

An optimal environment for your brain is one free of physical impediments like alcohol or drugs, polluted air, improper amounts of sleep and stress. That's next to impossible, so reduce the impediments you are able to. You need to feed your brain as well as your body with a low fat, high fibre diet. And for me, the occasional chunk of chocolate (that's good for the mental health).

When I was first diagnosed with MS, I asked the doctors about rehab. Was there anything in particular that I could do to get back the right side of my body? Was there anything I could do to not lose it or anything else? The short answer was "No". MS is a disease of the central nervous system; it affects the communication ability of the nerves to and from the rest of the body. Trying to work limbs that wouldn't cooperate was next to useless. So no amount of rehab would help me get back what I had lost. For people with MS, rehab is used to learn how to do things differently.

As it turned out, the type of MS I have is called relapsing remitting. It went into remission and I eventually regained about 97% of what I had lost. The 3% I didn't get back is unnoticeable except to me and my neurologist. I hardly ever notice a deficit and no one else ever does, so I don't think about it much. But at the back of my mind for the past 10 years has been the idea of rehabilitation. It works for many stroke patients; it's a matter of training your brain to make new and/or different connections, to go around the injured area. Wouldn't this somehow work for people with MS? It was and still is a good question.

So what does this have to do with cycling you might ask? Besides being an excellent way to exercise your body, cycling has an added benefit for your brain. The simple act of riding your bike requires paying attention to your surroundings, traffic, pedestrians, rocks and mud holes. This mental stimulation while biking is going to help your brain and probably help generate new connections. I suspect the combination of mental stimulation while exercising is what has attracted me to it in the first place.

Did I know all this two years ago when I began cycling? Nope. I just knew that I had finally found an exercise that I loved. Now I know that not only is it good for my body, it's good for my brain. Whether or not there are new connections being made or new cells being generated, cycling is good for me. Just recently the National MS Society in the U.S. awarded a large grant to the University of Northern Carolina for MS research that includes developing an MS-specific curriculum in physical therapy. I can only hope that their research will involve using the brain's plastic ability to overcome some of the disability MS causes. In the meantime, I will exercise my brain by jumping on the bike.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Birds and Bees Again

When I was 9, my friend Vanessa, who was 10 told me the facts of life. At least as far as she understood them. Her mom and dad were going to have a baby so they had told her how this came about and she decided to impart her new found wisdom. Vanessa told me that when I got married I was going to have to go to bed naked with my husband.

The horror! I denied that little bit of information. "No way!" I insisted. After all, I always saw mom and dad in pajamas, so I knew what she said wasn't true. "Well," conceded Vanessa,"you can wear your pajama tops, but not the bottoms." That made absolutely no sense to me. "You're wrong," I told her. And I promptly ran home. To ask my mother of course.

"No dear, when you get married, you can wear to bed whatever you want to wear." I knew it! I was vindicated.

"That's what I told her." And then I went to my room and read the "Fury" book I had started the day before. (The Fury series of books was about a stallion named Fury of course, and the boy who rode him)

It was actually the next year that I learned everything I needed to know about procreation. And I was horrified. And scared to death. At the same time we were doing the sex ed portion of our "Family Life" section of social studies, my mom was flat on her back in the living room. She has had back problems for years and would plunk herself on the floor in the living room for weeks at a time, not being able to move without excrutiating pain. Every day after school I would come home, sit on the floor next to her, and question her about what I had learned in class. For 3 weeks. Every day. It got to the point where my mother, a devout Catholic, finally had to assure me that when I got married and if I didn't want to have children, there was a pill I could take to prevent pregnancy.

Within a few years I had a better understanding of the whole sex and childbirth thing, but thinking back about what the teacher had "taught" us I really wonder about what was going through my head. I have very vivid memories of some parts of those classes but I know there's a lot I am repressing.

When I was 17 my folks and I had a discussion about when it's appropriate to teach children about sex. It came about after watching a talk show on the same subject. My parents always answered whatever questions we threw at them and we were taught from an early age to call a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina. There was no embarassment about bodies, their parts, and what they do, but sex was always in the context of marriage. When we were young anyway, as my folks were, and still are, good Catholics.

Anyway, the conversation about age appropriateness led to what Mrs. L was teaching me and my classmates. And my folks were shocked when I told them exactly what she had told us. I guess when I was 10 I didn't like to use some of the words Mrs. L had used, so my parents only knew that we were doing sex ed in class and mom figured the questions I had for her were only natural. Mrs. L would tell us the different ways you could have sex (standing up was one way I remember her telling us), the pleasure of an orgasm, the pain of childbirth, and all other fun things about sex. She told us the many different terms for sex including the swear words. Hearing your teacher use the F word is almost as shocking as hearing your parents swear for the first time.

I still have visions of Mrs. L at the front of the class, clenching her fists and squeezing her eyes shut as she told us about how good sex is. We were 10! I still shake my head and wonder about my classmates and if any of them were as frightened about the whole prospect of having sex, which led to babies, which meant pain of childbirth. Obviously 10 was too young for me but probably not for all of the rest of them.

This whole post came about as I was thinking about wills etc. this week. Before we had discussed the topic, I had already made the Wookie promise me that if I was hit by a truck or experienced some other fatal disaster, he'd go to my apartment and get rid of anything related to my sex life so my mother wouldn't have to deal with it on top of everything else. Not that there's a lot of stuff, or that any of it would be embarassing to me personally. It's not like I've got a closet full of rubber suits and heavy bondage items but we all have at least a drawer with sex related items in it, condoms, lingerie (to put it politely), that sort of thing.

And it's not that I think my folks don't know about sex. I give my parents sexy underwear for Christmas sometimes. I know some of you are going "Ick", but it's not like I ask them to model it for me. And I don't ask if they ever wear them. Basically I am acknowledging the fact that my parents, who after almost 46 years of marriage, are still in love with each other, and are human beings, and we know that human beings who are in love have sex. There. I said it. My parents have sex. At least I think they still do. Dad still pinches Mom's bum. Who knows, maybe they've got a closet full of rubber suits.

My mom is a teacher, retired now. Her sudents have ranged in age from 6 to probably 96. She taught high school for a while from Home Economics (called Human Ecology these days) to Math. And Sex Ed. It's only fitting that I continue the tradition. Last year, I was asked to be a facilitator with other MSers for a program called Journey to Wellness. I didn't have time to do the whole 8 week program but did the section on Healthy Relationships and Sex. Heaven knows, I've had enough unhealthy relationships to be able to recognize the warning signs and perhaps offer advice on maintaining a satisfying relationship. At least I think that's what the other facilitators thought. Besides, I was the only one who would say penis out loud.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Bug Saver Superhero Award

My co-worker, Shannon, told me yesterday that she squashed a bee the other night. I gave her a good talking to about that. Those little creatures are necessary for our food production. So I instructed her on how to safely catch and release a bee, or any other creepy crawley for that matter, using a glass and a piece of paper or cardboard. Put the glass over the insect and slide the paper underneath, lift the two together and let 'em out when you've reached the great outdoors.

This morning, Shannon told me that I would have been very proud of her last night as she rescued a slug that her cat or dog had inadvertantly brought into the house. It was on her bed and she automatically reached for a Kleenex to squish it but stopped as she was reaching for the slug. Then she recalled the crap I gave her yesterday and she got a piece of paper, pushed the slimy thing onto it and let it go in the grass. I WAS impressed.

So tonight I award Shannon the Bug Saver Superhero Award even though she doesn't have a blog on which to display it. She'll get a chuckle out of it and so will her son Christopher.

Slugs are simply homeless snails.


Yes, I know that slugs aren't technically bugs. But if it's a creepy crawly and it "bugs" you, then in my books it's a bug.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Horseshoe Up My Butt Part 2

My friends Kathy and Jane came by last night for a short visit. Kathy had already dropped off some skabetti sauce(I like to spell it that way) for easy meals during recovery and they both had enormous hugs for me and the Wookie. Good people those two. My mother has informed me she has some meat pie (the best in the world) for me to stick in the freezer and new pajamas and a bath robe. Seer sucker type material. Yay Mom!

The legal documents should be ready for me to sign by Monday so I think all my bases are covered. And tonight I was manning (personning?) the phones for Kinsmen TV Bingo on our local cable company. I may not have mentioned, the Halifax Kinettes made me an honorary Kinette last year and are extending it for another year. They contribute a lot of money and person power to the MS Society, so I'm happy to help out with the bingoes, and sometimes their charity auctions. Yay Kinsmen and Kinettes! It's been a busy week.

I met with a nurse and an anaesthetist this week for pre-op stuff, blood work and the like. And I also met briefly with the nurse, Judith, from the MS Clinic to fill her in on what's going on with the upcoming surgery. Judith had very good things to say about my surgeon and that he's very highly thought of. Someone else told me he was cute. Which is totally irrelevant. I want to know what his hands are like. Are they steady? Are they clean? Does he know what he's doing?

The anaesthetist gave me a little inside info. He said the surgeon's notes indicate he's not expecting any surprises and I should have a short recovery period. Yay doctors!

First, I've got a resident who's a real keener and now encouraging words from the surgeon. This just reinforces my belief that I've got a horseshoe up my butt. I must tell the surgical team to leave it intact if they come across it.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008


OK, it's not a new post, but it's up at Charles' MSBpodcast. It's my true story of my father learning how to make biscuits on his own. It has caused no end of amusement in my family since it happened and it'll probably give you a giggle, too. It's totally non-MS related and should take your mind off weightier issues a least for a few minutes.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Celebrity Sighting!

One of the duties in my job description is "Personal Appearances". It can be everything from hosting a fashion show to MCing a charity auction. It generally involves the station at some level of sponsorship. I host a lot of movie premieres and charity walks and other fundraisers. For several years now our station, Kool FM, has sponsored the JDRF, MS, Ovarian Cancer, and ALS Walks and I've been the regular host or MC for those years. This year is no different, though my involvement will be dependent on the outcome of my surgery at the end of the month. Tonight I was kindly invited to attend the ALS Kickoff to the Walk despite the fact I'm not a team captain. I was so excited because the ALS of Nova Scotia had invited Wendy Crewson to attend as well as make a few appearances. She is a Canadian actress of film and TV. In fact, on almost any night of the week you can find a movie with her in it. She played Harrison Ford's wife in Air Force One, Mrs. Claus in the Santa Claus movies and she starred in a movie called The Sue Rodriguez Story, a true tale of one Canadian woman's struggle to end her own life after having been diagnosed with ALS. I spoke with her briefly this morning at the station and then saw her again tonight . Wendy is absolutely gorgeous, but she is even more stunning in person .I blathered on like an idiot, thanking her for her involvement with the ALS, and how every dollar raised for research for ALS helps those of us with MS, too. And then I blathered on some more about God knows what and my blog (do I ever shut up?) and then she asked me for the blog address. I have met and interviewed a few celebrities in my day, but I'm still as star struck as everyone else. She was a living doll and I suspect that if she got out of the entertainment industry she could make a living as a therapist because she definitely has a great listening ability.

Her husband is also an actor, Michael Murphy, who was in a quirky, short lived but really great TV show called This is Wonderland. It was an excellent show that gave a very real look at the Canadian judicial system. And Michael was in about a gazillion other movies. He has one of those faces you recognize immediately. I like him a lot, too.

The pic above is from the movie Silver City with Richard Dreyfuss.

As I mentioned to Wendy, research into ALS will benefit those of us with MS, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and any of dozens of other neuro type diseases. I was telling her about the US Army looking for research into CAMs to help treat all the TBI and PTSD cases coming back from Iraq. One thing Wendy mentioned to me was how the appearance of Mad Cow disease really pushed the Canadian government into throwing some money at research. In both cases, the gov'ts are willing to spend money to save themselves in some way or another, either by saving money in treatment or to keep an industry alive and well.

Mad Cow, or the human variant, CJD, PTSD, TBI, ALS, MS, whatever alphabetic combination you like, it doesn't matter. As long as we can share what we learn and come up with something, I'll be happy. And I look forward to the day when my services as an MC are no longer needed because we have found cures.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bugs, Fish, and Lawyers

I saw my lawyer on Friday to start the process of drawing up a will and Power of Attorney. As we were reviewing what to include, he asked me if I had any pets. I said, no, not really, then told him about the warehouse beetle I have been nurturing for a couple of months. It's more of an observational experiment than a pet.

I mentioned this to the Wookie and he reminded me of the wasp larvae I have in my fridge. I had forgotten about those guys for a bit. They've been in my fridge since November. It's almost time to take them out and see if they will hatch. The discussion reminded me of another experiment I aim to undertake this spring. I want to gather a few caddisfly larvae and give them some beads with which to build their homes. These little creatures live their larva stage kind of like snails in a little manufactured tube made of bits of twigs and sand. When they're ready to emerge as adults, they shed their homes and go to the surface of the stream they live in, and fly away in search of others ready to mate. As adults they look like very little moths. I visited a website last year that showed caddisly larvae building their homes with bits of gold and turquoise. They were quite beautiful. So I'm going to try the same thing, but with seed beads instead of a precious metal. I have an aquarium just waiting for 'em and may be able to get started this weekend (or next). Pictures will follow of course.

One of the organizations I volunteer for is the Sackville Rivers Association. This is a group that promotes and protects a watershed area of the city I live in. We go out and do river cleanups and maintenance in the watershed area to improve the health of the watershed. We did a cleanup this weekend and cleaned out the fish run, which is a man made ladder (which is right next to a waterfall) that enables the fish to go upstream. I really enjoy this particular clean up as we sometimes find fish or eels and lots of bugs in the run. And I get to wear my rubber boots. In the summer there are a whole whack of blackberry and raspberry bushes I like to pick clean.

I also spoke with another member of the group about my intended experiment with caddisfly and he thinks it can be done. So this week I will prep my aquarium, add beads and plants and then go fishing for caddisfly larvae.

In this one you can just barely make me out in the blue jacket in the middle of the pic. I'm dumping a bucket of rocks and debris into the river shovelled from the fish run. The Wookie took the picture from the opposite bank.A gorgeous shot, with the concrete of the fish run barely visible about halfway down on the right side.
This is the top of the fish run, a couple of the guys actually in the cage shovelling out rocks and debris. The forest litter collects in the cage and it has to be cleaned out so the fish can continue up river.
A shot from the bottom of the falls, the concrete wall is on the left side of the ladder. Fish go up the ladder on the right hand side.
This is from the top of the ladder, giving you a better idea of how the fish get up the ladder.
A few minutes before this picture was taken there was about half the water out of the ladder. We had just released the dam and the ladder was beginning to fill up again. We dam the exit/entrance to make it easier to clean out the run, removing rocks and debris that would clog things up. As well, one of the summer students was getting things ready for the eel and fish counters that will be set up in a couple of weeks. At the bottom of the ladder where the fish enter, the concrete wall is about 13 feet tall. Where this picture was taken the wall is only about 3 feet tall.

I was able to find several caddisfly larvae quite easily, swimming around when the water was very low, so I'm able to identify 'em. I'd hate to bring home some other creepy crawly and wonder why it wasn't building itself a little home.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Non MS Link

This guy cracks me up on a regular basis. His wife is a nurse and paramedic wannabe and he's a techno geek. And despite the fact that we live in the same city, we don't know each other and have never met, though he frequents the comic book store owned by a friend of mine.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MRS...No I'm Not Married...

I was wondering a few weeks ago about a mass spectrometer for brains. I even went so far as to contact a school mate of mine who is now the chair of the chemistry department of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, to ask if he knew anything about that sort of tool (I noes sum smart peeples). He didn't but in the meantime I found out about MR Spectroscopy. And some folks wondered about its application to managing, treating, and following MS. As I speculated, it will be a while before this tool is in as wide use as MRI is now, but I have good news. It has begun!! This report is only on a small study but it is encouraging. It's not a step closer to a cure. But the chemicals and the chemical changes it can measure may one day lead to a cause of MS and that is closer to a cure.



The picture is from the Pheonix5 Prostate Cancer Glossary.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Does Whatever a Spider Can

Shawna, across the country at The Nervus Rex, took advantage of my honesty, made a Secret Super Hero Blogger Award and gave it to me. I wasn't going to post this pic yet again, but the Wookie is amazingly amused by the fact that the entire world can see the pic he took of me. The least I can do for the hairy one is make him giggle like a little girl by putting this up.

One thing I would like to point out, though, is the beautiful Purolator T-shirt I am wearing. I currently have two of these garments and will be looking for another one this summer. The Purolator folks are very generous sponsors of our Rona MS Bike Tour, and I've gotten to know them quite well over the years. And I ask for a T-shirt every time. They are perfect for biking. If it ever warms up here enough to bike again.


Where There's a Will...

...there are family members contesting it. So the process has begun-getting my life in order, a least on paper. Making sure of my beneficiaries, power of attorney, health directives, etc. At least I had a chat with my folks so that they're aware of what I'm arranging. My mother is relieved that the Wookie will look after the apartment and the contents if something should happen to me. I knew she wouldn't want to do that.

And I discussed with them what my wishes are per my remains. This may seem a bit on the morbid side, but I have been meaning to do this for a long time. Actually, I've been thinking about it for 10 years.

I am not in any way planning on going to the great beyond any time soon, but it's a good idea to have everything ready, just in case. I am not rich, nor do I have any dependents, so it should be a straight forward type will. I have appointments pending with the bank, a lawyer, and a few phone calls in to a couple of other agencies re:remains.

One thing we all, as MSers, have to think about at some point, is assisted living. Most of us will not have to worry about this, but it is a very real possibility in our world. So it bears some thought and planning. We could just as easily be hit by a truck crossing the street that would render us comatose and with someone else calling the shots. Do you want to be left on life support for days, months, or years?

These are the things I will be thinking about over the next couple of weeks. Wanna lay odds on how soon I can wrap all this up?


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Heavy Stuff

At the end of February I had what felt like appendicitis. After spending a lot of time in emergency, having an ultrsound, a CT, two pelvic exams and a ton of blood tests, I got to keep my appendix. I had a follow up appointment with a doc this week who gave me the wonderful news that they want to remove the pesky cyst that gave me all the trouble. And maybe the ovary it seems to have eaten (apparently the cyst is indistinguishable from the ovary). And maybe a few other parts of me depending on the tests they will do once they open me up. If all goes well, it'll be a simple laproscopic surgery and I'll be home the same day. If it gets a little more complicated I'll be in hospital for 3-4 days. Any more complicated than that, well....I'll have the Wookie sign in and tell you where to send flowers.

Actually, I'm fairly positive about the whole thing. For one thing the blood tests were only slightly off kilter and can easily be explained by a whole whack of stuff. For another thing, this will probably eliminate any more episodes like the one I went through in February. And I can't wait to find out what I'm supposed to learn from this experience.

I am very confident about the outcome because I have some inside information. I told one of my producers at work about what's going to happen and he said he and the kids (Dylan and Gabriel) will light a candle at church for me and offer up some prayers. I will have two little boys age 5 and 7 saying prayers for me. God listens to kids' prayers, right? It brought tears to my eyes of course when Terry told me this and how the boys pray. I'm in very good hands.

The doc who gave me the news this week was one I had never met before. He was very nice, appreciated my sense of humour, and said he would like to be there for the operation, "Because....", and his voice trailed off as he was trying to think of a nice way to say something. "Because you think it will be interesting?" I offered. "Yes", he replied rather sheepishly. "I am hoping to do a fellowship in Atlanta this year specifically in this area of surgery." Of course I thought that was a hoot. A man after my own heart. Here he's thinking to himself, oh boy, I want to see this one, but doesn't want to seem insensitive to my concerns.

The doctor also asked me to sign a whole whack of consent forms including one to allow them to take pictures - of anything interesting they find. Sure. Whatever. But I don't want to see them unless there's an alien in there or something.

Unbeknownst to me they had planned on doing this in June, but there was an opening April 30th so they said sign her up. As soon as I got home Wednesday I looked up what I needed to online. Mostly I wanted to know about any correlation between surgeries and relapses. The jury's still out on that.

I am actually typing this up on Friday night, but not posting it until after I tell my folks. I know, I know, I should have told them by now, but I wanted to wait for the Wookie to come with me to tell them. It's just another thing for them to worry about and my mother feels guilty enough about all the genes she's passed on to me as it is.

Now I have to make a few lists of things I need to get done before the surgery, like making a few more meals to have in the freezer, packing a bag for the hospital if there's an extended stay, and I should do up my will. That's something I've been meaning to do for awhile anyway. and I've got to do some heavy duty biking over the next few weeks as I will be out of action for at least 4 weeks after. I did tell the doc I have to be able to get on my bike for the Bike Tour in July and he thinks that's do-able.

So it's now Saturday afternoon and we told the parental units what's going on. Of course my father and I both have wicked gallows-type senses of humour which does little to make my mother feel good about the whole thing. But we talked about getting my will done, power of attorney, that sort of thing. The only other thing I hadn't thought of was the whole living will thing; you know, the directives if I'm left brain damaged or brain dead. They know what I want done if I don't come out on this side. Spread the organs around to whoever needs 'em and can use 'em, and the rest of me goes to the medical students to learn from and make fun of. But if I'm left with no consciousness, who decides to pull the plug? And how long do I want them to wait for a sign? Those are the things I will attend to this week.

So who wants my bug collection?


Want to know more about the "Ovary Necklace" pictured above? Check out this link.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I'd Like a Dinosaur

When I was 10 I briefly thought of becoming a geologist. Or an archaeologist (the Leaky's work in Africa was very well publicized at the time). Or a ballerina. OK, not really the ballerina. The desire to be a geologist didn't last long but I have always been interested in rocks, gems, and everything to do with fossils. I have even collected a few text books on the subject when research was done with books and not the internet.

The Wookie's father is a retired geology professor, though he's not really retired. He's still traveling round the world, doing tests, and helping some foreign governments figure out stuff about the earth. It's quite interesting work, really, and I find it fascinating. The other night, I told the Wookie that he should ask his father to bring me back a dinosaur from his latest round of travels. Actually, last year, the Wookie gave me the coolest birthday gift I have ever received. A megalodon tooth!!! That was a big fish. I have a few other fossils in my collection of stuff, so I'd really like a dinosaur. Probably not going to happen, but a girl can dream, eh?

I envy Shawna, as she lives near the dinosaur capital of Canada. Those monstrous creatures we have come to know as T. Rex and Albertasaurus used to traipse around her neighbourhood. Very cool. In Nova Scotia we have, and continue to find, mastodon teeth and the occasional mastodon skeleton. Because we have the highest tides in the world, we have a unique and eroding coastline that is continuously giving us back evidence of other creatures that inhabited this earth, including the footprints of the earliest known amphibians. I have stood on those prints, imagining the real life size of the animal that made them (about 6 feet long). Later this month, a new interpretive centre will be opening up to commemorate the Joggins Fossils Cliffs, which have been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There is an island south of the province called Sable Island, known as the graveyard of the Atlantic. It is literally a spit of sand about 8 miles long and was created by the deposits of grit left by glaciers moving through the area. It is only inhabited by a few researchers and scientists, about 300 wild horses (called Sable Island Horses), colonies of breeding sea birds and birthing seals. The sand is composed of many minerals including garnet. When I found out about that I did a little research looking for garnet deposits in the rest of Nova Scotia. We apparently do have a lot of it though it's of an industrial quality rather than gem quality (think sandpaper). I have even heard about a beach in this province with purple sand and seen a sample of it. It looks like grape Kool aid crystals.

I have a lot more exploring to do this summer while training for the MS Bike Tour and I promise to post photos. Especially if I find a dinosaur!


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

You're It

So the other Shawna, at Nervus Rex tagged me with something that makes me have to post the pic I use as my computer wallpaper.....

Thanks so very much.

We were on our way to a friend's house to go swimming and stopped at a yard sale. The kid had this pair of Spiderman glasses I just had to try on and the Wookie (damn him) had to take a picture. I used to have the moon wallpaper on the computer but last year the Wookie installed the above pic instead when I got a new hard drive...

Revenge will come N.Rex, just you wait.

Now to tag a couple of unsuspecting bloggers.....

Linda at Braincheese

Diane at DJ- A Stellar Life


Charles' Blog

This is just a note to let you know that Charles' MSBpodcast is up and available for download with me reading one of my previous posts. And as usual, Charles has selected some really interesting and appropriate music to go along with my narrative.

I have been trying to formulate a new post about biking and brain power and at the same time deal with a computer glitch or two - the tech guy who answered a recent call took me by surprise after I told him I couldn't connect to the internet. "What did you do?" he exclaimed. After a second he chuckled and I said "You sound just like the guys at work". I have posted about my electronic troubles at work before.

Back soon!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

Another Piece of the Puzzle

I forgot to mention in my last post that I asked Dr. Murray that all important question about frustration: Do he and other researchers get frustrated with not knowing the unknowns of MS? Short answer is yes. Longer answer is that's why so many researchers continue what they do; because they want to know the unknowns.

Now the stuff that I've been really thinking about this week, especially since my post on Wednesday:

It appears that MRI is a good way to help diagnose MS, as a way to confirm a clinician's observations and a patient's symptoms. But there is so much more going on in our brains than can be detected with this particular machine.

We (not me personally) have discovered that normal appearing white matter (NAWM) is affected by MS, even if it doesn't show up on MRI - hence the name normal appearing. There may be axonal damage or destruction. It appears that this has greater significance to the prognosis of an individual than the number of lesions.

So how do we measure the axonal damage? We can only measure chemical processes in the brain and that includes chemical volume. All week I've been thinking about this. I should have asked someone first as I didn't know what to look for on the net...until I had a lightbulb moment. We need a mass spectrometer of course. If you've ever watched an episode of CSI or some other criminal/forensic show you'll know that a mass spectrometer is a machine that measures the chemicals in tissue samples. So we just need a mass spectrometer big enough to stick our heads into and we'll be all set. (In discussing this with the Wookie tonight though, I realized that since with a mass spectrometer you have to vaporize the tissue sample then shine a beam of light through it, there are limitations for its live human use.)

A little more wondering about that, and if someone has undertaken the task, led me to discover that again, I have no original thought. They've had Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopes since 1973! An MRI -type machine. Who knew? Apparently everyone but me. But it seems that it hasn't been refined enough yet to be an accepted standard modus operandi for determining how "progressive" or not your MS is. *Sigh*

It's a similar type of machine as an MRI so it's big and costs a lot of money. But the applications for its use are incredible. Imagine having a picture taken of your body instead of having blood drawn to determine if your cholesterol medication levels are too high or two low. Or if the chemo is going to the places it's supposed to go to. Or if your brain is producing enough serotonin so you're not depressed. Or if the axons in your brain are severed and producing a tell-all chemical to indicate their dysfunction.

There are some of these machines in use around the world. I just can't seem to find too many of them. There was even an article published in a neurological journal of some sort about how these machines can be used for people with MS, but I can't read the article without joining or paying for it.

So what's the point? The point is that until recently we didn't know that stuff was going on in NAWM. We suspected it. If you cut your finger, your body goes through a whole whack of processes to detect intrusions, intruders, and bad bacteria; then it aims to clean up the wound, seal it, and then heal it. All of that activity takes a number of chemical processes to get to completion. It stands to reason the same things happen in our traumatized brains: chemicals swishing around in there as a result of the disease process. Too much of one chemical shows that axonal damage has occurred. Too much of another reveals inflammation. You get the idea. So this really shows that like MS involving entire families and not just an individual, it's a whole brain disease. But again, "What's the point?" *Sigh*

If I were a pessimist, I would say big deal. That just shows us that MS is a bigger question mark than before. Now we have to worry about the stuff we can't see happening.

Well, firstly, if MR Spectroscopy is as good a tool as I think it appears to be, not only will an earlier diagnosis be possible, but earlier drug treatment can be implemented if your brain shows a propensity for axonal loss.

Secondly, it can give us a better picture of any drug's actions in the brain. Is it actually preventing neuronal damage or loss?

Thirdly, it's another piece of that giant puzzle. I'm not really sure where the piece goes just yet, but it's another piece just the same. After all, the more you know about a problem, the easier it is to figure out. At least, I hope it is for all those neuroscientists.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bits and Bites

A co-worker was telling me today about her husband's back problems and other ailments including the trouble with his rotator cup. She said it a second time so I knew I hadn't misheard her. When I said, "You mean rotator cuff", we laughed and she said "Is that what it's called?" That led to other mis-spoken words. She told me about going to the mechanic and saying there was something wrong with the "cadillac converter". Apparently everyone at the garage had a good laugh.

In other trivial things over the past couple of days, I was preparing my lunch for work and slicing some strawberries. I discovered that on the inside they look remarkably like brains. So I took some pictures. Cool. Then I started slicing the carrots, but realized the pics of them wouldn't come out well as they needed a contrast and I couldn't find my food colouring.

I was also wondering about my flour beetle in its bug observation container. So while wondering about what to feed it and looking on the net for information, i discovered it's not actually a flour beetle. It's a warehouse beetle. Not really a big difference between the two unless you're another beetle, but that means I have to change its name from Guy LaFleur to Bea Wear. He, she, or it, is the beige worm like thing in the bottom right corner of the flour.

After reading Joan's post on A Short in the Cord about hearing peepers while outside last night, I phoned the Museum of Natural History today to see if any peeper reports had come in yet for Nova Scotia. Nope. But the curator I spoke with said he's expecting the first reports this weekend from the south-west part of the province. We've had a westerly wind since last night, milder temps, and westerly winds forecast for tomorrow as well, so I expect things will begin to warm up presently. The snow is finally going.

On Monday I had a meeting with my neurologist and one of the clinic nurses to take a look at the MRIs I've had for the drug study I've been in for 10 years. No significant change in the pics, which is a good thing. Of course I asked why we still look at the MRIs if they are only good for diagnosis and the number of lesions doesn't statistically correspond with clinical symptoms. To see if the meds are working is the answer. That's the simple answer. I've been reading and trying to decipher technical stuff for the past couple of days so I can post something about this, but my brain seems to fog up after a few minutes. too many big words, I suspect. Dr. Murray did say that a good clinician is critical to assessing MS progression until we are better able to determine the chemical changes going on during an attack, a relapse, etc. And he also said that the next step in MRI-type picture taking will be actually measuring the chemical changes so that we won't have pics to look at but graphs.

So the question remains, why don't the lesions correspond with disability or clinical symptoms? it turns out there's more going on with those lesions than meets the eye, or MRI, in this case. And this is why they are trying to develop a way to measure the chemical changes going on. More of one chemical or process, the worse it is for you, or the better. And even though we can only see individual lesions, we know that MS is a whole brain disease. Well a white -matter -of- the -brain disease, mostly, and we just can't "see" physically or chemically what is going on. So while some processes are going on in a specific lesion, maybe the rest of your brain is trying to deal with it as well. We do know that early on in the disease there is a cycle of repair/relapse/repair/ that gets harder for the body to continue as the disease progresses. You can only replace the duct tape so many times before the wire is toast, then axonal damage occurs. More chemical reactions going on with that and we can't see that yet, either.

What we need is a spectrometer for the brain. anyone wanna give that one a try?