Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Biopsy: an inoccuous name for human exploratory drilling

Good news, they didn't strike oil! Or maybe that's the bad news considering gas prices these days. I could have been my own energy source.

Instead, they struck blood. Plenty of it! Running down my stomach and down my back simultaneously. I wish I'd had someone there with a camera so I could play dead while bleeding from front and back. It would have scared the crap out of Mom. Sorry Mom! You know I wouldn't have done that to you, but it sounded funny.

So, I get called back and meet the doctor who happens to be the brother of my neurologist. I haven't decided which one is the evil twin (not that they are even twins), but this one looks more like George Clooney. Both of them are the nicest guys you ever want to meet -- their mother must be so proud!

He tells me his nurse will numb me up and then we'll get started. Fortunately all three moles are located at roughly the same vertical position up my spine. The one in front, an inch or two above my navel on the left, and the other 2 within a half inch apart from each other right along my spine in the back. All I had to do was hold my shirt up and expose my midriff. No clothing removal, however I did take my sandals off to get more comfy.

The nurse came at me with this little baby of a needle citing her rehearsed speech meant to calm my fears. I laughed and said "is that all you've got! I stick myself in the leg once a week with the granddaddy of that baby needle!"

It didn't even hurt, but then I guess when it's filled with numbing agent it wouldn't tend to hurt, would it? Why don't they put a little bit of that in Copaxone needles? That stuff BURNS! A touch of Novocain would be humane, don't you think?

It only took a couple minutes before the doctor came back in and hovered close. I looked at the ceiling while he did something I couldn't see or feel. Then he said "all done!" and he was.

"That's it? Wow! That was fast and I didn't feel a thing!"

I asked if the family had any more doctors I could use, like a dentist or GYN or something. He just laughed and said "Fresh out of doctors; that's all we had."

I asked if he would be doing the pathology on them and he said no. I stressed the imperative, urgent need to get the results STAT. (I thought he'd understand the lingo if I put it that way, and besides, how many times does a patient get to tell a doctor "STAT"?) He said he'd send it to Shands Jacksonville and let them do the pathology. Fortunately, since the research dept. for this study is also at Shands Jacksonville, my trial coordinator can now pester them until they hurry up and say "Benign".

Which is what they'd better say, because I found out yesterday that Novartis will take nothing less for an answer. If these spots contain even one "atypical" or "questionable" cell, I'm kicked to the curb like yesterday's trash.

I can't let that happen. It's my only social outing to go to the study center and visit with all the nurses and doctors. If they take away that I'll have no reason to ever leave home again.

Worse, I will be feeling like the wicked witch of the west after they poured water on her. Take my Fingolimod away and I'll probably melt into a puddle and disappear, too. Perish the thought! I can't control what happens. The moles are now out of my hands, or off my skin, or however you want to say it. The results are going to be what they are. All I can do is send "benign" thoughts out into space and hope the words ricochet around enough to hit the brain of the pathologist and force him to dictate it as my path results.

I'll know something sometime...anywhere between today and 10 days from now.

In the meantime I'm out of shots and have about 12 pills left.

I'm starting to get that feeling of panic I used to get when I only had a couple of cigarettes left. Only I can't run to the convenience store and buy another bottle of pills. Gulp.

We shall see.

I survived Fay and all I got was this lousy T-shirt

I spent over $200 preparing for every imaginable emergency that could possibly come from a tropical storm/hurricane passing over us, and she turned out to be a gardener with a bad perspiration problem. All the dead stuff was blown from the trees, along with a couple of new branches that I suppose Fay thought needed pruning.

When the rain finally subsided, and the winds calmed down, I decided to go to the grocery store (and you're thinking "like they're going to be open!"). Floridian's are either tough-skinned or crazy, or both. The store was doing better business than ever before. I guess everyone else was also sick of being stuck in their homes for 3 days waiting for the drama of Fay to arrive and leave when she got hung up over the Daytona area set on the spin cycle.

I deliberately didn't purchase much fresh food prior to the storm knowing full well that, if the power went out, we'd be much better off surviving on Chef Boyardee ravioli or Dinty Moore Beef Stew. But after waiting and waiting...with the rain and wind slowly building, we had to actually start EATING that stuff. Blech! God only put these things on Earth to nourish Floridians through times without electric and punish them for living in what was only ever intended to be alligator breeding grounds at the same time.

I guess everyone else felt the same about their stash of Beanie Weenies and that's why the grocery store was filled to capacity.

Our electric never even flickered, but the satellite TV did go out at times. Ooooo! Scary!

Turns out Fay was just a dress rehearsal for her brother Gustav.Where the HECK do they come up with these names??! I think the nerds in the National Hurricane Center are teehee-ing at the office as they brainstorm the name list. I think they try them out on their tongue to see which names evoke the funniest reactions among their peers.

"Hey, how does 'Cootie devastates North Florida' sound to you, guys?"

Laughing to tears, his coworkers all give him 2 thumbs up as they move on to the D names.

Very funny. We are the ones who have to report this stuff to the insurance companies and hire tree removal services, etc. all the while referring to the storm with that ridiculous name you gave it. And YOU guys aren't out of the woods either, you know. Your central office is in Miami! Maybe the storms resent the names and hit Florida so often in repeated attempts to punish you. Ever think of that??!

Anyhow, Fay has left the building and she was just a warm-up act for Gustav. Naturally. Because I only managed to get my biopsies during all this mess...there's still the big day ahead for starting the extension phase and I only have so many pills to last me until then. Why not have another hurricane looming ominously over the whole affair? I wonder if the girl on the box of Miss Clairol is as gray as I am underneath all that. Probably not, but I am living proof that it has superior gray coverage.

I mentioned the biopsies, didn't I? That deserves an entry all it's own so I close this out by saying "Farewell, Fay, and don't come back. Four times is more than enough for any one storm to visit Florida."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The doctor came to his senses...

...and decided to close the office today after all. They called at 8:30a.m. to reschedule my skin biopsies for Monday at 1p.m. Thank God! I was worrying about so many different aspects of the impending adventure that I thought my head was going to explode.

Downed power lines, high winds buffeting the truck, road closures, getting lost trying to find an alternate route, driving in torrential rains...it was a worry wart's cornucopia of subjects upon which to dwell.

Now I just have to hope Fay will get a move on and get by us before Monday.

I was worried so much about traveling to the doctor's office today that I've completely neglected worrying about the wind and rain while staying at home.

If that storm doesn't start moving I'm going to have to go to the grocery store again. Either that or we'll have to end up eating all that canned ravioli I bought for "just in case".

Fay is stalled out over Daytona, 68 miles from me, and dumping rain everywhere and blowing little gusts around my yard. I'm still right smack dab in the predicted path, but *predicted* is the key word here....things NEVER go as forecast.

We shall see.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I get a call from Keesha saying I get to have my biopsies done but it looks like the saying "come hell or high water" was taken a little too literally. The ONLY appointment they could give me at N. FL. Derm. Ass. is TOMORROW at 1pm.

Last time I looked at the little picture showing the big ice cream cone hanging over Florida, Fay is scheduled to be pounding the heck out of me tomorrow at 1. Guess I'll be driving through hell or high water.

All I can say is these dots BETTER be benign after all this. Stupid spots.

Happy Drug Day To Me!

I just noticed that today's date is my actual 1 year anniversary of starting the drug trial. A year ago today I was watching some really bad movies with my sister while having my vitals taken every hour. How time flies when you're having fun.

As Fay Approaches

Last time I posted, Fay was supposed to be here by 8am today, but she's apparently related to me because she's running late. Not going to be here until tomorrow morning and the most recent predicted path has her stopping over at my house for a visit.

Meanwhile, the saga of the biopsies continues. North Florida Dermatology Associates have continued to totally ignore not only my voice mail messages (totaling 3) but also those of my study coordinator. Now, I can understand putting off returning the call of a whiny patient, but a doctor calling? They ignore a DOCTOR telling them the biopsies need to be done STAT so that the schedule of the clinical trial is not disrupted??

I have never seen such incompetence in my life. I found out the original doctor that I saw there last year (who didn't think any of my skin irregularities warranted carving out) is no longer there. I am suspecting he did not meet his required quota of biopsies and was made an example of for all the other dermatologists to see.

The way it works at N. FL Derm. Ass. is this: They have 5 offices scattered around the area. The doctors apparently travel because the one who wants to cut on me is actually from the Orange Park office even though she saw me in Jacksonville. When you call their number, it's a central number that goes to a central switchboard. They can transfer you to scheduling, where you get live people, but only for office visits, not procedures. The individual doctor's nurse is ruler over that domain. And, conveniently, Keesha is always busy and you get her voice mail which I suspect is set to automatically delete the message as soon as it comes in so she isn't bothered with things like patients.

The new plan, about which I'm still awaiting the good word, is one my trial coordinator came up with. She thinks I should have a "second opinion" about the biopsy and go to a totally different dermatologist. One not in that group. I think it's brilliant because a) I should be allowed a second opinion before someone takes a knife to me and b) it will enable us to skirt that group of unresponsive jerks who are possibly compromising my extension phase and c)might mean I don't need biopsies after all.

I'm telling you, these offensive spots are no bigger than fleas and I have had them all my life.

The trial coordinator is supposed to be running it by the lead investigator to see what he thinks. I guess if he feels it's a good plan then perhaps he will have more pull when trying to persuade Novartis.

I have less than 20 pills and only one shot left, and a possible hurricane approaching so they better figure out something quick. Tick, tick, tick...

Monday, August 18, 2008

As the Fingolimod Blog Turns

crazy ice cream cone of unpredictability, sponsored by Dairy Queen

As if there weren't enough drama in my life, we now have the added excitement of an impending hurricane bearing down on us.

"Will she get the biopsies in time?"

"Will she have to drive through hurricane force winds to make it to the dermatologist?"

Tune in next week for "As the Fingolimod Blog Turns".

Last week I thought we were only waiting for the main trial HQ in Berlin to approve my MRI. Now I have to get chunks of skin cut off like some sick hazing ritual to prove I am worthy of continuing with Fingolimod.

Truth be told, I'd probably let them shave me bald and tattoo "STUPID" across my forehead if it meant a new bottle of pills. I've become such a Fingolimod junky. Sheesh.

My trial coordinator called this morning but because I had an insomniac moment last night and didn't go to sleep until 3am, I was unable to make the 10 yard dash in the alloted 6 rings of my cell phone before it went to voice mail. I had to listen to her message instead of being able to ask a zillion questions.

She said (good news) that she had spoken with Berlin about my MRI and it had been accepted as satisfatory (meaning the image quality and not necessarily the radiological findings). Then she said she had brought up the argument that I had made for being allowed to visit the original dermatologist for the sake of keeping the experiment more scientifically accurate without a bunch of human variants (trying to appeal to their "logical" side that all scientists have).

They saw right through it, like great scientists do when examining data, and recognized the scared, whiny patient beneath. I have to have the biopsies before they will say I can be in the extension phase. Hey, it was worth a try.

This was just about all I could squeeze into my worry calendar and then I tuned into the weather channel. Shouldn't have done that. Bad mistake. There's a hurricane coming this way and the big white ice cream cone of uncertainty that has a black line going up the center (the storm's predicted path) had the ending dot for Wednesday at 8AM being more or less right out in my front yard. If you looked close enough at the map you could almost make out the pool in the back yard.

So now the woman who didn't like driving on a major highway (i.e. anything with pavement) on a sunny day now may have to brave the elements to stay in this study.

It really is feeling more and more like a hazing. The gods have found out that I will allow hunks of skin to be carved from my body in order to receive these drugs and so now they are saying "hmmmm, she didn't even flinch...let's see, what else we got? anybody? You in the back, Zeus, what's your suggestion? Oh!! That's a GOOD ONE!! Let's throw in a hurricane and see how she reacts."

This one's name is Fay and if it weren't for Fingolimod and how much I love it, I'd have said "F"s are bad luck for me. The only hurricane that ever *got* me was Francis in '04. We had a bunch of trees down in the back yard, some shingles ripped off the roof, and were without power in the middle of a Florida summer for 4 days.

I'm not really looking forward to Wednesday when the storm comes through...but if they tell me I can go have my biopsies that day, maybe there won't be any other idiots on the road and I can make good time. If you see any reporters holding onto a stop sign while they flail sideways in the wind for the dramatic effect like a flag at full mast, be sure to check out the background. You just might see a gray Dodge Ram 1500 inching past. That would be me, on the way to get these moles cut off.

And look! Besides a hurricane, they are predicting a major paint spill across the south east...or no, that's tropical wind speed probabilities. My mistake.

Friday, August 15, 2008

FTY720 may be a novel treatment against chronic viral infections

Just when I seem to be having a really hard time claiming my stake (or steak?) in the extension phase of the Fingolimod Phase III trials, out comes even more great news about the drug.

It seems that researches infected some mice with the mouse form of meningitis and, after 3 days of administering low doses of FTY720, the infection was cleared up. This is phenomenal news as they are discussing possible future trials in Hep C and AIDS patients.

Apparently the war your body wages against viral infections is usually fought in the lymph nodes. This happens to be where Fingolimod sequesters T-cells in order to prevent them from circulating and attacking myelin in MS patients which is why I've not had an MS flare in well over a year.

With the T-cells sequestered in the lymph glands, I guess there's more of them available to fight against the viral infections that try to replicated in the lymph nodes.

I don't pretend to understand it all, but it sounded like good news to me when I read the article that came out the other day.

Here's a recap of it:

London, Aug 14 (ANI): Researchers at Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Emory Vaccine Center have found that trapping disease-fighting white blood cells (WBC) in the lymph nodes might be a novel strategy against chronic viral infections, such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.

Senior author John Altman, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Yerkes Research Center and Emory University School of Medicine, said that the discoveries are based on the study of two varieties of a virus that causes meningitis in mice.

Standard black laboratory mice can fight off infection by the Armstrong strain of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), but are vulnerable to chronic infection by a variant called clone 13.

Altman and his colleagues found that infecting mice with the Armstrong strain sequesters white blood cells in the lymph nodes, while clone 13 does so less stringently.

Our hypothesis was that if we could artificially induce conditions like those produced by the Armstrong strain, it would help the immune system clear an infection by clone 13, Nature quoted Altman, as saying.

The researchers turned to an experimental drug called FTY720, which prevents white blood cells from leaving lymph nodes.

FTY720, also known as fingolimod, desensitizes white blood cells so they can't respond to the chemical messenger sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P).

S1P also influences heart rate and smooth muscle contraction in the airways.

Altman said that the scientists had previously thought of FTY720 as something that suppresses the immune system.

While not approved for sale by the FDA, doctors have tested it for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and preventing kidney transplant rejection.

The researchers found that even if mice have a stable chronic LCMV clone 13 infection, treatment with FTY720 can still improve their immune response against LCMV enough to have them rid it from their systems.

FTY720 appears to prevent exhaustion in the group of white blood cells called CD8+ T cells, which are responsible for killing off other cells that become infected by LCMV.

Altman said that usually, the stress of infection kills some CD8+ T cells and leaves others unable to respond to the virus.

He said that it is unclear whether FTY720 resuscitates non-responsive T cells or allows new ones to avoid being killed off.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's always the things you least expect

...that end up throwing the monkey into the wrench (or however that saying goes).

Today was supposed to be the ho hum, normal skin exam at dermatologist day. It's the very last test needed to complete my one year study and allow me entrance into the extension phase.

Of course it's located in Jacksonville which is a 2 hour drive, but luckily the appointment wasn't until 11am so there was no need to get up at the crack of dawn or anything. I left here at 9 and had a nice ride all the way up except for a little rain. It was so uneventful I worried I may have to pull over and catch a few z's because the monotony was bringing on fatigue.

Then a truck changed lanes and cut me off and I had to slam on the breaks. I was good to go, all juiced back up from adrenalin and never had to pull over to rest. I ended up 20 minutes early for my appointment.

After reading all the jokes in the new Reader's Digest I brought along, a nice nurse poked her head into the waiting room and said "Jeri?"

I followed her back to the exam room which had a chair, a table, and some weird looking equipment I can't even describe. She told me to undress down to undies and bra and sit on the table with the paper towel she called a "sheet" covering me.

I waited and waited and waited. I got really cold and just as I was seriously contemplating putting some clothes back on, a knock came on the door.

The doctor and her nurse entered. It's not the same doctor as last time because last time the doctor was a man. He had looked me all over and said there was nothing I should be worried about and he even let me show him a couple of bumps on my head that I've always wondered about. They were "nothing" as well.

This time, the doctor came in and walked around to the opposite side of the table from where I was sitting, so she was behind my back.

"Uh oh. I can see right now I want you to lie down on your tummy because I see a couple things I want to take a closer look at."

"You mean that skin bump on my back?"

"No, that looks fine, it's nothing. I see a couple really dark moles that are overlapping."

So I lay down and she turns on the spotlight above me. I guess that's supposed to make me hold still like a deer in the headlights or something.

She whips out a Sharpie from her coat pocket and proceeds to play Connect the Dots on my back, drawing circles around the "suspicious lesions".

She utters the words I had no idea I would hear and thus had not even sufficiently worried about: "I'd like to biopsy those."


"Well, they're dark and irregular and are the kind of mole that could turn into skin cancer somewhere down the road. Doesn't mean they are now, but by biopsying them we get rid of them whether they are or aren't and you have the peace of mind that knowing everything is fine."

"I've had those moles ALL MY LIFE! Didn't the last doctor say anything about them?"

The nurse shuffles through the file and says "Yes, Dr. ___ did note them when he saw her last year."

To which the fine doctor replied, "Well, that's him. I'm sort of known for being the Biopsy Queen around here. I like to be better safe than sorry."

So, she has me turn over and she finds yet another reason to draw a one-eyed, mouthless smiley on my stomach. A tiny dark brown dot of a mole that I know has been there for quite a few years, and it's also noted in the file.

"Um, why are you circling that one?"

"We're going to biopsy it, too."

"It's just a speck. Once you have biopsied it, it'll be gone."

"That's the plan," She smiles.

The nurse pipes up saying "what kind of insurance did you say you have?"

"I didn't." I said, "I am hear being seen as part of a research study and the drug company is paying for everything."

"So are they going to pay for the biopsies?" she asks.

"I am SURE they will since it's their idea that I need to come see you and have my skin monitored anyhow. If you find anything to cut off, I'm pretty sure that's part of the deal. They'll pay."

"Well," says a skeptical nurse, "we'll need confirmation from someone in charge."

I tell them to call the Research Department at Shands Jacksonville. They make me wait there lying on the bed with that little paper towel for a sheet. The nurse comes back and says "we can't reach them. If we don't find out something in the next few minutes we are going to have to schedule for another day as we have a backlog of patients to see today."

In my head I am sighing a gigantic sigh of relief. I have not yet sufficiently worried about the ramifications of all this or how painful a biopsy or three might be. I need to go home and work up a good tizzy first that I can talk myself back out of.

So I leave and I am driving home. About 10 minutes out of the parking lot something makes me pick up the cell phone and just SEE if anyone called my trial coordinator.

She was surprised to get my call and even more surprised when I explained the situation, because nobody ever called her. She said she had gotten 2 calls earlier and when she answered the second one she asked them to hold, which they agreed to. When she came back, they were gone and no message had been left.

"So, these are new moles since your last visit?"

"No, it's just a different doctor who apparently likes getting her quota of $150 biopsies with every new patient she sees."

"So, she thinks these are cancerous lesions?"

"No, she thinks they probably aren't. But a biopsy of each one will leave no doubt."

When I tell her they won't do it until there's some guarantee of payment, she tells me to call them back and give them her cell and pager numbers and tell them it's imperative that I get the biopsies done today.

"In the meantime, I will call the Sponsor and make certain they are aware of this new development and that they are going to agree to pay."

So I find a parking lot to sit in and I try calling the dermatology place. I get a big run around about how she's only an operator and that I need to know a name or an extension. Luckily I remembered the doctor's name. I get put through and get voice mail.

I leave a big long message about how I need to have the biopsies done STAT and that I can turn around and drive back right now (which, in hind sight is what I should have done) and here's all the ways to get a hold of Research and they will verify that Novartis is going to fork over the payment.

I never got a call and neither did the trial coordinator. She called me at 4pm to say that she has been trying all day to get through and keeps getting a busy signal. If not a busy signal then a message saying "we're sorry, all circuits are busy at this time, please try your call later." What the heck?

I spend the rest of the day hitting redial on my cell phone trying to get through as well.

I am highly suspicious that the fact that American Idol is holding next season's auditions in downtown Jacksonville has something to do with the phone circuits being overloaded. The thousands of calls to back home saying "they don't know talent when they see it and Simon's a great big JERK, Mom!" are clogging up the phone lines and preventing people who have issues like MS and cancer and research and other things from actually having any meaningful conversations with those who might hold their futures in the balance.

I finally got through, tho. It was 5:10pm. A lady with a really nice voice told me the office was now closed and if this was an emergency to hang up and dial 911. Figures.

So, here we are. Thursday evening and the results of my MRI have never been okay'd by Berlin, so there's no way the Monday ext. phase was going to happen anyhow.

Here's the new clincher tho. Novartis, upon hearing of the biopsies that need to be performed, are now saying that my ability to even continue in this study at all now rests solely upon the results of the biopsies of these three stupid dark dots on my skin that I have had all my life.

If that ends up causing them to take my beloved Fingolimod away from me, head's are going to roll. Starting with the Biopsy Queen, I think.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm still shaking with excitement!!

I got the most exciting phone call earlier! It was my trial coordinator. I had called this morning and left her a voice mail asking if she had scheduled my dermatology appointment yet. Of course I was confused about how we left things -- whether I was supposed to call them directly or if she was going to set it up for me. Naturally, I was supposed to call myself. Oh well.

When she called she said she would hang up right then and get it scheduled and call me back.

When she called back she asked how many shots I had left.

"3" was my answer.

"How many pills?" she quizzed.

"Let me go get the bottle and count them, hang on. 25" was my reply.

She said my appointment with the dermatologist is this Thursday at 10:50. Then came the exciting part.

"I was thinking about this and if Berlin says your MRI is good and does not have to be redone, then after your dermatologist appointment everything will be done."

I said "Yes....??"

She said, "Well, then if Berlin says it's okay to move to extension phase, rather than wait until Sept. 3, we can do it next Monday instead."

I paused while it sank in.

"Are you still there, Jeri?" she asked.

"Oh YES! I'm still here! Just trying to believe what I'm hearing. You mean NO MORE SHOTS??!!"

She laughed her beautiful lyrical laugh and it rained over me like a soothing salve. "Yes, that's exactly what that means."

So...I'm not getting my hopes up, but my fingers are crossed, as well was my toes. I'm saying a little prayer that my MRI was good to go. It turns out that it doesn't matter WHAT it shows, just as long as the images were taken according to protocol.

I'm guessing that they were because the MRI technician (after peeling my keys off the tube and taking my dead ATM cards to the locker for me) told me that they were going to take a while because since I was in the clinical trial, they had to be done a certain way. That tells me that she was aware of how she had to do them even if she wasn't aware that my ATM cards should not go in the tube with me. Hopefully she got the important part right.

Thank goodness I took pictures while doing my last shot. I wanted to show a friend of mine how big the needle was.

Here's the last one...hopefully forever:

That's not easy to do one handed. Usually I'm grabbing my thigh and pinching up a big roll so I can trick myself into believing the needle won't come anywhere close to my bone if I do that. Just sticking it in with one hand while watching through the camera I was holding with the other was a really strange experience. It was like watching on TV and I wanted to look away but remembered that I really had to watch if I wanted to do it right. No changing the channel.

So, I hope I'm not speaking too soon and jinxing myself here, but that, folks, might be the last time I ever stuck myself with a needle. Ever.

I'd say "pinch me! I'm dreaming!" but it might feel too much like a shot and scare me.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I'm that person who holds the line up

You've seen the commercial. Everything's moving at the speed of light with customers doing a synchronized dance around the store and smoothly moving through the checkout by swiping their credit card thingie...

I'm the one who makes the music come to a stop and everyone in line has a chain reaction rear-ender accident -- because I'm the one who has to write a check. I almost forgot HOW to write a check since I opened my account 2 years ago and have never even finished the first book of checks because there was no need to write one since I got the debit card for the account, too.

I have no choice. I apologize if you find that I'm in front of you fumbly farting around trying to get to a blank check and looking for a pen. I hate those people and now I are one.

I took my MRI'd debit card to the bank and they gave me the bad news. They got the test results back from the radiologist and my card is DEAD. I was beside myself. He had his whole life ahead of him, my debit card did, but he was struck down in his prime, and there's just no reason why it should be that way. I mourn him terribly.

His Uncle Check Book is living in the olden days and I hate lugging that clunky sucker around. I have to keep hearing his stories about "in my day, before there WERE any ATM contraptions, everyone had to know how to write and carry a pen!" Sheesh!

Anyhow, the people at my bank were beside themselves with hysteria. I told the death by MRI story to one lady and she had to gather all the other bank employees to hear it all over again. It was a slow day at the bank. I was their only customer at the time. Apparently there's not much need for people to go into the bank any more. Seems they are all out swiping their debit cards and never giving a second thought to their magnetic strip that is the single thin line that separates them from living the retro horror story that my life has become. The poor sots in the dark cave-like space of the bank's interior actually seemed starved for outside contact.

I'm really glad that I could serve my fellow citizens by uplifting the spirits of the bank employees and leaving them with a grin on their faces that was equal and opposite to the frown on mine. 7-10 days to replace the card?? Are they serious? I mean, they have that scanny thingie right there on the desk so they can change the pin. Can't they get the dude behind the curtain to give my card a brain again?

Oh well. It's really put a damper on my spending habits because I hate using checks so maybe it's a good thing. I'll have plenty of cash built up in the account when I get the new card and have to go break it in with a mad swiping frenzy.

NOTE TO SELF: Remember NOT to leave cards in pocket at next MRI. (I know it is a stretch to think I will remember this for a year, but maybe the agony of check writing will sufficiently warp my psyche so that I cannot forget).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Don't always believe the MRI technician...

...when she says you are fine from the waist down.

Yesterday, as part of my decathlon grand finale clinical trial VISIT NUMBER 10, I had to have a brain MRI. The tech told me I was fine. Just remove any mouth jewelry (??? like I have any!) and earrings or necklaces or bobby pins, etc. I had none so I was good to go.

Last time I recall the lady saying I needed to remove my underwire bra. This time I asked about it and she said "Nah, that's too far away from where we will be shooting." So it never occured to me to worry about the contents of my jean pockets which are still a good distance from my underwire bra thankfully. Gravity hasn't had it's way with me to that degree ... yet.

She puts me in there and goes out the door to the other side of the glass. Before it ever winds up like a jet taking off and sounds like sneakers in a dryer, I am feeling a tug on my pocket. I pat my pocket and realize my keys have come alive and are trying to make a break for it through the cloth prison of my jeans. I reach inside my pocket and grab them by the fob. Aiding and abetting, I free them from their jean prison so I could show the tech that my keys were escaping.

No sooner were they loose than they made a beeline for freedom, shooting straight up out of my hand. They were caught by the prison guard magnets of the MRI machine and were held securly until the correctional officer MRI technician came rushing in to collar them and escort them to solitary confinement in the locker outside.

She asked if I was holding anything else back like a cell phone or anything. I said "No, but I have these." I reached in my back pocket and pulled out my credit card, my debit card and my driver's license. I waved them around so she was sure to see them and, apparently, so that the magnets could have their way with them.

Tonite I just got back from the grocery store where the ATM machine told me that "Your card cannot be read. Please try another card." Like I have a deck of 52 in my pocket or something. Good thing I took my checkbook with me, and even better that there was money in that account. We get to eat for another day! YAY!

Anyhow, the MRI debacle was the highlight of the show yesterday. The rest was rather mundane. I left the house at 7am and didn't get home until after 7pm. I started out with the Pulmonary Function Test and the tech is the same one I always have. We finished in 20 minutes and he said I was getting better at it because we got done so fast. I told him I'd had lots of practice breathing since the last time I saw him. I told him I even practiced in my sleep.

Then it was across the street to the towers to have bloodwork, EKG, peg test, numbers test, etc. I screwed up the numbers test the same way I always do...I aced the practice with perfection, but sat midway through the 60 number test like a drooling idiot just listening to the guy spout 7's and 9's again.

Then came the EDSS (Expanded Disability Status Scale) testing. The neuro I had was brand new. The one I had the last two times had finally completed his fellowship and had a practice now, but he had trained the new "fellow". As fellows go, he was quite likable and more importantly, very conscientious of his job. Very thorough in every aspect of the test. Only thing is, at the end he actually told me that my score had improved and I'm not sure he's allowed to do that. I don't have a clue what my score is, but it's got to be better than 10 because the fact that I aced the breathing test proves I'm not dead. I just don't know how close to 1 I am.

Then there was the CT, the MRI, the OCT and the eye exam. It all culminated in a 20 second visit with the neuro who swooped in, did a couple neuro-esque moves on me, signed a paper, asked if I wanted to be in the extension, said "Great!" when I said yes, and then flew out the door all in one graceful fluid motion.

I felt like asking if that was a bird or a plane or Super Neuro. As long as it wasn't Under Dog, I'm cool with it.

I signed the paperwork to go into the extension phase without even reading them. It would have been impossible anyhow because my eyes were so dilated from the eye exam that she had to point to the line for me to sign a couple of times because it all blurred together with the surrounding type.

I'm not too concerned because I already know someone died and someone else was in a coma. I still pop my little pill every morning knowing that if I didn't I would be a whole lot worse off. I know because I was. They'll take my Fingolimod from me when they pry it from my cold dead hand...hopefully not any time soon, tho.

All in all, I can't say as I have ever experienced quite the whirlwind of exams that I did yesterday. Everything was fast, fast, fast. Everyone was efficient and quick. The eye exam took the longest because she had to squeeze me in between other patients, but whenever she WAS with me it was fast and efficient. It was the 3 hours of waiting that went slow.

I did the 500meter walk of the EDSS in 11 min. which I am told by a certain Chickie is roughly 2 mph or normal walking speed for most people. I'm ecstatic about that!

So everything's looking good except for the bad news about my credit cards being wiped out, and you'll be stuck with my meandering shenanigans for at least another year while I cover the extension phase.

To infinity and beyond!