Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Research on Vitamin D and MS

Happy New Year!

Scientists and health-care advocates are encouraged by new research that has found vitamin D may help repair damage to myelin — the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibers — in people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The study, conducted by the University of Cambridge in England and published earlier this month in the Journal of Cell Biology, offers significant evidence that vitamin D could one day be used as a treatment for MS.

Researchers from the MS Society Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair found that the vitamin D receptor protein pairs with an existing protein, called the RXR gamma receptor, which has already proven to help repair myelin.

The study, led by Professor Robin Franklin, determined that the production rate of myelin-making cells (oligodendrocytes) increased by 80% when added to brain stem cells where the proteins were present.

Further study is needed to determine whether the results found in the lab hold true in patients with MS during clinical trials. 

An estimated 100,000 Canadians have MS — the highest prevalence rate in the world. The Vitamin D Society, a Canadian non-profit group organized to increase awareness of the many health conditions strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency, is following the research closely. The organization encourages Canadians to be proactive in protecting their health and have their vitamin D levels tested annually.

In Canada, approximately 12 million Canadians do not meet vitamin D blood level requirements of 50 nmol/L set by Health Canada and the Institute of Medicine. This figure rises to 14 million — 40% of us — during winter months.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Day-Time-Pot Discovery

I've been trying several different strains of pot over the last couple of months, trying to find something that helps with pain and/or gives me a psychological lift during the day. I've found one that I think I'll stick with: Special Premium Electric Kush (http://store.medpotnow.com/super-premium-electric-kush.html). It isn't perfect, but ithe gives FAST, fairly LONG-LASTING pain relief and a bit of a high without too much dizziness or loss of balance. If you want some help with those symptoms, you might want to give it a try.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Heat Intolerance

I think my heat intolerance may be increasing. The normal symptom is that the lower half of my left leg swells a great deal when the temperature is high but, more recently, I've found that I have less strength and more stomach upset in hot weather. I can certainly still enjoy a warm (or even hot) day for a period of time, but if I'm in the heat (especially muggy heat) for a while, I start to see the effects.

Update on My Weed Experiences (Part 2)

Lately, I've again started feeling lousy during the day (somewhat like I was feeling for almost a year before my back surgery). That has made me rethink my decision not to use Marijuana during the day. Also, since Mary is now retired, as well, my need to drive during the day has declined since she can usually do the driving.

But then my problem was to find the right strain and sub-strain of weed that would reduce the daytime nausea, stomach upset (and sometimes pain) while energizing me and not make me drowsy. The 22/1 Cannimed product I got for that purpose seemed to make me too drowsy, but how could I try other products from other companies without going through a long, time-consuming process of registering with another company. After a search on line I found a dispensary in Vancouver that would mail me a "variety pack" of one gram samples of several sub-strains and hybrids that might give me the effects I wanted. I still needed to register and provide a copy of my prescription, but the whole process, including ordering the variety pack, was completed in one day, rather the several weeks it takes with Cannimed.

I've tried two of the five sampler products I ordered from the Vancouver dispensary and, so far, haven't found one that I'm completely satisfied with. I'll just keep trying.

Update on my update: Just tried my third sampler. Chocolope OG seems to be working much better than the others I've tried. Nice. Two more to try in the next few days, then I'll probably go through them all one more time to make sure.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Update on My Weed Experiences

I've been using marijuana for just over a year now, and it's time to tell you what I've experienced, so far.

For most of that time I've been using a 9/9 (9% THC, 9% CBD) product from Cannimed, one of the suppliers licensed by Health Canada. That particular product has helped me with pain and insomnia, so I take it just before bed, using a Solo Arizer vaporizer. It may help with night leg spasms as well, but since I've been on Baclofen for most of that time, it's hard to say.

I haven't followed the doctor's advice about taking a daytime version because some of my worst pains have been reduced since my back surgery in October. However, lately some symptoms I've been having have made me rethink that. I'll talk about that in my next post.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Still some pleasures possible

We've only got a week and a day left here in Samara, Costa Rica. The weather has been great, maybe a bit hot (my left foot swells like a sausage in the heatand it's been a dry 35 almost every day), but I get into the pool for a couple of physio sessions every day. Our place (Villas Kalimba) has been perfect: great accommodations, nice pool, close to the beach (though I haven't gotten into the ocean yet - waves are too big). Internet connections were a bit flaky, but given the number of devices connected in the 7 villas around here, it's not a surprise. We're closed to many restaurants I can get to on my poles, and many other we can reach with my wheelchair. We make quite a sight, I'm sure: my sister Marilyn opening the road, Bela the dog behind her, Mary pushing me in my "mustang" wheelchair, Gerri behind all of us holding my poles like they were spears.

Wednesday we all went up for gyrocopter rides at a place a few miles out of town: it was a wonderful experience: http://youtu.be/TZO1ZM-TuC4 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Grass, Baclofen, Wild Turkey, Sleeping

It's been over 8 months since I started taking medical marijuana for pain and to help me sleep. I've rarely taken the daytime stuff (22% THC, 1% CBD), but every night I vaporize a small dose of the night-time version (9% THC, 9.5% CBD). Lately, I seem to have gotten my bed-time routine right: two zopiclone (sleeping pills) about 1 to 2 hours before I intend to sleep, and then a dose of marijuana 15 minutes before sleep (it takes about 10 minutes to vape it). I haven't had a sleepless night for a month, almost always falling asleep between 1 and 2 AM. There have been times, though, when the residual discomfort or small pain in my incision site have also caused me to take a good stiff drink of Wild Turkey (bourbon whiskey). While the grass takes the edge off the pain, it sometimes isn't enough if I'm not too sleepy, and the whiskey quickly dulls pain and makes me sleepier. It's very short relief, but usually enough to get me to fall asleep, and then I sleep all night.

Just before my infection, I had stopped taking my baclofen because I thought that might be what was making me feel week and tired. Now I'm back up to 4 a day to help resolve my night leg spasms that were coming back. I may even go up to 5 and see if that works better.

By the way, after a lifetime of sleeping on my stomach, during my hospital stay I learned to sleep on my side. In the mornings my lower back arthritis is much better than it used to be, and I'm sure that sleeping positions have a lot to do with it. Now if I can just find the right combination of head and body pillows to keep my spine straight, I'll bet I'll be able to reduce the pain even more.

Hope for a Better 2015

Most of 2014 was pretty much a write-off. Oh, it started great (visiting my daughter and friends in Oz and NZ) and it ended great (my daughter and Simon visiting for a long spell at Christmas and New Years, and even Ukrainian Christmas), but most of the time in-between I was not feeling great. I had no appetite and lost 25 pounds, didn't feel much like doing physio, Pilates or yin yoga, had problems sleeping and/or sometimes was sleeping too much. Sure, I did have good things happen - friends from Oz visited, we spent quality time at the cottage, my mobility scooter made life easier and more fun - but things just didn't feel right. Finally, just after the annual Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, it hit: a streptococcal infection in my spine, next to my spinal chord in the L3, L4 and L5 vertebrae area.  This caused huge and very painful back spasms and my MS symptoms (especially related to weakness and mobility issues) to hit the roof. The surgery required shaving away some backbone to drain the abscess, hopefully reducing the spinal stenosis that may have led to much of my hip and sciatic pain in my left leg.

I really don't remember a lot about those times. I hardly even remember my daughter visiting me the first time. Maybe some of it (pain, horrible and embarrassing MS symptoms) I just don't want to remember. I do remember progressing from not being able to transfer from one chair to another without help to being able to do short walks with a 2-wheel walker. Luckily, I got out of hospital two days before my son left for his teaching job in China.

Since my operation on October 4th, I've been recuperating steadily but slowly, though the improvements seemed to have stopped now, perhaps even regressed a little, with stomach upset seeming to be an ongoing problem. Given all the penicillin I got (mega-doses for 6 weeks after the operation), it shouldn't be an infection anymore, though it could be that my stomach ecosystem hasn't yet recovered from all the antibiotics. What has improved greatly and stayed better is a huge reduction in pain in my left hip and leg. I hope that is due to the removal of the spinal stenosis, but it could be also due to the reduction in my walking. While I progressed to a four-wheeled walker and, finally, to using poles and a cane again, the winter weather and ice and snow keep me inside and sitting a lot. I sure hope no more health problems keep me from taking our 5-week vacation in Costa Rica at the end of this month.

I wish all of you a happy, health and prosperous 2015.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Almost Two Months of Hell

On September 24th I was taken to emergency at the DECH in Fredericton with acute back spasms. After a week of diagnoses and painkillers, I was taken to the neurological unit at Saint John Regional Hospital. On October 4th they operated on my back, removing an epidural abscess caused by streptococcal infection. After some healing and then physio in Saint John, I was brought back to the DECH for a few days, getting home on October 20th. Since I've been on a antibiotic pump that gives me a megadose of penicillin every four hours, with extramural nurses coming to our apartment to refill it every morning. As of last night, I'm finally free of that!

The infection really ramped up my MS symptoms, to the point where I was not even able to transfer myself from one chair to another. Since the surgery I've gained some of my strength and balance back, but I still have to use a walker to get around, which means I’m still much worse than I was before I was infected. In particular, it really feels like the vertebrae in my lumbar region [where the surgery was] are rubbing against my spinal cord causing much more spasticity in my walking. I've been wearing a back brace when I'm sitting up in a chair or walking around for any distance, but I don't know that it's really helped reduce the spasticity, especially now that my back is somewhat stronger. I'm hoping that, when my healing is finally done, I'll be back to being able to do what was normal for me before the infection.

On the bright side, I can always hope that the surgery has reduced the stenosis in my spine. Certainly my hip and sciatic pain (and some other symptoms) are way less than before my surgery. I don't know if that is due to surgery or just the fact that I'm not moving around much these days. Guess I'll have to wait and see.

Between the infection and painkillers, I was in a fog for most the time that I was in the hospitals. I hardly even remember my daughter’s first visit (before surgery). I'm sure glad that I got home before my son left for his teaching job in China, and that my daughter had a second opportunity to visit us at home.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

My Spinal Surgery: Will It Help MS Symptoms?

For those of you who weren't aware, I've been in hospitals (Fredericton, Saint John) for the last 1 1/2 weeks. It started as painful lower back spasms (L3,  L4 & L5) on Tuesday the 24th which could only be semi- treated with morphine, and super elevated MS symptopns: couldn't walk at all, completely exhausted and dizzy, etc. An elevated temp suggested they should check blood cultures and start a regime of antibiotics. When they got the cultures back, they were able to detect that I had a bacterial infection. The pains I had been getting were being treated with a coctail of penicillins (which had since migrated to the tail-bone, and were no longer spasms) suggested I might have spinal infections. As my temp ( and infection) went down, my MS symptoms improved. (NOTE: These MS symptoms waxed and waned for a few days at the same time my temp went up and down a few times).

Then I was transferred to Saint John hospital, so the neurosurgeons there would advise whether surgery was a valid treatment for my problems. Eventually they did.  For me there was the added potential benefit of removing or reducing a stenosis in my L3/L4/L5 area, a stenosis that may have been contributor to poor walking, pains in my lower back, and general weakness.

I had the surgery this afternoon.  There was at least one big spinal - area abscess filled with pus they cleaned out. I didn't talk to the neurourgeons yet, but will find out the details tomorrow regarding things like the stenosis. My hope is that this spinal surgery takes me back, symptoms-wise to where I was when I came back from CCSVI treatment in Poland in 2010. You'all cross ya fingas now, ya hear? :-)