Pride goes before a fall

So just weeks after I posted about how my health was doing so great, I got a sobering reminder today that I still have MS.

I was going to the post office to mail my dad’s birthday gift and I tripped over a jagged piece of the sidewalk. I fell on my hands and knees, bloodying and bruising all pretty badly.

An older gentleman (who looked remarkably like Joe Biden) helped me up and seemed genuinely very concerned about whether I was okay. I guess it’s not every day that you see a middle-aged woman wipe out on the sidewalk.

So now my knees look like this (I won’t show my hands both because they’re worse and because it’s hard to take a picture of your own hands):

My left knee continues to swell and darken, and I imagine this is going to hurt worse tomorrow.

I’ve continually told myself that I’m still okay because I can still walk. Even though I’m on disability, I constantly push myself to prove that I am Just. Fine. I don’t want any pity or to think of myself as disabled.

I rarely take my cane when I leave the house, though I think after this incident my husband wishes I wouldn’t be so stubborn. Seriously, this was only my second major fall. Most of the time, I can go out and about with no problems. I even park far away from stores so I can get more exercise.

On the other hand, though, it does kind of freak me out for one other big reason: my neurologist just ordered lab work last week and my white blood cells have fallen to a dangerous low. That means my immune system is weak and I, like my husband, am now also considered immunocompromised.

The scarier part of that is that I’m high-positive for the JC virus, a common virus that most people have which lies dormant in your body and causes no symptoms. Why that’s bad: the disease-modifying drug I take for my MS has a risk of causing PML, a rare but often fatal complication. You never know when something might cause the virus to be reactivated but it’s more likely when your immune system is low.

The scarier part of all that is that the symptoms of PML are nearly identical to those of MS. In case you didn’t read the link, clumsiness and difficulty walking are two of the symptoms of PML.

Now, I know the odds are 99.9 percent that I don’t have PML. There have only ever been 5 reported cases of it associated with my medication. My doctor is monitoring me very closely and I’m repeating the lab work next week to see if it’s still low. If it is, he’ll take me off the medication and I’ll probably have to switch to the scary one I didn’t want to take because it was too new.

I always knew that if my white blood cells tanked, I’d be taken off the medication. I just didn’t expect my white blood cells to drop so low in a little over seven months. It’s a shame because the medication is working well otherwise and has very few side effects for me.

I find that this also makes me look again at natural treatments. MS is sometimes scary and often the drugs for it are even scarier. Who knows, though? Maybe when I repeat the lab work, my count will have come back up and this will all have been for nothing. Except for the fall and how much that hurt my pride.

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