Monday, June 4, 2007

The Fourth Attack - 1997

In 1997, Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule. Timothy McVeigh was sentenced for the Oklahoma City bombing. NASA’s Pathfinder landed on Mars. Dolly the sheep was cloned. Ellen came out of the closet. The first Harry Potter book was published. Movies included Titanic and Men in Black. I went to my 20th class reunion and was bored. Clay Walker, country music star, was diagnosed with MS but I didn’t notice.

Tedd and I, now living together, moved to Delaware in the fall of ’97 – he took a job with CSC on the JP Morgan account and I took a job on the DuPont account. We moved into our new house in Newark on Halloween.

The move to Delaware was very stressful for me. Although we only moved about 80 miles away, it felt like we were in another country. We moved to a state with a population of only 600,000 – less than the entire population of Baltimore. The infrastructure was antiquated – sensors at traffic lights were just being installed. Tedd and I had to get out of our car to explain to the drivers ahead of us that if they didn’t move up to the white line we would never get the green light. We moved from a state where everything was a 15-minute drive to a state where everything was stop-and-go. And no curbside recycling.

Although I moved within the company, it was as if I joined a new one. Benefits were different. Rules were different. Language and acronyms were different. The job was completely different. I went from the Department of Defense intelligence world to the commercial DuPont chemicals and paints and fibers world. I went from a place that talked about intelligence collection systems to a place that talked about white pigments and elastomers and nylon. I had no mentors, no friends, no support group, and was an outsider.

With all this stress it was no surprise to me when I had a little tingling start in my leg. I was also struggling with fatigue and having some trouble remembering things, so obviously stress was getting to me. But I wasn’t exercising or stretching or eating right. In Maryland, I had a massage therapist help get some tingling out of my hands and arms so I sought out a massage therapist at a chiropractor’s office. I made an appointment for the next week, but in a matter of days the tingling spread up through my legs and was working its way up to my waist. If you’ve ever had a leg fall asleep, imagine that feeling spreading and not going away.

I had a few years to think about this “maybe MS” diagnosis so I suspected there might be an MS relation. All I knew was that seeing the neurologist in the past was a waste of time and that steroids would be prescribed, but didn’t want to go on steroids again so I started seeing the chiropractor. The massage and chiropractic relieved the discomfort, but it was still unpleasant and difficult to walk. Fortunately, I was able to work from home in my new job. This “pins and needles” episode lasted over two months.

I explained this to co-workers as ‘maybe’ MS, but maybe not and assured them that I would be fine. One co-worker told me about “Lhermitte Sign,” which is a sudden electric-like shock that extends down the spine and is triggered by flexing the head down. He said that was a classic MS symptom. I didn’t believe him – that was too strange.

A few months later, I found some MS chat groups on line and learned that improvements in MRI diagnoses were being developed. The chiropractor told me that with the new “open” MRIs, some people with metal pins in their ears were having MRIs. When Tedd later had an MRI, I went with him and discussed this with the technician who told me to find out the composition of the pin, and if it’s pure stainless steel I could have an MRI. I tucked that in the back of my mind for future reference. Maybe I would need that information. Maybe not.

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