One answer

In my last post, I mentioned my health issues that I’ve been trying to figure out. I heard back from my doctor that my CT scan was normal, so we can scratch brain tumour and aneurysm off the list.

The numbness continues. I’m hoping it’s more of a “get better at stress management” issue as was identified by my RMT. Apparently my muscle tension needs some attention. 

There are still some not so great things that could cause numbness but we’re narrowing down the list. Also it would be super awesome to not also be fighting viruses right now. I’ve been off at least one day as sick for the past three weeks. It’s really annoying because I’m already operating from a position of “I’m not going to let this weird numbness and headache dictate my life! I’m going to do my stuff!”

Yes, I know. I’m stubborn as hell. My husband says that too.

But on a brighter note, I’ll be heading back to France in a couple of months to attend a conference. So that’s all planned. Should be fun!

In the system

So we returned home from our trip, and immediately I started experiencing something rather off-putting.

I felt like I had pulled my neck over that first weekend. And then came the headache and numbness.

The headache was pretty bad. My brain felt sludgy and it was hard to think or function well. But the numbness… I’ve had it once or twice before, I think, associated with tension and a migraine headache. But it had gone away.

I’m experiencing it again now. It has been going on for more than two months.

After the third week of it had started, I finally reached out to my family doctor after I had numbness in my hands. A misplaced message at the clinic left me waiting into the fourth week, when I finally got in touch with my doctor’s office and they booked me for an emergency appointment the next morning.

After dropping my husband off at work, I fought through rush hour traffic to get out of Ottawa. My family doctor is an hour or so south of the city, back where I spent my adolescence. Fearing I would be late, my blood pressure was skyrocketing and I was feeling more numbness. The headache had been cycling in and out over these four weeks.

But I made it to the clinic and even had a moment to sit in the waiting room before my nurse brought me into the exam room. My doctor came in and I started to explain what had been going on with me, including stress at work and whatnot. She tested my cranial nerve responses and they were all working. She looked in my eyes and had me squeeze her fingers with my hands to see if I was losing strength, but apparently not. She didn’t like my stress level and slapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm. The readout surprised even me, although I was still feeling my elevated blood pressure. 151/102… 

She left me alone in the exam room, sitting in a chair with the blood pressure cuff on a repeat measurement mode. I used some of my meditation and yogic breathing techniques to calm down and got my blood pressure down to 130/80 in a matter of minutes. But I admit this is stressing me.

The facial numbness isn’t really numbness in the “dead” feeling sense. I can feel pressure, pain, cold and hot on the areas. And they still work, they don’t go slack. It’s just that they feel like pins and needles without the pain part.

So she sent in a request for a CT scan. And she suggested I was having an atypical migraine and she took me off any other medications and put me on some calcium-channel blockers. She called me the next morning, when I was having a crushing headache and had unsuccessfully tried to pick up the migraine meds (the pharmacy didn’t have it in their system). I had just self-medicated with an extra large caffeinated coffee and two extra-strength Motrin, which has always been my method of medicating my massive headaches when I need to function (through my undergrad and grad school). She was worried about this as well and she said if I had a thunderclap headache, my one side of my face went slack or if I lost motor control in one hand, that I should head to the ER. She also put in another request to the pharmacy.

I ended up calling th hospital imaging department to find out about scheduling for the CT scan and the tech made my appointment while I was on the phone, for convenience sake. I was very happy that I called. And my husband drove me out there this past Thursday morning. Three minutes of X-Ray bombardment, which amounts to an average of two years worth of natural background radiation exposure in one shot, and I was allowed to leave, which I suppose means they didn’t find anything immediately of concern. I was hoping they wouldn’t. I’d far prefer this to be a more difficult behavioural change issue than something requiring surgery to my skull…

I’m noticing more little things that are kind of freaking me out, like stumbling on words or not remembering things, lack of coordination or changes in myself. I hate being sick generally, and I definitely hate being in the medical system. I’m thankful that my taxes support a system for all and that all of this isn’t costing me thousands of dollars. But I am planning on calling my  doctor’s office next week to make sure they know I’ve had my scan and that they should be getting the results. I’ll see them the week after next for my follow up appointment and try to figure out what’s next.

So no resolution yet although my headaches seem to be easing. I’m also seeing an RMT, through my doctor’s recommendation, to try to work out the tightness I have in my neck, jaw and shoulders, back… Basically everywhere. She’s trying to counteract the desk-worker hunch that I’m developing, and that’s one of things I try to counteract with my yoga too. And both professionals are encouraging me to spend time at the gym, with my RMT giving me suggestions and modifications based on what she’s read in my muscles. In the next few visits, she wants me to focus on my lats through rowing and lat pulldowns. And she’s been telling me since the start not to aggravate my traps.

I’m not really sure where this will lead. I’m hoping we’ll be able to solve this soon. My RMT is wondering if the high tension in my neck and jaw muscles might be impinging the nerves and causing the numbness.

There are enough people in my greater social circle, one if whom is a genetic relative, who have experienced headache troubles and have had brain tumours discovered that it is a concern for me. There are also enough reports of aneurysms to add to that. Don’t ever Google “facial numbness” because nothing good will come of it. Believe me…  I do feel lucky to have a scientific background which helps me have a deeper understanding of what’s being analyzed and what repercussions there are.

So this is partly why I’ve been quiet recently. Most nights I’m not feeling well or I’m stubbornly trying to keep being active. I’ve been going to the gym, and teaching yoga, and filling in for my manager while he had a well deserved vacation. And finally succumbing to feeling unwell and allowing myself to take time to rest, instead of dragging myself by the collar in to work or the store or whatever.

Hopefully I’ll start to feel better and I’ll get back to my writing and painting. I haven’t been super creative lately, except for a burst of writing and watercolour painting about a month ago that I haven’t completed, but I really want to.

Now it’s time to hit the gym…