I was on my way to another doctor’s appointment last week regarding this strange tingling in my face, and feeling quite low. But it was a foggy morning, and driving out past the fields, I noticed the mist rising from the furrows. It was so breathtaking and magical, I had a moment of deep gratitude that brought tears to my eyes.

Because I’m going through this, I was able to see that sight.

Because my body is doing something weird and scary, instead of being parked in front of my computer screen at work, I was driving out in the world.

I hope we figure this out soon. But I am grateful that I was able to see the mist rise from the fields.

And then…

While I didn’t have a great day today either, being chased home by my headache and tingling, my walk to work was pretty nice.

Some little Scilla on someone’s front lawn (I think).

Silly wonderful magnolia is blooming! (Photo adjusted to bring out the colours because we were in shadow and looking towards a bright sky)

A slightly more photoshopped one to make the colours pop!

(Something sweet to end the day – sorry for the downer post this morning)

Mind games

Last week was pretty bad. I was nauseated for most of the week, had a couple of headaches (one of which was sliding in and out, making me not sure whether to take a painkiller or not), and woke up from sleep in the middle of the night with a stabbing headache (which I was too sleep addled to get up and get a pain pill for but really so asleep that after waking I slipped back into sleep before I could get out of bed anyway).

On Thursday morning, feeling disgusting again, I walked to my regular bus stop. I had a headache (which would take my two extra strength Motrin and an extra large coffee to knock down) and it (or something else) was making me feel nauseated. I was pretty down and having a pity party.

I came to the conclusion that I think it’s a myth that I ever felt well. That there was a time when I wasn’t in pain, when I actually felt well rested, when my body felt like it was operating as normal.

It’s been 4 months of this “puzzle” now. Because I show no outward signs of dying, I’m not in a House episode where they are desperately trying to figure out what’s going on in a short time span. Although my doctor does seem worried that I will have a stroke.

I know that my pity party moment is wrong. I have felt well. In fact, I’ve felt fantastic in the past. I’ve been strong enough to run a 10 km race. Two of them, in fact. But it’s wearing on me. And frankly, I want to stop theorizing with everyone on what food I should stop/start eating or what habit I need to adopt/drop, what funky specialist I should just go see or what nutrient I might be deficient in.

I’m trying to live a healthy lifestyle right now. I’m trying to sleep, eat properly, exercise, and manage my stress. But this Thing has interfered with most of those things. I’ve also had more migraines in these past four months than I have in the last four years. Something has shifted and I don’t have a tricorder to let me do all this diagnosis myself. I have to use the medical system, and it’s exhausting to have to take time during my workday to call and advocate for myself.

Not to mention the fear. I try to keep it under wraps because it just isn’t helpful. But there is a fear that this is something serious that we won’t figure out until too much damage is done, like in my father’s case. He had six months of having cancer before he died, though he was feeling unwell for at least a year previous to that.

I don’t want to be permanently debilitated. I don’t want to struggle through migraines week after week. And I’ve avoided so many “triggers”, the only thing I can think is triggering me now is the actual stress of the tingling and not knowing. How’s that for a vicious cycle?

Sorry for the negative post. It’s pretty indicative of my mindset right now. I’ve also been struggling against negativity, because it is also unhelpful. But sometimes it takes over.

Things seen on my walk part 3

I think it’s part 3, anyway.

A little hidden crocus in the abandoned front garden of the shut down restaurant now reverted to car dealership use.

A reminder of how far we’d gotten into spring before we all got schmucked by this snowstorm.

Kinda feels like being set back to square one. Although it’s not really square one, maybe just back a few spaces.

The melting snow is good for groundwater replacement. Let’s try to look on the bright side.

Needles and pins

My RMT is wonderful. She has been very good and very careful with me, because apparently having someone say “facial numbness” to you makes people very nervous.

So when she thought she saw a pea-sized bulge in or around my carotid artery that may have had a pulse during one of my last massages, she backed off and suggested I seek medical attention.

The ER is a fantastic place to observe humanity and to practice empathy. I was seen relatively quickly, as I suspect potential aneurysms or strokes tend to be, but I still had time to observe my fellow humans in need of emergency medical help.

There were the two elderly brothers, one clearly with some type of dementia, who was additionally ill, and the one who was responsible for his care. There was the young woman, crying and hardly able to breathe because of an abcess in her throat, and her stoic friend/roommate who was helping her through getting intravenous antibiotics. There was also the middle aged man who walked up to the triage desk and said, “I did something stupid.” To which the triage nurse prompted, “What did you do?” And he replied, “I grabbed the wrong end of my soldering iron, while it was on.” And she said, “Yup, that was stupid. Have a seat and we’ll be with you in a minute.”

Long story short, the ER doctor (who looked like Fred Flintstone, and who was very personable) couldn’t find anything. He referred me to get a carotid Doppler ultrasound and to bring the results for immediate consult back to the ER.  After waiting a day and a half to hear from the imaging centre, all the while wondering if I was a ticking time bomb, I called and found out they had “deprioritized” me and made an appointment for two weeks later. I said I had been under the impression I was supposed to be seen within two days and she managed to slip me into a cancellation the next day.

Back to the ER we went. The technician showed me how illegible the requisition had been so I told her what it was for and she imaged both sides of my neck. Noticing how quickly my pulse was “wow-wow”ing from the machine, I tried to breathe and calm myself. The tech didn’t think I needed to stay to get the consult but I insisted after talking with my husband, who reminded me that I was a “special case” according to Dr Fred’s instructions. I ended up waiting almost all day, and my husband had to run back to work for a meeting before they took me in to tell me that everything looked fine and maybe it was a lymph node from the nasty three week cold I’d just finished.

So that had nothing to do with my facial tingling, just a fun little side trip into the hospital.

However, my facial tingling has changed in the past week or so. I started overnight muscle relaxants a couple of weeks ago, on top of the calcium-channel blockers. And now my facial tingling has gone from painless TV snow on parts of my face to closer to the pins and needles feeling you get if your foot falls asleep.

Most days it has been fairly mild, and restricted to just my left cheekbone, right cheek and cheekbone. But today it decided to be super special and it’s both cheeks, cheekbones, lips, the outer corner of my eyelids, jaw and chin. So, most of my face has a pins and needles feeling in it. As you can imagine, it’s not terribly comfortable and, in fact, makes my stomach turn a bit. I’ve also been fighting a headache this week. Coincidence?

I hate this and I wish I knew what was going on. We really need to invent tricorders.

So here you go, an appropriate-ish song for the post.

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…