A reprieve

I was quietly enjoying a vacation day earlier this week when I received a call from the neurologist’s office, offering me an appointment 18 hours later – a cancellation they had. I eagerly took it, informed my boss and drove out to the country hospital the next morning. The irony of both the neurologist and me driving from our city to a hospital in a small town south of the city to meet was not lost on me.

She asked me for the history of my prickling-tingling sensation, my family medical history, habits, and impressions. Then she ran some tests on me – balance, vision, body weakness. She pricked me with a pin, and brushed me with a tissue.

I don’t have multiple sclerosis.

She poked several spots on my neck and face and back. That was… Uncomfortable.

Our working diagnosis is tight muscles in my neck and face that are pinching the nerves, causing the prickling sensation. For the time being, we’re increasing my muscle relaxants over the next eight weeks and I’m to increase my yoga and meditation, and keep getting massage therapy. If that doesn’t help, I’m to call her and we’ll see what other tests we can do.

Thankfully, the stars aligned and I was able to get in now. When I had called her office to follow up on my family doctor’s referral, they were saying I might not get in until November. That gutted me. But because I called, the admin knew I would take any cancellation and make it work. It really does pay to be your own advocate, despite being tired and overwhelmed. 

A reprieve for part of the summer. A plan and an assurance from a neurologist that it isn’t something scarier. I’ll take it.

And try to relax…


To Nantes

I was fortunate enough to be sent to the SETAC Europe conference in Nantes, France, the week before last to present some of the Arctic work from the past two years to about 2000 scientists. I was definitely the odd man out, being one of the only people presenting human related data but it was definitely a fruitful conference for me both personally and professionally. 

Not to be confused with “without negative impacts”, mind you. It was a lot of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone in terms of overcoming my introversion to make connections. I tried to approach my presentation of my poster in a “me” way, being open, available for discussion, engaged and interested in creating a further network.
However, there were 2000 people at the conference and I had a claustrophobic moment on the first day of sessions that made me change my approach to moving about in the conference. And I’m definitely still suffering from introvert exhaustion.

Nantes itself was lovely. I wouldn’t mind going back to be a tourist there sometime.

First day, after checking into my hotel, I walked in the sun to try to get my body clock turned around. This is a part of the cathedral, and where a tower used to be in the city’s ramparts, except that they pulled parts of them down to make a grand boulevard (which is to the right).

Hanging out in the sun in the “moat” area of the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne on Saturday afternoon (the first day).

Sunday – I picked up my registration package at the conference and since I hadn’t signed up for any of the short courses (which would have made my conference fee even higher), I again wandered to try to adjust my body clock. I toured the Chateau des ducs de Bretagne and learned about the history of Nantes. The castle has undergone many renovations and styles have been mixed.

Unfortunately, Sunday was pretty rainy (downpours with hail). Fortunately, Les Oubliettes restaurant at the chateau was open and I got to eat delicious galette and a crepe caramel beurre salé maison with café creme during this particular downpour.

I went for a small walk after a lovely dinner at Sale e Pepe on Monday, and enjoyed the canal and its inhabitants.

Tuesday, once I was finished talking to people, I went into centre ville and had a fabulous dinner at Le Fou du Roi. On my way back, Le Miroir started doing its cycle of fun fountain stuff.

On Wednesday, after the conference, I tried to make it to the Musée d’Imprimerie and les Machines de l’Île before they closed and failed. But I did get to see this awesome carousel. I also got to see the end of the run for the Grand Elephant.

Wednesday night was the conference banquet, which my colleague termed her worst nightmare – to be stuck on a river cruise boat filled with people she didn’t know and not to be able to leave when she wanted. I lucked out with my table mates and the cruise on the Erdre was pretty. This is the major chateau we passed.

Thursday was the day that the greve was happening and my concierge recommended that I stay put at the hotel. The conference was done at 3:30 so I ran across to the boulangerie to grab a snack since I hadn’t had adequate lunch (a running theme problem for that conference – certain days, I just went and bought lunch from a nearby place because the conference offerings were insufficient), and then went to my room and had wine and baguette. The riot police had been standing across the street from my hotel with their shields and helmets on looking serious.

On Friday, I had to go to the airport. The protesters had blockaded the road so I was dropped off on the off ramp from the highway and I trundled my suitcase 2.4 km through two blockades to get to my first flight. The protesters didn’t interfere with me and one lady at the second blockade assured me that no one would. I was glad to get to the airport though.

The flight back across the Atlantic was pretty easy. And off the coast of Labrador, we saw the ice breaking up and blowing out into the ocean. It was really cool.

I am glad to be home though. :)


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.