Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Gifts from a terrible disease

2010-08-17

Sorry I haven’t been able to post lately.  I’ve been skirmishing with my cornucopia of miasms and the time I’ve had left has been spent resting between rounds of the battle.

I have talked before about gifts that come from illness, such as strength and compassion, but these two gifts that I want to mention are not happenings usually associated with FTD.

The first is unexpectedly increased creativity in some people who have FTD.  A passage from a University of California website says “In our clinic at the Memory and Aging Center, we see people who lose certain abilities, like language, while gaining new ones, like musicality and artistic expression. We have met individuals, particularly those with semantic dementia, who never created art before becoming ill and are now making wonderful, intriguing artwork. One explanation for this phenomenon is that healthier parts of the brain compensate for the areas that are no longer working. Therefore, visual expressions such as a drawing, painting or sculpture bloom as the person loses their capability for verbal language.”

I am a writer and I had a big problem with writer’s block that lasted for years.  A few years ago the dam burst and my mind was filled with many stories.  My characters have always “talked” to me since then.   I am the person who dictates what they tell me, and I do a bit of maintenance work on their pages.

Now, my characters constantly cut in line to try to be the first to tell their story.  They are a rowdy crowd and sometimes I have to blow the whistle and say, “Let’s have some order here. I will get to all of you eventually.”  I don’t think they believe me.  They know my time is limited so they continue their bad behavior.  When I am able, I try to dictate some of their words and I also have a “talk box” for each character who wants to tell me their story.  I can type or use Dragon Speak to get their words out.  Of course, it is only a temporary measure.  When I am too ill to keep up the system, the mob is back.  As of late, I think they have become more understanding.  During this last spell of illness, they entertained me by telling stories one by one.

The other gift  that I have recently received from FTD  I discovered recently.  I have no idea if others with FTD have experienced this with the illness.  Recently, we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Selch wheeled me into the room of stones and quartz.  I began to feel vibrations on different levels.  I told him about my experiences and he positioned me so I could touch different stones.  Each stone had different vibrations and the vibrations sounded like music.  As he pushed my chair further into the rooms, I could hear a symphony of different vibrations.  The colors, the “music” and the vibrations together were an amazing experience.

I wished that I could  touch all the different stones that were behind the glass.  Of all the stones I believe Amethyst was most pleasing to my senses.

Unfortunately, when we came into the room where diamonds were exhibited, there was a crowd of people.  My experience was somewhat muted.  Perhaps too many people block the flow of energy.  This experience is so new to me.

The last stones I encountered were meteors from space, mars, etc.  They also had their own vibrations and tones.  Generally their vibrations had a deeper resonance.

I had read about the power of stones and crystals but never really paid much attention to it.  We have a friend who is a jeweler and the last time I went to his house and he brought out different stones and gems, I did notice an attraction to some of them and I was also delighted to spend a few hours digging through different pieces of gold looking for real treasure (meaning higher quality gold.)  By the end of the day, I found myself really interested in gemology and he gave me a book to take home.

I tried to read the book but after I was away from the stones I lost interest.  Also my spiritual teacher had a collection of different stones and gems.  He talked about their life force and healing properties.

If any of you that have FTD (or another neurodegenerative disorder) and you have experienced an experience of increased creativity or this phenomena with stones and gems, please share your story with me.   Or if you are a loved one of someone with these disorders and have witnessed it.

Also maybe you or your caregiver might want to try or assist you with many creative activities to see if they appeal to you.  I read about a man who had no creative talent who has FTD.  He is now creating beautiful sculptures.  I am not saying that we all will be able to do that but perhaps you or your loved one might gain some pleasure by trying different creative things.

I wrote in a past note that I had lost my ability to play the piano with my left hand or recognize notes on the bass cleft.  We went to the music store recently and I did remember where to place my left hand on the keys.  It is a start and after we are more settled, I am going to purchase a keyboard and see if I am able to resurrect some of my musical ability.

Never give up. We are traveling through the dark woods right now, but on the other side we will continue our journey to a better place.

The Light and the Tree

2010-05-06

A  few nights ago, I was looking out of a window and saw a street light that was next to a tree casting an eerie artificial light on the tree’s leaves.

For a few minutes, I was transported back to a night when my 16-year-old self was staring at a light shining on a tree outside of the window of my great Aunt Jewel’s house which was located in a small town in Texas

I had just received my driver’s license a few weeks before.  Ever since the movie, American Graffiti, many fad’s had been revived from the 50’s, one of them being “cruising.”  Early in the evening, I had been cruising down main street in my yellow Maverick with my younger brother who was a reluctant passenger.  We had been going to visit my grandparents at least one weekend a month ever since I could remember.  My cousins were much older than we were and there wasn’t much “treasure” left up in the old closet upstairs at our grandparent’s house  for us to discover.   I was thrilled to be able for the first time to  drive up and down Main street, windows down, radio playing “We Are the Champions” and local boys honking their horns and shouting, “Baby come take a ride with me.”

When I was looking at that light many years ago, I remembered at that moment feeling excited that a new world of possibilities was opening up for me and also secure in an environment of extended family that wrapped their  loving arms around me.

Then I came back to myself as I am now  looking at the light next to the tree.  I thought about my grandparents, my great-aunt who passed out of this world years ago.  I began sinking into constant pain and and dwelling in disappointment that my grandchildren will never be coming to “Grandma’s house for the weekend.  I  lived in a world where I had lost much.  Before I feel  down any further in the well of despair, I stretched my back and lifted up my head and whispered a short prayer.

My mind flooded with many life  lessons  that have resulted in strength,understanding and compassion.  I realized I do have in front of me a world of possibilities and ahead lies the preparation for shedding this broken shell. I will continue my journey  with my true identity, that part of us that always will be  Imagine those possibilities  and as Captain James T. Kirk, Starship Enterprise, once said, “To infinity and beyond.

Living with FTD-Frustration of Diagnosis and Support for FTD Patients

2010-01-29

I am going to be writing more posts on what it is like living with FTD in the near future.  This morning, I want to talk about a particular frustration that I share with some other people who have FTD as well as people whose loved ones have FTD.

The “typical” FTD patient according to most medical literature exhibits personality changes, “acting out behaviors”, denial and lack of insight about their illness.

In reality, symptoms of FTD can wildly vary among people who have the disease.  FTD is hard to diagnose because a person with FTD can show symptoms before actual brain damage shows up on an MRI or brain scan.

Even people who have typical symptoms often will be misdiagnosed as having psychiatric problems and spend valuable early years under the treatment of a psychiatrist and taking psych. meds that actually may make their FTD worse.

Most neurologists do not have the training to diagnose FTD.  People with FTD usually “pass” typical neurological examinations.  Thus, the neurologist tells the patient that he or she cannot find any neurological abnormality that explains their symptoms.

I have many FTD symptoms but as I mentioned above, I do not have the typical symptoms that doctors use to screen for FTD.  I’ve had unexplained neurological symptoms, anxiety, depression and increasing apathy towards activities of daily living for the last five years.

My husband and I went through Dante’s Medical Inferno trying to obtain diagnoses for my other illnesses (RSD, abdominal migraines, Celiac Sprue, Meniere’s Syndrome, etc.) I’ve met some physicians who belong on the inner rings of hell but after years of struggle I finally met a few doctors who are good Samaritans.  You will know when doctors get their angel wings every time that hell freezes over.  Okay I’m joking, sort of.

I was admitted to the hospital for unexplained neurological symptoms.  The neurologist came in with a gaggle of baby docs, did the usual neurological examination and said what so many have said before, “I don’t know what is wrong with you.”

My husband, a battle worn veteran of diagnostic warfare and physician retreat, requested that the neurologist order an MRI of my brain.  The neurologist complied.  Most doctors are willing to order an expensive test.  Why not, if the insurance company pays for it and they can be rid of a difficult case that could potential cost them time, money and liability by using  the authority of  The Test that will certainly show something if there is actually something wrong.

My MRI was consistent with FTD/shrinkage in the frontal and temporal lobes on the left side.  The neurologist had his own opinion.  Although he knew nothing about FTD, he told me that FTD was rare and I did not exhibit the symptoms so he was sure that I did not have FTD but I should follow up with another neurologist.

If, I had not been a professional patient then I probably would have gone to another neurologist who knew nothing about FTD.  I would have continued having greater difficulties with anxiety, depression, loss of speech.  When I started having auditory hallucinations then I would have probably been referred to a psychiatrist and  put on psychiatric medication that might make my FTD even worse.  My family totally baffled by these developments as I became incontinent and unable to speak would be advised by friends and the family physician that it was probably time to put me in a nursing home.  I might have died not ever knowing I had FTD.

As I mentioned, I belong to an FTD support group.  They are a really nice group of people almost all caregivers that provide a lot of good information and are very supportive to whoever joins the forum.

I am glad I found this group.  I can’t go out to a support group and there aren’t really any other FTD support groups online.  As the months passed, I discovered as many people do who have chronic, serious or terminal illnesses that I really wanted to talk to others who also had FTD.  It is great to have supportive friends but sometimes when your in this sort of situation you really want to talk to someone who is  down there in the trenches sinking in the same mud.

Fortunately, I met a very brave and compassionate woman who has FTD.  She’s made a documentary about families coping with FTD.  She invited me to a weekly chat group where I eventually met six other people with FTD.

Most medical literature says that the hallmark signs of FTD are acting out, personality changes, denial and lack of insight into illness.  Another FTD “researcher” told me despite my solid proof that I did indeed have FTD diagnosed at Johns Hopkins that I could not have FTD because of did not have these “hallmark” symptoms.  He told me he had reviewed 2000 cases (I later found out not actual people but autopsy slides of people) and all of them had the “hallmark” symptoms.

It is a fact that I have met a total of seven other people who have FTD, are able to communicate and have insight into their illness.  I realized if there are eight people who have FTD who did not have the classic early symptoms of FTD that neurologists use to screen for FTD then there are probably many people living their lives that are progressively becoming more difficult that don’t realize they have a terminal degenerative brain disease and they might have only a few more years to live.

This possibility really bothers me.  Most people who have terminal diseases have some forewarning even if it is a short period of time to say what they want to say to their loved ones and get their affairs in order.

No one knows when they are going to die and many people die in accidents.  Still it bugs me with all our modern medical technology that there may be thousands of people out there who don’t know that they have a devastating terminal illness.

Since most recognized FTD patients are unable to express their needs in a functional manner there is not the kind of support for FTD patients that there is for people with other terminal diseases.  Support for FTD on the Internet is primarily focused on caregivers.  I certainly agree that they need much  support but I think there should be more support in the medical community for FTD patients including those that are unable to communicate their needs.

Since FTD ,until recently, has been considered a rare disease even by FTD specialists, there are very few programs set up for FTD patients.  I wished that FTD patients were able to receive the same kind of support that Alzheimer’s patients are now receiving and that there were  more clinics that had programs and interaction for FTD patients.

New research in Alzheimer’s has also lead to new research in other neurogenerative diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and FTD.  I hope in the near future that there will be more programs for FTD patients.

Currently, FTD patients are treated with medications for symptoms.  Most FTD patients before they are diagnosed have been progressively having  increasing problems at their jobs and not long after they are diagnosed they end up having to go on leave or disability.  They remain at home with their families until their loved ones can no longer take care of them and then they are placed in nursing homes where they usually rapidly decline.

I have read about a lot of families that are wonderfully supportive and do everything they can to help their loved ones with FTD.  Also the Alzheimer’s Association has support groups for people with presenile dementia that people with FTD can attend.  Unfortunately, I am too disabled by my other illnesses to be able to attend a meeting.

Still, the burden of care and support remains with the families of loved ones.  If people with FTD don’t have loved ones that are able to take care of them and support them, they end up living alone until they cannot take care of themselves and then they are put into the nursing home.

I have not seen one article that addresses the possibility that there may be thousands of people who have FTD who do not know they have FTD because even FTD specialists rarely see “atypical” patients such as myself and the others who I have met who are “atypical” patients so they may not even know “atypical” patients exist.

It is a fact that there are people that have FTD who are able to communicate and have insight into our disease.  There must be others like us  who are probably falling through the cracks because they do not have the “hallmark” symptoms of FTD which are used as a screening tool for FTD.  Perhaps when FTD no longer is labeled as rare by most neurologist, this will occur to some physicians.

I read an article recently in which an FTD researcher speculated due to the new research breakthroughs they are making in discoveries about neurodegenrative diseases that the diagnosis of FTD may end up accounting for 65% of people who have presenile dementia.

I do not wish for anyone to have FTD but the more number of people who can be found that have FTD means larger amount of funding for further research and programs for people with FTD.

If people with FTD were like stars that scatter the universe and I was an angel, I would scoop them all up in my magical net and protect them under my wings.

I am one spiritual being who is having a human experience.  Part of my experience is living with FTD.  I do the only thing I am able which is  to tell people about what it is like living with FTD and giving support over the phone, the internet and always in my prayers.

Giving your symptoms names

2009-12-18

Any one with chronic pain or chronic illnesses knows that to get by it is best to maintain some sense of humor, no matter if anyone else “gets” it, you know what you mean, that is all that matters.

I saw this cute post today:

Have you named your illness symptoms? That may sound like an odd question, but there are some very good reasons for giving your symptoms names. One of them is this: when you give one of your symptoms a name, such as Gertrude or Elmer, you separate yourself from it. When you do that, you are much less likely to identify with it, which makes it possible to step back and see ways for dealing with it and managing its effects on your life that you otherwise couldn’t.

Here’s an example of what I mean: if you have a severe migraine, you may say to a friend or to yourself that you’ve been having awful migraine pain. But when you do this, you can easily feel like a victim. If instead, you tell your friend or yourself that “Sylvester” has been acting up and making himself felt, you don’t make it personal, so you are much less likely to feel like a victim.

A related benefit of naming your symptoms is that it allows you to communicate with them. You can write to them and tell them how they’ve affected your life, and you can tell them how you have felt, and continue to feel, with them. When you do that, you will probably find that you feel a sense of relief and even freedom.

You can also talk to and even have a conversation with “Sherlock” or “Agnes” (or whatever you’ve named your symptoms). When you do, besides telling them how you feel about them, you can ask them if there is anything they want you to know. You can ask them what are the things you do and the situations that make them worse and you can ask them what changes you can make to lessen their severity and minimize their impact on your life.

End of Post.

If people with multiple personality disorders can do it, we should be able to be as equally creative or more.   Illness may narrow your abilities to do certain things but it gives you an opportunity (when you are not trapped in a whirlwind of pain and unwanted thoughts) of time to reflect and open your mind to possibilities like when you were a child looking at the stars or the clouds.

I read recently that physicians are finding some people who have FTD while they lose their ability to process numbers etc. are becoming more creative and are more able to express  themselves artistically.  There are many ways to be artistic: painting, drawing, writing, collaging, making jewelry, etc.  I participate in something I call creative television watching.

I love to watch Turner Classic Movies.  Sometimes when I am watching a movie for the second, third, fourth time, I imagine what it would be like if they re-arranged the furniture, if the guy hadn’t gotten on the train, or if he had gotten on the wrong train or maybe the train didn’t show up at all.  After a good movie often I think about the movie and the characters, imagining what might have happened  after the end of the story, an entirely different story perhaps.

I think about possible future inventions and one gadget I would really like would be something that connects to your brain patterns and to my favorite movie so that I am able to take the characters and create additional scenes and plotlines.

You might think I have too much time, but my time like everyone else’s time is limited.  I just know that my curtain call for this life character is sooner than I use to believe.  I wonder when you  leave off stage does someone direct you to the right or the left or do you just stumble out into the audience?

Back to the naming illnesses.  I think I’ll give the name game a try.  My father use to call me Myrtlerayleenajane.  There’s a few names to start.

Regarding my posts

2009-12-11

I appreciate everyone who is stopping by to read my blogs.  I want everyone to know that opinions expressed are my own. I am not affiliated with any company or organization.

As I have explained I am an individual who has many illnesses including complex regional pain syndrome and FTD which is a terminal degenerative brain disease.  I spent years trying to find out what was wrong with me and I know that thousands of other people have the same experience.

I have decided in the time I have left to be a patient advocate for all people who are suffering chronic illnesses.  In this way, I am able to do something good with the blessings I have been given.  I am mostly confined to home and the only way I am able to help people is by blogging, posting, and writing.    I  advise people as always  to first get advice from their physicians before they try any treatment.

Thank you again

The Lady in Red High School Days

2009-12-08

The lady in red, High School Days

Visit with FTD Research Specialist

2009-12-04

Monday, at 8 a.m. sharp I arrived at the office of a physician who does research in FTD.  Selchietracker as always my faithful companion accompanied me.  The physician’s office is affiliated with a local medical school.  I had been to other clinics in this medical school for various reasons and not been satisfied with the physician’s diagnosis and/or treatment.

I was willing to give this physician a chance.  He had been recommended by a person at National Conference for FTD which Selchietracker attended a few months ago.

After we were escorted to his office and we met the doctor, the first thing I realized was that I had met him before.  I had worked in the local medical community for several years dealing with many physicians so I assume that I have met him somehow in that capacity.

Unfortunately, because we are in transition and about to move again, Selchietracker could not locate the disc which contained my MRI film at the last-minute when we were walking out the door.  He did bring documentation from a doctor who diagnosed me at Johns Hopkins as well as the results of the MRI and other tests as well as her conclusion and findings.

He asked us what we wanted from him, confirmation of diagnosis? Did we seek  treatment options-he quickly answered there was no treatment, or  he asked, did we need further information?

Selch explained that we would like to identify what strain of FTD I might have and find out further information about research trials, etc.

First the doctor bragged about  their extensive collection of autopsy slides for FTD patients.  Apparently they have the largest number of autopsy slides for FTD in the country.  Well that was okay but not very helpful to me since I am still the walking wounded.

Next, he put me through a battery of neuropsychiatric evaluations.  Any of you who have had to do these tests or watch your loved one with FTD complete these tests know that it is no fun to not remember simple words.  I especially fear the dreaded count back in 7’s from 100.  I can never get past the first few, major mental block.  Or the pictures you are required to draw of the connecting shapes and a three dimensional square.  My pathetic attempt looked like the work of a three-year old and to add insult to injury, he told me he was labeling my work with my name.  Come on, enough of kindergarten.

Then he did the usual neuro exam.  I know the drill well.  I could probably perform the exam blindfolded without the assistance of the doctor.  Of course, nothing wrong there except his breath.  I do wish doctors would check their breath before approaching a patient.  There is nothing like being poked and prodded and having to hold your nose.

After the exam, we discussed my history of symptoms.  He asked a few appropriate questions.  Then came the true test. What about my behavior?  Selch proudly proclaimed that despite my other symptoms commonly associated with FTD including apathy towards activities of daily living , that I was still a compassionate person who understood the affects of my illness.

Despite the fact that the physician had not reviewed my MRI and did have ample evidence from a doctor from Johns Hopkins who specializes in FTD that I did have FTD,  he proclaimed I did not have FTD because my behavior was not appropriate.

Because of my problems and reactions to nightmares, he conceded that I did probably have Lewy bodies.

For a brief description about Lewy bodies see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewy_body

For more information about Lewy bodies and FTD see:  http://ftdtheotherdementia.com/whatisftd.html

Selch explained to the doctor that there is a variant of FTD that has Lewy bodies.

The doctor stubbornly remarked that he had seen thousands of FTD patients (FTD is supposed to be still considered rare and it isn’t as if he is attached to a major FTD clinic, so did he mean thousands of live people or thousands of autopsy slides that he mentioned previously) and every single one of them male and female had a history of acting out and not understanding anything about their illness.

I told him that I could produce six people diagnosed with FTD who are able to attend a weekly chat and discuss their disease process.

He gave no response.

So, he wished us luck and suggested we send  him a copy of my MRI.  I think we will be heading to greener pastures.  We are moving closer to a well-known clinic for FTD patients so I think we will continue down the yellow brick road to meet Oz.

Because, because of the wonderful things a good physician does, like PET scans, etc.

I realize the best way to get a functional MRI,more complex scans  or trial treatment is to be enrolled in a study.  Am I willing to be a guinea pig?  I’ve been poked, prodded, scanned, panned, scoped, doped and have never lost hope since I was a small child.

I still firmly believe that there are many others like me that are out there but they haven’t been diagnosed.  Most neurologists don’t know much about FTD.  If depression and anxiety are the first features, then the patient is likely to do a lot of couch time.  I went to many doctors for many years before a doctor discovered that I had a complex regional pain syndrome, with a domino effect other diagnoses fell into line .

I was diagnosed with FTD because of Selch’s practice of smoothly prodding doctors to order tests needed to evaluate my condition.  Also, we have learned when presented with an abnormal lab result or other abnormal finding that cannot quickly be explained away, we will seek multiple consultations until we are satisfied with a diagnosis or have reached a temporary point where we have to stop until other doors open up in the future.

I love when we go to Manhattan to see one of my doctors.  While we are on the streets and Selch is rolling my wheelchair down the uneven sidewalks ,I always see someone with a poster that proclaims one thing or another.  I also think of those comedians who say, “Here’s Your Sign” and “You might be a redneck if…”.  I imagine rolling around holding a poster that says IF YOU HAVE THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS YOU MIGHT HAVE FTD SO GET HELP NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE A LIFE TO LIVE.

Instead I remain in my “sick” recliner, preaching to the choir.  Maybe, someday, somewhere, someone will find me.