Tuesday 12 June 2012

yesterday don't matter if it's gone...

I'm beginning to cordially loathe Tuesdays. I know that they only occur once every even days, but they increasingly seem to dominate my weeks and impinge upon my weekend.

Tuesday, you see, is the day that I carry out my weekly injection.

I've been injecting myself now since 2009: for more than three years I've been giving myself a once-weekly intra-muscular injection of Avonex beta-interferon 1a into my thigh, alternating left leg/right leg from week to week. A 'sclerosis' is a patch of inflammation, or a scar, on the myelin sheath that surrounds the brain and spinal cord where . These patches disrupt the transmission of nerve signals through the body and are the cause of symptoms like numbness, pins & needles, muscle weakness and stuff like that where the signals are not getting through right and the brain misinterprets what is going on. Quite simply, 'multiple sclerosis' is when you have more than one of these scars, each one bringing potentially new symptoms or worsening old symptoms, over time often resulting in advancing disability in sufferers.

There is no cure for MS, but the idea of the injections is to increase the amount of time between these attacks (or "relapses"), thus delaying the onset of advancing disability. As every single case of MS seems to be different, it's almost impossible to say if the treatment is working or not, but my thinking was that I'd far rather be doing something than doing nothing.... hence my weekly injections.

Why Tuesday? Well, it was the day when I saw the MS nurse and administered an injection to myself for the first time. I can move the day, but it seemed as good as any other day, and I wanted to avoid weekends if at all possible.

The actual process of giving myself an injection isn't all that bad: it only takes a couple of minutes and only really hurts if I hit a nerve or a vein on the way in (and even then it doesn't really hurt for longer than a couple of seconds). I'm not too badly impacted by any side-effects either. Some people are clobbered so badly by these that they quickly decide they would rather do nothing than face the weekly upheaval in their life. For me, it's not been too much of a big deal: I take paracetamol and ibuprofen to ward off the flu-like symptoms and headaches that are a common side-effect and I inject in the evening so I can sleep through the worst of it. I tend to wake up on a Wednesday morning feeling as though I've been hit by a bus, with my whole body feeling as though it has doubled in weight overnight, making getting out of bed and taking those first few steps to the bathroom something of a challenge... but once I'm up, it's really only a slightly increased feeling of lassitude and fatigue. Same old same old. If I'm doing something interesting with my day, the chances are I'll ignore it entirely (and I've injected in campervans in Australia and New Zealand and in tents in Africa. They were mostly trouble-free jabs...). If it's just another boring day in the office, I might wallow in a touch of mild self-pity for a while.

I'm lucky: for me it's not that big a deal. It's just something that I do.

But still there's an element of mild dread about the approach of every single Tuesday night. No matter what else I'm doing, Tuesday never seems to be far from my mind. Not far enough, anyway. Sure, on the whole my injections are not too painful and the side-effects aren't too bad... but that doesn't mean it's something that I look forward to. On the whole, it's something that I can live with, but if I didn't think it was worth doing, I'd stop in an instant.

It's a shit business, but what can you do?

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