Insanity vs. Inanity

This is just ludicrous. I didn’t even realize the amount of stuff I was polluting my body with. I worked so hard to remain as objective as possible through–everything–that I stopped caring about being poked and prodded and just started to think of my body as a (broken) machine and was a compliant patient. Through it all. Now I find myself no longer beholden to Big Pharma. For now; the truth is, at the moment, there is nothing to modify the natural course of this disease. My disease. Realistically, I will likely need to resume treatment. But not tomorrow… Insanity meets inanity in this post!

 

I would like for all to know that while my information is accurate, I am in no way a medical professional. Further, MS as it was just covered is specific to me—we all have our own unique biochemical footprint.

My name is Andrew Durso, I am 30 years old. In 2007, I was diagnosed with a chronic, lifelong illness—Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I was counseled by my Neurologist to choose between 4 medications— Copaxone, Rebif, Avonex, and Betaseron (the only available first-options at the time, known as the C.R.A.B. drugs). What did I know of such things? My decision was thus based entirely on the method of administration and my relative comfort level with injecting myself. Thus, my options became: a subcutaneous injection (known as ‘SQ’, frequently referred to as ‘Sub-Q’, or under the skin) every day (Copaxone), a different Sub-Q injection 3 times a week,  an intramuscular (IM) injection once a week (Avonex), or a a subcutaneous (SQ) injection every other day (Betaseron).

I settled on Rebif. My disease progressed quickly. Within 8 months of my diagnosis, I was confined to a wheelchair. Six treatments and two surgeries later, the most incredible thing happened to me.

As of March 1, 2013, I have not consumed a single pharmaceutical product. I have instead been medicating exclusively with Medical Cannabis. I purchased a battery operated, portable vaporizer to facilitate consumption. I asked for and received a medical exemption to purchase, carry, and possess marijuana.

Please understand–I have a great job. I have an amazing family. I thought my days with pot were behind me. But this is no longer high school. It is a FACT that I am enjoying good health right now. Understand: I don’t want to get high. I’m sick and need to medicate.

I now consume Medical Cannabis for all that stuff that I was taking those 20 pills a day for. And, for me, it works.

 

 

Medcation History:

Prescribed:

-Baclofen – 10 mg tablrets 4 times daily (to control spasms, medical cannabis achieves the same effect)

-=Clonazepamn – 0.5mg pill 2 times daily (for tremor control – medical cannabis achieves the same effect)

Detrol L.A. – 4 mg capsule 2 times daily (to calm my overactive bladder muscles – medical cannabis achieves the same effect)

Treatments:

Rebif – 44mcg injected 3 times weekly (interferon 1a)

Tysabri – infused in a infusion centre. Dosage is based on weight, every 4 weeks

Mitoxantrone – chemotherapy1 agent used primarily to treat leukemia, 1.5L infused at hospital every 4 weeks.

Cyclophosphamide – chemotherapy1 agent used to treat various Cancers, 1.25 infused every 4 weeks for 3 years with future regimen of ever 8 weeks.

-Current intent is to resume Tysabri.

Surgeries:

-CCSVI venoplasty

-Open brain surgery and installation of Neurostimulator for tremor control

Over-the-counter (OTC):

3.1,000 IU Vitamin D twice daily

4.350 mg of Calcium Citrate or 500 mg of Calcium Carbonate twice daily

7.1 horse-pill sized multivitamin

8.Omega-3-6-9 capsules (containing 400 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA thrice daily

 

1                   Chemotherapy always indicated or use with steroids (1L of Solu-Medrol delivered via infusion and unknown quantity of Zofran (anti-nausea drug delivered via infusion.

Andrew Durso
Vice President
Tristan Williams MS Foundation (TWMSF)

Resources:

Neurology-2003-Goodin-1, obtained from http://www.neurology.org/content/61/10/1332.full.pdf‎
MS Society of Canada_ available at http://www.mssoiety.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Panel

Something more universal; anybody, with or without MS, may be able to relate. It starts for me with my own personal MonSter. It is the cause behind much grief. It is equally cause for much celebration—it’s simply question of perspective. Grief, however, for the implied reason–I have a neurological disease. I’ve got a problem you can liken to electrical wiring. The wires in THE PANEL (my brain) are no longer properly insulated (the insolation around nerve is done by this wonderful, self-replicating fatty substance known as myelin).

The result is THE PANEL (my brain), with DAMAGED INSULATION (myelin), is trying to complete a circuit that that is missing a crucial link, and is thus doomed to fail. Improper INSULATION (myelin) to the wiring in THE PANEL (my brain) hinders not only the dispatching (COMING) but also the reply (GOING) of any piece of data processed by your PANEL (your brain). And the time it takes to squirt an ELECTRICAL SIGNAL (synapse) through that gooey, slimy layer of INSULATION (myelin) to the right part of THE PANEL (my brain) is referred to as latency. Improper INSULATION (myelin) becomes a MonStrous fire hazard.  I’ve  sauntered out alive each and every time, but only after I blow more taxpayer dollars by calling the FIRE DEPARTMENT (corticosteroids—while I personally respond extremely well to and do not suffer any of the side-effects associated  with turning your adrenal glands on overdrive via some external mechanism, in this case medications known as Solu-Medrol (delivered intravenously) or Prednisone, its tablet counterpart—dispensed in quantities of 5 mg  as well as 50 mg—for those times the FIRE DEPARTMENT (corticosteroids) needs to be called in to save the day.

 

Because of this disruption to my neural network by this stupid, fatty substance known as myelin, I had to call the stupid FIRE DEPARTMENT (corticosteroids–I have them on speed dial).  and only once I’m EVACUATED (remission), am I able to assess the damage. There’s no telling HOW MANY (Multiple) SCARS (Scleroses, or Sclerosis when pertaining to MS) will be left behind. The most amazing bio-electrical machine is your body; it’s neither finicky nor selective like the Marines and has no problem leaving a man behind. THE  PANEL (my brain) quickly assesses and notes any discontinuities, overwriting or rerouting the original, projected path and making necessary amendments what is the greatest ally you will ever have, your brain. As with most naturally occurring phenomenon, it takes the path of least resistance. Your PANEL (brain) and mine are wired the exact same. The cause of my problem is that disruption of the WIRING (synapses) to MY PANEL (my brain). Once THE FIREMEN (Corticosteroids) are finished extinguishing the blaze, I normally emerge from the FIREunscathed. But there is no telling what may be damaged or lost:

“Higher early relapse frequencies (FIRES) and shorter first inter-attack intervals (a great deal of FIRE, back-to-back and in need of an endless string of FIREMEN) herald more rapid deterioration via interaction with the neurodegeneration (I don’t like using the word, but it is the ultimate effect–death; while many links in this stupendous bio-electric machine can regenerate, that silly fatty tissue around my nerve endings, once victim to a stray burst from that improperly INSULATED (myelin) PANEL (my brain) is left unable to regenerate tissue which was BADLY SCARRED (Sclerosis). There are a number of ongoing studies investigating myelin and the mechanism your body uses—my limited understanding is that it has something to do with oligodendrocytes–innately, with neither your attentiveness nor your focus, to regenerate that hooey-gooey, slimy, INSULATION (myelin) around your PANEL (brain) and EVERY CONNECTION (this is represented in everything you do) in your HOME (your body).

And that’s what I need to submit to The Gazette or start going to Elementary Schools and tell the kids this pretty neat story about Electric Panels, Firemen, and how they saved me. More than once…

————————————————————————————————————————————And now here’s something you’ll really dislike:

The above was a perceptive post; it is bibliographical recount of the experiences I’ve undergone since my diagnosis with relapsing, remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in May 2007. I would like for all to know that while my information is accurate, I am in no way a medical professional. Further, MS as it was just covered is specific to me—we all have our own unique PANEL (brain).l.

Do not take this medication if you:

–          are allergic to prednisone or any ingredients of this medication

–          have an internal fungal infection

–          will be given a live virus vaccine (e.g., measles, mumps, rubella, yellow fever,  BCG)and are taking large immunosuppressive doses of prednisone

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor. Side-effects may include:

–          acne (was on Minocyclin at the time, so no adverse reaction)

–          diarrhea (for me, this is kind-of an unfortunately messy good thing)

–          constipation (this is a reality I deal with by doing something as simple as simple as eating 2-3 prunes a day, maybe pair it with a daily softener which has no detrimental long term effects)

–          increased appetite (I can more than use the extra calories. Remember, I was dignosed May 1st 2007, I was in a wheelchair by January 2010.  The first 32 months with my MonSter was just relapse, after relapse. After relapse! Steroids brought me back, from what I felt, but I suppose I’ll never know if all those tablets of prednisone (25 x 50 mg, 1,250 mg, or 1.25 GRAMS every other day for 10 days- This went for a month. During the 4 weeks my cortisol levels were unnaturally high, much like myself, they gave me the capacity, determination, and plain old-fashioned grit where:

  1. I was able to work full time
  2. I was still able to shower and shave autonomously
  3. I was able to lug my laundry down a flight of stairs and able to fold and sort everything in a typical, neurotic Durso-Gabriel way
  4. I was euphorically happy (that is a side effect the NHS neglected to mention—Euphoria. It can kind-of crack you out. It’s kind of like busting a HUGE rail. The nice part is that during my love affair with Prednisone, Doctors at that juncture prescribed a taper dose. This lessened the shock to my system—as the artificial Cortisol clears my system, my adrenal glandsfire back up and maintain my body’s cortisol level. This is no longer in practice thanks, in part, to crack heads like me…

–          increased sweating (n/a to me, may have been a secondary effect of the Minocyclin)

–          menstrual problems (n/a)

–          nausea (no, no—nothing short of chemotherapy does that to me)

–          reddish-purple lines on arms, face, groin, legs, or trunk (nobody has ever said anything)

–          thin, shiny skin (again, n/a)

–          trouble sleeping (it’s called Temazepam)

–          unusual increase in hair growth (it’s as good as gone on my dome!)

–          premature bone decalcification (this is the big fat ugly issue with artificially enhancing your adrenal functioning. I have spoken about this time and time again. No doctor would ever agree to my continued usage. It’s this wicked-amazing pill that eliminates a broad majority of my MS-related symptoms. I can supplement with all the vitamin D and Calcium I’d like, but I have been told by Mark Freidman himself: “They will kill you.”

 

This was a warning I took to heart. I have been undergoing my own personal trial of sorts. I felt I was just shoving pill after pill down my gizzard. They do not cost me anything thanks to ol’ Parker, so I was never reluctant to take them. Every day, I was taking:

  1. Detrol LA twice daily
  2. Minocyclin twice daily
  3. 1,000 IU Vitamin D twice daily
  4. 350 mg of Calcium Citrate or 500 mg of Calcium Carbonate twice daily
  5. 1 mg Clonazepam twice daily
  6. 10 mg of Baclofen 4 times daily
  7. 1 horse-pill sized multivitamin
  8. Omega-3-6-9 capsules (containing 400 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA thrice daily
  9. I was taking 5 mg of folic acid twice daily due to an unusually low platelet count, which was my first WIN since beginning this experiment; it rose to a respectable 166 in my last complete-blood-count (CBC), well within the tolerance level for a second open brain surgery.
  10. 5 mg of Cialis daily while Malissa and I were dating—I discontinued it when I began this experiment, and will now never know whether this played into my fluctuating platelet count

 

Since March 1st, 20113, I have not consumed any pharmaceuticals beyond #7. I have instead asked for and received a medical exemption to purchase, carry, and possess marijuana. Look, I have a great job. I have an amazing family. I thought my days with pot were behind me. But I now consume it primarily for all that stuff that I was taking those 20 pills a day for. And, for me, it works. I invested in a portable vapourizer, which is a clean way to smoke.

Gimme a break, it’s not like “I was ripping the shit like it’s my motherf*cking last hit.” I invested in a portable vaporizer and this is the way I now medicate.

 

-A.D.

 

Resources:

 

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Bust%20a%20rail

http://www.canadianvitaminshop.com/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892939/

 

He’s baaaaaaack!

I got a bug to write. I was filling out a Google profile, and it sort of merged into this blog post. So without further ado:

I’m a 30-year-old guy living with multiple sclerosis (MS). The disease ravaged me pretty hard; it was 10 months from my diagnosis to me being in a wheelchair full-time. Then the tremor set in. There’s more, but I won’t bore you with the details.

I have tried just about everything to slow down or stop my disease progression. I’ve been to Costa Rica to have  veinoplasty performed.I have taken a number of varying “disease modifying therapies” (DMTs), both Rebif as well as (though short-lived) Tysabri. I then had one of the foremost neurologists in Canada look at my MRI, and he counseled me to avoid  Tysabri as it was still new on the market and there had been some… Incidents. His recommended course of treatment, however, was just as aggressive as my disease; chemotherapy. First it was a drug called Mitoxantrone. Piece of cake. No side effects. Was once every three months. But again, it was short-lived.  There is a lifetime limit to how much mitoxantrone you can be dosed with. After nine treatments, it was on to the next monster; cyclophosphamide. this is a far more aggressive antineoplastic, used in a variety of cocktails and to treat everything from breast cancer to pancreatic cancer. Neurologists like to use it to dampen your immune system and it has been shown to have some beneficial properties to those afflicted with MS.,. But don’t think for a second that it doesn’t come rife with side effects. So, I was in chemotherapy for I think roughly 3 years. And then I was forced to discontinue so that my  red and white blood cell counts would return to normal  in preparedness for open brain surgery. I underwent a procedure called “Deep Brain Stimulation” (DBS), a two-part procedure. Where I underwent open brain surgery for roughly 6 hours, fully conscious (I think you need to be conscious for any brain surgery). My neurosurgeon then performs “stimulation” by connecting a lead to my left thalamus to control the tremor on my right side, running electrical currents directly into  parts of my thalamus that would eventually be wrapped with an electrode inserted into it to transmit the electrical signal that would no longer be routed to the proper pathway by my brain on its own,  and instead would be routed through a neurostimulator that I had implanted the following day in the second, 5-hour portion of the procedure (for this, i was put under twilight sedation). So now, when I hold up my right arm, the synapses that are consistently being fired by a my brain are now being routed through a device. A device that is actually chock-full of side effects. The cool thing about the neurostimulator is that I can turn the therapy off. Literally, the second I do, all the side effects that  it brings on disappear. I’m not joking when I say it’s pretty serious; I can’t at all speak French when the stimulators on. Not that I can do it very well, but it’s far more strained when the therapy is active. I can’t roll my R’s. I can’t sing (I could never sing well,, but but when the damn thing is off, I’m either rockin’ out to Rage Against the Machine or macramé’d to my sofa, pathetically curled up what  can only be called a big  ball of emo.

Okay, everyone’s waiting. Big changes. Again.

Malissa and I are no longer seeing each other. It’s a tale of woe, mistakes being made on both sides, not many breakups are easy. I only hope we remain friends. But the rest is between us.

My days living in “Le Forest Hill” are coming to a close. My oratory view is going to be a thing of the past, but so too is my enormous rent payment and borderline unmanageable on my income alone. It’s coming, before I know it, my 30th birthday will come and go and then I’ll start making my way to 31, but after going through in the last year, I finally put some serious and thought into what I need to do to best manage my disease, my responsibilities, and the relationships that I’ve been building over a lifetime. And so; I’m coming home. I’m moving back in with my mother. The truth is, she’s pretty astounding woman. Straight up, you can easily describe me with two words: MAMMA’S BOY. It’s sad but it’s the truth. I was missing a brother to beat me up or let me hone my fighting skills on him. I am what I am. So now, the challenge is finding an apartment that suits our needs. We are going to look at a prospective place on Sunday, tomorrow. Hopefully, it is everything we need.

While Malissa and I were dating, I repeatedly shirked my responsibilities as a friend to many, as a VP to the Tristan WilliaMS MS foundation, my family, and my friends. This was not her fault; I got so far entrenched in our relationship, in part because, after being single for five straight years, it was novel again. In addition, well I’m not going to lie; I missed someone wanting me.

My way forward though, I think is to be one of bachelorhood. The problem is, if I start dating somebody, I stop taking care of myself. And this in the end only kills my independence. I recognize and accept that I need help, but I do also need to challenge myself. Every day. For the rest of my life. Because that’s how it is for me. Wow–a wave of serenity just passed over me. I know I always say this, but I need to write more often…

I’m likely going to disappear again until the move is done and things get settled. My solemn oath to all you people who read my drivel is this: expect more drivel in the near future. And more often.

Enjoy the closing days of summer… Not sure what happened there!

-A.D.