What else ails you?

I write for a living, so I really value the full use of my fingers for typing and for scribbling notes during interviews.

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than a dozen years ago, one of the things I worried about most was that I might develop spasticity in my hands, making it hard or even impossible for me to type and write.

That, thank goodness, hasn’t happened, at least not yet.

But that doesn’t mean my hands are in top form.

As anyone with MS knows, having this disease doesn’t mean you can’t get other ailments, too. People with MS get cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other illnesses just as people without MS do. It might not seem quite fair, but that’s how it is.

So we have to be just as diligent about caring for our overall health as our MS-free friends are.

In recent weeks I’ve been sadly surprised to see that I’m developing arthritis in my hands. My finger joints have started to swell and feel stiff and sore – not always, but often enough that I’ve had to take notice. On days like today, when my fingers do hurt, it is harder to type, write, and even practice yoga (which I had hoped might help protect me against arthritis!) than on days when they feel fine.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. My fingers are just starting to look like my mom’s fingers. Ma is in her late 80s, bless her heart, and she accepts those stiff joints and gnarly knuckles with a mixture of annoyance, bemusement and resignation. After all, there’s not much she can do about them. 

But Ma inspires me: Her hands reflect a lifetime of hard work, and she has never let her arthritis get in her way. She still does her own plumbing repairs, for Pete’s sake! She also gets up every morning, grabs a pen, eyeglasses and a mug of coffee and works the crossword puzzle – and her handwriting is as elegant as ever.

I’m going to try my best to follow Ma’s example. I don’t have to love my arthritic hands, but I’ll have to learn to live with them and work around the discomfort they cause.

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the way I feel about MS, now that I think about it.
Tags Healthcare, Symptoms      8 Appreciate this
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Jennifer LaRue Huget, Blogger

Jennifer LaRue Huget was diagnosed with MS in 2001. A freelance writer and children's book author, she lives in Connecticut with her husband, two teenage kids, and two brown dogs. Her website is www.jenniferlaruehuget.com.

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  • Debi Olson   Aug 15, 2013 11:00 AM
    Beautifully said. One of life's greatest gifts is adaptation. I never anticipated cancer, but when the diagnosis came, I adapted, and am now proudly an 8 year "thriver". I never thought I would be diagnosed with MS shortly after completion of chemo 7 years ago, but I have adapted, and live within my new physical limitations. I didn't expect to be single at the age of 49, but my husband of 30 years had other ideas. I adapted and found out I really like being the one to hold the remote control! While each of these events are life changing, none of them are "catastrophic". We learn to play the cards life deals us, and we adapt. I am thankful for every day on this side of the grass. I don't remember who said this, but "Life is what happens when we are busy making plans". I still plan, but always allow for adaptation when life throws me a curveball. :)
  • Marcus Brown   Aug 15, 2013 11:17 AM
    I teach people how to use computers and I often type with my left hand because it's easier. I find that you adapt and do what you can.
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    Bobo  Aug 15, 2013 11:44 AM
    I've noticed that most of the people with MS I've come to know have the, "OK, how do I make it work now that I have to adapt?" philosophy. There seem to be only a few, "Why me?" people.
    The gnarly knuckles do make it more difficult to work with stained glass projects, but I love working with glass. I've been staying physically active, only slowing down on days that my body says, "Enough!" I like to be doing things, so when seated I'm knitting or reading.
    If we get lemons, we can choose to make lemonade, lemon bars, lemon yogurt, etc. I too follow my mother's example. She says mixing up a large pan of bread dough makes her hands feel better. We all need to adapt in whatever way works. Cheers, glad to hear you're doing okay.
  • Megan   Aug 15, 2013 1:20 PM
    I love riding my bike. I've been participating in Bike MS ever since I was diagnosed 4 years ago. My biggest fear has always been that I'd lose the ability to use my legs. I have spasticity in my legs and they are also easily exhausted and often have a mind of their own. This really bothered me...then I met a guy with MS who pedals his bike with his arms. I realized that I wouldn't have to give up cycling, but just change how I cycle.
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    participatewjoy  Aug 16, 2013 7:31 AM
    I'm a legal secretary, working on changing careers. My left had has become very, very tight and stiff. When my MS first reared its head last year I was unable to make my fingers on my left hand connect with the right keys, since starting on Tysabri though I can still type with no problems but after a long day of typing my hand hurts pretty badly. I am adapting, but I don't think I will be able to continue in my current career since that is all I do, all day long.
  • Donna   Aug 16, 2013 1:21 PM
    Having alot of vision problems head aches.
  • Mary Alice   Aug 16, 2013 4:29 PM
    The right side of my body doesn't click correctly - so I cannot write legibly any more. Most of my writing is done on the computer which used to be correct typing but is now hunt and peck for my right hand. Thant doesn't keep me from emailing and staying up on Facebook. I've always wanted to be a writer - maybe I'll sign up for a group or what do you suggest?
  • Priscilla Michka   Aug 16, 2013 6:47 PM
    I am a 70 yr old lady with MS.. I live alone, play Mah Jonng,and sing in a chorus,What do you suggest for me to do to keep active?? Thank you
  • Priscilla Michka   Aug 16, 2013 6:47 PM
    I am a 70 yr old lady with MS.. I live alone, play Mah Jonng,and sing in a chorus,What do you suggest for me to do to keep active?? Thank you
  • Meri Jo Hall   Aug 17, 2013 1:02 PM
    Jennifer, I know what you're going through right now. Since July 15 I've become numb on the right side, and within say two weeks my right hand has become so numb and "stiff" that I've become unable to type with my right hand or do anything with my right hand. Since August 14 the left hand has become more numb, pinky through index finger, and "feeling" has become a thing of the past for me.

    I won't be able to see my new neurologist until September 3, and this particular "handicap" is not acceptable to me at present. Hopefully, once I see my new neurologist and am hopefully put on IV steroids, this exacerbation will go away and I will have my hands back! Once upon a time I was a medical transcriptionist, so I know how you feel with losing the use of your hands for typing. I am currently using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 and am able to dictate and proof what is posted out here. I'm still learning the ins and outs of dictation not unlike the doctors I worked for for 12 years.

    I'm taking it one day at a time as that is the only way I can in dealing with this disease on a daily basis. Some days are better than others; some days I just don't want to be here anymore; but for the most part I'll take it one day at a time. Hang in there Jennifer, you've got a lot of good people rooting for you and this nasty disease that we have will become a thing of the past (hopefully).
  • Christy Parsons   Aug 19, 2013 10:06 AM
    Bless your heart! I pray for you and your mom. My MS makes it hard for me to use my hands to type....so I'm slow, but can't ride my horses or my bike any more. Christy
  • Avatar
    szeevster  Aug 20, 2013 6:25 AM
    I also (sort of) write for a living and have had the same fear that you express here. In fact, I am dealing with a combination of neuropathy and weakness in my hands that make typing on my keyboard challenging, particularly after a few hundred words. I'm increasingly looking to speech recognition software as a solution in the very near future. Has anyone considered or tried this?