“I am not a grey person. I am black and white, I want to know what it is and how much time I have left. I was originally told a(sic) PMA but I don’t fit that category completely either. This is all so frustrating!”
I can fully understand the frustration. The real problem lies in the fact that ALL MND variants are still diagnoses of exclusion. Only when all other possibilities are exhausted, will most neurologists give even a tentative diagnosis. Personally, I saw 3 different neurologists before I saw enough evidence that PMA was the most likely culprit.
As a side note, it seems that Binuna Bodies, although said to be found in 80%+ of ALS patients upon autopsy, occur almost exclusively in the Lower Motor Neurons. Therefore, although they may be useful in diagnosing PMA, ALS, by definition, requires BOTH upper and lower motor involvement.
Unfortunately, we are still in the early stages of our understanding of the class of ailments lumped together under the heading of ALS (or more correctly Motor Neuron Disease). I remember, not so long ago when cancer was a term for a supposedly singular type of disease. Now it is a generic term relating to a myriad of differing presentations and locales within the human body. Today, there are diverse diagnostic tools and disease pathways with even more treatment options depending on the site and type of the disease.
For me, this is what MND will finally become, a whole class of diseases with differing symptoms, treatments and outcomes. Unfortunately, I suspect that we are currently so far behind the 8 ball that nothing significant will likely happen during my (remaining) lifetime.
Over the last few years, I have come across and corresponded with scores of PMA-diagnosed pALS and, so far, although we have many things in common, there is much that differs in our cases, histories and progressions. I have finally come to terms with the fact that I alone must decide what I believe based upon all the information available to me.
I have decided that PMA indeed seems to be the most logical diagnosis. No one even knows if the currently accepted treatments for ALS (primarily Edaravone/Radicava and Rilutek/Riluzole) are suitable, or indeed beneficial, for PMA patients.
In the end, as long as I remain convinced that no other diagnosis better fits my situation, I will remain under the ALS/MND umbrella because the majority of the resources made available as a result are very helpful.
Since we have now had 4 Zoom meetings, I thought that I would take this time to issue a PMA Online Support Group Update. Although we have started out slowly, each meeting seems to have more participants than the previous one.
We have had participants from all over North America and, speaking for myself, this is the first venue where I am able to discuss problems and solutions with ONLY those who have the same diagnosis and similar symptoms and progressions. It is clear that there was a need for a Support group of this nature.
Although I had originally thought to make the meetings weekly due to the current lockdown, (Apr – May 2020), it may be better to move to biweekly sessions. I will not make the switch until I have canvassed the members of our Facebook Group, which now numbers almost 30 members. I will post a poll to see what the consensus is on this. As before, you can get the link to the next upcoming meeting on the schedule page.
So far, we have largely held open sessions with no particular format. However, going forward, I would like to have a selected topic each meeting to help to focus conversation and encourage members to share information that they might otherwise not realise could be helpful to others. The overarching goal of these meetings is to highlight areas where the specific needs of a PMA sufferer may differ from other pALS. Potential subjects could include but not be limited to:
Current Medications – Radicava, Riluzole,
Power Wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, etc.
Over the counter medicines and supplements
Online and offline sources of trusted information
I would encourage others to put forward any suggestions that they might have either by commenting here on this site or on the Facebook Group
If you have not yet attended one of these meetings, I would highly encourage you to drop in. You might be very surprised what you might learn and how you can be helpful to others in the same situation.
PROBLEM:I continually have cold & swollen lower extremities. This is the absolute worst of my symptoms because I have found no permanent solution that does not involve lying with my feet up. Try to imagine sitting all day with your feet and legs immersed in buckets of cold water! My neurologist told me that this was not a ‘normal’ problem for pALS but research on PLM shows 300 instances ranging from severe to moderate
SOLUTION: Although I can get temporary relief, this one persists. Partial or temporary solutions include:
Heated socks, long Johns, heated insoles, compression socks, keeping feet and legs moving as much as possible. All I can still do autonomously is wiggle my toes but even manipulating or massaging my feet and legs seems to help blood-flow! I refuse to stay supine all day. Last year, even when in Barbados, I still occasionally had cold feet!
PROBLEM:Constant Fatigue. This is the second most challenging part of the disease for me. After the exertions of taking a shower or bath or even simply(sic) getting dressed, I usually want to go back to bed. I suppose that it is really not surprising since I am trying to carry 50lbs of dead weight around with only my upper body functioning. Imagine having a 50lb bag of salt strapped to your waist. Now try to move from one chair to another!
SOLUTION: Other than staying inactive, I really have not found any meaningful solution. I do know that the absolute worst thing that I can do is to ‘power through’. When I become overtired, my muscles ache, tremors and fasciculations abound and I risk crashing the following day too. I have determined that I can do more earlier in the day and that I can accomplish more if I work in fits and starts rather than trying to continue tasks once I start to become tired. If I need to take a nap in the afternoon, this is a sure sign that I overdid it in the morning. I do regularly check relevant vitamin and mineral levels in my body and do everything to keep those at optimum levels. I aim to keep my body in the best condition possible to help offset the physical deficits.
PROBLEM:When outside the house, any obstacle higher than 3″ might as well be Mount Everest. All I can do is either stare powerlessly at where I want to go or, retrace my route and try to find another way. Check out the top image to see Milan’s idea of accessibility. 90% of stores and restaurants were inaccessible to my wheelchair (also pictured).
SOLUTION: Until such time as they develop scooters and wheelchairs that climb stairs and curbs, there really is no solution to this except to re-route. We do have a portable ramp in our SUV that can handle steps and curbs up to 6 – 8 inches but we can’t carry it with us all the time. In any event, often sidewalks are not wide enough for the wheelchair or scooter to navigate the ramp.
PROBLEM: Cramps and Fasciculations. Many medical professionals claim that there is no pain associated with MND (LINK). This is patently not true. In my early stages, some of the cramps were so intense that they approached the magnitude of kidney stones.
SOLUTION: I must stress here that what has worked for me may not work for others. For the cramps, regularly taking supplemental magnesium seemed to greatly reduce the intensity. The most relief for both cramps and fasciculations occurred once I started to regularly use CBD/THC blends.
PROBLEM: Dressing, Toileting, bathing, shaving, showering, etc. Before PMA, I could shower and dress easily in 10 – 15 minutes. Now it can take an hour or more and I still have full upper body function. To get some idea of how challenging this can be, try these two exercises. Try to put on knee-high socks while wearing mittens or try to pull up your pants and underwear while seated or while standing holding on for balance with at least one hand.
SOLUTION: We spent $30,000+ to have our bathroom remodelled by an accessibility specialist. It was expensive but worth every penny. It still takes me a while but at least I feel safe and can get my wheelchair/walker in the room. I now wear clothes that have few buttons, clips or belts. I also make sure that I have the necessary seats and supports in the places where I will need them. With the right methods and equipment, many challenges can be mitigated although rarely eliminated altogether.
PROBLEM: Navigating Stairs. We live in a 3 storey home. Stairs to the upper level not only curve but have two landings. To the basement, we have two sets of steps with a 180-degree bend. In any other house, if I am even able to navigate into the house using ramps etc., I must resign myself to the fact that I will NEVER be able to go upstairs or downstairs.
SOLUTION: We have so far installed 2 stair-lifts. One goes all the way upstairs but to get to the basement, I must hoist my body up and down 3 steps to reach the second stair-lift. We have also installed a porch lift so that I can get from the deck to the garden/pool without going through the garage and all around the outside of the house. Beyond our own house, I must accept the fact that I am barred from many friends’ houses and an alarming number of businesses and public buildings.
PROBLEM: Finding Accessible Washrooms. I recently spent 8 hours on an aircraft within 6 feet of the nearest washroom but was unable to access it. Many public locales that claim to have accessible facilities either keep them locked or they were designed by people who do not comprehend what ‘accessible’ means.
SOLUTION: Having travelled widely with mobility equipment throughout North America and Europe, I can attest that we still have a long way to go but that things ARE improving (even if slowly). As the world’s population ages and technology advances, it is my fervent hope that future generations of mobility challenged persons will be even better served than our own. Notwithstanding the foregoing, I must say here that I am eternally grateful to be living in a part of the world where I have access to most of the facilities and equipment that can make my life easier and more comfortable. Were I living either as little as a 100 years ago or residing in a 3rd world country, I would already be dead!
PROBLEM: Navigating the medical professionals who, with the best of intentions, insist that they know what is best for me even though the vast majority of them have rarely, if ever, treated other patients with the exact same disease (PMA -Progressive Muscular Atrophy) and progression as myself. To put this in perspective, there are currently less than a handful of cases in Eastern Ontario from a population of 1.5 million. Of these, only 1 other individual has lower limb onset PMA like myself.
SOLUTION: Do your own research, join forums and Facebook groups and make sure that you know more about your own situation than those caring for you. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and DEMAND that you be heard. You ARE in control as long as you insist upon it. Swallow your pride and ask for help when you need it, especially from friends and loved ones. Even total strangers will often step up to the plate and freely and willingly offer assistance. Taking advantage of this shows strength rather than weakness, just be sure to say ‘thank you’. This is/was one of the hardest things for me to accept and I am still struggling with it every day. Many times in my life, I have been guilty of ‘cutting off my nose to spite my face’. I can no longer afford this luxury.
In conclusion, I must say that, as a society, we have a long way to go before “PMA – Problems Made Acceptable” becomes a reality!
Our inaugural PMA Online Chat was held as scheduled on Monday, March 30th. Although we only had 3 attendees, thanks to Tom and Chris for being willing Guinea Pigs, everything went smoothly with the Zoom meeting platform. We are now ready to open things up and to hold regular (currently during COVID 19, weekly) meetings
This page will be where you will come to find the PMA online chat schedule. Below you will find the date, time and discussion topic for our next scheduled meeting.
N.B. Zoom has recently introduced a requirement that ALL meetings MUST now have a password. Although the meeting ID has remained the same, the new link above now includes the password to avoid you having to enter it separately.
HOW TO CONNECT
It is really easy to use the ZOOM video conferencing system. You can connect using most devices, IOS, Windows and Android are all supported and your device type will be recognised when you click a meeting link for the first time on each/any device. Just follow the simple instructions. You do not have to download the software (though it is recommended) but can log in directly from the link. Some users do experience audio problems the first time but this can be easily fixed by clicking the arrow beside the mic icon and selecting appropriately. You can also set yourself up before the meeting to make sure that everything works for you. You can use the following link above for more detailed instructions.
Due to the limitations of a FREE Zoom account, our meetings will be limited to 40 minutes duration and 100 participants. We are not likely to exceed the attendance limit because that would involve a substantial portion of the North American PMA population.
We will divide the meeting into three sections:
INTRODUCTIONS: People will share their names and a brief outline of their (or their pALS) history with PMA. This will be limited to a maximum of 10 minutes depending on attendance numbers.
WEEKLY TOPIC: We will select a weekly topic picked by participants. There may be a short introduction by a member well-versed in the topic followed by questions and comments from the members. This section will typically last 15 minutes but again will be flexible enough to allow for all questions to be answered. If there appears to be too much material or discussion, we will extend it to a further meeting rather than curtail, too much, our final section.
OPEN FORUM: This will be an occasion for any participant to raise any question or put forward any hints, tips and suggestions.