Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

The other day I walked into my kitchen full of dirty dishes and saw a roach. To say the elephant is afraid of the mouse here is a drastic understatement. In quick action I grabbed my fly swatter and tried to convince myself I had the guts to whack it, but it was hiding. I quaked inside. I looked at the clock to see how long before my husband would be home from work. Hours. I jumped up and down and squealed like a little girl and felt a million roaches scattering across my body. Then I got a grip and dug out the Raid under the sink the roach was hanging out in, certain it crawled into my hair while I was doing so. So there I waited, quaking inside with a fly swatter in one hand and can of Raid in the other. Who says urban living ain't grand!

Needless to say the elephant won this round. So I set out to clean up the massive mess of overturned dishes soaked in Raid strewn about the counter. Sadly I lamented the days of leaving my dishes for later had finally come to a close. I washed and Lysol'd and swept and even cleaned the burner pans on the stove. No crumb was getting by me, least I see another creepy crawly and know there was something I could have done to prevent it! Then I moved on do do something else, but kept seeing insects scurrying around my house out of the corner of my eye. I became convinced they were emerging from every drain and between every wall crevice. Soon they were going to overtake my living space! So I had to do it again. I told myself, quite loudly in fact, that there were no insects in my house. There never were going to be insects in my house. I didn't see them and they weren't there. In fact they didn't factor into my life at all and were completely irrelevant to my existence. Flipping my brain to positive thinking was hard but I kept repeating it and sure enough eventually stopped tripping out like an adolescent waiting for the phone to ring. 

With startling clarity I remembered another time when my thoughts had to precipitate something actually happening. In fact I don't think it would have happened any other way. When I was living in San Francisco I could barely make it down three flights of stairs to take my dog out. I was disabled and broken and confused and scared and angry. Nobody knew how to help me and my life was quickly slipping away. The harder I tried to overcome it the sicker I got. Everyone had suggestions and plenty of criticism, but absolutely nothing of value to contribute to my situation. They just didn't understand, hell I didn't understand! But the line in the sand was before me. I either had to lie down and fade away or come up for air swinging. So I picked up a mantra and with more hurt and pain than I knew one person could even feel, repeated it over and over again every hour of every day for weeks and months until I was ready to figure out how to make it come true. I will get better. Today I may not be who I was before I got sick. But the woman who could hardly make it back up those three flights of stairs and had to stop on every landing to gather her strength, she just ran a mile this morning. Well most of one.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Fibromyalgia Blood Test

It hit the business wire a few weeks back a blood test which detects Fibromyalgia has been developed, registered with the FDA and is currently being sold. Holy shazam a-lam-a-ding-dong...WHAT! With rapt attention I poured over the clinical abstract and scientific research to get a grasp on what on earth had been unearthed. As it stands Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion based on a collection of symptoms reported by the patient. There is no conclusive test to either confirm diagnosis or rule it out. Fibromyalgia symptoms vary drastically from patient to patient, people respond individually to different treatment methods and modern medicine is still searching for the cause and mechanism of all this mayhem. Well The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, in conjunction with a biomedical company EpicGenetics, says they have figured it out. "In the past, FM was claimed to be a rheumatic, neurologic or psychiatric disease despite the fact that there were no objective links to any of those pathways. Our findings uncovered evidence that FM is instead an immunologic disorder." BMC Clinical Pathology.

So what exactly is Fibromyalgia, according to this groundbreaking discovery? I desperately want to know what the hell caused my entire world to implode so I did a significant amount of research to figure out what this study revealed. In the simplest terms, protein molecules produced by white blood cells (cytokines) in Fibromyalgia patients suffer from a dysregulation disorder. They are supposed to send messages via an inflammation response to alert the body when something is wrong so the body can fix itself. Just one component of the immune system at work. But in Fibromyalgia patients these protein molecules are depressed. This immune development disruption makes Fibromyalgia patients more vulnerable to stress. And the perfect storm is set into motion... 

Now let me clarify the word stress here. This isn't stress as in, "Oh my God I am so stressed out!" It is stress like when a doctor tells a patient to come in for a "stress test." They are strapped with electrodes, hooked up to machines and made to run a marathon on a treadmill to measure the effect of stress on their body. Okay maybe not a marathon but you get my drift. A fundamental building block of physics discovered in 1660 called Hooke's Law explains stress as the distribution of external force on a material, resulting in strain. It wasn't until the 1920's stress became associated with psychological or biological mental strain. So let's dispel the confusion of the chicken or the egg. A person with Fibromyalgia has immune patterns already present that cause stress to wreak havoc on their nervous system. Yes, the "Oh my God I am so stressed out!" kind is a valid contributor, but so are a million other sources of external force on cells and molecules and peptides and lymphokines and whatever else exists inside a human body to make it a human body. Like I said, a perfect storm.

Clearly I am more impressed by the actual mechanism discovered unique to Fibromyalgia patients than any test which can tell me if I do or don't have it. Scanning the posts of my fellow bloggers tells me I am not alone in this skepticism. See cytokines have been a working theory of research for decades and are known offenders in a slew of other ailments. What this study gives us is the first way to actually measure a difference between Fibromyalgia patients and healthy or healthy/depressed controls. It's a big win, the first breadcrumb of a clue conclusively showing a scientific difference in Fibro patients. But like many things in life, conclusive proof opens up far more questions than provides answers. Is this immune dysregulation true for all people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia? All 12.3 million of us in the USA alone? How well does it differentiate between Fibromyalgia and RA, Lupus or a gazillion other immune disorders and chronic pain conditions? Is there enough information available to wrap it up with a bow and stock it on blood pathologists shelves? Perhaps time, and significantly more research on a greater population of patients, will tell. 

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-Yahoo Finance Press Release

*Blog author has not been contacted or compensated by any of the linked resources and makes a claim neither for or against the FM/a Test.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Say What?

The other night I was watching my favorite freak show Oddities with one eye and doing five different things with the other. Then I heard something that made me pay attention. Seems there was an actual scientific study done on the effect of swearing loudly and sensory pain perception. It made me giggle, but I wanted to know more so looked into it. Seems to be yes, swearing does indeed increase a person's pain threshold, according to a study done at Keele University School of Psychology*. What's even funnier is they discovered this information while attempting to prove the opposite. That swearing contributes to the intensity of pain and emotional distress.  

Now this is not new news, in fact this information is a few years old. I found myself a bit irritated I was just learning I could control my pain with the F word. That knowledge would have been very valuable over the last few years. But I know it now so I set out to understand why. Scientific controls and hypothesis and double-blind aside I used nothing more than intuition and common sense. Could it be related to endorphins? The rush a person feels when doing something they shouldn't? An evolutionary gift from our forefathers allowing us to feel good for a moment, but not too long, lest we get lazy and eaten by a saber tooth tiger?

Then I remembered the day fondly when taking calculated risks wasn't that big of a deal. If I drank too much the night before I could sleep it off with Advil the next day. If I ate three pieces of birthday cake my stomach ache would dilute in a liter of water within a few hours. For goodness sake I was a smoker in my youth! But simple negligence in the past is a massive disruption to any sort of order in my present. I already have so many freakin' problems there is no way in hell I could handle any I actually choose to inflict on myself. Ahhh, the joy of aging, the joy of illness. But I do have to say this experience did leave me better off. I decided to test my own hypothesis. So I went out and had a few beers, and as I screamed expletives over the noisy bar I had more fun than I'd had in a while. And I remembered the joy of not always being prudent. And really didn't feel much pain at all.

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