Thursday, March 3, 2011

Incredible "Me"

Joyful. Happy. Jubilant. Over-the-Moon. Excited. Euphoric. Triumphant. These are just a few adjectives I can think of to express accurately how I feel today about my incredible "Me". Truth is there are no words that can truly describe the magnitude of how incredible I am feeling right now.

Yesterday, I turned the page on a chapter of my life that, although painful, stressful, and scary, taught me so much about my incredible "Me". Three and half year after I was diagnosed with 6th-nerve palsy, and almost three years to the day that I started rehabilitation, I am finally cured, and my left eye is back to normal. And I am in awe at the strength and resilience of the human body.

It began in the August of 2007 when I started to experience daily headaches. In early September, I had made an appointment to see my doctor and on my way there, in the car, I started seeing double. I pulled over and realized then that this was more than simple headaches. My doctor perplexed, sent me to the hospital where Iwas given very powerful drugs. The docs were thinking the headache was causing the double vision. When the headache was gone and the double vision remained, the look on their face said it all. They said "Cat-Scan" and I realized they thought something was wrong with my brain. I immediately thought brain-tumour and spent the next few hours being more scared than I had ever been before. Thankfully, the cat-scan showed nothing and I was extremely relieved. They sent me home, not knowing what else to do. I went back a day later, when my left eye froze and wouldn't move from the middle of the eye to the outer corner. I could move it from the middle inward, but not outward. Once back in emergency, I had an MRI, which showed nothing again thankfully. I was diagnosed with 6th nerve palsy then but the cause wasn't known yet. Eventually, I received a spinal tap, and the resident in my care, said "you have pressure in your brain." He said the spinal tap showed intracranial pressure, and that extra pressure caused the optic nerve to compress, which caused the 6th nerve palsy. He was thrilled, gave me so pills and told me, you'll be good in a few days.

Soon after the diagnosis. My left eye, which is on the right side, froze and pulled inward.
Shortly after we got home, I started feeling really sick. I had the beginnings of what would be the most painful headache I would ever experience, and which would result in being brought back to the hospital by ambulance to treat the spinal headache. I was given morphine and was assigned a new doctor, who said that the spinal tap had been done wrong, that I did not have intra cranial pressure, and that we would need to explore the cause of the 6th nerve palsy more. It was a process of elimination of potential serious diseases such as lupus and MS. A year and a half later, my 6th nerve palsy was deemed "Idiopathic", of no-known causes, and that was the end of my neurology appointments.

The diagnosis of idiopathic causes, though good news in the sense that it wasn't any of the big, serious diseases, still left me unsettled. There is a part of me that wants to know why it happened, because maybe if understood why it happened, I could prevent it in from happening again in the future. I've learned since then that I don't have such power, nor much control and I just have to accept that. I have a theory that the palsy was caused by a medication I was on, but the gods of medicine have ignored my theory.

Living with the 6th-nerve palsy was difficult in the beginning. I had to wear an eye-patch so I could see in single vision only. Seeing double all the time is disorienting and disabilitating and my double vision was so severe that only the eye patch made me able to function. I had to learn to drive with the eye patch as well.

My first eye patch was a simple gauze taped over the eye
The next generation eye patch (or ipatch 2...that would be catchy wouldn't it?!)

The physical adjustement to wearing the eye patch wasn't too difficult, but the emotional adjustment were. It gave me a greater appreciation for how people with disabilities cope under the eyes of others. Knowing that you are looked at, or stared at, because you look different, is hard to swallow. It made me feel self-conscious, and less worthy, and there were many times when I felt I wanted to become invisible. At that point, I didn't know if my eye would ever go back to normal, so I had to adjust to the fact that this might be my normal now. It was extremely difficult, and the pirate jokes stopped being funny very quickly.

In November 2007, two months after my eye froze, it started moving again. Slowly at first, and then normally. Hope swelled in my chest when my eye started moving again. I was still seeing double, but my eye was moving and this was the first sign that maybe I could heal.

In May of 2009, I went to see an optometrist about doing some eye rehabilitation. From that first appointment, my healing took another step forward. I was given some prism glasses which would slowly train my eye muscles to work together again. The eyes are supposed to move together in exactly the same way in order to have single vision. If there is a slight deviation, double vision occurs. My deviation was huge. Thankfully, technology has allowed for the creation of film prisms that just stick to the glasses, a much better alternative to the coke-bottle look.

The prism glasses. You can see vertical lines on the glass, one for each prism.

From that first appointment until now, we have slowly decreased the amount of prisms in the glasses, and my eyes worked with us to make the therapy successful. My left eye worked really hard, especially. And here we are today, close to three years after therapy began and I am healed. Fully, fully healed. I may not know for sure what caused this glitch in my brain, and the palsy to freeze my eye, but I have been given the full proof of how strong, resilient and fabulous the body is at healing itself. I am amazed and so grateful.

I have a deeper appreciation of health, a better perspective of how lucky "normal" really is, and how quickly one can get from "normal" to life-changing and debilitating. I am one of the lucky ones, because I've been given a second chance. I was given the gift of healing. I could just as quickly have been given the other diagnosis, the permanent one, the other side of the coin that doesn't heal. When I start feeling sorry for myself, I remember that perspective. And I smarten up and count my blessings.

Take good care of your "Me" today, and be grateful for all that it is right now, in this very moment. Your "Me" is worthy of being celebrated, yet we often neglect it. Try and spend a moment each day to appreciate the gift of life, the gift of health, the gift of simply being "Me".

What will you do for your "Me" today?


  1. Great post, Em, and I am so happy that you are healed and back to normal. I can't believe it's been over 3 years!
    Your final words ring true, as the other day, the middle of my back seized up and suddenly, every little thing I tried to do was incredibly painful. I rested, took a muscle relaxant two nights in a row, and did nothing that involved bending or lifting and if feels much, much better. It was a brief but powerful reminder to not take my body's health for granted!
    I wonder why it happened and so will just be that little bit gentler with my back for a while, maybe forever, to keep it as it should be.
    I am grateful for my health. And for yours.

  2. Wonderful sharing of your story, thank you so much for putting this out there so honestly. I really do understand a lot of what you went through, having a severe bells palsy that has never fully healed certainly changed how I see myself and I remember how hard it was to not be able to speak to people, to feel cut off from the world. The gift of healing is a wonderful thing, I'm so glad you've recovered and that you have such a fabulous attitude to this and life in general. I just love reading your blog!

  3. Bravo! I don't think I have ever heard the entire story and I thank you for sharing. Your story reminds me of my liver failure experience which also had no known cause. I can totally relate to the initial anxiety of not knowing what caused it and that feeling of "what if it happens again...."
    and then finally.......if it happens again, I'll deal with it as I dealt with it before.
    I am grateful for your returned state of health. Love to you!