After my last rambling post, I want to at least have a topic to stay on. This isn’t a frenzied post but will still cover more than one topic.
My Care Services Coordinator offered me and Tony the opportunity to make the trip to Washington, D.C., for National ALS Advocacy Day. It’s something we’ve both wanted to attend. After talking over it a few days, we decided to not go. It was a tough decision because I think it’s really important for us all to be united in such a way and able to speak directly to people who can be a voice for us all. The timing is just off for us right now. If I can’t do it being fully prepared, I’d rather someone else go who is, but can’t afford the trip to be there. I’m disappointed about it, but feel we made the right decision and let her know this morning. Thank you to all who will be there on behalf of the whole ALS community. Who knows what next year will be like, but I hope to go then.
Time for cloud storage when it comes to saving important files. We had a Seagate external hard drive crash that had so much on it that is important to us. All the work that had been put into my after-death messages to my family. Something we started working on not long after my diagnosis. At the time I was calling it "April’s Show." Why not be a little narcissistic after life? A lot of work and footage is on there and a great comparison for pre- and post-surgery. We also have footage on it that I think, at least some, will be shown in my documentary.
I was devastated for days while Tony tried to recover it. We finally came to terms that we’ll have to pay someone to get it back. We’ve had extremely varying quotes from under $100 to close to $1,000. All very confident, but who to trust? I know little to nothing about this but have heard of low-cost people making it worse and truly irretrievable. Tony keeps trying to assure me we’ll get it back. I don’t think he’s lying, but I won’t feel better until I see it. I can’t stand to think of losing all that. It’s really invaluable to me. I hope to get it back and will never trust another external hard drive.
I’ve been wanting to devote a post about ALS and how life goes on despite it. The great things go on and hopefully you get to be a part of that when you want, but the more you progress in symptoms the more you have to count on other people to make it happen and can turn that time into hardship for them. This isn’t something that is extreme for me right now, but I’ve thought about it since the beginning. Right now, Tony has taken most of any burden without complaint. He has received some help. We’re both a little broken and want to go it alone as much and as long as possible right now.
There is also the tragedies that can strike any family. That really scares me when I think about being further along in progression. Before the stem cell study, my future was a little more predictable as far as progression and approximate timelines of how bad things would be and how much help Tony would finally have to give in and accept. In the best way possible, that’s a little more unpredictable right now. I still have thoughts of not making it to a close loved one’s funeral when I’m much further along. Not making it to all kinds of events, good or bad, because of ALS. Right now, I have missed a few things because of extreme fatigue or a place not being handicap-accessible. The fatigue is really the hardest to deal with for me at this time. I feel not being there for something is hurtful to others because the fatigue is not tangible. No one can see or feel it, and it’s easy to not be taken serious. Everyone feels tired but goes on. ALS fatigue is different. It’s more than tired. I would have had a hard time understanding it before experiencing it. I’m so thankful to have a husband there to make sure all is taken care of. ALS is horrible to those affected and to those who take care of us.
I want to touch some on life post stem cell surgery. I’m still very much enjoying the improvement in dexterity and strength in my right hand and arm. I’ve been hesitant about mentioning my arm, but the improved strength is no doubt there. I can hold a plate of food long enough to set it down only using my right side. I can play with Abby easier. I can eat and put a fork through a piece of pineapple. I could not do these thing before. I used my left hand, that had more strength. It has even improved. I can still project my voice louder and speak longer without becoming hoarse for much longer. My speech is most often very intelligible. I have a couple of things I think cause the occasional major slur, mispronouncing words here and there. One is that the right side of my tongue is still a little atrophied even though it seems stronger when moving food. The second is the roof of my mouth. You can slide your tongue along the middle roof of your mouth and feel the bony separator in the middle. The left side of mine curves up which is how it has always been. The right side only has a very slight curve up. It’s like it’s collapsing on that side. The differences in the tongue, even though it is mildly atrophied, has the sensation of being thicker. Between the tongue and the roof of mouth flattening down on that side, if not being very aware, some words will sound slurred. Other than feeling my tongue is a little stronger moving food, there seems to be no real difference in tongue or roof of mouth since surgery. This is my opinion; I haven’t been told this. I feel this was something actively progressing at a noticeable rate to me before surgery. Since surgery it seems to have just stopped.
Eating and drinking water was at the beginning stages and I was preparing for continued worsening speech and swallowing water which Tony had already started thickening because even though I was never in a real choking situation I was having more sudden coughs from feeling like it was going down wrong pretty often. It still happens once in a while now, but I don’t use thickener anymore. I was noticing more trouble with coordinating the chew to swallow process. I deal with that much less and eat with more ease. It’s either a slight improvement or a complete halt of these things and staying at the point I am used to working with. I’m doing my best to explain what I’m experiencing. I have no other reason to believe this stopped or possibly improved other than participating in the Neuralstem stem cell study. The improvement in my speech and my right hand is obvious to people who knew me before surgery. What I’m experiencing with my soft palate and tongue are much more difficult to get across, but these are very important issues regarding quality of life and even extending life. That’s why I’m attempting to explain the feeling of it and what losing these abilities means. The ability to speak and swallow liquid and food longer is amazing to a person with ALS. A lot of the things I’m experiencing as improvement or halt of progression is not as obvious, especially to people who weren’t around me much. The people who know me all noticed improvement in speech, people can see very clearly my ability to use my right hand better. It’s hard to see and understand a soft palate stop collapsing and better tongue control. As I’ve said before, I hope I’ve explained these things in an easy to understand way.
There are a couple more things I want to mention but not until next month's appointment at Emory. I have some questions myself and want some answers before I start posting about it. I still just can’t say enough how lucky I feel to have had the surgery. There are new studies and studies in stage 2 and 3 that hold promise. In Arizona, the House Committee on Reform and Human Services approved ”right to try” by a vote of 5 to 3. The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee. If approved, it will go to the full house for consideration. This is expected to pass, and I would expect other states to follow. Even though it still isn’t happening fast enough for people who are dying, it is progress and I want everyone to keep hope alive and keep fighting. Even though it’s slow, there has been more progress in ALS research and other rare diseases in the last few years than ever before.
Please believe me, I know all about bad days with ALS. I’ve had days when I just want to dare someone to tell me to be positive. These days are normal so don’t feel guilty over them. There is someone else with ALS feeling positive for you. Never give up!
Until next time, take care.
The blog was posted originally on March 11, 2014.
About the Author
My name is April Moundzouris, and I was diagnosed with ALS on March 28, 2012, when I was 39 years old. I recently started a website, The ALS Express, which contains easy-to-find information for those recently diagnosed with ALS. The site also houses my personal blog (also posted as April's ALS Blog at WordPress). My site is very straightforward regarding my life with ALS and may offend some. However, that's not my intention. If I can help one person newly diagnosed with this horrible disease better understand how to adapt to their ever-changing condition, then I have a feeling of accomplishment. If you get a chance, please visit my site. Please also visit The ALS Express on Facebook, a fan page that my husband set up and maintains.
Lastly, thanks to everyone helping to spread awareness about ALS. A cure or at least a treatment is way past due.