When no news is good news

…or “no new glow worms!”

mri of msbrainFor the past twelve years, I’ve gotten accustomed to the “no news is good news” mantra. When I was first diagnosed with MS in 1997, one of the telling signs was an MRI of the brain, showing small glowing spots (lesions). Since that initial MRI, I have had more than a dozen of these scans, and sometimes they show new things, sometimes they don’t.

I will admit that there are many things about MS that are frustrating. I won’t make a list, but unpredictability is one of them. Unlike many more defined maladies, there isn’t an expected course of disease progression. A person can go a lifetime, having symptoms at one time but never progressing. More often, there is progression of some sort, measured in many ways. Basic tests at the doctor’s office test manual dexterity and mental acuity, while an MRI can show if there are new lesions or other progressions in the brain. In an MRI given with dye in the bloodstream, active lesions glow, appearing like “glow worms,” I always joke. So at each MRI, my prayer is always for no new glow worms. If my physical tests (simple walking and dexterity tests) are satisfactory AND no new glow worms have entered my cerebrum, this is a good thing. As the mantra goes, “no news is good news.”

These past twelve years have been a time of many trips to the neurologist, some with “no news,” some with glow worms, some with questions still, some with tough decisions to make. But last week was a first. I had an epiphany: when no news is good news, good news is better news! Let me explain. First of all, I found out that the MRI from that morning showed no new lesions (no glow worms!)… but there have been other months with this news. No, this time even the doctor was surprised. He asked me to do some dexterity exercises, touching my thumb to each of my fingers, both hands at the same time (sort of like playing the piano). Two or three years ago, I found this so frustrating that I asked to do the hands separately – my right hand was a little slower than it used to be, but it was still alright. My left hand though… well, it was a struggle, and I had to really concentrate, so it was hard to move those fingers at the same time as the others. This was a little after I stopped playing piano, as this had become a true exercise in frustration. Well, the doctor was a bit surprised when he asked me to move my fingers in this manner and I DID. Simultaneously and not too shabbily, if I do say so myself. He then asked me if I’d been practicing – I’ve actually tried piano a little bit again recently and I’ve been typing more, but no, I had not. And for the first time in twelve years, he saw IMPROVEMENT!!

I would call this “better news,” wouldn’t you say?