MS Awareness Week, March 11-17

     Spring has been a favorite season of mine for as long as I can remember, but it has taken on new meanings in recent years. March doesn’t just mark the start of spring, but the MS Association of America declares it “MS Education and Awareness Month.” Since a June 1997 diagnosis, every month has fallen into this category for me. Along the same lines, The National MS Society declares “MS Awareness week” to be March 10-17.

     So what is MS anyhow, and why do we need to be aware? Valid questions. Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system, which usually attacks things that make us sick, is misbehaving. With MS, the immune system attacks the coating of the nerves, a fatty substance called myelin. Imagine that your nerves are electric wires, and the myelin is the protective rubber coating around the said wires. Then the renegade white blood cells snip away at parts of that myelin “rubber coating.” When a power cord has this type of damage, it can cause a short circuit. Lights may flicker or sparks may fly, depending where the power was headed. Your biggest bundle of nerves is one that you use whether or not you’re thinking about it; you need it in order to think, in fact. The brain is, essentially, a huge, organized bundle of nerves. For an MS-laden immune system, the brain acts as the main target.

This leads to the reason for the name, “Multiple Sclerosis.” Multiple means many, and Sclerosis refers to scars. What happens when the myelin is stripped away? Scars, or lesions, are left behind. Where? The brain, of course. And this leads to that need for “awareness.” You see, the brain is responsible for quite a bit. Imagine if your home had shorts in the wiring at various spots. More than just flickering lights, your doorbell may not work, the furnace may fluctuate, your computer may flash new error messages, and the electrician would have quite a job in store. Scars in the brain can act this way also, affecting mobility, energy, balance, heat sensitivity, vision, speech, memory, and so much more. A few shorts may only affect the lights in the attic, and a person with MS may not experience very many symptoms. But one trait these both share is the same: unpredictability. What symptoms will strike when?

Do you know people who face MS? Whether or not you realize it, you likely do. Eighteen years ago, just a few weeks before we moved to a new home, I discovered that our next-door neighbor had MS. We had lived there for two years, and I had not realized this, as it was “invisible” in many ways. In the United States, it is estimated that 250-350,000 individuals in the USA currently face MS, about two thirds of these female. A person with MS may experience all or only a few of the symptoms mentioned earlier, and this may change. MS symptoms can come and go, and they aren’t very predictable, though they often become worse during stressful times or in hot weather.

So what to do? The good news is that although we had zero medications to fight MS twenty years ago, there are currently sixteen available. A cure remains elusive, but we keep coming closer. Medicine can help slow progression, and more answers are found each day. There isn’t a single, clear cause for the onset of MS, and there likely won’t be a single, clear cure, but continued research and awareness of this disease and its effects is key.

Summer used to be a much-loved season also, but MS has caused me to shift, as my body just can’t tolerate heat. I do adore new life that begins showing itself in spring, and my hope and prayer is that this “MS Awareness Month,” we can gain understanding of these hidden scars that affect our friends and neighbors with MS. As spring progresses, we can know that each day brings us closer to a cure.


You may also read this article in the “SEG-WAY News” of Grant County, Indiana, published March 9, 2018

Gen Con 50 – View from the Chair (days 3 and 4)

 

Yes, Day 3 of Gen Con came, and though the numbers were technically not larger, it seemed more packed, I think. Yesterday ended later for us, but for a fun reason, as T.R. attended an awards ceremony for the ENnies, the EN World RPG Awards. His “Cyclopaedia” blog was one of five blog nominees for an award, and though it was not a winner, two different games he assisted with did win gold and/or silver awards!

But what were those other snapshots of on Friday? The one plain shot of an elevator wasimg_1390 a reminder of how thankful we are for the elevators and skywalks that allow us to attend events in and around the Convention Center without trying to navigate stairs or crazy twisting ramps. …We hit our first snag here, though, when Thursday evening’s elevator from the skywalk to the Convention Center was dead. And there was nobody to contact, no number to call. We ended up making our way across to a parking garage where we could take an elevator down, then walk along the city street to enter the Convention Center, once we found an entrance on that side that didn’t involve a stairway. Thankfully, it had been repaired by the time we were on the way back from our evening event.

Other events Friday included demo-ing (then purchasing) two new games. One img_1397that excited me to most was Codenames Duet, a cooperative two person version of the popular party game. Yes, it’s a neat game, but what excited me the most wasn’t just the game itself, but the fact that the convention demonstration size of the lettering on the cards was huge… so I could read it from a few feet away without problem! Though the demo sized tiles are not sold, I’m contacting the company to encourage them to make this version available! Small text size on playing cards is one of the more frustrating bits of gameplay I face, and what a beautiful solution this option could be. We shared these thoughts with those running this game room, and I will communicate with the publisher after we’re home.

One little piece of Gen Con I enjoy each year is the balloon sculpture.

 

This year’s Golden Dragon, representing the 50th Anniversary, is quite lovely. More was pieced together each day, and we could view the final celebratory piece on Sunday! (I didn’t attend the final popping.)img_1442

img_1419
Bob Ross “The Art of Chill” board game

Saturday evening had also been an extra special game time, with friends gathering in our hotel lobby/breakfast area to share pizza and snacks, then img_1417play new games we had purchased – my favorite was one that is now available at Target stores. If you also grew up watching “The Joy of Painting on PBS, you also may enjoy the game where you earn points for painting fluffy clouds, happy trees, and mighty mountains.  Some of those who gathered were those who rarely meet face-to-face, but know one another via online communications through Innroads Ministries.

Sunday brought one of our favorite parts of the week, the img_1433Christian worship service. This gathering of believers to sing praise, share communion,  and hear a telling message from Tom Vasel. Though the speaker is known in the gaming community as the founder and host of the game review podcast “The Dice Tower,” he is also an ordained minister. His message was right on target with this audience. The three points (as most sermons possess) were simple:

1. Be content. (even when you’re attending an event that shows you so many games and things you “must have.”
2. Listen. In our busy world – and a busy Con also – take time to stop and listen. And Hear. Sometimes, we need reminders to stop talking, to take in messages from others.
3. Rest. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous note to rest… and no, resting does not indicate laziness, but it is necessary physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

We certainly appreciated Tom Vasel’s timely words, and after we left to join the final day img_1445at Gen Con, we prepared to meet with various people, then we had a unique, unexpected lunch that showed another way a business took an “invisible issue” img_1810seriously. At a daughter’s request, we decided to visit “The Walking Waffle Company” in the food court of Circle Center Mall. Their menu offered different meal options – the breakfast waffle with bacon, eggs, and cheese looked lovely, and the chicken waffle sounded fun. I have an unusual, rather annoying allergy: black pepper. As I do at any restaurant, I asked the gentleman taking orders if the chicken or breakfast waffles contained any black pepper. He thoughtfully responded, “The eggs don’t, but several items do, and I’m afraid pepper could  remain on the grill and leach into the eggs.” He then carefully considered and found that the Waffle Club Sandwich should work for me. Not only was he correct there, but I found a new, unexpected treat. I know that food allergies can be tricky, particularly when they’re uncommon. I do appreciate a private restaurant owner, even in a popular food court, taking the time to accommodate a silly allergy.

As we walked toward our room after lunch, a game-editing friend passed us in the hallway. John had injured his foot and was in a wheelchair (where he had not been when I talked with him on Saturday morning). “The world is different from this view – it’s quite… disconcerting.” John then described an interaction he’d had with a taller friend – about 6′ 5″ – and he said they were so far apart that he felt cut off from the rest of the world. Trying to converse with a taller friend woke him up to a different perspective.

Gen Con 50 did hold more than the snippets I described. So many neat conversations with people from around the world, here just a ninety minute drive from our home. Games and costumes and celebrations and more. But me? My “battery” is such that I took a nap each afternoon, while the rest of the family worked at a booth each afternoon. I enjoyed and appreciated the experiences I had – Nice job, Gen Con 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gen Con 50 – Views from the Chair (day 1)

 


Today marked the first actual day of Gen Con, and we have definitely found that a bit of planning helps those “invisible issues” not be issues at all. The convention itself is sold out, and we are thankful for the tickets and reservations we got secured in advance. Even more so, I’m thrilled with support fromimg_1376-1 “Special Services,” offering specific assistance to those with physical needs. Wednesday evening, in fact, I obtained a blue wristband that may help with lines and such in the coming days… I’m not certain this will have an impact on things, but we shall see.

So were things busy in the Convention Center today? Suffice it to say – yes. As in years past, we found that a “plan” helped. We had our list

Andy Looney and me
Andy Looney and me

of booths to visit first, and each of us went to the booths that were most important to him or her. Em visited an artist she has gotten to know, Rach purchased a superhero book and chatted with the author as he signed it (the book was tied in with a game he wrote), T.R. directed us to the booth that sells “scratch and dent” games at wonderful prices, and me? I wished to visit the Looney Labs booth and have a pic with Andy Looney. (We also purchased the new “Chemistry Fluxx.”)

Even as we enjoyed lunch at Noodles, Inc., we found one thing to be very true: people here are kind and thoughtful, for the most part. The wheelchair didn’t seem to be a barrier, just an accepted part of life. I’ll share more tomorrow, also planning to add more photos, fun, and insights. Please let me know if you have questions you’d like to see answered.

Gen Con 50 – Views from the Chair (preview)

 

As the final summer before our daughters leave for college approaches its end, we’re preparing for one last adventure. And I’m looking forward to sharing these experiences on this blog!

Coming later this week – Gen Con 50: Views from the Chair. The four of us will be attending Gen Con, and unlike last year, I will be able to attend the entire week! With 2017 marking the fiftieth anniversary of this gaming convention, many special events and celebrations are scheduled, and it’s nice that we purchased our tickets several months ago. Many of my regular readers may see this as odd, but tickets for most days are sold out. I anticipate crowds everywhere, beyond those of years past.

What will a more crowded Convention Center mean for those of us with mobility issues? Time will tell. In the past, I have been pleased with the way these issues have been tackled, and I anticipate the same. My laptop will come with me to Indianapolis, and I’ll plan to share my experiences throughout the week. What will the Exhibit Hall experiences be like? Hotel? Dining venues? Restrooms and such?

If any of you have questions you’d like me to address, I’d be happy to do so – please share them in the comments below!

(See last year’s notes at https://angieknight.wordpress.com/2016/08/03/gen-con-views-from-the-chair-part-one/)