Saturday, January 21, 2023

I’m Still a Rock Star…And Yet

Image of written script, "Still a Rock Star... and Yet..."

I wrote a blog post in 2014 
I Feel Like A Rock Star! where I described learning my Multiple Sclerosis lesions were all two or more years old. This led to me proclaiming I felt like a Rock Star. 

For many years I related to the song by Pink, “So What,” because I connected with the lyrics. I felt my body had let me down, yet I would prevail even though it felt like MS and my body were fighting me. The song felt like an anthem rebelling against my MS. 

“And you're a tool
So, so what?
I am a rock star
I got my rock moves
And I don't want you tonight”

Friday was a very long day with MRI scans in the morning and a neurologist appointment late afternoon. I awoke at 5:30 am and left home in the dark at 6:35 am. A ferry ride and congested freeway drive are part of the routine getting to the imaging facility and my neurologist’s office. An hour in the tube for the MRI scans was so much better than years past. I saw Alonzo again - a terrific technician and delightful person. He always adds good cheer and compassion.  The facility also updated the scan rooms to allow seeing a digitized underwater seascape. Watching yellow and blue fish and skate swim under water was more relaxing than looking at the inside of the imaging tube.  

Morning scans and a late afternoon neurologist appointment allow me to do it all in one day.  It’s a long day, but it’s worth it to do it all in one trip. 

Today’s scans show no evidence of disease activity (NEDO) for at least ten years now. This is beyond great news.

I’ll give this context. When I was diagnosed in summer of 2008, I read a statistic that the majority of people with MS will likely need assistance walking (with a cane, walker, crutches or wheelchair) within ten years of diagnosis.

A few years ago, there was a false alarm that I’d had more lesions.  One set of MRI scans had shadows that I was told could be an old relapse.  Later it was clear that they were scan shadows and not evidence of any lesions. It felt like riding a roller coaster of emotions and belief in how I’m doing based on imperfect medical test results. The relief was immense learning that the scans were off and I didn’t have new lesions. Old damage continues to frustrate me and cause increased MS symptoms. Yet NEDA is the best I can hope for, and I’m immensely grateful for this win. 

Disease modifying medications have greatly changed the prognosis for people with MS. I’ve been fortunate to have them available at diagnosis, and they’ve been effective for my disease course.  My first year of diagnosis, I had three relapses. They were so impactful, I began to forget what feeling well was like. 

This blog post is about me, but it’s also not about me. In the early 1990s, no medications that tempered the immune system attacks on myelin (the nerve coating eroded by MS) existed. In the early to mid-90’s, three existed. In 2008 when I was diagnosed, there were four.  As of this writing, there are at least 24 options. The number of medications is notable for the magnitude, and it would seem excessive.  The sad part is not every medication works for every person, and it’s trial and error finding what works for each person. It’s also important to note that the effectiveness varies for each medication, and risks associated with modulating an immune system carries other health risks. It’s a necessary evil.  

All of the medications are expensive beyond belief, but they are saving grace for those of us who need them.  I’ll refrain from repeating my thoughts on this issue here, but I have written about insurance denials and prescription coverage previously if you want to check them out. Short story, I’m doing well and have coverage.  Not all do, and it’s a mess. 

These are four posts I wrote about medical insurance, if you feel like heading down that rabbit hole: 
I’m hard pressed to leave this on a negative note, so if you want to read a post that’s a bit more empowering for tracking and navigating insurance billing to help with financial impact, check out 

I want to acknowledge and celebrate this personal milestone of ten years without new disease activity. This summer I’ll reach 15 years post MS diagnosis. When I was diagnosed, the prognosis for people with MS was 20% of people would be bedridden, 20% require a wheelchair or mobility aid, and 60% would be ambulatory.  Ambulatory is such a sanitized word to convey the threshold that people are able to walk 150 feet, walk one block, and climb one flight of stairs. The bar is low, and the ability to do these things is everything when on the cusp of not being able to meet them. The prognosis for 1/3 of all patients was that they would go through life without any persistent disability, and suffer only intermittent, transient episodes of symptoms.” These statistics are from the National Institute of Health.

“Intermittent, transient episodes of symptoms” minimizes the impact MS has on a person. Even with the best possible disease course and NEDA, my life still revolves around managing my health and symptoms. All of my friends and family are impacted at one point or another by my health. I look like a healthy person, I work full time, and I am very active. And I’m extremely lucky.  

This past year, I walk-jogged a marathon. At mile 18, I was physically unable to run anymore. I could still walk though.  I didn’t care about how fast my pace was, and I knew I could walk the rest of the course and still make the time limit required to get credit and earn the title of “Finisher.”

I am doing well. So far, I continue “to go through life without any persistent disability, and suffer only intermittent, transient episodes of symptoms.”

It might sound great, and it is. That said, MS symptoms are a hassle. While grateful I’m doing as well as I am, it’s not a cake walk. My sympathy for all who experience health issues that inhibit them from activities and a lifestyle they desire. 

This weekend as I process the results of my health scans and consider milestones and the health journey I’ve endured, I celebrate my good fortune and I acknowledge it’s not guaranteed for things to come.  I sympathize with those who are experiencing a more difficult health journey of any flavor, and I extend my well-wishes and effort to help.  

Bittersweet is an apt description for how I feel. I embrace feeling like a rock star with rebellion, pride and full knowledge that it’s not all within my control. I extend my heartfelt compassion for those vulnerable, not faring well, or living with challenging times.

I hope you find your inspiration to weather all you experience.  For me it’s still Pink’s song, “So What.”

"So, so what?
I'm still a rock star
I got my rock moves
And I don't need you
And guess what?
I'm having more fun
And now that we're done
I'm gonna show you tonight"

Much love and sincere well wishes for all.    

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