Monday, June 28, 2010

I think they're just fucking with me.


MS tests are weird, you guys. I don’t know any better way to put it than that. Apparently though, I am really good with words. Not so good with numbers. Let me set the scene for you.

I was down at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP from now on, because I will not be typing that more than I need to) for my initial screening to see if I would qualify for a drug trial. (long story short there, I qualify; I have MS. Yay? I dunno, let’s just call it a second opinion and move on.) Part of the initial visits is a battery of cognitive tests. The initial ones are just “practice” so that you are familiar with the format... helps eliminate the “learning curve”, so that the “real” test can be compared with future tests over the next two years.

Fine. Let’s do this.

First test: (I don’t remember any of the names of these, so mine will be the more appropriate descriptive names) “Put the pegs in the holes. Take the pegs out of the holes. Quickly!” So yeah, that was basically all that one was. And I didn’t drop any. Guess I passed.

Second test: “Remember a random list of words and repeat them back.” Dude, I owned this test. Seriously. 12 words, I remembered all but three. Second try? I got them all. You have 6 tries total and even if you get them all right, you keep doing it for six times. So then I was mixing it up for my own amusement... can I put them in a different order? Sure I can!


I rock. Bring it baby, I’m ready.

Third test: “Checkerboard mind-fuck.” You look at this grid pattern for 10 seconds. On this grid, are 7 black circles. After studying it for 10 seconds, you then have to duplicate the spacing using checkers and a blank grid.

Bam. All 7, right spots.

Do it 3 more times? Okay!



And done.

But then, they show you an alternate checkerboard. You sneaky bastards. Study that one for 10 seconds and do the same thing. A little harder this time, as I was consciously trying to forget what I had just committed to memory to remember something else that was similar enough to be confusing.

(that sentence is confusing.)

Still, got it right, first try and the second try. Next?

Replicate the first pattern, without looking at the original prompt.


Fuck. Way to go sneaky cognitive guys. And not funny, messing with the MS girl like that. I don’t know how many I got right. The examiner didn’t tell me. That must be in the instructions somewhere... “If they do well, offer praise. If they do poorly, just quietly put the test away and move on.”

Fourth test: “Chinese water torture.... but with numbers.” Okay, let me try to explain this. There’s this CD, with this annoyingly calm and monotone guy throwing a single digit number at me every 5 seconds. I’m supposed to listen to the number, add it to the previous number, and state the sum out loud, meanwhile bearing in mind the last number, because I will have to add that to the next number.

Sounds simple enough... right?

ACMG: Five....

ACMG: Three....

Me: Eight.

ACMG: Seven....

Me: Ten.

And so on and so on... for sixty numbers. I did okay for the first 30, but by the last 30 I was apparently misadding things and adding the second number to the sum of the last two numbers and all kinds of other things. It only made my brain hurt to a moderate degree.

Apparently that wasn’t the worst of the hell though.

Next, we were going to do the same thing, but with only a 2 second pause between the numbers.... again, for 60 numbers.

ACMG: Six....

ACMG: Two....

Me: Eight!

ACMG: (talking over me, how rude!) Seven....

Me: ....

ACMG: Five....

Me: Nine! No! Wait that wa...

ACMG: Six....

Me: Shit!

ACMG: Four....

Me: Ten!

ACMG: Two....

Me: .....

ACMG: Nine....

Me: Apricot!

ACMG: Three....

Me: ....

ACMG: Two....

Me: FIVE!!

ACMG: One....


ACMG: Seven....

Me: (hands over ears...)

ACMG: One....

Me: stop talking to me!!!!!

Seriously... that’s almost entirely how it went.... except the desire to yell out random words instead of numbers was just filled by deafening silence on my part because I didn’t want the woman conducting the test to think I had tourrettes as well as MS. But I did put my hands over my ears at one point... I couldn’t help myself... I needed to check for blood because I was sure this specific brand of torture was designed just for me... and it was working....

Fifth test: “Are-you-fucking-kidding-me-with-these-twelve-words-again??!?!?” No repeating this time... just me, remembering what they were....


HA!!! Take THAT evil cognitive tests master minds!!

(I am, at this point, beginning to drool and my eye was twitching... I’m pretty sure, anyway...)

Sixth test: “SERIOUSLY-with-the-checkers-again???!?!” Yeah... the first pattern, not the second, no prompts... I got 1 out of 7 right.... and I don’t have the faintest clue which one it was....

Seventh test: “Walk in a straight line as quickly as you can.”

....... ?

(Seems rather anticlimactic, doesn’t it?)

UPDATED: After the second battery of "test" tests, the clinicians keep telling me how well I am doing on these cognitive assessments. However, as I was leaving the hospital today, I made a wrong turn and got hopelessly lost. I think that begs to differ people.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Awkwardly Awesome.

One might think that, in order to plan and host your 15 year high school reunion, you'd have to fall into one of two categories in order to want to tackle such an undertaking:

1. Formerly mega-popular high school class president/cheerleader/prom queen

2. Formerly not mega-popular high school class president/cheerleader/prom queen, but now ridiculously successful and fabulous.

If so, one would be wrong. Case in point? I planned our 15 year high school reunion.

Yeah, that's right, me.

Who was I in high school? Basically no one... I'm pretty sure the invisible people don't get elected prom queen or class president... and really? I had all the grace of a drunken donkey. No one was making a cheerleader out of me.

Who am I now? Well.... that's actually a good question.

I still have the grace of a drunken donkey.... except I am actually drunk.... quite often anyway.... but now I blame all the tripping on the MS. I have one marriage under my belt and I'm now on my second. (though doing quite better with this one, thank you very much) One failed business under my belt as well - totally on to a second (personally fulfilling but poorly paying) career. I have an extra 40 pounds or so, a shit ton of debt and no assets to speak of, a neurological disease, but, a beautiful daughter....

Mix well, serve over ice...

(I mean, true, you have to add a splash of charm and a bit of snark in there... but that's the basic recipe.)

I was so shy in high school. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted boys to fall all over themselves over me. I wanted to be smart. I wanted to be funny and charming and graceful. I wanted to be talented.

I was, instead, awkward, self-conscious, and completely unaware. I was smart, but not as naturally brilliant as some of my classmates. I was talented, but not like my incredibly naturally gifted friends. I was pretty, but not in the "guys falling all over themselves" kind of way. I was funny, but always afraid that people were laughing at me, not with me. I was as graceful as a drunken donkey. (but we already covered that...)

However, as each former classmate showed up, I found myself to be not at all self-conscious. I wasn't worried about the 40 extra pounds (or the fact that I was sweating like a whore in church (it was hot as hell you guys!)) as I hugged each one and met their spouse or significant other or children. I chatted with everyone I could, as much as I could, and really enjoyed the whole day that I had managed to pull together, with those who had managed to join me.

The thing was, as I sat among these people, so of whom I can't say I even knew in high school, I realized that none of us were who we were in high school... and, in some cases (maybe most? all?), I don't think we ever even were who we thought we were in high school. (confusing much? yes.) And as much as it mattered then? That was how much it didn't matter now.

I was having flashes of The Breakfast Club playing in my head. (because, really, it's a great movie.... and a welcome change from the Dora the Explorer episodes that seem to play there on a regular basis....)

And what did we learn from The Breakfast Club? That's right:

"Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did *was* wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain... and an athlete... and a basket case... and a princess... and a criminal...

Does that answer your question?... Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club."

And what *else* did we learn from The Breakfast Club? Right again:

The jocks and the bad boys always get the girls. The nerds are just badass writers.... and apparently drink a lot later in life.

Thanks for spending that saturday in detention with me you guys. I look forward to doing it again in 5 years.... or sooner.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I don't know why people even associate with me.

This is a transcript of an email conversation with a friend of mine, following one of my "I'm-trying-to-plan-a-15-year-class-reunion-will-you-cut-me-a-break-and-send-a-freaking-reply?!?!" emails.

Any identifying details will be protected.... because, really? I need to keep the friends I have. Especially those who let me email with them like this.... though I will never understand why.

Friend who will remain nameless (mostly because I doubt she would want to admit association with me):

You are totally killing me with this... ahhhhh.....

And, really: don't you miss me?

Ugh. I am SO put out right now…

A reunion... perfect place to display my newly acquired case of adult acne. Awesome. Maybe the sun will be shining brightly enough to illuminate my gray... or should I say "silver" hairs... as well as my pasty cellulite... I have to work myself up to even RSVP'ing.

We might be moving across the street from *yeah, like I’m going to out someone else on here* :) On *road which I will not be mentioning* ... keep your fingers crossed!


OMG I miss you so much!!! Did you delete your FB page???

What. The. Fuck.

Come back.

Okay, *same road that I won’t be mentioning, again*? Awesome, you're actually even closer! I approve. We can meet down by the bridge and drink under it. Because really? Isn't that where winos go? Under bridges? Or is that just trolls...? Meh, either way.

My adult acne will bond with yours. Seriously. Even my back is broken out. Which is lovely. It's like being a teenager again. Except without the fun stuff about being a teenager. Of course, at least now I can drink (legally) until I feel better about it.

AND, I have not only NOT lost any weight, but I apparently found about 5 pounds that someone else must have misplaced.

Yep, sounds like the perfect time for a reunion! ;-)

My dear sympathetic friend:

We (meaning those of us who try to make lightly of the fact that we can't wear tank tops & must keep our hair long enough to cover blemishes on our backs), call that: Bacne.

And, Yes - I have it: I even recruited some sort of a"tool" to try to pop them: doesn't work. Just makes me look like a meth head tweaker who has poison coming out of their pores all over.


Me (I swear to god, I wasn't drinking):

Damn. And I just cut my hair short again. No more tank tops for me. Clearly I do NOT think these things through enough.

In a separate, but somehow related, matter: I completely destroyed my va-jay-jay this morning.

You see, here's how it happened. I got a little over-zealous with the grooming the other day. The result? Crazy, insane, can't-stop-wanting-to-scratch-my-girlie-parts, itching whilst the hair grows back in. My solution? I'm going to try Nair. I mean, really? How much worse could it be?

So. Much. Worse.

Can you say chemical burns? Yeah. So while it left the little bits of hair completely intact, it inflamed everything else surrounding said hair. And still didn't solve the itchy-crotch problem.

So, cut to me in the shower, deciding that I would still shave to rid myself of the hair - again, because clearly I didn't learn the first time, but I seriously can't handle the hair growing back in!

Post shower? Looks like the crater pocked surface of the moon. You know, if the surface of the moon was red and swollen from chemical burns and the craters were filled with blood. BLOOD. Okay, so maybe it looked more like a completely unappetizing strawberry, sans those annoying seeds that always end up getting stuck in your teeth.

Wait, what was I talking about....?

Ugh, it's going to be a long day.

Friend (who is now wondering why she ever replied to me in the first place):

Soooo funny! But… wait; not funny at the same time. I think it's the power plant. Fa real.

Just a heads up: don't even bother trying that infomercial thing that allegedly just "sands" the hair off: it works good for a mustache: but, that's even debatable at this point. Certainly doesn't work on my chin hair: still need to pluck those bitchez.

I am so not hot.

What happened?

And, really: What pants are you wearing today? I am sitting here cracking up (mean, I know) at the thought of the discomfort you must be feeling at work. Hopefully you put a little baby powder ....or Neosporin on the strawberry moon :)

Me (because I take over-sharing to a whole new level):

In all my infinite wisdom? I wore light tan pants. I keep checking for little spots of blood. Which would be bad, clearly, as then I would have to tie my sweater around my waist backwards and try to convince my cadets that it's totally hip. Except I don't think people say "hip" anymore, so they will have no idea what I'm talking about.


I also wore really cute but uncomfortable shoes. Thinking, naturally, that the pain in my feet would distract me from the pain in my panties.

Epic. Fail.

*Post-Script: This email chain was like a month ago. All is well in the nether regions, so you can save your "get well" cards.... though I doubt Hallmark covers these sort of issues. Our class reunion is in two days and I have somehow managed to find another 5 or 7 (okay, fine, 10) pounds. I have a feeling it was hiding in the wine. I am now wondering if I can show up to the party in a burqa without raising too many questions. Hmmm....

Monday, June 7, 2010


"It is indeed ironic that we spend our school days yearning to graduate and our remaining days waxing nostalgic about our school days."
~Isabel Waxman

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~Attributed to Mark Twain, unconfirmed

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see."
~John Burroughs

"Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these."
~Susan B. Anthony

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while you could miss it."
~From the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off

"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you."
~John Wooden

"To change one's life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions."
~William James

"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
~Nelson Henderson

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."
~e.e. cummings

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember."

"The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man's foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher."
~Thomas Henry Huxley

"The language of friendship is not words but meanings."
~Henry David Thoreau

"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same."
~Flavia Weedn

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next."

~Gilda Radner

(good luck, my boys.)