Tuesday, February 17, 2009

E-Dispatches Blog Exclusive Number 1

When I came up with the idea of doing instalments of "E-Dispatches from the Great White North" for here I decided that the first piece I wanted to do was on my ongoing health issues; or more specifically the peripheral neuropathy I am afflicted with and have made mention of on a few occasions here and elsewhere.

Towards that end I began to put together some reference material when I came across the following article which I wrote a couple of years ago. Upon reading the piece I decided that it would more than explain to everyone my situation.

So I will let you get to reading this piece after which I'll make a few additional comments. The following was an instalment of my "Did you know about...?" newspaper column and was published during the third week of May 2007.

"Did you know about...?"
Jonathan A. Gilbert
All Rights Reserved.

I've been writing this column for well over two-years now and I hope that you've been getting as much enjoyment out of reading it as I have been putting it together. And while I would love be be able to write "did you know about...?" for at least another two-plus years due to an ongoing health problem of mine after the next instalment outside of reprints this column will be coming to a close.

I am suffering from a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Basically what that is is a deterioration of the peripheral nervous system which links the spinal cord and brain to the other parts of the body. The peripheral nerve system includes the sensory nerves that allow a person to feel a wide range of sensations, motor nerves that assist muscles to contract and the nerves that regulate internal organs, sweat glands and blood pressure. Symptoms including tingling, prickling and/or numbness on the hands, feet and legs, the sensation that one is wearing a sock or glove, burning and/or freezing pain, sharp jabbing and/or electric pain, extra-sensitivity to the touch, muscle weakness, loss of balance and coordination and skin injury or ulcers due to reduced pain perception. Not all sufferers of peripheral neuropathy suffer the same symptoms during the condition's progression.In extreme cases peripheral neuropathy can result in paralysis.

There is no cure or reversal for the condition but it can be managed through diet and other non-medical therapies and techniques. There are some medicines that can assist with dealing with the pain but more often than not the side effects are worse than the condition (in my case the side-effects included extreme anxiety and paranoia along with suicidal tendencies). Avoiding stress is a big factor in managing peripheral neuropathy as stress can result in a rapid deterioration of the already damaged peripheral nerves.

Chances are that you have never heard of peripheral neuropathy. Most people, including many in the medical professions, haven't either and it will probably come as a surprise to you that there are over 100-types of the condition suffered by between 20 and 23-million Americans (and approximately 3-million Canadians). The causes of peripheral neuropathy can range from diabetes to alcoholism to vitamin deficiencies. In my case I suffer from peripheral neuropathy due to a genetic abnormality. My symptoms first began to appear shortly after I reached puberty but did not become severe until April of last year when four-days after my 50th birthday I woke up in extreme pain and was unable to move. Since then my condition has deteriorated rapidly. A year ago I was able to walk two to three miles easily and without even giving it any thought. Today i can only walk a block before I find my legs and feet in extreme, burning pain and I am suffering from muscle fatigue. My peripheral neuropathy has now progressed to my hands making it difficult for me to type or hold a pen. I am also tired much of the day and must constantly lay down for 15 to 20 minutes after doing the simplest of tasks. Writing a weekly column such as this used to be a relaxing activity. Now, due to the pain and fatigue, it has become an exhausting chore resulting in me laying flat on my back for the rest of the day-and some of the next-after I've completed an instalment.

As I said earlier my condition has been on a rapid decline over the past twelve months and while I have not yet been able to halt it I have been able to slow it down somewhat due to some adjustments in my daily behaviour and minor dietary changes. One of the advantages that I have over many others who suffer from this condition is that I am in excellent health otherwise and am not dealing with such problems as obesity or diabetes. I've also got a positive outlook on life and look at what I am going through as simply one more challenge to deal with. The concept of depression is foreign to me. Yes, I am concerned about my condition but I'm not one to give up and let it control me. While I'll never be able to reverse it I continually look for ways to work around it. I'll never be able to do all that I could do even a year ago but I will find new paths and directions to explore. If nothing else when I'm laying flat on my back from muscle fatigue I'll finally be able to read all the books I've been collecting over the years.

So what does the future hold for me as a writer? Well, while I won't be able to work on anything with strict deadlines-the fatigue and pain make it impossible for me to predict when I will be able to write and for how long on an hourly basis-such as this newspaper column or as a reporter I can still do the occasional article for a publication and a comics script here and there. I've also got a couple of long term project that don't have tight deadlines in the works that I'll have no problem tackling over the next year or so. My main activity though is to get my condition under some sort of control through the continued fine-tuning of my life and diet. I still have a bit of a rocky road ahead of me but when in life aren't there obstacles to tackle. Its what we do about the obstacles and how we deal with them in life that's important and is the key to our success and failure. Me; I always plan for success.
Since writing the above piece my condition has indeed worsened. On the upside though I have managed to regulate it better and while I'll never be able to do such jobs as being a newspaper reporter again I am now able to do paying writing jobs including any that have deadlines; comics or otherwise. Now the next problem is trying to find some paying writing jobs. 'sigh'

So there you have it in a nut shell. If you have any questions or comments feel free to make them here or email me at JonAllanGilbert@yahoo.ca . And if you are interested in learning more about peripheral neuropathy you can visit www.neuropathy.org .
NEXT: We return to our ongoing look at the MLJ Magazines/Archie Comic Series superhero lines when we take a peek at the 1970s Red Circle Comics Group. See you then.

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