Michael Jackson's death hit me hard to the extent that, pharmaceutically, his death was a direct result of his fear of insomnia. He took what were described as drug cocktails to achieve sleep. When those failed, he resorted to a heavy drug used to render a patient unconscious for surgery. Michael Jackson had a ton of money (in addition to money he had made from royalties from his own music, he made a lot after he purchased The Beatles® music catalogue and sold licenses to companies to use The Beatles® songs for commercials; curious, isn't it, how we have not heard Jackson Five® tunes brought down to the level of commercials?) and could afford a full-time M.D. to administer drugs to him then stand by and monitor those drugs' effects. Propophol, the drug that induced Jackson to that Big Sleep of which Raymond Chandler (I think it was Raymond Chandler) wrote, is so heavy and so extreme that, when administered to a patient, an anesthesiologist does not leave the patient's side.
What does Jackson have to do with MS and the Mini®?
As I mentioned in a previous blog, insomnia is a common side-effect of MS. I regularly wakened about 2 am. To lie in the dark and try to get back to sleep is (1) futile and (2) depressing. The next day, one's eyes feel like they are coated with particles of sand. Also, I would lack energy. I understand Jackson's fear of insomnia.
A judge, during casual conversation one day, asked me how I was doing. The judges and court staffs, even in a big town like Indy, form a tight community. The grape vine is efficient. He knew I had been diagnosed with MS. After all, the crutches I used for a while there were not as the result of a skiing accident. I mentioned the insomnia. He said he had the same problem and used Tylenol PM®. I tried it, and it seemed to work. Suddenly I was getting regular sleep. I had a lot of conversations about insomnia, in the ensuing months, with other lawyers and judges. We shared information about any sleep aids we had encountered.
About this time I switched neuros. The first neuro I had seemed to know little about MS. Plus my appointments with him always were in his offices attached to the hospital where I spent those fun-filled days in January. To enter that place was a bummer. Besides that, he would not talk to Sarah. I do not know if he was sexist or had an antipathy toward attractive, intelligent blonde women with college degrees who express great concern for their husbands' health. I have not read of any such phobia. Maybe the condition is simply called being an asshole. I got the feeling the guy did not have it together when I asked him if I should stop smoking cigarettes—for any reasons he knew specific to MS. He said everybody should quit smoking, but there was nothing specific to MS to cause one to stop. The first cig I smoked once I was out of the hospital about gagged me to death. The first beer tasted strange, too, like oddly-flavored seltzer water. Fortunately, I soon regained my taste for beer.
A few months before I had gone to the hospital, I had a case with a lawyer who mentioned, during a break in depositions, that she had MS. When I was in the hospital, the day after my diagnosis was delivered, I called her. She said something to the effect of, "Make it quick. I'm about to go to a meeting. I don't need to hear you brag about how you kicked my ass in court." I explained my call was not about our now-closed case, but that I had been told I had MS. She canceled her meeting and spent half-an-hour talking about MS. She really was helpful. At one point, she asked me who my neurologist was. When I said his name, she told me I needed to switch, that my neuro did not focus on MS. (The language she used was more colorful, particularly the adjectives she used to describe my neuro.) She gave me the number of her neuro and told me I should get a referral. I thanked her profusely, something of an understatement, since I was on steroids. The "thank you" literally was a "thank you on steroids." I called my brother-in-law, who is (as I believe I mentioned earlier) a chiropractor. Seriously, he is one of the most conscientious healers I have met. He had to make the formal referral to the new neuro, to whom I will refer as Dr. Doe.
Somehow, in the middle of all this, we purchased a house. The MS had not robbed me of the ability to work. I had to lie down for about half-an-hour for a nap late in the morning—something everybody should do, or so I have read—to combat fatigue. Otherwise, I had gone back to full days—six, usually seven per week.
During my first appointment with Dr. Doe, he explained that I should stop smoking cigarettes. Chemicals from cigarettes cause inflammation of the scleroses on the central nervous system.
I immediately began to wean myself off of cigs. I pushed back, to later in the day, the time at which I would have my first smoke. Occasionally I made it a complete day without a cigarette. Finally, I came down with a sinus infection, during which I could not stand the idea of smoking anything. After four or five days of the infection, the addiction to nicotine was gone.
I began to walk each morning. I always have been an early riser. The insomnia was under control. I began to go out at 6 a.m. At first I wore a Walkman®—yes, it was that long ago—but eventually I stopped wearing that. The sounds of the day wakening were a boost and a nice way to start the day. Plus, aerobic exercise pumps endorphins—the body's natural drugs—into the system. I took a regular route through Broad Ripple and up the Monon Trail. During that I would contemplate the day ahead. At the end of 45 minutes, I was upbeat and ready to go to work.
The new neuro found my exercise amusing. He was focused more on medical treatment. He had me on weekly, intramuscular injections of Avonex®, an interferon. I asked about sleep meds. I had read that the active ingredient in Tylenol® can, long-term, cause liver damage. The drug he prescribed for sleep was non-addictive and worked. I asked him about anything he might be able to prescribe for energy. He tried some antibiotics, but they had no effect. So I resigned myself to management of a little mid-day fatigue with a short nap. Sarah and I combined our offices. The new place was large enough to accommodate a couch.
In 1998 I decided to register for the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon®. My walks had given me confidence. I had walked seven miles one morning, and the rule of thumb is that if one can go half the distance of the Mini®, one can do the entire 13.1 miles. I got the form, sent in my check, and contemplated training for this new goa.
I figured if I did just one Mini®, that was enough. I would have flipped the bird to MS. Besides, I wasn't nuts enough to put myself through that kind of torture more than once, I was sure. I had run one year of cross-country (8th grade) and one year of track (9th grade) and thoroughly disliked those experiences.
I would do the Mini® in May, 1999. I began to train more seriously and to psych myself up.