Most M.S. symptoms aren’t that difficult or embarrassing to discuss. Others are a little more, let’s say, uncomfortable to talk about in public. But, since I’ve pledged to be theVelveteen Rabbit,we really do have to talk about everything at some point in time.
Many years ago, I noticed that I couldn’t sleep through the night. Yes, both my husband and my dog snore uncontrollably – horrifically even, but that wasn’t necessarily the problem. There’s really no demure way to say this, but each night (no exaggeration here), I have to get up to go to the bathroom – four, maybe five, maybe six times. I’m fine during the day. I stop drinking any liquid beverage at 7 PM. My mouth will get so dry at night that the hubby will hear me brushing my teeth for a little relief; even a sip of water will make matters worse.
Because I’m a cancer survivor, automatically my first fear was that I must have bladder cancer. A few years back and then again just about a year ago, I forced my OBGYN to put me through a series of tests and sonograms. If it wasn’t cancer, I was certain that my ovarian disease was rearing its ugly head again. I thought I must have a tumor or a cyst the size of a bowling ball pressing on my bladder each time I’d lay down. Every test came up negative.
I was certain I was adding another doctor to my growing list of M.D.’s who thought I was nuts; until I was diagnosed with M.S. and began the litany of conversations surrounding my symptoms. Now we know that I suffer fromNocturia– a disabling symptom of neurogenic bladder that disturbs sleep patterns and aggravates the fatigue faced by M.S. patients. The Nocturia, over the years, hasn’t come without its share of funny stories. I’ve walked into walls while half asleep, bumped into hotel room dressers, and literally ran around hotel rooms desperately trying to remember where the bathroom was in a moment of sleepy panic. I particularly remember the night my husband burst into the bathroom that adjoins our bedroom saying, “No human being could have to pee that much!” If only that were true.
Let’s help you get the picture. Imagine that it’s seven degrees outside. The wind is howling. You get your bed all turned down, the pillows are fluffed, and your bedside lotion is ready to be applied. You run into the bathroom, take care of business, and crawl under the covers. It takes a few minutes to get the blankets and pillows all situated. You barely have lotion on your right arm and you have to go to the bathroom again. Only six, maybe ten, minutes has passed. You sigh, get up, trod over to the rest room and return back to bed. You become engrossed in Law & Order and before the first commercial, you have to go again! You may run to the (I’m looking for creative words for bathroom here) – ah, you may run to the loo three more times before it’s time for lights out. And, then, throughout the night, you awake as many as a half-dozen times more. That’s Nocturia. And, I’ve suffered through it for years.
I’m certainly sleep deprived. Prior to my diagnosis, I could count on one hand the number of times I slept more than four straight hours in let’s say the last six or seven years. And when Mama Bear doesn’t sleep either does Papa Bear or Oboe Bear. We’re a family of walking zombies.
Nocturia isn’t my only sleep issue though. I’m a terribly light sleeper. In the summer we don’t sleep with the windows open because if the leaves rustle or a car passes by, I’m wide awake. I run the air conditioner from the day the snow melts until it flies again because the constant sound helps ease me into dreamland. We take Oboe’s collar off each evening so he doesn’t rattle me awake when he moves around on the bed. When you add the dual snoring factor, attempting to sleep is insane. I’m constantly poking and jabbing the husband while simultaneously rocking the bed to change the pup’s sleeping pattern as well.
When we determined I suffer from Nocturia, I started taking a medicine designed to reduce the bladder urge. The side effects really outweighed the benefits. My mouth, eyes, and skin were all dried out and my face was starting to swell up so much that I looked like a Macy’s Day Parade float. After a month of the torture that culminated in a broken tooth from the dry-mouth factor, I decided to try to find another solution. I started to explore the chicken or the egg theory. Does the bladder urge wake me many times a night or was something else waking me and then drawing my attention to the bladder issue? I found it was the latter. I determined that as long as I could stay asleep for several hours, I didn’t have to run to the bathroom as much. Now as soon as I wake up after several hours, I have to make a bee-line, but I’ve found a way to at least enjoy four or five consecutive hours of rest. And it’s been happening each and every night. I can’t tell you what a relief it has been, especially with the added issue of M.S. fatigue to deal with.
How? You want my secret, don’t you? It’s so simple! Ear plugs. That’s the million dollar solution. I sleep with ear plugs each night. When I do manage to hear snoring, it’s barely audible. I don’t notice when the hubby rolls over, very ungracefully, in the bed. In fact, I barely can hear the alarm clock in the morning. I still get up once or even twice an evening, but I’m averaging about five straight hours of sleep every single night.
Not only have the ear plugs helped with a common M.S. symptom, I’m thinking they may save my marriage as well!!