AFO-Yeah

By Doug Ankerman

I’m not a betting man but if you have multiple sclerosis, odds are in your favor you suffer from foot drop.  Foot drop is that draggy, MS hex where your foot never seems to clear the floor for a normal step. It hinders your balance and can make you prone to falls.

The most popular way to beat foot drop is wearing an ankle foot orthotic or AFO.

AFO’s aren’t cheap (what medical device is?), so it would seem an AFO should have more uses than just preventing foot drop.

That’s where I come in.

After much research, here are some other ways your AFO can help around the house…

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Hands In The Air

By Doug Ankerman

I compare my MS experience to that of riding a roller coaster.

Buckled in I began a long, slow climb up the hill having all sorts of weird numbness and tingling. A draggy foot. A few falls. Heck, I didn’t know what was happening.

As the coaster reached the very crest, I was given a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis just before the speeding plunge down the other side. Hairpin turns, twists and loop de loops followed. Some riders screamed, putting their hands in the air – but not me. No way. I held on with a death grip. I was too terrified to let go. I mean, who knew where this out-of-control journey would take me?

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In My Opinion

By Doug Ankerman

It’s a well-known fact multiple sclerosis is different for each individual. What pains you might not bother me at all. MS symptoms can be as unique as one’s personality.

That’s why writing about the “ABC’s of MS” can be a real toss-up.

What “ABC” means to you could be totally different from what I believe.

Your “ABC” could mean “Always Buy Crisco.” Maybe it stands for “Absolute Best Cat.” Or, short for “A Bulky Corduroy.”

Only you know your particular definition.

In my experience, the “ABC’s of MS” stands for “Any Bathroom Close?”

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A Slew of Hope

By Doug Ankerman

Having hope is what keeps us going. Hope drives us. Hope motivates. Hope encompasses everything we live for — even the silly things, like these…

Hope I can wear these sweatpants another day.

Hope I can sleep tonight.

Hope I can make it to the bathroom.

Hope the tile floor isn’t wet.

Hope I don’t have to walk through the grass.

Hope it’s not too hot.

Hope it’s not too cold.

Hope no change on my MRI.

Hope I can remember your name.

Hope they have a fork.

Hope I can just “splash-n-spritz” and not take a shower.

Hope my shoes are handy.

Hope I can stay awake at the movie.

Hope they have close parking.

Hope there is shade.

Hope there’s a place to sit.

Hope this post doesn’t go on much longer.

Hope I still have another prescription refill.

Hope my pill-case isn’t lying (This IS Wednesday, right?).

Hope these socks match.

Hope the car has enough gas.

Hope I can open this ketchup packet.

Whoops. Hope Tide-To-Go works on this.

Hope no one sees me dressed like this.

Hope I don’t have to go upstairs again.

Hope my appointment is in the morning.

Hope this isn’t fattening (Who am I kidding).

Hope this isn’t another robocall.

I can’t read this — hope I can find my cheaters.

Hope this ends before I nod-zzzzzzzzzzzz

Hope YOU have a tremendous 2022!

Doug writes goofy things about MS and other stuff on his humor blog at myoddsock.com.

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What is this?

By Doug Ankerman

Several months after I was bestowed with my MS diagnosis, I hit a rough patch.

My legs were weak and wobbly. My balance off-kilter. But the worst, was my vision.

My focus would go in and out. While bright lights turned me into a shriveling shrew.

Oncoming car headlights forced me to wear sunglasses at night. Not in tribute to 80’s pop-star Corey Hart, but because the glare was blinding.

(Yeah, I continued to drive because I was young, dumb, and bull-headed.)

What was I experiencing? A relapse? A flare? An exacerbation? Frankly I didn’t care what it was called—all I knew was that I was terrified.

My mind spun wildly. Was my condition here to stay? Was this my new life? Did Corey Hart have MS, too?

Lucky for me a three-day bender of IV steroids (and with it, the taste of sucking on an iron popsicle) helped put things back to normal. Well, as normal as MS could be.

Time passed. Relapse-free. But multiple sclerosis continued a slow, gradual nip and tuck at my faculties till doctors gave me the title of being “secondary-progressive.”

Which was fine. Whatever. It was just name to me. Some may think my outlook is trite but I believe when one has MS, you toughen up. You learn to deal with every situation. And take nothing for granted. You appreciate small victories. Cherish every moment. Live each day like crazy. Because when you have MS, you know how quickly things can change.

If you think you are experiencing a MS relapse, talk to your doctor first. But also remain calm. Breathe deep. And if you can avoid it, don’t wear sunglasses at night.

*Doug writes silly stuff about MS and other topics on his humor blog at myoddsock.com.

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Too Too Hot

By Doug Ankerman

Yep that’s me in my usual place on hot days… laying in front of the register, hogging all the AC.

Except on THIS hot day (the 1st one of the season) our air conditioning was on the fritz. There would be no refreshingly cool splendor till we had someone come check it out.

Our neighbor knew a guy who knew a guy who did AC work on the side. Always looking to save a few bucks, we called the “mystery guy” named Dennis who said he wouldn’t be available for a couple days.

“No prob,” we replied. “We’ll see you then!”

What followed was a stretch of near 90 degree temps with thick Ohio humidity you could serve with a ladle.

Yes, I was fried.  My MS-infused nerve endings were popping like bacon on a hot skillet. My dogged feet dragged ruts in the carpet going room-to-room in search of a cool spot.

I baked. It would have been cooler in the oven had I turned on the exhaust fan.

I rejoiced as word came that Dennis, my new-found AC savior, would be here the following afternoon. That night was another restless slumber. I actually had to be peeled from the sheets getting up in the morning.

My legs were weak. My arms were numb. I was Betty Spaghetti’s older brother, Bobby.

Put me in a strainer ‘cuz I was 180 lbs of cooked pasta.

Dennis knocked on the door promptly at 3:30. After I finished kissing his scuffed boots, he and his tools commenced to work on our defunct air conditioning.

A mere five minutes later the behemoth box was humming with life. Seems it had been turned off outside and all Dennis had to do was flip a switch. (We had new siding installed last fall so the siding guy disconnected the AC and simply forgot to turn it back on.)

Cool air returned — and slowly, so did feeling in my body.

Thanks to Dennis I have returned to my usual summer haunt. Hogging all the air. A glutton for comfort, I am.

I tell you this tale because you already know the tricks of keeping cool when temps flare. So I’ll just remind you to be careful. Work slow and steady. And enjoy the too too hot summer wisely.

*Doug writes silly stuff about MS and other topics on his humor blog at myoddsock.com

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Don’t Wait, Act Now!

By Doug Ankerman

There are things we are reminded to do on a regular basis.

Replace batteries in smoke alarm
Floss
Rotate tires

Some are to be done seasonally, others annually.

Change furnace filter
Swap baking soda in fridge
Have eye exam

And yet, others are on an “as needed” basis.

Cut toe nails
Vacuum inside car
Shave back

But what I ask is… “Why wait to make a change or a new beginning?”

Why wait till a new season? Till the new year? The next month? Or, even Monday?

Do it now. This moment. There’s nothing stopping you. Do something right now to improve your being. It doesn’t have to be huge. Drink water instead of soda. Eat a piece of fruit. Stretch your weary legs. Take a deep breath. Dance to music. Make a silly face.

My point is, don’t wait to begin anew. Certainly, our nemesis multiple sclerosis doesn’t wait around. It doesn’t wait for the following day, week or month to wreak havoc. Heck no, that bad boy changes constantly. So we must be willing to change with it.

A fresh start, or a new beginning can happen anytime YOU want it to. There is no need to put it off till the flip of a calendar. You can make a change right now. This very instant.

Replace car’s air filter
Have an MRI
Clean dryer vent

Okay, okay, I understand the importance of replacing batteries in one’s smoke alarm—but don’t put a timeline on improving yourself.

Get started right now. That other stuff can wait.

*When not shaving his back, Doug writes goofy stuff about MS and other topics on his humor blog at myoddsock.com

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Relaxing Method: 4-7-8

By Doug Ankerman

4-7-8 relaxing method of breathing

Trying NOT to sound like an infomercial, snake oil, salad shooting pitchman BUUUUUT here’s the easiest, cheapest and most relaxing method to melt stress and ease pain while clearing your head.

No more warming oversized beanbags in a microwave.

No more soaking in the tub till you’re a giant prune.

And no more oily and expensive massage sessions.

Yes, this stress reliever is no mess. Can be done anywhere at YOUR convenience. And is absolutely free. You heard right…FREE!

What is this life-changing, stress-reducing procedure, you ask?

It’s breathing! Breathing to a count of 4-7-8, in particular.

What’s 4-7-8, you ask? (You ask a lot of questions!)

Well, 4-7-8, beside being my locker number in junior high, is a simple, deep breathing technique that helps restore energy, focus… and sanity in this cray-cray world.

Let’s break it down so you can learn to breathe the 4-7-8 way…

FOUR

Begin by inhaling through your nose to a slooooww count of four. One…. Two…. Three…. Four. Make it a deep, belly-expanding breath. Filling your lungs to max capacity with fresh air.

SEVEN

Next, hold that glorious breath for a seven count. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

EIGHT

Finally, exhale through your mouth as you slowly count to eight. Tighten your belly, squeezing out as much stale, old air as possible.

Repeat the compete cycle again. Inhaling through your nose to a slow count of four. Hold the fresh air for seven. Before slowly exhaling through your mouth for an eight count.

Do the 4-7-8 cycle several times as you focus on slowly inhaling, a relaxed hold, followed by a slow, controlled exhale through your mouth.

I like to breathe 4-7-8 when first waking up. Breathing fresh air deep into every cell gets your body ready to rise and shine. Likewise, a few 4-7-8’s before bedtime releases the day’s stress and preps your mind and body for a restful night’s snooze.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique can be done anytime! Anywhere! At your convenience! Whenever you feel stressed. At work. At home. Even at the in-laws! 

Melt stress today…. with 4-7-8!

4-7-8 is yours, absolutely free, but I feel no shame in accepting credit or even a donation!

*Doug Ankerman writes silly stuff about MS and other blurbs on his humor blog at myoddsock.com.

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Our Relationship? It’s Complicated

By Doug Ankerman

Relationships come in all forms. Personal. Family. Professional. Casual. The list runs as long as your arm.

Each relationship, different in its own way. And each, as unique as the next.

We try our darndest to be careful with words and actions not to lead, disrupt or inflame. Care must be exercised to keep a relationship in its particular form — as crossovers can mean trouble.

Add multiple sclerosis into the fray and judgements can be blurred. Thoughts jumbled. Feelings fuzzed.

That is why I am thankful for two very special relationships in my life. 

One, with a local auto parts store. And the other, the neighborhood plumber’s supply.

There, we experience connections on a higher plain. A shared silence of understanding.

Not being handy, nor mechanical, I am mummified to explain what I need or am attempting to do.

Relationships - Doug looking confused

Mostly, I shuffle into their establishment with a pathetic look on my face.

A blank stare of incompetence.

From my pocket, I produce a worn-out part, some gadget-gizmo. I don’t know its name or purpose. I simply put it on their dirty counter and let them go to work.

Not a word is exchanged as they see the desperation in my eyes. They will gather up everything I need. Then carefully explain how to complete my back-handed attempt at the project.

Of course, having MS, their words fly over my head like Blue Angels at an air show.

(They are seeing my dumb face pictured above, remember?)

So, they simplify their explanation. Even drawing me a crude diagram on the back of the receipt.

Satisfied, I shuffle back to my car and home again with new-found confidence.

Balsa-wood bravado. Paper-thin capability. But it’s all good. 

What we have is special indeed. A relationship that’s…yeah, it’s complicated.

*Doug writes about multiple sclerosis and other stuff on his humor blog at myoddsock.com

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You Are Not Alone – Anxiety and Depression in MS

By Doug Ankerman

It is not easy.

Of all symptoms one can experience with multiple sclerosis, I find anxiety and depression to be the most challenging.

For foot drop — I wear an AFO. Heat tolerance — I put on a cooling vest. Balance issues — I use a rollator. But for anxiety and depression, there is no aid. No clunky piece of equipment to help you through. Continue reading

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