Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I made it all the way to Poland and am very glad to be here. The hotel where I'm staying is full of people diagnosed with MS from many walks of life and different countries of origin. As an American I find myself in the minority with most hotel guests coming from various Canadian provinces. We're share a common goal that is to get testing and treatment for our illness (whatever you might call it).

After I arrived (I should say "we" since my husband is joining in this unusual adventure) I found out that I had a free day to roam about Poland. Sharing a taxi with another couple, we travelled to Krakow to explore the city where Copernicus studied for some years. We meandered around the old, historic part of the city which left me quite speechless at moments.

If only to imagine that Copernicus may have walked down the same street that I was on made me feel very humble. Chopin, also from Poland originally, appears loved by the city with signs bearing his name on every corner---I think to advertise concerts. (The language is pretty tough for me to decipher.)

The central plaza or piazza if-you-will was in good condition as Krakow was spared the fate of destruction (and rebuilding) that most other Polish cities endured. There were other tourists milling about but most spoke (and looked) Polish. We enjoyed sharing streets with people native to the country if only to feel less like tourists than adventurists (that might not be a word in the dictionary but it sounds right to me)!

After returning by taxi with Derek driving and juggling incoming calls on three cell phones, I was glad to relax in the hotel for a bit of time. I met up with guests who had undergone the procedure called venography to doctors and "liberation" to others, sitting in on their talks about being angioplastied or stented. Acting like a sponge, I tried to soak in as much info as possible in order to make intelligent decisions on how (or if) I should proceed.

Although the journey has been enjoyable thus far, I am always aware of my purpose in coming to this distant land. As I said in an earlier post I've wanted to trace the roots of my family but I would have likely begun in Germany if given a choice (though not the tremendous Frankfurt airport that I had to pass through before flying to Poland)! So I'm very glad to be here but haven't forgotten about my travel baggage of potential medical treatment.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I started this blog with a post saying that the jigsaw puzzle pieces of my life were falling into place at that time. Taking small but confident steps (which describes my current way of moving through the world both physically and metaphorically) I'm witnessing more pieces settling in exactly where they fit.

For instance, I've wanted to trace my "roots" and see the cities that my ancestors inhabited. Well the visit to Poland may give me a chance to do that. As I was rummaging through some old notes about my grandparents I was reminded that my grandmother may have come from Silesia---the region of Poland that I'm visiting.

My grandmother seemed ahead of her time as a woman scientist to earn a graduate degree in Chemistry (I think) around the start of the 20th century. I'll do more research on Silesia but it appears to value education for men and women. My grandmother was also an artist but I may write a separate post on that!

The University of Silesia Hospital in Tychy is where I've been told I may stay one night if I have the procedure done on me. This may sound odd but I'm comforted by knowing that I may be in a University hospital that, although my grandmother never saw, is in the general vicinity of where she may have studied as a young woman.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Change is Hard

Change is hard. Especially when I don’t know what the change will be like. I’m due to go to Poland for CCSVI testing and possible treatment and I keep wondering if it will (a) improve my health, (b) make it worse, or (c) have absolutely no effect at all.

Prior to getting an appointment in Poland I tried to go local in order to help more folks with MS get treatment nearby. I set up an appointment with a doc about 180 miles away who agreed to give me a “second opinion” on my symptoms. That 180 mile journey was considered local only because practically no one else in the area is doing testing or procedures for CCSVI. I planned on asking him to see if my veins looked problematic.

When he cancelled on me I had to rethink my approach. I called Stanford University Hospital to get information on the clinical trial due to happen there. My name had been put on their long waiting list and I hadn’t heard from them for some time, so I requested a status update. Although the trial was due to start in the coming months, the doctor was not doing CCSVI treatments for anyone outside of the trial, and selected patients would be notified when they were chosen.

Okay, it was time to reassess my strategy of staying close to home. Was I really helping anyone by staying in ill health without trying my best to improve? “No,” was my answer to myself. It would be wiser to put my effort toward getting the best treatment that I could (and that I could get an appointment for), and afterwards help other people.

Now I’m planning for a trip to Poland to be tested and perhaps treated for vein blockages! Up to six months ago I had become resigned to living a life of gradual downhill progress until I heard about CCSVI. Nothing may change when I’m in Poland but at least I’ll have tried to improve my situation. As a friend said to me: It helps to take control over the treatment of illness if only to boost a sense of empowerment. It has taken me weeks to write a few paragraphs about what I’m going through, and now that I’ve published this to my blog it seems like my friend was right. Regardless of the outcome I’m not stuck in wondering “What if I had…”