My Own ‘Left Hand of Darkness’
I was listening to a BBC podcast recently titled “The Sinister Hand,” about the history of left-handers. It seems that in medieval times, left-handedness was associated with sorcery. (What wasn’t?) It was only relatively recently that left-handed children were no longer forced to write right-handed — sometimes even by restraining their left arms!
In my case, MS has decided to do this for me. Hence, I’m tippy-tapping away on this column with my left hand. In truth, it’s more like just the tippy part. I never learned to be a proper typist. (Mind you, who is anymore? OK, my wife is.) So, my speed was never great. I rationalized this with the idea that at least I could type as fast as I could think. Now at half-speed, I have a tendency to forget what it is I wanted to write! Nightmare.
I’ve mentioned a few times in my columns (and undoubtedly in my role as MS News Today Forums co-moderator) that in my first MS exercise group, I met a former art teacher who’d trained herself to paint and draw with her left hand, as her right arm was now completely immobile.
Thankfully, my right arm still works, after a fashion. (The fashion being punk!) Occasionally, I can write with it, or even use a pair of scissors (which are handy for punk calligraphy, i.e., cutting letters out of newspapers — if you can find one these days).
It’s taken many months to find a mix of drugs to aid my neuropathic arm. At several points, it left me screaming. One night, before I got my hoist, I was in such agony that I had to stay in my wheelchair all night. I think it was even before I got my trusty Molift. We had something similar, but it left me a whimpering mess. I watched Netflix all night to quell the pain — who knew I’d run out of shows?
Handily (not punny, John!), my trigeminal neuralgia (TN) has actually been of immense help to my right arm. They seem to operate in harmonic synergy. Both gabapentin and baclofen work on each ailment. So as dosages have risen to tackle my TN, it also has benefited my arm.
I can’t remember the last time I had a devastating spasm. OK, that’s not strictly true, as in the column “To Be Forewarned Is to Be Forearmed” last November, I describe a horrendous one. But because it was self-induced, I reckon it doesn’t count.
My real savior has been diazepam, in my day known as Valium. It was originally prescribed for me to take during a spasm. Then I found that it actually made my right arm and hand somewhat useful. My right leg gave up its haunting a few years ago. It still has some movement in it. On a good day, I can wiggle my big right toe a few millimeters!
So, I figured I might as well get some use out of my right arm while I could. It was time to talk to one of my local doctors about diazepam. He sobered me up with the possibility that two 5-mg tablets a night could lead to dementia. One tablet every other night was acceptable. If I can, I stretch this to three.
Typing left-handed may be slower, but as I’ve always used that hand as well as my right, it’s not a problem. Writing, though, is awful. Mind you, my able-bodied right-hand writing was mostly illegible, even to me. I could always catch left-handed — years of being a close fielder in cricket had seen to that. Now I’m getting better at throwing. Occasionally, I manage to lob rubbish into my waste bin at a distance.
A 2019 study in the journal Brain noted that we have better verbal skills and less chance of getting Parkinson’s disease. Actually this is at the genetic level. So, I don’t count.
Hey, I’m trying.
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