Thursday, March 27, 2014

For the Love of Words: MS Edition

There is plenty of Latin-based medical terminology that is now a part of my vocabulary, thanks to MS. The gift that keeps on giving. For example, I learned that the word sclerosis comes from Medieval Latin and means the hardening of a body part. But here is my question: Why can it never be my abs that suffer from sclerosis?

One of the lobes of the brain is called the Parietal, from Late Latin, meaning “pertaining to the wall of an organ.” I’m not sure why the Ancient Romans had need of such a word. But nevertheless, they had it. I’ve learned that one of the responsibilities of the brain’s Parietal Lobe is to tell us which way is up, which is important information. Especially when we need to pee. But apparently, those Latin brain walls are not the grand protective barriers of, say, the Great Wall of China. It seems my immune system has breached my brain walls quite handily.

I discovered a bunch of great words while I was Googling my symptoms. Dr. Google is always the most reliable way to arrive at a solid diagnosis and a treatment plan. The good Dr. G also helped me realize that I might have leprosy and possibly testicular cancer.

Here are some more big words for little MS symptoms:

You know that light you see in your eye when squish your eyes closed? It’s called phosphenes, and it is the phenomenon of seeing light without light actually entering the eye. It’s magical. For the first five minutes. Then, you hang blackout curtains, have people get in your bed to see if they can find the light’s source, and try various sleep masks. After that, you will find yourself spending a great deal of time with your eyes dilated or lying on your back and being shoved into an MRI machine.

Then there is the MS fatigue, marked by dysania (finding it extremely hard to get out of bed in the morning). This is not to be confused with clinomania (an obsession with bed rest). It isn’t a compulsion that keeps me in bed, it is genuine exhaustion coupled with medication hangover, which leaves me feeling more marcid (incredibly exhausted) than when I went to bed.
Aside—how much does it suck that they are changing the SAT? I spent so many hours learning words like the ones in these posts! Hours! Never mind that those words are of absolutely no value in my life and that I have not even thought of them--let alone used them--in 20-some-odd years. Stupid standardized testing.

I love the word yuputka. It’s from a Native American dialect and it has no English equivalent. It describes that phantom sensation you feel after walking through a spider web. The feeling of something crawling on your skin.

My hands experience yuputka, while my legs often suffer from obdormition (Pins and needles! Pins and needles!) As my body destroys my own myelin, my brain cicatrizes (heals by creating scarring) the damage. And these scars are what show up during an MRI.

Eunoia is a word describing the relationship a presenter builds with an audience.  But, it is also a medical term indicating a state of normal mental health, a well and beautiful mind. Are my days of eunoia behind me? Actually… Did I ever actually have days of eunoia? I’m not sure.  Can I blame that on MS? I’m not sure about that either, but I’m gonna. And I’ve seen pictures of my mind. Lesions or no… it is smokin’ hot.

Here’s a fun fact: eunoia is the shortest word in the English language containing all five vowels. We’ll take pretentious vocabulary for $600, Alex…

I’ve always been novaturient (seeking change in behavior or situation). I’ve always desired change, even if my ideas of what needed to change were nebulous and ill-defined. But there are two words--better word--that perfectly articulate my feelings about my MS diagnosis: quatervois (a crossroads, a turning point in your life.) and metanioa (a journey of changing your mind, heart, and self).

And this word has always captured my imagination: koyaanisqatsi. When I was in college, my photography professor screened the 1982 film titled Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. If you ever get a chance—which will be difficult, as it is out of print and rare—see this film. There is no dialogue, just a wonderful Phillip Glass score over various rural and urban landscapes of America. Since seeing that movie, my own life’s balance has been something I consider from time to time. It is that meaningful of a film.

In the Hopi language, the word koyaanisqatsi means unbalanced life. A life so out of balance that you need a new way to live. I am trying to re-balance my life after a series of events that have sent me spinning. I think I’m getting closer. A little.

Stay tuned, readers! I’m working on For the Love of Words: Derby Edition

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