Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, though I often greet it with a bittersweet sentimentality. I love the quality time with friends and family, the cooler weather, the sound of football on TV, the unpretentiousness and ease (read: no gifts like during Christmas), and especially the FOOD.
But many Thanksgivings ago, for a number of them in a row, I would get Neuromyelitis Optica/NMO attacks. Perhaps it was the holiday stress, the sometimes frigid climate, or the flu season. Perhaps it was merely coincidental. Whatever the reason or reasons, it was almost no fail for four years in a row that I had with my Thanksgiving turkey either a side of optic neuritis or transverse myelitis.
And isn’t it Murphy’s Law that my attacks would come during the holidays (or once, during a hurricane) when hospital and pharmacy staff were skeletal at best? My neurologist at the time not only had cold bedside manners, but also frequently left me to dictate my own healthcare. So many times I’d have to leave multiple messages with his office saying, “Okay, my vision is getting worse. I really need the dexamethasone stat, please.”
The turning point for me came in 2007 with my visit to Dr. Dean Wingerchuck at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. He wrote a letter to my primary neurologist recommending Rituximab infusion therapy, and after a lot of back-and-forth with insurance and Genentech (the maker of Rituxan) and a botched first infusion, I’m happy to say I’ve been attack-free for 7 years.
And that, my friends, is something to be thankful about.
My message is one of hope. I know what it’s like to be misdiagnosed and given ineffective treatments. Keep searching, and have faith you will find it. You will find the right doctor and the right treatment, and you will lead a full and fulfilling life. Take it from me.
Depending on how you look at it, my life philosophy can be viewed as either optimistic or pessimistic: I always tell myself the situation could be worse. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, but it’s kept me sane. No matter what, life could always be worse. This is how I find the small things for which I’m thankful.
Last but not least, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if I didn’t talk about the food. Here are a few of my tried and true holiday recipes; try your hand at one or all. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from us at NMO Diaries.
- Turkey sous vide in duck fat with garlic, herbs, and lemon zest
- Cajun deep-fried turkey
- Whipped potatoes with sour cream and chives
- Dressy dressing
- Sweet Creole corn
- Green bean casserole
- Broccoli rice casserole
- Pumpkin cheesecake