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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Inside a focal seizure

My last seizure was on 22 November - nearly a month ago - until the early hours of the morning today, that is. 

  I had an inkling last night it was going to happen. You know how the black ants run all over the place before a storm, or furiously start to build up their nests? That's how my brain felt then, as if it were trying simultaneously to prepare for an event and run away from it. 

  There's no running away. It's not till tomorrow that I have a life-extending hit of Avastin, but if the infusion would have prevented the seizure - and there's no guarantee it would - then it's a day or so too late.

  It was a vivid one, happening at 3.45 am. I always have to turn on the lamp and note the starting time, to see how long it goes for. I do that in case we need to call an ambulance.

  A lot more people read this blog these days and won't understand what a focal seizure really is or does, but the important thing for the moment is that I am fully conscious every moment of it - so it's no trouble for me to remember and describe.

  This one was about 8 on my Richter seizure scale, and lasted about 3-4 minutes. It jolted me awake when I became aware that the fingers on the right hand were spasming, opening and shutting powerfully like a claw. It went through the standard sequence which I won't describe again here; up through the arm, down the right side, and into the leg and foot. 

  As usual, the problem is like that of being in an earthquake - not knowing how strong it's going to get, what parts of the body it will affect, how long it will last, and how many aftershocks there will be.

  It came to an end the way a thug deals with you - a last violent kick or two and then he disappears into the night, leaving you lying there barely able to move a muscle, but glad it's over. Gradually the affected parts of the body get a level of function back. You've survived the onslaught.

  Or I have, yet again, for the nth time. I lost count long ago. 

  I went to the bathroom, knowing that it may not be over. I've had aftershocks before. Walking was difficult and I had to be careful. I felt grateful that yet again there are organs in my body unaffected by the seizures.

  A seizure leaves me with a feeling of torpor or exhaustion, but I know my brain is racing. After a month where I gradually feed a tiny germ of false hope by doing everything in order to be 'normal', I'm reminded once again what 'normal' really means for me. All the exercising, physical and mental, can't change that.

  Still, I accept what can't be changed, and looked for a comfortable sleeping position.

  I lay on the right side, its arm position rearranged by the left, and drifted into an uneasy slumber. A snake as thick as my leg wound its way through the undergrowth somewhere on the forest floor of my brain. I couldn't see either its head or its tail. It changed colour like a chameleon as it passed along, through the fallen branches and dead leaves and the dirt.

  Up there, my consciousness was in two halves. I felt as if one half were trying to invade the other. My right side was warm, tingling and slightly sweaty. The palm of the hand felt as if it had been sitting on a hotplate that was cooling down. The little finger was still pinging - a sign that it may not be over for the night.

  The forest-floor dirt became smooth, and the snake was invisible. The centre of the floor began to collapse inward, the hole increasing in size as the grains of earth disappeared into it. 

  I gathered strength and turned to the left side, and slept.

  It's another day, and sleep has reconnected the vital elements. It's knocked the stuffing out of me a bit and the nausea hasn't yet passed, and I may get another seizure before tomorrow if the past is any guide. Often it isn't.

  But I'm still here, and it's five days till Christmas, and twelve till the New Year, 2012.

[The 'illustrations'? I made them this morning. Because I felt like it, that's why!]


  1. So horrible. The illustrations are amazing! I read about a week ago in a scrappy article in a newspaper here that a 'vaccine' has been developed for many cancers now. I'm unsure why they call it that since it seems it can also restrict tumour growth. Internet connection here is difficult but I'll try to find a link. Hugs (gentle ones).

  2. Great piece of writing, Denis. Sorry you are in a position to give us such an insight but thank you for doing so.

  3. I hope this serpent has not done too much damage and you can regain what you've temporarily lost. Yes, a great piece of writing. You are becoming very poetic.

    I am glad to hear that the seizures are widely spaced. I would prefer them to go away completely, of course, but given that they are with you, I'm pleased their visits are far less frequent than before. I hope your Christmas is seizure free and you can relax and enjoy yourself, partaking of all sorts of naughty, prohibited substances.

  4. A vaccine for many cancers sounds too good to be true, so it probably is.... But perhaps they're talking about some inhibitor. If it's a preventive thing and if it were on the market, I wonder how many people would take up the offer? It would take years of rigorous testing before being acceptable here - if it is genuine. I will search for a link, but time has taught us to be sceptical. Thanks, Julie. Thanks also, Bob! I am feeling better now.

    Am I becoming poetic, Joan? Maybe I'm just trying to be briefer.... :) I note your good Christmas wishes but will try not to make too much of a pig of myself. I know it acts against anti-angiogenesis and that is plain bad for me. I hope we'll see you sometime during the festive season and reserve a small serving of the best cabernet for the occasion!!

  5. Brevity is the soul of wit (and of poetry). Trying to cram as much as possible into as few words as possible obviously creates poetry in your case, Denis.

    RE a possible vaccine,or something similar, here's another ray of hope from the NewScientist:

    Posioning cancer cells with sugar (NS 3 Dec 2011: 22)

    It's a heavy price to pay for a sweet tooth. Researchers have tricked glucose-eating cancer cells into consuming a sugar that essentiall poisons them -- it leaves a "suicide" switch within the cells open to attack.

    "Most cancer cells rely almost exclusively on glucose to fuel their growth," says Guy Perkins of the University of California at San Diego. With Rudy Yamaguchi of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, Perkins found the cells would take up a similar sugar called 2-deoxyglucose. But this sugar physically dislodges a protein within the cell that guards a suicide switch. Once exposed, the switch can be activated by a drug called ABT-263. This kills the cell by liberating proteins that order it to commit suicide (Cancer Research, DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472. can-11-3091).

    The approach could ultimately spell doom for several types of cancer, including liver, lung, breast, and blood. In mice, the treatment made aggressive human prostate cancer tumours virtually disapear within days.

    Yamaguchi and Perkins are now hoping to mount a clinical trial at UC San Diego.


    Any plans to move to San Diego, Denis? Unlike the last cure I posted, at least this one doesn't give false hope by saying treatment is available now.

    A glass of wine at your place would be delightful. I sent an email to you earlier, trying to provoke an invitation. Glad you're open for visitors over Christmas, and when all slows down around here, we'll arrange a time.


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