Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Bad Arm Day

Back when I could still walk, back in the early days after my ALS diagnosis, I would have those days where my legs felt weaker than normal, where simple tasks like walking or picking up my feet or standing seemed not just incrementally more difficult, but substantially more difficult. The muscles in my legs ached, feeling weak from toe to top, each movement causing a new complaint, not of pain but of exhaustion. I called them "bad leg days".

Today I am having my first official "bad arm day". My arms today feel like my legs did then, filled with an ache that begins in my fingertips and moves all the way up into my shoulders. There is a sense of weakness in my arms that is bigger, more invasive, than yesterday. There is a feeling that every motion is slower, more difficult to complete. It is not that I cannot do the things I need to do; I can. I am up and dressed. I showered this morning, brushed my teeth. I am at my keyboard typing. It's just that all of these things seem to take more effort, more work to complete, than they did yesterday.

If I have anything to learn from my bad leg days in the past, it is that they will happen and I will move beyond them, doing what life asks of me in the best way I can. My arms, hands, and fingers will move more slowly today, perhaps just for today, perhaps for tomorrow too. I will feel the work and effort of each finger stroke and touch. I will see the shake in my hands and arms as I pick up a cup of coffee or hold a pen in my hand. As I brush my teeth, I will rest my arms on the sink, seeking ease from the effort of holding them up.

What I have also learned from bad leg days is that they are a precursor of what is to come, a premonition of future weakness. It will take time; my body will fight hard to find new ways to connect nerves to muscles. Eventually, regardless of the fight, the weakness will continue to the point of victory for ALS. Eventually I will lose all strength in my arms. A "bad arm day" is simply a warning of what is to come.

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