Monday, 30 November 2015

I'm Losing My Arms

For some months now my left arm has been aching, a steady kind of pain from muscles overworked. It's consistent, it's persistent. Every morning I wake up and the muscles in my biceps and upper arm hurt, sometimes bad enough that Tylenol is my first meal of the day. These muscles hurt because they are getting weaker while I still demand full utility of them. I'm working them too hard.

Up until now my right arm has been spared this annoyance. It might hurt now and again, particularly after a very busy day. I thought this was the case a couple of days ago, when I woke up to discover the same pain, only at a lower level, in my right bicep. Then I woke up yesterday with the same pain, and today with the same pain. It seems a corner has been turned, once again. It seems that both of my arms are now weak enough that they hurt from simple daily usage. I'm getting weaker.

This is no surprise. My arms started showing initial signs of difficulty a couple of years ago. The progression was very slow at first, almost imperceptible. I was really the only one who could see it. When I talked to the neurologist about it, he said he couldn't measure it, but if I felt it, it was probably happening. He also said that my arms would likely go the same way my legs did, with the left side going faster than the right, then both sides, slowly at first then rapidly as I got further into the progression. So far the neurologist has been correct.

These days my arms are barely strong enough to lift my body weight. It's 250 pounds, not insubstantial, but a lift from my wheelchair to transfer into the truck, or onto the toilet, or into bed, has always been possible. My arms, especially my left arm, are approaching the point where that won't work anymore; I won't be able to make the transfer.

Oddly enough in all of this, it is my upper arms losing strength the fastest. My lower arms seem to be doing okay, although it's really hard to tell since they work as a team. My hands still seem fairly strong, except on really bad days. I can still feed myself, open a twist top bottle of beer, fold laundry. Sure, I get tired. That's just ALS. But I am definitely losing my upper body strength fairly quickly these days. It's what happens.

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