Of course my arms are not really growing shorter, but they might as well be.
My MS progression has not been random, but has instead followed clear patterns. For example, the flexion muscles in my legs (those that allow me to bend my legs at the knee) grew weak before the extension muscles (those that allow me to straighten my legs). My neurologist told me that this is typical of muscle control loss due to central nervous system failure. How interesting.
In my upper limbs, I’m losing strength in the fine motor area (muscles that allow me to write, type, and snap my fingers to big band music) before I lose strength in the larger muscles. Again, apparently this is typical. How nice.
But this blog post is about the muscles around my shoulders. I'm losing control of them in such a way that I can no longer reach things up high, but I can still reach things down low. This is the functional equivalent of my arms growing shorter.
I'm having difficulty shampooing and brushing my hair. Yesterday, I reached for the mouthwash, but I couldn't raise my arm high enough to grasp the bottle, which was at chin level. I can’t high-five anymore. A gentle fist bump is all that I can manage as a shared, celebratory gesture for a Patriots win, a beautiful sunset with cold beer and close friends, or a cost of living increase in my Social Security check. Ya, that’s right. I got 3.6% this year.
When I first settled into a wheelchair, the height of my reachable world shrunk from around 7 feet to maybe 5 feet. Now it is down to about 4 feet. I’m like the mime in the invisible, shrinking box.
But I'm all about silver linings. For example, if it was my decision to make, I would definitely choose to relinquish the use of my hands at a higher level before I would at a lower level. Strength and dexterity for tasks above my shoulders is so much less important to me than below my shoulders.
In this regard, I feel fortunate.
On an unrelated note, isn’t it weird how we can accurately identify sarcasm in the spoken word, but struggle doing so with the written word?