If you are new to this blog… it might be best to start reading the previous post, Disease Diablo. If I Had A Choice. Part 1. But if you decide not to, it might help to know that I have MS and am being visited by a Disease Diablo in this post, who is giving me the chance to swap MS for another chronic disease.
How about Parkinson's disease? It starts off sounding like MS; it's a progressive degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Your movement is affected with shaking, rigidity, slowness and issues with gait. Later in the disease cognitive and behavioural problems arise, such as dementia, sensory, sleep and emotional disturbances. Onset of Parkinson's is common around 60 years of age and it is uncommon before 40 years old. It is idiopathic, that is, with no known cause, although there are some atypical cases with a genetic origin. There appear to be many risks (pesticides) and protective (smoking) factors. There are some treatments for early symptoms, however as the symptoms progress the treatments become ineffective. Diet and rehabilitation show some effectiveness in alleviating Parkinson's disease. Surgery and deep brain stimulation are used as a last resort to reduce motor symptoms. There are some promising treatment avenues being investigated, such as stem cell therapy and neuroprotective agents. It is better understood than most other neurological disorders (but still they can not come up with a cure). Although Parkinson's and MS begin in the CNS, Parkinson's like Huntington's seems to follow a steady decline with a loss of mental sharpness. With MS there is not necessarily a loss of mental acuity. I'm also not so sure about the no known cause thing because that may make a cure harder to figure out. No thanks Disease Diablo.
Would I swap MS for cancer? Cancer is a scary disease, with scary treatment. Your prognosis is dependant on your type of cancer and the extent of your disease. It could be terminal or with treatment you could get better and never be bothered by it again. I think there must be a lot of psychological trauma associated with cancer - do I or don't I have it, will I or won't I get better, is it contained or has it spread, will I live to see my children grow. This along with the frightening treatment that may not work (which if I had cancer I would have) would make me think long and hard prior to swapping my MS for cancer. While I am unsure about what my MS is going to dish my way, I am unlikely to die from it (touch wood). One of the scary things about having MS or any of the other diseases mentioned is that it doesn't make you exempt from contracting another terrible disease like cancer. Pass on cancer Disease Diablo.
What about a chronic autoimmune disease like Lupus, in particular the more serious Systematic Lupus Erythematosus? It is an autoimmune disease that can affect any organ or system such as joints, kidneys, brain, heart or lungs. It can have neuropsychiatric manifestations, such as the Lupus headache, as well as cause seizures, cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. It mimics many other diseases – MS included, but is much more unpredictable. Like MS it affects more women than men and has no specific cause, although there does appear to be environmental triggers and genetic susceptibilities. If you are diagnosed with Lupus after 60 years of age you are likely to have a more benign disease. Treatment involves preventing flairs and reducing the severity and duration when flairs occur. As such treatment that addresses flairs can include corticosteroids and anti-malarial drugs and sometimes cyotoxic drugs. Disease modifying antirheumatic treatments are used preventively to reduce the incidence of flares and the process of the disease. In more severe cases of Lupus immunosuppressant drugs are used. Varying degrees of pain are felt by Lupus suffers thus ongoing pain medication is a must. Three important lifestyle changes must be made to avoid flairs and these include avoiding sunlight, avoiding medications unnecessary in the treatment of Lupus and reducing exposure to pesticides, silica and mercury. The majority of Lupus suffers can live a normal lifespan. Hmmm more unpredictable than MS, um, no thank-you Disease Diablo.
You know what I've learnt about reading up on other diseases... that all chronic disease is horrible. Fortunately you do not get to pick which disease you get afflicted with... because if you were to do a little research, like I have, you couldn't possibly decide which disease was the best to have. I guess the best we can hope for when we are delivered a disease by the Disease Diablo, is that it will be mild, that the treatments work, that our children will not inherit the disease and that a cure is not far away.