Oh, my. I am not liking the cobwebs around this place. Not liking them at all. It probably seemed I was gone for good, but I’m like gum on the bottom of a shoe that way. Just, please, don’t put me in the freezer.
Well, in my absence, I have not been lollygagging around ducking the fog. I’ve actually been quite busy. As you will see over in the top right, I finished my National Novel Month project. I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment, and not just because I consistently surpassed my estimation of the number words I can write in a day. Though it is the part that gives me hope my dream of becoming a novelist may someday become a reality.
No, the pride I’m talking about regards facing an obstacle and, at least temporarily, overcoming it.
You see, I have the shakes.
I’ve had them for a while, years actually, but I didn’t really think about them much. Sometimes my hands would shake a little when I tried to pick things up. No big deal.
But I’ve started thinking more about neurological issues in the last few years and it occurred to me that shaking hands would definitely qualify. So, during my annual check-up with my general practitioner, I asked her about it. She said it was probably benign essential tremor and there was nothing I could really do about it, but offered me a referral to a neurologist if I wanted it. I took it, but it sat in a pile on the side of my desk for ten months. [That should not surprise anyone who has ever seen a working space I inhabit. I’m incredibly messy, but I generally know where stuff is.]
In October of 2015, I was having coffee with Marathon Girl and she noticed my hand shaking as I picked up my coffee from the counter. Here is an approximation of the conversation that followed:
MG, nodding toward my vibrating cup: So, what’s going on there?
Me: Oh, nothing.
MG: [raises her eyebrows]
Me: I asked my GP about it and she said it’s just essential tremor. Nothing to be done about it.
MG: Okay. What does the neurologist say?
Me: Er, I haven’t seen one, actually. The GP seemed pretty sure.
MG: What if she’s wrong? What if it’s the same as what Katherine Hepburn* had?
MG: Okay. Here’s the number of the top neurologist within a five-state radius. I’m going to watch you call for an appointment now. Would you like me to dial for you?
*Turns out benign essential tremor actually is what Katherine Hepburn had. I looked it up when I got home after coffee.
That’s a dramatization, of course. Marathon Girl isn’t actually that pushy. Mostly. ^^And I hope she, or at least her husband, is laughing at this part because that’s my intention.
So, I called the neurologist she suggested and got an appointment on December first. That turned out to be perfect because NaNo ended on November 30th. Which brings me back to finishing my novel. You might (or might not, depending on your level of interest) ask what shaking hands has to do with finishing a novel. A lot, actually.
The initial step in writing a novel is getting the words of the story down on the page. Writing, or typing, those words while your fingers shake is extremely difficult. Therein lies the reason I hadn’t consulted a neurologist up to that point; I didn’t want to be told I would lose the ability to type. That prospect scares the living daylights out of me. The conversation with Marathon Girl reminded me that I’m not generally one to stick my head in the sand. Right now my fingers don’t usually shake when I type. When they do, it only lasts a few seconds. But, if losing control of my fingers is even a possibility for me, I need to figure out how to deal with it before it happens.
So, while I waited for my neurology appointment, I started looking in to solutions. I searched for speech to text options for when I’m sitting at my computer and for translating voice recordings made when I’m not. The voice recording hasn’t worked with respect to speech to text yet, but it did give me the opportunity to use driving time to write. I get a lot of good ideas while I’m driving.
So, my take aways from NaNo this year were that I can actually be a novelist and that I can continue to be one even after I lose the ability to type. I’m not sure what I’ll do if my voice starts to shake, but that’s a problem for another day.
Well, I got those things AND a finished novel. It’s a crappy novel, but it’s out of my head and on the page where I can work at making it somewhat less crappy.
As for the neurologist, he said the same thing my GP had said. He glanced at my hands and said, “That’s most likely benign essential tremor. What I’m more concerned with is your fatigue and daytime sleepiness.” Those are two different things, by the way. Who knew?
He did check my reflexes to rule out Parkinson’s and make me write with both hands so he could see the tremor, but most of the appointment was spent talking about sleep apnea, a breathing issue, and polycystic ovarian system (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance. Both turned out to be accurate diagnoses. Made by my neurologist.
To investigate his suspicions, he sent me for labs and to a sleep clinic. Turns out I do have mild sleep apnea, for which he sent me to a specialty dentist who is making me a night guard that will help keep my airway open while I sleep.
The labs were blood tests to check my testosterone levels, which are elevated in PCOS. I will tell you more about that in my next post, but I will ease your suspense a little by telling you the labs did show an increased level of testosterone in my blood.
My mother has benign essential tremor although it isn’t particularly bad. She does say a glass of wine helps. And when she used to play tennis, one quarter of a valium made it so she could toss the ball accurately enough to serve. I’m not necessarily recommending these as a way to deal, just saying that there are ways. Here’s hoping the mouth guard helps with the sleep issues.
Just thinking about you today 🙂 I’d love to hear more about your speech to text and recording discoveries. Oh, and the night guard!