Yesterday, the weekend caught up with me, and I had some serious pain in my right ribs … the site where pain has existed most days for the past three years. I did wear the ‘corset’ brace that the orthopedist has prescribed for me, “as needed,” and it did help me, again, to sit and stand straight taking some of the pressure off that site. I was surprised a few months ago when he told me that, in addition to osteoporosis, I now have curvature of the spine, or scoliosis, and a past fracture in the lower right rib. I guess one of those falls on the ice in 2010 caused that.
But despite the pain, Rick and I made that trip into City Hall, Boston after lunch to get the official copy of my birth certificate, which I’ll need next week when I consult with SSA about spousal income. The pain intensified on the train, and I wondered then if I’d remembered to take my morning meds. When we returned home, I forget again to check my daily pill box. It wasn’t until much later, when I went to take my night medications at bed time that I discovered the full box of morning pills, which explained why the pain was as strong as it was.
I’m never sure of when things happened, as my memory of present events is very weak. I can meet someone and immediately forget what they just told me their name was. But if I can immediately connect that name to one from the past, I have a better chance of remembering it. The worker at City Hall in Boston who helped me with the birth certificate noted my Boston childhood address, and asked me if I knew Susan, (my best friend before we left Boston mid-high school.) We chatted for a few minutes as there was no one waiting for her services, and as we talked, memories of street names, and family names came flooding back. I was suddenly that person I once was, and could see those faces and places in my mind’s eye as clearly as they would have been in a video. When she told me her own name, I linked it to my former next-door neighbor, whom she said was probably a cousin of hers. Having made that link, I can remember her last name, but her first name is gone.
It troubles me that names are the most significant memory loss I’ve experienced. Names are important, and forgetting them makes it look like I don’t think they are worth remembering. That loss makes me feel sad and guilty.The MRIs show old lesions in many areas of my brain; they are sometimes referred to as ‘black holes.’ They are that, indeed. But I can’t very well go around excusing myself by explaining that I have holes in my brain. When people tell me that they have a poor memory too (or, as Rick says, a good memory that doesn’t last very long) I tell them that I have only a memory of once having had a memory. It’s not the same. Hard as I try, I cannot remember things that I’ve lost in one of the ‘black holes.’
Yesterday, Rick was already out in the barn, working on something, and I sat in a different room to eat breakfast – the parlor – where I write in my journal: hence, the forgotten morning pills. He’ll try to remember to check with me before we eat lunch each day, to see whether I remembered the morning meds. We each do our best to help each other’s memories. Calendars have become very important again in our lives. I didn’t think they would be such a large part of our ‘happily ever after’ years.
Dark areas on the T1 weighted scans point to loss of myelin and loss of the nerve fibers, or axons. These areas are named for what they look like: “black holes”. The darker the spot, the more extensive the tissue loss. They develop where a lesion has been re-inflamed time and again.
As one clinician put it, “Black holes are where a plaque used to be. The area is now totally inactive.”
Black holes do correlate with the clinical picture. Individuals with black holes have permanent disabilities.