Southern Indiana Living

MAR-APR 2018

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Mar/Apr 2018 • 39 I f she'd listened to the prognosis after being diagnosed with multiple sclero- sis (MS) in 2007, Brenda Bye would be confined to a wheelchair. "They told me I had at least a 50 percent chance to be in the wheelchair full time in 10 years," she said. "I thought, 'No, that isn't going to happen.'" Instead, 11 years later — in spite of advancing symptoms — she manages with the help of a rollator walker and a cane. Well, several canes. "When my bal- ance got so I couldn't wear my heels, I de- cided to get canes to match my outfits," said Brenda, 55, a mother of three and grandmother to five grandsons. When Brenda and her husband, Larry, Realtors and property developers in Marengo, heard "MS," they were not surprised. She had baĴled knee and neck pain, numbness and other symptoms for 15 years and they had done extensive re- search. "We preĴy well knew what we would hear," she said. "I would feel bad for two or three days, then feel fine. My right side hurt and I had trouble with my right arm. It wanted to drop. I had to hold it up." Brenda said her symptoms would come for a while, then disappear. "That is what makes MS so hard to diagnose. It took a long and winding road to get there." "The first big thing," Larry said, "was in 2002 when we thought she was having a stroke." Brenda woke up in the night with neck and head pain and went to look for a Tylenol. "When I reached up to get the medicine boĴle my right side went numb and I fell to the floor." Larry called for an ambulance. "By the time I got to the hospital, I felt some beĴer, but was in a lot of pain," Brenda said. She underwent tests and was treated with medication and therapy. On April 27, 2007, Susan Stein, a nurse practitioner in Dr. Curtis Thill's office, listened as Brenda described her symptoms and determined that she should have an MRI. "Dr. Thill first or- dered an MRI on my neck. Before we left the hospital the radiologist contacted him to also order a brain MRI," Brenda said. "I was on my way home when the phone rang. It was Dr. Thill's office with the MRI results. I was told there were trouble spots on my neck and a small spot on my brain." She was referred to a neurologist who looked at the scan and didn't see anything. "He diagnosed me with mus- cular skeletal disorder and torticollis," she said. "Then the pain got worse and the numbness continued, so I asked Dr. Thill to recommend a neurologist for a second opinion." He sent her to Dr. Rajaie Obaid, in Jasper, who ordered another MRI and detected a large lesion on her neck and a smaller one on the brain. "He said it could be lupus, Lyme disease or MS." The MS diagnosis was confirmed with a spinal tap. "My condition rapidly deteriorated. I couldn't walk. My legs felt like noodles; it felt like I had shoes made of concrete blocks," Brenda said. In July 2007, a wheelchair became necessary. "I was sent to Dr. David MaĴ- son at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis, and then started with Rebif injections." Brenda's symp- toms lessened, and she was able to get out of the wheelchair and walk without a cane. "In 2015 I could 'furniture walk' — get around by touching various pieces of furniture." But in the next year, things got worse. She began fainting and had to use a cane. "I was treated at an Evansville hos- pital and put on a new drug." She has run the gamut of MS drugs with injections, infusions and pills, keep- ing the symptoms somewhat at bay. Today, Brenda relies on her rollator walker or a cane because of balance issues caused by a foot drop. A stairlift helps her navigate her three-story home. Larry said that in spite of what she is going through, Brenda doesn't complain. "She stays positive. I don't know how she does it. And she doesn't talk about it much, but she has to fight depression." Brenda has always been active, working in real estate, caring for her fami- ly and home, mowing the lawn and assist- ing with the farm work. She was hands- on in building homes in subdivisions they developed, Larry said. "Now, I struggle to dress myself," Brenda said. "Even though I fight fatigue, I am not sleepy. My mind never rests. I see things I want to do, need to do. And I can't even clean my own house. It is so hum- bling to see someone else doing my job. "I can't drive a car. I have a lot of cognitive issues. I rate my pain at six on a 10-point scale. I have to search for words. I constantly fight fatigue." The family has difficulty schedul- ing activities. "We can't plan," Larry said. "She has good days, but there are days "I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I don't pity myself. That doesn't get you anywhere. Without my faith this wouldn't be possible." - Brenda Bye Brenda with grandsons Baylor and Blaine

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