No, this isn’t a tribute to the old Eddy Arnold/Jim Reeves song that I can still sing by heart after hearing my Mom play it over and over when I was growing up. This is a plea to the invisible python that’s coiled itself around my midsection and is slowly, but persistently, crushing my organs and making my already difficult struggle to breathe all but impossible.
The name of the reptilian constrictor is the MS Hug. Despite its name, this evil beast doesn’t limit its prey to people with multiple sclerosis -- it can strike anyone with spinal cord damage. It attacks without warning by constricting the band of muscles near the bottom of the rib cage and hanging on, sometimes for days and even weeks at a time. It’s strong and relentless, and so far undeterred by the numerous attempts I’ve made to rid myself of its painful presence and prevent it from ever hunting me down again.
I’d already had some breathing problems earlier today -- after laying on my side for an hour to try and get some sleep, my lungs filled with gunk, making me rattle and wheeze with each breath -- so the arrival of this evil python was even less welcome than usual. The Hug attacked right after I sat up, making it seem as though it had been patiently laying in wait for me, ready to strike as soon as its target was exposed. In a matter of minutes, it was tightly coiled around my body and giving no indication that it had any intention of releasing me from its death grip any time soon.
My ability to comfort ably breathe isn’t the only casualty of a Hug attack. By causing my abdominal and back muscles to become rigid, this monster also impedes my ability to move myself around. It’s not as though I have the greatest range of motion in my torso on my best days -- my spinal column is fused solid from the base of my skull down to the middle of my chest, which means I can’t bend or flex my upper body above my waist at all. It looks and feels like I’m wearing a neck brace and body cast. The Hug makes me feel as though there’s an actual snake wrapped around me, its thick body physically impairing me from bending at the waist. Even someone with full strength in and control f their arms and legs would be hard-pressed to move about if they couldn’t bend or twist their torso, so you can imagine how difficult it becomes for someone like me who has almost no use of her legs and extremely limited strength in her arms.
I’ve tried just about everything I can think of to force this tenacious predator to release me from its grip, but nothing has brought me any relief. It’s unfazed by heat and cold, immune to drugs, and unaffected by physical intervention. It’s as strong-willed and single-minded as I am, and only it will determine the moment when it’s had enough and is ready to move on to its next victim.
Until then, I wait, my breathing shallow and my body stiff, waiting for the morning when I wake to find that this insidious beast has finally let me go and returned control of my body and breath to me as quickly and unexpectedly as it stole them away.
Post Script: I swear I wrote an entry about the MS Hug in the earlier days of this blog. But even though I can see it clear as day in my head -- there was a picture on the Michelin Man in it near the bottom of the page on the right -- I can’t locate the post here on the blog or anywhere in my original documents. If anyone else remembers that essay, please leave a comment and let me know that I haven’t totally lost my mind.