CuldesacmainI learned what the word “cul-de-sac” meant when my mother moved me and my brother to Bellevue, Washington, then a suburb of Seattle, now a major city in its own right. I had two different paper routes during two different periods of my adolescence in Bellevue. Both involved lots of turning around at the dead ends of suburban streets. Cul-de-sac is a much nicer word than dead end.

Life involves a lot of cul-de-sacs. Some cul-de-sacs feel familiar like my old paper routes.  The bike and the yellow metal cart full of papers hitched up behind it just bump along.  I know where the hardest hill will be and try to deliver as many papers as I can before I hit it because my ten speed does not shift low enough for that last hill.  I feel silly walking the bike and cart up the slope.

Other cul-de-sacs feel unfamiliar but friendly, like the ones where a new friend might live in a house behind its basketball hoop on the side of the pavement circle at the end of the lane. The neighborhoods have names both quaint and anodyne – “Ardmore” reads the sign at the entrance to yet another ten blocks of similar homes.

Then others can be unfamiliar and unfriendly, more like really dead, dead ends. You’re late.  You’re lost.  You’re turning this way and that, and you keep ending up in cul-de-sacs.  It’s raining.  No one is home.  The houses are dark.

Multiple sclerosis creates lots of these unfriendly kinds of cul-de-sacs for the people who live with it. My latest is a humdinger. Because of all the intravenous steroid treatments I had back when I had relapsing remitting MS, I have osteoporosis. Because I have osteoporosis, I need to take calcium supplements in the form of two Tums tablets per day. Because I take two Tums tablets per day and don’t drink enough water (because I don’t like going to the bathroom all day), I am now at risk for kidney stones. I hear that kidney stones are very very bad things.

Another cul-de-sac: I’m also having an MRI on my kidneys at the end of this month to see whether they have been damaged by my bladder’s over retention due to MS. If the findings are that my kidneys have been damaged or are being damaged, I will have to learn to self catheterize.  That feels like a real dead end.

Doctors have urged self-catheterization on me for many years. For obvious reasons, I resist this idea. Not only do the mechanics of it seem beyond awful, the practice can give rise to infections. I’ve heard of out-of-the-box treatments like Botox, so maybe I will turn down Botox street and see what is there, always worried about ending up at the beginning again.

I am going to try to pedal my bike out of this mess by drinking lots of water. So if you have trouble getting me on the phone, you know where I’ll be. The bathroom, trying like hell to escape these cul-de-sacs.


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