I'm going back to work!
For those for whom this is a surprise, a brief history of my last five months:
In early July I came down with a strange illness which initially presented as Lyme disease (with all the classic symptoms and even a tick bite to corroborate). I soon was on medical disability with muscle and joint pain, severe fatigue and headaches, stability problems, and (most concerning) cognitive issues. I was frequently disoriented, had severely impaired short term memory, and couldn't use deductive reasoning.
It's a strange feeling to lose your ability to think. Imagine walking down the street on a clear day, heading toward the end of the block, when without explanation you find yourself wading through invisible molasses. You can still see your destination, and you know that you can walk (in principle), but try as you might you make no headway. That is a pretty good approximation of having a degree in mathematics and being just plain unable to figure out how much is three times seven, or what year it is, or what this room is that you woke up in (your bedroom, your bed, your wife).
The acute symptoms such as nausea and fever dissipated by the end of July, but the cognitive, muscular, and joint problems persisted. We tested for everything the doctors could imagine. I do not have chlamidia nor a rare neuron-attacking autoimmune disease. I do not have 50 other infectious diseases. I definitely don't have Lyme disease. I am not having seizures and I do not have brain cancer. I am not incubating a black fungus found in the fermentation rooms of Kentucky bourbon distilleries.
In September I married my beautiful new wife. It was lovely and exhausting, and the love and support from our friends and family was very touching. Frequent naps and a lot of coffee got me through the weekend, and I slept a delightful amount on our Hawaiian honeymoon. We also visited a seahorse farm and are setting up a tank at home.
The week after our trip, a neural angiogram discovered reduced blood flow to some of my central brain structures, such as the thalamus. A subsequent MRI (my third) found a blood clot in the venous system which was reducing the return flow of blood in the area. The doctors were very surprised, as they haven't heard of this before - a clot that formed slowly enough, over months, for the brain's other blood vessels to enlarge in compensation.
We've begun a six month course of anticoagulants, and already I feel a marked improvement. I can add and subtract, even multiply, go a day without napping, and am enjoying programming and memory puzzles. I'm very glad to be returning to work (barring more unforseen problems) on December 2nd.
Certainly this has been a lesson in patience and acceptance, the limits of control and certainty, and the limits of and amazing reach of modern medical knowledge.
I'm looking forward to a productive 2014, and wish everyone the happiest of thanksgiving holidays. I know very well what I am thankful for.