Scientific literature clearly establishes that weather, particularly temperature, can influence the severity of myasthenia gravis symptoms. Cold weather is infamous for being worse for pain and hot weather results in reduced muscle strength.
Living in Africa, hot weather is no scarcity. This means that I dread the coming of each summer or spring. The first hot day of the year usually results in me looking like a rag doll, with each limb floppier than the next. I can feel my body slowly losing its battle against gravity and succumbing to the generalized muscle weakness that is typical of MG. Each breath feels heavier than the last, and each step wonkier than the one before.
During this time of year, I rely heavily on anything that can cool me down: cold drinks, ice packs, fans, ice cream, or air conditioning. Placing ice packs over my droopy eyes can lead to less double vision and overall relief from the heat. Ice packs on my neck or a fan in my face also help with cooling down my entire body. On certain days when I cannot escape the heat, I must accept that I will remain in bed with the air conditioning set to its coldest, doing my best to gather strength for the next day.
The cold season brings with it increased muscle strength and a little more pain than usual. In Africa, winter does not bring snow, but it does get cold. In December, I visited Europe and experienced a real snowy spectacle. Not only was I a tourist, meaning excessive amounts of walking and moving in general, but also I was wearing heavier and thicker clothes than I am used to. This would normally result in a string of MG symptoms worsening and less energy in general. However, the opposite proved true: I was, in fact, stronger and had adequate amounts of energy. It was a pleasant surprise and led to a dramatic improvement in my attitude and feelings about the cold season in general.
I walked a record number of steps while on my trip and still managed a glass of wine to end a day of adventuring — naturally followed by a very deep and long sleep to recover for the next day. But I felt well-rested and capable the next day, and almost every day after that, too.
I adore the cold winter wonderland that Europe offered me. I will always cherish it. I feel that the increase in pain is a small price to pay for the ability to breathe and walk comfortably again. I can even feel an improvement when I experience life in South African winters; the decrease in temperature now reminds me of a lighter load to carry, both figuratively and literally.
It’s empowering that I have finally come to this realization because it means I can anticipate when bad times may come, or I can know when to challenge myself a little bit more than usual.
Whatever the weather, I will never stop fighting. Life is beautiful.
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