I’ve been taking thalidomide for the past 4 years, and putting up with the gradually increasing neuropathy. The sudden-onset muscle cramping, however, does get downright annoying, especially when one of my super exciting dreams is interrupted by a golf-ball sized muscle cramp hitting in the calf of one leg. An interesting question comes up: does the activity in my dreams (leaping from building to building a la Spiderman) cause the cramp, or does the onset of the cramp influence what I am dreaming? I should mention that I have always had really great dreams – now that I’m 71 years old, it’s the only real excitement that I get. LOL
I will put up with my fingers getting twisted into weird positions. That is merely annoying, especially if I am trying to hold a pen or a pencil. What really hurts though, and what I find the most distressful, is a cramp in the arch of one or both feet just before bedtime. Nothing seems to work – heat, vibration, massage, NSAIDs. For years, I have read about people using tonic water (quinine water) to treat muscle cramping, and I have always scoffed. “How can a miniscule amount of quinine possibly influence muscle cramping?” sayeth I. ” It must be in their imagination!” Well, one evening I was ready to try anything, and found a bottle of quinine water in my larder. Ice in the glass, and glug, glug. Within five minutes the cramping in the arch of my foot was GONE. I believe that my reaction was, “Son of a gun!” or something like that.
The next night, same thing: cramps start, drink a glass of tonic water, cramps stop and I get a good night’s sleep. Great dreams: no cramps in the middle of the night, either. Being skeptical, the third night, I went cold-turkey: no tonic water. At two in the morning, while climbing a hillside carrying my trusty 7mm Remington Magnum on a bear hunt, my leg knotted up with nasty cramp. Sudden-End to a really great dream.
Gentle readers, I am not one to leap to conclusions, but every night for the next 2 weeks I drank the tonic water (yes, I went to the grocery and stocked up on a generic brand, some with lime and some “straight”). No cramps. If I skipped the tonic water, I got cramps. Therefore, I must come to the conclusion that tonic (quinine) water has a miraculous ability to stop and/or prevent muscle cramping caused by long term dosage of thalidomide.
There is an additional benefit. Both my Family Physician and my VA physician advocate taking 1½ oz of spirits, or a glass of wine, before bedtime. (a little ethyl alcohol IS good for the human body). This is a marvelous excuse, then, to imbibe a vodka n’ tonic before climbing into my P-47D Thunderbolt, and zooming off to fight a bunch of Me-109’s at 25 thousand feet.
Best regards, Bob Oberle, Chantilly, VA aged 71, dx 5/02 IgG lamda stage 2A, SCT 3/03, in CR since, thalidomide q36hrs for maintenance.