Hmm, i don't have to much to offer but has she had routine cbc/ a full blood panels run? anything off? Has she ever had any x-rays of her front leg carpals? hips? spine?
What were her CBC results? I am especially interested in her blood glucose, as it sounds quite a bit like neuropathy, which is common in untreated diabetic cats.
If she were my cat, she would be at the vet for a full blood panel ASAP. Don't really get why your vet suggested specialist right away, unless they already performed the panel last year and saw nothing amiss.
I know that the vet did run bloodwork last year, but I can't remember exactly what tests were run or what the results were. I'm guessing everything looked pretty normal since the vet couldn't come up with anything and just recommended a specialist.
I'll see if the results are still around somewhere.
Does her breathing/ eye dialation/ mouth movement change when she is in her frozen carpal stage? How does she act when she can't walk to well? (eyes, mouth, overall attitude, breathing)
Her eyes, mouth, and breathing all remain pretty unchanged when she gets stuck. Occasionally, if she was in the middle of kneading and her carpals stick, her claws will get stuck and she'll get a little frantic trying to detach them, but that doesn't seem especially
out of the ordinary.
I'll pay extra attention to her and see if I can tell if her pupils are dilating more or less at all or if anything else seems to change.
As for the swollen cheek- when was her last dental? Sounds like an abcessed tooth but it could also be OSC (oral cancer).
I know it's been awhile since her last dental. If it was an abscessed tooth, could it conceivably be impacting her sinuses and causing ear trouble, and subsequently causing problems with balance?
The fact that it seems to be related to a strict time of year makes me wonder if it's related to an outside source/trigger (as in allergies...obviously these aren't but you get my drift)
Do you have a Christmas tree? She might be experiencing a reaction to something that was on the tree, fertilizer, chemicals of another sort, that kind of thing.
I was thinking that maybe the air pressure could be changing in a way that somehow gets to her. I don't think it'd be a temperature issue because we keep the heat on in our house. I couldn't really come up with any other seasonal triggers, but I suppose there could be something getting into the house that sets her off?
We have an artificial tree because the cats don't bother it as much as they bother real trees, so that wouldn't be it.
I'll see if I can come up with any more details for you guys. Thanks for your help!