Illness Awareness Month

Illness awareness months are a big deal providing an avenue for education. Furthermore, it gives those enduring the illness a set apart time to celebrate all the victories they have had over their illness. It seems more socially acceptable to take off the healthy person mask revealing how life is with a monster on the loss inside. Our awareness month also gives us the much-needed reminder that indeed we are not alone despite the feeling of isolation. It is a cracked door allowing outsiders to get a tiny glimpse into living with a chronic illness.

May is one of those months that someone was like let’s see how many illnesses we can raise awareness for in this month and they might have been a bit overzealous. On one hand, it’s great, especially if the majority of your illnesses have the same awareness month. On the other hand, it is a bit much in a short month.

With a complex illness, you could easily take a year or more talking about the illness, testing, medications, and daily living. Times that by over 12 is hectic. To complicate things a bit more the majority of us have more than one chronic illness!

  • American Stroke Awareness Month (promoted by the National Stroke Association)
  • Arthritis Awareness Month
  • National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month
  • National Celiac Disease Awareness Month
  • Hepatitis Awareness Month
  • Lupus Awareness Month (promoted by the Lupus Foundation of America)
  • Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month
  • Mental Health Month
  • National High Blood Pressure Education Month
  • National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month
  • Preeclampsia Awareness Month
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Chrons & Ulcerative Colitis.
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

I currently have a diagnosis of the following just from this list: Lupus, Ulcerative Colitis, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, and Asthma. In addition, I might have Autoimmune Hepatitis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

I always like to challenge everyone to learn one new thing in May about one illness. I am a strong believer in education others about chronic illness. I have encountered medical professionals who have been in need of education (I am not trying to be rude in any way). I have had people in the medical field ask me what’s Lupus? A basic understanding is helpful. Knowing just a little bit helps, even if you are not sick, for the day you encounter someone with an invisible illness.

I could go on all day on this topic, but I won’t as I am sure you have plenty on your to-do list today. Have an amazing day! Be sure to Like Chronically Hopeful on Facebook and subscribe to this blog! There will be a handful of guest bloggers which I am SO excited for!

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Everything But The Kitchen Sink

I am thrilled that finals week is finally behind me. Whoever invented finals is not my best friend. I love school, but finals week is too much stress. I will be graduating this week with my Associates, finally. Then a summer course, and I am completely done with community college. There are a few things in the air in reference to where I will be continuing my education at. Both my options are great. I am trusting in God to direct my steps and I am excited to see where He is leading me.

A few days before finals, I passed out for about ten minutes, while taking my cat to the Vet. (Poor Kitty was scared outta her mind). I didn’t have my typical warning signs. I am doubtful, it was just POTS, but then again who knows. Hours later I went to the Emergency Room.  My doctor isn’t clear about what an emergency is, therefore I have to be a pain and call to find out. The conclusion of the visit was I did not have a heart attack and no bleeding on the brain. I am going through a period of falling and dizzy spells once again, which is irritating. I have had intense muscle  pain in my legs which has made me wonder if it’s som how related. I have discovered a few things that help a tiny bit with the muscle pain: Village Natural Soap, Dr. Teals Pure Epsom Salt Body Oil, and tiger balm. The soap and oil are excellent for chemo skin. These are the first things that have helped my chemo skin.

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I am back on steroids for a short amount of time. The goal is to be off sometime in June. I switched from Methotrexate to 6 MP also known as Mercaptopurine. 6 MP is also a chemo and the dosage is higher. I noticted there isn’t as much paticent information as Methotrexate. I have been on it almost a month. I take it after dinner because in the beginning I was having migraines. The first two weeks was difficult. My assumption is because it’s a higher dose of Chemo. If this doesn’t give me the assistance I need we will be adding a biologic. Personally, I am comfortable with this option, more than ready to begin, and I think it is a good step. Many meds help both Lupus and IBD. Right now, it is another waiting period, which is always hard.

Currently, I am able to eat which is always exciting. I have a lot more options with food on steroids. In moderation, I can do fruit, juice, and small amounts of veggies. Being able to eat healthy is a treat.

We have had a lot of rain lately where I live. My hip and arthritis in general, have been less than happy about this. I am still not sure what is going to happen with my hip. Still having issues finding a doctor. Life is complicated with a chronic illness, as well all know.

Here are some pics of the Lupus hand sign from awareness day:

 

I will be posting more on the blog now that the semester is over. I have been working hard on a few posts and I am excited to share them with you! How have you been doing? Let me know in the comments.

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Oh! And by the way, I have made a new e-mail for the blog, being that I got locked out of my old e-mail after my concussion. hopefulspoonie@gmail.com

Lupus Awareness Day

Lupus awareness day posts never go how I would like. I always have this awesome vision, but then life happens school gets hectic and Lupus ruins my plans.

Happy Lupus Awareness Day! Get your purple on to show support and raise awareness. Lupus awareness day is about educating people about Lupus and also celebrating those who battle the illness daily with courage. We can only have a future with NO Lupus if we KNOW Lupus. A little education goes a long ways.

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It is hard to know what to say because Lupus affects every detail of my life and those around me. Everyone I know with Lupus has been affected in different ways, but one thing is the same this illness has changed our lives forever. We are not solely define by Lupus, but we are reminded and impacted by Lupus every second.

Our normal as young women with Lupus is very different from healthy young women. Personally, I don’t view my life as abnormal. It’s not until I talk with a healthy friend that I remember I need to adjust the way I talk and that they don’t understand the medical terms I’m using. Having friends with Lupus has given me a sense of normalcy. We laugh, talk, and swap stories like any other twenty-something-year-old.

What is it like to live with Lupus? The symptoms can be overwhelming. It is a lot to take in for a healthy person. It is difficult to explain. Every day is different. For me living with Lupus means joint pain, fatigue, and sun sensitivity daily. Often I have rashes or hives, bruises, headaches, bladder pain, chest pain, and hair loss. No two cases are the same. Lupus is complex, making it difficult for health care professionals, caregivers, the support system, and the person battling Lupus.  With Lupus, the autoimmune system can attack anything.

Take a moment today to learn something about Lupus or talk to someone who battles Lupus, you will be surprised how much you can learn.

Diagnosing Lupus

There wasn’t a defining moment or even chapter in my life pointing to when Lupus invaded my body.  The pain began at age six. I quickly learned how to fake well. Overall ignoring the pain. It was mentioned off and on through the years to my pediatrician. No one was persistent with any of my symptoms or complaints. My first severe flare up was at nine years old. I had back to back ‘viruses’ blamed for every intense symptom. I was put on homebound, unable to go to school. The older I got the sicker I got. The more intense the pain. The more symptoms appeared.

I longed for a diagnosis. For someone to take me seriously. I was told countless times I was too young to be in so much pain, too young for a chronic illness. The first rheumatologist I saw did no testing, yet placed me on a medication. At first, I was relieved and full of hope. That is until I began having an allergic reaction. The doctor insisted on increasing the medication. I began having psycho seizures and stopped taking the medication. I saw a few other rheumatologists. Everyone eagerly promises to get to the bottom of my case at the first appointment then quickly becomes discouraged telling me they are clueless or there is nothing wrong with me.

One day I was discussing my frustrations with my cousin. She asked me if I had been tested for Lupus. I had no clue what Lupus was, but I had not been tested for it. She advised I check out the Lupus Foundation of America. Which of course, I did that evening and I was in awe. This illness was a perfect fit. It described every wacky symptom I had. From that point forward I did research on Lupus and spoke with the foundation several times learning as much as possible.

My symptoms mirror a perfect textbook case. In the beginning of my case, I believe due to my age, my labs were not always positive. I have had some of the top doctors on my case all of who believe firmly I have Lupus, but the way my body functions is different from most people. I am not normal by any standards.  After a long battle, I got my diagnosis. As soon as I received it I asked for it in writing. I switched doctors due to going away to school then switched again due to getting to sick and coming home. I had a doctor take me off all my medication including Plaquenil. The doctor told me I just had Fibromyalgia. He sent me to a Fibro doctor claiming she was the best in the field and she would agree with him. Well, that backfired for him. She told me I was a Lupus patient and needed a better doctor. She quickly got me into the team of doctors I am with now.

I switched doctors due to going away to school then switched again due to getting to sick and coming home. I had a doctor take me off all my medication including Plaquenil. The doctor told me I just had Fibromyalgia. He sent me to a Fibro doctor claiming she was the best in the field and she would agree with him. Well, that backfired for him. She told me I was a Lupus patient and needed a better doctor. She quickly got me into the team of doctors I am with now. Though, we frequently become frustrated still with my case and have different options I love my team of doctors. Having good doctors is a true treasure. Knowing that they will listen, are trustworthy, and will try to help makes things slightly less stressful.

I came home a few weeks early from college my first semester with the plan of getting things under control and then going away again the following semester. I found out I had severe double pyelonephritis (kidney infection). It lasted a little over four months. My body has not been the same since the infection.

I thought knowing the name to the monster reeking havoc in my body would be my big break though, the end of my major struggles. I thought I would get my life back.

It is also a battle keeping a diagnosis. Medication makes labs look pretty than the doctor begins to overthink.It seems when blood tests are postive they are never positive enough. When additional test records something alarming it is brushed off to the side. It feels like a game. One I don’t want to play. My symptoms equal the classic Lupus textbook case, but my labs do not always reflect this.

Diagnosing any autoimmune disorder is a complex task. Even in the medical field, people are not educated enough about autoimmune diseases- especially when it comes to Lupus. This is one reason awareness months are vital. Not only do those who suffer with the illness get support and educated, but doctors have new chances to become educated as well as people not directly affected by this particular illness.

May

May is a huge awareness month. Here are just a few of the illnesses that have awareness month in May:

  • American Stroke Awareness Month (promoted by the National Stroke Association)
  • Arthritis Awareness Month
  • National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month
  • Better Hearing and Speech Month
  • National Celiac Disease Awareness Month
  • Children’s Mental Health Week
  • Clean Air Month
  • Global Employee Health and Fitness Month
  • Healthy Vision Month
  • Hepatitis Awareness Month
  • Lupus Awareness Month (promoted by the Lupus Foundation of America)
  • National Mediterranean Diet Month
  • Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month
  • Mental Health Month
  • National High Blood Pressure Education Month
  • Older Americans Month
  • National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
  • National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month
  • Preecalmpsia Awareness Month
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Chrons & Ulcerative Colitis.

The ones in purple are illnesses I have. Most of my major chronic illnesses have awareness month in May. I am planning on sharing more of my Lupus story and Ulcerative Colitis story. Please feel free to ask questions. I would love to hear your story!

 

Prednisone & Chemo Free

I haven’t posted an update in a while. Things have been crazy, as always  with school as well as my health. Other than fustration there have been no improvements with my hip issue. There are several things wrong with it. My only option is suregery but haven’t had any luck with finding a surgon.

I have been Prednisone free for a few weeks and Chemo free. It is as scary as jumping off a cliff. Trust me I know that I can’t stay on Prednisone and how evil it can be but at the same time I am still not on a  stable treatment plan. Any additional treatment options I have will take a long time to work. I feel like I get back to this point too frequently; pausing my life. I know when the flare is going to get worse. I know I might shut down. But I know there is nothing I can do but pray for a maricle; to be proven wrong.

This time last year, I was more or less in the hospital fighting for my life. I would love to tell you that was the turning point and I’m back to normal life, but that’s not the truth. If you have followed my blog, you know I have had liver enzyme spikes several times. So far the only link is coming off steroids. It could be Ulcerative Colitis, Lupus, or autoimmune hepatitis. Autoimmune hepatitis is not an STD. With the chaos, last spring no one thought to order a biopsy,  which is the only way to determine  Autoimmune Hep. There is a lot of mystery still with my health.

I see my Gastro tomorrow. I am anxious to begin a new medication. The Lupus sympotms are getting worse like rashes, muscle pain, joint pain…  It has been getting increasingly diffiult to move, eat, and drink, but I am getting through functioning a little every day by God’s amazing grace.

I am hoping to be able to post more regularlly over the summer.

The Problem of the Semester

Introducing the problem of the semester. Each semester I seem to run into at least one big obstacle with my health. Lupus doesn’t think college is eventful enough.

After coming home from the hospital, I collapsed, at least, four times from POTS landing on my right hip. Needless to say, I was experiencing hip pain. It was determined that I didn’t break anything. Even so, the pain was getting worse. I knew there was something wrong.The concern became that it was possible my body wasn’t providing enough blood to the bones in my hip. That could cause a bone or tissue to die. My doctor sent me for an MRI which revealed a growth along with some torn cartilage. Now I am waiting to see a specialist to see what the next step will be. Waiting is one of the most challenging things. Not being able to do much for the pain and not knowing what they will suggest to do for the issue at hand.

With Lupus, there is hardly ever a dull moment. I think about my friends with Lupus and everything they go through because of this illness. It can feel like you are just overcoming one obstacle and boom there is another. At times, it is difficult to process everything that is happening. We get use to dealing with certain things like blood work, but additional obstacles don’t become easy to deal with.It threatens our Lupus normal and can cause stress. This is one reason it is vital to have a support system not just of encouraging people but also of others who are dealing with chronic illness. Those  of us with chronic illness have a different perspective and provide a different element of support to one another.

At times, people tell us how we should react to an obstacle or tell us the ‘magic’ cure. If you are also facing a health obstacle it’s okay to feel emotional or to feel fine. Your emotions are not wrong. You have enough strength for whatever you are going through. Wishing you all a wonderful afternoon. 🙂

 

Hospital Part 2

Part two more or less of my hospital stay. I apologize it is all over the place.

I had two strange nose bleeds. I have had more nose bleeds in my life than I can count but these were different. My second one happen 4 am. I got blood everywhere in my bathroom, it poured out uncontrollably. I am anemic currently so I feel that it is related.

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I had a repeat colonoscopy last Tuesday.  The picture above is my special drink. I usually do Miralax for colonoscopies. I found this solution to work quicker, be less painful, and taste somewhat better. I did get dizzy.  This one is called go lightly. I got the solution late in the day and was still nauseated so my nurse told me to drink as much as I could without making myself sick. I got more than half down.

I had been given my insomnia medication the night before the scope. I usually don’t take it at home and I had forgotten why until I had an emotional meltdown directly after the scope. I didn’t get much sleep the night before and woke up too soon after the scope. I wasn’t crying because my colon has healed somewhat. I was crying because I was scared of not being taken seriously and being taped in this abdominal flare up. I know the pain levels need to come down in order for me to function better. Apparently not everyone understands that humans have emotions. Someone had told my mom that I need a psychiatrist. I get extremely irritated when people dismiss me or downplay my pain and symptoms.

I believe that crying can be helpful in coping with an illness and life in general. Medication can also play into emotions. I have had people tell me I need a better attitude when I am doubling over in pain at the doctors office. No one smiles 24/7.

The IV fluids were my best friend. It makes a huge difference. I ran low-grade fevers off and on as well.

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I was discharged late on the 6th. I have only been home a few days, my body is still trying to adjust. Last night I wasn’t able to sleep. I started having IBS/IBD symptoms 4 am. Therefore, Saturday was  difficult. I had a lot of nausea. I couldn’t take any of my meds until 1 pm. The doctor had been talking about readmitting me, but I don’t feel that is necessary at this point.

I see a newish Gastro Friday. We are hopeful that she will be able to help. I am still randomly bruising and bleeding. I am able to eat some. Grateful for the small improvements. Thank you to everyone who prayed for me when I was in the hospital.

 

Chronic Illness & Summer

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Summer became my favorite season as a teenager. The break from school was nice, but the adventure of summer was the most appealing aspect. Having the time to be outside more to hiking, swing, and go swimming. Just about every summer as a teen I went away with my church. From mission trips to camp to a pilgrimage in Taize.

Having Lupus has changed my relationship and view of summer. It is nice, but it is something that I would rather not deal with. I have severe sun sensitivity. Worst then the average Lupie. With in minutes of being in the sun, I begin to feel ill.  Sometimes even being in the car when the sun is out makes my symptoms worse. Currently I avoid the sun as much as possible, it is the only thing that works. Sun screen does not help me, though it makes a huge difference for many people with Lupus.

If you are sun sensitive be sure to take Vitamin D. Know your limits with Lupus. If you can be in the sun for an hour, just do an hour. Don’t push yourself more then your body can handle because that can and most likely will push you into a flare up.

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This will be my first summer with POTS. Dehydration is a concern for anyone in the summer, but even more so if you have POTS. People with POTS become dehydrated easily. The past few weeks I have been battling dehydration. My best advice for other POTies is to drink lots of water and Gatorade. The electrolytes are needed. Though I am new to the POTS world, I would advise people with POTS to be careful in the heat. Too much heat can cause someone to become dizzy and pass out. Again it is essential to find balance with any illness and summer.

What challenges do you face in the summer with your chronic illness? How do you cope with the challenges?

Prednisone Part One

I have shared on here off and on about my treatment plan. My treatment plan has drastically changed after leaving the hospital. This is partly due to my liver and partly my doctors just being a bit annoying. I have been pulled off of Methotrexate and Benlysta.  Right now my main medication is Prednisone. I have decided to do a small series of Prednisone blog posts, hopefully someone will find it helpful. Prednisone, it is almost always a love- hate relationship. It is unclear which is better being on it or not. There are an abundance of harsh side effects, yet it is a life savior. 46bde1cc6919eb9cff7a962b8c6f5026

Most Spoonies know of  Prednisone, for those who don’t, I will give you a brief overview. By definition Prednisone is, “an analogue of cortisone,used as an anti-inflammatory,immunosuppressive, and antineoplastic in the treatment of various diseases.” Put simply, Prednisone is a steroid. The body naturally makes low amounts of steroids it is also classified as hormones. This steroid is not the same type that well known people such as sports players or movie stars take. Prednisone should be a fast acting medication. It is used for countless illnesses arthritis, blood disorders, breathing problems, severe allergies, skin diseases, cancer, eye problems, immune system disorders and additional illnesses.   download

There is a side effect overload when looking at Prednisone. The side effects range from irritating to utterly devastating. Some ‘mild’ side effects include: Abnormal Fat Distribution, Absence of Menstrual Periods, Acne, Disorder involving Personality Changes, Excessive Hairiness, Excessive Sweating, Feel Like Throwing Up, Moon Face, Visible Water Retention, and Weight Gain. More serious side effects include: Seizures, Infection, Low Amount of Calcium in the Blood, Thin Fragile Skin, and Anemia. Most people experience at least one side effect while on Prednisone. Every encounter with Prednisone is different. It is a difficult medication to be on. Many times it alters someone’s personality and how they look. Coping with side effects is a challenge. It is meant to be used short term, but that is not always the case. prednisone2

Check back this month for more Prednisone posts. I will be sharing my personal experience and talking about how to cope with Prednisone.