College Chatter #Liberty

Stability. It is something most people crave. A schedule to glide through day after day it might sound boring yet there is comfort in the familiar. When one has stability he or she can  plan to do things.

This is one of those things you don’t realize how comforting it was until it vanished. Stability takes on different meanings for a healthy person compared to someone who is chronically ill. Stability is one thing I currently do not have enough of.

This past May I was able to complete my Associates Degree at my local community college. I had been the first student to complete a degree online. By the way, if a school does not have an established online program I do not recommend going that route. By God’s amazing grace, I was able to thrive, however, there were times of extreme frustration that could have been easily avoided.

I had been hoping that my health would be more stable than it is currently. I am still struggling with abnormal POTS symptoms such as tremors, collapsing, and slurred speech. And of course, battling my immune system.

I am beyond thrilled to be continuing my education through Liberty University’s Online Program. There is a wealth of resources such as touring and an online library . The online program is split into different terms in each semester. There are eight weeks of two or three classes than eight weeks of a different set of classes. I am entering into week two of developmental psychology and contemporary worldviews.

In addition, to the stellar academic program and access to online chapel Liberty also offers an online hangout for online students to interact with one another. It is meant to be a cafe type setting. It  might not be ideal, but I will take what I can get at this point, which I am sure any spoonie would understand, as many feel like they are starving for social interaction.

As a new academic school year arises, I want to remind you, there is hope for every student, there is hope for everyone, even you. “People do their best making plans for their lives, but the Eternal guides each step.” Proverbs 16:9 The Voice In general, we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for. A little encouragement goes a lot farther than imagined and baby steps are actually giant leaps. 

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The Spoonie Life:An Update

It feels like the semester that will never end. My last final is this Tuesday. My symptoms have been flaring. Brain fog is heavy. I frequently forget what I am doing. Or just become confused for a few seconds. At times, my thinking is slower with pain or fevers. It is hard to let go of perfection; to accept doing my best with school. I know I have put in a lot of effort.

Frustration with the spoonie life, specifically with doctors is setting in…again. At times, I feel like I am screaming yet no one  can hear me. I present with scary symptoms. Everyone agrees I am sick yet no one will help me. Sorry Doc, feel better doesn’t cut it. I know I am not a typical case, it is going to take some extra work and I am sorry, but it is out of my control. I would love to be a cookie cutter patient, but that is not my reality.

I have three doctors with three different options and no real plan currently. Last week I had several frustrating conversations. The ‘head’ doctor for my abdominal issues called me yet he was not quiet long enough for me to speak. He wanted to do a scope. I hesitated. I have had over half a dozen scopes in a few short years. I had questions. I firmly believe as a patient you should have a say in what medical testing you have and you should have all the information up front. I explained to my other two doctors that if I absolutely need a scope that is fine, after Christmas. Monday, the one doctor told me it is unsafe to do a scope due to my pain (I don’t think that is a legit reason. I’ve had scopes while in more pain). For now, I have a CT with barium and contrast in a few days, nothing fancy. I am praying it will give them what they want in order to move forward with treatment.

Sometimes, I want to jump off of steroids as fast as I can, like ripping off a band-aid. I’d like to think it would make things simpler. But my body freaks out and that makes me nervous. I want to be off. No one has a plan of action or anything in the event that my liver go nuts and my body begins to shut down…again. Being stuck is frustrating.

Lupus

“Yes, you need to know what Lupus is all about, but above all you need the strength and resourcefulness to battle with the wolf in its lair. The wolf will always be with you, but you can put a leash on it and make it heel.”

Lupus is known as the cruel mystery. People have heard of the illness before, but few know what it is and even fewer understand it. The way Lupus presents itself is as unique as our finger prints. Its complexity confuses medical professionals. Researches are working on formatting better testing, finding the cause of the illness, and developing better medication. Many aspects are highly controversial at this time such as causes of lupus and the diagnostic criteria.

So, what is Lupus? It is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system is over active and confused. Those of us with Lupus are being attacked by our immune systems. It attacks anything from joints to skin to kidneys and everything in between. In a healthy person (or in someone who does not have an autoimmune disorder) the immune system fights off bacteria and viruses. It essentially works endlessly to keep you healthy.

If you don’t have Lupus I urge you to educate yourself, just a little. A little bit does go a long ways.

The search for a diagnosis seems like an endless and hopeless road. From my observations this is true when being diagnosed with any chronic illness, not just Lupus. The more I connect with those who are chronically ill, watch medical shows, or read spoonie stories I repetitively hear the horror of the individual searching for a medical answer. Many factors play into this inadequate testing, lack of knowledge in the medical field, bad doctors, the illness not progressed enough, ect..

If you are new to the Lupie World… Welcome. I know you’d rather not be a part of this ‘club’. I know that there are many emotions swarming you as you attempt to process everything. If you have been searching for answers to your symptoms, having a diagnosis is exciting and a relief in a way. On the other hand if you didn’t have any symptoms and no idea an illness had invaded your body I am sure this is utterly shocking. Where do you go from here? That is the million dollar question. A question that has a thousand answers but has no answer at all.

Allowing yourself to process that you have Lupus is important. I also advise that you educate yourself as much as possible about Lupus. When I got diagnosed I found the Lupus Foundation of America to be an excellent resource. Their webpage is great, in addition you can call them to ask questions. The Lupus Foundation also sent me information about treatments, living with Lupus, doctor information, and a magazine. I am so grateful that the Lupus foundation is the way it is. I cannot say thank you enough for the support and resources that I have received from them.

Life is never the same once you get a diagnosis. For better or worse things need to change. Most people need to adjust their life style, that is not saying that their life style was unhealthy. The life style of a healthy person is different then someone who lives with Lupus because the body needs different things. You will need to change your diet, how you exercise, and learn how to pace yourself. Of course, there is a good chance that you will need medication. Again I encourage you to do your homework. Educate yourself about the medication you are going to put in your body. Personally, I have a lot more confidence in trying a new medication when I know what to expect and the possible side effects.

Learning how to pace yourself is a huge challenge. Learning when you need to push a little harder and when you need to rest. Learning to rest is an obstacle for most people. Resting can feel like a waste of time. However, regardless of how you feel it is  a necessity. Your body needs to rest sometimes and that is okay. Resting can help avoid flare ups.

Lupus effects everything not just your body it effects your life and your emotional well being. It is essential to address the emotional roller coaster. Ignoring it and shoving it under the rug will only make things more difficult. It is tempting to shove the emotional aspect of Lupus under the rung most times, because there are so many other things demanding our attention. Depression and anxiety can be rooted in Lupus. Like any emotional illness sometimes depression or anxiety associated with Lupus can be treated with lifestyle changes other times medication needs to play a role.

Isolating yourself can be easy with any chronic illness. Many of us lose friends. It is difficult to keep in contact with people due to various symptoms, holding a conversation at times is utterly draining. Sometimes people avoid talking to others because of a rudely obnoxious lack of understanding. Even so, we need support. Isolation is not healthy for anyone. Having a support system is vital. In addition, I have found it helpful to find some support online through online support groups or pages an individual can like on Facebook.

I could go on for hours about Lupus and living with it. For now I will try to wrap it up so that this post doesn’t take too many spoons. I hope that you have found something in the post helpful. Welcome to the World of Lupus. You will be an amazing warrior who will demonstrate strength and courage daily. The road a head will be hard, but you have all the strength you need and you are never alone. Your story will give others the courage to keep fighting and to live their life.

How long did it take you to receive your diagnosis? What is the hardest thing about living with Lupus for you right now?

My favorite Lupus Resources:

http://www.lupus.org/

http://www.lupusny.org/

http://www.mollysfund.org/

Pages to like on Facebook:

World According to Lupus

Lupus and Me

Non- Lupus Resources:

http://restministries.com/

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

http://www.fightlikeagirlclub.com/

Stillness In the Invisible Fight

Chaos, one word to sum up the invisible fight. There are always phone calls to be made, medical testing, prescriptions to be filled, and doctors to see. And that is only the tip of the ice burg.The invisible fight is draining physically, emotionally, and spirituality. It demands all we’ve got and more. Sucking the spoons right out of our grasp. On top of the daunting tasks embed in chronic illness we attempt to be as normal as possible adding school, work, food shopping, and social events. It is a full time job.

There never seems to be a dull moment. We have become accustom to fighting, it is not a choice it is something we must do in order to survive. Accustom to the demands of this life. We fight against invisible illness, for tests to be run, with insurance companies, and to receive proper treatment. Our defenses are up. We attempt to be strong for those around us. Pretending we don’t need any support. We are weary yet dressed in a warriors optimistic attitude we continue to fight another round.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Finding stillness in the mists of the fight seems impossible. Putting our to do list aside and quiet our minds we can enter into the presence of the Lord.The Lord is a flawless example of a warrior. He has fought for his children restlessly providing a picture of his love that is beyond words, beyond human comprehension. We can confidently surrender our invisible fight into His sovereign hands. The Lord understands every aspect of our invisible fight. He will support us, substation us, provide for us, and fight for us. The only thing we need to do is be still and trust in Him.

How do you find stillness in the invisible fight?

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But You Don’t Look Sick

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“But you don’t look sick..” A saying that chronically ill people hear way too often. For those who have recently meet me I look like a normal 21 year old girl. But my family and church family are able to see the difference in me.

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The girl who stares back at me when I look in the mirror is someone I do not recognize. That girl is not me. She has a rounded face, pale skin, thinning hair, and tired eyes. I am…or in reality was a girl with dark olive skin, bight and energetic eyes, thin, and tall with thick dark brown hair that most people mistake for black. I have changed drastically sense becoming ill. I am not the same girl physically or emotionally. Not all the alterations have been negative. It is difficult sometimes to be so different compared to who I was before I became ill. Medications have altered my body somewhat, but the majority of the physical changes are due to Lupus. At times looking through photos is difficult. I like who I have become. But the physical changes are hard to grasp. My body doesn’t feel like my own… it is like borrowing something that doesn’t fit right. Appearance doesn’t matter as much as it use to. It is more about feeling healthy and functioning; living again. I try to focus on this and the hallmark of what inwardly make me, Victoria. Some days it works amazingly. With no make up and hair up I feel like myself and I feel pretty.  Other days, are more difficult after layers of make up and many spoons wasted tears of frustration wash it away.

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“But you don’t look sick..” is never a comforting phrase. People might think it is a compliment, but it is not. It makes us feel like you do not believe how sick we are. Our outwards appearance, does not reflect the war going on inside of our body twenty four seven. Thankfully the destruction is not visible.

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Those who are chronically ill learn all the make up, clothing, and hair tricks. She learns to fake a smile. To be a ray of sunshine. To pretend to be a healthy girl. Behind closed doors, everything is different. The make up comes off, the hair goes up, pj’s on, and the tears flow. With her head buried in her pillow she wonders how she made it through another day thankful no one saw though her mask. Insiting that she doesn’t look sick only adds to her struggle. Your words weigh more then you know.

Your world drastically changes in every way possible when you are chronically ill. It is like living on another planet in comparison to how thing were when you were healthy. Adjusting is difficult. You need to be patient with yourself. Allow yourself time to adjust to all the alterations your illness has imposed. Remember, that there is much more to you then the person looking at you in the mirror. Yes you might look different and that is okay, you are still beautiful. In addition to physical beauty, you have a stunning personality.

How do you cope with the changes your illness has caused?

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Endometriosis

March is Endometriosis awareness month.

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“Endo what?” might be your first question. Endometriosis is not talked about much and like most chronic illnesses out there is commonly misunderstood. It is a discriminating illness that only effects woman of child baring age. Mayo Clinic describes Endo, “Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus (endometrial implant). Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond your pelvic region. (However it can invade anywhere potentially occur anywhere.)

In endometriosis, displaced endometrial tissue continues to act as it normally would — it thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. Because this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body, it becomes trapped. When endometriosis involves the ovaries, cysts called endometriomas may form. Surrounding tissue can become irritated, eventually developing scar tissue and adhesion — abnormal tissue that binds organs together.” There are a total of five stages in Endo.

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It’s an autoimmune disorder, according to the autoimmune foundation of America. Girls whos mothers or other female family members who have endometriosis are seven times more likely to develop Endo. It is not the most comfortable topic to discuss, however these are the facts that dictate many women’s lives. It is a fairly common illness.The symptoms have a wide range and can have a devastating impact.

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Endometriosis is not just a painful period. It is difficult to diagnosis. Endo does not show up on CATSCANS, ultra sounds, or MRIs. The only way to know if one has endometriosis is surgery. There are limited treatment options available for women with endometriosis, the most popular one being birth control. On the other hand many girls have reactions to oral birth control this limits their treatment options even further. Some deal with the terrible symptoms, go into menopause, or try birth control injections.

Every female on my mothers side of my family has had endometriosis. I knew there was a chance I would have to deal with it, however it showed up years before expected. I had my fist ovarian cyst at nine years old, my period didn’t begin until four years later. Of course I encounter sever pain and other signs of Endo. About two years after my monthly began I discussed the option of doing exploratory surgery with an OBGY and my mom. I knew it was a long shot, I knew  could have symptoms and Endo not be present yet. But no one can be certain. Deciding to go through surgery is a gamble for any female who suspects having Endo.

I was anxious to say the least about my first surgery. They discovered a large cyst on my ovary which was leaking. All the scans had missed it (which is rare, but I’m different). If it had not been removed I could have lost a few organs including my bladder. They did not find endo but warned me I would need another laparoscopy down the road.

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I continued having  problems and other health issues. I tired oral birth control and had a reaction every time. I continued to have terrible periods and abdominal issues. I had a Gastro evaluation. Eventually I ended up back at an OVGYN. I distinctly recall the phone call that pushed me back into the OR. I was trying to explain to my doctor that I could not take the birth control she had prescribed. She told me point blank that I had two options: go into menopause or have another laproscopy done. I felt trapped. Facing a decision no nineteen year old girl should have to. I agreed to the surgery.

I did not love my surgeon … okay I disliked her. On the way to the OR I had an anxiety attack. In the OR I saw the instruments they were going to use. So yeah, I freaked out… who wouldn’t. She told one of the nurses to get me to shut up, so compassionate….not.

They discovered I have stage one Endo. Due to my past relationships with birth control and my complex medical history they put me on an injection, depo provera. Depo Provera is a steroid which pauses the cycle.  I hate Depo, but it’s something I know I have to do. The injection is extremely painful because it is a thick medication. I have a lot of GI symptoms with it, including loss of appetite. Right now this is the best option for me. I hold on to hope. Hope for better treatment.

Please help us to raise awareness!!  Have you or someone you know encounter Endo? How have you coped?

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