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.
- 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!
I am so excited for today’s post. We have a courageous mother of a daughter with several chronic illnesses. It has been an honor for me to speak with her briefly and to read a bit of their inspiring story. I hope you are encouraged. ~ Victoria
I am Kimberly, a full-time single mother, but more importantly mother of a teenager with chronic illnesses. EDS, POTS, MCAS.
Receiving a diagnosis is not a destination, but more so a journey.
Here is a brief account of our journey to date:
It seems like yesterday on one hand and a lifetime on another. Three years ago during a rheumatology visit, unexpectedly during examination, the physician began piecing random dislocations, atrophic scars, fatigue, velvet skin, and overall illness into EDS. As he was identifying pieces, he stated this appears like Ehlers Danlos syndrome. I have worked in the medical field as therapist for 20 years and this was new to me. So like most, I instantly googled everything I could sitting there. I recall immediately being referred for blood work, Physical therapy, and cardiology that same day. Upon leaving his office I don’t think I will ever forget the look on his face. It was one of concern, sadness, and unknowing to me an awareness of a journey that was heading our way. As my daughter and I sat in cardiology she jokingly ask “so what do I have”? We proceed to laugh as she said EDS meaning explosive diarrhea syndrome. We laughed and I knew whatever it was we were going to conquer it.
As time progressed with additional falls and dislocations therapy ensued. It suddenly appeared dizziness and nausea were occurring. New referral and now POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) diagnosis added.
Ok, but now what about these strange rashes. Well, that lead to MCAS(Mast cell activation syndrome). A few other diagnosis came along being eosinophilic colitis and pineal brain cyst through testing. Most recently TMJ and cervical compression issues also noted. If you have been through the diagnosis process you know it’s not so easy as picking up the phone and immediately obtaining a physician appointment. Some list were 3-6 months long with genetics 1 year. Then you add follow-up visits for a wide range of disciplines. It’s overwhelming and difficult to manage a ‘normal life’ whatever that even was.
In gaining awareness of these disorders and living it daily I have found a new appreciation for anyone experiencing these. I have seen the suffering from physical pain, fatigue, and mental components from anxiety/depression that a teenager should not have to deal with it. Being a teen is hard enough, let alone adding a chronic illness. Yes, it’s a struggle. Do I still feel we will conquer this….. no. We have accepted at this time there is no cure. We manage symptoms. Do I feel deflated…. yes. As a mother, I like most want to fix my children’s problem. I have found that being supportive and her biggest fan is the best I can do right now. I have listened to her requests to give her more control when she declines testing. I get it when she says “why should I it doesn’t change or fix anything”.
I want others to know it’s challenging as a parent, but it will be ok. You have to be prepared for sudden ER trips that will change your family plans, hoping that loud sound wasn’t a fall or passing out again, keeping a watchful eye for strange rashes, preparing for school IEP meetings, and wow what about that mediset. Goodness, the medications seriously is this all? Expecting a teenager to recall all these and learning to fill set herself…. What happened to driving, boyfriend, and social issues teenage parents have? They are still there, but different. Friends change, the real ones stay, but it does change. No one prepares you for this.
With all the losses you feel, I promise that if you embrace the journey and take the good with the bad it makes life better. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am hoping through advocacy and research more treatment options become available. I know joining a support group locally was one of the best things I did. Talking to people that have been where I am and offered supportive listening. I am forever grateful to them and blessed to have a wonderful family that help. Are there days when I’m mad… yes! I’m angry and scared. What happened to college based on interest, not physically accessible and near physicians in the area!
You as I have learned, having a chronic illness, is life alternating for everyone. I surely wish my daughter didn’t have it. However, she does and I intend to ride this journey with her and advocate to the best of my ability for her and others like her so that there is dignity, respect, and research to aid in hopes of a cure one day. This is my journey and hope for a final destination.
The topic today is pain with IBD. I don’t like talking about my pain. On the other hand, it is a part of raising awareness. Physical pain is a part of my daily life. It has improved with medication. I was taught the pain scale at a young age. Zero being no pain at all and ten being the worse pain of your life which is usually equivalent to giving birth. On a good day, it is a five or six on the pain scale. An average day is an eight.
Simple things like eating can throw me into a flare. A bad day it’s a ten hands down. When it is that intense I know there is a 50% chance it is a flare and a 50 % chance that I am in big trouble (shutting down, a tear in the intestine, or something collapsed). The pain at times is so intense it sends me to my knees doubled over screaming bloody murder. Fighting back tears, I attempt to smile and go back to whatever I was doing before the wave of intense pain hit. The intensity is beyond words.
I’ve adjusted to the pain to a degree. However, there are times that the symptoms are nerve racking and the pain is too much to deal with. It is challenging being a college student and learning how to navigate daily life while being chronically ill. At times it feels as though the pain just becomes more intense. Each medication you try you pray is the miracle medication, your breakthrough medication so that you can go back to living even to a degree.
Coping with intense pain is a challenge. An individual needs to learn when it is time to call the doctor or head to the ER. I have the habit of walking around the house a lot when the pain levels are high. Reading fiction, if I can focus really assists in coping with the pain. In addition, I talk with my mom or my friends who are chronically ill. Sometimes I journal prayers or just write. I also clean while listening to sermons or Youtube videos. I don’t sit still very well. Once in a while I will cave and watch television. I don’t love television. Personally, if I spend too much time watching it I feel like I have wasted time. I also go on Pinterest if it is late at night..
How do you cope with physical pain?
I am IBD Visible because I believe that awareness makes a difference. Education is key to living as healthy as possible. It is key to closing the gap between the healthy world and chronic illness world. Lastly, it is vital for those in the medical profession to gain a deeper understanding and compassion for us and strive for the best medical care. No matter how complex every person deserves the best medical care and to have manageable pain.
December 1st – 7th is Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week. The Chrons and Ulcerative Colitis Foundation says this overall about IBD: “Known collectively as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are painful, medically incurable diseases that attack the digestive system, causing abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever, and weight loss. The effects of these diseases are largely invisible, which is why we need to make #IBDvisible!
Crohn’s disease may attack anywhere along the digestive tract, while ulcerative colitis inflames only the large intestine (colon). In addition to the impact on the GI tract, in some patients, IBD may also affect the joints, skin, bones, kidneys, liver, and eyes.”
The pain began at age nine. Growing up, I frequently had stomach viruses. I had issues with being underweight, even though I was eating. I was told I was underweight because I was growing too quickly. The abdominal issues got worse about three years ago. I was unaware that I looked like a walking skeleton. In addition to the pain, I would have 15 -25 trips to the bathroom with diarrhea. I have encountered so many issues medically that it is a blur when some symptoms began. Eventually, I saw blood. It was a vicious cycle of medical testing and retesting. At one point in time, I swore I was done with the stomach stuff. Done seeing doctors. Done going through the tests.
Last April, I was in the I’m done state of mind when I encounter a huge flare. Of course, my mom brought me to the hospital. My liver enzymes were sky high. Despite the fact that I did not want to go through yet another colonoscopy one was ordered. I was positive for Ulcerative Colitis. The hospital doctors explained that they don’t see cases very often like mine. I have about five autoimmune diseases. I was in the hospital ten days. Despite their good efforts to avoid steroids, I ended up on a whopping 60 milligrams.
And so, the battle continued and continued to this day. I now have a gastro who I trust and like. One who listens, has compassion, trust me, and tells me everything I need to know. I struggle with eating daily. There is no set IBD diet. My current treatment plan consists of Prednisone, Balsalazide , and Remicade.
The journey with IBD is unique for everyone. If you are diagnosed with IBD I would like to encourage you to check out these links:Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Inflamed & Untamed, and Kelly Patricia. CCFA has on its website: “We need to make IBD visible! Why be IBD visible? While IBD patients may look healthy internally they may be suffering. The toll IBD takes on the entire patient lies hidden underneath, significantly reducing public understanding of what IBD is and how it affects quality of life. YOU can change this by getting involved and sharing your stories, giving a face to these diseases.”
- December 1: A focus on IBD advocacy.
- December 2: The focus is how IBD is an invisible illness. The whole “but you don’t look sick,” thing.
- December 3: The focus will be on pain.
- December 4: The focus is on fatigue this day.
- December 5: Mental health is the focus on this day.
- December 6: Complications of IBD will be the focus of the day.
- December 7: Community is the focus.
This week use the Twibbon to raise awareness. Share your story on social media. Use #IBDVisible. Share your story with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation linked above for a chance to be featured on the web page.
October is slipping by fairly quickly because of school and pyelonephritis. I truly wish I had more time to devote to Dysautonomia awareness month. Millions of people are affected by Dysautonomia worldwide. Sadly, like with many illnesses, there is not enough research or enough treatment plans. “Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe several different medical conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. The Autonomic Nervous System controls the “automatic” functions of the body that we do not consciously think about.” In addition, I strongly encourage you to take a look at this video from the Dysautonomia foundation.
The beginning of my POTS symptoms is unclear. I had adapted to my peculiar symptoms. Then I landed in the cardiac unit from an allergic reaction to Reclast about two years ago. My nurse had woke me up a handful of times because of tachycardia. Then I overheard some medical professionals discussing my case and mentioned that I might have POTS. Of course, I did the tilt table a few weeks later with extremely positive results.
POTS impacts my life daily. Some daily symptoms include Tachycardia , low blood pressure, dizzy spells, not absorbing things properly, brain fog, fatigue, and dehydration. In addition, I collapse, shake, and pass out. Currently, my treatment plan isn’t excellent. My doctor refuses to order saline. My only POTS specific medication is tachycardia medication. I do not have additional treatment options at this point in time due to my overlapping illnesses and treatment plan overall.
Accommodating myself is a challenge, to say the least. Hydration is a struggle, especially due to the fact that I cannot absorb fluids properly at times with Ulcerative Colitis. Gatorade, water, tea, and drip drop are some ways I attempt to fight dehydration at home. At times, my cats can sense when I am going to pass out or have a POTS flare. In addition, I do minor diet modifications. Compression stockings are a must, though I wish they helped a bit more. Whenever I go food shopping I use a wheelchair. If I am on my feet I clench the muscles in my legs and back to assist blood flow. I never lock my legs. I elevate my legs frequently as well.
Education of POTS is lacking majorly in the medical field. I recently came a crossed a doctor that believed that POTS is purely a psychiatric disorder. Needless to say, I was irritated with the conversation. POTS is a health condition. It is complex. There are no cookie cutter patients. New research suggests that it might be an autoimmune disorder.
The Foundation page has some excellent resources for living with POTS. I hope you learned something from this post! If you live with Dysautonomia share what type and how it impacts your life in the comments. Lastly, if you aren’t in a support group find one. There are a wealth of in-person as well as online support groups.
How the melody began of the symphony “the Spoonie Life” is unique to each of us. However, like a ton of bricks, the news crushed us emotionally, which no preparation could brace us for the sudden shift in song. Lumped into a group of over 125 million American’s who are in daily combat with their bodies due to chronic illness. After all, these are Invisible Illnesses.
Adjusting to the new role. A list of things we can no longer do. Harsh comments as well as the stairs, seem to greet us everywhere. Friendships fade away. Symptoms and pain consume each day. Functioning seems nearly impossible. Daily medications. Frequent breaks. This is chronic illness.
Well-meaning doctors increase anxiety levels. Medical testing is never ending. No one seems to know what to do. At times our health is out of control and all we can do is ride the roller coaster and pray. Help seems just out of reach. This is chronic illness.
Yet we cling to hope because our lives depend on it. Dreaming. We find that reason to keep fighting. This is chronic illness.
This week is Invisible Illness Awareness Week. A week to honor you and to give you a voice. To equip you to fight your battle a little better. Making the invisible visible. Making those around us more aware. Hopefully, others will understand the reality of chronic illness.
My friend with an invisible illness, you are brave, diligent, and compassionate. You overcome negativity. You have battled your invisible illness gracefully. You are an inspiration. Don’t give up! You are beautiful. You have an amazing purpose and you are making a difference.
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.
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.
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.