Shake it Off

Living with a chronic illness is a challenge beyond words when encountering people who don’t understand. We have all had an experience of rudeness beyond belief. There are stairs when taking medication in public. Rude remarks when using a walking device. 

 I cannot tell you how many times people have been disrespectful or stared at me because I use a wheelchair in a store. The majority of the time people either stand in front of me, unwilling to move or practically run away. People act like I have the plague. I have heard over the few years I have used a wheelchair in a store that I am too young to use one or too pretty. The stairs and remarks make me feel like I owe people an explanation. However, I do not need to explain my life to everyone I encounter. If the right doors are open to education someone I don’t mind but there shouldn’t be a social pressure to explain it all. 

 Many people doubt the intensity of our pain and they question if we are indeed really sick. No one seems to understand battling against your body and taking care of yourself is a full-time job. Simple tasks are draining. Some people go out of their way to upset us or to be rude. They offer unnecessary options on how to break free of the chronic illness chains.

 

Too often Spoonies lose friends due to their illness. Some people want absolutely nothing to do with us while others act strangely towards us. 

Too often people judge us before they get to know us. People treat us at times like we are nothing or are stupid. 

Too often we hear phrases like: 

But you don’t look sick

You need to be more positive

Have you tried…

You’re too young to be sick

It must be nice not having to go to work/school

You’re just having a bad day

You need to get more exercise

It’s all in your head

Maybe if you got out more

These things get under a spoonies skin, to say the least. When people mistreat you, SHAKE IT OFF. It is not your fault. Don’t let them get to you. You are an amazing person. Even though you are ill, you are so valuable. You have so much to offer this world. Shake off the stares, Shake off the negative and nasty remarks, Shake off the heartbreak…. Shake it off.. It’s gonna be alright

Hold your head up high, cause it’s gonna be alright. You have so much courage. You are an inspiration for thriving despite every setback. Sending lots of spoons, prayers, and hugs. ❤

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Spoonful of Spoonie Encouragment

Mornings for those with a chronic illness are a struggle beyond words. Waking up and willing our bodies to function is a fight. Here is a spoonful of encouragement for spoonie warriors. Happy Monday, brave friend!

You have victoriously made it out of bed this morning. The symptoms and pain are already overwhelming, but you’ve got this. You only need to take today one minute at a time. You have all the strength you need, even though it might not seem that way. Anxiety and depression attempt to dictate your day. Take a breath. Take a break.  Get some rest. Keep fighting to make today the best day possible.

You have been chosen to walk this path. It is one filled with heartbreak, disappointment, and setbacks. Walking the path of someone who is chronically ill is a challenge to say the very least. Being sick has most likely disrupted your flawless rhythm with life. It has stopped you dead in your tracks. Your illness has tried to toss your dreams out the window.

Though this path is difficult, I assure you there is a lot of beauty to be discovered. Sure life is not what it used to be, but the song you sing is just as beautiful. There is hope, joy, love, laughter, and life to be found on this path. You will be able to recreate your wonderful dreams. You are still you, despite your illness. You are an amazing and beautiful person with a flawless story and a huge purpose.

    There will be days that you become overwhelmed and feel completely alone. Your feelings are understandable, however, I promise you, you do not walk alone on this path. There are people who care about you, people who understand how difficult the journey is, and people who want to support you.

I am proud of all you have accomplished. I know you will thrive today. This week will be lovely simply because it is the only choice. While you don’t need to be positive all the time you need to take baby steps forward. You are doing amazing. Raise your coffee (or tea) to a great week warrior!

Encouragement for You

 

Blessings are all around you though at times they might be hard to see. The fact that you woke up this beautiful morning is a blessing. You are a fighter with a sparkling and breathtaking personality. If you are able to walk on your own that is truly a blessing, but if you cannot and you have a walking device that is a blessing as well. Your senses are a blessing as well as all the amazing things your body accomplishes without you taking notice. Those that you hold dear to your heart are blessings so is every moment that you spend with them.

Not only have you received a great abundance of blessings but you have blessed other without even knowing it. You have been a blessing by welcoming a new person to your group of friends or your church. You have been a blessing by reaching out to a friend who was lonely. You were a blessing simply by being present and listening while someone was having a difficult time. Your life story and the story of how you have battled you illness has inspired many. It has given people hope, strength, courage, and peace. Many more people will be inspired by your story and blessed by your compassion. You have impacted more people than you are aware of, you matter to countless people more than you know.
Reflect on all the priceless blessings in your life and encourage someone in your life.

Six Months

Today is my six month anniversary from being admitted to the hospital where I fought for my life. In addition, it has been six months since I have been in urgent care or the ER. This is the longest time I have stayed out of the ER or urgent care in seven or eight years. I never thought I would be able to say that I stayed out of urgent care for so long. Things have slowed down with my health. During my last major flare up typically I had a doctors appointment, medical testing, infusion, or an urgent care trip at least once a week. It was time consuming and draining.  I feel extremely blessed and grateful to be where I am now. I am also grateful for the medical professionals who cared for me, helped me, and continue to be on my case.

Hitting rock bottom with my health at the hospital was daunting. I can vividly recall, a chatter box doctor going over my medical history and medications several times. Then explaining I shouldn’t be in pain and implying that I should be in much worse condition (not that a 10 on the pain scale is in good condition). No one enjoys hitting rock bottom, but it was a blessing and a turning point. Though there are many negatives associated with steroids, they saved my life. Now they are helping me get stronger and hopeful begin to live again. (Yes, I am tapering.) I know I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, being admitted to the hospital was a blessing.

It is mind blowing for me to be able to say I have not stepped foot in urgent care in six months. I am beyond excited. Today, I am celebrating this victory. My mom and I are spending sometime together. She has been my caregiver and source of support and strength so I am blessed to be able to spend the day with her.

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1.The illness I live with is: My main illness is Lupus. I have autoimmune and an additional half dozen.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2013
3. But I had symptoms since: Childhood.

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4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Not being able to be in the sun not being able to be on my feet for to long.
5. Most people assume: That I’m healthy, faking, or lazy. That I don’t do anything productive on a regular day.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Being dehydrated. Dizzy spells.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: Diagnosis Me
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My heating pad.
9. The hardest part about nights are: Getting to sleep & saying asleep.
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No rude comments, please) Currently about 15. I also do chemo, self-injections, once a week. Please no rude comments, but feel free to privately ask me about my treatment plan! =]

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11. Regarding alternative treatments I: I have tried a lot of different treatments. Currently in regards to alternative treatments I maintain a healthy diet, aroma therapy, and keep stress levels down. A lot of ‘natural’ treatments can be risky for my combination of illnesses.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I don’t prefer one over the other. Most days I my illnesses are 110% invisible. I have worn braces or used walking devices and some people are just as judgmental. You’re too young to use that.
13. Regarding working and career: It is difficult that I cannot work right now. I am a full time college student and patient.

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14. People would be surprised to know: I am busy despite my illness. I try to be transparent about it in hopes that others can open up about their illness. In no way am I looking for sympathy I want to encourage, support, and educate others.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: I need to rest and slow down.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Achieve a 4.0 GPA.

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17. The commercials about my illness: Ha. They are great… now only if the TV would play them…
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: I miss being normal. Doing normal activities like going out with friends, mission work, and being outside especially in the sun.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: Doing mission work and being outdoors for extended periods of time (AKA on a sunny day more than 5-10 minutes)
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Running a Facebook page, a blog, coloring, and crocheting.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Something outdoors, maybe visit the ocean…One day mission trip? So many possibilities!
22. My illness has taught me: To cherish every moment.

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23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: You don’t look sick.
24. But I love it when people: Listen. And are supportive.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: So many to choose from! I love, “The Lord will Fight for you, you need only to be still” Exodus 14:14

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26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: To educate themselves. Allow yourself to grieve and to adjust to Lupus. Learning to pace yourself is key. You will inspire so many people!
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How rude some people are, especially those in the medical field.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Spend time with me and being supportive. Don’t under estimate the power of a simple short conversation or a gentle hug.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Weekbecause: I feel obligated to share my story and assist others with chronic illness in any way possible. My hope is that others will be encouraged, learn, and find support through my openness. I am bursting with excitement for invisible illness awareness week. I hope you will join me in learning about invisible illnesses, celebrating those who have overcome obstacles their illness has presented, and sharing inspiring stories. Together we can put a stop to the assumptions of invisible illness. We can make invisible illness visible. https://chronicallyhopeful2014.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/invisible-illness-awareness-week/

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 30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Excited.

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My Invisible Fight

If you know me, you know I am chronically ill. My illness does not define who I am but it is a part of me. I look at as a trait not necessarily positive or negative. Like having brow hair, an oval face, or having dimples. My invisible fight. Words that empower. Words that inspire. Words that sum up my life over the past few years.

Without a doubt I have become a fighter, in this invisible fight. Few people know the details of my fight. Chronic illness is much more than what is seen on the surface. The battle is within. Falling apart only behind closed doors.

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I had many encounters with terrible doctors. No one took me seriously (I still struggle with this today). Doctors downplayed any concerns. My mom was my advocate, my voice. Growing up I was dangerously shy. If someone were to look at me crossed I would shrink back into my shell. Hearing my middle name released a waterfall of tears. Speaking up, was terrifying for me. Gradually I began to find my voice and become my own advocate. I have educated myself on treatment options, my illnesses, and everything medical that is relevant. I have learned that I know my body and my illnesses better than any doctor. After all I am the one who lives with it every moment of every day.  I fought to find my voice. My mom and I fought to find good doctors.

My health began to spin out of control in high school. It became evident that something was really wrong. Little by little new symptoms would develop. A new rash, unbearable pain, sun sensitivity, collapsing, weight loss, hair loss, and that was only the beginning. Medical testing became the norm of my life. Blood work that included more than thirty tubes of blood, MRIs, x-rays, GI studies, CATSCANS, scopes, EKGs, EEGS, and other medical tests that I cannot recall the names to. In addition, I had five operations in high school. The operations ranged from removing my tonsils to removing cysts to explority surgery.I thought I had hit rock bottom my junior year of high school, after an encounter with a medication that caused seizures. Little did I know rock bottom was much further down. Little did I know that I would long to go back to those high school years and deal with that pain and those symptoms.

I felt like the pause button has been hit one too many times. I have been home bound many times over the past six or so years. Every time play was hit and I began to recover, get stronger, and move forward pause would be hit yet again. It seems like each time my life is put on pause gets longer and finding the play button becomes more difficult. 

My invisible fight was taken to a new level in college first due to pluricy. Then to finding bloody urine that indicated a sever double kidney infection lasting four months. I was taken off my Lupus medication which gave Lupus permission to recklessly attack. I began seeing doctors every few days, had medical testing weekly, and became a regular at urgent care. I landed myself in the cardic unit last September. I continued to get worse. More testing. More doctors. More pain. Hopeless.

My symptoms shifted. My abdomen began to give me issues again. This time it was worse. Abdominal swelling to the point of looking at least six months pregnant was my newest symptom.  I began to question how much more my body could take. How many more days of intense pain that sent me to bed screaming and doubling over. I was taped. Giving in to the fight was tempting. No one had answers. No one knew what to do.

Things were terrible. Eating was difficult and staying hydrated was nearly impossible. The fatigue was thick yet my body wouldn’t surrender to sleep. I had to rest going up or down the stairs. Breathing was a chore. Shower a hazard. Daily tasks seemed like huge projects. Some days I couldn’t bend down to put on my own socks.

Finally it happened. This past April, I hit rock bottom. I could barely move. The pain and fatigue were more intense than I can describe. I was admitted to the hospital for ten days. https://chronicallyhopeful2014.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/hospitalization/

Looking back I believe that being admitted was the best thing for my health overall. I was at rock bottom. It was more difficult to keep moving forward than I can describe.

When I received the message on Chronically Hopeful inviting me to help and participate in Invisible Illness Awareness week I was shocked and over joyed. I firmly believe that sharing our invisible fight stories is vital. Someone had shared the fight song. I immediately connected with it and shortly after fell in love with the lyrics. I feel like that is where I am in my invisible fight, taking back my life. Taking back life after dramatic pauses is difficult. At times it is painfully slow. Progress seems invisible.  Taking back my life and continuing to fight is a daily decision and struggle. I am mastering a new balance act with my invisible fight and the rest of my life.

My invisible fight has probably been the most difficult fight of my life. I know it will continue to be a tough fight. It has caused me physical pain, heartbreak, taken me on an emotional roller coaster, played tug a war with my faith, caused me to lose friends, and lose much more. Yes, there are countless negative attributions of my invisible fight, but I am sincerely and deeply grateful to be in this fight. First of all I am grateful because I believe that God will use my invisible fight for his glory. Through my invisible fight I have matured as a person and as a Christian. I have learned so much. I have meet some of the most inspiring people. I have had the honor of running Chronically Hopeful and helping with the Invisible Illness Awareness Campaign. My prayer is that my invisible fight will be a testomy, inspiration, and blessing to others.

Weakness. Something every Spoonie goes to battle with. Silently, it attacks. Consuming every inch of your being.  Demolishing you; crushing you with horrendous pressure. Because of it you want to burrow as a rabiit does in a deep whole and sleep for a century. Some days, it is utterly unbearable. Despite all of this, you thrive daily. The average person will never endure the depth of your health combat. With grace and elegance you dance through your day. Continuing on is difficult, but you do so courageously. You do not take note of the strength you have. Strength through weakness. Strength through tears. Strength through every season of life. Anchor yourself in this stunning strength. The battle is brutal but you’ve got what it takes. Keep fighting. Crawl forward. It will be okay.

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Prednisone: Part Two

Prednisone: Part Two: My Experience

I have been off and on Prednisone for about a year and eight months. The majority of the time I was on a low doses, less than 20 mg. My first round was a two-week quick taper for pleurisy. I did amazing and felt great. The only down side was I was moody. I cried a lot and had anxiety.

I was put back on a low dose for Lupus. I experienced different side effects which included moodiness, moon face being a neat freak, and some insomnia. My doctor attempted to taper me, but at the time I had a sever kidney infection. Tapering off of Prednisone while flaring is not an easy task. I was later informed that Prednisone was the only thing that kept me out of the hospital. Though I was in Urgent Care every day to every few days for IV antibiotics. In addition to the lovely infection that made itself at home in both of my kidneys, I also had a surplus of kidney stones.

Some doctors enjoy playing the lets diagnose you again game, which for the record I am not a fan of. I was taken off all of my medication and my body went hay wire. After a few weeks I tried to get in to see my doctor but was denied an appointment. A Fibro doctor I had been seeing, who ruled out Fibro, helped me get in with a new doctor. I was diagnosed for the eighth time with Lupus. Along with my other Lupus medication I began a low dose of Prednisone and Benlysta. My doctor attempted to trapper me, but my body thew a fit every time. I was able to get down to five mg.

In the hospital the doctors tried every medication they could think of. When nothing helped they began discussing the possibility of increasing the Prednisone. After days of no improvement, many debates among the doctors, and discussions I was put on 60 mg of Prednisone. The relief was almost immediate. The one doctor was shocked how well and quickly my body responded. The plan was to do a five mg taper for a month then follow-up with the gastro.

I had gotten down to about 50 mg, with no additional Lupus meds other than Plaquenil. I woke up a Monday morning at four am. My pain was intense, close to breaking the pain scale. I tried to use the bathroom, bending was terrible. I felt like my keens were going to break from the amount of pressure and pain. I tried icy hot and triger balm. I attempted to lay back down, but couldn’t. It hurt to sit just as much. The pain in my joints and abdomen was terrible beyond words. Around six am I went to my mom, I couldn’t breathe the pain was so intense. I called the on call doctor who was no help at all. Hours later after a few more phone calls I was fit into the doctors schedule. She increased my Prednisone to 60 mg.

It’s been about a month. This is the longest I have been on this high of a dose. I still have difficult days but the pain has greatly improved. My moon face seems to grow daily. It’s gone from assisting me in looking healthy to, “What  happened to your face?”. Yes people do ask that. I have gained weight. Though now I am close to what I should t I am self conscious about the weight gain. That probably sounds weird. I have grown accustom to being under weight. I do have some insomnia and weakness, I would love to blame it on the Prednisone, but I am not convinced it is the Prednisone. Overall, my body responds well to Prednisone, almost too well. I am extremely grateful for the relief and assistance it provides. I look forward to getting off of Prednisone. However, I also dread tapering. Personally, I believe it will go much smoother if my treatment plan is tweaked.

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Share your experience with Prednisone.

Stomach Flares & Food Battles

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I have struggled with eating, due to my stomach for years. I found out I have an allergy to dairy at nine years old. Adjusting to that was a challenge because I loved dairy, but I adjusted fairly well. Growing up I was always on the thin side. Not under weight, just thin, until I hit high school. It is hard to remember if my stomach issues began again Freshman or Sophomore year. My health declined in high school, it is difficult to recall which symptom began when.

I was never a big eater but I ate enough. Then I began having difficulty eating. I would live in the bathroom from eating. I could not pin point one group of food though. It was food in general. In the beginning the stomach flare ups were every few months. Then the flare ups got closer and closer together and the pain became more sever. Before Prednisone, the flare ups began to scare me a bit. I was under weight. I could not believe my eyes when I saw my own picture… I looked like a skeleton. I am a tall girl, 5’8” to be exact. If I was shorter weighing 100 pounds wouldn’t be so bad. I knew that losing weight was dangerous at that point. I did everything in my power to maintain my weight. I tried eating every few hours and included high calorie things in my diet. It was a battle to maintain my weight.  When I began my relationship with Prednisone, I continued losing weight. Now on 60 mg I gained a couple of pounds, mainly moon face.

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In the beginning I thought I had IBS. As time flowed by, I knew it wasn’t IBS. My symptoms got drastically worst last year. Going to the bathroom 30 times a day and having bloody stool. The Gastro I saw order the wrong tests and offered no insight. I felt hopeless with my abdominal issues. The intense pain and stomach flares continued. I knew there was something wrong. I never fit nicely into diagnostic criteria. If I had a penny every time I heard, “You are complicated,” You are different,” Well I’ve never seen a case like this before,” or “I have no idea,” I would be rich or at least have enough money to buy all my college text books. Being unique medically is frustrating. No one wants to be one in a million medically,  but with some of my stuff I am. I had previously seen a Gastro who I loved, however going back was not an option. He wanted to help me but the office did not have the equipment or advanced testing ability.

I was frustrated and irritated with Gastros. I coped the best I could with the flares. About six months ago I began having extreme abdominal swelling. It was not bloating. I  would get so swollen that I looked at least six months pregnant. This was a red flag. I was advised by several doctors to go back to Gastro. Reluctantly I did so. The doctor told me I have IBS, ran a breath test, and offered no treatment plan or advice. This was not the outcome I had hoped for.

A few days before getting admitted to the hospital I suspected a stomach flare up. When you feel a flare coming on you always hope and pray that your wrong and it was a false alarm. But sadly I know my body too well. When I suspect something 99% of the time I am right. Which is a blessing and a curse.

In the ER, the day I got admitted, sure enough a stomach flare hit and it hit hard. I am blessed that they admitted me. I don’t know how I would have coped with that stomach flare at home. Fluids intravenously are a life saver! They are truly under estimated. If you follow my blog or Chronically Hopeful on FB you know how the story goes, I got diagnosed in the hospital with IBD. Part of the reason for my ulcerative colitis is lack of blood flow to my intestines. Some blame this completed on Lupus. Me? I believe it is a lovely combination of Lupus and POTS.

The picture at the top of this post is exactly how I feel, “Look at all this food, I can’t eat.” I saw a  dietitian in the hospital. She was nice, but honestly not helpful. No one has been much help when it comes to my diet. They tell me everything I can’t eat but don’t give any suggestions of what to eat. Actually one of the doctors in the hospital told me that they weren’t considered about me eating, it wasn’t a priority. No offense but I think (especially with POTS) that eating is important.

There are a handful of foods that are my ‘safe’ foods. Eating is a challenge. I am not allowed to have fiber, whole grains, or dairy. I need to limit protein.  I get frustrated often when I need to eat, because of the simple fact I don’t know what to eat. The healthy foods I enjoyed eating are now off-limits like salad. I have been trying the past few years to improve my diet, eating less processed foods more fruit and vegetables. Now I can’t do that. A lot of vegetables are too hash on my stomach because of the ulcers. Sometimes I feel like eating but I am hardly ever truly hungry. I eat because I know I need to, my body needs food.

Trying a new food is a game. The doctor told me to try stuff and if you have intense pain and live in the bathroom don’t eat it again. I try to reintroduce foods one at a time every other day to every few days. This way I know if a particular food bothers me and I am not completely miserable (hopefully). I have to admit, at times I eat stuff I know will make my stomach hurt because I don’t know what else to eat. Prednisone cravings do not help.

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Today, I tried something new and I regret it. I was annoyed because I was feeling pretty good until I ate lunch. Good days have been hard to come by. So when I have a decent day I love to take full advantage of it. Right now, eating something that upsets my system not only gives me a stomach ace but a back ace and severe weakness.

Last week I followed up with a Gastro that works with the Gastro I saw in the hospital. Sadly I had to switch due to the doctor not taking my insurance. Thankfully I ran into the Gastro I had in the hospital and he will be speaking with the new one. I feel much better about things this way. In a week I am going back to the OR for an upper endoscopy. Hopefully, after this I can stay out of the OR for a bit. I am not expecting them to find much, due to the fact I am on a lot of Prednisone. I know what to expect, this will be my third upper endoscopy.

Of course I am grateful for decent moments and days. I am hoping one of these flares will calm down soon. Hope you are doing well. Wishing you pain-free days, filled with blessings. Sending spoons, prayers, and hugs ❤