Great Spoonie Volgs

YouTube is an interesting place. Allowing for entertainment, vlogging, and education. I never used Youtube much until I went away to college and needed to force myself to rest. Of course,  finding tips for living with a chronic illness and encouragement was a plus.

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Kelly Patricia is one of my favorite YouTubers and a huge inspiration. Kelly has a gift for encouraging others. She also has amazing faith. Kelly has an interesting mix of chronic illnesses and is still partly undiagnosed. Her story is extremely relatable, especially with the struggle of finding decent doctors. Some of her illnesses include IBD, Endometriosis, and Arthritis.

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Lets Talk IBD

Maggie has a great channel featuring Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She has a J-pouch and information on doing feeding tubs as well as coping tips for life with a chronic illness.

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Inflamed and Untamed

Sarah also has IBD and is an excellent advocate. She is blunt. She has battled many surgeries, hospital visits, and flares. She has partnered with the Chrons and Colitis Foundation. She has been on multiple IBD discussion panels and has a lot of knowledge about IBD.

 

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1 in 5,000

We always knew I was different. Completely aware I was rare. Everyone has always made jokes about it here and there due to the silliness of it all. But it wasn’t until recently that it was discovered that I am one in 5,000-8,000 people rare. More rare than just a few extra parts. More rare than a strange combination of chronic illnesses.

This journey officially began this past fall with a bleeding flare. I was bleeding easily while on my normal steroid dose. It was irritating me enough to mention it to my doctor. After extensive research and dissing it all we agreed that EDS was a possibility. I was advised to see a geneticist. A three-month wait and a two-hour appointment appeared to be yet another dead end. The doctor was not educated enough in each type of EDS to accurately diagnose EDS. While I knew an EDS diagnose would not change my treatment plan I was extremely frustrated. I was left with no answers to my bleeding which was progressing and a bunch of symptoms that did not fit into a symptom list of any of my current illnesses.

While I knew an EDS diagnose would not change my treatment plan I was extremely frustrated. I was left with no answers to my bleeding which was progressing and a bunch of symptoms that did not fit into a symptom list of any of my current illnesses. (*Note there is still question if EDS is present).

I moved on as we all do when no answers are clear. I had a voicemail when I returned home one afternoon. Neither my mom nor I recognized the doctor’s name left for me, so I concluded they had the wrong person. I returned the phone call innocently without much thought. Little did I know it would change my life.

I was told I have HHT. This is the reason my POTS is out of control. Due to my migraines, I would need a brain MRI because they highly suspect that there is something linked to this illness present. Additionally, I would need testing on my heart. Just like that, she wished me a good day and the phone call was over.

I had three initials because the person I spoke with did not know how to pronounce the name. Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. Locating a description was a challenge. Gaining an understanding of the big picture of how this illness had been affecting my body for twenty-three years felt impossible.

“HHT is a hereditary disorder that is characterized by abnormal blood vessels. A person with HHT has a tendency to form blood vessels that lack normal capillaries between an artery and vein. This means that arterial blood under high pressure flows directly into a vein without first having to squeeze through very small capillaries. This place where an artery is connected directly to a vein tends to be a fragile site that can rupture and bleed.

An abnormality that involves a larger blood vessel is called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Some people with HHT will also have AVMs in one or more organs. AVMs occurring in the lungs and brain and can lead to serious complications. Everyone with HHT should undergo screening for lung and brain AVMs because if these are detected, they can be treated. The HHT Foundation recommends that all patients and families with HHT be assessed at an HHT Treatment Center for proper screening and treatment.”

From my reading, I learned that at least three genes are mutated in this disorder. There are far more questions than answers as there are with most rare diseases.One article reported less than a dozen doctors who specialize in this disease in America.

Plenty of testing needs to be conducted to give them a full picture of how this is affecting my body. So far a special hearing test/ doctor appointment is set up.  We are waiting to see what heart tests should be run and how often. Lastly, a brain MRI will need to be approved by the insurance. This is half of my medical mess at the moment.

Coping With a Rare Disease:

I have coped with chronic illness by learning as much as possible, then educating others. However, it is impossible for me to gather the amount of information I desire because it simply does not exist. Therefore, my coping methods need to be adjusted. I am confident that connecting with the rare disease community will provide comfort for me. Furthermore, I am asking as many questions as I can come up with for my medical team and setting realistic expectations because they are learning with me.

Each illness comes with a set of emotional struggles. It is tempting to go numb but feeling the emotions is an important step in grieving. Each illness seems to shape our character. I am taking HHT along with all my illnesses one hour at a time with a smile and plenty of uncertain tears.

June is HHT Awareness month. “Light your candle with us on June 23rd – Global HHT Awareness Day – to honor those with HHT who bring light to the world.”

Bittersweet Birthday

I had overheard people saying that old age caused pain. So, by the time I had chronic pain, about nine years old I thought it was I just a part of the aging process. At the same time, I wondered how everyone else was coping so well with the pain and mine was taking over. I felt extremely guilty for missing an excessive amount of school. It took some time for me to understand that children should not be in intense pain or pain all the time. Those people were indeed referring to elderly people. Who knew?

From a fairly young age, I associated growing up with having more pain. I am thankful to be alive. Especially in light of a handful of times, it was questionable if I would make it. Even so, my birthday is a little difficult emotionally.

It’s not just the physical pain. I tend to feel more isolated around my birthday. This is the time I notice that indeed I am not a typical young adult. The time I need to grieve the things I can no longer do. Time to grieve all I am missing out on.

The social clock is ticking obnoxiously. I can just hear people saying, “She is nearly twenty-three years old. She should be out on her own, not living at home.” It is difficult for me to view my accomplishments. My brain finds it natural to highlight the struggles during certain seasons. Society, as we know, has too many unneeded options. I have learned to allow comments to roll off my back, but sometimes it has a way of getting under my skin.

Furthermore, I have found that the older I have become, my memory has faded. The brain fog is thick. I was devastated when this began to happen. Heartbroken as the memories of my furry friend slipped out of my grip.

It is okay to struggle with holidays or your birthday as someone with a chronic illness. It is okay to have fears. It is okay to not be okay. As long as you do not give up. Even when you don’t feel like it, hold onto hope. Crawl forward, even if you are slower than a snail, you are still making progress.

Even though it is emotional, there is a part of me that looks forward to my birthday. I am deeply blessed to have people in my life who support me and love me. I am thankful for days of simple joy and laughter. The Lord has allowed me to thrive in the midst of great adversity.

“For You shaped me, inside and outYou knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful, I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You. As I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.You see all things; You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them! How grand in scope! How many in number!” Psalm 139:13-17 The Voice Translation 

When Chronic Pain and Illness Take Everything Away: How to Mourn Our Losses

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When Chronic Pain and Illness Take Everything Away: How to Mourn Our Losses is a practical book for anyone who battles a chronic illness or chronic pain. Esther is an inspirational individual who has thrived in many aspects of life despite chronic illness, without a doubt she is a role model. Reaching out as a compassionate friend she gently teaches her readers about the grieving process and coping with chronic illness and chronic pain. She is transparent with her faith journey as well as her struggles and victories.

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Grief is an overwhelming aspect of chronic illness that threatens to take over. It breaks a person down. Those facing chronic illness and chronic pain grieve the person he or she was before the pain, their past, broken relationships, shattered dreams, and the person they had hoped to become. Chronic illness alters every element of life. At times, with the pain and additional symptoms, those with chronic illness don’t want to deal with the emotions. However, emotions are healthy and a part of life.

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Personally, the emotions tend to hit me like a ton of bricks in a delayed reaction. Grief with chronic illness was no different. I get consumed with daily life not processing what I am going through on an emotional level. Maybe you can relate. Once the emotions hit it is overwhelming. I officially got my diagnosis in my late adolescent years. I took a season to grieve all the things I missed out on like prom and mission trips I had planned out. That season I grieved the friends I lost.

I have worked through a lot of the grief but there is still some work to be done. Support is essential when working through it. This book provides a positive outlet for grief. One of my favorite things is that there are writing prompts to assist the reader in constructively working through emotions.

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Amazon description: “Chronic pain, illness, and disability take so much away. Sometimes it seems as though they take everything we have ever loved and held dear.

Our physical abilities and our jobs. Our current passions and future dreams. Our finances and our friends. Our sense of community and our ability to engage the world in ways we could before.

Chronic pain takes away our sense of self and who we always thought ourselves to be. How in the world are we supposed to deal with this fact?”

Make sure to pre-order your book here! In addition, feel free to drop by Esther’s blog: Life in Slow Motion.

This Is Chronic Illness

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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/

Five C’s of Coping with Stress

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Stress comes with chronic illness.  Get one chronic illness and receive more stress than you dream possible at no extra cost! Not the type of deal I was hoping to receive. We all know that stress is bad for us, especially for our illnesses though it is nearly impossible to avoid. Like pesky mosquito on a summer day.

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There is stress at work. Stress at school. Stress at the doctors, the pharmacy, with the insurance company, and stress from the endless testing. There is stress at home when the kids constantly bicker. Stress from the medications. Stress from the endless bills. Stress from the pain. There is no way to just avoid stress. Therefore we need to cope with it and this is not always an easy task.

The five Cs of Coping with Chronic illness Stress: a short guide.

Cry

I have always been an emotional girl. Look at me the wrong way and I’ll start to ball my eyes out. Crying is a wonderful and healthy way to cope with stress. Releasing the tears can help the body work through stress and regulate various levels in the brain. A good deep cry can assist in coping with stress.

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Cuddle

Who doesn’t love to cuddle?!? I mean seriously, what is more comforting then grabbing your furry friend and spending some quality cuddle time? Cuddles and hugs come with extra health benefits besides being awesome for stress like lowering blood pressure.

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Coloring

Yes, color. Your favorite childhood pass time is not only acceptable in adulthood but it is recommended and healthy. “When coloring, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres, says psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala. “The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress (huffingtonpost).” The bottom line? Coloring is a creative way to combat stress.

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Chatter

Call up a close friend and vent away. Letting it all out helps.

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Change

A change in scenery can make a difference. If you are able go for a walk, go over to a friends house, or to your favorite coffee shop.  Go some where different and engage in a different activity.

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Share how you cope with stress.