Welcome December

I adore the Christmas season, it is absolutely magical. Beauty overflows all around from stunning lights to warm smiles to traditions and so much more. Christmas carols sweetly fill the air. The Christmas season brings joy as it reassures us gently that things will be okay. It helps us connect with our inner child reminding us of the wonderful Christmas memories. At the same time, it encourages us to move forward filling us with a hope like no other. It unites us with those we hold dear in our hearts. I cherish every aspect of Christmas.

Unfortunately chronic illness and the stressful demands that go with it does not take a holiday. The doctors appointments, treatment, and testing still must be done. Chronic illness tends to complicate things and get in the way of our joy during this season. It is easy to lose focus of the beauty in this season when we are consumed with emotion and pain. When the world seems to be caving in on us and everything seems to be falling apart. Chronic illness isolates us. We feel the effects more so this time of year. Finding a balance between doing things and resting becomes more difficult. For some, this season is depressing, reminding them of all they cannot do.

I hope you are able to take the time to rest and reflect this holiday season. Take to reflect about all the ways you have grown as an individual, all you have accomplished, all the blessings in your life, and everything you have overcome the past few months. You, my friend, have come so far. I am proud of you. You deserve to take time for yourself this busy season. You are an inspiration. Your story is breathtaking and laced with beauty along with encouragement it will change lives. I pray your strength is renewed. The Lord will bless you greatly this season, be open to all he has to offer for you.

I pray you would have a flare free Christmas season. I hope that despite your pain you are able to enjoy this season of blessing. Cherish every moment with those you hold dear to your heart. Hold onto the Christmas spirit. I pray that this season would bless you with little to no pain, plenty of spoons, memories, joy, and love. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

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Good Night Encouragement

Today was far from perfect, never the less it was a blessing. You did your best which is all anyone can expect. Every day you are faced with many obstacles, which you gracefully overcome with determination. You might feel like you are dragging your body through the day like you are going to collapse from all the pain. Yet every day you accomplish so much.  You are doing an amazing job! You might not be where you want to be and that is okay, you will get there in time. You are doing a fantastic job where you are in life right now. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Be grateful and proud of the small accomplishments.

Be compassionate to yourself tonight. Take a few moments to reflect on all your amazing accomplishments and blessings. Do something nice to recover from this long day, take some me time. You need to be nice to yourself it not only benefits you but also those around you.

You are an inspiration and a blessing to many people my friend. Your friendship is priceless and very precious. Everyone you encounter is blessed by you. Bless by your smile or your kind words. The strength you display is yet another blessing to others. Inspiring them to be strong in the trials they face. You bless many people daily.

I pray that the Lord would be with you this evening as you unwind and prepare for bed. I pray that you would fall asleep quickly, stay asleep through the night, dream sweetly, and wake up with a lot of spoons.

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. ❤

Psalms Bible Study

    This summer I am leading a super laid-back women’s online Bible study. We are reading one Psalm a week during the summer. We would be honored if you dropped by now and then or read through this life changing book with us. This post will focus on a brief introduction to the book of Psalm. Additionally, there will be a little on chapter one.

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Introduction to The Book of Psalm

A place of comfort. A refuge of strength with a ray of hope. Words alive to be cherished and written on the heart. The book of Psalm. Regardless of how one feels or where there are in their live story or how mature they are as a Christan, there is a relatable Psalm. Truly a Psalm for everyone.

The history of Psalm is richly complex over the course of more than 800 years. The outline of what occurred historically around various Palms is interesting rhythm to check it out here. I want to point out a few of these events behind this book of the Bible. For example, David & Goliath, During the Babylonish captivity, On the rebuilding of the temple, and During the war with Absalom.

Furthermore, God used numerous individuals. A few authors include David, Moses, Asaph, Solomon, and others. In addition, there are orphan Psalms which we do not know who wrote them.

The book of Psalm is broken down into five books. The order is as follows: Book 1 (Psalms 1–41), Book 2 (42–72), Book 3 (73–89), Book 4 (90–106), and Book 5 (107–150). Needless to say, this is the longest book of the Bible.

How is a Psalm defined? It is a poem, song, act of worship, prayer, and praise. The Psalm embodies experience, expression, and emotion. Read more in depth about this outline here. The Psalms tend to fall into these genres hymn, lament, thanksgiving, confidence, Remembrance, wisdom, and kingship.

A book could be written on the purpose of this book of the Bible, in opening Matthew Henry shares the following:

To assist the exercises of natural religion, and to kindle in the souls of men those devout affections which we owe to God as our Creator, owner, ruler, and benefactor. The book of Job helps to prove our first principles of the divine perfections and providence; but this helps to improve them in prayers and praises, and professions of desire towards him, dependence on him, and an entire devotedness and resignation to him. Other parts of scripture show that God is infinitely above man, and his sovereign Lord; but this shows us that he may, notwithstanding, be conversed with by us sinful worms of the earth; and there are ways in which, if it be not our own fault, we may keep up communion with him in all the various conditions of human life.

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Now, let’s take a look at Psalm chapter one (The Voice Translation), which was written by King David:

God’s blessings follow you and await you at every turn:
when you don’t follow the advice of those who delight in wicked schemes,
When you avoid sin’s highway,
when judgment and sarcasm beckon you, but you refuse.
 For you, the Eternal’s Word is your happiness.
It is your focus—from dusk to dawn.
You are like a tree,
planted by flowing, cool streams of water that never run dry.
Your fruit ripens in its time;
your leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun.
No matter what you do, you prosper.

 For those who focus on sin, the story is different.
They are like the fallen husk of wheat, tossed by an open wind, left deserted and alone.
In the end, the wicked will fall in judgment;
the guilty will be separated from the innocent.
 Their road suddenly will end in death,
yet the journey of the righteous has been charted by the Eternal.

At times, it seems like a tragedy with a side of heartbreak is around each bend. With what seemly endless negativity acknowledging the blessings around each turn can seem impossible. The negativity makes our view blurry. Take a few minutes to acknowledge the blessings in your life. Consider the blessings that you don’t generally “count”.

While studying the Bible or being connected with God in prayer avoiding sin can sound like a piece of cake. Yet once back into the world it is evident that this is not easy. Falling into sin can be second nature. We can only avoid sins highway and walk in the way of the righteous is only possible through the strength of Jesus.

My prayer is that each person reading this will become more rooted in Christ in this season of life. That you would drink so deeply and often of the Father’s Word that you would not run dry. Soaking up His goodness. I am confident that all you do within God’s will, will prosper beyond your wildest dreams. Your journey righteous sister has been charted compassionately by the Eternal.

Main points of this Psalm

  • The blessedness of the righteous man (1-3)
  • The desperation of the wicked (4-5)
  • A final contrast between their two ways (6)

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Lord,

All honor, glory, and praise belong to Your holy name. In Your name mountains are moved and seas parted. You are on the move in Mighty ways. Nature reflects Your beauty. The earth sings Your praises. You are beyond my understanding.

I am surrounded by your blessings no matter where I turn day or night. Freely You have lavished Your love on me. I praise Your name for who You are.

I am undeserving of all Your goodness. Give me the strength to battle my flesh and avoid sins highway. Let me resist sin in the powerful name of Jesus.

Your Word provides me with strength, guidance, and joy. Allow me to remain focused from dawn to dusk on Your precious Word. May I write on my heart. May my thoughts be consumed with You. Holy Spirit move within me. Let me be firmly planted in You. Let me prosper in Your name. Allow me to serve You and bring glory to Your name.

Amen

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I want to invite you, sweet friend to continue to dig into Psalm chapter one with me. I pray that you will sincerely cherish these living and active words. I am confident that the Lord will work within you during your time in the books of Psalm. I am excited to give you free print out a which will hopefully provide guidance as you study the Word of God. Please download, print, and share.  

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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!

Debbie to the Rescue: Life with a Service Dog

Please give a warm welcome to Sammi who is an inspiration to everyone she encounters. A while back I posted on Chronically Hopeful asking if anyone with a service dog would share a little bit of their story. I am honored that Sammi said she would share because through those weeks I have had the honor of chatting with her which is something I cherish. I know her story will deeply touch you!
Every morning when I open my eyes I’m greeted by blurry vision, the inability to hear, and the dread of what’s going to hurt first today. In addition to all of those negative things, I also wake up to a little wet nose attached to a tiny yellow lab telling me mom it’s time to get up I’m hungry! I roll over and feel around for my glasses but because of that little ball of energy I have waking me up, I don’t need to reach for my hearing aids. That pup is my ears, my lifeline, my hearing dog that I truly don’t know how I lived with before I got her.

I was born with Stickler Syndrome, a primarily genetic collagen deficiency. I say primarily because I’m one of the lucky few to be the first generation with this syndrome in my family. Here is the short answer to those who don’t know what it is(which is 99% of the people I meet): Stickler Syndrome is a progressive connective tissue disorder that affects my hearing, vision, and joints.  To elaborate a bit more – I am severely nearsighted, at very high risk of retinal detachment(which I have thankfully avoided so far), I lack collagen in my joints which results in widespread, daily, chronic pain that I honestly don’t know what’s going to hurt day to day. Finally I have moderate/severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss that can progress at any time.

Now that there is a bit of a backstory to me more about my service dog, Debbie. I started research into obtaining a service dog 6-7 years ago when I was about 18 and took several years debating if it was a good idea for me. I worried if I was disabled enough to qualify, would one truly help me, could I care for a dog myself, so many things discouraged me from applying for several years. Finally, at 21 I really took a good look at my life and one thing that really struck me was I was truly scared to be alone. My hearing loss made being anywhere without someone with me something I dreaded. I may be able to hear fairly well with my hearing aids in but only if the person is looking at me and I’m not distracted. I have no sound directional awareness, I may hear someone call me, or a car beep or an emergency vehicle coming but where that noise comes from is what I can’t figure out and that can be dangerous. In my research, I found NEADS, based in Princeton, MA. Once I came across their site I knew I found who I was looking for and I hoped they could help me.

A hearing dog has the ability to quite literally be ears that actually work for the handler.  Debbie alerts me to everything a person with normal hearing may take for granted that they can hear. She tells me when someone is trying to get my attention when a car is coming up behind me, when the fire alarm goes off, when I drop my keys and don’t hear it, and many other ways.  Due to my chronic pain, Debbie was also continued with some basic assistance dog work as well as her hearing dog work. She is able to pick up my debit card/money or my cell phone if I drop it, or press the handicap door button if needed. There are not many things she can’t do!!

NEADS is truly an amazing organization from the second I submitted my application and still through today, 2 1/2 years after I brought Debbie home. What truly drew me to them was that they provide service dogs to veterans and victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing for no charge at all. Being from Boston the fact that they helped the victims of that atrocious crime really stuck with me and I knew that they were an organization I could and would love. They also use local prisons to help train the puppies that go through the program, and as part of team training on campus, we have the option to formally meet the inmate handler. This opportunity was truly amazing and I’m so proud to have a dog from this program, especially after seeing the pride and joy all of the inmates expressed when I met them.

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The process I went through:

  1. 12-15 page application submitted online, which detailed what my need was, medical documentation that I had the disability I claimed, and character letters from someone who knew me.
  2. After my application was accepted I had to go to the NEADS campus for an in-person interview that was several hours long. We went over my original application and what my needs truly were. I was officially accepted that day and the wait began.
  3. I received an email detailing who my dog would be and to set up what two weeks I could come to the campus to do team training.
  4. In person, team training was two weeks long. I lived on campus for that time with three other women who also were training with their new service dogs. We had group training every day and by midweek had the dogs full time. Having those other three women was truly amazing we are still all friends today and they are the reason I was able to get through my first year with Debbie as easily as I did.
  5. The final step in this process is graduation! NEADS holds a formal graduation for all successful teams 2 times a year. While Debbie was already working for me having graduation as an official way to say yes we can do this is priceless.

Having a service dog is not perfect, there are days that Debbie has an off day – she is a dog after all! People still do not understand that a young, seemingly healthy (to them) woman who is not blind may need a service dog for another reason. The laws have not caught up to the new craze to claim your pet is a working dog and there are stores that I am not comfortable going into alone just Debbie and me because fake service dogs are not told to leave. But despite all of these negatives making the choice to get Debbie has been the best one I’ve ever made. I can now confidently go out alone, be home alone and move out on my own and feel safe. I know that I will ALWAYS be told when someone is at the door when the fire alarm is going off when a car is coming up behind me if someone is trying to talk to me. Debbie truly is ears that actually work for me and I am beyond thankful for her and the life she has given me!

Preparing For A PICC Line

I have been doing Saline for POTS for about a month now. The improvements have been astonishing to everyone. While getting treatment twice a week I was not falling, improved heart rate improved blood pressure, and less pain (most times) with passing stones. Being able to shower and not get dizzy is something that is hard to put into words. Simply amazing.

We are attempting to taper the steroids a little. However, it is quickly becoming apparent that my body is not okay with this move. The pain and fatigue are expected. In addition, my blood pressure is regularly crashing. My POTS doctor put an immediate pause on the tapper to avoid me being admitted to the hospital. We are now preparing to have a PICC line placed so that I can do fluids at home. I have gotten to the point with my POTS that I can become critically dangerous at any point. It’s not just a little low blood pressure but extremely dangerous low blood pressure (that refuses to respond to salt).

With my final week of school, I was only able to get to chronic care once this week. It was a good learning experience for everyone involved showing how well I respond to Saline. The combination of tapering and less Saline has been difficult.

The goal is to do this short term a few months, but it is a see how it goes type of a deal. We have opted for the PICC line mainly because of time frames (a Midline wouldn’t stay in as long and the doctor thinks the Port is too drastic). Additionally, it is easier for me to do things on my own in comparison to a Port.

“A PICC line is a thin, soft, long catheter (tube) that is inserted into a vein in your child’s arm, leg or neck. The tip of the catheter is positioned in a large vein that carries blood from the heart. The PICC line is used for long-term intravenous (IV) antibiotics, nutrition or medications, and for blood draws.” (chop.edu)

PICC lines can be used in many different illnesses such as Lymes, EDS, POTS, CF,  and IBD just to name a few. Others with chronic illness may use it to give antibiotics or to get TPN.

Many people find medical procedures intimidating. Here are my preparing for a PICC tips!

Educate Yourself: Your doctor will give you information but take the extra step. I would suggest reading three to ten articles from reliable sources. Read about how it is inserted and how to care for the line. Youtube also has some solid information.

How is the PICC inserted?

  • A specially trained nurse or doctor will use an ultrasound machine to find the veins in your upper arm.
  • Your arm will be cleaned and covered with a sterile cloth to prevent infection.
  • Medicine is used to numb the area where the PICC will be placed. The PICC will be inserted into a vein just above the bend of your elbow and guided into a large vein in your chest. Most patients feel little or no discomfort during this procedure.
  • Once the PICC is in place, it is held to your arm with special tape and covered with a sterile dressing.
  • A chest x-ray is taken afterwards to make sure the PICC is in the right place.
  • You will be able to bend your arm and use your arm just as you would without the PICC in place. my.clevelandclinic.org/

Connect With Someone: Find someone with a PICC line to connect with. If you are unsure where to start check out a Facebook support group. In addition, talk with a family member about it and at least one friend. Those you love can offer a unique perspective.

Supplies: There are some things that are included like the saline flush, your meds, and the tubing. I decided to invest in a PICC line cover to wear during the day. There are so many cute options these days! I got my cover from Sleek Sleeves on Amazon. I also invested in a shower cover which I am hoping works like a charm.

Additional Tid-Bit Tips: 

a1562040895_10.jpg get the PICC Line wet.

Know the signs of an infection/ know when to call the doctor

Find out if you have any restrictions with it

Know how to use it (A home nurse should stop by to give you a crash course)

Have a plan to infuse on the go if needed so that your not stuck at home if you feel well enough to go out

If you have a PICC line comment your tips!