Dysautonomia Awareness

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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.

POTS Awareness Video

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Everything But The Kitchen Sink

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.

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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.

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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. hopefulspoonie@gmail.com

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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Stillness In the Invisible Fight

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

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

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

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

How do you find stillness in the invisible fight?

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Dear Caregiver,

You have an important role in the invisible fight. You acquired a unique view of invisible illness. You provide support, assist with daily living tasks, and push us to be the best person we can be. You push us to keep fighting providing hope when we want to give up. You have accompanied us to countless doctors appointments, medical testing, and procedures. When we couldn’t find the words, you were our voice. A priceless advocate. You have seen us at our worst and our best. You help sort though medications and bills. You listen to our frustrations, fears, and ambitions.  You laugh at our medical jokes. You encourage us to embrace this new season of life and the person that we are becoming.

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Honestly, you could never be paid enough for your efforts. Thank you does seem to express enough gratitude. We notice all the little things. We appreciate all your effort, all that you have done, your support, and we appreciate you. You are a warrior; a hero. You demonstrate unthinkable strength. You are an inspiration. Thank you for all you do!

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But You Don’t Look Sick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Invisible Illness Awareness Week

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There is more than meets the eye, don’t judge a book by its cover. Sayings we can spit out weightlessly in a moment notice. Our brains have memorized the words yet in many situations do not comprehend the depth of these words. Riding through the motions of life we jump to various conclusions based merely on what our eyes rely to us. We are quick to jump to conclusions and far too judgmental.

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Invisible illness awareness week is essential. “But you don’t look sick” is one of the most over used phrases in the Spoonie world. Our outward appearance does not clearly display the war raging inside our bodies. Many individuals with chronic illnesses lose their friends, are treated poorly by family members, and receive rude comments from strangers. There is a lack of understanding and a lack of empathy. People make assumptions based on appearance and many times are unwilling to listen to what is really going on with an individual who is ill.

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Invisible illness awareness week is a campaign founded by Lisa Copen over ten years ago. Lisa is the inspirational founder of Rest Ministries.  Invisible illness awareness week empowers those who live daily with a chronic illness.  Additionally it raises awareness for countless invisible illnesses. “96% of chronic illnesses are invisible.” This campaign strives to make the invisible…visible. While an individual might not see our illness that does not make it any less real. It is very real. A battle that must be fought without ceasing.

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My heart is heavy with passion for the invisible fight. Raising awareness for chronic illness is vital to me. I believe that educating people about chronic illness is essential. Knowledge is power. Educating people who don’t have illnesses enhances their empathy for those who battle chronic illness daily.

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The campaign and raising awareness in general impacts those who are chronically ill as well. It is empowering. It also encourages those who are chronically ill to keep fighting. Raising awareness reminds people that they are not alone, they are not the only one struggling with illness and the challenges it presents.

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.

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This year invisible illness awareness week is September 28th – October 4th. The theme is My Invisible Fight. I will be posting invisible illness awareness things here and on my facebook page Chronically Hopeful through out the month.

Join us on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/InvisibleIllnessWeek/timeline

https://www.facebook.com/chronicallyhopeful17?ref=hl

There are many effortless ways to get involved in invisible illness awareness week. Check out and like both the invisible illness week and chronically hopeful facebook pages. There will be a wealth of resources on each page daily. Uplifting pictures will be shared, beautiful stories, and articles. There will also be online conferences throughout the week.

http://invisibleillnessweek.com/

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