Diagnosing Lupus

There wasn’t a defining moment or even chapter in my life pointing to when Lupus invaded my body.  The pain began at age six. I quickly learned how to fake well. Overall ignoring the pain. It was mentioned off and on through the years to my pediatrician. No one was persistent with any of my symptoms or complaints. My first severe flare up was at nine years old. I had back to back ‘viruses’ blamed for every intense symptom. I was put on homebound, unable to go to school. The older I got the sicker I got. The more intense the pain. The more symptoms appeared.

I longed for a diagnosis. For someone to take me seriously. I was told countless times I was too young to be in so much pain, too young for a chronic illness. The first rheumatologist I saw did no testing, yet placed me on a medication. At first, I was relieved and full of hope. That is until I began having an allergic reaction. The doctor insisted on increasing the medication. I began having psycho seizures and stopped taking the medication. I saw a few other rheumatologists. Everyone eagerly promises to get to the bottom of my case at the first appointment then quickly becomes discouraged telling me they are clueless or there is nothing wrong with me.

One day I was discussing my frustrations with my cousin. She asked me if I had been tested for Lupus. I had no clue what Lupus was, but I had not been tested for it. She advised I check out the Lupus Foundation of America. Which of course, I did that evening and I was in awe. This illness was a perfect fit. It described every wacky symptom I had. From that point forward I did research on Lupus and spoke with the foundation several times learning as much as possible.

My symptoms mirror a perfect textbook case. In the beginning of my case, I believe due to my age, my labs were not always positive. I have had some of the top doctors on my case all of who believe firmly I have Lupus, but the way my body functions is different from most people. I am not normal by any standards.  After a long battle, I got my diagnosis. As soon as I received it I asked for it in writing. I switched doctors due to going away to school then switched again due to getting to sick and coming home. I had a doctor take me off all my medication including Plaquenil. The doctor told me I just had Fibromyalgia. He sent me to a Fibro doctor claiming she was the best in the field and she would agree with him. Well, that backfired for him. She told me I was a Lupus patient and needed a better doctor. She quickly got me into the team of doctors I am with now.

I switched doctors due to going away to school then switched again due to getting to sick and coming home. I had a doctor take me off all my medication including Plaquenil. The doctor told me I just had Fibromyalgia. He sent me to a Fibro doctor claiming she was the best in the field and she would agree with him. Well, that backfired for him. She told me I was a Lupus patient and needed a better doctor. She quickly got me into the team of doctors I am with now. Though, we frequently become frustrated still with my case and have different options I love my team of doctors. Having good doctors is a true treasure. Knowing that they will listen, are trustworthy, and will try to help makes things slightly less stressful.

I came home a few weeks early from college my first semester with the plan of getting things under control and then going away again the following semester. I found out I had severe double pyelonephritis (kidney infection). It lasted a little over four months. My body has not been the same since the infection.

I thought knowing the name to the monster reeking havoc in my body would be my big break though, the end of my major struggles. I thought I would get my life back.

It is also a battle keeping a diagnosis. Medication makes labs look pretty than the doctor begins to overthink.It seems when blood tests are postive they are never positive enough. When additional test records something alarming it is brushed off to the side. It feels like a game. One I don’t want to play. My symptoms equal the classic Lupus textbook case, but my labs do not always reflect this.

Diagnosing any autoimmune disorder is a complex task. Even in the medical field, people are not educated enough about autoimmune diseases- especially when it comes to Lupus. This is one reason awareness months are vital. Not only do those who suffer with the illness get support and educated, but doctors have new chances to become educated as well as people not directly affected by this particular illness.

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Encouragement

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It is difficult when your illness dictates your life. When you are taped with no way out. Unable to live. Merely surviving one moment at a time. Hope seems light years away. Everything seems to crumble right before your eyes. Everyone has days when they break. It is okay to have break downs as long as you don’t give up. You have everything you need to overcome these struggles.

You are NOT alone. Others feel this way as well. It won’t be like this forever. Eventually you will be able to live life to the fullest again. We must hold on to this hope, for it gives us the strength to keep fighting. Keep your faith. Stay strong. Hold onto hope.  You have so much strength and courage. You accomplish amazing things on daily. Be proud of all you have overcome.

It’s a season for beauty and blessings. Your strong will provide strength and hope to countless people. There will be positive things that occur because of this difficult season in your life. God’s got this. Rest in his loving arms. Blessing are just around the corner. Be open too receive all the Lord has to offer. Gentle hugs spoonie warriors. Sending prayers and spoons.

Christmas Cookies

Baking is an enjoyable part of the Holiday season. I have been extremely spoiled, every season there is something homemade my mom makes for us from applesauce to pies to cookies to candy. I always enjoyed assisting her in baking, especially during the Christmas season. It has been difficult for me to bake on my own because of POTS and a lack of energy. I am going to share some cookie recipes with you. Some are spoonie friendly, others just taste good and are worth sharing.

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Low Spoon Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup of peanut butter

1 egg

1 cup of white sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350

Combine ingredients. Bake for about eight minutes

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Philly Cream Cheese Cookies

I simply love these cookies. They are different than the norm but festive and delicious.

Ingredients:

1 (8 ounce) package of Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup of softened butter

1 cup of powdered sugar

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon mint extract

Combine ingredients. Allow dough to chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 325. Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes about three dozen cookies.

Shortbread:

More of a classic type cookie. I love simple cookie recipes. They can allow those with chronic illness who are sensitive to take part in the cookies. I am not gluten-free but have a lot of abdominal issues and this cookie always sits well.

Preheat oven: 350

1 cup of butter

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of cornstarch

Being on your feet for too long is draining. I recommend sitting while making cookies. Using an electric mixer can help conserve energy as well. Take breaks in between, if needed. Rember there is nothing wrong with getting help baking or having someone bake for you 🙂

My family and I love this Gingerbread Cookie Recipe by Trisha Yearwood.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring
  • Nonstick cooking spray, for the baking sheets and rolling pin

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the cookies: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the shortening and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, vinegar, and egg and beat on high speed to blend thoroughly.

Sift together the ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt and 4 cups of the flour in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed shortening and sugar and mix to make a firm, manageable dough, adding more flour if needed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Then the super fun part! Cut cookies into tons of fun Christmas shapes using cookie cutters. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes.

What are your spoonie baking tips? What is your favorite Christmas Cookie recipe?

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. ❤

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!

College Chatter #Liberty

Stability. It is something most people crave. A schedule to glide through day after day it might sound boring yet there is comfort in the familiar. When one has stability he or she can  plan to do things.

This is one of those things you don’t realize how comforting it was until it vanished. Stability takes on different meanings for a healthy person compared to someone who is chronically ill. Stability is one thing I currently do not have enough of.

This past May I was able to complete my Associates Degree at my local community college. I had been the first student to complete a degree online. By the way, if a school does not have an established online program I do not recommend going that route. By God’s amazing grace, I was able to thrive, however, there were times of extreme frustration that could have been easily avoided.

I had been hoping that my health would be more stable than it is currently. I am still struggling with abnormal POTS symptoms such as tremors, collapsing, and slurred speech. And of course, battling my immune system.

I am beyond thrilled to be continuing my education through Liberty University’s Online Program. There is a wealth of resources such as touring and an online library . The online program is split into different terms in each semester. There are eight weeks of two or three classes than eight weeks of a different set of classes. I am entering into week two of developmental psychology and contemporary worldviews.

In addition, to the stellar academic program and access to online chapel Liberty also offers an online hangout for online students to interact with one another. It is meant to be a cafe type setting. It  might not be ideal, but I will take what I can get at this point, which I am sure any spoonie would understand, as many feel like they are starving for social interaction.

As a new academic school year arises, I want to remind you, there is hope for every student, there is hope for everyone, even you. “People do their best making plans for their lives, but the Eternal guides each step.” Proverbs 16:9 The Voice In general, we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for. A little encouragement goes a lot farther than imagined and baby steps are actually giant leaps. 

Helping Other Despite Illness

Before stepping into my currently reality, I was able to serve others regularly. I was able to help at free dinners, do yard work, mission work, help out with a retreat, youth group, and a few other small things. I love to help. I figured I would only need to step back slightly for half a season due to my health (mainly due to getting answers and five operations in four years). However, that was not reality. My limitations weighted me down as I realized how I had been serving was no longer an option physically. The desire to be used burned with in as I pleaded with God to use me in any way. This is still something I am working through.

I adore running Chronically Hopeful, but there are days it doesn’t seem like enough (there is plenty of work, but I wanted to serve more).  Most of you know that right now I am leading with a few other women two online Bible studies. I have also joined the ministry team for my online Church.

When God lovely nudged my heart to lead Come With Me, I attempted to tell Him I was too busy. Can you guess who won that disagreement? He did hands down. One of the chapters we are reading this week is about Jesus’ presence in a storm, specifically when the disciples woke up Jesus in a panic followed by Jesus simply rebuking the storm.

We all encounter different trials in different seasons of life. Trials come so that God can discipline us, mold us, enable us to comfort others, and bring us closer to Him all while bringing glory to His name. The Bible calls us to carry one another’s burdens. Do you know of someone in a trial? Trials are demanding. Support is essential during these times.

Most people who follow Chronically Hopeful are chronically ill, so the remainder of this post is written with you in mind. How can I support someone when I am physically limited? It can be intimidating to offer help when you feel flawed. You might be turned down completely, I have been many times, but that’s okay. Offer whatever you have to God, “not enough becomes more than enough when we give it to God.”

Keep in mind the little things make a big difference. Everyone needs encouragement. The simplest notes of encouragement go a long ways. Use Facebook, e-mail, or snail mail. A short note with a Bible verse or a line or two are excellent ways to start. If you want a little more of a challenge write an entire letter and be personal.

Find an in person project that is short term and can accommodate you needs. This might be assisting in the nursey at church, being a greeter, making a meal for a family, or helping a child with homework in the neighborhood.

There is nothing like being in person, but at times illness traps us either keeping us homebound or sucking the energy (and spoons) out of us. Volunteer online. I know at first it is a strange concept. Support groups can use help with events or managing pages or responding to comments. Online Bible studies are another option.

Do you find it difficult to reach out and help others? Share your struggles. Share ways you have been successful in this.

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