My Prednisone Journey

I talk a lot about Prednisone on my blog but I never shared an overview of my whole relationship with the medication. It has been a roller coaster like for most people.

Before we dive in let me quickly give you a  brief overview. By definition Prednisone is, “an analogue of cortisone,used as an anti-inflammatory, suppressed the immune system, and in the treatment of various diseases.” Put simply, Prednisone is a steroid. The body naturally makes low amounts of steroids it is also classified as hormones. This steroid is not the same type that well known people such as sports players or movie stars take. Prednisone should be a fast acting medication. It is used for countless illnesses arthritis, blood disorders, breathing problems, severe allergies, skin diseases, cancer, eye problems, immune system disorders and additional illnesses.  

I begun my journey with Prednisone in 2013. For the first few years I was off and on low doses of the medication but the time I spent off of it became shorter and shorter. At the time I began the medication there were a lot of undiagnosed illnesses.

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Right before I began steroids. 5’8” and under 100 pounds here.

 

 

 

During this time I ended up with a sever bladder infection that infected all three (yes you read correctly, all three) of my kidneys and threatened to hit the blood for four long months. Let me just say, after a four month long infection the body is never the same and neither are the illnesses. They did determine with the type of bacteria that the steroids indeed saved me from being in a more life treating position. I manged some how, to stay out of the hospital that entire time! Not sure I could handle a do over of that.

During this time my diagnosis of lupus became more concrete. Things were fine, which is a term I use loosely with a chronic illness, while I was on Prednisione. We took the proper precautions with my bone health and beginning a medication to take its place. Than we began to taper. All was well enough to be out of the hospital until I went to get my Benlysta infusion and was receiving my once a year bone infusion. I had a bad feeling as the Relcast infused. I began feeling a little unwell but the nurse assured me I was just anxious and completely fine. Except for the following morning I work up feeling funny, well, not really funny more like hit by a bus. The pain broke my pain scale. Movement hurt. I soon discovered I couldn’t get up and see straight. I was unable to eat or drink. Eventually I made it to Urgent Care who transported me to the hospital were I was admitted to the cardiac unit. Later on I was informed my liver enzymes were oddly high and over heard I may have POTS.

 

From that point forward tapering became a nightmare beyond my imagination. The following April I tapered down to 5 mg and a few weeks later landed admitted to the hospital again. This time I broke my liver enzyme record and most likely the record of the hospital my numbers reaching near 900s. I also get told I have UC. This time I could not eat for days. I was in the hospital for ten days. It was brutal.

The following January history repeats except for the fact that I ended up going to the hospital sooner for the pain so my enzymes were lower.

The doctor in charge of the taper shifts over time for various reasons. Each doctor made promises of figuring out how I could safely come off yet each has greatly failed. No one has made an honest attempt to help solve this problem therefore in the end contributing to its growth.

After a flare in March I was told I need to come off as soon as possible or my doctor will not continue caring for me. Such little guidance.

Tapering is overwhelming for a multitude of reasons. A gland shuts off while someone is on Prednisone. It must turn back on so that the person can stay alive but it takes time. The body goes through something like withdraw but it is rooted in the fact that the gland is not on and the body needs it to survive.  Tapering off too quickly can be deadly. Sending someone into an adrenaline crisis.

I have been in this taper cycle for five years. Each time I move a half a mg I feel as though I am dying with the intensity of pain. At times, it feels like the muscles are being torn apart and breaking. While the joints are being crushed. There are no accurate words to describe the abdominal pain. The fatigue with the process is hands down unique. Eating becomes a chore.

I began to feel completely hopeless of coming off the medication and figured I would settling for staying on 10 mg or 5 mg if possible. Anything so that I could actually live. I have with a lot of changes, hard work, persistence, and prayer made it lower for longer than I have in years but it is still an extreme struggle. I finally have hope by the grace of God to get off this medication. It is most ‘definitely a struggle daily and it is time to get some extra medical help (which is long over due) but I am making Prednisone progress. One day at a time, one sip at a time by God’s grace I am taking my life back. 

 

I will continue to blog about what is helping me on this journey but if you cannot wait to hear what it is please leave a comment with your e-mail address.

 

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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.

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!

Undercover Zebra

I am so excited to have an amazing EDS warrior guest post today, Hana. Please share to help us raise awareness for this rare disease.
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Ever hear of Undercover Boss? Well, this is Undercover Zebra: Where chronic illness warriors go undercover as healthy individuals to chase their dreams in the real world. On this episode, we have Hana Belanger, an 18-year-old girl with the main diagnosis of  Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type (hEDS) who dreams of being a cinematographer in the music industry. As an adolescent, she must figure out her own identity, chase her dreams, and not let a rare disease define her. If you think this to be a challenging feat, then you are right. She is…an undercover zebra.
I start every morning the same way, not wanting to get out of bed. Whether it be my 5:45 school alarm to Bowling For Soup’s “High School Never Ends” or sleeping in past noon on the weekends, the act of waking up is just another arduous chore no likes to endure. So far, just like any other teenager in the world, or really, any non-morning person in society.
Once I finally persuade myself it is worth getting up, I “oil” my joints with either Icy Hot or Arctic Ice analgesic gel. Whichever I just happen to have on my bedside table at the moment. Hypermobility is a symptom of EDS, however, in the morning I find that my joints much rather be stiff with pain, like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. I also tend to take this time to pop back in any joints that may have popped out of place while sleeping the night before. Got to love all those constant dislocations and subluxations. More symptoms due to the faulty collagen my body produces. Mornings with a connective tissue are never boring.
Next step is getting dressed. My favorite comfortable get up has to be pajamas, especially my zebra print ones. Sadly, school dress code does not allow for pj’s. Next best outfit of choice? a baggy band t-shirt and a pair of leggings. Don’t forget to accessorize with wristbands, a mood stone choker, and a plethora of braces and KT tape to keep all those joints in place. Pretty sure my joints like to go out more than I do. I always am found wearing my knee braces, but my collection expands to wrist braces, ankle braces, a back brace, and even a neck brace. I also have a cane I decorated in zebra print duct tape because when you need some extra support you have to make sure its cripple swag awesome.
My morning concludes with the breakfast of champions: AKA medication and vitamins. Then, on school days, I rush off to spend 6 long hours so I may be educated enough to graduate. After 12 years of this grueling routine, it does become tedious. I also have a work study internship with my local cable access station, a slam poet, and freelance videographer. The last three are the most fun I believe and give me a huge platform to be myself. When I am on stage or behind a camera I do not feel like the sick kid. I feel like a poet. I feel like a professional videographer. I feel…human.
Many days it is hard to hide the pain I am going through. EDS likes to throw curve balls more than Alton Brown on his show “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Often I wake up with migraines and nausea, which takes hours and even sometimes all day, despite medication. I have injured myself in school walking to lunch and working a one-hour film shoot. It’s as if EDS does not want me to live my dream.
But I will not cave into this awful disorder. That wouldn’t be very punk rock of me to give in. I know my limits and I go as close to the line without crossing over. I make sacrifices when it is safe to do so to enjoy myself. I have been to music festivals and concerts, filmed all day events, went to my Junior Prom, etc. EDS does not have to rule how I live. I just have to adapt to my circumstances in order to survive.
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Dogs!

This took much longer than I expected to write. Many people on the Chronically Hopeful Facebook page were interested when a service dog post went up about a month ago. Please understand that I have done research to the best to my ability. This is just a general overview. There will be additional service dog posts in the next few months.

There is a substantial difference between a service dog and a pet dog in the eyes of the law and social norms. Let’s begin with the basics. A service dog is for an individual with a physical disability.  These dogs are allowed to go anywhere and everywhere their human goes.Assistance Dogs International elaborates on this, “Service Dogs assist people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. With special training, these dogs can help mitigate many different types of disabilities. They can be trained to work with people who use power or manual wheelchairs, have balance issues, have various types of autism, need seizure alert or response, need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar, or have psychiatric disabilities. These specially trained dogs can help by retrieving objects that are out of their person’s reach, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to indicate that help is needed, finding another person and leading the person to the handler, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance, providing deep pressure, and many other individual tasks as needed by a person with a disability.” There are many tasks a service dog can be trained to do. Additionally, service dogs can be paired with humans for autism and hearing.

Your pet dog is not allowed to accompany you in public without a specific reason. Many view a service dog as medical assistance or even medical equipment.

Service Dog Central provides some clarification on the differences between psychiatric service dogs and therapy dogs. “A therapy dog is an individual’s pet which has been trained, tested, registered and insured to work in a hospital, nursing home, school, or other institutional settings. The therapy dog and his partner visit to cheer patients, to educate the community, to counter grief and stress, and generally be good canine ambassadors within the community. Most therapy dog partners are volunteers, but some states recognize professional therapy dogs partnered with therapists and other mental health professionals.”

Psychiatric Service Dogs are generally for people with a mental impairment (these words are chosen to line up with the laws that are in place). A mental impairment in the case would include mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD would fit under emotional/mental illness. They can be granted access in public places.

A partial listing of therapy dog organizations:
The Delta Society http://deltasociety.org
Therapy Dogs International http://tdi-dog.org
Therapy Dogs Incorporated http://therapydogs.com

On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access.

On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access. Emotional support animals provide compassion, support, and friendship to his or her owner. These animals have an irreplaceable role in their human life. Not only do these animals assist their humans emotionally but also improve physical health. Many studies support that animals lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride, reduced stress levels, reduced feelings of loneliness, and increased activity. Currently, my cats are emotional support animals. I have a special bond with each. Furthermore, they can sense when I am going to pass out, fall, or shake. Even so, they are not allowed in public. I wouldn’t bring them out in public either because that would provoke anxiety.

A multitude of agencies is out there. My first recommendation is to speak with your vet if you have one. Each agency is different. However, most share that the waiting list is long. Comparing agencies is vital. Furthermore, get as much information as possible on each one. Due to this reason, some people also find training agencies. Either your current pet dog (if he or she is qualified) or adopting a dog than the trained works with you both.

Some additional agencies include but are not limited to:

NEADS

NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans), is a non-profit organization and is based in Princeton, Massachusetts. Our Service Dogs become an extension of their handlers and bring freedom, physical autonomy, and relief from social isolation to their human partners who are deaf or have a disability.

Accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices, NEADS offers a wide spectrum of Assistance Dog services, including: Deaf & Hearing Loss, Combat Veterans, Physical Disability Classroom, Therapy & Ministry, Children with a Disability Children on the Autism Spectrum, Deaf & Hearing Loss, Veterans, Physical Disability and more.

Assistance Dog’s International can help you find a program closer to you. They have a variety of resources.

Service Dog Trainers A list of trainers across America.

I hope this information is helpful. Please share your pet’s name in the comments!

 

Spoonie Book Review

Reading is a great way to take a miniature mental vacation, escaping the burdens of the spoonie life and complications. Not only is reading a great way to learn, but it can also provide us with inspiration, strength, and support. Recently, I have read two books which have inspired me. I would classify them as Spoonie books.

Still Lolo by Lauren Scruggs

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Is an inspiring story of a young woman who tragically has an accident that could have been deadly. Lauren loses an arm, eye, and suffered additional injuries. I love how the book includes her immediate family’s point of view individually throughout the book. The reader is exposed to the hardships that follow the accident. By the end of the book, the reader feels as though they personally know the Scruggs family.

Undone: A Story of Making Peace with an Unexpected Life by: Michele Cushatt

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Undone is an extraordinary beautiful memoir. Michele Cushatt has a captivating writing style. She pulls her readers into her life as they devour the stunning story of God’s sovereign hand at work. Cushatt battles cancer multiple times. The reader is able to see how she copes with her illness, how her family copes, and how her faith is affected. Though I do not have cancer, I found Cushatt’s story to be relatable. I couldn’t put the book down.