Mast Cell Activation: An Overview

Tightening in the throat that increases by the second. The grip, like no other. Strangling. Less air pushes through.  Constricting more. Will the airways close. Focus on breathing. On finding the —A wave of dizziness emerges as less air pretenses it’s self… Focus on finding the medication.

Near anaphylaxis. It has become a common occurrence although it has not yet become normal to work though. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome is one of a few new diagnosis I recently acquired.

I had hear of the disease in passing, but it was the furthest thing from my mind. When my POTS doctor asked if I had a lot of allergies I replied no thinking everyone has a list of allergies. My theory was everyone has allergies they are just unaware, which of course, is not true. Eventually, I made my way to an allergist and got conformation of my diagnosis. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

Defining Mast Cell Briefly

Mast cell are a vital part to our blood as they assist in the function of the immune system. They are found in many locations throughout the body. “Mast cells react to foreign bodies and injury by releasing a variety of potent chemical mediators, such as histamine, when activated. In a healthy person these chemicals will act beneficially to protect and heal the body, but in a person with MCAS these same chemicals are inappropriately triggered and released and have a negative effect on the body. ”

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Triggers

For someone with mast cell there are various triggers. Basically, anything at a given moment can trigger us. Many times I have been okay with a food or cream for months or year than react to it. Some triggers include Heat, cold or sudden temperature changes, Stress: emotional, physical, including pain, or environmental (i.e., weather changes, pollution, pollen, pet dander, etc.), exercise, fatigue, food or beverages, including alcohol, medications,  natural odors, chemical odors, perfumes and scents venom infections (viral, bacterial or fungal), and Sun. Additionally someone with mast cell can have a reaction to themselves which is the strangest concept in my option or idiopathic reactions.

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Some Symptoms

Symptoms are unique for everyone. They can be altered depending on the day or the trigger. There are many symptoms with Mast Cell.

An overview of some of the many symptoms:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and malabsorption
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Itching, flushing, hives
  • Episodes of fainting or dizziness
  • Bone pain
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid weight gain or loss
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Chest pain and/or a racing heart
  • Anaphylaxis

Overlapping Illness

Most individuals have an overlapping illness or a few. It is common to have POTS (or Hyper POTS) and Ehlers–Danlos syndrome. Additionally, some of these individuals have an autoimmune disease.

Treatment

Treating mast cell of course comes with challenges. The biggest challenge is that many people have a lot of medication allergies. One of the goals is to calm down the mast cells. Additionally there needs to be a plan when one reacts. Some people have continuous symptoms such as pain. Than they also deal with a massive amount of sever symptoms when encountering a trigger. Due to this there are various elements of the treatment plan.  Almost all people start on two over the counter medications Zyrtec and Xanax. These medications should calm cells. Moreover, other over the counter and/ or prescriptions are used to treat it.

Getting Educated and Finding Support

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Like previously mentioned there are times we encounter a trigger which can result in some symptoms like itching or nausea to life threading symptoms such as Anaplhyaxis. Again treatments vary. Some use benadryl or an Epi Pen or both.

If you or a loved one have mast cell or suspected mast cell please educate yourself as much as possible because it can (and most likely will) save your life. Be sure to connect with others with this illness. Personally, I am a huge fan of Facebook support groups and there are some fabulous ones for Mast Cell. My favorite Mast Cell Facebook Support Group can be found here Mast Cell Activation Syndrome Support (MCAS only). This group has the best resources I have found to date. It also makes it easy to get educated and find support.

Need some extra information? Check out these wonderful resources: 

  • Mast Cell Research: http://mastcellresearch.com/
  • The Mastocytosis Society https://tmsforacure.org/
  • Mast Cell Activation Syndrome: The Immune System Gone Wrong https://www.drlam.com/blog/mast-cell-activation-syndrome-the-immune-system-gone-wrong/32795/
  • Mast Cell Activation Disorder | Diagnosis Discussionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYje4mmh5mk

    Living with EDS: Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv40McIWocU

 

 

What are your tips for living with Mast Cell?

*Please note this is a very brief overview of this disease. Many medical professionals are not fully educated. Please subscribe to be notified when the next mast cell post comes out.

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Uncertainty in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness

Today we have a wonderful and eye opening post from Cassie Creley.

Cassie Creley lives in the Pacific Northwest and loves writing. Dealing with multiple health conditions including cancer, fibromyalgia, Dysautonomia, and asthma have taught her that God’s joy is available even in our worse struggles. She blogs about creativity, faith, and living with chronic illness at http://cassiecreley.com.

 

 

You would expect a diagnosis to bring some certainty to your life. But when the diagnosis you receive is for a chronic illness that is currently incurable, that is not often the case. It took me some time to realize this. At first, I was blindsided by the amount of uncertainty that took up residence in my life due to my health.

 

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness puts us in a constant state of uncertainty. This uncertainty is one of the unexpected and most difficult side effects I’ve been dealing with since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Before getting diagnosed, as my health declined, there was always the assumption in the back of my mind that things would get better, I would get well, and life would continue as normal. But the diagnoses have just kept coming in the last two years: thyroid cancer, Dysautonomia, CFIDS, in addition to the asthma and allergies I was diagnosed with early on in life.

 

Unless you’ve experienced fibromyalgia, Dysautonomia, or other chronic illnesses, it’s hard to imagine the daily impact. I find myself wishing someone had warned me, which is just the same as wishing there was no such thing as uncertainty!

 

My body and my mind have become sources of uncertainty. I’m normally a very organized and dependable person. I could be counted on to show up when I said I would, to have a project done by deadline. Now, I often have to cancel last minute because there’s no telling when my body will suddenly decide it’s done for the day. I also used to thrive on having a schedule and routine. My symptoms and lack of energy throw my entire day into chaos, making it nearly impossible to predict when I’ll be able to accomplish even simple tasks.

 

Perhaps most frustrating of all is the uncertainty I now experience when it comes to my mind. I used to easily memorize information, but now struggle to find words or put them in the right order when speaking. When proofreading my writing, I’ll often find that I’ve inexplicably typed the wrong word. This is all part of the infamous brain fog of fibromyalgia. It makes me uncomfortable when talking with even close friends, let alone people I don’t know well, and impacts my confidence as a writer and my self esteem in general.

 

In spite of all this (and maybe partially because of it) I’m a huge believer in silver linings. What, you might ask, could possibly be a silver lining to so much uncertainty?

 

Maybe, if we can harness our uncertainty, we can let it force us to realize that uncertainty is a natural part of life.

 

The world teaches us that we should have every step of our lives planned out. And part of me really likes that. I want to know all the details. I want to be prepared. But is this healthy?

 

This expectation starts young. I didn’t realize just how profound an impact it has until I was a high school leader at my church for a few years. Students were expected to know where they wanted to go to college and what career path they would follow well before they graduated. I could see how much pressure and stress this put on the students. And the expectations continue throughout life—people expect you to know who you’ll marry, how many kids you’ll have, what you’ll do every 5 years of your life, when you’ll retire, etc., etc. If you don’t have everything planned, people seem to think there is something wrong with you.

 

Huh. Kind of makes you realized that certainty, or at least the illusion of certainty, can be exhausting too. Probably because pretending we’re in control of everything isn’t the way God designed us to live. In fact, the book of James has some pretty harsh words about acting like we know everything:

 

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16 NIV)

 

Pride creeps in (aka boasting) when we become focused on our will and our need to control every aspect of our lives. Instead, we’re called to recognize our dependence on God’s will and surrender our uncertainty to His sovereign will and trustworthy love.

 

Maybe our unique understanding of uncertainty, brought about by chronic illness, will allow us to extend grace to others because we won’t expect people to have everything figured out.

 

Maybe we can extend that same grace to ourselves. Wouldn’t that be a relief? To know we’re not expected to have everything together at all times?

 

I’m realizing that uncertainty is part of being human. If we take the time to recognize the normalcy of uncertainty, we can also recognize that our faith makes uncertainty okay.

 

We don’t have to be uncertain about God. We’re assured in the Bible of His unchanging nature. (Hebrews 13:8) We’re assured of his presence. (Matthew 28:20) We’re assured of his unchanging love: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalm 143:8 NIV)

 

The uncertainty of chronic illness starts to look smaller the more we focus on God’s certainty. I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s possible. Some days will be harder than others. But the flip side of knowing some days will be harder is that we can rest assured that some days will be easier.

 

Once we stop running from uncertainty, we can embrace the fact that there is a positive side of not knowing everything. I’m reminded of a quote by Luci Swindoll, one of my favorites that I recently rediscovered: “Lord…may I relish the joy of knowing you are full of wonderful surprises.” Even in the midst of chronic illness or whatever life throws our way, let us never forget that God can certainly bring about beautiful things that are more than we ask or imagine.

 

Even in the midst of life’s uncertainty, let us never forget that God can certainly

bring about beautiful things!

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.

Rebellious Worship

Rebellious worship, those words don’t seem to fit together. Except for, of course, in my case. I find it necessary as the Holy Spirit moves me to be rebellious in my worship.

You see, I have several chronic illnesses, one of which is Hyperadrenergic Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Professionals are advising individuals with POTS to avoid singing. Generally speaking, I follow advice to a T. However, there are times in worship, I am rebellious. Personally, singing allows me to connect with God and worship Him in an extraordinary manner.

Worship is more than a song, therefore there are many alternative ways to worship God. No one style is better than another. Never the less, music holds a special place in worship. Perhaps this is because many admirable Christians worshiped this way; such as King David, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and Jesus.

I have been singing praises to God for as long as I can remember. Some of the times I had been most filled with Christ joy was during worshiping Him through singing. I have many lovely memories, which I cherish, singing praises to the Lord with friends as an adolescent.

It is a struggle for me today to sing most times. It is hard to get adequate air to reach certain notes or to get enough air when rests are scarce. At times, I have a dizzy spell. The focus though isn’t my physical limitations, but the righteousness of my Lord. The physical combat, for me, is no reason to stop singing praises to God. I believe He knows my heart and the struggle I endure. I also know without a doubt that my worship is pleasing to Him.

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. ❤

Seriously, I Can’t Hear You

I can’t hear you. Could you please repeat that? No, I did not hear you come in. I am completely serious, though it is hard to believe at twenty-three. I previously blogged at my hearing loss mentioning a couple unstable theories. Shortly after, receiving my HHT diagnosis, I was told I needed my hearing checked. The doctor who relayed the message was skeptical because she had been on my case for a brief amount of time and was unaware that I had issues hearing. To be fair, the doctor who ordered it was never told either. Simply, because it never came up, furthermore, it did not seem relevant

I went through an intense hearing test while I was having no trouble hearing. I found out a few days later that I have extremly mild bilateral hearing loss. However, was not mentioned at the appointment, I am guessing because it is so minor. There isn’t anything to do, but it is a great thing to know.

If you went undiagnosed for any significant amount of time you understand the value of a reason for dictating symptoms. Though there are an overwhelming amount of questions at times without answers, having a name to the monster helps. The name doesn’t not by any means make the road any easier it just makes someone feel validated in their bodies rebellion.

 

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!