When A Warrior Passes

Honestly, I have wanted to write this post for a good two months, but it has been difficult to write.

You know once you have transported to the world of chronic illness that one day you will be devasted when someone passes away. However, you are never ready enough for that moment.

I had expected to eventually lose someone in a Facebook support group not someone I went to school with. Two weeks before she passed I ran into her mom while food shopping. I barely remember anyone from high school and it is embarrassing as well as frustrating for me. But when her mom said her name I could picture her sitting next to me in middle school. I had assumed she moved not that she was chronically ill with at least one of my illnesses. I promised her mom I would talk with her and we could hang out. Her mom said they were attempting to get her paired with a service dog. I was so excited at the possibility of having an in person chronically ill friend my age.

I didn’t hesitate finding her on Facebook.I tried to be patient waiting for her to response constantly reminding myself she was flaring. Within hours I found out I was too late and it broke my heart in a new devasting way. I immediately regretted not connecting with her sooner. I know she suffered way too long and things were horribly unfair. She should be going to college and building a life for herself.

Lossing someone who has one of your illnesses or who is chronically ill is extremely different. I have balled my eyes out many of times for a life of a fellow warrior that I barely knew. My heart goes out to the families in a unique way.  I might not have known them well or maybe not at all yet I live a small part of their story. I live the pain, doctors, symptoms… the life of a spoonie.

The grieving seems to be unique to those with chronic illness. There is an element of guilt for living because you know it could have been you. You wonder why it was that person, what if someone listened better, could it have been avoided, or will that be me one day. Frustration with the health care system at times.  Angry with the people who brush us off.

It has been a few months but from time to time she’ll come to my mind. I wish I remembered more about her other than her pretty hair and sweet voice, like an actual conversation. This death has been completely unique in the way it affected me.

Anytime someone passes with a chronic illness around your age it hits home and it is difficult. When you lose someone to chronic illness allow yourself time to grieve. If someone in the chronic illness community you know passes find a special way to say good bye and to pay your respects. When a girl passed with IBD a few weeks back, I found great comfort in leaving her family a message on an online guest book in honor of her.

Regardless of how close you were let yourself cry if you need to.  Give yourself permission to get angry, to feel hopeless, or broken. Emotions are healthy. They are indicators of things going wrong and of heartbreak. However, emotions are not your dictator so once you have allowed yourself to feel you need to slowly move forward. Allow yourself to heal slowly. Seek support from others who are chronically ill, family, and friends. Cherish each moment in life and live them to the fullest as best you can.

 

 

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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!

Thanksgiving

Crips fall beauty lingers in the air as people hurry to prepare. Nature adorn in the finest hue crafting an elegant view. Thankfulness consumes each heart uniquely setting people apart.

An individual’s definition of thankfulness is transformed when chronic illness enters their life. Simple things possess deep pleasure. Such as a walk in the park or a phone call with a friend. The delicacy of life is illuminated. Cherishing moments with those they adore is vital. Laughter is treasured.

A person’s list of blessings is as exclusive as their heartbeat, which is especially true of someone with a chronic illness. Generalizing thankfulness in the chronic illness world is nearly impossible, so I will share a few blessings of my own.  I am grateful for my medical team. I have made progress from the time I entered this facility. This is the best hospital I have been at. I am deeply blessed for the chance to be on Remicade. Though I don’t like being on medication, I am grateful to have it and for the help it provides. I am thankful for the friends I have made. The support that I have. The lessons I have learned from chronic illness.  I am thankful beyond words for the chance to continue my education at Liberty University online. I feel spoiled with the resources available to me. Fiction books provide a way of coping with pain and I have been blessed recently by Karen Kingsbury’s books.

These are a few examples of blessing from my life as a chronic illness warrior. I hope Thanksgiving day is a day you can cherish. One that is consumed with love, laughter, joy, and spoons. I pray the pain levels are low and the symptoms are few. Happy Thanksgiving Warriors!

More Than an Accomplishment

Good Morning Warrior,

We compare ourselves from the time we rise in the morning till our head hits the pillow at night. Comparison feeds us lies. Consumed with thoughts of never living up to expectations. Negativity becomes the dictator of our day.

Your identity isn’t in the tasks you accomplish. It isn’t in the things yu can or cannot do. Your identity isn’t the symptoms, pain, medical test, or diagnosis. It isn’t rooted in other people’s options or the things you have loss. You are not defined by any flaw.

I wish you could see what I know, the beauty that radiates from your heart and the way your smile glows. The hope that you anchor in others. You are cherished, valued, and worthy beyond words. Your purpose is amazing. You are making a difference. You are changing the world. Keep pushing forward- even if you crawl go forward. You are stronger than any trial. You are not alone. I am cheering you on and wishing you a wonderful day.

Sending Spoons,

Victoria

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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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.

Psalms 32:7

“For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.” Psalms 32:7

There are days living in the Spoonie world is difficult. Thick anxiety is layered within. Fear of those two heavy words.. what if. There have been an abundance of moments on this journey where I wanted to hide. Like a timid child hidden from the melody of an intimidating thunder-storm.

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When we were children, we didn’t just hide out of fear. Hiding provided entertainment and excitement. The anticipation of being found remains unwavering. However addition positive emotions associated with hiding have melted with age. Negative slush traps us.

Hiding provides an escape. For even a moment I would like to escape the burdens of the Spoonie world; the doctors, medication, testing, emotions… the burden of being a spoonie.

This verse reminds us of our ideal hiding place, which is the Lord. In the mists of chaos and struggles we can crawl into the Lords compassionate arms. He is our hiding place. He is the source of all we need; our everything.

The Lord knows everything; his understanding is unhindered. He spares us from countless tragedies. He gently guides us through each storm.

There is a blissful victory in Jesus. He allows each moment of our lives to work together and bring Him glory. Though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death melting from the negativity within I know somehow the Lord will receive glory. There are many things I do not understand. But I refuse to allow the burdens of the spoonie life to hinder my faith. Despite it all I will praise the Lord. With a heart of gratitude and wonder I will thank the Lord for my struggles. For he will receive glory and victory. Blessings are woven into this season. He will transform it into a master piece. It will be used for something beautiful.

“Nothing in your life has happened by chance. You are here exactly at this moment in history with exactly the circumstance you have encountered because God has a specific task he wants you to fill.”  The Lord has an astonishing purpose for your life. He will use every negative thing for good, to encourage others. Keep faith. When you cannot take another step, rest in the sovereign arms of God.

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Too tired for a good title

It is challenging as a chronic illness blogger to find that ideal balance. To be transparent with out being TMI. To share honestly without coming off as complaining or looking for sympathy. To share not only about the battle with Lupus but the journey of life. To offer support without being overly optimistic or coming off as being nosy. I know other spoonie bloggers must encounter some of these challenges.

Lately, I have posted a lot about Prednisone. This was not something I planed. I have posted about it because I know a lot of people are forced into the wind whorl of Prednisone confusion. I feel like I never fully adjust to Prednisone. Once I am close enough to adjusting the doctor says Lets Tapper.

Tapering is great. Really. I fully understand why coming off prednisone is positive. I understand the side effects. On the other hand I do not want to experience intense pain that cannot be put into words. Pain so deep and intense that I cannot breath properly, cannot lay down, and can barely sit. When that pain invaded I wanted to cry or scream but I could barely get enough air into my lungs to speak. I don’t want to become so weak that I cannot get out of bed. So weak I can barely walk. So dizzy I using the stairs alone or showering is a hazard. I have been sick for so long. Borderline critically ill three times in two years. I cannot bare the thought of going backwards with my health anymore.

Personally tapering to fast, even on high doses of Prednisone is not a good idea. I had expected to taper when I saw my doctor. I had my entire schedule figured out from the dosage to what to eat on which days. My plan was flawless, leaving plenty of time to adjust before school began. I had anticipated 10 mg taper. Well that was not on my Rheumy agenda. 20 mg taper. 6 weeks. It didn’t seem to bad at first. Then reality slapped me in the face there is not enough time. This taper is going to fast.

With determination I pushed as hard as possible to get on the lowest dose possible. I am still paying for it. I made it to 35 mg. I am hoping and praying that my body can regulate its self somewhat and quit throwing a tantrum over the next few weeks. Tapering more now would only do harm.

I am blessed that my doctor increased my methotrexate, sadly the increase was only by 2.5 mg. Methotrexate has made a positive impact on my health. I have seen good days because of it. It seems to take a while to kick in then wears off too quickly.

I have encountered a sticky mix of side effects and/or addition symptoms. I am either a hungry hungry hippo or have no appetite at all. The struggle with food still remains. Thus so does the struggle with weight and water retention.  I have begun losing my hair again. With the combination of medication, not having Benlysta, and my Lupus it was expected, I just didn’t know when it would start.

Without a doubt my pain has increased. I am thankful that it is bearable, it is not as bad as when I was in the hospital. My joints, back, chest, and stomach are acting up the most currently. The liver pain visits briefly. I also have difficulty breathing at times, not like asthma though. I think it is either POTS related or liver related. My sleeping schedule is like the merry mixer ride. Then there’s the lovely fatigue we all have. Most times it seems impossible to treat.

With the shift of medications I have had to once again break up with my to do list. Like most people with a chronic illness I hate resting and feel guilty for it, but I know it is something I need to do. I need to do what my body needs me to do in order to feel a little better and to prepare for next semester. It is all part of the fight to stay out of the hospital.

Today was a mild (I use the word mild lightly)  flare day. I woke up with no appetite at all. No big deal; I just grabbed an ensure. I went up the road this morning to have blood work done. My veins had a nice vacation from needles. I did not expect to be stuck with the needle half a dozen times (or more, I lost count). The same lady does my blood work monthly. She is sweet and familiar with my case sorta. Neither of us could figure out why my veins would not give blood. I know my body has trouble with blood flow but this was a first for me. Yes I have been stuck more then a dozen times in one sitting, but that usually isn’t completely my body’s fault. Those times have been linked to people who weren’t good at their job.

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My abdomen was throwing a fit. Lots of pain, nausea, and dizziness… typical spoonie day. In addition my anxiety decided to drop by for a visit. Though I didn’t feel excellent I am blessed that I was strong enough, just barely, to attend a ladies dinner at my church. Sometimes getting out of the house and being around people is lovely. It can be a distraction. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Weakness. Something every Spoonie goes to battle with. Silently, it attacks. Consuming every inch of your being.  Demolishing you; crushing you with horrendous pressure. Because of it you want to burrow as a rabiit does in a deep whole and sleep for a century. Some days, it is utterly unbearable. Despite all of this, you thrive daily. The average person will never endure the depth of your health combat. With grace and elegance you dance through your day. Continuing on is difficult, but you do so courageously. You do not take note of the strength you have. Strength through weakness. Strength through tears. Strength through every season of life. Anchor yourself in this stunning strength. The battle is brutal but you’ve got what it takes. Keep fighting. Crawl forward. It will be okay.

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