I Have a Cold…and I Love It

Okay, I know that seems odd, but there is a reason I’m in love with the fact that I have a pretty nasty cold. In the past couple of years, when I would get a virus, I would get a flare. The flare would inevitably be worse than the virus. Prior to IVIG, I had a headache, and I just shrugged it off. Behcet’s and headaches are just hand in hand for me. Then after IVIG I had what I classify as an IVIG headache. I felt just, well, sh*tty for a couple of days. That is normal, from what I’ve read. Even if the rheumatologist’s temporary coverage felt as though I should have made some miraculous turn around, I knew from what I’ve read, and what I’ve heard first hand from other patients, that it would take some time.

Then I realized I had a cold.

I was sleeping a lot, had a little fever, and attributed it all to the IVIG. Except, the sleeping eased up, as did the headache, and my nose was bleeding and stuffy. I blamed the weather. I had a migraine, which happens to me when the weather shifts. I blamed a lot of stuff because I didn’t want to believe the IVIG wasn’t working. This morning, it dawned on me. I have a cold. I have a gross cold, and my gastroparesis is acting up because my appetite came back, and I overate.

Folks, my appetite came back. 

I haven’t been hungry in months, and suddenly having that drive to eat again was so bizarre. I will always have gastroparesis, my celiac artery is blocked, and it can’t be opened. I also have a history of GI issues that just bogs the system down…but my intestines are moving again which is the main reason (I feel) that I wasn’t hungry. For me the delayed stomach emptying causes gastritis, acid reflux, and bloating/pain. The lower GI ulcers kill my appetite, cause pain and bleeding, and just generally make me miserable. That seems to be tied in more closely with the Behcet’s.

Beware: I’m about to discuss poop.

I have been pooping. Not as often as “normal” folks, but I am pooping. Prior to IVIG I was going 10-14 days between bowel movements, and those movements were pathetic. Nausea, pain, blacking out, just total brutality, for the smallest bowel movement. Doctors often accused me of “pushing too hard,” but I never pushed. Why push when there isn’t anything causing any urge to push? Lately I’ve been panicking when the urge to go hits me. It sort of comes out of nowhere, and is like, “YOU HAVE TO GO NOW!” Of course, it isn’t that dire. (Except when I ate a gummy edible containing gluten. I got horrendously sick, pooped my pants, and couldn’t figure out why. Later it dawned on me that gummy candy often contains gluten, so I checked, and yup, the edible was the culprit.)

My point is actually pooping is weird, and it shouldn’t be, but it is. I am torn between excitement and nausea. I’ve tried explaining it to healthy friends, but only a similarly GI sick friend understands it. When you just don’t go to the bathroom often, your body can’t really handle the sensation. My nervous system is so used to not feeling anything positive from my gut, that even a normal bowel movement is misinterpreted (at least that’s how it feels.) Hopefully with time I can get used to them again, and hopefully they remain consistent. Even going just 1-2 times a week is an improvement right now.

I have to talk to my rheumatologist about putting in an order for a port, even though I know she will fight me on it. The reality is that I’m existing in a state of malnourishment, or dehydration. The only reason I’m not currently losing weight is that I stay on top of calories, and my thyroid gave up working. It isn’t a healthy way to prevent weight loss, and I’m still losing loads of muscle. I can’t do my infusions 2x per week for fluids and vitamins, unless it isn’t an IVIG week. Even the week after IVIG is dodgy, since they have to use two different veins for IVIG (unless I go home with the IV in place. This is something I’m not comfortable with because of issues with phlebitis and clotting. I just don’t personally feel it is a good fit for me. I’m also sure my dogs would find a way to hurt it.)

The other issue I’ve run into, emotionally, is the expectation others have that I’ll be miraculously healed by IVIG. IVIG is a treatment protocol, it isn’t a cure. There may be a day when I can go off of it and be in remission, but going off of it is risky. With neurological issues involved, it just isn’t something I’m overly in a rush to test out. Some people spent their lives on IVIG. I will need medications for nausea, I will need IVIG, I will need my wheelchair at times (though hopefully less as time goes on). The damage done to my autonomic nervous system isn’t all fixable, in fact, some issues will definitely remain, and that is okay.

IVIG wasn’t about a cure. It was about survival.

I have a tendency to downplay the seriousness of symptoms when talking with friends and family. It’s something my family has a tendency to do. There are issues we still need to address with me cardiovascular wise that I put on the back burner. They’re likely related to the autonomic stuff, but we just won’t know until we look into it. The biggest question mark is the swing in my heart rate. I have some serious bradycardia sometimes, and it is sort of terrifying. I don’t think about it unless I’m on a heart monitor, and I’m setting it off, but it’s taxing on your heart to get super low, and then go back to normal or even into tachycardia. Again, I’m hoping IVIG fixes things by stopping the onslaught against my autonomic nervous system.

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I Have a Cold…and I Love It

IVIG Anxiety and Expectations

As my symptoms have gradually gotten worse (due to finishing my Medrol dose pack), I’m ready for IVIG. However, tomorrow feels so soon! There is this weird sort of anxiety that goes along with a new infusion, the first is will I have a reaction of some sort. The second is will it work? As positive as I might seem outwardly, inwardly I have so many worries regarding the process. I want it to work, and I do believe that it will, but the fact that I don’t have a port, and that I have to go in two days in a row, makes me nervous. If it does work, I know that we will be putting in orders for a port, but there is still the long process of waiting, asking insurance, and waiting some more.

I’ve been accused of wanting to be sick, or faking the severity of my illness, and it’s frustrating. “You can walk, why do you need a wheelchair?” Yes, I can walk, but not far, and not without a high risk of falling. Today is a particularly bad day coordination and reflex wise. Even getting around the apartment is challenging. I’ve even had to modify how I’m sitting to type, because my hands and arms are jerky. As for eating, some days I can eat more than other days, but no day is without aggressive nausea. I would give anything to be “normal,” but I’m just trying to cope with what I’ve got.

It’s hard to need assistance. I’m not someone who asks for help, but here I am, dealing with the worsening of my disease process, while also dealing with judgment for the uncertainty of my wellbeing day to day. Yes, I can have a great day, followed by an immobile day, or vice versa. There is no way for me to know today, how I’ll feel on Saturday…though from other people’s explanation of IVIG, I would anticipate feeling somewhat crappy. Right now naps are life, so it won’t be that big of a deal.

There is judgment, and I can handle it, for the most part. I just hate having to defend my illness. It’s one thing to prove you can do something despite being sick, it’s another thing to have to prove you are sick all together. I don’t want to prove I’m sick, I want to prove I’m capable. On days I’m not capable, I just want understanding and patience.

IVIG is my chance at a more normal life. If I get a port, and IVIG works, I could technically do IVIG without having to go to the infusion center. I could do IVIG at home, on my own time, and work around that schedule. I could also do my IV fluids and vitamins at home. People don’t understand this end goal. They want me to shoot for remission, and while that would be great, I can’t live in a fantasy world. Right now it’s about getting back to feeling more normal, and the best way for me to do that is to get to a point where I could do treatments to support myself, at home.

For now, let’s get through tomorrow. Round one of IVIG.

 

IVIG Anxiety and Expectations

When You Just Can’t

THERE WILL BE A TRIGGER WARNING ABOUT 1000 WORDS IN. PLEASE, IF TALK OF SELF HARM OR OTHER RELATED BEHAVIORS TRIGGERS YOU, DISCONTINUE THE READING AT THAT POINT. THANK YOU AND KIND THOUGHTS ❤ 

Today I’m somehow depressed, but more positive. I don’t know if that makes any sense. The best way I can describe it is chemical versus rational. Chemically I’m out of whack, but that makes sense. I haven’t been taking in a ton of calories, which led to me almost getting a period. Let me explain…

Your average female who menstruates, thinks that underrating results in losing your period…and it does. There is also a reverse mechanism though. TMI alert…I have an IUD. When I first got it I was not pleased, I basically spotted for a month, had terrible cramps, and wanted to punch my gynecologist in the face. (For starters, he gave me a generic version of Mirena only approved for 3 years, not 5, but told me he was putting in Mirena. It was super fun finding out that I got something else after it had been inserted. (Bonus points for the fact that he had opened my cervix, realized he forgot something, and had to open my cervix a second time. Don’t worry, he’s not my doctor anymore.) After a month though, my periods stopped.

This was 2.5 years ago. Since then I haven’t really had a period, which given my brutal periods, was a good thing. When I started getting really sick, right before starting Cytoxan, I hemorrhaged. I brushed it off as a really bad sudden period, but when it happened a few more times, I went into my gynecologist. At this point in time I was around 120 pounds, and I’m 5’10”. I went in, and the first thing my gynecologist told me was that I had lost weight and I looked good.

I was so malnourished at this point, my hair was falling out, I was growing white fuzz on my body, and I was literally incapable of warming my feet and hands. I looked like I was dying, and I felt like I was dying, and yet this doctor had the nerve to say I looked good. What the…

As we have established, he’s not my doctor anymore. What he told me made sense though. I can’t have estrogen containing birth control because of a family history of blood clots. With my one artery being potential impacted by Behcet’s, there was also an increased worry over whether or not I was personally at additional risk from the Behcet’s. I was informed that my body was suddenly producing extra estrogen in an attempt to instigate hunger, because I wasn’t taking in enough calories. These bursts of estrogen were causing intense bleeding. Fair enough, but still aggravating. Plus…if I looked so great, why was my body willing to risk bleeding like that in order to cause hunger pangs?

I really should have reported him. We all have different preferences and visions of beauty, but as a medical professional your focus should be making sure your patient is healthy. I had lost a significant amount of weight, and was no longer at a safe weight for my height. Perhaps my slender frame was normal in his life, but it was something that warranted investigation as my physician. 

I’m lucky right now. My doctors noted the 30 pounds I lost, because while it was fine to lose it, and while I’m still in a healthy weight range, and could even lose more weight, the quickness with which that weight came off was NOT healthy. 30 pounds in 30 days is not a goal.

So tomorrow my wheelchair comes. Today I did nothing. Every time I stood up, I got shooting pains in my head, neck, and lower back. They have never found the source, and have suggested dehydration each and every time. Given that I haven’t gotten my infusions in a while, that’s 110% true. I am dehydrated. Still, these headaches and related back pains, just murder me in terms of movement. I’ve also just been weak. As embarrassed as I am by the thought of the chair, I know that I’ll be able to go get things for myself again, decreasing days like this were I’m struggling. (I can’t afford delivery of groceries right now, and I can’t tolerate water no matter how hard I try.) I wanted to go see people today, but I was stuck inside. I struggled to even take my dog out. Thankfully my roommate took him out just now so I don’t have to attempt to navigate the streets tonight.

Chronic illness is a lot of fighting, but it’s a lot of acceptance, too. When I started the signs of bleeding today, I faced the fact that, even though I wanted fries, one sleeve of fries and two pieces of toast in an entire day, is just not enough to live on. I forced myself to eat maple syrup today even though I desperately didn’t want it, because I knew it was calorie dense, and liquid. I put it on toast as a sort of pseudo french toast.

Again, it wasn’t good, and I don’t recommend it as a fun treat. It did what it needed to do, and that was the point. Gastroparesis changes how you see food. It’s fuel, but it’s also something you kind of chase impulsively. If I know something won’t make me vomit, or writhe around in horrid pain, I’m going to eat it. 

My failure to get out and do anything today, the pain, the fatigue, the anxiety over the chair, I logically worked through each thing…but my brain chemistry felt like it still need to give me a little shove via depression. I have depression and anxiety because of my PTSD, but I suffer because of the major depression from my Keppra. How do I know? The symptoms are so different. With things relating to my PTSD, talk therapy, thinking through the situation, finding routines, they all help with the symptoms. Plus the symptoms are less life limiting. Sure, I’m startled easily, hyper vigilant, and can’t handle some situations, but I’ve come a long way via cognitive behavioral therapy, and conventional talk therapy.

Major depressive disorder doesn’t care how much you talk…

Trigger Warning: Below there is talk of self harm and suicide. If you are triggered by discussion of this subject please discontinue reading this blog. If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, please call, text or message, the suicide hotline (in the United States. I apologize as I don’t have information in other countries. I do believe 999 is emergency services in the UK, and 000 is Australia.)

Suicide Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255, Available 24 hours everyday, there website is https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

______________

One thing my major depressive disorder causes, that my PTSD and related anxiety/depression never caused, is really obsessive suicidal and self-harm thoughts. I have had thoughts of both in the past as a result of my PTSD, and medication decreased those thoughts, but they were never as intense as they are with the major depressive disorder. I will become immobile, just stuck in bed. Then I’ll drag myself to the shower, and just climb in wearing my clothes. I would look around and just see items I could hurt myself with, or even kill myself with. Living 24 floors up when your meds aren’t sorted out, is a real test of self-control. Thankfully I talked with my doctors, and we began a treatment plan.

Today was just one of those weird days where the meds worked, but not well enough. I felt worthless all day. Financial struggles caused me anxiety, but the inability to socialize was the worst. I’m generally okay with being introverted, but when my medical issues make it impossible for me to go out, it creates a small crack for the botched chemistry to spill out of. There is something so bizarre about feeling utterly worthless, feeling like you should just run into the woods and never talk to anyone again, but also recognizing the irrationality of that thought process.

Thank you biochemistry for the gloriously f*cked up mess, that is my brain on Keppra.

To be totally fair it wasn’t normal before the anticonvulsant came into my life, but it was manageable without medication. I am not embarrassed that I need medication to keep myself safe. There was a time when I was ashamed of my thoughts. I didn’t want anyone knowing how violent and real they were. Now I realize the importance of recognizing the severity of that thought process, and the need to ask for help.

Chronic illness warriors, spoonies, sick people, whatever label those of us choose to use, tend not to be folks who really love asking for help. We’ve been in the hospital. We’ve had to call nurses every single time we had to go to the bathroom. We’ve eaten bad hospital food. We’ve gone through painful procedures.

We are conditioned to prove our independence…so if we ask for help, we probably need it badly.

That was today. I don’t feel well, but I’m also oddly at peace with it in a rational sense. I can tell you why my stomach is messed up. I can tell you why my asthma is flaring. I can’t tell you what this headache combination is, but I can tell you that it’s probably related to the fact I haven’t had enough to drink today. Now I’m going to take a nice bath since last night’s bath was ruined by a lack of hot water.

If you are reading this, and you’re realizing that you have a logical side of your brain that shouts over that illogical biochemistry induced portion, I’m sending you a gentle hug via our phone/tablet/computer/whatever. You’re not alone. Focus on that little rational voice shooting from the back, it’ll guide you on the right path. 

When You Just Can’t

Reflections and Fevers and Dehydration (oh my)

This staph infection sucks in a bizarre way. It’s relatively healed but of course I need to keep taking antibiotics. I won’t finish the full course, and I never do. My doctors are okay with it at this point given how horrendously they impact my body. I wasn’t able to go get blood work done today because the man delivering my wheelchair had a fever, so he moved my appointment to Wednesday. I need the chair to get to the lab, therefore, no blood work.

In any event, the blood work is for the allergist, and until that is done, antibiotics and I are still not on great terms. Of course, infections and I don’t get along so well either. He had explained that my body may be hypersensitive in general, and any infection, certain drugs, and certain foods and drinks, can all trigger allergic type responses. The idea makes total sense to me, given that I’ve told nurses for years, “I’m allergic to nothing and everything,” to explain random bouts of hives. It just sucks that Tylenol does nothing for any of my pain, and is now the only acceptable pain reliever per the allergies.

Yes, the doctors did okay the discontinuation of antibiotics early, if my symptoms had resolved. No, I’m not lying.

There is a valid reason for this aside from the allergy issue…antibiotics just make me really really sick. I’ve had suspected C. diff on more than one occasion, and after weeks of constipation, I am officially no longer backed up, courtesy of the Keflex. Of course any antibiotic can cause diarrhea. They treated me for C. diff once, without culturing me, and it resolved, but I hadn’t finished those antibiotics either due to an allergic reaction. Why not get tested to see if it’s hanging out in my gut? First off, you have to have diarrhea to have the test done. (You can only provide a liquid sample. No solids at all or the test can’t be done.) Secondly, I don’t want to be put into isolation for-freaking-ever.

I’m not explaining to anyone who ever visits me in the hospital, that I’m in a gown and whatnot room, because I’ve got C. diff just hanging out in my bum. 

Yes, I know it isn’t that dramatic, but please. I have so much going on, I don’t need that added to it. The antibiotics have somehow increased my bowel movements, but decreased my appetite. I think the low grade fever and nausea is probably to blame. As much as I need the wheelchair as soon as possible, I’m also dreading it. There is something about a power chair, that for me, seems so much more dire. I see someone in a manual chair, even if it has some sort of power assist, and I figure they’re okay. I see the power chair, and my mind just goes straight to sickly things. I feel weird that testing showed that as the best option, even though I know with my hyperactive reflexes and ataxia that it makes sense. I guess I’m just insecure.

Now to go and walk the dogs with a fever, the shakes, and dehydration. I did manage to drink some of a cherry slush, and eat some tots to provide my body with some needed salt, but I simply don’t feel like waiting for an elevator and going down 24 floors. This move can’t come soon enough. The idea of being just 2 floors up, and better yet, not being in a city with the rats, cockroaches, and hepatitis A outbreak. The rat realization was new, and while I love them as pets, the ones that live on the streets definitely harbor disease. It’ll be nice removing that element from my daily struggle.

It’s hard explaining to people who think you look like you’re doing well, just how much effort it takes to put on that facade.

Reflections and Fevers and Dehydration (oh my)

Flare City – Autoimmune Blister and Staph Infection

It’s no secret that I’ve been stuck in a pretty constant flare that only seems to be getting worse. The only option I have is to wait for my insurance to approve IVIG. We’ve done one steroid dose pack and I’m preparing for a second. To make things even more fun, my rheumatologist is out on maternity leave, and my insurance company was taken over by another company (it’s a contract deal). The transition hasn’t been smooth, to the point where I can’t even call and get a hold of someone at my insurance company…and I’ve even trying for six weeks.

Yes folks, you read that properly, I haven’t been able to speak to a human being at my insurance company for over six weeks.

While this may annoy the average 31-year-old insured individual, it’s definitely not the best when you’re in the middle of complex insurance approval processes. My chair is coming on Monday (if I can work out a payment plan), but IVIG still remains in limbo. My rheumatologist’s replacement suggested I switch to another practice, something that was discussed a year ago but discarded as I prefer my rheumatologist, and the university hospital nearby has a horrid chief of rheumatology (or at least did a year ago). Point is, I like my rheumatologist, she just happened to have a baby the same time period where my insurance company went to shit.

I was dealing with the increased gastroparesis symptoms, the GI bleeding, the fatigue, all of it…and then something new for me happened. I woke up last weekend, with a blister on my hand. It was just a little thing, but over the course of the day it got worse and worse. There was speculation on my part, and my friends’ parts, over what caused this blister. The best we could come up with is that my hot water bottle somehow burned me, but I didn’t wake up, and the bottle doesn’t have a leak. Moreover, I haven’t ever had an issue with it. So this blister just keeps getting worse, and eventually it takes over my entire knuckle and is working down into my hand.

I’m being eaten by a blister of unknown origin.

My friend Mike is a chef, and he informs me that I need to ignore everyone else’s advice and just pop it, throw some antibacterial ointment on it, and go about my life. I call him stupid until the thing begins to get so big I don’t have much of a choice. I was not having that thing pop in my sleep, and realistically I’m too clumsy not to bump it on something and randomly (and disgustingly) pop it unexpectedly.

Gross.

I pop it, and it’s not really anything special. I throw some bacitracin on it, and call it a day. The next day it’s tender, but not abnormal, and I keep it open so it can heal, but I’m careful to keep it clean, or so I thought. The next few days are a blur because I wasn’t feeling well in general, and I had an allergist appointment. What I do remember is looking at the spot where the blister had been, and being in denial that it was infected…until the day I went to the allergist, when I realized it was scabbing over pus filled portions, and literally creating an abscess.

Double gross.

I went from my allergist to my primary care doctor, who promptly told me I was correct, and it was definitely infected. He also informed me that autoimmune blistering is an actual thing. My body literally attacked the layers of my skin, creating a blister because it just destroyed a section on my hand. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics, but by the next day it was worse. Way worse. The night I’d gotten antibiotics it had worsened to the point where I had a thin layer of skin covering what was undoubtedly my tendon.

You shouldn’t be able to watch your tendons move, and while it was disturbing, I will admit it was kind of cool. Still, I don’t recommend it.

My doctor calls after I take another dose of the antibiotics that were already making me feel like total hell. Apparently I have a multi-drug resistant staph-infection, and while it isn’t MRSA, it doesn’t matter, because I’m allergic to all drugs ending in -cillin. Yay. We’ve established it’s getting rapidly worse, because I’m taking a boatload of immune suppressing drugs, even though they’re not doing a great job at treating my Behcet’s anyhow. Fantastic universe. So I’m sent to the ER.

The ER wasn’t too busy because of the time of day I went in. They ended up wanting an MRI because there was a chance my joint and tendon were infected, but thankfully they weren’t. That would have meant being admitted and going on IV drugs for a few days. I was given an IV push of an antibiotic (but honestly can’t remember the name), and send home on Keflex. I hate Keflex because of the nausea it  causes, but I don’t have much of a choice because of my allergies. Another issue I have with Keflex is kind of weird. It makes me really drowsy, and actually gives me a fever. Not a high fever, but around 100-101, which also makes me feel crappy.

If that weren’t enough, I’ve been dealing with stress over finances, namely insurance funds, and coming up with the money for moving and medical equipment. Life should be easier when I have less rent to pay, but saving up the money to pay insurance installments three months at a time, is going to be really hard. This rough patch also doesn’t help.

Can we address the reality that my body is flaring, and there is a decent chance that the stress made it worse…and my body blistered itself. 

I’m still sort of in awe that a body is capable of doing something like that. I think most of us who deal with autoimmune issues, have moments where we’re shocked at the destructive power of our own bodies. I’ve witnessed countless things, including losing the ability to move because of hyperactive reflexes, but somehow this one blister was more intense for me. I think there was something about being able to actually see with my eyes what my body was capable of. It was as though I was in some long cold war, and then someone dropped the first bomb. I was aware I was in a flare, I knew what was going on inside of my body, but seeing it externally was a whole new game. I’ve got an oral ulcer, and a few other external signs I’m flaring, but there was something about a blister that just felt different.

My roommate has reminded me to relax, that he’s handling the movers and the moving fees, but I’ve never had to rely so much on others, and it’s definitely taking it’s toll. For now I guess it’s all I can do. IVIG can’t come fast enough.

Flare City – Autoimmune Blister and Staph Infection