Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

A few years back, a seemingly healthy friend of mine, expressed jealousy over the fact that I could have my dog in apartments that were, otherwise, not pet friendly. I explained that he had been an emotional support animal, before I realized he could sense my seizures and heart rate changes. At that point he was trained to be both a medical alert dog, as well as a psychiatric service dog. (Back then I was struggling with some major side effects from PTSD. Today they’re under control, though I do still appreciate my dogs waking me up if I do have a night terror.)

She would, eventually, announce that she had PTSD as well, and promptly run out and adopt a “service dog” of her own. All of it was whatever, until she started trying to convince folks with very little, or even no, trauma, that they too, could have PTSD. Ever feel anxious in social situations? You probably have PTSD. It was absurd, and I told her as much. It was suddenly this popular thing. Emotional support animals were getting scrutinized, but psychiatric service dogs became a loophole. They’re totally legitimate, but seem to be easier for some folks to sneak through the system, which is just sad.

The breaking point came when my struggles with gastroparesis became extreme. This was prior to chemotherapy, when I was really thin. My frailness, something that prevented me from going out and enjoying life, became this enviable thing. Someone with an eating disorder clung to it, and decided that they could eat whatever they’d like, vomit, blame it on gastroparesis, and gain sympathy.

It worked.

I still didn’t really think much about it at the time, or even now, because we all have our own battles. What I did think about, and what I still become aggravated with, is this idea that gastroparesis is an eating disorder. After years of being accused of anorexia or bulimia, finding myself in that viewfinder again, was beyond aggravating. I wanted to eat, desperately, and I wanted to drink even more, but I simply couldn’t overcome the nausea. It wasn’t worth eating just to be sick. Some people with GP, will eat, and get sick, either because they want to attempt to eat, or they miss the taste of food, and a small percent I’m sure, do have true eating disorders on top of the GP. Eating disorders can also cause GP, but it can be reversible in some cases.

I am not in the reversible category, and I need people to accept that.

I have good days and bad days with gastroparesis, but it never goes away. A good day can actually cause a string of bad days if I’m not fully aware of what I’m consuming. My behavior may look eating disorder like, but the reality is I can’t digest as much as I may want. A good day means I’m not as nauseas, or I may even have an increase of collateral blood flow, letting me digest…but my GP doesn’t go away.

There is a condition called median arcuate ligament syndrome, or MALS. With MALS, the arcuate ligament runs in an odd manner, and causes impingement of the celiac artery. This results in a lack of blood flow to the stomach, liver, and some other stuff in that area. It can also cause compression of nerves. In a nutshell, you get abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and all that fun stuff. Surgery helps some patients, but not all patients, and the theory behind this statistic is that patients who have nerve damage, will have continued pain.

I don’t have MALS…but I do have significant celiac artery stenosis. They can’t stent it, they don’t know what causes it, and it’s significant enough, that spasms from my vasculitis, could cause it to close off completely, worsening the pain, and gastroparesis episodes.

Except of course, doctors don’t love that conversation, because having your celiac artery narrowed to about 90%, like mine is, when you don’t have atherosclerosis, is weird. Also, even with atherosclerosis, the celiac artery would be an odd point of discovery. Some doctors agree, my celiac artery is the cause of the gastroparesis and other upper GI issues, especially when combined with my chronic gastritis. Other doctors refuse to even approach the subject. When MALS is understood, accepted, and still debated, being that one random patient with a bum celiac artery, tends to sort of become something that your doctors ignore.

I won’t wake up one day and be able to eat normally. I always have pain when I eat…always. Even friends who get excited to see me eat a meal, don’t understand the effort. I will have pain. I will have nausea. I may actually need to sit a certain way, use a hot pack, something, to alleviate the discomfort. Once we hit my intestines it’s really a toss up as to how that will go. There is always some pain due to dehydration, and the stool softeners and laxatives I’m required to take. Some sections don’t always work. Other sections are sometimes ulcered. It’s a fun time down there.

So when someone tells me that I will “heal” my gut as I move through my “eating disorder” like they did, I want to scream. 

Being sick is not something that gets you the kind of attention you might think you’ll get. I want love. I want to build a career and a life. Spending time in infusion chairs, ERs, doctors’ offices, it’s all just a lot of stuff that gets in the way of living life. Yeah, my wheelchair helps me get around, but now that I don’t live downtown, where will I go? You can’t put it in a car, so it leaves me stranded unless I take the bus, something I’ve yet to attempt.

I may start a day feeling good, go to an event, and end up with legs that won’t work. It’s funny how the people who seem to be disability envious, who suddenly find themselves with the same conditions, only have issues when they’re home alone, or want to hang out with friends who seem to have plans that they don’t have the ability to participate in for some reason other than their health. If you always feel healthy enough for parties, concerts, and other leisure activities, but suddenly seem violently ill to avoid obligations, or garner attention, I’m going to question your sincerity. I’m not talking about a recovery day (or week) because I know that one good day for me, when pushed to far, can definitely screw me up. It’s the people who seem to cling to the fringes of the disabled or “spoonie” communities, join somehow, but always seem to have luck when it comes to when their condition will flare up.

Today is a hard day, because I find myself bitter. I want this life I cannot have. This isn’t something positive thinking can fix. Most of the time I do accept my circumstances, and I work to find things that can make me just as happy, if not happier, than my original plans. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry sometimes. When someone gleefully jumps into the sick people community, only to have oddly good luck in terms of when they’re actually sick, and when they’re not, I struggle to bite my tongue.

Be interested, be included, but don’t lie. Even a small illness deserves support. Hell, all people deserve support. You don’t have to fake being seriously ill to get it.

 

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Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

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.

I Have a Cold…and I Love It

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

 

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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

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)

Okay folks, there will be some basic biology talk in this post so if you don’t want to read about any of that, I’ll see you next blog 🙂

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Ah yes, birth control. That thing you wanted until you turned 30, then immediately wanted to burn so you could start a family with the guy of your dreams…just kidding, this isn’t a sitcom. I was put on the pill at 16 because I had periods that were brutal. It turned out that I had really bad ovarian cysts. I was on the pill from 2002 until 2014. I wasn’t on anything for a little over a year. Then, after a year and a half (or so), I got an IUD. There is my birth control journey in a nutshell. There were different types of pills involved, but because of my cyst issues (and what turned out to be endometriosis) I needed high dose oral contraceptives. I went off for a little over a year because I wanted to see if cysts were still an issue, and while they were, the endometriosis was really more of an issue than the cysts were. At the time it wasn’t diagnosed, though. Once I kicked the pill, my doctor felt comfortable with the diagnosis. So how does this all fit into Behcet’s?

For starters, there is an awkward give and take with the whole birth control issue. Most of my medications are contraindicated in pregnancy. Some are actually so bad for pregnancy, I had to prove I was taking reliable measures to avoid becoming pregnant. Of course my family history of blood clots, and having vasculitis, meant I was pushing the limits of estrogen containing birth control pills. My doctor had told me that being on birth control pills that contained estrogen, was a surefire way to get a blood clot.

I really didn’t want a blood clot.

I was able to forgo birth control entirely because I had failed to get control over periods using non-estrogen containing oral contraceptives. They had wanted to use an IUD, but I was super afraid at the time. I also knew that I wanted children in the next five years. At the time I was with someone who had lab work that showed issues, issues that would make conception without intervention highly unlikely. The chances were low enough that, when presented with the numbers, my gynecologist was comfortable enough with me going sans birth control, despite being on medication that usually required me to be on birth control.

Score one for male factor infertility.

I don’t do drama, so for the record, my ex did go on to have an adorable baby boy with his gorgeous girlfriend. While we were together I was informed given the information at my disposal, that we could not have children. Indeed, I was able to stay off of birth control for well over a year, without a pregnancy. 

Now, for so many years the goal of life was to avoid pregnancy. Let’s me honest, for most of us that’s how it goes. We try to avoid pregnancies, until all of a sudden we realize we want kids. Some people are lucky enough to avoid pregnancy, then become pregnant, when they find it convenient. Other people find themselves getting pregnant when they didn’t plan on it, or struggling to get pregnant at all. Then there are the weird sick women out there, who have the added benefit of having to seriously plan out pregnancies because of illnesses and medications.

Doctors have had various recommendations for me. Some have looked at the research and been comfortable with my proclamation that I want children some day. For many women with Behcet’s, pregnancy brings a relief from symptoms. Doctors don’t really know why, but Behcet’s symptoms, and even the disease itself, tend to lessen during pregnancy, and even shortly afterwards. Of course some women have worsening symptoms during pregnancy, and more have issues following the birth of their children, but there was hope.

Other doctors have acted like I’m insane. The medications alone make it a really risky idea. I would have to stop certain medications for a certain period of time, but also be able to start pregnancy safe medications within that time, to keep all my symptoms in check. A seizure during pregnancy would be really bad. Gastroparesis makes me nauseas and struggling to feed myself adequately, how in the world will I be able to nourish a growing baby? They point at the unknowns genetically in terms of how many people in my family have autoimmune ailments. Of course there is no guarantee that I’ll be passing anything along.

The rest fall somewhere in the middle, which I feel is the right place to be. I definitely don’t expect to have an easy go of it, but I would like to have at least one or two children of my own. I would love an adopted child, or a stepchild, just as much, but there is something about a biological child that does call to me. I’ve definitely considered IVF with a surrogate, but that is an expensive route. It’s also the safest in terms of what would be best for the baby. (Think about it, my body does a poor job of keeping me alive, entrusting it with a fetus seems terrifying to me.) A surrogacy would also mean I could stay on a lot of my medications, or at least go back on medications sooner. (Some medications you cannot be taking because they pass along birth defects via the egg, so I would have to stop those prior to egg harvesting.)

Is this a fun read or what…

I know my best chance at having a healthy biological child, is via a surrogate, but it doesn’t make thinking about it any less daunting. I mean, I was married, I’m in the process of getting a divorce, I’ll be 32 in April…and there is a timeline on fertility. I didn’t do myself any favors with the chemo. (I still don’t know if there was damage to my eggs, but again, that’s not something I can really know without specific fertility testing. My insurance only covers fertility tests if you’ve been trying to conceive for a period of time without success.

I’m pretty sure I don’t meet the qualifications of trying for any period of time, given the fact that I’m painfully single.

Another issue for me is that I did have early stage cervical cancer. They removed a pretty decent size of my cervix, and the location has made it more likely for me to experience issues with premature labor. So, you know, as if it weren’t enough to have Behcet’s with heavy GI involvement including gastroparesis…I had to go and get cervical cancer, too. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful that it was caught early, and that I only needed local surgery instead of a more invasive surgery and chemotherapy. It just would have been nice if I could have avoided cancer all together.

Doing six months of chemotherapy, then getting diagnosed with cancer? Yeah, that’s only something that happens in my life.

This is another rambling blog, but today was infusion day, and I’m in that weird headspace of sleepy, but full of vitamins. I hope I find someone someday who can love me, illnesses and all. I also hope that they want children (or already have children) and are supportive of whatever pathway to parenthood we choose together. It may not be conventional, but that’s okay. Right now I do have an IUD. It was placed before I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m thrilled with it. It controls my endometriosis issues, and I don’t know it’s even there. There isn’t a worry for me regarding pregnancy, which is important still with all the medications I’m taking. With my nausea issues, vomiting, and malabsorption, it was time to get something that didn’t rely on another pill I would have to remember to take. Plus, no estrogen!

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)

Wheelchair Waiting

In my brain there is a list of things I have to get done. In my body there is a list of system failures that prevent me from doing the things I need to do. Us sick folks tend to triage our lives, but not all of us are aware that we’re even doing it. I put school, the dogs, and anyone who needs me, first. My social life has died a slow death over the last few years. It started with a bad relationship, then my illnesses slowly but surely made it harder and harder to socialize.

When my falling and fatigue became really bad, and the doctors started discussing mobility assistance beyond my walker, I was angry. I didn’t want to be “the girl in a wheelchair.” I also didn’t want to have to explain to people why I was in a wheelchair when I could walk. I used to take my dog down to the waterfront, and back. It was a 20-30 minute walk each way, and now I can’t go more than a block. Some days a block requires 2-3 breaks to complete.

Did I want mobility or anonymity? I could either be the girl who takes her dog to the waterfront, or someone nobody knows, because I don’t bother to leave the house. 

Today I’ve made peace with it, even with people who may ask why I have it. I know people and places that I used to commute to on foot. Now I’m waiting for the free ride system to come around, or I’m paying for ride sharing apps. I’d much rather explain that I traversed the distance in my chair, so that I could do something like go to a movie, and walk the mall afterwards, or even go putt putt golfing. There will still be days when I simply don’t have the energy to do anything, but at least with the chair I would be saving energy as often as possible.

I keep thinking about my thesis course that starts in a month. I’ll have to be on campus once per week for 2+ months. Once I have the chair, I’m not worried about it. As it stands right now, I am worried. Walking to and from the bus stop, is a challenge. The last time I did it, I started to pass out during class, and had to leave early. The chair, as constraining as it may seem, actually gives me more freedom.

Today that’s all I can think about. I want to go see a movie, but I simply can’t muster up the energy. The plan is to go see it tomorrow after I get my vitamin infusions. (Barring of course, any major allergic reactions!) I still can’t wait for IVIG, either. I hate throwing all of my hope on one treatment option, but it’s really all we have left, so it’s what I would like to start doing as soon as we can.

Head up.

Chin up.

Positivity.

Wheelchair Waiting

I’ve Always Wanted Fuller Lips…But Not Quite Like This

After a few days of stress, and feeling like garbage, I was pleasantly surprised to be feeling pretty good after taking a couple of naps. Everything was going fine, until my lip started to tingle. I was annoyed when the tingly feeling shifted to a burning. Investigation showed some redness, and by then my lip was basically numb. I nonchalantly mentioned that I thought I was getting some oral ulcers, before asking if my lip appeared swollen.

Within five minutes I went from how I usually look, to having a pretty seriously swollen top lip, numbness in both lips, numbness up my nose, and some selling in my cheek. Even my tongue was numb in parts, and my hard palate was almost totally numb.

It has happened before, but I just assumed it was related to the Flagyl I’d been on at the time. Now I have to wonder if there was something else at play. After an extraordinary high dose of Benadryl, things settled down a bit. My lip was (and still is) sore, as are parts of my lower lip, and tongue. I did have some increased swelling again this morning, so I took more Benadryl. My primary care doctor is phoning in an Epi-Pen just in case, and I have an allergist appointment on the 5th of February.

I laughed it off, but the person I was with at the time was slightly less amused. With how quickly the swelling came on, and spread, he had legitimately worried that he’d have to rush me to an ER, or even call an ambulance. I can look at the situation logically, and appreciate his fears. Looking back on it, I’m lucky. The numbness moving down the roof of my mouth, into my gums, and even parts of my face? That’s serious. If it had moved down my throat, and I’d lost the ability to breathe, it could have been deadly.

For years I was told I didn’t have nice lips. (I have perfectly normal lips, just for general information.) When I’ve had instances where my lips tingle or even puff up a little, I just chalk it up to blow flow, and feel grateful. It took this level of severity, to realize the periodic episodes of hives without a cause, and now this, are definitely a sign that my system is not in synch.

My theory is twofold. The first scenario is that my immune system is screaming intruder as though an allergen is present. The result is a flurry of histamine and other responses, leading to hives and/or swelling. The second scenario is that I’m actually having angioedema, and not an allergic type reaction. There have been a lot of cases in which someone has an autoimmune disease along with angioedema or mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). I don’t think it would be MCAS, as I don’t have (at least not yet) symptoms of anaphylaxis. What I do have, are these episodes where it seems as though the blood vessels in my lips, mouth, and perhaps cheeks, all want to allow the area to expand.

I can’t know, of course, and I doubt doctors will have an easy answer. I will presumably be getting allergy testing done, but with the gastroparesis, I’m not expecting a huge change in my diet. It would be nice to know for sure what I should avoid, and extra nice to know if I am truly allergic to several medications, or if my body was just going rogue because I was ill.

Alas, I can save money on lip injections, but I won’t know for sure which areas will be plump, and I won’t know how long the plumpness will last. (Let’s not forget the lisp, either!)

We joke, and we laugh, because we’re alive.

I’ve Always Wanted Fuller Lips…But Not Quite Like This

Very Hard Day

I am an emotional eater, which would be fine if it weren’t for gastroparesis. Last night there were a few things that frazzled me, on top of it already being a busy night because of New Year’s Eve. NYE is my favorite holiday, and between some random events, and fighting off a cold, I’ve been left paying for it. I took a two hour nap, and I’m legitimately contemplating going to bed right now…it isn’t even 7pm.

Chronic illness takes a lot out of you, so when something happens that would leave a “normal” person tired, it can leave a chronically ill person super exhausted. Today it hurts to even move. I can’t imagine doing anything other than sleeping. I’m hoping my roommate takes my dog out…and I ate too much. The nausea and pain are definitely not enjoyable, but at least some of what I ate had nutrition I needed, namely protein.

This is one of those situations where I want to conquer the world, but I know I have to just relax and allow my body a chance to recover. Despite my seizure medications, I’ve had several moments where I thought I was about to have a seizure today. It’s worrisome. I’m hoping I don’t because I don’t want to deal with it. I know I should be more concerned about how a seizure impacts my body and brain, but I know all of that. My main concern is just not wanting to deal with my roommate being worried, potentially dealing with EMS, and even ending up in the ER.

I keep telling myself it’s okay to take a day to just recover, but I also want to conquer today because I swore I’d be a fighter in 2018, Of course, knowing when to relax is part of being a fighter…

Perhaps a shower will help things. It may just put me to sleep, but that isn’t the worst outcome. I don’t nap, so if I do, it’s usually a sign my body really needs the rest. I didn’t go to bed until around 4:30am, and I’d taken sleeping medication far earlier. That means the drugs wore off and I was left attempting to fend for myself and sleep naturally. I can only sleep in short spurts, hence the naps today.

I am not a quitter if I take a day off from being positive. I know that, and I have to embrace that. I didn’t have a good evening. I mean I did, then I didn’t, and the chaos and emotional aspects flared up the already active flare that i’ve been in. It was the kind of thing that leaves all parts of you raw. Despite the resolution, and the rational thinking I’m so fond of, I need to allow myself the ability to be angry, and sad.

Today is not a good day physically, and it’s a rough day emotionally, so together they’re feeding on one another, creating even more aggravating physical symptoms. Acknowledging that, and sleeping when I need to sleep, is the right thing to do. It may feel like giving up, but it’s really just recharging.

I am not a quitter.

Giving up isn’t an option, but taking a time out is. So today is a time out, a moment to listen to my body, and use heating pads and hot water bottles, to treat the aches and pains. Sleeping at random hours, and for long periods, is giving my brain the chance it needs to relax. (Please note: there was a long pause after the phrase “needs to,” because I literally couldn’t figure out something other than recharge to place afterwards. Clearly I should listen and take another nap!)

Happy New Year. Listen to your body regardless of whether or not it’s a holiday. You are your body’s best advocate, so be the best you can be.

Very Hard Day