To Port or Not to Port…and how to ask the question!

During Rituxan, my nurses had noted that my veins were incredibly difficult to work with. This wan’t news to me. Every time I would go in for blood work, it would take multiple sticks before they accessed a vein. The only veins that work for me, are the veins in my hand. There are two exceptions, but neither is practical for every procedure or blood draw. The first exception is whatever sorcery the EMT’s and paramedics use. The only thing I can think of is that while I’m unconscious, or actively seizing, my veins become more prominent due to muscle contractions, and an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. They usually have to stick me at least four times, though, so it isn’t a total win even though they can get that one pesky arm vein. The second exception was what happened during this past hospital stay. After one nurse missed twice, and a second missed once, they asked for a doctor to help. The  doctor missed twice with an ultrasound machine as guidance. This was extra fun because of how deep the needle was during the process. I’d also been given nausea pills that hadn’t really worked, and no pain medications or fluids because, duh, no IV. They were drawing up IM medications when the special IV team arrived. They used another ultrasound machine, and even they struggled, but managed to get it in to a deep vein in my forearm. Luckily they used lidocaine that time, so it didn’t hurt nearly as much.

When I told the doctor that we were in the process of beginning IVIG, she said that it would be a good idea to get a port. I agreed with her, but admitted I was worried. Port maintenance isn’t a huge pain, but I do have vasculitis. I guess my fear is that the existence of a port, potentially increases my risk of blood clotting. (Granted you use heparin to prevent clots from forming, but still, terrifying.) I’m also afraid to ask my doctor.

If I had a port I’d have the option of administering IV Zofran and Phenergan, which would be an enormous help. Right now I’m using medical marijuana way more than I want to be using it. Having to use it multiple times, per day, just to function, is no way to live. I process nausea drugs quickly, so having a fall back option, like marijuana, is the only way I can be sure to avoid vomiting, and is the only way I’m able to consume anything at all. We could also talk with GI about home IV fluids, including banana bags to supplement all the vitamins and whatnot that I’m not getting due to my dietary restrictions.

Previously my doctor made it clear she doesn’t order ports for her patients, as most issues are temporary. I went through chemo, without a port, and it was hell on me and the nurses. Multiple nurses stated multiple times that I should have had a port placed. I was also not allowed to schedule any of the last spots of the day, as it took a good 20-30 minutes each time to find a useable vein. They couldn’t use hand veins, so we always used this same vein on the side of my thumb. It got really aggravated by the end of the six months, but could still be used. As an IV placement, it sucks though. It’s blown several times, and curves over 45 degrees.

I’m just anxious about asking. I’m also anxious about people looking at me weirdly. It’s easier to hide than a wheelchair, obviously, but it’ll still be there, and people may still ask. What will people I date think? How will I even be able to date? I could show up to most dates without a wheelchair, unless they wanted to go for a stroll afterwards. What happens when the time comes for them to see more of me, and this lump is right there by my collar bone?

It’s all hypothetical, of course, and I doubt my doctor will even okay the port…but I anticipate it is going to be necessary if and when we do IVIG. I just don’t have a good vein for it, and if we’re going to be doing it every 4-6 weeks, and if there is blood work like I’ve been getting, it’s time. Every ER doctor and nurse, has wondered why I don’t have a port. I’ve never had a valid answer other than, my doctor doesn’t think I need one.

I know myself. I’ll be anxious if it happens, and anxious if it doesn’t. If I do get one, I’ll be self conscious for a while, then snap out of it. The same goes for the chair. Maybe I wanted one with normal wheels instead of a power chair, but anything is better than my current situation, and I can always make it my own, make it unique.

Also, I’m 1/4 of the way to my goal on You Caring. I can’t wait to reach my goal, keep insurance, and kick some major Behcet’s booty!

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To Port or Not to Port…and how to ask the question!

So Much Sleep

Every single doctor wants to put me on a steroid taper. I was just on a steroid taper. The issue is that the dose of steroids I need to feel relief, is a whole lot higher than what one can maintain long term. The other issue is that it’s just a stop gap measure. We can keep decreasing flare symptoms for a few days at a time, but we aren’t really doing anything for me overall.

Tomorrow I’ll be calling my rheumatologist, but she’s pretty set on me waiting until January to move forward with IVIG. One of the biggest struggles lately has been how much I’m sleeping! Literally fell asleep in the bathroom because I thought I was going to throw up, didn’t, and ended up waking up on the floor. (Now that I’m thinking about it, my jaw hurts, so it is possible I fainted.) Still, I literally slept for at least 12 hours last night. I got up, made it to the couch, and somehow fell asleep again for a couple of hours. Walked my friend’s foster dog, hung out with the friend for a bit, then somehow managed to fall asleep again. Not sure for how long, at least an hour, maybe longer, but my friend woke me up and asked if I was okay.

My memory has been horrid, and I want to watch shows, but I keep falling asleep. At this point I just put things on that I’ve seen before.

One amusing result was me spending several hours convinced my phone was broken. I kept lowering the volume, and was convinced it would stop just before going to mute. I reset my phone. I updated everything. Then I remembered, to put it on mute, I had to use the little toggle button on the side.

I mute my phone regularly…but today, I forgot how to mute my phone. 

While a lot of people would find this alarming, I just a accept it for what it is. I am in a flare, and all my symptoms are heightened because of it. New symptoms are related to old symptoms, and even fully new symptoms seem to be minor compared to established symptoms.

If you have a chronic illness, and you need more sleep than usual, talk to your doctor, and then sleep! 

For a long time I had a lot of shame about how much sleep I needed just to barely function, but now I (for the most part) accept it. Yes, there are days when it aggravates me, but right now I’m just embracing it. Normally my nebulizer would make me jittery, but it didn’t, so that makes me happy! I also don’t explain it to people, at least not in an apologetic way. My automatic response to, “Are you okay,” has become to just say that I am, or even ask why they’re asking. I don’t even think twice because I’ve just accepted how things are…for now.

I will not give up hope. I will have a better quality of life. Maybe I’ll never be in remission, but I will achieve things in this life.

You have a purpose, even if you’re ill…you just have to find it. I’m still digging around for mine, but I will find it. Right now I’m just trying to share my story, and make people who struggle with their illnesses, hopeful.

So Much Sleep

When People Mean Well…but are just MEAN

Over the years of being sick, I’ve dealt with a lot of welcome advice, and a whole lot of unwelcome advice. It started when I was a kid, long before I even thought, or my parents even though, about something chronic. To be fair my symptoms back then were even more vague than they were as an adult, minus the miserable oral ulcers. In my early 20’s,  though, I got married, and got sicker. It was a bad marriage, with a lot of stress, and situations that were hidden from the public.

One lie within the marriage was that I had fertility issues. I didn’t, but my ex did. We were young, and not ready for children anyhow, but when people questioned issues, I threw myself on the sword. To cover my ex’s ego, I said that I had fertility issues. At the time I was struggling with what doctors thought may be Lupus, but ultimately was just labeled an “unknown connective tissue disorder”. One woman very nonchalantly told me that my infertility was God’s way of saying I shouldn’t have children because I was sick. I sat there for a moment, wondering what she’d say if she knew the real situation, that my ex was the one with the fertility limiting issues, and the cause of those issues. (I should say as a disclaimer, while my ex did terrible things to me, and in our marriage, he has since gone on to have an absolutely adorable son. Given testing that was done, I was told that it would not be possible for us to have children without IVF. I was told that IUI wasn’t an option, and that with my health, IVF would be difficult.)

In any event, there was always more advice. Diets to follow, natural remedies to try, even healing crystals that would unblock whatever was blocked in my body. It was always something, and I was always polite. Until I had a diagnosis, it didn’t make sense for me to waive off the advice, even if it were things I would never consider. I am a scientific person, and without proof, I’m skeptical.

Then I got diagnosed, and the advice started to bug me. I also noticed that various fads would come into play. For example, I gave up gluten because my GI doctor recommended it. We couldn’t test me for Celiac’s Disease, because I couldn’t eat enough gluten to have it in my system for testing. I had eventually ended up eliminating gluten containing foods unintentionally, because I’d noticed certain foods made me sick, and others didn’t. There is actually evidence that folks with GI manifestations of Behcet’s, do benefit from eliminating gluten from their diets. The issue was that people started avoiding gluten for bogus reasons, and because I didn’t have Celiac, it was assumed that I was on the same bandwagon. I had to explain, repeatedly, that my autoimmune disease was benefited by elimination, and that for some reason my body couldn’t break down gluten.

The same thing happened with Aspartame. My current roommate still rolls his eyes when I refuse diet Coke, but will drink diet Pepsi. I have no clue why my body can’t handle it, but I can tell if I’ve gotten into it, and you’d be able to tell, too, if you knew me. Why? Well, I go from looking like me, to looking like a version of me that happens to also be seriously pregnant.

I’ve had friends chastise me, stating that I’m allergic to so many antibiotics, because I rely too much on “Big Pharma”. The truth is actually due, in part, to two separate things. The first is that the genetic mutation common in patients with Behcet’s, has also been linked to a condition called Steven’s Johnson Syndrome. Luckily I’m familiar enough with the situation, and it’s uncomfortable enough, that I discontinued antibiotics the first time I got it. A doubtful doctor prescribed a similar antibiotic, at which point SJS reared its ugly head, and I went to urgent care. I’ve been lucky to avoid hospitalization, but I do avoid any drugs I’ve had an SJS reaction to. The second issue is simple…my immune system is messed up. Whether or not I’m truly allergic to all of the antibiotics I’ve had reactions to, hasn’t been established, but it’s highly likely that I’m not. I am fairly confident I’m brutally allergic to Cipro, but the rest of the allergies I doubt. I’ve had seriously delayed reactions, I’ve had reactions in the ER when I haven’t been given anything. I’ll be seeing a new allergist soon, but I can’t do traditional testing because of pathergy issues.

Right now I’m dealing with a gnarly flare, including serious skin issues. I’m bracing myself for the advice. What to wash my face with, how hot the water should be, what to eat and not eat, various acne face washes…blah blah blah. The best part is…it isn’t acne. Please do not approach me and tell me I look good, but…just don’t. I don’t want to hear about your aunt’s friend’s daughter’s line of eco-friendly organic face cleansers. As much as you’re informing me from a place of love, your words hurt.

Unless someone is coming to you because they know on at least some level, what you’re dealing with, and you can tell they need advice, keep it to yourself. Unless you can say, “I hate dealing with that! I’ve always had to…” and leave it at what YOU’VE personally done, because you know someone is dealing with a specific illness…keep it to yourself.

I grew up with clear skin. One pimple was grounds for shock. When I started having skin problems, I thought it was acne. I was annoyed, that at 25, my skin was rebelling against me. I didn’t realize that what was going on with my face, could in any way be related to my Behcet’s. All my symptoms had been internal, aside from the joint swelling and long naps. Now I was covered on my face, with these lasting horrid pimple-like things. I also had raw red skin, from slathering myself with the various washes and creams I had self-prescribed, or obtained via well-meaning advice-givers.

You may mean well, but when you jump to conclusions about how someone looks, or what they’re doing, you may end up making them feel worse. Yeah, I may have an odd way of handling some of my day to day tasks, but that’s usually because doing it the “normal” way, is going to get myself, or bystanders, injured. My weird bumpy skin may prompt you to help, but at the end of the day, there isn’t really anything that can be done. It hurts. It’s frustrating. It just is.

When People Mean Well…but are just MEAN

The Financial Impact of Chronic Illness

As I’ve mentioned before, I am in the process of getting divorced. In my case, it has been over two years, and the divorce still can’t been finalized. Financially it’s been a difficult two years, with a cross country move, knee surgery, and severe worsening of my Behcet’s. I’ve been lucky to have insurance that covers most of my medical expenses, but when I lost the ability to work, things became difficult. After tearing through my savings, selling whatever I could, and doing my best to keep my bills as low as possible, I’ve found myself and an economic cross roads.

I want nothing more than to go back to work. For my entire life, I’ve worked, and being out of work makes me feel bad about myself. When my Behcet’s began worsening, I just job hopped, hoping I could find something that worked for me, while I got my symptoms under control. The problem was that my symptoms never really got better. During chemotherapy, I was getting temporary disability, which made the basics affordable, but not by much. I moved to a more affordable apartment, but then lost my temporary disability, making it just as unaffordable as the more expensive unit had been. My first two applications for disability were denied, and I was told to await a court date. That date would like be 18-24 months away. On top of that I lost my electric discount, and my EBT benefits, because both required an IRS form that I didn’t have. Last year I made so little, that what I did make was technically owed to me. I also expected to get more back on taxes if my ex and I filed jointly, because I had more in deductions than I had in earnings. Too bad he filed without me, and didn’t tell me.

As it all piled up, I began to become more depressed. Lately there has been a lot of anger, too. It isn’t as though I’m being lazy on purpose. I genuinely don’t know from one day to the next, what I’ll be physically capable of. Sure, once I get my wheelchair, my ability to work a desk type job, is more likely, but it’s definitely not guaranteed. Friends have begun pushing me to find something, because they think I’ll be happier once I’m working. What they don’t realize is the level of stress taking a job would create.

For starters, I can’t drive. My work day, even if it were short, would be lengthened by the commute factor. If I’m really sick, I’d end up using Lyft or Uber, which would of course cost me more. When you factor in the lower wages of most desk jobs, it just doesn’t make a lot of logical sense. Then you have my inability to be reliable. The day of my interview, I couldn’t walk because of my pain level. I was also insanely weak. I don’t have an adequate warning for this. Lately I’ve felt bad most days, but the days when I literally can’t function, are hard to predict.

Perhaps the biggest issue is whether or not I’m going to continue deteriorating, and what treatment options I’m going to undergo. Neurology suspects my neurological symptoms are going to get worse, and if the past is any indication, they’re correct. My GI issues are definitely worsening, and that means I’ll likely be getting another endoscopy and colonoscopy. (I’m fighting this as hard as possible because of issues I have with the preparation.) Neurology wants me back on chemo, but as I said in a prior blog, I plan on suggesting other treatment options first. The various treatments I could undergo, would all require days to weeks off of work. At the moment I require insane amounts of sleep, and I suspect treatment would just increase the amount of sleep I’d need, at least around treatment days.

It has been really hard, and then I got word that my divorce settlement went from something I was okay with, to something that would prevent me from being able to pay even basic bills. To say I was crushed is an understatement. I love the city and state that I live in, and facing the possibility of having to move because I cannot work, is heart breaking. I’ve looked into low income housing but the wait lists are 3-5 years. It’ll take about 3 years when all is said and done, to get approved for disability. What are those of us who are unable to work, supposed to do?

Those with chronic illnesses are more likely to face unemployment or underemployment, than others. When you have multiple doctors stating that a person cannot work, and you repeatedly deny based on age and education level, it’s mind boggling. (Those were the reasons I was given for my second denial.) I look at my degrees, gathering dust, and I’m heartbroken. Recently I had to swap from a laboratory focus, to an investigative focus with my Master’s degree, because I could not make it into school, nor could I safely manipulate the laboratory equipment. When you’ve spent decades deciding on a career, falling in love with the career path, and pushing yourself to achieve school goals despite many moves, it’s disorienting to lose it all.

I will be able to work, eventually, but it could be a while before I’m capable of working full-time, unless I can find something that allows me to work from home. Doctors have stated that I may only ever be able to work part-time, and that’s if we get the disease under control. I want to work, and I need to work, but my body just can’t handle it. Financially I’ve stopped opening bills, because I know I can’t pay them. I’ve even contemplated switching banks because of the amount I owe on my credit card. The monthly minimum payment is making me unable to afford food.

This is not unique to me. Most people I know with a chronic illness that impacts their neurological or gastrointestinal health, struggle to maintain meaningful employment. If they do work, it’s at the expense of their health, and that obviously isn’t ideal. I’ve witnessed members of my family, who really shouldn’t be working the hours they’re working, continue to push their bodies to the breaking point. As my divorce slowly works towards resolution, I have to face things like insurance. How will I afford my medications? I need insurance that covers them. Of course I’ll need to buy insurance…

My goal is to find a work-from-home job that is legitimate, and support myself, but it will take time. The issue is that it’s time I may not have. I find out Tuesday what the treatment plan will be for me, and I’m hoping that it’s something effective, but not debilitating. I keep telling myself that plasmapheresis could be the answer, because it’s important to stay hopeful. Perhaps it will work, and I’ll be able to work part-time, scheduling work around my plasmapheresis appointments. Maybe I’ll find work that I can do from my own home. Whatever the case may be, being chronically ill definitely creates a large amount of stress around the issue of financial security. The disability system is definitely broken.

The Financial Impact of Chronic Illness

Bonus Blog – Stress and You

So I wasn’t going to write anymore today, but I had some things come up that I’ve realized could be beneficial to others. For over two years I’ve been locked in a chaotic divorce with my ex-husband. The relationship ended, and it was a mutual decision, but it became clear that he hadn’t expected me to actually leave for good. The relationship was bad. He cheated, or tried to cheat, and there was extensive abuse. He was cunning enough about the abuse to stop actually putting his hands on me once he realized the marks were obvious, but it didn’t stop there. He would slam on the brakes in the car to scare me, and once it was so violent that my shoulder dislocated and relocated. I ended up in a sling. He would throw things, and if they hit me, insist that it was an accident. There was a lot of verbal and emotional abuse. Screaming right in my face until the spit was just hitting me as I sunk to the floor.

Point is, it was bad. 

It took me too long to leave, but I did eventually break free. I thought we had a decent agreement in place, but after he began playing the same games he played during our marriage, I got a lawyer. There were assets that needed to be divided, including savings and the house, not to mention alimony. As soon as I got a lawyer, all hell broke loose.

I have bad luck, and soon after landing a decent job, it became hectic, and my health flared up. I had kidney infections, and when I didn’t have kidney infections, I still felt miserable. It was something I couldn’t keep under control well enough to work full-time, but I tried, because the position was supposedly transitioning to a work from home for part of the week. This angered the manager because she wasn’t allowed to work from home (we had very different roles, in fact, I was the only one not selling in the office, and everyone else that was selling distracted me from the work I had to do. ) Then I blew out my knee and that was the end of that. Everything got worse, and the stress got more and more unmanageable, which was when my Behcet’s, of course, started to really press down on me.

I have autonomic neuropathy, linked somehow to the Behcet’s, and when my disease flares, the neurological symptoms flare along with it.

Now we’re 2+ years into it, and I thought we were done, but of course, the saga continues. I had blocked his number which led to me getting tons of odd calls from his area code where he lives, as well as many hang up calls from blocked numbers. Worse, his girlfriend (possibly fiance) knows my number, as he’s used HER number to contact me while his number was blocked. Yeah, I’m sure she’s just sitting on the information when he’s telling her, and both of their families, that they can’t get married because I’m the one holding up the divorce.

Everyone says don’t get stressed, but when you have to answer the phone because you’re waiting on information for a repeat three day EEG, and your wheelchair assessment so you can get at least more mobile, it’s not fun to be getting calls from people pretending to be doing a sex survey, or sell you random stuff. On top of it, I’m facing homelessness because I cannot afford my apartment, and my other bills. My dogs need to eat, as do I, and at some point if this divorce ever finishes, I’ll have to pay for my insurance as well. I could be homeless as soon as January, and nobody realizes it. 

So what do we do? I’ve just sort of accepted it and leaned into it. If I freak out hardcore for a while, then calm down, it seems to work better than if I try and bottle up the rage, and fear. I vent to those who are willing to listen, and take advice as it comes. Mostly I just allow myself to feel the anger, and anxiety, while telling myself that my nervous system was already in overdrive, so the shaking and sweating will eventually slow down. It’s not a good feeling, and I hope the people reading this don’t have to deal with it often, but maybe my words will help you feel a little less alone.

Personally I find his actions despicable. To treat someone, even someone you don’t know, the way he’s treating me, is just so wrong. I would never treat a stranger like this! To take advantage of someone in a weakened state is so sociopathic. There isn’t any reasoning with him, either. Things have to be his way. I don’t use the term sociopath lightly, either. We had testing done, and he was off the charts for both narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. The best part was that he was so insistent the forms had to be done right, that he wouldn’t let me fill them out by myself. Instead, he came in and added things to the lists, which only drove him further up on the scale. My doctor told me that I needed to consider getting out, that he wasn’t capable of changing because he lacked empathy and remorse.

The stress is there. I can’t live in a stress free world, and I don’t have money for massages or anything that would help me destress. (I would sell one of my less than stellar kidneys for a nice long foot reflexology session right now!) Put on a nice smelling candle, play a stupid game while listening to stupid tv. Take pleasure in your pets. Remind yourself that you are fighting, and fighting hard, but that you’re also still human. I’ve had so many breakdowns recently, and I’ve started to really wonder if I can keep going on without someone carrying me. While it would be amazing to have someone living with me to share the household chores and ultimately make sure I don’t fall on my ass, that just isn’t the case. I have a roommate, but he’s much smaller than I am, so if I were to take a fall, it would be on the dog to get me vertical again.

Just think of the things and people and places, that you love. Go there in your mind, breathe in the scents, touch the related items and textures. Breathe through your nose and out your mouth. Center yourself and remember that you’ve had days like this before, and you can conquer this one, too…even if you have to throw a few things and cry first.

Bonus Blog – Stress and You

Neurological Symptoms Getting Worse

Things haven’t been good, and between the livedo reticularis getting seriously bad, and my neurological symptoms flaring horribly, I know that my Behcet’s is winning. I’ve been on a steroid taper, but there just doesn’t seem to be much relief. I went to neurology today, and we’re increasing my seizure medication and my neuropathy medication, but he really doesn’t have a ton of faith that it will help my symptoms, including my shakes and ataxia. It could help other issues, but there really isn’t one drug to help my specific set of neurological symptoms.

We don’t know what is happening in my brain/spine/nerves to cause my shaking, ataxia, and hyperactive reflexes. I present a lot like an MS patient, but I don’t have MS. Also, because the symptoms get worse with flares, and do improve slightly during high immune suppressing treatments, it makes logical sense that it’s related to my Behcet’s. With my GI system crashing though, there is a question of how to adequately treat most of my symptoms…while also having to embrace the reality that I’m sadly unique in how my neurological symptoms present.

Today the doctor mentioned IVIG, but we aren’t there yet. I’ll bring it up with my rheumatologist next week, just to see if that combined with other therapy options is an idea. I’ve also read some things about plasmapheresis, though again, it would be experimental because Behcet’s is so rare. If I had to do more chemotherapy to live independently, then obviously I would, but I’m desperate to try other options first. Some of the things I want may seem odd to someone who isn’t chronically ill, but for me they’re everything.

First and foremost, I want a port. I know there are a lot of risks, and the risks do scare me, but because I’m so hard to stick, if we were to take on another IV treatment, I would want to have an easy access situation. The other benefit of a port, is we could talk about hooking me up to IV fluids, and even IV medications. With my poor GI motility, it just makes sense for me to bypass my stomach for a lot of things. My seizure meds, and my immune suppressing drugs, as well as my nausea medications, are the first things I think of. Also, I have to choose between eating or drinking, which sucks. It is so painful to do either, that I’ve been giving up on food so I can drink enough fluids. Doctors are still saying I’m dehydrated though! This has gone on for years, with doctors always insisting I need to drink more water, but my body just can’t handle more water orally. IV fluids at home would really benefit me, even if we just did them every other day.

The second thing is the wheelchair, and while I’m disappointed at needing one, I appreciate that it will be a tool for me to use to become more independent. At this point, they have approved me, so I’m just waiting for the company to get in touch, and to work on what kind I’ll be getting and when it’ll be arriving. I’m still really embarrassed to need one, but I’ve fallen several times in the last few weeks, and with my diet so limited, the weakness is even more pronounced. We know from the way my body has declined in the past, that my neurological symptoms are only going to get worse. It doesn’t make sense for me to put pride over my well being. If I wait until I’m fully unable to walk, then ask for a wheelchair, I’m going to be stuck waiting for however long it takes.

The third thing is nutritional supplementation. I refuse to get an NJ or an NG tube placed.  I would likely need an NJ as my stomach is the issue, and they’d want to bypass my stomach. My gag reflex is just too strong, and living with a tube from my nose into my intestines would not be something I could handle. I also don’t feel like I’m sick enough to warrant a surgical feeding tube, and wouldn’t want one anyhow. I can still intake things orally, and I feel like if we got the right supplements I could get by. I’ve been choking down Boost, and I can tolerate potatoes, PBJ (sometimes), and sorbet. My issue is I’m not getting enough protein, or other nutrients, on my limited diet. Today I had a cup of sorbet, and that was it until 6 when I forced myself to eat some potatoes. If you’re wondering, it hurts, and I’m miserable, but at least I kept it down thus far.

I need a support network. I need people who get what I’m going through, and don’t judge me for being negative. I had a friend who was really close to me, who had multiple medical conditions as well, so I’ve been venting to her about my health lately. She is also someone I go to when it comes to how to date with chronic illnesses, and how to talk about health issues with someone you care about. Unfortunately we’re not friends anymore. She felt as though I was becoming wrapped up in my illness and letting it define me, and that my casual dating situation with the guy I’ve been seeing was unhealthy for me. Yes, I want to find someone to seriously date, but at this point I don’t have the energy to put into dating. (Not to mention I can’t eat much, and alcohol is a big fat no at this stage.) Yes, I have other positive things going on in my life, but everything has changed course because of my illness.

If you’re reading this, and you have a chronic illness, don’t feel bad about feeling bad! When you find yourself in a rut because your disease has taken over, it’s okay to process it for as long as it takes. In my case, I began losing more and more things that I’d discovered about myself in the last two years. After my marriage ended, and I was free from an abusive situation, I really started to find who I was as a person. Then, my disease progressed, and I began to lose things I’d started to enjoy. That process is ongoing, which means my frustration and sadness is ongoing. I don’t dwell on it publicly but I do vent to friends because I need help finding me. Yes, finding yourself is a personal process, but I think being sick it’s important to have people in your corner to help you. If I didn’t talk about my health, I can honestly say I would get lost in suicidal thoughts.

Really? Yes, really. There have been points in this journey where I’ve just wanted to die, and I think it’s something anyone with a chronic illness deals with. Whether or not you’re truly suicidal, or just feeling overwhelmed and the thoughts crosses your mind, it’s a real issue that requires real help. I am on anti-depressants, and I’m setting up more counseling sessions. I don’t want to actually die, so I need to make sure my mental health is being handled by professionals.

Please seek professional help or go to your nearest emergency room if you are feeling suicidal. Various countries and states have numbers you can call if you need someone to talk to. Call 1-800-273-8255 in the U.S. for the National Suicide Hotline. You can also chat anonymously. 

So that’s an update on my situation. My brain is starting to become worthless, so I’m off for now. Please address issues you have with your illness, and know you aren’t alone if you’re depressed or anxious. We can get through it, you can get through it. Your life (my life) OUR LIVES, are worth fighting for.

Also the only thing that’s working on my nausea is medical marijuana. That makes the part-time job hunt harder because I can’t take anything that they drug test for. At the end of the day, I can’t work if I’m up all night dry heaving, so it’s worth it for me to forgo those positions in lieu of the medical treatment that actually works for me.

Neurological Symptoms Getting Worse

Self Advocacy and Research

There is a fine line between becoming a Google doctor, and self advocacy along with research. When it comes to having something like Behcet’s, the treatment options are really all borderline experimental. We can treat the symptoms, get into the more extreme treatments, and then when those don’t work, what happens? Well, you end up like me…tripling your immune suppressing drugs, going on a six week steroid taper, and sleeping more than a sloth in a coma.

When I was having severe neurological symptoms, there was discussion amongst myself and a well educated friend, about things like plasmapheresis and IVIG. The former seemed the most promising, with the latter seeming like an option should they find out my immune system was also somewhat deficient. Plasmapheresis was an interesting find for me, because it has been cited as putting many patients with many different autoimmune disorders, into remission, or at least into periods of remission. I know I’ll never be off of immune suppressing medications…but the idea that I could be free of steroid tapers, and symptoms, is kind of everything to me. I mean, I can’t imagine what it would be like to make plans, ahead of time, and not have to worry about fainting, seizing, and of course, how to eat properly so I don’t pass out but also don’t vomit.

So how do I take what I’ve learned online, and apply it to real life? I don’t know. I’m not that patient who suggests things to their doctors, but I also have come to realize that my doctor is open to my ideas at this point. We didn’t think chemotherapy would fail. To be honest, we’re not totally sure why it failed in such an extraordinary fashion, though my suspicion is that I got a nasty cold, right around the time I began to be exposed to some really nasty stuff in my apartment. My immune system was triggered, I had to lower and even stop the Cell Cept, and that is the perfect storm for relapse. Initially we thought it was minor…but now I’m thinking it was just the beginning of this larger relapse.

Dizzy. Nauseas. Exhausted. In pain.

That is how I spend my days. One weekend rallying to spend time with friends, even though we didn’t do anything insane, turned into me laying in the grass because my legs literally stopped working. The steroids have at least encouraged my appetite, though they haven’t done anything to really help me digest things appropriately. At least the GI bleeding has taken a hiatus.

I want to tell my doctors that we need to try more, that I’m not ready to give up and just accept my life is how it is. I also don’t want to suggest something, only to have them scoff, become annoyed, or worse, try it and have it fail. Where is the line? What is helpful versus ridiculous? I honestly don’t know, but the struggle is becoming insane. One vaccine has left my body struggling to function. My diet cannot sustain what I need to function properly, either. The pain, the exhaustion, it’s all just so overwhelming.

Self Advocacy and Research