I am not a Google doctor…but I do have to do some research on my own behalf. With a rare illness, and even rarer manifestations of that illness, my own doctors often take to the internet in search of treatment options. Having failed literally all the conventional treatment options for Behcet’s, I’ve entered the realm of last ditch efforts, and when it comes to trying random things, Google isn’t really the worst thing.
The other idea is searching treatments for more common ailments, like Lupus and MS. Everything is theoretical, which would be fun on paper, but is much less fun in real life. The current idea I have, is plasmapheresis. Behcet’s is actually listed as one of the disorders plasmapheresis treats, but it’s not something commonly done. Whether or not my rheumatologist will be willing to try it, I don’t know, but I’d prefer to try something new, instead of committing to another round of chemotherapy.
How desperate do you have to be to ask doctors to literally filter all of your blood? I don’t know. I’m having constant tremors and muscle spasms, and neurology knows that this is the beginning of a serious neurological flare. Since we don’t know exactly how the Behcet’s is attacking my nervous system, it’s not possible to concentrate on the specific mechanism of attack. I compare it to a nuclear bomb. I know that we will be basically attacking everything, including the innocent parts of my body, but that’s what we did with chemotherapy, too. I’m embroiled in civil war right now. My body is attacking itself because it genuinely doesn’t know how to target the true hostile entities.
Another alternative treatment I’m already utilizing is medical marijuana. It’s something I never really thought I’d be a proponent of. As a teenager and young adult, I never even tried marijuana. It wasn’t something I was interested in. Then the nausea became unbearable, and I was going days without eating. Marijuana became the only option I really had left. The effects of the right strain, are beyond description. IV Zofran is amazing, but not something I can do at home, and the oral options have to be processed before relief is delivered. I don’t always have 30-60 minutes worth of vomit avoidance in me. Marijuana relief is 5 minutes or less with vaping. The right strain (for me the best is Blue Dream) provides more relief than anything else I’ve tried. It also provides benefits beyond nausea relief, that would usually require additional medications.
There are those who judge me, and it frustrates me. I’m not vaping to get high, I just want to be able to eat some toast. I want a moment where I’m not consumed by nausea. Yes, there are strains I use that do cause a high, but I generally only opt for those strains if I can’t afford Blue Dream. The cost is, unfortunately, becoming something prohibitive. I’ve contemplated asking for Marinol, but because it’s a capsule, it still takes time to process. This is an issue because I have gastroparesis. You want fun? Struggle with nausea, but have a GI system that doesn’t process food, drink, and medication, correctly.
I don’t have a port. All of my chemo nurses, and phlebotomists, wish I had a port. If I had a port, we could get me IV medications, like Zofran, but my neurology team has begun to worry about Zofran anyhow. (Supposedly it has an increased risk of seizures, but so does severe dehydration.) I would love to do IV fluids. I would love to push most of my oral medications IV. All of this, but I would still utilize medical marijuana however possible, because it really does hit most of my symptoms effectively, and bypasses my horrid GI system.
Honestly, being chronically ill is all about finding what works for you. It starts with a wonderful medical team, extends to developing a support network, and ends with self advocacy. Some of my doctors aren’t big on medical marijuana, but after seeing me shrink to 120 pounds (I’m 5’10”) they mostly gave up telling me what I should and shouldn’t do in the marijuana situation. Vaping some weed was preferable to placing a tube for feeding me.
You are your best chance at receiving the care you deserve. It took me a long time to feel comfortable standing up to physicians, and asking for second or third opinions. I’m still not fully comfortable, but I know that I need to in order to get the weird care that I need. Having a rare illness can be extra challenging. There will be plenty of doctors who tell you that it’s all in your head, but if you know the difference between mental symptoms and symptoms of an outside condition, you need to push. I was told for years I was crazy…then they found out it was Behcet’s. Everyone who had told me I was nuts, felt bad, but I didn’t scream and shout, “I told you so!” I knew then, what I still know…I’m a weird rare situation, and it makes sense why nobody could figure it out for so long.
Be your own advocate, and seek advocacy if necessary.
Today I emailed a social worker to see if she could help me navigate the system I’m stuck in. If she can’t, then I’ll seek help during my next hospital stay. I’m not naive. I know there will be another stay, and it’ll likely happen sooner rather than later. As my symptoms increase, and my ability to care for myself decreases, the likelihood of going inpatient increases. Next hospital stay, I’ll be talking to a social worker affiliated with the facility. I want to navigate a difficult system, and I want to come out with whatever is best for me.