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!

Don’t Make Decisions When You’re Panicking

My friend Molly lives in Mexico. She works in the U.S., but she lives in Mexico, and she loves it. Lately I’ve been struggling financially. That’s a lie, I’m drowning financially. As I try and come up with ways to stem the financial hemorrhage, while my symptoms increase, my mind starts to scramble, I start to tell myself I should just run. It isn’t rational, and I know it…but I can’t help but embrace the flight after so spending so much time embracing the fight.

This is why you don’t make a decision while you’re panicking.

In the past month, I’ve thought about moving to Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Washington DC, Washington State, Los Angeles, and Texas. This isn’t an over exaggeration. If anything, I’m forgetting a state or two. The only real reason I haven’t moved forward is that I love it where I am, and the thought of having to move myself, and two dogs, wherever, is daunting. I’d also have to rent my room out.

It isn’t undoable, it’s just not something I should (or would) rush into. I have thoughts, though. I think about stopping my medications, seeing what happens. It isn’t because I want to get sicker, but because some part of me hopes that I would get better. There is no logic behind it, in fact, I know logically that it would be a terrible plan. Even on my current medications, I struggle to get by. I required IV fluids on Monday, and I’m sure gastroenterology tomorrow will decide I should be getting IV fluids more often. (At least I hope they come to that conclusion. Waiting until I’m sick enough to warrant an urgent care or ER visit, is just not good for my body.)

I want to go camping. I want to have a normal life. I want to ice skate on the beach. I want to fish off a pier.

It isn’t just about what I want though, it’s about what I need.

As I move forward with scheduling an appointment with the new mental health provider at literally the only clinic within 30 miles that takes my insurance, I have to face the reality that they’ll force me back into counseling. Don’t get me wrong, counseling is a wonderful tool, and it has definitely helped me in the past…but the type of counseling I would receive, isn’t the type of counseling that would help me in this instance. We could go through my history, and evaluate why I feel how I feel about myself, the causes for my low self esteem…but that won’t change the limitations that I have now.

I’ve found a lot of counselors don’t know how to approach someone who is chronically ill, which is a part of a the reason why I blog, and started an Instagram. It’s also why I plan on starting up a YouTube channel once I’m able to acquire the space and privacy. Us sick folks talk to one another, but we aren’t really honest about the emotional toll our illnesses take on us. We may joke about not having personal lives, being in long-term relationships with our heating pads, or cheating on Naproxen with Acetaminophen…but the thread in all of that is that we joke about it.

When you’re chronically ill, you’re more likely to make light of your difficulties, than to be honest about them. You’ve been judged for complaining, so now when you need to vent, you do it in a comical way. Friends laugh with you, even chronically ill friends…but who do you have that is willing to listen to you when you’re genuinely struggling?

I think the answer to that question is probably scary. I had a friend who would always listen to me, and I would always listen to her…until one day she told me my disease was consuming me. This was about a month ago, and I shut down. I threw myself into only being positive about my disease and the conditions that sprung off of it. And while I know that there is a lot of positive things that I can focus on as a result of having Behcet’s, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I grieve the loss of a lot of things, especially this time of year.

When I was younger I made plans. I was the insane planner. Even when I began to get ill, I still had plans. I didn’t think about my disease worsening. I couldn’t have imagined the path my life would take. While the divorce should have been foreseeable (it was to those around me), my Behcet’s becoming the severe was never even on my radar. My ex told me nobody would ever love a sick girl like me, but I had told myself he was only saying it to hurt me. He knew that I was insecure about my health, I still am, and he couldn’t have known at that point in time that my health would rapidly decline…still…the words haunt me.

I had plans to have kids around the age of 30. I’m 31, single, and am on several drugs that you absolutely cannot take during pregnancy. It also isn’t known whether or not the Cytoxan impacted my fertility or not. My run in with cervical cancer also cost me a chunk of my cervix, right in the center. While I was lucky not to need further treatment, just a few more biopsies and regular tests each year, I was warned that I would potentially need a cerclage during pregnancy to prevent preterm labor. Two different doctors also told me, point blank, that I would be high risk from the second I conceived. The second told me that even without the drugs I’m taking that cause issues during pregnancy, I would still need to carefully plan any pregnancies. It isn’t a case of deciding when I’m ready to start a family, it’s about actually seeing doctors months in advance for blood work, supplements, and other tests.

It isn’t just the idea of starting a family. I know that I theoretically have time for that, and there is adoption and surrogacy if carrying a child myself isn’t possible. The other issue is that it’s the holidays. While most people love this time of year, I find it utterly depressing. For years I was in an unhappy marriage, and the holidays meant making sure to put on the correct face and attitude. I had to be convincing. I had to go to my ex’s coworkers’ parties, and while there were some good times in my marriage that I could lean on for support, there were many many reasons why I was anxious in these situations. Would I say something wrong? Was he looking at me in a way that meant something I should be able to pick up on?

I had thought being free of that would mean that I could relax, but because of my health, I haven’t really been able to enjoy the holidays. While I’ll never truly know what he, or anyone else for that matter, is actually thinking during the holidays, I know that I look around and feel so utterly alone. Thanksgiving? I can’t eat. Christmas? I desperately want to ice skate this year…but I know that doing so would require adaptive equipment and I don’t want to be the girl with a walker on the ice skating rink. Perhaps I’ll go see a movie on Christmas day, to try and distract myself from just how alone I feel…but there is so much of me that resents my body during these periods of time.

Plus time! Holidays remind me that time is passing,g and I can remember last year choosing to do all of my chemo treatments near holidays so that this year the holidays would have to be better. Instead I’m being reminded that I sacrificed those holidays and now I’m stuck fighting for a treatment that manages my symptoms better. I don’t regret doing chemotherapy, it was the right choice, I’m just desperate for something that can make me enjoy my days in general.

The holidays are just anxiety provoking for me. I want so much, but am so limited. Even the idea of getting my wheelchair has been bogged down by the reality that the process takes some time…and my insurance coverage is going to be gone soon. The up and down and go-go-go of the seasons, probably give most people with chronic illnesses a bit of anxiety!

I told myself for Halloween I’d carve a pumpkin, but I didn’t. I told myself for Thanksgiving I would find gluten free stuffing, and spend time with my friend in Los Angeles, but I couldn’t. There are things I want to do for Christmas, but I’m afraid to even say what they are, because I don’t know how to make them happen. Perhaps I will go ice skate on the beach, even if it means using adaptive equipment, but I would have to do it alone. Nobody I know could afford to go, hell I can’t afford to go, but I really want to do it. (It’s on my bucket list.) The people I do know who could afford to go, probably wouldn’t want to see me with one of those stands children use to keep themselves from falling.

To be honest I really wish I could just spend a weekend in a cabin, and see the dogs play in the snow.

Well, I guess I put it into words. Perhaps the idea is to have ideas, but no expectations. I wanted to be somewhere else at this stage in my life, and I may just have to accept that my path has shifted. It doesn’t mean I won’t have the things I wanted, I just have to find a new way of getting there…

Don’t Make Decisions When You’re Panicking

Grieve and then Grow

I woke up today several times. It was one of those mornings when nausea wakes me up, so I handle it with medical marijuana because it’s the fastest working thing that won’t increase my seizure risk…then go back to sleep until it returns. My rheumatologist messaged me back and basically had said that I needed to see my primary care doctor, or go to urgent care/the ER. My primary care doctor didn’t have openings, and urgent care is closer.

At this point I know what I need…fluids and nauseas drugs. I also know the reality is I need something to make this flare go away. Nothing is going to make this flare go away, at least not anything that can be reasonably sustained over a period of time. The ER this time of year is a just a pile of germs, especially after a holiday weekend, and unfortunately urgent care wasn’t much better.

The first doctor was sort of baffled by my symptoms, and wanted me to go to the ER and be admitted to the hospital. She recognized what I already knew…anything they did today, was just going to be a stop gap measure. I needed treatment of the underlying cause, not just the symptoms. Preaching to the choir doctor…but I’m not going to hang out in the hospital while confused staff rheumatologists go through my charts and realize we’ve tried all of the conventional stuff. She also said the marijuana could be causing my constipation. The day I used the most was the day I finally went to the bathroom, probably because I was able to drink enough water that day…

So she gets a bit flustered and says she can’t make me go to the hospital, and I ask if I can get fluids and nausea meds there (in urgent care) and she says yes.

Let the process of trying to draw my blood and place an IV commence…

Look, I have bad veins by all standards, but toss in the vasculitis and even the best nurse is going to struggle. They manage to get the IV in, but drawing blood requires two nurses, because one has to keep the needle in place while the other swaps tubes. I also bleed super slow, so that was making it extra fun. After this point a new doctor comes in, because of shift change, and he’s a laid back guy. He agrees I’m flaring, contemplates trying a different steroid, but after talking about my prior issues with steroids (needing super high doses for any sort of efficacy) he agrees that my original plan makes the most sense. Get the fluids, check the labs, and switch over to a high fluid diet in lieu of solids. It’s better to eat ice pops and Jell-o, than to end up in the ER because I’ve had solids but no fluids.

When you’ve been sick for so long, you learn to sort of gauge what the right response is to whatever symptoms arise. It’s only when something new pops up, that you’re truly thrown off. My doctors, especially ER doctors who haven’t seen me before, are going to struggle a bit to process what the best course of action is. I get it. If I were any other patient, you’d keep me until I had symptom control. I won’t get symptom control that can be extended after my exit from the hospital. It isn’t a pessimistic view, it’s reality. At this point in time, there isn’t anything they can do for me during an admission, that is going to extend beyond 1-2 w weeks post admission.

That is the depressing part. I want a normal life, LA with my friends for the holidays, ice skating, and running around the beach. I want to join a sports league in my city, so I can meet new people, and bowl!

Could I bowl? Absolutely. Could I plan in advance what days I would be physically able to bowl? No. That is the part that sucks. I am normal, but I can’t be normal. I want to work, I want to buy things on Cyber Monday, and I want to make holiday plans. There are so many things my friends and family members are doing, that I just can’t, at least not consistently.

This has been the struggle with disability. There are some days when I am able, but other days when I need medical intervention just to obtain adequate hydration. I don’t get to choose which days are which. I can choose when I get some of my medical procedures, but again, that doesn’t guarantee what days I’ll feel what way.

It isn’t all, “I hate my life!”

One thing I’ve been wanting to do lately, is bring people together who struggle with chronic illnesses. I am optimistic, and I do cope, but I definitely have days when I just can’t, and that is okay! Kick, scream, cry, do whatever it is you need to do. Embrace the anger and the sadness. Why? You need to make peace with the negative parts of your illness. I always thought it was black and white. That if I was pessimistic, at all, I would be giving power to the disease. The truth is that we can’t be honestly positive, until we have embraced the things we’ve lost to our diseases.

How can I appreciate the interest I’ve found in investigative forensics, unless I own the fact that I’ve lost my ability to really be in a laboratory environment on a consistent basis? How can I appreciate the absolute amazingness of my friends who have stood by me, or have come into my life during this difficult journey, until I grieve for the friends and family that I’ve lost because they couldn’t handle my illness?

Turn the losses into gains, by acknowledging just how beautiful your new circumstances are…because they’ve grown from the loss of something else.

Grieve. I grieve the loss right now, of my ability to do the things I would normally do this time of year. I grieve the opportunity to join a sports club. I grieve for my financial losses. I grieve because it’s natural, and because I know that I will be able to connect these losses together once something beautiful has grown up from their roots.

I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that positivity allows you to make sense of the things that have happened in your life.

Grieve and then Grow

Dating a Sick Chick

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the future, probably because it’s the holidays, and also partially because of the relapse. Prior to relapsing I actually had a lot of hope that I could date, find someone, settle down, and have a semi-normal life. I’ve been married, and while I would get married again, it isn’t a priority for me. I just want someone that I mesh well with, who makes me happy, that I can make happy, too. I had plans for my career, and life in general. If there is one thing I tend to do, is overthink, and over mentally prepare.

Then life was like, “Hey, how about you try to do everything you want to do, but with this busted up body instead?”

Yeah.

My first thoughts were about school and work, because I’m an independent person. I’ll deal with the school situation more in depth in a later blog. The last thing I started to think about, was dating. I wanted to find someone I could at the very least, get along with, and live with. My heart has so much to give, but now I was left wondering how it would pan out as my health issues shifted.

First and foremost, the wheelchair situation. Right now, I’m using a walker periodically, or my dog with a harness. Neither works super well since I have coordination issues that include a foot drop. When I walk without assistance, I look like a drug zombie, who has pooped her pants, and also appears to be shivering from being cold. Even with assistance, I have to take a ton of breaks, and I still look ridiculous. I fell a few times last night, and it was super embarrassing. One guy mistook me for homeless (I was wearing jeans and a decent shirt, but whatever). Another group thought I was drunk. I just took a deep breath and reminded myself that the wheelchair process had begun.

But is a wheelchair going to draw less attention? Won’t people see me and look away? What guy is going to be able to see past the chair?

I know there are plenty of people in wheelchairs who have significant others, but how does one find these people? I also know that I’m lucky that I can walk, just not well enough to do it safely. The chair is for those weak days, or relapses like I’m in now where walking is significantly challenging. I’ve discussed the “friend” I have, and while he has said the chair will just increase the things I can do, I still feel as though it’s going to change things. We will always be in each others lives, he’s truly my best friend, but I don’t think he looks at me as dateable. He’s seen me do chemo, fall down, relapse, seize…I’ve pretty much ruled out my viability as a long-term partner.

So who would take all of this nonsense on?

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t date, because it isn’t fair to put someone else through dealing with my illness. This is something I always fought back against, since it would be the other person’s choice to be with me. Lately, though, I’ve wondered if that statement was also meant to protect me. I could find someone, who is wonderful, but when things shift with my health, will they still be there? Perhaps the suggestion that I shouldn’t date, is more meant to protect me from being hurt when I’m the most vulnerable.

Is there a right way to date as a sick chick?

I don’t know. One thing I always am, is up front. If I meet a guy for coffee or dinner, I warn them ahead of time that I won’t be super hungry. Usually I order a drink, but I avoid ordering food, or I order something small. Then I explain why I’m not eating it. Some guys take it in stride, others have faked work emergencies and left. (I’m not lying about the second part…I was walking home, and he was walking to his car, in the same direction, but he didn’t even say a word to me.) I could have called him out on it, but I didn’t. I was polite. waited to see if he’d call or text, and when he didn’t, I let it go. For future reference, though, this isn’t the best way to treat the situation. At least finish appetizers, say you enjoyed the company, and hell, at least send a text that said you had fun, but that you didn’t feel a connection. Tell me I’m a great person, and I’ll survive.

Sick chicks, don’t be ashamed of your medications. I will take them in front of people, and if they ask, I’ll tell them what I’m taking, and even why. It used to be something I hid, or tried to hide, but that inevitably led to awkward situations where I was forced to explain that I wasn’t using illegal drugs. Yes, that has happened. When you sneak away to take pills, people get suspicious.

How do I do this in a chair though? I can’t go to clubs, can I? What about live music at bars? Is there a spot for me? Will people look at me funny? I’m used to being tall, 5’10”, how will I navigate a world where I’m sitting down!? All of these things are flying through my head, but they’re flying through my head while I lay in bed and type. I couldn’t do anything this weekend because of the ataxia. I want to take the dog to the park, but I can’t  because I don’t want to fall. Walking makes me sweat, even though it’s cold out, and the dizziness comes on so fast.

The sicker I get, the more I make peace with the devices I’ll need to get by…but the more questions I get about my actual future. Obviously my focus is on myself, and my treatment options, but as a divorced woman in her early thirties, I’m going to be thinking about the future on some level. I want to come home to someone, to cook for someone, hell, even to clean up after someone (though I have to amend my usual tactics for cleaning given some of the limits I’ve developed).

For those reading this, I’m curious how you cope with dating with whatever chronic illness you may have, or if you’re the one dating someone with a chronic illness, how it impacts you. I also want people to know that there is no right and wrong way to approach the act of dating while sick, as long as you’re not doing anything to harm your mental or physical well being. Choosing not to date is okay, if it’s something that doesn’t make you depressed or angry. I know right now I’m not actively seeking dates, other than those including my friend, but even that is something I think about critically. I want to make sure I’m not taking over his life with my growing limitations.

It’s not an easy thing.

We will see how things go once all the devices and medications have been put into place. I really just want what a lot of people want at this stage in life. The problem is, I have a less clear path towards obtaining that goal.

Dating a Sick Chick

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

When Chronic Illness Pauses Your Life

I found out yesterday that we lost a family member to suicide. My instinct was to get on a plane, fly back home, and be there for his wife and children. Then I had to take a moment to realize that it wouldn’t be possible for me to do that. Financially I can’t afford the airfare, because I haven’t been working…because I’ve been sick. On Thursday I received the Hepatitis A vaccine, and unfortunately I landed in the group of people who react badly to the vaccine. I’ve had a fever, extreme fatigue, and a host of other symptoms. On top of that I’m going through a very annoying steroid taper while increasing my Cell Cept. Then, of course, there is the simple fact that it isn’t safe for me to fly at this stage in my relapse.

When your health puts your life on pause, you learn to just accept it. Sure, you have moments where you’re frustrated, but in the scheme of things you just sort of have to deal with it. In this instance, I can’t make sense of how to make sense of it. There are members of my family that want to see me, and even need me, and I know there is no logical way for me to get to them. I live where I live because there are more medical facilities, and the weather is better for my health…but in these moments I definitely struggle.

It also put a lot of things into perspective regarding my own mental health. I’ve been embarrassed about my struggle with depression…but I still talk with friends about it because I know that I need to bounce it off of certain people. They’ve been instrumental in my seeking increases in depression medication, and pushing for anxiety medication. Still, it isn’t something in my family that is really openly discussed. I know family members who take medication, including myself, but it’s not something that we really are open with. I have friends who take medication as well, but there is still this stigma around it. There is also the idea that you take meds, and you’re better. That is completely not the case for a lot of us. I need to take seizure drugs, my seizure drugs aggravate my already existing depression and anxiety. In fact, they drove my manageable depression into severe depressive disorder.

The person who passed in my family, I didn’t even know he struggled with depression. His wife knew, but again, it wasn’t really openly discussed. For him to go off and end his life was not expected, certainly not the way nor the time that it ended up happening. His daughters are definitely shell shocked, as are the rest of us. Mostly we’re worried for them. To lose a parent to suicide is something I can’t even fathom. Losing a parent is hard enough, but knowing that your father simply couldn’t go on with life, is heartbreaking. I just keep hoping that they know there isn’t anything they could have done to keep him here, and that his ending his own life doesn’t mean he didn’t love them enough to stay. His pain was simply so overwhelming, that he couldn’t see the people who loved him through that painful darkness that enveloped him.

This post isn’t about me taking his death and making it about my health problems. I just think it’s an important topic because of course I would love to just hop a plane and be there with my family. We see how chronic illness impacts things like work and school, but how often do we confront how it impacts our family life? I’ve talked about how I don’t feel like I’ll ever be truly loved in a relationship because of my health issues, and that is still something I struggle with. Coming to grips with my limitations within my own family is even harder. It’s one thing when I am let down by my health, it’s another when I let down others. If I had my wheelchair, I would chance flying, despite the doctor’s warnings…but I don’t. With the other medical issues I’ve been juggling, I know it isn’t realistic to try and go…but it doesn’t make it easier.

Hug the ones you love. Open your arms to those with physical and mental struggles. Talk about mental health issues because they’re not something to be ashamed of.

When Chronic Illness Pauses Your Life

Relapse Struggle

I’ve begun this blog so many times, but the wording always seems wrong. Either I’m far too upbeat, or I’m far too pessimistic. This is my attempt to just be honest.

About a month ago I began struggling with increasing fatigue. The weather here has been more hot and humid than usual, so I told myself it was just my neurological issues acting up. I’d also had a rather nasty seizure due to a delay with filling one of my seizure medications, and my rather stupid decision to go for a long walk without drinking enough water. One of the issues I struggle with when my stomach acts up, is that I really don’t feel hungry or thirsty, until quite late in the day. The seizure led to a nasty infection in my hand, because I’d managed to give myself road rash from thrashing around on the really disgusting sidewalks downtown.

Now, at first I chalked up feeling like crap, to the antibiotics I had to take for that infection. Since I’m immune compromised, they’d done a massive IV infusion, then really major oral antibiotics afterwards. I think I was in denial, but I kept thinking about the cold I’d had, and telling myself, “You had a nasty summer cold, the weather has been hot and humid, you were on antibiotics,” etc. I basically just kept coming up with options other than a relapse. Then the bleeding started.

My GI bleeding isn’t exemplary in terms of amount, but it is exemplary in both persistence, and the obviousness of it being from my actual intestines and not my rectum. I did have rectal ulcers, and one oh-so-lovely genital ulcer, but none of that was bleeding. I could feel the stabbing pain in my colon, as well as various points in my intestines, and the color wasn’t bright enough to have been strictly caused by the rectal ulcers. Try as I might, there was no denying I was at the very least, having a GI flare up.

Things only went downhill from there. My appetite became so poor, along with my thirst, that I began purchasing Gatorade and Boost. Then the shaking began. I’d been dealing with morning shakiness for a while, but the amount of time I spent violently shaking became longer and longer. I would get up at 9 or 10 in the morning, and shake until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. My service dog in-training was a bit annoyed that I needed him wearing his harness at all times, because I couldn’t trust my footing in the house. Soon I was using my walker again. I fell into the dishwasher, pulling it loose from the wall, and even fell a few times while outside.

I was lucky enough to finally get my primary care doctor to inject me with steroids, but I haven’t tolerated the oral steroids, meaning I’ll likely go in next week for more injections.  I’ve begged my doctors to allow me to self-adminster IM injections at home, but they’re all insistent on going the oral route, or going into the office for the injections. My primary care doctor, and neurologist, have both decided that a lightweight wheelchair is a good decision. I won’t use it all the time, but on days when I’m feeling weak, it’ll lessen my fall risk. I also hope that it will enable me to return to work, as disability was denied again. Now they’re saying I have to weight 18-24 months for a court hearing, even though the state failed to process my neurological issues, which is one of the biggest reasons I can’t work reliably, along with the GI issues, of course.

It’s hard to know what to feel. I have this overwhelming urge to stay positive, but I’m pissed off. I had my last round of chemotherapy in April. I relapsed 4 months later, with my severe symptoms cropping up around 5 months after completion. I spent more time going through chemo, than I did in remission. While I’m beyond grateful that my neurological issues are stable, I’ve had to face that I will never be neurological “normal.” After breaking down in my neurologist’s office, he suggested that I was emotionally unstable. I wanted to smack him. Of course I’m emotionally unstable, my body continues to let me down, even when I do everything in my power to try and give it a fighting chance.

So that’s where I am as of right now. Financially struggling, emotionally struggling, but still determined to find a way to live my life. At least once my wheelchair comes, I can begin to make plans without worrying that I’ll be too weak to participate. I have a backup option for mobility. I’ll also (hopefully) stop falling like a drunkard while walking around downtown on hotter days. I still worry about things, like finding love, and settling into a family someday, but I just have to hope that it all works out. First and foremost I need to find a way to persevere, even if my body seems determined to drag me down.

Relapse Struggle