Vitamin Infusions, Movie Plans, Poops (Literally Talking About Poops)

So I was able to get my next round of vitamins today, which was good because I was seriously dragging. I went to bed last night at 7pm, was asleep before 8:30, and could have slept longer this morning had my dogs not made it clear that they were ready to get up. Still, I got a solid 12 hours or so. I had planned on seeing a matinee today, Star Wars, but still felt too sluggish to make it. (My infusion was at 11:30, and the movie started at 3:40. I had hoped, well let’s be blunt, that I would need to poop after the infusion. Sadly, I didn’t get that urge, which was something I had gotten the last two times.

Living life chronically constipated, kind of really sucks.

I used to have issues with diarrhea, and I remember always thinking anything had to be better than running to the bathroom all the time. Then I learned how much not being able to go, seriously sucked. Turns out when you’re constipated, but can only form a partial obstruction, you get diarrhea around the backed up stool. You don’t know fun, until you have the pain of severe constipation, with all the added horror of having diarrhea (sometimes even in your pants.)

We haven’t found a good option for handling this, because I’m a walking contraindication to conventional treatments, and a walking example of all things that can cause diarrhea. When someone can drink half a bottle of Miralax, and not go to the bathroom, you know there is a problem. I recognize that moving more would make me go easier, but I cannot move as much as required because I’m so fatigued and nauseas. Lately I’ve decided the gas is worth it, if it gets things moving, and I’ve started eating dairy. Dairy, for whatever reason, seems to aggravate whatever is causing the GI bleeding.

So, do I want to bleed but go, potentially bleed but not go, or not bleed but definitely not go?

Life is fun.

Back to the movie…with my luck I’ll go, but then suddenly get the urge to poop. This isn’t an easy thing to deal with. First, let’s say I do actually have to go. Going in public isn’t easy for me, nor is going after being stopped up. There is also the risk that the urge doesn’t result in actually going, but does cause bleeding. Biggest issue, for me, is that I’d be buying a ticket, and missing some of the movie. This is Star Wars, and I am a nerd. The only reason I haven’t seen it yet was because of how sick I was feeling, and how sick people in general have been. I can’t imagine sitting through an entire movie with a mask on, so I had to wait.

Tonight, at 7 or 10pm. I’m not being hard on myself, though. I fatigue, nausea, or pain, become too much, then I’ll see if I can see it tomorrow. This is an autoimmune disease. My body is attacking itself (or so they theorize anyhow). How I handle it is how I handle it, because my disease is my disease. What works for me, may work for others, but ultimately each of us needs to figure out what our treatment plan looks like.

During chemotherapy I explained to my mother, that chemo patients are all different. Even two people receiving the same drugs, can have different sets of symptoms. I lost my hair, largely because I was severely malnourished prior to chemotherapy, and I had tapered off very high doses of steroids. The combination caused hair loss, including bald patches, ultimately causing me to decide to shave my head. I also had major issues with nausea. This was likely because I had severe nausea prior to chemotherapy, and had begun to eat different foods during chemotherapy. I also was much more susceptible to the drug than we had expected. I ended up with very low red blood cell counts, platelets, white cells, everything. The doctors were floored, and I was given less of the drug during my next infusion. I had been expected to get an increased dose, but that would never need to happen.

So hopefully I wil have more energy, less nausea, and less GI pain. Hopefully I will go see a movie that I have been waiting weeks to see. Hopefully I will be in a relatively empty theater, so I don’t need to wear a mask the entire time. Hopefully the people working won’t give me grief over my hot water bottle, so I can hopefully get abdominal relief, and back pain relief, through the duration of the film.

May 2018 is the year of “hopefully,” and I’m okay with that.

I told myself 2017 would be the year of treatments, and remission. I set myself up for a let down. So, while I’m hopeful that IVIG will provide me with good results, and less side effects, I recognize that nothing is 100% certain. I can have hope, without losing all rational thinking. Hopefully IVIG will work, and hopefully I’ll need less assistive devices. Hopefully I can get back to working. Hopefully I can throw myself into self improvement, and socialization.

Tonight it starts with hopefully seeing a movie. Tomorrow is another day.

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Vitamin Infusions, Movie Plans, Poops (Literally Talking About Poops)

Changing Your Expectations and Being Okay with It

I have had to change so many of my expectations over the last few years, and you would think it would get less painful each time…but it doesn’t. When my ex-husband and I separated, it was a relief. It wasn’t a good marriage, despite being a long marriage, and the freedom from the constant verbal and emotional tirades was beyond amazing. My health had momentarily improved, leading me to believe that I would be so much better physically, because I had freed myself emotionally. It was partially true. My C-PTSD symptoms did decrease, to the point where my medications could be removed, but my Behcet’s didn’t get the notice.

Denial was my first mistake. I refused to accept that the symptoms I was having were Behcet’s related. Wasn’t I always uncoordinated? Didn’t I always have stomach issues? Finances were a mess because I’d blown my knee out, so the stress was of course causing me some physical distress. I made so many excuses for so many obvious signs of flaring, that I was eventually sitting in the medical marijuana office, weighing in at 120 pounds, all 5’10” of me. I got my medical license to smoke, and for the first time ever, tried marijuana. At that point I was struggling to keep down water.

My second mistake was over optimism. Let me explain this further. Being optimistic is wonderful. You need to be positive to stay on track and fight your chronic illnesses. Being overly optimistic, though, prevents you from planning realistically. I kept telling myself every treatment change would work. When it didn’t, I just kept pushing forward. I pushed my body to the limit because I was still in denial. I had a boss prior to getting sicker, who was into positive thinking so seriously, that we literally couldn’t express any negative feelings. I clung to the idea even after leaving the job.

The final mistake was combining mistakes one and two, with lying. I lied to my family. I lied to my friends. I told people I was fine, and when they saw me, they were floored by how not fine I was. By the point I was going to NYU, where they would recommend Remicade and if that didn’t work, Cytoxan, I had been hospitalized for over a week, and was barely able to walk with a walker.

Denial, overly optimistic thinking, and lying to yourself and others, is not going to help you.

I still believe there will be a day when my illness doesn’t impact me day to day, because I’ll have treatments and tools at my disposal, but I am still coming to terms with that reality. Some days I will need my wheelchair. I will likely need IVIG regularly, for quite some time, if not indefinitely. Remission is out of the question, but given how aggressive my case has been, it isn’t likely.

And that’s okay.

That may sound like over optimism again, but it isn’t. I will adjust my life as needed, and with time, I will be able to find things that I can enjoy and do with whatever my body is capable of. I don’t know if anyone will ever be able to love me enough to live with me and commit to me, and while the thought of never settling down and actually living with someone hurts, I do know that it’s a possibility. I also know that there are people out there with chronic illnesses who have found partners, so it isn’t impossible. The first step, though, is accepting myself, and my body, for what it is.

My schooling changed. My potential career paths changed. It hurts. I wanted to be a clinical laboratory scientist more than anything, and I may not be able to ever pursue that path because of my ataxia. What I have found, though, is clinical study associate positions, and they’re actually really interesting. To be honest, I should have gotten my MPH (Master’s of Public Health), but I wasn’t as sick when I committed to the forensic program. Ultimately I can still get certificates for clinical study administration, and because of my undergraduate and different graduate degree, I could make a case that I would be an excellent advisor. I’ve literally studied the lab piece of things, and the investigative side of forensics, I am the perfect person to put together official studies that pair the work that is seen, with the behind the scenes work.

I have literally discovered a career I never knew existed, and it’s in demand where I live. I can also do it in a wheelchair, and even handle some administrative tasks from home.

Currently I’m not in a position to work, but I want to be working someday, and this career field gives me hope. Regardless I love the idea. I could also look into PhD programs with my undergraduate and graduate school, because they have agreements with certain degree programs, where they pay for your PhD if you give them 5 years of your time as a professor. I would actually enjoy teaching college students, and the flexibility of the potential online classes is amazing. Even if I had to do in person instruction, the ability to do it in a wheelchair also makes it a viable option.

Mostly it’s about recognizing that I even have options.

You may not be doing what you thought you’d be doing, but very few people in their 30’s are where they thought they’d be in their teens or even early 20’s. The friends I think that have it all, don’t really all have it all. I come from a small town and most of my friends have gotten married and had kids, but there are others like myself, who got married young and then got divorced. I’m glad I didn’t have kids with my ex-husband, because we would never have been able to peacefully coparent. I also wouldn’t be able to focus on getting myself well, if I had children to look after.

I am not where I want to be, but I am still here, and I still have the opportunity to move in a variety of directions. I just need to be open to the options that I have.

Changing Your Expectations and Being Okay with It

Operation Relocation?

**Disclaimer: I made a gastroparesis blunder today and overestimated the capacity of my system. Therefore, due to extreme nausea, this blog is being written under the influence of medicinal marijuana. I doubt I’ll edit it before posting. Hopefully my point is made.**

One of the harder parts about being chronically ill, is the financial strain. Even with good insurance, the medical bills pile up. Maybe your main plan has a low catastrophic cap, but what about vision and dental? In my case there is also the reality that I’m the only one that is capable of bringing money into the home. Yes, I get alimony, but along with the finalization of my divorce, comes the reality that I’ll have to pay to keep insurance, and that excludes vision and dental.

Inhale.

The reality of my current state is this…working isn’t possible. Lately walking the dog around the block has been a victory. That victory is short lived because walking the dog wasn’t the only task for the day, and now I’m exhausted. I’ve been waiting on disability, but could still have to wait over a year for my court date. What is a person supposed to do when they’re disabled, but can’t get disability?

I have a credit card that was maxed out between my knee surgery, and chemo. I’ve reached the very end of the road when it comes to pretending you’ve got everything under control.

People can tell I’m faking.

Relocation has become a hot topic, because where I currently live (San Diego) has a high cost of living. I, personally, don’t feel like I have a ton of other options. I have a large service dog, a small retired service dog, and no income aside from alimony. There is nothing in San Diego I can afford, and not many roommates are willing to tolerate the dogs. Family has implored me to move back east, but for a variety of reasons, including all that snow, I’m not sure that would be a responsible choice.

Recently I was offered the chance to live in my aunt’s condo, rent free, in Florida, from May through November. My first thought surrounded the word “free,” but the following thoughts were full of pros and cons. I have made a list, on my whiteboard, and they are exactly even as of right now. Medically there is the fact I’d have to find all new doctors, comfortable with Behcet’s, and then find new ones again because I’d only be there for six months…

Okay, enough about me.

I’m not the only person who faces financial stress because they’re chronically ill. How many homeless people have you met with severe mental or physical disabilities? They didn’t just decide to live outside one day. Society needs to do a better job of helping those who cannot reliably work. I could get a job tomorrow, but I would lose it by next week. I don’t know what days I can eat and what days I can’t. I don’t know when I’ll have severe pain, or nausea, and be unable to make it into work. This is something most of us “sick” folks deal with.

My friend was lucky, she worked for a grocery chain that let her work when she was well, and accepted her absences when she was gone. She didn’t make much, but it made her feel good to be working. When you’re not working, it can become depressing, You want to be contributing. So why don’t we have something for the chronically ill that allows them to work when they’re able, and receive disability benefits regardless?

The assumption is that tons of people abuse the system, and file for disability or other benefits because they’re lazy. Maybe some do…but the process of being approved for disability is beyond broken. I have friends who have been in the system for 3-4 years, while they have bones literally fusing their spines and ribcages. This friend would still work on good days, because she likes feeling fulfilled. That doesn’t mean she isn’t disabled.

Think about it like this: you have a system designed to provide financial assistance to people who are unable to work do to a disability. The reality is that some of those people would work when they felt physically able, but the amount of work they would be able to do would never be enough to provide for them financially. So, instead of working, they wait for their disability benefits. The limited funds must be carefully regulated, so they wait a long time. What if the government realized that those of us who cannot work enough to financially provide for ourselves or our families, could still work in some capacity? Couldn’t we have the chance to work within the disability system itself?

I am great at office work. I am amazing when it comes to organization and filing. You need a friendly face to greet guest at reception? That person would be me. It just may only be me for 2-4 hours at a time. It also may only be me a day or so per week, with gaps in between. I want to contribute, I want to be part of something bigger and better than sitting at home, or at the doctors office. I think most of us who are chronically ill, want to still have a purpose that we pursue.

Some have been lucky to have family and friends to stay with during their financially challenging times, and I’m not saying this as a slight to my friends or family, it’s just something worth noting. There are people who, for whatever reason, rely on themselves during the challenging times, and it’s definitely an anxious thing.

Social programs need to step it up, because they could be so much more, and they could help so many more people. In the meantime I’ll just be figuring out whether it’s time to relocate. It isn’t an easy decision, sick or not, and it’s something that is really weighing on my mind.

Operation Relocation?

I need to get that stuff, you know, it comes in sliced, in packages, you use it for toast?

That is a literal question I asked someone because I couldn’t remember the word “bread”. Brain fog isn’t anything new for me, but the increase in frequency, and severity of the lapses, has started to concern me. My professor thinks I’m slacking because I had things in at the last second, even when it’s something I already had an extension for. I reassured her that I wasn’t procrastinating. For me to actually retain even a few bits of the material, I need to take my time working on the subject matter. If I miss a lecture, which I have, I don’t just play it and write up a generalized summary to meet the requirements. I listen to a few minutes, pause to take notes, then continue on with the lecture.

Notes on a  two hour lecture typically takes me 6-8 hours.

I need those notes for tests, only in this class, test times don’t really allow for you to dig stuff up in notes or on the books. (I take classes online since I can’t make it to campus anymore.) Another reason for taking accurate notes, is that I love the material. It was different in classes I found incredibly boring. It was material I really wouldn’t use again, and I had no interest. In this class I am interested, it’s just also complex, and contains a lot of minute details. If I can’t remember that bread is what you use to make toast, how am I supposed to grasp the ridge counting system and pattern equations you use to fill out a fingerprint card? (Important side note…I had to take a few minutes to remember the word equation. Sometimes I’ll get annoyed and just look up key words I know related to the word I’m forgetting, but this time I’m proud I figured it out eventually.)

My brain and body are screaming at me to just sleep. I’ve gone from embarrassment of needing a wheelchair, to impatience regarding the length of time it will take to get one. I’m still worried I’ll end up single forever, but I also understand that right now the key is staying alive and protecting my brain from my body’s overly active and very confused immune system.

Most of us who are chronically ill, have had someone judge us as lazy, or we’ve been labeled as procrastinators. We’ve seen the eye rolls, or lost friends because we ran late to often, or cancelled plans.

If I have to be somewhere at 6pm, I start getting ready around 3pm, because I know I’ll need breaks. I also go to bed early, and sleep in, the night before.  If I’m sore, I shower more than once, and take baths to get my muscles as relaxed as possible. I longingly will eye my high heeled shoes, before grabbing my sensible flats. Picking an outfit depends on how long the event will be, and how swollen my various body parts are. Since most of my swelling right now is in my lower abdomen, I have to plan for how that looks. Shape wear?  No way. The pain that results from attempting to contain a bulge that is actually my intestines, colon, ulcers, and of course stool, is beyond explanation.

Last night I saw a movie. It was amazing to go out, but the process began the day before. I tried to be cautious about what I ate, as I usually am, but because I’d eaten a bit more than my intestines could handle, I had a very obvious swelling of my lower abdomen. No worries, we can just kind of layer two tops and hope that it isn’t as noticeable. Makeup? Yeah, that’s fun when you’re arms and legs are weak. I need to get a full length mirror so I can sit and do it easier. Right now I have a rigged up way of doing it that allows me to sit in my bathroom sink so I can use the medicine cabinet mirror to do my makeup.

No, I am not joking.

Forget cleaning up any mess that was made while doing my makeup and hair, if I clean it up, I’ll be too tired, and I was already running 15 minutes late. Now the whole trying to get to my friends house. He’s only like a 5-10 minute walk away, and the weather is nice, but I know that the walk would drain me. It used to be something I wouldn’t think twice about. My part of the city has a free ride electric car that goes around, but alas, there were no available drivers. Plan B was a Lyft Line, but the wait was 10+ minutes, and by this point I am so tired, I really need to take some Zofran. Shift to a regular Lyft which costs more, but doesn’t involve a wait.

So I get in the Lyft, and I’m regretting my large purse, but whatever, I can unload things once I get to his place. As much as  I want to see the movie, I’m considering just going back inside and going to bed, and it’s only like 4pm.

This is where things get really important: I didn’t give up.

I relaxed a bit at his place, he got food (I watched him eat it because that’s what I do now haha), and he was nice and got us a Lyft to the movie theater. Usually it would have been a walk, but I wanted to enjoy the movie. The mall had several flights of stairs that I needed to climb to get up to the theater. The elevator on the side we were on was broken. (Of course…) So we go up stairs, stairs I’ve climbed dozens of times. My legs hurt, parts go numb, I’m starting to wonder if I should just sit down, but I don’t want to make a scene. I start moving slower and slower, but eventually we get to the top. I’m in pain, but we’re there. After enjoying the movie, I remind myself that I need to make it back to see Star Wars, but that perhaps I’ll go alone so I can use the stairs or my walker.

After the movie I did a really dumb thing. We were walking around looking for a specific shop, but we couldn’t find it. We walked and walked and eventually we were almost back at his apartment. So he asked if I was cool with just finishing the walk and I said I was.

But I wasn’t.

Today, I am paying a price. Brain fog is extremely intense, the urge to just keep sleeping is preventing me from doing a decent job on my homework. Have you ever worked out really hard, and you have really sore muscles the next day, where even lifting your spoon is painful? That’s where I’m at. I was having muscle and joint pain before, but pushing myself beyond my limits was just plain stupid.

Lesson: regardless of what you think other people with think of you for using assistive devices, or refusing to walk when the distance is considered walkable, listen to your logical brain. 

I could go to bed right now, and it’s only 5:40pm. I have homework to do, so I can’t just sleep. I could take a bath to ease the pain, but eventually I’ll have to get out. Plus the hot water is a dangerous scenario with my autonomic nervous system being such a bastard lately. Plan is to take a lot of homework breaks, think as much as I can about the homework topics, and if I really need to sleep, then I will let my body sleep.

I need to get that stuff, you know, it comes in sliced, in packages, you use it for toast?

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

Realizing I’m Not Procrastinating…and It’s Okay

So I’ve been trying to do homework for the majority of the last few days. I will get some done, but inevitably fall asleep, or lose focus. Prior to getting really sick, this wasn’t an issue. I could watch complex shows, and catch on quickly, every single time. There was no such thing as me not being able to focus on an assignment. Sure, I’d procrastinate, but when I sat down to actually do the assignment, I’d do the assignment. Today, I sat down to do the assignment, and I simply couldn’t answer more than one question at a time without requiring a break equal to the amount of time I put into answering the question…or even longer.

I’ve had to accept a few things about this whole prospect. The first thing is that I’m under an insane amount of stress, and that stress breeds an inability to focus. Even if you want to focus, and aren’t actively thinking about bills, and you know, dying alone…you’re still stressed somewhere in the back of your head. Oh anxiety and depression, you spiteful little bitches you. The second thing, that is really important to acknowledge, is the sheer amount of medication required to keep me alive. Some of which causes sleepiness, while others make it hard for me to sleep. Even the marijuana I use for nausea can make me lose focus. Of course without it I’d be throwing up, or focused on trying not to throw up, so I guess that is a matter of perspective. Fourth, I’m not eating normally. My GI motility has seriously taken a nose dive, and this makes me bloated, nauseas, and unable to provide myself with proper nutrition. Lastly is just flat out brain fog itself, as a result of the nutrition, but also because of my brain.

I have a neurological condition, and sometimes the most basic activities require more energy for me, than they would for the average human. My brain itself is also not running on all cylinders.

When my muscles are fatigued, or weak, I have to really focus on not falling over. When my balance is off, which is always, I have to deal with the same thing. I stopped to really think about my movements the other day, by watching how other people moved, and I was forced to admit that I really do walk differently, hold things differently, even sit differently. A lot of what I have to do, takes more effort, and therefore makes me more  tired. Therefore…my brain is just spent.

Brain fog itself is a problem. They don’t know what causes it, or why, but some of us folks with chronic illnesses, just lose our abilities to focus. It used to be every so often, but lately it’s more often than not. When someone tells me I’ll like a show, I have to say I’ll watch it, but then admit to myself it’ll take a special situation for me to actually watch it. I don’t want to miss things, or not enjoy it, simply because I’m working hard to focus on it. The last time I watched a show I actually enjoyed, I fell asleep during the second episode. People assume that means I’m not interested, but the reality is the opposite. I get so interested that I’m trying harder to focus, which results in my falling asleep, or losing focus. Literally can’t win!

So, now that this is done, I shall go back to trying my best to finish some homework before bed. It’s hard because I used to be the night owl who could write an essay in an evening. I don’t know how to adjust to being the student who can’t stay awake, and has to plan out her coursework meticulously in order to get things done on time.

 

Realizing I’m Not Procrastinating…and It’s Okay