Medical Marijuana Discussions

I live in California, where marijuana is now recreationally legal. Anyone over 21, can go to a dispensary, and buy marijuana. There are regulations on where you can use it if you’re smoking or vaping, but other than that, it’s all fair game. As a teenager and adult, I never had the urge to try marijuana. Yes, I’d heard about it, but with all the medication I was already being put on and taken off of, it just seemed like a risk. Not to mention all the drug testing for school, work, and medical tests. Then the gastroparesis situation got dangerously bad, along with the Behcet’s, and you all know that story.

With the legalization of marijuana I don’t need to renew my medical card at the end of the month, but I likely will if I can find the funds, because it’ll entitle me to certain discounts, and provisions for having more in my possession than a recreational user. Not that I’ll ever have that much in my possession, I’m way too broke to store that much weed, but it’s nice to know that, were I to move somewhere that allowed me to grow some, I could.

Recently I’ve graduated to vaping a few times a day. It isn’t something I particularly enjoy, because for me I’d rather take less medication, including marijuana. I view it as both a recreational option, as well as something that has medicinal benefits. It’s all about how you use it. I would thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to join the recreational trend, and just use it periodically to relax, alone or with friends. Right now, I could theoretically smoke more with friends, or different strains with friends, and feel different than I do when I use it medicinally…but it sort of throws me off mentally.

How can something I rely on to avoid hospitalizations and severe dehydration, also be something I use for fun

My brain keeps comparing it to opioids because of what a professor said about the legalization of marijuana being a gateway to the legalization of heroin. Obviously he was off base, just based on the reality that heroin doesn’t have a direct medicinal use in it’s abused form…but it is an opiate. Opiates can be prescribed to treat pain. In fact, a lot of heroin users started by abusing pain killers. They switched to heroin because it’s cheaper. So what is it? What defines something as a recreational drug, versus something that is used medicinally?

In the end I think it comes down to how it’s used, and how it’s acquired. Yes, marijuana is legal in my state. If you smoke it until you can’t function, pay your bills, or exist, then you’re an addict akin to an alcoholic. If you use it periodically in a responsible manner, then you’re a recreational user. If you use it as recommended by a physician, then you’re a medicinal user. It seems simple, but people judge you anyhow.

Now that it is legal in California, people view my regular use of Marijuana, as though I’m some stoner who can’t get by without being high. Truth is that I’m rarely high unless I overshoot my intake, or change to a new strain that impacts me in an unexpected manner. 

I need marijuana, but only because Zofran can only do so much. (Not to mention waiting for it to kick in when you have gastroparesis can be excruciating. There’s nothing like taking an antiemetic and knowing you’ll probably throw it up…) If I can get a port, and start getting more IV fluids, then perhaps the nausea will be more manageable. As it is, I’m sort of low on options for treating the nausea. I can’t take any more Zofran than I am, and they would prefer I take less, because apparently there is a link between Zofran and an increased seizure risk. Phenergan increases your risk of developing a movement disorder, which is a problem since I’ve been on it so long. That caused a decrease in my dose, and I’m only supposed to use that as absolutely necessary. I’m allergic to Compazine. I thought I wasn’t because I didn’t have flat out dystonia like I did years ago, but after a few doses it felt like my muscles were on fire, and I was super twitchy.

Today I’ve had a bowl of gluten free macaroni and cheese, and two small rice crispy treats. I feel like I’ve eaten an entire family’s Thanksgiving meal.

This is life with gastroparesis. What I did eat, was courtesy of weed. I’m beyond grateful that I was able to even get that down. I haven’t had water today, just a little gatorade, and yes, I’m bad, I had soda. I’m working on giving it up, but I am addicted to caffeine. I’m also a graduate student with 2 weeks left of class before she starts her thesis, so I mean, it is what it is at this point. (Let’s toss in a personal life in turmoil, and finances in ruins, and I think we can excuse the fact that I consume 1-2 cans of cola a day.) Thankfully, for whatever reason, fizzy beverages are easier on my system than flat ones.

So yes, friends, family, and potential future people that I meet…I use marijuana and it has undoubtedly saved me from hospitalizations, passing out, and at one point, a feeding tube. 

On one side of the page is the list of symptoms relating to chronic illnesses you have, on the other side are the tools you have to deal with those symptoms. Ginger helps with nausea, it’s also totally legal for anyone to buy and consume because they just like ginger. It is possible for something to be enjoyable and fun for one person, while another person uses it for help in dealing with their health.

Medical Marijuana Discussions

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.


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?

Inhale, Inhaler, Asthma, Weed?!

Disclaimer: The information below is not meant to be medical advice. What works for me, is what works for me. You should consult your physician to get information and guidance on what would be best for you and your situation.      


I’ve gotten a lot of judgment for my use of medical marijuana, so I thought a formal blog addressing it would be a good idea. Today I was reminded that I should address it, because I had to use my nebulizer for a severe breathing attack. I was using the carpet cleaner to clean up my roommate’s dog’s urine. (She has what I like to call “on purposes” because she doesn’t accidentally pee…she just pees.) Anyhow, the spot was quite saturated, and as I got it clean, I started coughing. Really coughing…and then the thick mucous came up.

Have you ever coughed so hard you can’t inhale? You’re coughing and coughing until your body decided maybe vomiting would be easier.

Luckily I didn’t vomit, but it was close. I spent some time on the bathroom floor recovering, but still couldn’t breathe well. I dragged my nebulizer to my room, hooked it up, and instigated the opening of the airways. This meant more coughing, more spitting things up, but ultimately finding oxygen.

Then the steroid jitters kicked in.

The good news was that I was able to finish some of my homework. The bad news was that the shakes continued until the nausea became unbearable. I took the last Zofran tablet in my possession, crossed my fingers that I could get a refill ASASP, and waited for it to kick in.

The thing about severe nausea, especially gastroparesis related nausea, is that staying still and trying not to think about it, doesn’t make it get better. The discomfort grows and grows. 

In the ER I’d beg for IV Zofran immediately…but at home, I don’t have that option. When I hit that wall where I know I can’t go more than a few more moments without vomiting, I reach for the marijuana.

But you said you had asthma?!?!

Yes, I do have breathing difficulties. Perhaps smoking marijuana isn’t the best thing in that situation…but all medications have side effects. First and foremost, I don’t smoke marijuana. It is too harsh, and always causes me to need my inhaler. In a pinch I’ll have someone shotgun me some, but it isn’t the preferred method. I use a vape.

I use a high end vape.

Truth be told, I need to replace the screen, but the biggest thing is that I control the heat, and the filtration is amazing. Within a few minutes my nausea is gone, and I don’t cough, choke, or need to use my inhaler. My doctors who are okay with medical marijuana, are okay with my methodology, though they would prefer I use edibles. The issue with edibles for me, is the same as the Zofran situation. I need the drug to work fast. Plus my digestive system is slow and inefficient in general.

They do sell  ODT Zofran that does act faster, because it dissolves under your tongue.

The reason I don’t use the ODT option is personal, so please don’t assume you’ll have the same issue that I have. Since I am generally dehydrated, my mouth is almost always dry. This isn’t related to vaping marijuana. Even if I haven’t vaped in days, my mouth is like cotton. The ODT therefore takes forever to dissolve. I also can’t tolerate the taste. Most people find it pleasant, but when I’m in a position where I’m going to vomit, the only thing I can tolerate is the taste of peppermint. Usually I pop an Altoid, or put peppermint oil on my lip, after vaping. I really can’t taste anything else when I’m at that level of nausea.

If I had a port, I would smoke a lot less marijuana. I have a nothing against people who use it medically or recreationally. Prior to using it myself, I thought it was stupid, and while I do know folks who have faked medical conditions to get their medical marijuana card, I also have seen folks like myself who do really need it. For the first time in a long time, I learned what it was like to go out, and not have to worry about nausea taking over my evening. If I use the right strain, I can conquer my stomach, and drink water, or work on homework. At the moment the strain I have was cheap, but insanely strong. It works, but it is making me just a bit too relaxed to focus on anything remotely complicated.

So yes, I have asthma, and I use marijuana. I am in no way endorsing this practice, or saying that you should vape if you have marijuana. My current situation makes medicating me difficult. There is no option for my gastroparesis. There is also no real option for my Behcet’s, though we may attempt IVIG. Right now I’m just popping mycophenalate like it’s candy, even though I could never eat actually candy without getting seriously ill.

Inhale, Inhaler, Asthma, Weed?!

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

Self Advocacy and Alternative Treatments

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.

Self Advocacy and Alternative Treatments

Navigating the Potential Work Force

More like the “What the F*ck” force…

Before getting really sick, I worked. In fact, I worked so much, I’m pretty sure the stress of it contributed to an increase in flares, and symptoms in general. My relationship at the time was also extremely abusive. Going home was more stressful than being at work, and sometimes I would finish a shift, and just sit in my car in a parking lot because I wanted to avoid my ex. (Yeah, I was winning at life back then.)

Since leaving him and moving across the country, my health improved, before taking a drastic nose dive. As far as we can tell, I was exposed to a fair amount of mold in my first solo-apartment here, but a nasty flare was on the horizon from the moment I moved anyhow. It was a stressful time in my life, and my medications weren’t totally effective anyhow. I got my shit together, found a part-time bartending gig, and made that work…until dehydration, exhaustion, and just general autoimmune issues, led me to having a massive seizure…at work…

After that things got worse. That was when the Rituxan didn’t work, and I couldn’t walk, and we ended up finding out I wasn’t tolerant of Remicade. NYU said do chemo, so we did, but obviously that has failed…so here I am.

The thing is this: I never had a hard time finding work. Even when I was sick, I could find something, I just wasn’t ever sure if I could keep it. When I found out my doctor would be submitting for my wheelchair, I was both elated, as well as disappointed. I don’t want to be the girl in the wheelchair, but being the girl who stumbles around and falls a lot, isn’t a huge bonus either. Plus, with the wheelchair, even shaky and sick days, could still be work days, since I wouldn’t have to worry about fainting, etc.

But how does one find a job that one can do while in a wheelchair?

I cannot work in my degree field, at least not at this point in time, because of issues with shakiness. I’ve decided to move into clinical research guidelines (I think) and do some management of the clinical research that goes on in my area. I figure I may not be able to get into things on a straight laboratory level, but I can still provide oversight. If I don’t get into that, I’ll get into something with public health, maybe even my MPH. In the meantime, though, I have bills to pay. With my divorce hopefully nearing completion, I’ve had to face the reality that I won’t have healthcare anymore. I can pay to keep it, for $475 a month…money I don’t have…and even that won’t give me dental or vision.

Now, if you’ve got Behcet’s, or are familiar with it, you will know that having vision coverage when you’ve got it, is kind of a big deal. I was lucky to have only had posterior uveitis, but it was scary, and knowing that I could get a more severe form (anterior uveitis) that could leave me with decreased vision, is even scarier. I’m already dealing with neurological issues, and GI issues, I don’t need to go blind on top of this. Having some sort of vision coverage, is a priority. My teeth also suck from years of throwing up, acid reflux, poor nutrition, and ulcers. Dental is kind of a big deal, too. I’ve also lost several fillings and have just gotten my fourth crown, because I like to apparently screw up my mouth during seizures.

I want to work. I don’t want to be at home sick. I want to get my own apartment. I want to be as self-reliant as reasonably possible, and I can’t wait 18-24 months for disability to decide what to do with me. I could do office work, but not full-time. I can’t do anything full-time right now because of the GI issues and fatigue alone. The wheelchair will mitigate the balance and coordination concerns. Commute is a nightmare in general because I can’t drive, but I could make public transit work if needed.

All the informative websites say that you don’t have to disclose a disability in the application process, but obviously if my ass rolls into an interview in a wheelchair, they’re going to know. Plus, a lot of the office jobs even state that you have to be able to bend, lift, etc. Even more want you to have a valid driver’s license! Since when was being able to legally drive, critical for being able to answer phones and file patient charts? If I were healthy, I’d have been working all along. If I’d have gone into remission, I’d be working now. The fact that I’m being forced to own up to my limitations, is the only reason I’m so stressed about all of this.

Then there are the scary thoughts. What if my seizure drugs become less effective, and I have a seizure at work? I know it wouldn’t be my fault, but it has happened before, and it’s embarrassing. What if I’m in the ER again, and they turn me black and blue? I’ll show up to work with what looks like track marks running all over my body. How will I answer questions about why I’m in a wheelchair in general, when people know I can walk? It isn’t as though I would be using it regularly, though perhaps at work I would just to avoid the awkwardness of having it around some days and not on others.

Why is disability so damn hard to get when you have multiple medical professionals insisting that you cannot and should not be working?

That’s the kicker for me. My doctors, who have treated me for years, are not comfortable with me entering the workforce again…yet the government has decided I’m too well educated and too young, to actually be disabled. Please come live in the shambles of my life, and tell me all of that again. My ex may have been a bad person, but I keep running through his final words to me, about how nobody would ever love me because I’m sick, and I worry that there was some truth behind his twisted words. What if I don’t find someone who can love me, because even though they may like the healthy version of me, that isn’t the me they’ll always get.

I spend a lot of time saying that I’m not my illness, but it is part of who I am, and I cannot deny that. An oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips, isn’t technically a chocolate chip cookie. My drive and determination may be at one level, but my actual ability to function and do the things I want, and my partner would want, may not live up to that level. The irony in this situation is that I want to go meet up with this chronic illness support group, but I can’t afford the $30/session fee…because I’m chronically ill and cannot work. Thanks universe…the one thing that could have offered support and assistance emotionally…is out of reach financially…because I’m chronically ill.

F*ck me.

So yeah, the depression game is real right now. I feel useless, lonely, and stressed out. The things I want, are out of reach, as are a lot of the things that I need. I’m hoping I’ll find something I can do part-time, just to make me feel productive again, and to help me pay basic bills, but only time will tell if that’s attainable. Everyday I get mad at my body for letting me down. I know I should be grateful that it’s fought as hard as it has, despite the things that its been through, but I just can’t be grateful right now. Overseas they’ve done bone marrow transplant for GI Behcet’s and neuro Behcet’s patients, with 100% remission in all patients. Some patients got transplants for something else, but also had Behcet’s, and all went into remission, too. Granted it was a small pool of patients, because obviously it’s an extreme procedure, and there aren’t that many people who have Behcet’s to begin with…but I still find myself willing.

How bad is that? I want to be admitted to a hospital, have my entire immune system nuked out of my body. Probably throw up everything I’ve ever eaten since childhood…then have someone else’s cells pumped into my body in the hopes that I don’t die from secondary infections during all of it…just because it may give me a shot at normalcy again.

Maybe the question isn’t how bad is it that I want that, but rather, how bad must my current situation be, that the entire scenario actually sounds like a relief?

For now? Steroids and tons of Cell Cept…along with all of the other meds for neurological issues, sleep, and nausea. Truth be told, the most effective thing right now is medical marijuana…for literally everything. I have a strain for the depression, a strain for sleep issues, and a strain for fatigue. All have nausea benefits because I have to have that regardless.

Navigating the Potential Work Force