Wheelchair Evaluation and Fundraising

First and foremost, my wheelchair evaluation is in exactly 10 hours! My apartment is nowhere near ready for it, but it’s as good as it’s going to get for right now. One of the aggravating parts about any chronic illness, is having a list of things to do, and only enough energy to do a few things. The kicker is never knowing which things will drain you. I thought for sure I could at least fold and organize my clothes. Instead I ended up with clothes in boxes and baskets. It’s chaos, but at least my space is open for the mobility advisor.

Unfortunately the kitchen and living room are an unusable mess. I try my best to take care of my own messes, but I’ve run out of energy to keep up with my roommate. I know I need to follow through with my promises to do cleaning in lieu of utilities, however, it is just too much. When I was nightly cleaning, I would often end up having him fry something after it was all clean. It just felt futile.

People have been saying, “You walk fine,” and rolling their eyes when it comes to the wheelchair. They don’t seem to appreciate how much effort it takes to walk “fine”. I am constantly reminding my body where things are, and even the constant tension of my muscles can’t always prevent a fall. I used to walk blocks to take the dog to the grassy area. Now going around the block is nearly impossible. There tons of places and things I’d love to do, but I know my body isn’t capable of the walking required.

I am getting a wheelchair because I have ataxia. I am not coordinated, and it is worsening. I also have tremors. A few steps for me, equals a whole lot for someone else. Toss in my difficulty get adequate nutrition, and you have my life.

Then there is the fundraiser. I started a fundraiser to help me keep insurance once my divorce is finalized. It will be hard to continue living where I am living regardless, but if I cannot come up with insurance funds, I’m not sure where I would go or what I would do. There was sone resistance since I did a fundraiser to get to NYU a year or two ago, but that was under different circumstances. My divorce settlement has shifted, and the shift leaves me without insurance, or a way to pay for insurance.

I hate asking for help, but sometimes it has to be done.

Just a short update tonight. I’m quite tired, and I have to be awake earlier than usual!

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Wheelchair Evaluation and Fundraising

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

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

Bonus Blog – Stress and You

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

Point is, it was bad. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus Blog – Stress and You

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

Then There Was Cancer (Maybe)

In December I had an abnormal PAP smear. I didn’t stress. There had been talk of HPV a six months prior, and while my doctor at the time of the HPV drama had been a bit of a pain, he had stated that the type I appeared to have was very low risk. It didn’t cause cancer, and it wasn’t something most people even had symptoms of. I had an impaired immune system, so I had symptoms, but eventually I’d clear the infection, and be totally fine. At least that’s what he said. I opted to see an OBGYN before starting Lupron during chemotherapy, and that’s when I’d had the abnormal PAP.

Initially I worried. They wanted me to come in for a colposcopy, but I couldn’t drive, and was seriously ill from the chemo. My new doctor assured me that I could wait for the colposcopy. It took a long time for cells to change, and the external lesion that I’d noted didn’t even appear to be HPV. She told me it was likely a skin tag, or a result of my Behcet’s. I went through my chemotherapy without really thinking much about the abnormal PAP smear. What where the actual chances that I’d have all of these things going wrong at once?

On Friday I went in and had my colposcopy. I was nervous about the pain, but otherwise okay. What were the chances? They had a screen where you could watch the procedure, and so I watched…until I realized that something was wrong. Very wrong.

I stared at the screen. I wasn’t exactly sure what a cervix should look like, but I knew that there was something seriously wrong with mine. The edge was bleeding, which the doctor said wasn’t totally uncommon, but the rest of it looked foreign to me. A large white mass covered the majority of the surface, breaking the line of skin cells that mapped out the edges of the cervical surface. The doctor informed me that they’d need to do a biopsy. She turned off the screen saying that it wasn’t fun to watch yourself be cut.

A medical student held my hand, and the biopsy was quickly taken. It didn’t hurt as badly as I thought it would, but my head was swimming. The doctor told me to be prepared for the call, that the changes were moderate to severe, and more towards severe. We talked about HPV and cervical changes, and I asked if I had any options. She said that did, but that we needed to talk once the biopsy results were in.

I haven’t gotten them yet, but I’ve talked to friends who were in similar situations. Cervical cancer is this odd taboo subject. There are odd staging levels. Even if you’re in the very early stages, it’s still cancer, but it’s approached as though it isn’t. They’ll just shave off some of your cervix, or cut out some of your cervix. My friend has miscarried, once in her second trimester, due to issues with her cervix from the procedures she had to undergo. Other women have the “cancer in situ” treated via these removals, but still end up having to go through hysterectomies, because it returns.

I’ve fought through six months of chemo. I’ve accepted limitations based on odd occurrences with my autonomic nervous system. I’ve told myself that I will still find love and start a family someday, even though I’m embroiled in a long and bitter divorce. I push and push, and then the unimaginable comes form left field. Nobody was sure if I had HPV or not. They were all fairly sure I didn’t, or if I did, that it wasn’t a strain that caused cancer. Now? Well, barring a miracle that shows it’s some odd lesion related to Behcet’s, I’m facing cervical cancer. Now I have to grasp at the hope that it’s early in the cancer game, and limited to an area that can be treated without impacting my fertility.

Of course the doctor told me point blank that I am, and always will be, a high risk case. I have to see a high risk OBGYN before becoming pregnant, plan carefully, and be followed closely. People think my depression or anger over my divorce is somehow related to jealousy, jealousy that he’s living with his girlfriend, and that they have a baby. I am jealous, but not just of him. It’s this overwhelming jealous anger at the universe, because people around me have solid careers, homes, families, etc. They’ve happily fallen into the life I’ve always imagined, while I struggle to just hang on to the bits and pieces of what I’ve managed to assemble for myself.

I want to be loved, and be in love. I want to have a family. I want to have a career that enjoy. I know that life isn’t that simple, and that nothing is as perfect as it seems, but when you’ve fought as hard as I’ve fought, just to have life kick you when you’re just starting to get up…it’s hard. I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me. I’m waiting for the call, and dreading it, all at the same time. Bills have mounted, and yet I can’t even try to find some work from home work, because if I even work just a little bit, on record, my disability could be denied. I have backpay that I’m owed, that I need, because my credit card debt is brutal.

There has to be something more than this. There has to be something better. I’m so sick of finding out that the light at the end of the tunnel is really just an oncoming train.

Then There Was Cancer (Maybe)

Cytoxan Round #3

Ugh. Ouch. Gurgle. Noooo.

That about sums it up. The process went really well, I only had to get stuck twice, but they did increase the dose. I was pleased to have manageable side effects during, but immediately afterwards I felt gross. I had a fever of 101, which I usually am around 97.3 (which was where I was before the infusion.) I knew I had inflammation issues, but they gave me steroids so I thought I’d feel better. Nope. My bones hurt. Yeah, my joints hurt, but literally, the BONES in and around all of my joints are just horribly aching. I’m dizzy. Now, several hours later, I’m definitely a little nauseas. Thankfully I ate when I cam home, so if I can keep it down, I won’t ruin the foods for myself forever.

I’d rather have pain, than nausea, so I am grateful in a sense, I just hadn’t thought I’d have the choice to trade…or that the trade would be so debilitating. It feels like my joints are falling apart, and the bones are just shattering to bits. That’s it, in a nutshell.

My pre-dose drugs are a bit different than the average bear, as are my during and post-dose drugs, but that’s because my intestines suck, and I can’t stay hydrated to LITERALLY save my life. I get 500mL before, then 1L during the infusion (they piggy back the meds with the fluids. before I get the Cytoxan I get Zofran for nausea, and Decadron (the steroid). I’ve been told varying things about why I get the steroids, but ultimately they help me with inflammation, and because I do have extensive drug allergies, putting that in my system is kind of a “better safe than sorry,” thing.

The one drug I get that other people don’t usually get in a pre-dose, is Ativan. Listen, I try to be tough, but chemotherapy scares the living crap out of me. I don’t enjoy any aspect of it. The first dose made me feel dizzy and nauseas pretty rapidly, and during the infusion no less, so I was sort of done after that. I’d gotten Ativan for my muscles to stop twitching (disease side effect) and it worked, so then they opted to keep it in my regimen for anxiety. They also added promethazine at the end of my infusion, so I could have that in my bloodstream for my short ride home. Hey, anything that allows me to drink more fluids, is a win.

This particular drug combination makes me sleepy. This is ideal. I want to sleep. I don’t want to think about what the drug is doing in my body, what I’m missing by going through this process in terms of school, a social life, and just being who I want tone, and I definitely, DEFINITELY, don’t want to feel any of the horrible side effects I tend to have with these meds.

Which brings me to a realization I just literally made with the last statement…side effects. Steroids tend to cause deep bone  pain for me. Some more than others, but it is an issue. Hopefully this will fade instead of worsen, though I have had intermittent bone pain 10-14 days after each infusion, so we’ll see.

I wasn’t a pansy, and went by myself for once. Well, I did try and pansy out and find someone to come, or pick me up, but it was for the best for me to face this alone. I need to rely on myself, while still learning to ask for help when I genuinely needed it. Sure I was afraid, and I wanted someone to hold my hand, or distract me, but I did take a nap. At the end of the day, it wasn’t a dire situation, and I have enough of those that I face alone as it is, so it makes sense to try and evaluate the actual need.

Depression and anxiety are still a thing. A major thing. I wish I could say that I had more good days than bad days, but I’m like a functional alcoholic at this point. I am profoundly unhappy, not nobody who knows me would guess that I’m a negative Nancy. To the people around me, I’m the positive girl. I’m handling my situation wit patience and grace. Above all, I take it day by day and smile.

Gag me.

Okay, maybe it isn’t that extreme, but let’s be honest for just a little while: nobody who is chronically ill, is also a diehard optimist who pisses rainbows all day everyday. It’s not physically or mentally possible. There is a difference between appearing positive, and actually buying into the things you’re saying. I fake it a lot, and a lot of the times I’ll end up in a better mood having faked my way into one…but other times I get even more depressed. I see the version of me people seem to love, and I die a little inside because that girl isn’t me.

Sometimes I cry on the floor in a ball. I scream at lab reports, and books about Behcet’s. I stare in the mirror and struggle to recognize the balding, often bloated, version of me that stares back. I get anxious about going out more than ever. It used to be a fear of vomit, and getting groped or drugged. Now it’s just wondering if my wig is going to fall off, or if I should be wearing a mask because of the germs. At least my fears regarding gropers and drink drugging have taken a hiatus. Nobody wants to touch and/or drug the bald chemo chick.

This is why I get asked a bunch of questions before my infusions. I get to talk about pooping with several nurses. Then I get to talk about my weird bruising. Then we chat about my battles with neuropathy. Then it’s the mental health assessment. Yes I take medication for depression…the anxiety situation is another story. technically my antidepressant should work on both. Hahahahaha, have the drug companies tested it on someone with my particular life configuration?

That’s the point though! My life is absurd. It’s absolutely mad. If I weren’t anxious and depressed, I would be certifiably insane, and worthy of institutionalization. 

My reality is painful. I don’t feel as though I will ever be truly loved, I don’t feel like anyone will want to live with me, share a life with me, and I’m not talking marriage, though I’m open to the idea if I found someone who wanted that…I just don’t personally think marriage is what should define a relationship. How two people treat one another is really what defines them as a couple. That aside, I can’t find myself being loved, being lovable. Sure, I’m kind. I’m not a bad person, but I have issues with depression, anxiety, and worst of all Behcet’s. I feel like the only kind of man who would “love” me, would be the caliber of man that my ex was. My ex is not capable of love. He lacks empathy. He can mimic emotions having seen them, but he doesn’t feel guilt or remorse like a normal person does. I won’t ever live that way again, ever, but that decision makes me feel like I will always be alone. Like women like me have to settle for poor quality men, simply because the good guys won’t settle for broken women like me.

It’s all deeply rooted in childhood nonsense, an I can reread it and realize how absurd I sound, but anxiety and depression don’t work off of logic. I’m anxious about living alone forever because I like to cook and clean and have someone to be there for, and have someone who is there for me. I also realize space is a blessing, and have always valued my own alone time, and the alone time of others. I am a good person, but I’m not good to myself. I know this. Changing it is the struggle. Trying to sort out wants and needs, all while feeling like you’re simply not lovable. It’s a horrible feeling.

“Nobody will ever love a sick girl like you.” The last thing my ex ever said to me in person. It replays a lot, but it’s not always his voice. It’s the voice of friends who have left me. It’s the voice of family members who judge my decision to slow down my graduate school coursework. It’s the voice in my head, my own voice, when I see couples holding hands and walking. It’s the voice of my depression, latching onto every ounce of venom in those words, words he knew would break me. He said it to crush me, for leaving him, but I kept walking. I didn’t humor him, give into the fight, and postpone my drive. He would have loved feeling like he won. Instead I just kept walking. I told myself that I wouldn’t believe, and I still hope that maybe someday  I won’t. Right now? It still feels pretty real, and it’s cold, hard, and hollow.

Cytoxan Round #3