A Sick Chick’s Thoughts on the Amazon Boycott

It was Prime Day, the summers answer for Cyber Monday or Black Friday, but of course, it’s all on Amazon. Whether it’s being pissed off that the site was frequently down, or that the deals weren’t what you wanted, it’s a guarantee that someone somewhere is upset. There were definitely valid concerns behind the call for a boycott, including how Amazon hurts smaller bookstores and a lot of authors. There were also valid concerns over how the company treats warehouse workers.

So did I boycott? No. 

Yes, I’ve had jobs that sucked, involved tedious work, with a ton of standing, and I’ve had break rooms that are as far away as my break itself is. I also miss seeing little bookshops around town. Whenever I can, I do choose to shop in store for  books. I also tend to read a lot of smaller authors, who may have a series or two, but aren’t always super well known. Sometimes they are, but if the book series is 10 books long, and those books are FREE on Kindle, I’m going to read for free. I will, however, try and buy the first or second book (depending on if there is a sample or not for me to judge how far I’ll get into the series.) The book I buy, I often end up giving away. This ends up not always benefiting the author in the long haul, but hey, I tried.

I’m poor.

I can’t afford to buy every book I read, even digitally, so when I have something like Prime Unlimited, I don’t just want free books, I need free books. If I can afford a book, I’ll buy a hard copy of it. Some books, from authors I know and love, I’ll buy the hard copy because I’ll know I’ll want to share it with someone. I have books that have been passed along so often, I wouldn’t be surprised if one came unexpectedly back some day.

I’m Disabled 

Amazon in general, makes my life possible. I’ll have my roommate get some groceries for me when he’s out, but I prefer to be as independent as I can be. The best way to get groceries right now, for me, is to order them through Prime Now. I have stores to choose from, but Amazon tends to have the best prices. Other items I may need, are also often procured via Amazon. When the world begins to strip abilities from you, you cope. I do hope they come up with a way to make their warehouse employees happier, but I also recognize that a lot of warehouse jobs are just difficult. It’s repetitive, manual labor. There are things that Amazon can do to make these employees’ lives better, and we should find a way to hold them accountable for their actions.

But don’t HATE me. 

Friends were upset when they found out I shopped on Prime Day, but there were a few things I already needed, and they were on sale, so of course I shopped. Many more are still boycotting Amazon, and are irritated that I won’t. I’m writing this, and then I’m placing an order for melatonin. It has been far too hot for me to even use my wheelchair to get to the store and buy things, even little things. I am not a cold human being. I understand that the employees are unhappy, and that a giant company is squashing smaller business through just sheer domination of the market. I also understand that I have needs as a human that this giant dominant entity is capable of providing me with

You do you. Boycotts are great, and walk outs are great, too. Attempting to unionize, pushing for certain legislation, all good ways to make a statement. Just don’t come down too hard on the people who opt not to participate. Some of us need companies like Amazon, because we aren’t physically capable of getting through our sick people lives without them.

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A Sick Chick’s Thoughts on the Amazon Boycott

Governmental Nonsense and Way Too Many Tears

Getting affordable insurance is still insanely hard if you’re chronically ill and unable to work. Part of the problem is that getting disability is hard. If you have income, even if that income isn’t from working, and even if it doesn’t cover all of your bills, you’re sort of shuffled to the back of the line (or so it feels). Disability would qualify me for MediCal which is what I’m trying to get, but I’m $200 over the limit, and that’s enough for them. It doesn’t matter that I can’t pay my other bills, I’m over the limit.

They actually just suggested I decrease my alimony so that I would qualify. Are you kidding me? I’ve already expressed the reality that if my roommate didn’t cover so many of my bills, I’d be homeless already. 

I swallowed my pride and got the information for a charity that helps, and I’m hoping they can provide some help so I can keep insurance for a few more months at the very least.  I also need to talk to my ex at some point, and inform him that I’m changing banks. I emailed him but I don’t know which email he actually uses to be honest. (He has several from when he was cheating, that he still has activated, so it’s impossible to really know what is going on with that. I suppose I’ll have to text him, too.

Funny how part of the divorce agreement was me making sure he knew where I was at all times (phone, email, address), but I don’t get any of the same luxuries.

It’s odd being sick. I took an unexpected 3+ hour nap after trying to write this earlier, because I’d sobbed myself into incoherence. There is a hopelessness once you’re in the disability system. You’re lied to by the ease with which temporary disability can be obtained. When you realize your disability isn’t temporary, and apply for permanent disability, you’re struck with the truth. It takes forever, and the details don’t often make sense.

Now the best way to get MediCal, is to be officially disabled, but hey, fun fact, that process takes, on average FOUR years.

You want less homeless folks San Diego? Help get them enrolled in disability, of some sort, because many have mental health issues or physical issues that, if fixed, would allow them to work. Additionally, let’s get more drug rehabilitation facilities for those who want or need them, because that will also help. And build some affordable housing!

These programs that exist to help, they want you making less than around $1300 a month, which is a glorious theory, but completely unreasonable for San Diego. Now it’s 2am and I’m debating how peaceful my sleep will honestly be, given all the crying I did today (and that unbelievably ridiculous nap. People were actually worried because I just crashed so hard. I think I may have swapped my indica heavy and sativa heavy pens, because OOF.

And before people judge, medical marijuana is literally the only thing that stops the vomiting sometimes. If we find out my GI transit time is slow, but not so slow it can’t be managed, there is a chance I’ll be given IV access for nausea drugs. The only issue is that means life with a needle in my chest. I’ll also likely be running fluids (if I have a say) because drinking less means I can try and eat more, and more of what’s on my nutritional plan, but we will see.

Let’s hope tomorrow (well today), brings less tear inducing drama. 

 

Governmental Nonsense and Way Too Many Tears

Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

A few years back, a seemingly healthy friend of mine, expressed jealousy over the fact that I could have my dog in apartments that were, otherwise, not pet friendly. I explained that he had been an emotional support animal, before I realized he could sense my seizures and heart rate changes. At that point he was trained to be both a medical alert dog, as well as a psychiatric service dog. (Back then I was struggling with some major side effects from PTSD. Today they’re under control, though I do still appreciate my dogs waking me up if I do have a night terror.)

She would, eventually, announce that she had PTSD as well, and promptly run out and adopt a “service dog” of her own. All of it was whatever, until she started trying to convince folks with very little, or even no, trauma, that they too, could have PTSD. Ever feel anxious in social situations? You probably have PTSD. It was absurd, and I told her as much. It was suddenly this popular thing. Emotional support animals were getting scrutinized, but psychiatric service dogs became a loophole. They’re totally legitimate, but seem to be easier for some folks to sneak through the system, which is just sad.

The breaking point came when my struggles with gastroparesis became extreme. This was prior to chemotherapy, when I was really thin. My frailness, something that prevented me from going out and enjoying life, became this enviable thing. Someone with an eating disorder clung to it, and decided that they could eat whatever they’d like, vomit, blame it on gastroparesis, and gain sympathy.

It worked.

I still didn’t really think much about it at the time, or even now, because we all have our own battles. What I did think about, and what I still become aggravated with, is this idea that gastroparesis is an eating disorder. After years of being accused of anorexia or bulimia, finding myself in that viewfinder again, was beyond aggravating. I wanted to eat, desperately, and I wanted to drink even more, but I simply couldn’t overcome the nausea. It wasn’t worth eating just to be sick. Some people with GP, will eat, and get sick, either because they want to attempt to eat, or they miss the taste of food, and a small percent I’m sure, do have true eating disorders on top of the GP. Eating disorders can also cause GP, but it can be reversible in some cases.

I am not in the reversible category, and I need people to accept that.

I have good days and bad days with gastroparesis, but it never goes away. A good day can actually cause a string of bad days if I’m not fully aware of what I’m consuming. My behavior may look eating disorder like, but the reality is I can’t digest as much as I may want. A good day means I’m not as nauseas, or I may even have an increase of collateral blood flow, letting me digest…but my GP doesn’t go away.

There is a condition called median arcuate ligament syndrome, or MALS. With MALS, the arcuate ligament runs in an odd manner, and causes impingement of the celiac artery. This results in a lack of blood flow to the stomach, liver, and some other stuff in that area. It can also cause compression of nerves. In a nutshell, you get abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and all that fun stuff. Surgery helps some patients, but not all patients, and the theory behind this statistic is that patients who have nerve damage, will have continued pain.

I don’t have MALS…but I do have significant celiac artery stenosis. They can’t stent it, they don’t know what causes it, and it’s significant enough, that spasms from my vasculitis, could cause it to close off completely, worsening the pain, and gastroparesis episodes.

Except of course, doctors don’t love that conversation, because having your celiac artery narrowed to about 90%, like mine is, when you don’t have atherosclerosis, is weird. Also, even with atherosclerosis, the celiac artery would be an odd point of discovery. Some doctors agree, my celiac artery is the cause of the gastroparesis and other upper GI issues, especially when combined with my chronic gastritis. Other doctors refuse to even approach the subject. When MALS is understood, accepted, and still debated, being that one random patient with a bum celiac artery, tends to sort of become something that your doctors ignore.

I won’t wake up one day and be able to eat normally. I always have pain when I eat…always. Even friends who get excited to see me eat a meal, don’t understand the effort. I will have pain. I will have nausea. I may actually need to sit a certain way, use a hot pack, something, to alleviate the discomfort. Once we hit my intestines it’s really a toss up as to how that will go. There is always some pain due to dehydration, and the stool softeners and laxatives I’m required to take. Some sections don’t always work. Other sections are sometimes ulcered. It’s a fun time down there.

So when someone tells me that I will “heal” my gut as I move through my “eating disorder” like they did, I want to scream. 

Being sick is not something that gets you the kind of attention you might think you’ll get. I want love. I want to build a career and a life. Spending time in infusion chairs, ERs, doctors’ offices, it’s all just a lot of stuff that gets in the way of living life. Yeah, my wheelchair helps me get around, but now that I don’t live downtown, where will I go? You can’t put it in a car, so it leaves me stranded unless I take the bus, something I’ve yet to attempt.

I may start a day feeling good, go to an event, and end up with legs that won’t work. It’s funny how the people who seem to be disability envious, who suddenly find themselves with the same conditions, only have issues when they’re home alone, or want to hang out with friends who seem to have plans that they don’t have the ability to participate in for some reason other than their health. If you always feel healthy enough for parties, concerts, and other leisure activities, but suddenly seem violently ill to avoid obligations, or garner attention, I’m going to question your sincerity. I’m not talking about a recovery day (or week) because I know that one good day for me, when pushed to far, can definitely screw me up. It’s the people who seem to cling to the fringes of the disabled or “spoonie” communities, join somehow, but always seem to have luck when it comes to when their condition will flare up.

Today is a hard day, because I find myself bitter. I want this life I cannot have. This isn’t something positive thinking can fix. Most of the time I do accept my circumstances, and I work to find things that can make me just as happy, if not happier, than my original plans. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry sometimes. When someone gleefully jumps into the sick people community, only to have oddly good luck in terms of when they’re actually sick, and when they’re not, I struggle to bite my tongue.

Be interested, be included, but don’t lie. Even a small illness deserves support. Hell, all people deserve support. You don’t have to fake being seriously ill to get it.

 

Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

Flare City – Autoimmune Blister and Staph Infection

It’s no secret that I’ve been stuck in a pretty constant flare that only seems to be getting worse. The only option I have is to wait for my insurance to approve IVIG. We’ve done one steroid dose pack and I’m preparing for a second. To make things even more fun, my rheumatologist is out on maternity leave, and my insurance company was taken over by another company (it’s a contract deal). The transition hasn’t been smooth, to the point where I can’t even call and get a hold of someone at my insurance company…and I’ve even trying for six weeks.

Yes folks, you read that properly, I haven’t been able to speak to a human being at my insurance company for over six weeks.

While this may annoy the average 31-year-old insured individual, it’s definitely not the best when you’re in the middle of complex insurance approval processes. My chair is coming on Monday (if I can work out a payment plan), but IVIG still remains in limbo. My rheumatologist’s replacement suggested I switch to another practice, something that was discussed a year ago but discarded as I prefer my rheumatologist, and the university hospital nearby has a horrid chief of rheumatology (or at least did a year ago). Point is, I like my rheumatologist, she just happened to have a baby the same time period where my insurance company went to shit.

I was dealing with the increased gastroparesis symptoms, the GI bleeding, the fatigue, all of it…and then something new for me happened. I woke up last weekend, with a blister on my hand. It was just a little thing, but over the course of the day it got worse and worse. There was speculation on my part, and my friends’ parts, over what caused this blister. The best we could come up with is that my hot water bottle somehow burned me, but I didn’t wake up, and the bottle doesn’t have a leak. Moreover, I haven’t ever had an issue with it. So this blister just keeps getting worse, and eventually it takes over my entire knuckle and is working down into my hand.

I’m being eaten by a blister of unknown origin.

My friend Mike is a chef, and he informs me that I need to ignore everyone else’s advice and just pop it, throw some antibacterial ointment on it, and go about my life. I call him stupid until the thing begins to get so big I don’t have much of a choice. I was not having that thing pop in my sleep, and realistically I’m too clumsy not to bump it on something and randomly (and disgustingly) pop it unexpectedly.

Gross.

I pop it, and it’s not really anything special. I throw some bacitracin on it, and call it a day. The next day it’s tender, but not abnormal, and I keep it open so it can heal, but I’m careful to keep it clean, or so I thought. The next few days are a blur because I wasn’t feeling well in general, and I had an allergist appointment. What I do remember is looking at the spot where the blister had been, and being in denial that it was infected…until the day I went to the allergist, when I realized it was scabbing over pus filled portions, and literally creating an abscess.

Double gross.

I went from my allergist to my primary care doctor, who promptly told me I was correct, and it was definitely infected. He also informed me that autoimmune blistering is an actual thing. My body literally attacked the layers of my skin, creating a blister because it just destroyed a section on my hand. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics, but by the next day it was worse. Way worse. The night I’d gotten antibiotics it had worsened to the point where I had a thin layer of skin covering what was undoubtedly my tendon.

You shouldn’t be able to watch your tendons move, and while it was disturbing, I will admit it was kind of cool. Still, I don’t recommend it.

My doctor calls after I take another dose of the antibiotics that were already making me feel like total hell. Apparently I have a multi-drug resistant staph-infection, and while it isn’t MRSA, it doesn’t matter, because I’m allergic to all drugs ending in -cillin. Yay. We’ve established it’s getting rapidly worse, because I’m taking a boatload of immune suppressing drugs, even though they’re not doing a great job at treating my Behcet’s anyhow. Fantastic universe. So I’m sent to the ER.

The ER wasn’t too busy because of the time of day I went in. They ended up wanting an MRI because there was a chance my joint and tendon were infected, but thankfully they weren’t. That would have meant being admitted and going on IV drugs for a few days. I was given an IV push of an antibiotic (but honestly can’t remember the name), and send home on Keflex. I hate Keflex because of the nausea it  causes, but I don’t have much of a choice because of my allergies. Another issue I have with Keflex is kind of weird. It makes me really drowsy, and actually gives me a fever. Not a high fever, but around 100-101, which also makes me feel crappy.

If that weren’t enough, I’ve been dealing with stress over finances, namely insurance funds, and coming up with the money for moving and medical equipment. Life should be easier when I have less rent to pay, but saving up the money to pay insurance installments three months at a time, is going to be really hard. This rough patch also doesn’t help.

Can we address the reality that my body is flaring, and there is a decent chance that the stress made it worse…and my body blistered itself. 

I’m still sort of in awe that a body is capable of doing something like that. I think most of us who deal with autoimmune issues, have moments where we’re shocked at the destructive power of our own bodies. I’ve witnessed countless things, including losing the ability to move because of hyperactive reflexes, but somehow this one blister was more intense for me. I think there was something about being able to actually see with my eyes what my body was capable of. It was as though I was in some long cold war, and then someone dropped the first bomb. I was aware I was in a flare, I knew what was going on inside of my body, but seeing it externally was a whole new game. I’ve got an oral ulcer, and a few other external signs I’m flaring, but there was something about a blister that just felt different.

My roommate has reminded me to relax, that he’s handling the movers and the moving fees, but I’ve never had to rely so much on others, and it’s definitely taking it’s toll. For now I guess it’s all I can do. IVIG can’t come fast enough.

Flare City – Autoimmune Blister and Staph Infection

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)

Okay folks, there will be some basic biology talk in this post so if you don’t want to read about any of that, I’ll see you next blog 🙂

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Ah yes, birth control. That thing you wanted until you turned 30, then immediately wanted to burn so you could start a family with the guy of your dreams…just kidding, this isn’t a sitcom. I was put on the pill at 16 because I had periods that were brutal. It turned out that I had really bad ovarian cysts. I was on the pill from 2002 until 2014. I wasn’t on anything for a little over a year. Then, after a year and a half (or so), I got an IUD. There is my birth control journey in a nutshell. There were different types of pills involved, but because of my cyst issues (and what turned out to be endometriosis) I needed high dose oral contraceptives. I went off for a little over a year because I wanted to see if cysts were still an issue, and while they were, the endometriosis was really more of an issue than the cysts were. At the time it wasn’t diagnosed, though. Once I kicked the pill, my doctor felt comfortable with the diagnosis. So how does this all fit into Behcet’s?

For starters, there is an awkward give and take with the whole birth control issue. Most of my medications are contraindicated in pregnancy. Some are actually so bad for pregnancy, I had to prove I was taking reliable measures to avoid becoming pregnant. Of course my family history of blood clots, and having vasculitis, meant I was pushing the limits of estrogen containing birth control pills. My doctor had told me that being on birth control pills that contained estrogen, was a surefire way to get a blood clot.

I really didn’t want a blood clot.

I was able to forgo birth control entirely because I had failed to get control over periods using non-estrogen containing oral contraceptives. They had wanted to use an IUD, but I was super afraid at the time. I also knew that I wanted children in the next five years. At the time I was with someone who had lab work that showed issues, issues that would make conception without intervention highly unlikely. The chances were low enough that, when presented with the numbers, my gynecologist was comfortable enough with me going sans birth control, despite being on medication that usually required me to be on birth control.

Score one for male factor infertility.

I don’t do drama, so for the record, my ex did go on to have an adorable baby boy with his gorgeous girlfriend. While we were together I was informed given the information at my disposal, that we could not have children. Indeed, I was able to stay off of birth control for well over a year, without a pregnancy. 

Now, for so many years the goal of life was to avoid pregnancy. Let’s me honest, for most of us that’s how it goes. We try to avoid pregnancies, until all of a sudden we realize we want kids. Some people are lucky enough to avoid pregnancy, then become pregnant, when they find it convenient. Other people find themselves getting pregnant when they didn’t plan on it, or struggling to get pregnant at all. Then there are the weird sick women out there, who have the added benefit of having to seriously plan out pregnancies because of illnesses and medications.

Doctors have had various recommendations for me. Some have looked at the research and been comfortable with my proclamation that I want children some day. For many women with Behcet’s, pregnancy brings a relief from symptoms. Doctors don’t really know why, but Behcet’s symptoms, and even the disease itself, tend to lessen during pregnancy, and even shortly afterwards. Of course some women have worsening symptoms during pregnancy, and more have issues following the birth of their children, but there was hope.

Other doctors have acted like I’m insane. The medications alone make it a really risky idea. I would have to stop certain medications for a certain period of time, but also be able to start pregnancy safe medications within that time, to keep all my symptoms in check. A seizure during pregnancy would be really bad. Gastroparesis makes me nauseas and struggling to feed myself adequately, how in the world will I be able to nourish a growing baby? They point at the unknowns genetically in terms of how many people in my family have autoimmune ailments. Of course there is no guarantee that I’ll be passing anything along.

The rest fall somewhere in the middle, which I feel is the right place to be. I definitely don’t expect to have an easy go of it, but I would like to have at least one or two children of my own. I would love an adopted child, or a stepchild, just as much, but there is something about a biological child that does call to me. I’ve definitely considered IVF with a surrogate, but that is an expensive route. It’s also the safest in terms of what would be best for the baby. (Think about it, my body does a poor job of keeping me alive, entrusting it with a fetus seems terrifying to me.) A surrogacy would also mean I could stay on a lot of my medications, or at least go back on medications sooner. (Some medications you cannot be taking because they pass along birth defects via the egg, so I would have to stop those prior to egg harvesting.)

Is this a fun read or what…

I know my best chance at having a healthy biological child, is via a surrogate, but it doesn’t make thinking about it any less daunting. I mean, I was married, I’m in the process of getting a divorce, I’ll be 32 in April…and there is a timeline on fertility. I didn’t do myself any favors with the chemo. (I still don’t know if there was damage to my eggs, but again, that’s not something I can really know without specific fertility testing. My insurance only covers fertility tests if you’ve been trying to conceive for a period of time without success.

I’m pretty sure I don’t meet the qualifications of trying for any period of time, given the fact that I’m painfully single.

Another issue for me is that I did have early stage cervical cancer. They removed a pretty decent size of my cervix, and the location has made it more likely for me to experience issues with premature labor. So, you know, as if it weren’t enough to have Behcet’s with heavy GI involvement including gastroparesis…I had to go and get cervical cancer, too. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful that it was caught early, and that I only needed local surgery instead of a more invasive surgery and chemotherapy. It just would have been nice if I could have avoided cancer all together.

Doing six months of chemotherapy, then getting diagnosed with cancer? Yeah, that’s only something that happens in my life.

This is another rambling blog, but today was infusion day, and I’m in that weird headspace of sleepy, but full of vitamins. I hope I find someone someday who can love me, illnesses and all. I also hope that they want children (or already have children) and are supportive of whatever pathway to parenthood we choose together. It may not be conventional, but that’s okay. Right now I do have an IUD. It was placed before I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m thrilled with it. It controls my endometriosis issues, and I don’t know it’s even there. There isn’t a worry for me regarding pregnancy, which is important still with all the medications I’m taking. With my nausea issues, vomiting, and malabsorption, it was time to get something that didn’t rely on another pill I would have to remember to take. Plus, no estrogen!

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)

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

First Round of IV Vitamins, and the Unemployment/Disability Situation

Yesterday, on the 23rd, I got my first infusion of fluids vitamins, and amino acids. It wasn’t pleasant, but mostly because I was still so sick going into the appointment. Basically I’m still having bleeding issues, most likely from my colon, and lower intestines. I’m also having a lot of nausea courtesy of the gastroparesis. I find myself in this horrible situation where, if my stomach and upper intestines empty, they hit the lower intestines where the ulcerations are. So the nausea fades momentarily, only to return as the pain of the food and drink moving through me hits the ulcers. The doctors are fairly sure some of the ulcers were deep, and created blood clot like scabs that are coming off when I feel like I have to go to the bathroom. It’s super fun…

Anyhow, I pulled myself up off the bathroom floor (literally) and went in for the infusion. I was pleasantly surprised when the nurse hit a vein on the first try. (I had forced myself to drink and keep down liquids, though it had left me violently nauseated.) She warned me that the infusion would taste funny, like a Flintstone vitamin. Turns out it tasted exactly like one, but not the fun fruity part…the gross after taste part. This would have been manageable had I brought mints or something, but I hadn’t. It also would have been manageable if I weren’t already trying to avoid throwing up. Then there was the woman who seemed determined to talk to me.

I am pale, obviously in pain, and she just kept talking…

I’m not sure what we talked about. I grunted responses periodically, but spent most of the time checking out her adorable dog. Then something fun happened. About halfway through the bag I thought I was dying. I felt hot flashes, the nausea peaked, and I was pretty convinced I was going to faint or have a seizure. Then, a little while later, it all went away. I told myself it was just the Zofran I had taken prior to the infusion…but I kept feeling less horrendous. Now, don’t get me wrong, the damn thing still tasted awful, but I didn’t feel as awful. 3/4 of the way through the infusion, I was actually sitting up in the chair instead of half curled over. As it finished I had to admit, I felt a lot better, just from the fluids. The vitamins were much needed, but I am sure they haven’t done much just yet. The nurses and nutritionist had all said it would take several regular infusions before I felt a lasting benefit from the vitamins and amino acids. As I’m getting up to leave, talkative lady addresses me and the nurse.

“You look less dead.” Then to the nurse, “Doesn’t she look a lot less dead?”

I mean I’d rather look totally alive, but I’ll take less dead I suppose. My stomach still hasn’t been doing well, but that’s just the nature of the situation. My upper GI doesn’t want to move at all, while the lower GI is a mess of ulcerations and blood. Happy holidays I suppose.

Hopefully I can get an update on my wheelchair after the holiday. I’m bummed that I’ll have to start paying copayments and whatnot, given my insurance year will begin again, but I’m hoping I won’t have to pay it all at once with the wheelchair. That would definitely require me to sell everything I own. I’m also excited to start IVIG. I’m crossing my fingers for some good news regarding my disability as well.

For a long time I was opposed to the idea of disability. I want to work. Not working leaves me unfulfilled. It isn’t even about finances, though I’m definitely struggling financially. Working has always given me a sense of pride and purpose. Even the smallest job made me feel like I was contributing in some way. Without working I feel sort of useless. I know I couldn’t work the way things are right now. As much as I may want to work, I just don’t know day to day how I’ll feel. Plus there are the medical treatments. We’re talking about IV infusions 2x per week, if insurance will cover it, then IVIG which will be given over a period of two days. From what I’ve read IVIG is done every 4-6 weeks. If it lines up with IV nutrition appointments, I could be spending 4 out of 5 days in medical offices one week per month. I’d still be spending two days per week in medical offices anyhow. Once we’re able, we’ll wean me to an IV per week, but ultimately we can’t go lower than that since I really need the fluids.

This is the thing people don’t seem to grasp about disability, and those of us who are chronically ill. We fight hard to get to a baseline that is somewhat close to that of a healthy person. Most of us won’t ever feel as healthy as a healthy person, but we can fight hard to become functional enough to basically pass as healthy. Getting to that point takes a lot of effort and time though. In my instance we’re talking several IV treatments, a ton of oral medications, and carefully orchestrated drinks and snacks. Even with all of that, I could wake up and feel miserable. If you look at my IV schedule alone, it become a scheduling nightmare. Toss in the fact my body doesn’t operate well in the mornings, and that I could randomly have a few bad days without warning, and you get someone who really doesn’t have the ability to work right now.

I am not defined by my illness, however, I am limited by it. For a long time I lied to myself, and swore that Behcet’s and the things it has caused like gastroparesis and autonomic neuropathy, would never limit me. I was determined to live the life I wanted, despite the symptoms. As I pushed myself, I got sicker and sicker. Then denial kicked in. I told myself that I was in a flare, and that once the flare was over, I could get back to living a normal life. Denial isn’t helpful. I hit a point where I had to acknowledge that some of the things I wanted to do, I couldn’t do, because of my chronic illnesses, and that’s okay.

Yes, you read that right folks, it’s okay to accept that your disease limits you…as long as you don’t let it define the entirety of your being.

I am chronically ill. I may have to use my wheelchair at times. I cannot work. My diet is an absolute wreck, and even when I do follow the doctor’s advice, I can’t always succeed. The ER team knows me. Professors have to allow me extra time should I require it. These are all facts of life for me. I accept it, and I pivot because of it.

Find something else that you love, and know that limitations are not forever, but even the ones that do stick around don’t change who you are as a person. 

Life is what it is, and sometimes we can’t wrap our heads around having to change our plans, but we also can find ourselves trying something new that we hadn’t even thought of before. We find new passions, new paths, and we go with it.

So go with it. 

First Round of IV Vitamins, and the Unemployment/Disability Situation