Category Archives: RSD/CRPS
Part I of II – By guestwriter Cammie LaValle
Remember that light inside of you that used to shine? We reminisce about it in our heads; to that person we used to be. That silent yet screaming conversation in our minds we have on a daily basis. For some, it’s the majority of the actual conversing we do and sadly, it’s only with ourselves. We are feeling ourselves; our internal light; the fire that once helped us accomplish so many things in life, be reduced to less than a flame; more like a sad, almost non-existent spark which could barely keep a match lit.
Sure, there are flickers of hope and tiny little fires at times; but personally, they are getting few and far between. I have not given up all hope, but I am struggling to keep the grasp.
One of my motto’s is “Let Your Soul Shine” taken from a song. How hypocritical of me to tell others to do just that when I am watching, feeling and experiencing my own go darker and darker every day. I don’t mean dark as in evil, although I will admit I’ve had some pretty evil scenarios which I wish would play out in the lives of some of the doctors I have encountered in the last few years. No, I would not harm anyone; but as you read that, I am certain you can recall one of those thoughts that has played out in your mind so detailed as though you were actually plotting a dismemberment. I for one thought a log-splitter would suffice.
As I am writing this, I have backspaced hundreds of times thinking what I have to say or what I feel is not ready to be heard or will be perceived as seeking pity, over reacting, not being thankful for what I do have or God forbid, the “It could be worse” reaction we often get. Yes, we all comprehend that, but more often than not, it is far from a supportive statement as we perceive it. Minimizing our hell is what most of us feel; even though we know most of you mean well when it’s said. But I realized the words I put down, if were written by someone else and read by me, are exactly the words I would need to hear; and yearn to hear. So without a hesitant mind, and the pain jolting through my body and hands, I shall spill the complete ugly truth that I am not shining by any means. I’ve gone dim. This is not news to some; as they know me too well to believe the crap that spews out of my mouth when I say “I’m fine.”
I ask myself daily, how much more can I handle? Do I even want to for that matter? Yes, those thoughts are there when in my dimmest hours. Will I say it out loud? Probably not. Will I say it here, when I know others just like me are reading this; yes, yes I will. I can’t say I am proud of my thoughts, but I can say I am not about to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass; especially knowing the people reading this are struggling right along with me. That’s not what we need and I may very well do it to others so they don’t have to worry about me, but I will not do it to you. I know that sounds terrible as I have more than likely never met or ever will meet 99.999 % of you. Why be truthful to people I don’t know and hide and lie to my own family and friends? I have no clue the rationale behind this and won’t pretend I do either. What I do know is that there is a greater chance those reading this, understand it to their core and need no explanation of the words, the thoughts, the expressions, the pain, the isolation, the self-doubt, and the meaning behind “Going Dim”. I fully understand all humans go through struggles in life and I am not discounting any of that; anyone or any struggle of any kind. I am addressing our struggle.
I am opening up my broken spirit and soul, my tired mind, and using my pain riddled body, to let YOU know, you are far from alone in this battle. And I may be writing what you can’t dare to say out loud, but feel it as if it has taken over your entire being. I know I have read some stories which after the first sentence I felt the lump in my throat. I certainly am not sharing to cause distress or any tears, but if anyone reading this has that lump, let yourself feel the emotion and release some of that internal pain that is eating you alive and has taken over a portion of your soul.
More than likely you have caught on that I have not begun to describe the pain. If you are reading this, you already know how it will read. However, for those friends or family that are reading this who have a loved one suffering, I will follow this with a brutal truth that the one you know, who is suffering, is too damn scared to tell you. Whether it be pride, or wanting the world to believe we can handle this, or the complete farce we muster up in order to appear stronger than we actually feel. Your loved one has gone dim. And you might have as well; attempting to care for them. Addressing the other side of this is just as important as addressing ourselves.
The ME I once was, is still seen by my husband and some family and friends; however, I don’t see her. I feel as if she’s gone for good. I talk with her in my mind and actually pray she will come back, somehow, some way. She could light up a room (from what I was told). She was vibrant, funny, witty, intelligent, strong, hard-working, worthy, helpful, selfless, and although some deep down pain existed as we all have and hide; she was happy. She helped raise 2 children, who she loves. She was a good wife, a good friend, a reliable sister and had worked since a very young age; worked her ass off. Now, the relentless quest for her to return has come up empty. She was me. I was her. We’ve both gone dim.
Where did she go? CRPS (full body), Fibromyalgia in addition about a dozen other health issues; some quite severe, has held her captive and the ransom demand at this time cannot be met. The hope and flicker of light is diminishing. Sure, I say I am hopeful and staying positive, but who am I kidding? It’s gradually becoming such a farce, I can barely hold back the tears when I say I am still positive. It’s a blatant lie. I feel as if I am getting a very real glimpse of Hell.
Ice pick, razor blade, vice, hammer, pins, needles, knife, match, truck, salt, gasoline, fire, electric shock and flames; all of which I feel has been used during this captivity. A scene from a mysterious attempted murder movie in which we wait in the trunk to be rescued. Someone on the outside may not comprehend that comparison, but I, along with so many others; truly feel this. And the trunk is our lives at times. That dim, cold, dark, isolated place, we don’t willingly go to, but find ourselves there, stuck; more often than not. The tools used is what we compare our pain to; as CRPS/RSD plays out such a brutal attack on our bodies daily. As we wait for the ransom, which in our lives is a doctor, a treatment, a cure, we succumb to this attack and 24/7 try to prepare ourselves for the next dreadful blow. I try to hold it in as to not be a burden; not wanting people to see how bad it is. There are times it just comes out, screaming, howling, paralyzing pain to the point I can barely breathe. Arms, legs, feet, back, hips, face, ears, chest pain where it feels like I am having a heart attack, but I know I am not. Then I think, what if I do have a heart attack? If I feel like that daily, if I have one, will I even know? And my hypertension gets so out of control, my neck feels like I am being stabbed, my vision gets blurry, I lose minutes and have lost recollection of hours of time. I get scared to be alone in my own home. This scares the sh*t out of me! On nights the blood pressure is too high and the chest pain is severe, I am too damn scared to go to sleep as I honestly wonder if I will wake up. Yes, that is how my mind works. I pray I wake up. I won’t go into the thoughts and prayers that go on, when I honestly question if my life, as I know it, is actually ending that evening. This is brutally honest and I know it sounds far-fetched to some. But, many reading this feel the same way or have felt the same way. I am saying it now, to give you some peace of mind that you are far from alone. It is not by any means a healthy way of thinking, but it is where one’s mind tends to go at times. I am not proud of these thoughts, but they are true.
Pain changes people. It’s relentless. The beast wins in those moments and all I can do is wait for it to let go of its ever so tight grip of my body. I think to myself during these times, how the hell am I to live this way? How is my husband to live this way, with his wife being consumed by pain, lost herself and her feeling of self-worth? I am not the woman he married. Far, far from it. He is my biggest advocate and has not left my side, although I wouldn’t blame him. His wife is gone. The anxiety, stress and depression that goes along with this beast leads my mind to wonder “when” he will have had enough; not “if”. For better or worse, sickness and in health, meant something to him, just as it did and does to me. How lucky am I to have such a man who took his vows so serious, that as he watches his wife diminish and change into someone he didn’t marry, he continues to assure me we are in this together and he will never leave my side. He is the only one who can make these demons stop in my head. He is the only one who has seen it all and still has faith I will come out of it; come back as the woman he married; come back from “Going Dim”.
What has brought you to this page, is why many of you will understand what I am about to say next. You are dim yourself from disease and pain or you are caring for someone and are desperately trying to find a way to understand and help that person; your loved one. (For those seeking help to care for another – THANK YOU! Sadly enough, you may be the only one doing so for that lost screaming soul).
Too many are left alone and instead of having support in waiting for that ransom, they remain in the trunk; dim, isolated, begging for relief, kicking and screaming to get out; get help and for someone to actually listen. When there is never a response, those broken souls take it upon themselves to put an end to their private mysterious movie which is their life. They don’t think they can handle the next blow, they have been disregarded by doctors, family, friends and in their mind; the world.
Pain messes with your mind. Even those who truly have support; at times feel like an overwhelming burden to everyone, isolated and alone (even if the room is filled with 20 people) and misunderstood, they would rather not be on this earth for one more second of pain or one more feeling of being dismissed by a friend or loved one. That emotional pain alone when one’s suffering is dismissed; as if we are over-reacting to a common cold; could and has triggered people in pain to start planning their demise, as it is too much for them in their broken mind and body to fight anymore. Death, in their mind, however wrong one deems that thought process; is what they are contemplating. If you think this is reaching; just read through posts in some of your or your loved one’s support groups.
Daily, I see people tell people they never met, that they “can’t handle it anymore”, “I just want to end it”. Keep in mind, if you look at their FB page, or Twitter, or recall a recent phone call, most would have just said or posted on how great their day was. “I am fine.” It’s a farce, which most of us continue to do; as to not upset our family or friends with our true feelings and pain, or to not be honest with people we actually know because we’ve been dismissed too many times and are broken to the point that some knowingly make a decision to NEVER again speak to a loved one, hug a family member; and even their own children; as their mind has told them it’s easier to die than live.
How sad is that? Are they selfish? When people take their lives due to pain, any type of pain; they cannot comprehend the ramifications other than they no longer will have pain. So completely torn down, the thought their child will lose their parent, is not strong enough to stop them. How in the hell is our society missing this? How are family and friends missing this? How are people in pain getting to this point? Whether it be lack of treatment, lack of cure, lack of support or the mind games played out in your head when your pain takes over your life; it must, meaning right now, start being addressed.
Are you thinking your life is not worth it anymore? Well, it is. You don’t see it, but others do. And I beg anyone reading this, to reach out to someone. I can almost guarantee these thoughts have gradually entered the minds of your loved one who experiences 24/7 pain; not remembering a day without it. And if someone asks you, be honest. I have uttered the words I’m fine for the majority of my life; over half of which has been in chronic pain. I hid so many things from even my family; out of pride and factors which stem from my childhood, some of my own family do not believe I am in such a state of despair and pain; broken down with a tired soul and body that feels useless. I hid for too long. Yes, it’s my fault for putting on the mask. I was and at times still very good at it. A habit very hard to break.
It’s natural for me to pretend I am okay; for I’ve done it all my life in one way or another just like most of humanity in some aspect. However, I am removing it now and so should you. This does not give us the right to become an un-consolable hot mess of a person; but it does give us power to deal with what is behind the mask; our true selves. It certainly will not be easy, but how worn out are you right now reading this? My soul is tired and there is no amount of sleep in which can awaken it.
“Live without living?” What does that mean? If you ask that question, you have yet to comprehend how our minds work; how we feel & what this has done to us. Or better said, what it has done with the person we once were. The reason I; we’ve gone dim. We strive to live better and we do anything and everything to get there. Find relief, find a new normal, find peace, find understanding, find faith, find God, find a way; find ourselves. I am trying and I have resorted to begging at times just to get a doctor to listen to me. Most ignore it; but I’ve been lucky to find one that listened; one who upheld his oath. One who has promised to help me find a way, a new normal, and a treatment in which I can maybe, just maybe, have a chance at finding myself again. I don’t trust many, but trusted him and have for over 10 years. Due to this trust and mutual respect between a doctor and a patient, I have a chance; a slight flicker of light in my dim world which I am grasping onto so tight, if I were to let go I feel as if I would crumble; again.
You see, although I’ve gone dim like many of you reading this, I also found HOPE and it was due to raising some hell and advocating for myself and not shutting up when I was told NO. I kept going, I kept calling, I kept writing; I kept fighting. I am still dim, but I have seen the flicker of light; that same light which could let “My Soul Shine”. I don’t know if it will, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try. I deserve it; as do you.
I started writing this 8 months ago. When I started, I was in my darkest times. I thought about deleting those parts; but that would be me lying to you, and again, as life has taught me, continue to pretend I am okay when I am not. So I hope when you started reading, you felt you were no longer alone in the pain, the dark thoughts, the hopelessness, sadness and you knew, in your heart and soul, there are others like you. And as you read on, you found understanding, a bond with someone you probably will never meet. A bond due to pain, no one wants, but one everyone needs so they don’t feel alone and don’t ever think tomorrow is not worth waking up to.
I’m honored to share this project by chronic illness activist, guest writer Cammie LaValle, featured for CRPS/RSD Awareness Month. She’s not only a personal friend I met in the chronic pain community, but she’s a personal inspiration to me as well as so many others. She leads the charge in fighting campaigns for chronic pain and rare disease causes with the tenacity like none I’ve seen before, whilst attacking her disease with the same vigor. I’m proud to be in the same warrior club with a woman like Cammie, as I have learned much from her. Read more RSD/CRPS articles, see art projects, poems, and survival stories here.
Thank you for visiting and sharing -Mary
To be thankful while you are suffering is one thing, but to be thankful for suffering….
Once in a while in the support group I administrate, there is someone who makes a statement that is so powerful, it catches me off guard and it sets my soul on fire. In truth, this isn’t a rare occurrence. I guess you could say that those suffering so deeply every single moment of the day have some profound insights to share. One thing that inspires me the most is when people say they are thankful for their illness. That is a bold statement that I believe one would never come to lightly- and no one would EVER openly say something so provocative in a support group setting among a band of individuals with severe chronic diseases, unless they truly meant it. That’s why it always gives me pause whenever I hear such powerful expressions.
It’s not unusual for those who go through a near death experience or a serious short term illness to find deeper meaning and purpose. It’s no less real, but it is more common when the storms have an end, and suffering can be left behind. While it’s not rare for those with ongoing illness to eventually find new ways to appreciate life again, to say they are grateful for their illness, it is so much more rare in cases of chronic disease. Why? Because an illness that is daily, constant, and does not see an end- is far easier to hate than to get excited about. A condition which may be degenerative, becoming more painful and physically or mentally compromising over time, isn’t easily beloved…as you can imagine. To me, it’s almost a miracle hearing that anyone would be happy or thankful that they became so sick. Others with chronic illness can find statements like these offensive, even. These ideas of “illness gratitude” certainly border on the extreme, but make one wonder where their personal journeys have lead them to truly embrace their infirmities.
I’ve heard people claim to be thankful they are in pain and chronically ill because it transformed their lives. It made them see the world in a different light. Their conditions allowed them to shake off the clutter and stress of a life that they realized didn’t have substance, and focus on a life of greater meaning and value. They once believed losing their career meant losing their purpose, but I’ve spoken to those who say that they are so thankful they became ill because now they found their true calling. Some have said that their new life of chronic illness has enabled them to be there for people in ways they never could have in their “healthy” life, so they are forever thankful for their new sick bodies, and how useful they can be to others through deeper compassion and connection. Sometimes people are grateful they are in pain because it has brought them closer to their faith, and they cherish a higher spiritual connection they never could have had without constantly being pushed to the edge of what they can endure. They are forced to cling to God instead of their own strength, and in that comfort, they find gratitude for suffering that brought them more enrichment spiritually.
Again, these are extreme statements, but thought provoking and inspiring nonetheless!
Most often, people I encounter long for a cure or pray to be healed. That’s normal, and that’s not at all unhealthy. Research in psychology equates the loss of health or a limb to losing a family member or spouse passing away. It’s earth-shattering. The losses just keep coming. With chronic illness, the grief starts over again and again. It’s cavernous, and there’s no end to the emotional roller coaster or the physical fight. Hoping for a cure, for healing, or for remission is what we all are desperate for, and that focus can at times become crucial for survival. But for some of us, restoration of health becomes a worship in itself, and begins to supersede everything else. Seeking a cure or healing can become such a focus that illness becomes nothing but a betrayal of God, of government, of doctors, and family. Nothing feels real except wellness and full restoration.
Obviously these are 2 opposite sides of the spectrum, and balance is always the goal.
When I was diagnosed at 22, I spent the first years asking God WHY? Staying up every night in excruciating pain, my leg felt as though it was breaking, nerves like being electrocuted and burning pain like nothing I could have ever imagined before. Full body spasms, tremors, the room spinning, my heart racing and palpitating, wondering how I had planned and worked so hard for everything that had lead me here, just to lose it to this “incurable degenerative” condition that no one seemed to be taking very seriously to help me try recover from. It didn’t make any sense. As much as I tried to analyze it, I couldn’t crack the code. It only made sense for me to get better, so I searched for my panacea, and prayed (demanding) that God must heal me. At the time, I wasn’t a big prayer person, but illness has a way of connecting you to your higher power. In the Bible, yes, there is healing, but there is also so much pain. The importance of learning through pain, finding ways to share strength or comfort inside of infirmities, these are scriptures that have been so encouraging to me.
I eventually felt lead to make a decision. I believed God would heal me, and I still do believe that is true. But, I decided that if I was going to spend any period of time living a “sick life” I was going to explore it. As much as I was desperate to go back in time, moving forward is all I could do, it’s all any of us can do- Even if it’s slowly, frightened, and with tears in our eyes.
I cannot go as far as saying that I am thankful I am chronically ill. I can say that at almost 12 years, I’m so grateful I made that decision to press forward and try to find myself inside of this life. If I had stayed so distracted by my past, or so focused on what I might be losing in the future, I would have missed every bit of the beauty, the miracles, the blessings, the generosity of others, the opportunities to be of use, and purpose found inside of this pain.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Psalm 94:19
It has been Twenty years since RSD crashed into my life and it has been quite the ride. Some moments I have wanted to be over before they happen. Other moments I held onto for dear life because they were all that sustained me through the hours and days of pure physical and psychological torture. At times I was able to be more normal like many of my peers. Other times I behaved and felt as if I were on my death bed. However, if I had the choice to do this all over again there would be nothing that I would ever change. I am not saying I like being sick but all of the gifts that it has helped me to find out about myself in a hurry compared to my “normal” peers has been truly priceless. I will tell a brief side of my tale that has led me to find peace with RSD and my life.
20 Year Anniversary by guest writer, Logan Woods
In February, 1996 I was a normal 15 year old girl who really did not want to go to the dentist, and I got out of it by going to the ER instead. I knelt down and felt like I broke my kneecap in half (I did not). So my mother and brother took me to the local ER to have my knee looked at (I had to be carried, it hurt so bad). They took and X-ray of it and found out that I had somehow knelt on a needle that was now lodged in my lower thigh muscle. They ended up sending me to a different doctor to have surgery on my knee as they could not get it out. The surgery doctor’s next appointment would not be for five days which they thought would give the needle time to work its way up out of the thigh muscle. It worked its way further into the muscle instead, so on that day of the surgery, they took four times as long as they thought they had planned for. After the surgery, the site that they opened up to remove the needle was healing just fine, no complications, no unusual pain, but then on the eighth day after surgery at 4:30, sometime in the afternoon, RSD came into my life. So far has not left, although I keep insisting that she can be on her way now.
So, mid teen years were now controlled by not me, my school, or my mom, but by RSD, and I am just learning how to gain control over the elusive mistress. She swept into my life limiting my ability to go to normal school and participate in normal activities, although looking back at it, she might have saved me from getting too wild and crazy. I hated my ninth grade year before RSD came in the picture but it became even more troubled after. I ended up dropping out of ninth grade because I could not get out of bed due to the intense pain my leg.
The doctors I went to told me was in my head even though my mom kept telling the doctors my leg kept changing colors to this purple splotchy looking thing. My mom believed me but by then it was such a trouble to handle getting told over and over again there is nothing wrong with your leg. So, I gave up going to the doctors and started living with the pain.
I enrolled into a different high school as we had moved during the summer into a new school district. Tenth grade year was magical with the friends that I made and the activities I enrolled in at school. School was great, home was rough, but was do-able. The pain never went away from my knee and I learned how to distance myself from the pain and focus on my life, but there were times that the pain would break past my threshold and I was no longer able to hide it from people.
Eleventh grade I enrolled in dance class at my school and thought that if I was going to “try” to learn to dance I might as well try once more to figure out why my knee still hurt after 18 months of the initial RSD onset. I ended up seeing a doctor whose specialty was RSD though we did not know that at the time. After the initial meeting, within four hours of meeting this doctor, I was officially diagnosed with RSD in my left knee. I thought, okay this can go away with one of these treatments that the doctor wanted us to start trying right away; it was one tough year. So, treatments start, the school year starts, and everything is going ok. I do not know what to tell my friends so I do not tell them a whole lot. They just find me funny that I would become a log when we would have sleepovers; they would use me as a table to put the pizza on.
I started missing more school days but I managed to keep up until the end of that year. I was desperate to have a job, so even though I was not that functional, I got a job for 9 months. It was fun getting the paycheck, but work was fast food, not rocket science. In twelfth grade I ended up having a teacher from my school come to my home to give me school work and tests so that I could graduate with my class, which I barely managed to do.
The pain and treatments that were supposed to help just left me isolated from the world, partly by my choosing and partly because I could not act normal with the raging fire in me all the time, so I turned inward.
I had a boyfriend I loved very much but as time went by we were not a compatible match for each other, and RSD became more of a main focus in my life which I am not so sure that was a good thing.
College time came and I just knew I had to go to college for all those wonderful fun 80’s movies that glamorized colleges, and besides, how was I going to work being sick all the time? I took one class a semester for 8 years after high school. I loved my college years and I made some off-color choices, but hey, I thought isn’t it in college that I can get away with shit? My grades were up and down because of the pain but it gave me the experience of a lifetime- taking my time to learn what I wanted to and figuring out what thrilled me to fight for more than just surviving this illness.
I was figuring out that I had found a passion to learn how to thrive. I was only identifying myself at that time as the girl with RSD, nothing more. It took me years to figure out how to stop identifying myself as that sick RSD woman.
I did, by my hairy son Randy (dog) and my hairy son Orion (cat), my hairy son Siries (cat), and through my hairy sister (dog) who in one form or another was sick. So, I started researching about pet health and focused on pet nutrition as it was something that I could do to affect their health. The love for business, invention, and innovation became my zest for life and I helped me to handle the illness.
It took years to get here- where I can see the future I want for myself, and know that I can have it. I would have what we call the “Lorado” me acting like a tornado being destructive against myself, my possessions and the people I loved. I was unable to control my emotions, and I would get really upset over anything, but really, I was just upset because I was miserable and extremely unhappy.
I was tired of being sick all the time (not like we ever get the choice), I was tired of feeling like the only life I might have is through other people, and tired of myself. So, I had to make a decision if I was going to “stay” I had to change me or more precisely change my thinking.
I read books by people who help people handle their moments in life. I started asking myself what I really wanted in life with or without RSD. I took time to learn to know what I wanted and learned how to stop hating myself and RSD. I would pick a part of myself to like about me and over time I learned to love me and those around me more profoundly and deeply. RSD was no longer my calling card or any way to describe myself. I became Logan, just Logan.
Today, at twenty years, two months, and twenty days into RSD it helps make me, me.
I am becoming a successful business woman by helping to start up a company with my mom and brother, www.Blindsofbeauty.com the one and only company that sells and makes vertical blind slip covers. This is just one of the many companies I will be involved with creating and running. Believe it or not, it is because of RSD that Blinds of Beauty exists, my mom invented vertical blind slip covers as a way to cover the vertical slats that would leave my room even when they were closed blazing hot while I was going through blocks and treatment for the RSD and we were prohibited on our apartment lease from putting holes in the walls. It took a few years (15 years) to start the vertical blind slipcover company but it has been well worth the wait. Blinds of Beauty is giving me the job as the CFO among other responsibilities. Life is pretty great for me now; I just had to find me.
It has been a work in progress to live my life with RSD, ignoring it to the best of my abilities (not always wise), loving the hairy children I have, giving life my whole heart, following my dreams, and having fun. I plan to run companies, adopt a few non-hairy children, have a wonderful partner, live my life on my own terms, enjoy the great moments and breathe through the rough moments.
This week is the launch of Logan’s new website for her company, Blinds of Beauty. Please check it out. It is truly unique! I’m so honored to share Logan’s story here. She is one of the first people with RSD I “met” online over a decade ago, and we have been friends ever since. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and she deserves every good thing this life has to offer!
I have had many fearful adventures during my journey struggling with RSD/CRPS. Let me start off at the beginning…
Please help me welcome our guest writer today, Nikki Fortner!
Possible trigger warning to our readers.
I was diagnosed with RSD when I was 14 yrs old. I am now 16 going on 17. From the very start, I feared many things. I was scared I wasn’t fixable, I was afraid of what was going to happen to me, most of all I was terrified how my mom was handling it and I couldn’t help her and she couldn’t help me. After her fighting for 2 to 3 years with 5+ doctors to get a correct diagnosis we finally received one in June of 2014. The day we found out the diagnoses (of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) a lot of emotions filled my mind and body. I was happy because we finally knew what it was that was causing me such horrible pain but I was scared because there wasn’t a cure for it. The doctor I see currently has honestly been the best doctor I could have asked for.
However, things turned the wrong direction on December 14, 2015. I was walking on a sidewalk and stepped into a hole and broke my ankle where the RSD is located. I was put in a cast for 8 weeks. During this time my RSD pain honestly wasn’t bad at all I was just scared of what would happen when I came out of the cast.
Here we are, present day two days after my recent nerve block and my scariest experience in my life yet. April 4, 2016, nerve block number 3. From the moment we walked in the door that day I knew something was off all around.
My normal lady who does my IV didn’t that day. The lady that did do it, however, messed up bad. When she put the IV in, blood went everywhere and she said it would be fine, but it wasn’t. My arm was burning and I just knew something wasn’t right. I got really scared and I looked at my mom and said, “I’m scared” and she said. “everything is going to be ok” and that when I freaked out and started crying again. I told my regular nurse and she came over and re-did the IV in my other arm and everything was okay after that. They took me back to the O.R and even back there I had this weird vibe. So it went on anyways, I thought it was just me.
My doctor did the time out and then gave me the anesthesia. He gave me one and realized it wasn’t enough because I was still awake. He gave me another dosage and that still wasn’t enough, so he hit me with one more and that knocked me out- hard. The procedure went on but this time, a medication was added to my nerve block to make it better and last longer. When I was trying to wake up something still didn’t feel right I didn’t feel like I normally do when waking up from anesthesia. It took me way longer than normal and by the time they wanted to discharge me I still felt dizzy and sick. We got the paperwork and we left.
The whole way home I slept which I normally don’t do until I get home. When we got home and I went to go to the restroom, everything went downhill from that instant I sat down…. all of a sudden I felt very sick to my stomach and dizzy. Thankfully, my mom was downstairs, but before I could even yell to have her come help me, everything went black, and I passed out for a good 10 minutes. My head slammed against our bathtub. Half my body was in the tub and the other half was out.
The next thing I knew I heard my mom screaming and I had literally 9 paramedics overtop of me sticking me, and poking me, and running tests until I woke up and threw up all over my mom (sorry for the detail). I was taken to the hospital by my house via ambulance where they ran more tests and determined it was too much anesthesia. They pumped 3 bags of fluids in me and sent me home.
Since then I have been fine and feeling better but that honestly had to be a terrifying experience of not only my RSD/ CRPS journey but my entire life as well. I’m so thankful to have people by my side during this journey as well, so thank you Nettie Moneski my mom, Noah Herman my boyfriend, Michelle Craig Hoyt a good family friend, Jimmy Shanks, my grandfather and grandmother, Amelia Catherine Gish my best friend, and to everyone else, thank you guys so much, I couldn’t go through this without you guys!! Love you guys so much!!
-written by RSD survivor, Nikki Fortner, age 16
This is my little panda dude to keep you company on your worst pain days. If you are like me, then this time of year the crazy weather has rolled over you like a semi-truck in an ice storm. Hang in there, friends. Spring is coming!
This was one of my first awareness posters, made in powerpoint. On the next Wordless Wednesday, I’ll show you my latest poster, the sequel to “Bad Flare Day Panda,” “Low Pain Day Pandas.” Stay Tuned!
Bad Flare Day
Panda is now available as a comfy long sleeved T-shirt on Zazzle.
Letter to the CDC
Due January 13th
-IMPORTANT: you MUST list the Docket Number at the top of your document:
– Docket ID: CDC-2015-0112
-Compose your letter in Word so you can see how many characters you are using
-click “Review” at the top of the screen in Word, and select “Word Count.” It will track your Characters. Stay within 5,000 Characters per CDC guidelines for comments.
-Using Word allows you to use Spellcheck before sending.
-Save your document regularly to avoid losing all of your great work.
-List your job, former job, current organizations you are involved with, and volunteer work you do (in person or online)
-If you list your conditions, remember that the CDC does not recognize all conditions and diseases (such as CRPS/RSD) so include the McGill Pain Index and/or NIH definition for your condition.
-When you are pleased with your letter, copy your document and paste in the comment section here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=CDC-2015-0112-0001
-Or Print and mail your letter to:
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway N.E., Mailstop F-63,
Atlanta, GA, 30341
-Here, you can read other patient letters to the CDC before submitting: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=CDC-2015-0112
-To get ideas about what you might want to say in your letter: http://nationalpainreport.com/response-on-cdc-opioid-prescribing-guidelines-pain-patients-need-to-be-heard-8828943.html
-Excellent Facebook event forum for pain patients, answering questions in real time and giving advice regarding the CDC letters: https://www.facebook.com/events/1099948746690760/
You are the perfect person for this job! You CAN do this! Let’s all do it together!
She hasn’t slept for days. The pain in her leg reminds her of ten million tiny coal miners chipping away at her bone marrow with their axes, sledge hammers and sharp picks. “When do these little guys ever take a lunch?” she wonders. They set off fire bombs from the inside of her, destroying chunks of tissue, muscle, and shards of bone. They light the fuses and her nerves shoot like electricity from one end of her leg to the next, making her gasp for air. Now, her entire leg IS pain. It is no longer a leg. It is no longer HER leg. It belongs to a monster. To a disease she does not yet understand.
The limb is only pain and fire and crushing, sawing icicle bone. When she closes her eyes, she cannot picture what the leg looks like. She can only see purple…
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On the morning of November 6th, in a suburb just north of Atlanta, GA, the students and teachers of Woodstock Elementary School arrived wearing orange in support of individuals living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/RSD. “It was a sea of orange today,” said Principal Kim Montalbano, who organized the awareness event.
Each November for CRPS/RSD Awareness month, people around the world participate in Color the World Orange, and this year, for the first time, the students and faculty of Woodstock Elementary School joined the cause!
My mother, a long-time teacher at W.E.S. was overwhelmed by the support shown to people living with severe daily pain and families affected by the debilitating neurological disorder, RSD/CRPS. When she arrived to work that morning, my mother was excited that the children in her own classroom would be sporting orange; instead however, she saw orange everywhere she looked! “It was a very emotional moment when I realized the entire school was supporting you today,” she told me that evening with tears in her eyes.
Many of my mother’s colleagues know that I have grown more disabled over the years, however she was encouraged to share my story in more detail on the 6th along with information on the condition that started it all:
I sprained my ankle when I was a healthy, active and focused 22-year-old; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/RSD began immediately following the injury. The constant pain has spread to other parts of my body over the last 11 years and I now have several other disabling chronic illnesses. They say that RSD/CRPS is the most painful condition- more painful than childbirth or amputation, but people like myself don’t get a break from the pain. I have traveled to see specialists, I have stayed in hospitals like Emory and Mayo among others, I have utilized western medicine, alternative, and holistic type treatments and therapies. Because of the enhanced awareness in recent years, new treatments for RSD/CRPS are being developed so there is always hope for remission! Anyone can contract RSD/CRPS from a minor injury, but research shows taking vitamin C after sprain, fracture or surgery will reduce your chances by helping your nerves heal. It is an extremely difficult condition to manage, but a loving family, faith, online support groups, and doctors who truly care make a world of difference for people like myself.
A few of my mother’s co-workers shared that they struggle with their own chronic pain conditions and felt that no one understood what they lived with on a daily basis. A mother of one of the students wrote a note to my mom saying that she has had CRPS/RSD for years and has always felt very alone in her pain. She was so overwhelmed with the support of the entire school and was extremely grateful it was being recognized so near her home. She thanked my mother specifically for educating her child’s class on RSD and extended a special thank you to Principal Montalbano for organizing such a meaningful awareness event.
Several of the students tried to understand why wearing orange would make a difference. Some were disturbed by the idea of living every day in pain. One student asked my mother, “Can’t your daughter just take medicine to feel better?” Another asked his teacher how his orange t-shirt would help people in pain recover. His teacher explained that it wouldn’t, but for people like my mother and myself, his support would be “a very big deal.” He then felt compelled to run down to my mother’s classroom to show her his orange shirt, and to say, “I hope your daughter feels better soon.”
Because of this incredible awareness event at W.E.S., classes upon classes of children know what RSD is. Their parents, who read the memo and found them something orange to wear that day, are now familiar with the term “RSD”. Faculty who helped explain the illness all day will recognize it whenever they hear the term again. The next time a person they care for is diagnosed, it won’t seem like the most foreign illness on the planet and they will know treatment must be sought out immediately.
When I shared pictures of the children wearing orange to my Facebook timeline, my friends were so touched and inspired by this amazing gift of support. We all feel incredibly uplifted and deeply moved by the entire school of Woodstock Elementary. On behalf of myself, my family, and my extended family of survivors living with indescribable pain, thank you W.E.S. for your support, your kindness, and for raising awareness for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/RSD.
The 15th of October, a very beloved, beautiful soul and long-time health activist, Mary LaBree passed away due to complications from RSD/CRPS. Here, one of her best friends, Mary Jane Gonzales shares a heartfelt poem with us along with the late Mary LaBree’s story. This was originally posted on the RSD/CRPS awareness Facebook page: In the Blink of an Eye.
By Poet/Author, Mary Jane Gonzales:
“With this being RSD/CRPS Awareness Month, I’d like to begin the month by acknowledging the work of Mary LaBree who is no longer with us. Mary shared a small part of her story with us in September for Chronic Pain Awareness, but was reserving the bulk of her story for an impending book. For those of you who missed her post back in September, you can read it below. Though it offers just a glimpse at her story, I would like to highlight some of her accomplishments that I know of. Her and her daughter’s RSD Support Group was the second support group in the country, and the first to get a state proclamation (back in 1990). She founded the New England RSD Coalition, whose function was to serve and educate: through support, seminars and fund raising. She held teaching seminars with well known doctors; collaborating with them over many years. She was a strong advocate for RSD awareness, and a key figure in the RSD community. Even recently, she was asked to speak at a conference, but had to decline for health reasons.
Before I repeat her post from September, I’d like to share a poem I wrote for her a few months ago for her intended book.
A HELPER AND ADVOCATE
A soldier, a warrior,
A patient with tears,
A helper and advocate
For so many years.
Reaching and touching
All that she could,
To help them endure
What no one should.
Searching for answers,
Seeking a cure,
For her and her family,
And all who suffer
This dreaded disease
Her reason for working
Poem Copyright Mary Jane Gonzales“
My Chronic Pain Story
by Mary LaBree
“I became aware of RSD in the mid 80’s when I went with my daughter to the pain clinic where she had been diagnosed with RSD. Then, about a year or so later, when I got hurt and fractured my spine, my daughter said she thought I had RSD also. So she took me to the same clinic, to see her doctor, and I, too, was diagnosed with RSD.
After that, I went into treatment and it took four years for me to get better. Along with Post Galvanic Stimulation, which helped me a lot, some other treatments I’ve had include:
Alphalipoic Acid (IV)
Radio Frequency Ablation
Though all the treatments have helped, none have been long lasting. As you all know, RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), now known as CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) has periods of worsening, be it flares or spreads. I was fifty years old when I got RSD. I am now seventy eight. In those twenty eight years with RSD/CRPS, I have alternated between walking unassisted, walking with a walker, and using a powerchair.
In the late 1980’s, my daughter and I started “RSD Support Group”. We were the 2nd support group in the country, and the 1st to get a state proclamation (back in 1990). It was the Massachusetts State Proclamation and we’ve gotten one every year since. We chose the color red and the month of July because July is considered the Freedom Month.
Later, my daughter moved out of state and she passed the support group onto me alone. In 1997, a colleague who came up for the July “Proclamation Awards Ceremony” approached me to form an organization, which was named the New England RSD Coalition. For all these years, the function of the coalition has been to serve and educate; through support, seminars and fund raising.
I have learned much over the years with Chronic Illness. I have learned to research all that I can about this disease which has affected eight people in my family…which was devastating and heart wrenching. I have learned to advocate for both awareness and patients. I have learned things that I can do to help myself beyond medical treatments, such as:
sitting in the sun
a positive spirit
Helping and doing for others is my “secret” for living with RSD, or just plain living!”
Mary LaBree left a lasting imprint on the chronic pain and RSD/CRPS community. She is one of the first chronic pain health activists. Without her dedication in clearing a path, so many of us would still be suffering in the dark. Mary LaBree’s commitment to her cause shows that life does not end with chronic illness; she made her battle her life’s work. Thank you, Mary LaBree.
**Also read In Memory of Mary LaBree- An Original RSD Advocate from RSDAdvisory, a personal account of a long and loving friendship with Mary.
Since Mary’s passing on October 15th, very sadly, more RSD/CRPS angels have been lost. We honor them all by raising awareness about the seriousness of this disease. Our hearts and prayers go out to their friends and families.
For a non-fatal disease, far too many don’t survive.
I never thought a car wreck that did damage to my elbow
would stop me from walking an entire year later. I never thought you could get a disease from a car wreck.
I never thought I would have to depend on anyone else
to get me through tough times in my life.
I never thought I would face an uncertain future
without the ability to answer the tough questions.
I am by nature a very opinionated, strong minded, determined and focused individual. Having my life turned upside down by an unforeseen event is not in anyone’s plans of course, but, the thought of it was always something I thought I knew exactly how I’d handle as a ‘strong and independent woman’. Little did I know that my ultimate undoing would also be the one thing that allowed me to become more whole as a person.
Looking back on last year’s thoughts on how this disease impacted my life over the first year of learning to deal with it, I was already at a place of seeing the blessings that came with the pain and the horror. I make it a priority to find good in all things or at least as many as possible. I don’t believe things are one way or another in life. I believe that things are the way we interpret them to be. Our perception and reactions to life determine what we take from each instance and whether or not we count it a blessing or a curse or in this case admit it is equal parts of each.
There are still times where I try to convince myself that this is all a bad mistake and that I’m really ok (when I feel good it’s easier to lie to myself) and the pain was just a figment of my imagination trumped up by my brain somehow. I still have those moments or days of denial where I really do want to refuse to believe that I will have to deal with this for the rest of my life. There are also days where I think I have it under control and manageable and that I can handle it. I fool myself into thinking that I am the one in control, not the disease.
I am learning that there is more to it than drawing hard lines, coming up with definitive answers or even being able to list symptoms. Everything is so fluid and ever changing with CRPS. Life equilibrium. Balance has never been so important and never meant so much to me as it does now. I’m learning to live in a state of seeking my own level the same way that water does. When my pain levels are up, my activity levels go down and vice versa. When I am frustrated with my limitations, I find ways to realize the gains that they have brought me in my emotional life. My physical life has forced my emotional life to do some very large sacrificing….and what I thought was me becoming weaker is turning out to be me learning to become stronger.
You see….. when life begins to strip you down to your core and bend and stretch you to your breaking point, you have to adjust and adapt and learn new methods. There is more to it than that though. You can get caught in the label, in the diagnosis, in the symptoms, in the daily rigor of the battle and forget that you have a life to live beyond the disease. You can forget to choose to take in the beauty around you, to find new strengths, new outlets, new hobbies, new friends, new resources, new paths to use your talents on. It is so easy to get stuck in the mud of the issues that come with CRPS/RSD….but we who have this disease have to learn to rise above and be water and flow and seek our own level. We have to learn to live differently. Life may never look the same, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be beautiful, or full of adventures. It just means we have to change our definitions and more than that we have to push ourselves to make new expectations, focus our perceptions and define our interpretations in a way that helps us grow and find positive experiences in the struggles that we face. If we don’t adapt we become stuck in that mud and the weight makes us feel like there is too much work involved in moving forward we become depressed and despondent because our expectations are still tied to our old life and our old abilities. I’m learning now to flow, to adapt, to change my focus away from what life was, what I used to think, expect, want, etc so that I can still have dreams, still have goals, still accomplish things. Now I do so as part of a team, with the help of friends, family and loved ones. The disease brings its own challenges, but if we accept our lives are not determined by external circumstances, but rather by our mental approach, we can and we will triumph despite the challenges, no matter what they are. Rise to the top, find balance, seek your own level and don’t stay stuck in the mud. Make the choice to look for a new perspective.
I never look forward to the pains I know the next year might bring, but I do actually anticipate with high hopes the new horizons and the new vantage points that come on the other side of the valleys. I plan to enjoy my journey no matter what, for as long as possible!!!
I am so honored to have Rikki as a guest writer for us 2 years running! I have revisited her post from last year “Broken Things can be Fixed” several times throughout this past year and it still chokes me up. She has so much wisdom, insight and vigor, it is easy to forget she is in her second year of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Thank you to Rikki for lending us your voice today and allowing us to share your end-of-year reflections on your ever-inspiring journey. Rikki has many hobbies including traveling with her family, uplifting others around her, and she has a passion for Celtic Mythology. Check out her fascinating Facebook page: Celtic Lore and Mythology.
To see more RSD/CRPS articles, artwork, and poetry, visit the Categories menu for “RSD/CRPS” or click here.