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Grieving with a Chronic Illness

This 20-year-old blogger and survivor of multiple chronic illnesses describes her grief process. You may be surprised to see that even on a somber topic like mourning loss of health, she writes from an outlook of gratitude; below she shares why she chooses her approach.
If you like this post, check out the article she wrote last week- it will give you a boost of inspiration!

Life with an illness

With a chronic illness, there is no cure. It is all about treating the symptoms and learning to live life with it. It’s like an enemy you can’t get rid of. Its hard to cope with at times. For me, I was working, in college, and training for a half marathon, and one day it hit me like a truck. Within 2 days I was in the hospital. So going from constantly on the go and enjoying a normal 20 year old life to daily appointments, constantly miserable, and not being able to take care of myself alone. Its normal to have grieving stages while being sick, here are ways I grieve with having several chronic illnesses.

  • The anger phase.

Its okay to be angry, I completely understand this phase. I’ve lost a lot like my job, a lot of people in my life disappeared, and I can’t do a…

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Sick Lives Matter

Sick Lives Matter

I was messaging with my therapist recently, frustrated with the challenge of trying to find a treating pain management specialist under my new insurance. Sharing with her how angry I’ve been in recent years after being brushed aside by more than a dozen physicians I’ve looked to for help (messaging because speaking on the phone or seeing my therapist in person is out of the question for me). She rationally offered advice like, “Did you ask your last doctor for a referral for a new pain doctor?” And, “Have you tried seeing any specialists for your conditions? Why are you in so much pain? How about taking more pain medication?  No one should be suffering like you are.”

Why did her rational, reasonable solutions make me want to scream?! Maybe because after over a decade of chronic illness, I know that her innocent view of medical care is like the ABC’s and I’m working off of XYZ, but the issues we face concerning our health care should not be so complicated. We are ill, and so many of us aren’t able to go so far out of our way to find help. It really should be so much more simple to find a good treating doctor. And when it isn’t, we fall through the cracks. We get worse. And the worse we get, the worse we get.

When doctors are knowledgeable about your condition and how to offer solutions, they will. When the options available are helping you manage, and the practice is making money off of the treatments offered, everyone is content. However, if your condition happens to worsen outside of the doctor’s comfort level, you might find yourself in a pickle. Your records show that you’ve tried so many different treatments for condition A, however because you now have conditons A#%@, other practices are less willing to see you. You wear a scarlet letter “C” on your records for COMPLEX, and from then on, you seem to be tucked into the bottom drawer of society.

This is happening to so many patients across the country. The new CDC guidelines didn’t help by limiting pain medication for chronic pain management, and neither did Obamacare. But, this is not a new problem and cannot be solely blamed on new government protocols, even if the current “solutions” have only pushed those of us with serious ongoing health needs further under society’s invisible rug- making us more invisible. Who sees to our care when we become “more complex?” As it stands, the more simple your case= the better your care. The more complex, rare, or worse off you are= the worse off your care is likely to become.

People who could have fully recovered and started back to work if they had been deemed worthy of attention earlier on, instead, further decline physically, mentally, and economically, and into a state of no return, forcing more and more people onto disability and social security- a status which statistically is difficult to recover from once you start.

#sicklivesmatter

Meet Kayla. Kayla is near middle aged and was diagnosed just after her symptoms began. She was set up with a team of specialists by her Primary Care Doctor. Kayla has had to change her life around since her diagnosis and feels so much loss for the things she once loved to do. She wishes there were a cure, but seeing her doctors regularly and trying new treatments reminds her there is hope. She is managing her condition by resting at home much of the time and has been able to continue mothering and finding support in her husband. She continues to work only part time now, and in her rest/recovery time, she has started to do what she always wanted to…write a book.

Meet Jonathan. Jonathan is in his 20’s and saw several specialists soon after his symptoms began, but no diagnosis was made. He spent years asking various doctors what might be wrong, but he was told he seemed young and healthy and the few tests they ran came back normal. Over time, his health so interfered with his work that he lost his job. His wife thought he might be faking his disorder to get out of his responsibilities and eventually left him, taking the their newborn. He couldn’t pay the bills any longer and lost the home. Finally, after years of illness, Jonathan is diagnosed, but his original condition left untreated for so long has caused a few other complications which are likely now permanent. With his diagnosis, he can now apply for disability, but he will likely never be able to work again or get back on his feet- financially or physically.

#SickLivesMatter

You can see in the best case scenario, how much hope a good doctor can offer. Even in Kayla’s case, everything changes, and we need the help of reliable physicians because we can’t do it on our own.

I can tell you that this happens to those with money, those with the best private insurance, this happens to those lucky enough to have family who can advocate for us, it happens to those who can advocate for themselves, it’s happening to the young and old, it happens to those with government insurance, it happens to people who can’t afford the special doctors, and it is especially happening to people whose health suddenly takes a sharp turn so that they can no longer advocate on their own behalf. People are slipping through the cracks, and there are more of us with chronic illnesses and rare diseases now than ever before!

You think it’s the emergency of your life, and you always imagine doctors being there for just this time, but you are made to feel that a chronically ill person’s emergencies aren’t quite as worth while. Slowly but surely, like a Polaroid picture’s image emerges, you get the picture that your life isn’t worth while either. Many people like myself won’t even call an ambulance if they believe it’s a life or death emergency. We’ve been down the hospital road too many times, and believe from experience that there is no hope in that big white building- not for so many…too many of us.

If they keep tucking the sickest people away in the bottom drawer of society, if they keep us under wraps, if they don’t allow us the medication and doctors we need to survive, and if they continue to legalize euthanasia in the U.S., then maybe we’ll all just disappear, and leave them alone, right?

Wrong! They aren’t shutting us down, they’re starving us out! 

We might not be able to picket the CDC, or storm the halls of Congress, or hold a sit-in demonstration inside of a hospital building, but social media can’t contain us. We can write our senators, make videos, sound clips, share our stories on Facebook, become ambassadors for rare disease foundations, get involved with patient advocacy groups online, or guest write for blogs from our couches, wheelchairs and hospital beds. Maybe we can’t go on the walks to raise money for a cure, but we can help organize them! And don’t forget, our stories are the most powerful weapons we have to make change.

You are the same person you always were; your health changing is not your fault. Your worth is not defined by how well your legs work, or if you were able to eat something solid this month, or if a doctor deems your medical file “worthy” by looking at the papers inside. You are not your file. And I know I’ve caught some slack for saying this- but you are not your body either. You may not be able to scream, but we need your voice! Your story is unique, and will inspire someone else to keep going, and move another to vote differently. Even though it’s not your job to be an inspiration… you already are. You matter. 

#SICKLIVESMATTER

Email abodyofhope@inbox.com if you would like to share your story or to ask how you can get involved with advocacy programs online.

 

Spoonie Mario, Level up!

Spoonie Mario Brothers

I hope you are leveling up today despite the evil critters coming to get you and attacking your body. Don’t you wish there were some extra mushrooms or flowers around in the chronic illness game?

10,000 Spoons, if Only… Why The Chronically Ill Love Spoons

You are Never Too Messy to Matter

You Are EnoughOver the last 10 years of chronic illness, people have told me that I will be healed if my faith is strong enough, that I am being prepared for something greater in my future, that all of this pain, loss, and disability will be given a special meaning some day. But, I believe that our lives are meaningful even in the midst of the darkest struggles. We don’t have to wait until life becomes perfect to attain purpose and perspective.

In the first couple years after I was diagnosed, college friends told me praying harder would heal me, one suggested the sins of my parents or grandparents may be expressed through my illness, family members sent me books about focusing on God’s healing promises, and I was prayed over for healing at church more times than I can count.

I was so angry and frustrated at everyone! God wasn’t healing me, I was getting worse! Why didn’t they understand? But no one did… I felt all alone to face this new monster eating away at my body and taking down my dreams and abilities one by one. I had such a strong confidence in my purpose, in my “calling,” and I didn’t know why those passions would be given to me, if only to be ripped away.

I do believe God has the power to heal my body. I also believe that healing can come in other forms as well. I used to pray and pray for my body to be healed, for the horrible pain to go away, and for my life to go back to the way it was. Of course I did. Of course I want my pain to go away and for life to be easier. Everyone in pain wants that! As life became a one-day-at-a-time struggle for survival, talking to God changed also. My heart desired to be of service to others (on support groups, online, in my relationships, etc.). Over time, I realized those prayers overtook the ones begging for physical healing. I believe there are different kinds of healing beyond physical wholeness that I hadn’t thought about before chronic illness, or during my first years living with it.

In each of the instances with my friends and family, they were showing up in the only way they knew how to offer hope and support. I’ve since learned that the people who show up are the ones to hold onto- sometimes they take some time and guidance to figure it out though.

During the storms in life, it is so common to be told that when the storm lifts, we will use what we’ve learned to help someone else, or we will have a greater sense of clarity. Well, when the rain doesn’t let up, when your body is constantly beating you up, if you are terminally ill, there is no waiting for healing to make use of your life today. Loss of health forces us each to look at our mortality and time in a new way. The desire to make a difference in the world doesn’t stop just because one’s legs, nervous system, or liver is failing. For so many remarkable individuals I have met over the years, illness can even inspire a new-found purpose, passion for growing in new ways, and redefining success based on what they hold most precious vs. what society has told them is of importance.

If you feel as though your purpose has been lost, and you don’t know why your life has taken this sudden detour, please know that you are not alone, and you are still on a path that is your own. You have not been forgotten. Your life still has meaning, even now- even in the mess you feel you are going through. You don’t have to wait for the perfect body and perfect life to be useful. If I had waited for that kind of moment, I think I would be waiting for eternity! Even in the middle of your struggle, your story matters. What you are going through matters.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome gets a Make-Over

Article dated February, 2015

Last week, the Institute of Medicine re-named Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as ME, now renamed SEID (Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease). CFS is the name most commonly used in the United States while Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is the more common name used internationally. As of last week, there is a third name to distinguish this already mysterious condition: SEID.

For many, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome onsets after a virus. Imagine being a perfectly healthy adult, child or teen and after a bout with a feverish flu, you find yourself feeling worse and worse. The appropriate time for the virus lapses, but as much as you fight to get well, your body and mind feel as though they are in shut down mode. No amount of rest or sleep is enough anymore. Just chewing your food makes you feel as though you need a nap. Your thoughts become so blurry and confused- you begin to fear Alzheimer’s or dementia. Migraines, loss of appetite, body pain, hypersensitivity to smells, sounds, lights- these symptoms are the tip of the CFS/ME/SEID iceberg. Imagine feeling like you are moving through quick sand- and there is no end to the breakdown. You are sure it will pass in time, but as time passes, you only become more weak, frail, and may even struggle to stand and walk. Doctors help you by telling you to “get more rest” and send you home. This is what many with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome experience.

The name, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has been a problem since its origin. Can you imagine suddenly finding yourself confined to a bed, unable to raise your arms from sheer fatigue only to be told by other medical professionals and family members: “Sure, aren’t we all ‘chronically fatigued?” That has been the overwhelming problem with the original name. Doctors without enough education of the disorder have been brushing their patients off, leaving them incapacitated and searching for answers on their own limited energy supply. It’s estimated that as many as 91% of those with CFS/ME have yet to be diagnosed because physicians are still unsure whether or not it is psychological or “all in their [patient’s] heads”.

Over one year ago, the Institute of Medicine began running studies and tests to narrow down specific symptoms and markers in individuals who develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. An independent panel of 15 physicians then met to narrow down a few diagnostic criteria and to decide on a new name for CFS/ME. They believe that each word in “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease” is more specific and clear as to how the condition affects the body.

Systemic Exertion- indicating the extreme fatigue or malaise all over the entire body.

Intolerance- implies impairment from any sort of activity. ‘Orthostatic Intolerance’ is an example of a common type of intolerance found in those with CFS (cited in the IOM study).

Like other conditions, those with CFS/SEID experience a long list of symptoms which are not all included in the short diagnostic list; keeping the diagnostic criteria short is meant to help doctors understand and treat patients with this disorder better. Here is the list of symptoms the Institute of Medicine’s special panel narrowed down after one year of testing those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:

-Profound fatigue lasting at least six months

-Complete exhaustion even after minor physical or cognitive exertion

-“Unrefreshing” sleep

-Cognitive impairment or “brain fog”

-Worsening of symptoms upon standing or Orthostatic Intolerance

There is a feeling in the CFS/ME community that the re-naming is confusing and sets struggling patients back further. Many in the CFS/ME community are disappointed that the new name is not “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis” to make the name cohesive, finally. Even though Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was the official name in the United States, the international name, “ME” has been largely adopted by CFS sufferers here in the US. However, the IOM argue that there is not significant research showing that patients with SEID have brain inflammation or muscle pain as the core symptoms (the meaning of ME). Some CFS specialists and patients with CFS/ME feel the updated name and new marker symptoms overlook critical issues of the disease like chronic pain, headaches, sensitivities, cardiac disturbances, and gastro-intestinal disruption. This isn’t the first time this disorder has had a make-over, however. Epidemic Neuromyasthenia, Myalgia Nervosa, Epstein Barre, and Royal Free Disease are a few of the names that have been given to those with CFS, now called Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease. Researchers say in the next 5 years, it may be re-named again, as new research will likely continue to emerge.

Even though there is still uncertainty regarding the new name, many believe there is reason to be positive. The 235-page report released by the IOM is expected to lead to more research for the disease, better funding, and more appropriate treatments for Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease. Those who at one point may have called up to 2.5 million Americans “complainers” or “lazy” will have more information and education to help the ignorant understand this debilitating condition. Doctors who may have once brushed off their patients’ symptoms because there were unclear guidelines, now have clarity on which criteria specify SEID. And lastly, it is now called a “disease” which shows there is progress in understanding how it affects the brain and body. For such a complex condition that is so debilitating, more understanding and more awareness is paramount!

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/02/11/385465667/panel-says-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-is-a-disease-and-renames-it

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/289297.php

Read the IOM report for yourself here:  http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2015/MECFS/MECFS_KeyFacts.pdf

Holiday Heroes, a love letter

Holiday Heroes, a love letter: article about the courage it takes to survive celebrations when you are disabled or chronically ill. #spoonieThose with chronic illness, chronic pain, and disabilities are all heroes to me. I know yesterday was hard. The holidays are always a challenge no matter where on the spectrum of disabled you are, celebrations push us to our limits.

We mentally feel pushed to be up and feel grateful or in the spirit of the season. When pain and illness bombards our thoughts constantly, at times it can feel like a mountain to climb to find a hint of the same holiday spirit we once felt. Physically, we are pushed to do the things we really want to do like spend the time with the people we most want to see, bake, shop, go to sporting events, etc. Some in the “Spoonie” community cannot leave home any longer or their illness is such that they are now confined to a bed, yet they still find ways to express gratitude and the spirit of the season (heroes).

Many push to try to do things we’ve always done despite our declining health like cook, or play a sport or game with everyone else. Even though I’m confined to a bed in a back room while the family is having dinner and festivities, this year I pushed myself to change into something cute. Honestly, changing clothes took away from my energy and added to my pain; I know I could have used those spoons to spend more time with a loved one later on. When I was still able to cook, I overdid it in the kitchen and my pain would spike. The truth is, some of our actions aren’t for other people, some things we do are just for us- and it’s healthy! I have spent the last few holidays either in days old pajamas or in the hospital, so changing clothes helped remind ME of who I used to be. And I’m so grateful I had some extra spoons to do something so frivolous this year and still have some quiet moments with a few loved ones as well.

I know spending time around your family takes so much courage for fear of getting bumped and pain skyrocketing, eating a bite of something that triggers your body to become inflamed, or an unexpected noise setting off a migraine or cluster headache- these are some of the sacrifices you make for LOVE. You are brave and you are warriors. If you always listened to the will of your body, you may never open your eyes each day. Your body tells you NO!!! But your heart calls. Your heart is always stronger. And I admire each and every one of you. You teach me courage. During the holiday season, we make many sacrifices: trading spoons for love of others and longing for who we still are inside. Balancing emotional needs and physical needs. Always juggling.
That is why those with chronic illness and the disabled are my heroes.

*

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher

Articles to Reinvigorate your Spirit:

“Quiet Strength” by Choosing Hope

“The Deepness” by A Beautiful Life with Cancer

“Through it All” Poem by Mum C.

“Is Jesus Enough to get you through the Lonely Moments?” by Rest Ministries

“Square Plates are an Abomination on the Face of a Dying Earth” by Snotting Black

Blood Work Results Freakout

"Blood Work Results Freakout" funny Article about how good news can be bad news. Blog. #Spoonie #health #aBodyofHope

aBodyofHope

I got my blood work results back this week and all tests came back normal. So why was I so upset to hear the news?

The recent panels show nothing is being naughty in my blood cells and results show my organs are all comfy in here. So why no party hats? Although, in no way do I want another chronic condition whatsoever (seriously), feeling bad and having no answers is a horribly frustrating experience! My tests showed negative for problems, but I am still POSITIVE for being sick.

I have felt these “new” symptoms for over a year now. Negative blood work results don’t stop the symptoms, and it drives me crazy that there is no name, or treatment, or plan, or PROOF… which I feel are owed to my body.

Waiting for a very long time for the proper diagnosis is something I’m not a foreigner to, unfortunately. Maybe that is why this is bringing up such strong emotions like: AAAHHHH!!! and: GRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!! Been here, done this, bought the t-shirt, a poster, a hat, and a handmade trinket from a hippie chick on the sidewalk (aahhh, I miss concerts).

Not sure where to go from here… The last 10 years, then ESPECIALLY the last 3, now adding on this past year of this new sickie stuff, my feeling about the medical world in general is a Negative Result. Rate your pain 1-10? How about, “rate your trust in my ability to treat you?”

Giving it up to the Great Healer. To the only One who truly knows how I’m really feeling right now, and who I CAN trust with tomorrow.

*******

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  Genesis 28:15

Jesus said, “Now this is your time of grief, but when I see you again you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22

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