Fighting Dystonia, Chronic Lyme Disease & EDS Type 3… any questions?

Posts tagged ‘Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease’

Leg Spasms; Lyme or Dystonia

The issue with being chronically ill is that when a new complication arises it can be hard to know whether it has been caused by a preexisting condition, and if so which one, or if a new condition has popped into the question. Over the last few weeks I’ve had increasing amounts of pain in my knees, calf’s and feet. I tried to brush this off but slowly and surely my feet and legs have started spasming. So now I find myself trying to work out if this is due to a spread of Dystonia or a relapse of Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease.

I had a long chat with my neurologist on Tuesday, he’s of the thought that my Dystonia has progressed as I’m still within the 5 year time frame for a spread of symptoms. Personally I’m hoping it’s Lyme related, as whilst still hard to treat, the possibility of remission again is real.

The idea that it could be Dystonia scares me due to the painful nature of the spasms; but I know I can get through it. I just have to take it one wobbly step at a time. I never thought I’d see the day when I would have to strap my leg splints on again but they’re worth the discomfort.

So here’s to crossing my fingers and seeing where the next 12 weeks takes us, by which point we will have a better idea to the cause and therefore treatment options.

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Rare Disease Day 2017

Today is Rare Disease/Disorder Day 2017; it’s focusing on bringing much needed attention to complex conditions that are sorely in need of more research. I’m not going to to go into much detail about each of my individual conditions as each of their awareness weeks are just around the corner, what I’d like to discuss instead is my experience of day to day life when you have a rare condition.

Living/Mobility aids

When you read the words mobility aids I’m going to bet that the majority of you instantly conjured up an image of a wheelchair, crutch or walking stick. You’re not wrong all three of these are part of my day to day life depending on the condition of my body that day; and just because I perhaps didn’t need a wheelchair first thing that morning, doesn’t guarantee I won’t be completely reliant on it an hour later. In my daily life I have to use compression gloves, splints for my thumbs, wrists, arms and knees, neck brace and ankle stabiliser to try and keep my body in a somewhat functioning capacity. Now that doesn’t mean that I wear them all 24/7, but at any given time I’ll have the majority of them on.

 

A selection of my day to day living aids

Medication

I’ve had to come off the majority of my medication due to pregnancy, but I’ll admit I’m counting down to being able to have my botox injections and anti-inflammatory meds again. Just 5 minutes standing at the moment is enough for my feet, ankles and knees to swell up like balloons and takes a good hour to go back down. If my body is really playing up then just standing up wrong results in a knee slipping out of place. Between the spasms, the subluxations/dislocations and seizures, medication has become a vital part of my everyday routine. This involves being aware of when in the day I have taken them, remembering which ones it’s important to eat beforehand with and which ones I need to avoiding eating before taking, it involves planning in advance to make sure I never go out without my medication on me plus bringing along some spares because you never know just what may happen.

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A selection of the medications and supplements I’m reliant on

Disbelief

It’s been almost 5 years and I’m still not used to the looks and comments I receive. I’ve heard it all, that if I drink enough green tea, lose weight and seek therapy then I’ll be cured. People don’t seem to realise that every suggestion they can throw at me I’ve most likely tried, and that living with a chronic rare condition isn’t like getting over a bad cold. My brain literally doesn’t work in the manner it should, my genetic makeup is faulty which has resulted in a connective tissue disorder that will only get worse, and don’t even get me started on having a treatable chronic infection that the NHS won’t treat as A) They don’t like to admit that Chronic Lyme Disease exists and B) They’ll treat me if I get a positive lumbar puncture but because I have a movement disorder I can’t have a lumbar puncture. Honestly it’s all a bit of a joke.

It can be difficult dealing with general society and medical professionals refusing to accept your explanations. To a degree I don’t blame them, half of my symptoms are crazy and, as they are rare, people aren’t familiar with them and like to brush them under the rug. But doing that doesn’t make it any better, the symptoms don’t magically resolve themselves, if anything they get worse as I’m not receiving the treatment I need.

My Health Varies From Minute to Minute

There’s not much rhyme or reason to my symptoms, which makes it hard to predict what to expect and when, which in turn makes it difficult to manage. One day I may be perfectly capable of getting up, dressed, and having a generally active day. The following morning  I may wake up unable to even roll over in bed. The unpredictable nature means planning in advance is key but also difficult. More often than not plans are cancelled at the last minute due to ill health.

The Reality of Knowing I’ll Never Get Better

This is something that I’ve known since 2012, but with every new diagnosis of yet another rare condition that cannot be cured it gets harder to deal with. I find it hard to picture anything ahead of time simply because I know these illnesses aren’t going anywhere, that pain is always going to be a prominent feature in my life. How do you cope with knowing that? It’s been 5 years and I’m still working on acceptance. What I find hardest is when people say in a well meaning manner “I hope you get better soon”. It’s an automatic social nicety but it brings out the jealous monster in me. I want to be well more than anything, it’s just not a reality for me, and knowing that the one condition I live with that can be cured is unlikely to ever be sufficiently treated due to sheer stupidity inflicted on sufferers by NICE guidelines, well that just takes the biscuit.0bfcffe9889954c60563525d5c66d5c0

Reflection

When I saw my personal trainer Beckie the other day she pointed out to me that she had trained with me for a year now. Reflecting together on the progress I’ve made in the last year was a real eye opener. I think sometimes I forget just how much I have improved, I allow myself to become absorbed in the pain and the spasms. I focus on fighting constantly against the Dystonia. When I met Beckie I could barely stand for even twenty seconds without my legs spasming, my whole body out of control, I was completely reliant on a wheelchair. Lyme disease was eating away at my life and I was fighting what felt like a losing battle.

I remember the first time Beckie came round; it was a meeting between herself, my mother and I, to discuss what exercises I could do without setting a seizure off. Although our aim has always been to not trigger a spasm, I’ve always made it clear that if I spasm, I don’t mind. Let’s pause, wait for it to pass and then carry on. I’ve carried on with my mind-set that my brain will learn (I understand that this is unlikely but a girl can hope)! When we began it was completely baby steps, learning what my body would cope with and what would cause it to throw a complete fit.

Now, after being on Lyme treatment for a year, and finding a regular Botox regime that works for my Dystonia, I am capable of so much more in our sessions. Some exercises still cause my body to go into spasm, but I apply the same method as I did a year ago, pause, wait and then continue. It works every time. Beckie has helped me strengthen my joints after my body successfully caused a lot of damage to them. I will never forget the look on my physiotherapist face when she first assessed my legs and realized the damage the spasms had done to the ligaments. I’ve gone from not being able to stand for more than twenty seconds to being able to walk. I admit I need knee and ankle splints to be able to do so, and sometimes I need walking sticks, and if I’m having an awful day I rely on my wheelchair. BUT I have made so much progress. I don’t reflect often enough. Looking back on this time last year I cannot believe how far I’ve come. I look forward to the progress I can make in the months to come. Learning to manage these conditions one step at a time.

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Clinging To Hope

Frustration. Worry. Pain. Hope. Joy. A selection of the emotions that over the last few weeks I have experienced. I have improved leaps and bounds since I started new treatment for Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease several weeks ago, there is a long way to go but the improvement are more than I could dared to have hoped for. Yet I feel like I am clinging to these improvements, that they might slip away at the slightest wrong move.

I must admit that on some level I am fuming that it has taken 16 years to get diagnosed. I have spent the majority of my life ill, passed from one specialist to the next, having test after test. The result of their continued ignorance is that I shall now have to live my life with Dystonia. I was not born with it, as far as we know it is not genetic, if I had simply been given antibiotics when I was six or in the couple of years after that I would not have to live with (a currently incurable) movement disorder.

I would not have to cope with the agony of my jaw dislocating due to spasms, or my neck twisting hideously. My ligaments throughout my whole body would not have been so stretched due to spasms that it shocks physiotherapists at the extent of the damage. I would not have developed pain triggered Non Epileptic Seizures if not for Chronic Neurological Lyme disease and Dystonia. I would not have spent 10 hours unconscious seizing in A&E on New Year’s Day 2013. I would not have collapsed and seized in the middle of roads, on the stairs, in shops etc. I would not have put my family, my friends, and myself through hell and back.

Although I have always been ill in one form or another it was not until 2012 that it became disabling, right at the end of my first year of Midwifery training. As many of you know, Midwifery is my dream job, and I hope to one day be able to go back to my training. More than Midwifery I dream of life without illness (I except I have to live with Dystonia). A life where my family don’t have to plan their activities around my health. A future where I can live life to the full without worrying about the impact it will have on my health! Without full treatment for Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease I won’t get better. I will continue to deteriorate rapidly. Lyme Disease has claimed the lives of too many people already I don’t plan on being its next victim. I need to raise £10,000 to fund vital treatment if you are able to please help or share this page/link! https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/erfg6/ab/04081d

 

Thank-you!

x

 

Glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

I finally feel like there is a light at the end of what felt like a never-ending tunnel. Last week I attended an appointment at a local private hospital to see whether they would treat me for Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Whilst they have said no to giving me IV treatment they have offered me an oral antibiotic pulse protocol which they think will cure me of Lyme. They say it has cured others similar to me before, so I have high hopes.

Now that they have said they will treat me I feel like my stress levels have plummeted, though I must admit they did soar back up when I saw the price for treatment. I have no idea how I am going to afford it, but at the end of the you cannot put a price on health! Being free of some of my symptoms and having to battle with my body less seems like something out of a fairy tale to me, yet now it is just at my fingertips! Having less pain, less to contend with would be bliss.

I have been lucky that my Botox has worked rather well since I last saw my neurologist. So I have not had to cope with my Dystonia stressing me out at the same time. Today is the first time I have woken up and thought ooh actually my jaw and neck don’t actually feel quite right. Not that I am complaining, with only two weeks to go until my next lot of injections for it to only start twinging now is fine by me as the muscle are not distorting yet.

For those of you who are unaware there are currently two Dystonia online petitions going around. One is US-based the other UK. However it does not matter where in the world you are you can sign either one or both, and I urge you to as it will help make a much-needed difference by boosting awareness of the condition!

1) https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/promote-dystonia-awareness-recognizing-dystonia-awareness-month-september/2S9jBCVz

2) http://www.change.org/p/uk-government-raise-awareness-about-dystonia-an-illness-which-cannot-be-cured-and-97-of-doctors-dont-know-about-it-properly?recruiter=45857151&utm_campaign=twitter_link_action_box&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition

Positivity Promising Proactive Prospect

Its been a few weeks since I blogged and it is hard to know where to start as so much has happened. I have had hospital appointment after hospital appointment, and I find that I am still trying to wrap my head round them all. I’ll keep todays blog brief and just mention a couple of appointments.Thankfully though my Dystonia has not been too bad as of late, my legs are tolerating my splints with more ease which is making life and physiotherapy much easier.

Last week I had an appointment at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital to see a specialist to do with my Joint Hypermobility syndrome, she has decided she wants me put on an outpatient program there building up towards being put into a 3 week intensive rehabilitation program. It was extremely a positive appointment that has left me feeling very optimistic. Joint Hypermobility Syndrome combined with Dystonia means my body can end up in some weird and wonderful positions, which can be rather painful, so I am hoping this program will give me some coping tools.

On Wednesday I attended a local private hospital that treats Lyme Disease to see if they would consider treating me. The Dr was rather lovely and very thorough in her examinations which left me feeling quite confident. They took blood to test for a number of things including Lyme Disease, and explained the treatment process if the results they needed came back. Having treatment through this hospital will be extremely expensive however you cannot put a price on health. Lyme disease has robbed me off so much of my life, and in many cases literally takes people lives, I don’t plan on being next. The NHS turning a blindeye on this condition will be one that in years to come they will look back on with regret.

This coming week is filled with more appointments. I am rather looking forward to seeing my neurologist, I am going to ask if he will botox my calf again and see if this helps with learning to walk!

The Wonders of Medication

It is amazing how well controlled Dystonia can be when you have the right combination of medications in you – for me Botox is the best thing, followed by a lot of Gabapentin! A year ago, I would have had a hideous amount of seizures due to jaw pain and would have struggled to eat, drink and talk. Now with regular Botox and other medications I am constantly my normal motor mouth self.

Everyone with Dystonia reacts to medications differently,for example I know many people find Clonazepam helpful but it causes me to become psychotic. Yet there is no one medication for Dystonia which makes treating it and getting it under control extremely hard. I am very lucky to see an excellent neurologist who is willing to inject me with Botox every six weeks, if he stuck to the usual every 12 weeks I would not be able to do half the things I now can.

On Monday I saw my GP to discuss IV treatment for Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. I have been on oral antibiotics for around 8 months now and have had significant improvement in the areas affected by Lyme. After months of both myself and my neurologist asking him to set up IV treatment he has finally agreed to write to a couple of the local hospitals and see if they will treat me! This is fantastic progress.

My little Dystonia alien is all full of Botox and docile at the moment. I have been off my main painkillers for a few weeks and I have not had any bad pain episodes yet *touch wood*. I have also managed to come off one of my muscle relaxants, this is great as everything seems clearer and I feel like my memory has improved. As much as I do not like pickling my liver with all my medications I’d be lost without them. I am hoping that this stage of feeling like my Dystonia is ‘contained’ and ‘controlled’ continues, but nothing is ever certain in life especially with Dystonia, so I am focusing on enjoying every little thing each day.

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