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

Posts tagged ‘quotes’

Practically Complicated In Every Way

Its been a few weeks since I last posted, and it’s mainly because I don’t have a clue where to begin. My body has been doing what it does best and excelling at being complicated resulting in very confused Doctors trying to figure out what to do with me; I’ll let you know if they ever figure that one out!

Functional is how I would describe myself at the moment. In that I can get up and dressed but it’s causing a lot of pain, and then that’s my spoons used up for the day.  I’m pretty sure sleep would make me feel a thousand times better, but between my iron tablets (I’m extremely anaemic) causing severe sickness morning and evening, spasms, palpations and generalised pain, I have found that I am lucky to get three hours of sleep a night. As most people with chronic illness know being fatigued makes everything harder and it all seems a lot worse than it probably is. This has resulted in tears quite regularly recently simply because I don’t quite know what to do to help myself.

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I’m currently 33 week pregnant, so there’s not long left to go. It reassures me to know that once baby is here I can go back on my Botox injections and safely take stronger painkillers and muscle relaxants again. Whilst I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ll be able to avoid going back on high doses of these, it’s comforting to know that I will be able to manage my pain far better.

I’ve been in bed for three hours now, tossing and turning. My left shoulder is agony, and I have horrific nerve pain in that arm and over my right rib. I feel rather emotional, and wishing for the ever-elusive magic wand to be waved to take the pain away. I know that this flare up in the long run will be worth it, and once the baby is here I’ll forget about it. But right now, coping with a flare up of my current conditions and a flare up of my new symptoms is making things feel pretty tough.

I’m hoping that whacking my TENS unit on full and using my heat packs will help me get enough sleep tonight that tomorrow is better.

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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

Accepting Limitations

Yesterday was a hard day physically & emotionally. I was struggling to sit up without my heart rate shooting through the roof, experiencing extreme dizziness, fatigue and high pain levels. This is my new normal though, and it’s exhausting. Late morning I had a phone meeting with my university disability advisor. She enquired about my symptoms and their impact on day to day life, along with what advice I had been given from the Drs; this was so that a plan could be put in place for me to safely complete the next semester of my degree. Admitting that I was fainting 20-30 times a day on average, had been advised to be on bed rest and use my wheelchair if I had to go out (which results in dislocations if I self-propel) was not something I found easy to vocalise. The little stubborn voice in the back of my head was protesting that I was perfectly well enough to physically attend my lectures. However not being able to guarantee I’ll remain conscious, being unable to eat without fainting, and with tachycardia developing just by sitting up a decision was made that I could not safely attend uni without putting myself at risk. Normally I’d argue against this, and I wanted to, but I have to remember that it’s not just myself I would be putting at risk. Now this doesn’t mean I’ll be putting off the semester till next year, it just means I’ll have to complete it from home which is perfectly doable.

Despite the fact that I know this plan of action is reasonable and realistic I couldn’t help but feel defeated. I know I’m not well enough to attend class, but to me that’s not acceptable I feel as if I should be trying harder; it’s a ridiculous attitude to have, but it’s there nonetheless.

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Late last night I found myself feeling deflated and quite sorry for myself. I know this is pain related, I haven’t had so many bad pain days in a row for some time, so when periods of pain flare ups occur it impacts my view of things. Normally I’d just increase my meds, count down till my botox injections, knowing that in a matter of days I’ll be enjoying a good spell again. The fact that (unless an emergency spasm occurs ) there is no botox, no muscle relaxants, and limited pain relief options available until after the baby is here is hard. This is mainly due to having to accept my limitations once again.

Talking through how your feeling is something that I feel is undeniably important in enabling a person to help themselves. It’s the main reason I’m composing this post, so that I’ve expressed myself and can start focusing on being proactive rather than moping about.  I spent a good chunk of time talking to my mum about this turn of events yesterday afternoon. Looking back now I can already laugh at the number of times I uttered the phrase “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know what to do”. The reality is I understand perfectly well why I’m not able to go to class, I have a crystal-clear understanding of the fact all of my chronic illnesses can get worse during pregnancy (and the majority of them have) however this is a temporary change, I also understand it’s okay to feel this way.

There’s really not a whole lot I can do to change the situation, unless anyone can point me in the direction of a fairy godmother? I can manage my pain the best I can but other than that focusing on the positives that surround me is the best way to keep smiling; when I look at what’s already happening this year (moving to a new flat, expecting our son, still being able to complete the academic year, and a publisher agreeing to take on my novel) I have to admit I have more than enough to be smiling about.

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When I Was bitten By A Dragon…

Yes that’s right Dr, at the tender age of six I was bitten by a mythological creature. Within six months of this terrifying beast having a chew on my thigh you diagnosed me with M.E. You had exhausted all other diagnostic criteria. Not once did you consider that something so dramatic as a dragon bite may have occurred. Had you have taken a thorough medical history maybe right from the start you would have suspected Lyme Disease, perhaps you would have treated me and cured me of this hideous illness straight away. But how silly of me. You are a Dr, you do not deal in the likes of maybes, possibilities and mythological creatures; only cold hard facts, ones that fit nicely into your tick boxes.

Over the last 17 years do you know how many times your kind have uttered the words “It would appear you have X, but I am unsure because you just don’t fit into any of these boxes exactly!” Since when did the boxes become so rigid and unadaptable, are we not all unique individuals with our own mix of conditions that affects us all in varying ways? If as people we are so unpredictable in the way a condition may manifest, why then are your boxes so unforgiving. Only Monday of this week the Dr sat there trying to decide whether to diagnose me with inflammation of the optic nerve in both eyes or inflamed retinas in both eyes. Frankly the lovely woman was lost, I had her quiet confounded. She could see plainly that I was rather ill, her barrage of tests confirmed that, but not one of them could put their finger on as to why. I sat there quietly next to my mother, both of us whispering “The dragon bit me 17 years ago, but you don’t believe in Chronic Lyme Disease.”

Now replace the word dragon with a tick. This small seemingly insignificant creature is known to carry, in many cases, Lyme Disease. A disease that more often than not will report a false negative during testing due to the lack of accurate testing methods available. Oh but a lumbar puncture would pick it up you say? Yes, it sometimes does, but my neurologist swears me away from it for fear of making my Dystonia worse. One hospital says we will give you IV antibiotics that you need to cure you but we will only do this if you have an L.P, another admits they are 100% certain I have chronic Lyme but their hands are tied due to regulations that are out of date and blinded with inaccuracies.

Chronic Lyme is often hailed as the Great Pretender. You only have to look at me to see why. Here I am in another flare up of symptoms, attempting to treat each one as it appears. Its distressing really, knowing that IV antibiotics would cure but regulations prevent this as I’ve had both positive and negative results. So in the meantime it’s a guessing game of what will subdue the next round of symptoms for now.

If only Drs believed in mythological beasts like Dragons and Lyme Disease.

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Dream A New Dream

Today’s blog post shall be brief as I have been up to London for my Neurology appointment and am now very tired. My Neurologist was quiet apologetic and concerned that the last lot of injections had not worked, which left me with my normal extreme spasms. Apparently this sometimes does just happen for whatever reason, but to be on the safe side in the hope that this will work better, he upped the amount he was injecting everywhere. This has reassured me and helped to quell my fears that this batch of my injections may not work. I am now feeling decidedly more positive about it.

He confirmed the Hand Therapy’s diagnosis that the Dystonia is in my hand as well. However my symptoms in my hand are nowhere near as severe as the symptoms in my neck, jaw and eyes which is very positive. He stressed it was important not to aggravate it, I’m guessing this means I really need to learn how to walk without tripping over my own two feet…or my walking stick! This once again throws my Midwifery dreams out the window. I’m starting to realise that until a Neurologist hands me a pill and says this will cure you that I need to find a new dream. Now that’s not to say that I’m giving up on it, it’s more like putting it to bed for a long sleep until/if it becomes a realistic option again. I left university in the summer of 2012 on health grounds and for the last two and a half years I have built my Midwifery hopes and dreams up only to have them go up in flames around me more times than I can count. For my sanity I need to take a break from the emotional rollercoaster ride that that dream has taken me on. My year of training was the best experience of my life and I treasure it and for now that will do.

My reflexology career has now also been put on hold due to the hand Dystonia. Whilst my neurologist said he didn’t mind me doing the odd bit of Reflexology work, I have to be careful not to overdo it. I have always loved reading and writing. I can get lost in books for hours on end and will happily write all day. There are plenty of degrees out there in Creative Writing and Publishing, perhaps I shall discover a new dream down that road. For now though I must put my love of reading into action and brush up on information on another genetic condition I have been diagnosed with. I’ll fill you in on this new diagnosis next time.

 

Looking Forward

At the start of this week I had an unusual amount of extreme spasms, these had been triggered by a medication and have now settled down. At the time it would have been sensible to have spent the day in bed where I would have been safe. Instead I dragged myself, rather literally, to college. Now my class have witnessed some of my spasms but not to this extreme. Previously I would have wanted to stay home due to embarrassment, instead I went to college embracing my illness and was only irritated at my pain levels.

As much as I would rather that I did not have any of my chronic illnesses, I am thankful for them. Since being ill my confidence to go out in public with my limbs distorting, my jaw dislocating and my body paralyzing when it has had enough has slowly climbed. Now I can laugh my spasms off and joke about them. I am very open with others about it as I would rather educate them than have these 3 illnesses remain unheard of. I must give credit to my class though who did not bat an eyelid at the extremes my body was going to, I know this helped me relax when I got there. Dystonia and Lyme Disease may have turned my life upside down but it has also filled me with determination and inspiration to pick up the pieces of my life. I always thought that I had to stick these broken pieces back together exactly as they were, retracing my steps, but what use is living in the past? Now I’m picking up the pieces and carving a new path for myself.

I am going to be cured of Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease, so despite the fact I will always have to live with Dystonia and EDS, I have so much hope in my life.

Little Things

The last week and a bit I have had a bad cold, which would normally be fine but as I have mentioned before Dystonia tends not to react well with other illness even if they are just small things like colds. This has resulted in a week full of a variety of spasms and a handful of pain triggered non epileptic seizures. My jaw has tremored quite a lot, I can only presume that the pressure in my sinus area has aggravated it and this is why it has played up more than normal. This in particular has caused the most pain as often my tongue gets bitten in the process.

In spite of feeling under the weather and my Dystonia alien being more mischievous than usual I managed to sit outside the house and enjoy the sunshine. This may sound rather simple, but it involves quite a maneuvering process as our house is not very wheelchair friendly. I normally don’t try to get out the house unless I am actually going somewhere as its hard to do and rather painful.To actually have achieved this without ending up in a hospital A&E department was extremely satisfying. I love being out in the sun, even if it is just for 20 minutes, it’s a nice change from being inside. Even though it’s a very simple achievement it is one that I am celebrating.

Feeling Good

Last time I posted I felt that I was balancing on the knifes edge and was feeling pretty negative, well I’m feeling darn good today and I plan on enjoying it. My legs have not been as bad the last couple of days, the swelling in my knees is going down and the pain in them is tolerable. This improvement has made such a mental difference as the pain was really beginning to get me down.

Having my pain levels go down has made the biggest difference as it is the pain that I struggle to deal with the most. I can cope with my body spasming, tremoring and getting into unnatural positions but the pain is what I can’t cope with. Normally it would be my jaw that causes the unbearable pain, so at least having it in my knees made a change.

I am now on half term, which mean no college and no riding 😦 however I know that it is best just to let my body rest and recover this week, before I throw myself back into everything head first next week. On a positive note I made into college last week!! After being too ill to go in the week before I was determined to drag myself out of bed and into college – trying to get dressed whilst my legs where on strike was interesting but  I managed it and it was the best thing I could have done. I know that I tire very easily these days but doing normal things like college make me so happy.

As I have mentioned before my cousin David and his friend Sam are running the London marathon for The Dystonia Society in April. I woke up to see a small article had been written on them in their local newspaper (Somerset). Its so positive to see awareness of Dystonia spreading!

I often say that I wish I could see inside my brain so I could have a better understanding of what exactly is going on. As other than all the medical jargon I have no idea what exactly it is doing…this picture describe it perfectly and makes me smile.

Worrying

I feel like I am balancing on the knifes edge and that at any moment I could fall. My Dystonia alien and my Lyme Disease had really managed to lull me into a sense of ‘normality’, and over this past week have decided to send me flying to the edge of the knife filled with dread. Up until very recently I had coped rather well with everything, but everything seems to have gone out the window now.

Whilst I have remained seizure free there have been a few moments recently where I have felt right on the edge of one. Last Monday my mother and my little sister spent half an hour looking after me and talking non stop to try to keep me conscious. This has not happen in quite a while and was a shock to all of us. My legs have been bad recently, to the point that last week I did not make it into college on either day, which was to me a big defeat in my battle against the two conditions.

Whilst the pain is bad and gets me down, it is the unknown that I struggle to deal with. My body has progressed and regressed so many times, and each time I deal with it. However it gets harder to do so each time, and right now I have no idea which way my body is going to swing. It may pull through this horrid period and be absolutely fine or it may take a nose dive.

I know there is not much I can do other than stay positive but I can’t help but be scared. Hopefully this is just a bad period and soon my mind will be put at rest.

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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