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

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“Pull Yourself Together!”

This week on my personal social media profile I posted a status sharing a positive experience with my new GP. In typical EDS fashion, my belly button had split open along an old surgical scar, whilst my Dr tended to me he not only put me at ease but he made sure to impress on me that not only did he understand how real my symptoms were but also how debilitating they can be. He took the time to discuss my range of conditions and ask what more he could do to help. It was uplifting; naturally, I wanted to share this, as this is not how my appointments usually go.

Now I’m quite used to getting snide remarks off of able-bodied/healthy people and misinformed Doctors who don’t know any better. Over the last 6 years, I’ve learned to let their ignorance bounce off me and to use it as an opportunity to educate. However this week when I posted about my positive trip to the doctors, a fellow member of the spoonie community made a comment which blew me away “pull yourself together, you have got a family to take care of“. Wow.  There were a few choice words I still wish I had responded with, but instead that ‘friend’ was removed. Whilst I know that I don’t need to address what was said, here are just a few toned down thoughts.

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I live with spasms, agonizing subluxations, and dislocations 24/7, and it’s now suspected that I have gastroparesis.  My list of diagnosis builds each year. To me none of that matters; I am a great mum despite my health. I take care of my family and they take care of me. Go eat some chocolate, it will release a bunch of endorphins, and think about why you felt the need to try and shame me for being ill whilst having a family.

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6 Years Neurologically Challenged

Last Tuesday marked the 6 year anniversary since Dystonia made a joint shattering (literally) entrance into my life. Previously I’ve marked this day by reflecting on where my life is in comparison to where I had planned it to be; not a great way to spend it and usually resulted in a lot of tears. This year was remarkably different, for the first time in six years I didn’t spend the day in tears and focused on how truly blessed I am.

The reality of my conditions means that as I age my body gets deteriorates a lot faster than a healthy person would. I already need a double knee replacement but have agreed with the surgeons to delay this until my son is in school full time. I’m told its inevitable that I will end up reliant on power chair in the future. The time frame for this is unknown, so I’m focusing on doing what I can to strengthen my body against the battering it takes from the too frequent dislocations and spasms. I’m starting by shifting the weight, it’s slow progress but I am making progress. I’ve found some local HIIT classes for mums and babies that are happy for me to do what I can whilst my son plays beside me. A month ago I signed up to the body coaches 90 day plan, which unfortunately I’m only just starting as I dislocated both my knee and shoulder and needed to let my body recover. His workouts are harder than my body can cope with right now but I’m adapting them and feeling great.

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6 years ago if you had told me that I would be OK with living with a mile long list of debilitating conditions I would most likely have bit your ear off. Now I can see how my experiences are shaping me, I’ve learnt to grasp every opportunity with open hands and jump feet first. Whilst the idea of a further 6 years living in this pain is not one that I can even start to wrap my head around. I know that I have the strength to battle it and succeed.

CRPS & Dystonia

I first heard the words Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Fixed Dystonia back in 2009; I had just been admitted to hospital with unbearable pain, colour changes, temperature fluctuations and a hypersensitivity to touch in my right leg. I would spend the following six months confined to a hospital bed learning to retrain the damaged nerves. It was a hell I would not wish on anyone. I am one of the lucky few, whilst I never achieved full remission, the pain eventually reduced to a tolerable level which only flares up if I lie down on that side of my leg for too long or bash it. Unfortunately I was rediagnosed with CRPS in summer 2015, this time it had manifested in my left shoulder blade and arm. Once again it had been caused by repeated injections to the same site which resulted in damage to the nerves.

CRPS has been a condition I have fought for many years, generally I have a good handle over it. I know what to avoid and how to help myself as much as possible. Yet every now and then I have days and nights like the last 24 hours. It is hard to describe the agony in which I have spent it in. The night before last I simply bumped my thigh whilst getting out of bed. The pain at the time seemed excessive for such a little bump, but I presumed if I lay down and rested for a few minutes it would die down to its usual level of simple discomfort. Instead with each minute that went by the pain intensified as did the spasms.

I made the decision yesterday not to leave the house, I knew I would be fully reliant on my wheelchair and that even the lightest breeze would reduce me to tears. Instead I kept myself fully medicated on Tramadol which dulled the pain slightly but nowhere enough. I needed both my walking sticks to hobble the few steps to the toilet. Each accidental brush from the cat as it went past left me biting back screams and in yet another wave of tears.

The spasms and pain kept me up for the majority of the night. I managed just over three hours sleep in the end.  The spasms twisted my leg into positions that resulted in multiple subluxations, and my nerves flaring meant that I could not bare the touch of clothing, the mattress beneath me, or a duvet. It’s hard to explain to someone this type of pain, at the point of time I would have jumped at the opportunity to have the nerves severed. To be honest, even right now at this time of writing when the pain is slightly reduced but still horrific I would beg for it to be done. Let me put in perspective for you,  full blown labour is easier to deal with.

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Whilst the pain is improved today I am still struggling. I feel as if someone has sliced my leg open multiple times from my thigh down to my soles and has rubbed vinegar into the wounds. The constant spasm in my thigh has left me exhausted and desperate for a relief that seems as if it will never appear.

I know that in a few days time in all likelihood I will be back down to my usual levels of pain and spasms, but there is a niggling fear at the back of my mind that it won’t reduce further. That fear is more terrifying to me than anything.

Here we go again

I don’t even know where to begin. My head is all over the place and honestly I feel more than a little bit miffed with my body. Here we are at the start of another year and I’m already waiting tests results for yet another diagnosis. Yup you read that right ANOTHER diagnosis, not an alternative or differential diagnosis but another brand spanking in all its inconvenient glory. In 4 to 8 weeks I’ll have my answer and until then I am meant to carry on as normal.

Usually that’s doable but right now I feel pretty defeated. I know this feeling will pass and that I will cope just like I always do however what I am currently experiencing is consuming, depressing and suffocating.

So here we go again. Distraction techniques in full swing and disney soundtrack blasting.

Body Meet Osteoarthritis

This week I found myself sitting in the preop clinic of a knee replacement clinic. On my arrival it didn’t take long to piece together where I was, and even less time to start panicking as to why I was there considering I was expecting to see the Orthotic department not the surgical team.

The Dr I’d been assigned was lovely and surprisingly familiar with the majority of my conditions. I was pleasantly taken aback to discover that they had scheduled all the xrays and scans into the appointment time slot, so I was carted off down to X Ray where my knees, hips and ankles were x-rayed from multiple angles (so far I’ve just had the results for my knees). Having these pictures taken took quite awhile as trying to get my knees and and toes all pointing in the right direction is a rather impossible task. I got the impression the radiographers were not used to my host of conditions as my uncompromising feet proved quite the problem, and by manipulating them into a forewards position my knees subluxed!

So far the x-rays have revealed that I have Osteoarthritis in my knees and that really I need new knees, however due to my EDS that surgery is extremely unlikely to provide any long term relief so my surgeon wants to delay it for as long as possible. So for now the plan is to try to shift as much weight as I can to ease the pressure on my joints and delay the surgery. Whilst the diagnosis is disappointing it explains the pain I’ve been in for the last few years. I’m just keeping my finger crossed the x-rays won’t show it in my hips and ankles too.

Before I sign off, Spoonies it’s cold outside! Please if you find you are affected by the cold spend that extra spoon wrapping up warm or having a longer bath. Practice self care. This time of year can be hard, I know I’m suffering, so be kind to yourselves.

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5th Blog Birthday

Happy Birthday Dystonia and Me!

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Can you believe it’s been 5 years of blogging already? I can’t quite wrap my head around how quickly this has come around. It feels like just last week, I searched for a webhost desperate to spread awareness of Dystonia after feeling like I was floundering in a sea of uncertainty with little resources to pursue in my quest for answers. Now I confidently tackle my condition head on and happily refer people to resources  I have come  to know and trust.

When I started blogging it was completely in the mindset that it would be purely to raise awareness. Over the last 5 years this has evolved to be a space where I can openly and honestly express myself without fear, safe in the knowledge that someone out in the vast vacuum of the web will be able to relate to what I am going through. My blog has become a site for awareness, expression and connection; I cannot get over how many online friends  I have made. Whilst I am sad that so many of you have to live with this life altering condition, I am thankful for each one of you that has become a vital part of my day to day support network.

Over the last few years this blog has been nominated on several occasions for awards, won one, and even become a resource that several neurologists hand out when diagnosing new patients (this still flatters, astounds and thrills me). I’ve had other sufferers pounce on me with hugs and their stories at hospitals; I love this, it shows me that I am doing something right.

Just a few years ago, reaching this milestone seemed ridiculous. I didn’t know how to live each day let alone 5 years with this hideous condition. Now, several diagnoses later, I have learned to find joy and laughter in my spasms, to treasure every moment that puts a smile on my face and be thankful that drs like my neurologist exist, for without my neuro my world would be darker (literally). So instead of being disheartened that 5 years on I’m still battling, I’m lifting my chin, defying my alien and celebrating each little success.

Here’s to another 5 years.

New Adventure

As many of you may remember in the summer of 2016 I attempted having a little part time job, this backfired on me when my employer refused to make reasonable adjustments and my body went into an extreme flair up.  At the time this wasn’t too bad, but it did leave me pondering as to what I realistically could do.  In February this year I moved in with my wonderful partner, now as you may or may not know such a milestone negatively affects benefits.  I’d been on ESA for quite a while, but moving in with Dame left me £400 worse off each month. The government’s current system presumes that your partner can A) earn enough to be able to afford to be the sole provider B) Is happy to financially support you.

A £400 drop in my income was quite significant as you can imagine.  So I’ve been wracking my brains as to what work I could do that wouldn’t leave me spasming and seizing in a hospital bed. I’d heard about Younique, a high quality skin care and makeup company that would allow me to set my own hours and work from home. In all honesty I thought it was to good to be true, but this week I took the plunge and messaged a fellow spoonie to get her take on the business. She spoke extremely highly of it, and knowing that someone in a similar health situation to me could make it work gave me home.

So here I am now. Today is the start of my 10 day online launch party, and I’m feeling incredibly excited by this opportunity. If you’d like to see what I’m doing then click on over to https://www.facebook.com/smilesparkleglow/. Fingers crossed that this adventure will be just what I need.

Redefining Pacing Parameters

Since my latest flare up began I’ve been taking extra care to make sure I acknowledge my accomplishments no matter how small each day and attempting to redefine my pacing parameters.  This is a key tool for me to keep in mind at all time. Mainly as it enures I acknowledge my further limitations during a flare up and act accordingly, but also as it keeps me focused on the positives and prevents me getting tuck in a emotional rut which often occurs in flare ups.

I had a wonderful opportunity as part of my publishing internship yesterday to direct and film an interview with an author signed to the publishing house. It was a fantastic experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  However like all things it required spoons, and far more than I had anticipated. Despite my lack of spoon saving preparation I got through the day relatively intact and the repercussions didn’t kick in until today.

This is where I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds in handling life with chronic illnesses. I didn’t attempt to struggle through the pain today, or go to the other extreme and do nothing (although sometimes this is needed); instead I decided we would go about our day as planned but I would use my wheelchair the whole time, with baby snug in his sling against me, and Dame pushing me rather than me risking dislocating a joint or three by self propelling.

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We only nipped out for a short while as avoiding over stimulation is key on days when I feel my health is on a downward kilter. So a relaxing jaunt to the local coffee house and then onto Waitrose was our plan. I was quite overjoyed to find a wheelchair friendly trolley. A rare treat, that has quiet made my day.

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Welcome To The World

It’s been over a month since I last posted here, thank you for all the lovely comments and emails checking that I am okay. I’m absolutely great, on the 14th May at 22.15pm I gave birth to our little boy Stefan Elijah. I have spent the time since adjusting to life as a new parent and learning how to respond to my conditions postnatally.

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I was extremely lucky during labour as my body behaved far better than I expected it to and my seizures never reared their ugly head. Despite my original concerns about an epidural I requested one, my labour was induced via a hormone drip which meant my contractions were rather literally constant which I didn’t cope well with. Whilst the epidural didn’t work fully (I could still move my legs and feel a lot of pain despite several top ups) it took the edge off and between it and gas and air I was able to cope far better. I went from saying I couldn’t cope anymore to having my inner geek come out and compare labour to an Orc trying to get through a hobbit hole! I have no idea how long my labour lasted, at 6.30ish pm I was only 3cm, so I was not classed as being in established labour, yet less than 4 hours later our little boy was here.

Since the birth my pain levels have dropped dramatically, I think mainly due the fact that he is no longer able to dislocate my ribs! Whilst I’m counting down to my botox injections, I’m thrilled knowing the appointment is in the post, I’m managing my jaw and other spasms rather well. I no longer push myself to get through any plans I had for the day if my spasms are on the more painful side, as it’s not worth risking having a seizure. Doing this has meant that I’m not wearing my body out and am needing less medication.

My Ehlers Danlos is causing a few issues at the moment. During birth I obtained a 2nd degree tear. Despite being stitched up at the time my body isn’t healing, so almost a month on I still have an open wound. Whilst I wait for a plan of action to resolve this I’m resting and on regular antibiotics to help.

All in all I am extremely thankful that the birth was so straightforward and I am loving life as a new mum. My partner is a fantastic dad and is great at helping me out and letting me grab some more sleep. I’m aiming to get back to blogging more frequently over the next few weeks, so check back for updates.

 

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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

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