Dysautonomia awareness month! What does this mean to me? It means i try to raise awareness for dysautonomia. Educate, and share my journey.
In 2013, I was diagnosed with dysautonomia. Now, there’s 15 different forms. I have THREE! Three different forms. 8 years ago it was so bad I couldn’t stand up without fainting. It was terrifying. I had to give my dreams of getting a Masters in Psychology. I was angry, scared, unsure of what the future was. All while being a mom to my son, a single mom at that. I’m immensely grateful for the support and help of my family during that time.
I didn’t drive for over 6 months. In 2012, I had to have a cardiac ablation due to a rare form of SVT. This led to my needing a pacemaker. My electrophysiologist decided on the Biotronik Evia DR-T. This pacemkaer is unique in that it has a special programming feature specifically for Vasovagal syncope, which i had. This has been an absolute godsend for me. My fainting has dramatically reduced, actually i haven’t fully fainted in years.
Adjusting to life with a pacemaker was overwhelming. Learning my do’s and don’ts. Come to find out, i’m hypersenstive to certain things and could actually feel when my ventricle lead was working. Unfortunately this meant that lead couldn’t be on, or it had to be set very very low. I’ve learned in recent years, this pacemaker has become key for alot of dysautonomia patients to regain some quality of life.
Post op I developed complications. I couldn’t walk. I nearly lost complete use of my legs. I had to use a walker to get around, even in my house. Wheelchair rentals when going somewhere. I started physical therapy but no one had any clue what was going on. It seemed to come in waves. I’d be fine for a few weeks, then “relapse” worse than the last time. Through a lot of hard work, and physical therapy my gait has improved. I still tire easily and now use a cane. Though, we are awaiting a wheelchair for bad days and long walking days.
I dealt with temperature regulation issues, GI issues, heart rate issues, headaches, fatigue. Oh man was the fatigue horrible. Doctor after doctor. Treatment trial after trial. It was overwhelming, seemed never ending. Eventually i’d had enough. The medication side effects were worse than the disease symptoms. After much discussion with my medical team, we decided to stop the medications, and trial IV fluids. My EP in Virginia had success with other patients doing this, so we gave it a try. Well what do you know, it was like a battery charger for me! I wasn’t as fatigued, heart rate wasn’t as erratic and my blood pressure stayed stable. This was amazing!!! So, it was decided to place a central line so i’d have constant access for fluids.
So fluids was my magic elixir! A picc line was decided. We placed it in spring 2014. It was honestly a horrible experience. in August 2014, I became very ill. Incredibly ill. Vomiting for hours, fever that reached 104.9. I was scared, and out of it. I don’t recall much of that particular night. My dad rushed me to the hospital. My primary doctor met me there. Labs taken, cultures done.. Picc line removed. I remember waking up the next morning. Apparently my team did not expect me to make it through the night. How terrifying is that to hear? It’s really hard. It turned out I had a septic infection. Dangerous and potentially life threatening. I’m immensely lucky we caught it early on. What caused this? Honestly, I feel it was the lack of proper protocol by home health. I am now a stickler for protocol. If you do’t know it, or can’t follow it, I will NOT allow you to touch my central line. This is non negotiable to me.
So here we are, it’s 2020. How am I? I have good days, and bad days. Every day I strive to make it a good day. To make memories with my son. I strive to live. By learning my triggers, by learning my limitations I was able to adapt my life and still live! Yes you read that right. I adapted to my limitations and still live. I choose to not allow dysautonomia to take my goals, hopes and dreams from me. I don’t want you to do that either. Yes dysautonomia is life changing, but it doesn’t have to be life ending. With treatment catered to you, learning your safe activities, you can still live. I want you to live. I want you to believe. I believe in you.
Stay true to who you are. Stay true to your goals, hopes and dreams. Please never give up.
Covid has changed life as we know it. Honestly it’s made things so much more complicated. It’s affected mental health, which is devastating. More importantly, this has affected our kids. Our kids are suffering so much. It’s heartbreaking.
Virtual learning was a complete bust for us. It was a nightmare. Trying to keep him on task was such a challenge. His ADHD makes it nearly impossible. I have so much respect for his teachers. They were amazing in finding ways to get him engaged and his work done. We did some online, and some in packets. It worked for us. In the midst of all this, I got a phone call about Mathew. See, we’d been on a wait list for an autism assessment since June 2019. It was a long wait. The facility that does his OT called and said they had an opening. Did we want it? YES! YES! We were able to get his autism assessment done in May. I was such a nervous wreck. I had all my papers, checklists i’d done, notes with my concerns. Now, they told me this test was about 2 hours long. He was done in under an hour. I felt defeated. I waited 3 long weeks for the results. Finally i get the call to schedule an appointment for the results. The day comes. I’m on edge.. She looks at me and says “Well Mama, you were right. He has autism.” Not only does he have autism, but he has major sensory issues along with it, and pica. To finally be heard after years of advocating. I cried. I cried that I had finally been heard and I could finally get the help for him! Resources were now available. Knowing this, that he’s autistic changes absolutely nothing. My son is such an amazing child. He’s so joyful, so kind, he’s just an amazing kid. For 6th grade we decided to homeschool him. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one for him. So we found our curriculum and started! He wants to share our journey. He wants to give a glimpse of him, autism and raise awareness. So, we created an instagram account. Check it out!
So…. in April I was placed on TPN. It was a mess. I wasn’t tolerating my J feeds hardly at all. My labs were getting a bit worrisome. This caused my team to decide i needed temporary TPN. This would help stabilize my nutrition and hopefully stabilize my weight. This was important because i had lost about 40lbs to September to April. It was bad. My nutrition was so unstable. I left me weak. Unfortunately we learned pretty quickly that 2200mL of TPN 7 days a week, isn’t going to work for me. My kidney couldn’t handle it and caused some problems. We settled at 1700 ml. I tried TPN 3 nights a week, and enteral the remaining nights. I am unfortunately still struggling to get adequate nutrition. Eventually we’ll get it.
Now, I know things are stressful. Things are different, It’s scary, frustrating. I know dealing with all the changes is difficult. Please don’t let it overcome you. If you are affected mentally, please seek help. We all need help sometimes. You are loved, worthy and important.
Body Positivity, Self Worth, Depression, Insecurities, Counseling.. Why are these words, these phrases so taboo in the chronic illness community. Why are these barely talked about? Is it supposed to help us by not acknowledging these happen? That these can affect us? It doesn’t. It actually hurts us. Positivity in general seems to be ridiculed in our community. Why?
I’m in my 30s, I struggle with insecurities and body image issues. I’ve been very vocal about my struggle. Yet so many still hide theirs. So many still don’t acknowledge it. Some ignore it or think they’re taboo to talk about. I have struggled tremendously for the last year. Since getting my feeding tube, i’ve struggled to accept my body as it is. Scars, tubes and all. So many others have tubes, central lines, ostomies, scars, medical devices. So many others struggle with insecurities, yet it’s rarely ever discussed? Why? Why is this so taboo? Why is there not more of a network, more of a community lifting each other up?
If we as grown women struggle, what is this doing to our young women in these communities? What is it doing to them to see absolutely no one speaking about these struggles? Seeing no one like them out there blasting beauty standards to raise awareness and empower others? Why is there really NO ONE out there doing these things? Showing their body acceptance, showing their vulnerability? I’m not sure why, but it’s motivated me and empowered me to be that someone. Someone has to speak out. Someone has to start something to show body acceptance and positivity. Someone has to show body positivity to these young women, young men, anyone struggling that feels alone in their fight.
There seems to be a struggle with body positivity. We are letting others define us, define beauty, define our worth. We are letting our diagnoses, tubes, ostomies define us. Letting them define us as unworthy, unattractive. Body positivity is so important. It’s so important to lift each other up. It’s so important to acknowledge these topics, these struggles and discuss them. We have let what society has deemed “beautiful” affect us in such a negative way. We have let others decide whether we fit into a mold or not. Guess what, we don’t. That’s ok! We don’t have to. We’re not made to. Our beauty and worth shouldn’t be based on what fits a mold. Let’s break that mold.
I’ve struggled with this so much. It affected me deeply, it affected my relationship immensely. Counseling helped, friends helped. What really helped was someone told me: “Who cares what others say is attractive? Who CARES?! If you feel it, then you feel it! Stop trying to fit into society. Stand out. Stand up for yourself.” I remember sitting there, taken aback. Then i thought about it. They were right. I had let others’ words, others’ views affect me so much, I couldn’t see my own beauty, my own worth. My self esteem didn’t improve overnight. Goodness no. It took months of work. Months of positive self affirmations. Months of talking about my insecurities to really start to shed them. Start to being the key word. It’s a process, and ongoing process. Every day is a small step forward.
Depression is also another struggle. I have struggled with depression for a while. Sometimes it goes hand in hand with my insecurities. However, this isn’t discussed much in support groups. It’s almost like we should be ashamed of it. Absolutely NOT! Never be ashamed of your story. Never be ashamed of your struggle. I refuse to be ashamed of it. I refuse to hide it, ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t. Why lie? Why is this such an issue to discuss? I don’t understand it. Depression happens, it happens when dealing with chronic illness. How could it not? It’s hard to adjust from one life, to this “new” life. It’s like grieving. You’ve lost who you were, now you’re struggling to find who you are, and who you’ll become. It’s ok to be angry, hurt, upset, depressed. It’s ok to feel emotions. My only advice, don’t let them control you. Don’t get so lost in them you give up living. Please, if you feel that anger, that hurt, that overwhelming sadness, reach out to someone. Reach out to me. I’ll listen as you vent. Reach out to others, reach out. Just know there’s someone struggling similarly.
It’s become my mission, my motivation to help others. To empower others to see their beauty, their worth. I’ve posted several blogs on this. I took it a step further and have participated in photoshoots. Creating powerful images that show my strength, my motivation, my beauty. These photos weren’t easy to do, it was scary and nerve wracking. What kept me going and motivated was that I was determined to LOVE MYSELF. I was determined to see MY worth, my beauty. My tubes don’t take away from it, they don’t take away from my strength, from my worth or my beauty. They do not change who I am at a fundamental level. What they’ve done is give me strength I didn’t know I had. They gave me courage. They gave me passion, and desire to help others. They gave me purpose. They have motivated and empowered me to do that for others. To show others their beauty, their worth. My tubes in a way gave me freedom. Freedom to knock down beauty standards and create my own. Freedom to strive for goals, freedom to find my passion and help make changes. Freedom to love me.
These “taboo” topics need to not be so taboo. These topics need to be discussed, need to be acknowledged. We as a community deserve more. We deserve love, happiness, goals, hopes and dreams. We are worthy. We are absolutely beautiful. You are warriors, you are fighters. Never give up. If you feel like giving up, know you have a community of warriors behind you to lift you up, to lend you strength. We won’t let you feel alone in this battle.
I survived Thanksgiving! This year was my first year with my tubes!! It was hard, but we kept it small this year, just my mom, my son and I. My mom made a crustless pumpkin pie for me, which was great. Keeping it small really meant alot. I was invited to spend it with my dad and his girlfriend, but I didn’t want to spend it trying to navigate eating or not eating in a group of people. Hopefully next year I’ll be pretty well adjusted!
Now I’ve had some hearing loss, it’s mixed hearing loss. Meaning both conductive and sensorineural. We have a small idea why i’m losing my hearing, which is from a genetic mutation I have. My ENT is great and is recommending hearing aids at this point, due to struggles i’m having with certain situations. It’s overwhelming. I can say how many take hearing for granted. We never know when or how things can change for us. We always think, “Not me”.. Don’t think that way. Despite it all, and how overwhelmed I have been, I have confidence that it’ll be ok. One way or another.
Now my tubes have been a bit complicated. It’s been a lot of ER visits. Last week my G tube nearly fell out!!! WHAAAT! Luckily I caught it right before it fell all the way out. I spent hours in the ER making sure it was in the right position (I pushed it back in), and having them secure it until Interventional Radiology could replace it the next day. It seems my balloon popped! Now idea how, and it’s so weird. Luckily IR got me right in the next morning and replace it within 5 mins. YES! IR is the best! I’m finally working my way up to continuous feed. Which means 24/7. I’m hoping to increase my rate so I can disconnect for a few hours a day! Being attached to a feeding pump or iv pump is frustrating, but the alternative is far worse. In time i’ll get back in to a routine. My intestines are being sluggish, which is creating a new set of problems. I’m also now anemic. More bloodwork now to figure out why, and to determine how we fix it. Hopefully it’s an easy fix. We decided if it’s low iron, we’ll do iv iron, so we don’t run the risk of my not absorbing it if taken orally.
We don’t realize just how much is affected by digestion, or lack thereof. Many don’t think of vitamin deficiencies or not absorbing the right amount through eating vitamin rich foods. With my gastroparesis, I have absorption issues, which in turn creates vitamin deficiencies. I’ve been experiencing extreme fatigue, hair loss, pale skin, and horrible freezing cold hands/feet. I’ve tried to eat regular food, it’s left me really sick each time. It’s just not worth it, but how do you give up food? How do you get to the point of accepting this is life? Tube fed, and applesauce and pudding are what you can safely eat? It’s left me angry, but again, in time i’ll adjust and accept it more and more.
Let’s talk beauty. Let’s talk self esteem. You’ve all seen my posts about how i’ve struggled with my insecurities. I currently have a few things in the works behind the scenes. I can’t announce just what yet, but hopefully soon I can! I will say, I aim to inspire, encourage and uplift others. Regardless of what you battle, YOU are beautiful and worthy my dear little warrior! Once my channel and videos are posted, i’ll link it from my site!
Feeling attractive, loved, and worthy is all so hard while battling chronic illness. Battling your body daily just to do simple function leaves you exhausted. Learning to love your body, which sometimes feels like a prison is hard. I urge you to not give up, find what you love about yourself, find your strengths, find you. Never give up. I know at times it feels like you can’t go on, or it’s not worth the fight. It is! You ARE worth it. When people compliment you, don’t question it, don’t scoff or roll your eyes. Accept it, believe it. If you ever need an ear, shoulder or just someone to vent to, reach out to me. If you feel all alone, reach out. There’s a community behind you, lifting you up.
It’s been an absolutely, ridiculously difficult post op.. The worst ever. Sometimes things just go awry! How can we plan for them? The best we can.
I had a laparotomy September 19th. I had no real choice. My GJ was failing, I was starving. The plan was simple. Go in, clean scar tissue from my 7 previous laparoscopies, and place my J tube.. The surgery was scheduled for 150 minutes. My mom said I was out in under an hour, and it took an additional TWO hours for me to even wake up from anesthesia… What a complete shit show. It turns out adhesions had formed to my GJ, which I didn’t even know was possible. We’re currently trying to find out why it was cut so short. Which makes me nervous. I was in the hospital for 4 days. The pain was absolutely unbearable at times. Imagine a 4″ incision going down your abdomen that pulls every time you sat up, laid down, or even tried to use the bathroom. It was rough.
I got home September 22. That night. We sent a text to my nurse the next day, as I was supposed to have wound care and my port accessed.. No reply. It turns out I was discharged by my home health agency with no word. No conversation, letter or anything. This set into motion so much stress. I’ve unfortunately had 5 post op ER visits due to possible infection, wound dehiscence, tube dislodged (twice), and pain post tube exchange.
I’ve suffered a wound dehiscence, which is when a wound opens up. My entire incision split open, even sections that were already healed. It’s been 6 weeks of strict cleaning, and routine to get it to close back up. 6 weeks of bandages, which sucks when you have an adhesive allergy. It’s finally looking better and like it’ll actually close up soon!!!
So since my agency let me go, it’s been weeks of trying to find a new agency, i’ve and no luck. I now have to travel 45 mins on Mondays to be accessed, so I can run my iv fluids. How utterly ridiculous.
I need things to go a little more smoothly. 🙂 Halloween was fun! We dressed up, took my son trick or treating. Just had a blast. He was a Ninja, I dressed as a devil! lol I was in pain, but determined to not ruin my son’s Halloween!
So it’s been about 6-6.5 months since I had my GJ placed. I’ve lost nearly 30lbs. We’re trying to stabilize my weight, which hasn’t been easy. I’m supposed to be connected to my pump 24 hours a day, or AT LEAST 18 hours a day. I’m supposed to be getting 1600 calories a day.. I’m barely connected 9 hours a day, and getting maybe 500 calories a day. This isn’t good at all. So I’m working really hard to increase my calorie intake and stabilize my weight. I’m currently about 158lbs now. Went from size 14, to about size 10. While my body looks amazing from the weight loss, I’m exhausted and constantly hungry. All this has left me malnourished, which isn’t helping me heal from surgery.
Through all this I’ve battled insecurities, my body, and stress. It’s been really heart wrenching. It’s really hard to go through all this, and not have the one person you want more than anything at your side. If you have someone that loves you flaws and all, don’t lose them. Don’t let your insecurities take over. Don’t lose sight of yourself or your relationship. Communicate your fears and feelings to each other. Don’t lose that.
I taught myself to convert bags to use for my feeing pump! That’s been fun! Below is a video of the bag I converted!
I’m working with a local photographer to get some projects done. I’m excited to show you all the final product! There’s more to come. More to say. More to do.
This post op has been difficult both physically, and mentally. Seeing the changes in my body has been really difficult. Realizing my GI system is slowing and we have no clue why, is scary. Dealing with a chronic illness is hard, dealing with multiple ones is so incredibly difficult. I’ll persevere. You are not your diagnosis. You are not your port, picc, or feeding tube. You are so worthy. You are so worthy of love, happiness and joy. Go after your dreams, most importantly Live… Don’t give up on life.
I’m always here you you guys. Always reach out to me if you need me. Much love to you all..
Insecurities are a real bitch. They suck. They suck the love, joy and happiness from you. They can destroy you, your relationship and your happiness. “Just be confident”.. People say.. Don’t you think i’ve tried that?? Do you think I like being this insecure, scared person?? 5 years ago I was so confident. I knew who I was, what I wanted, and I wasn’t holding back. Now, I’m terrified, scared and emotionally fragile.. What happened you ask… well i’ll break it down.
I left someone I loved and whom loved me unconditionally, and wholeheartedly. Simply because I felt I wasn’t worthy. I felt I didn’t deserve this amazing person that loved me so fiercely. I was told i’d be wheelchair bound, I ignored the doctors, I was determined to walk down the aisle to him, come hell or high water. In the end, I left. The fear, the uncertainty, the unworthiness I felt, overpowered his love. At what point would he grow tired and leave? At what point would he finally realize I dragged him down, that I embarrassed him?? So, I left first. Defense Mechanism. I didn’t stop to think what this would do to him, or me in the long run. I didn’t think how this would affect him emotionally. I buried myself. Locked who I am deep inside. I was this vibrant, confident, headstrong, sexual person. I locked her away… I became unsure, quiet, reserved… Why?? Because That me, wasn’t his me… That me, wasn’t the me he brought out and encouraged. If I lost sight of the other me, the real me, it wouldn’t hurt so bad, not being his. This new, reserved me… the repercussions are immense. I lost me. I lost my confidence, my strength, my vibrant self. For what? I lost love, for what? Fear?? It’s bullshit in all honesty.
One of my good friends tried to tell me, she tried to warn me. I shut her out…. Years later she and I have reconnected, just as He and I have… This fear… I wanted to shed it. I was slowly embracing the real me again. The me I used to be. Loud, vibrant, confident, secure in who she was and in her relationship…… Then it all came crashing down.. So so hard. In March, I had my life rocked. Words spoken by people I trusted, people I leaned on. This had a rippling affect… So many ripples.
This feeding tube.. .this device that is essentially keeping me alive is destroying my confidence. Why?? Why am I letting it?? Why am I losing sight of everything again? Why is the fear so prominent?? Today, today I nearly lost him. Today he told me to have a good life, because he’s obviously not what I want… I screamed, I yelled, I cried. Because for 7 damn years he’s who i’ve loved. He’s who I imagined walking down the aisle to. He has been my cheerleader for years. He has been there for every step along the way, even when we were apart. Just him. He and I are like Yin and Yang… Peanut butter and jelly… We’re Us… We always have been. We’re like Noah and Allie finding our way back to each other…. Today…today was almost the end. Today my best friend Aly tried to soothe me, calm me and reassure me. I couldn’t be soothed. I couldn’t be calmed. I was heartbroken. I think everyone saw the cracks forming. Everyone warned me of what my insecurities would do… That was the one thing he said he couldn’t handle, the constant negative talk about myself… the constant putting myself down… comparing myself to other women… women without tubes, ports, limps… healthy women, pretty women, skinny women… All that I’m not… Would he get tired and want that?? Would he see me and just not want me anymore?? Would he rather one of the “barbies” from before me?
What triggered this spiral… a simple request from him…. Complete and utter trust… Trust with my heart. I trust him with my life.. trusting him with my Heart… Knowing he is the one person that would have all of me, mind, body, heart and soul…The ultimate power to emotionally hurt me..Holding it back, not giving all of it, it protects me. It gives me “control”…Trusting him so completely, trusting him so fully, and immensely with the one treasured thing, my heart. How do I do that? How do I open that up to him? How do I let go of the fear, of the absolute terror? Do I think he’d hurt me? Never, not intentionally. The thought of opening up, of letting him in completely, what if he proves me wrong? That I AM worthy? That I AM deserving?? That I AM this amazingly beautiful and so full of life person?? What if all these things i’ve thought of myself for years are proven wrong?? I’ve spent so much building up and saying what i’m not, that what if I am these things? What if I am this beautiful, and loving person? What if I am this sexy, confident person?? Can I still be that, with my feeding tubes, with my port, with my cane?? The only person saying I can’t, is me… My insecurities.
That’s my life.. For three days a week, I run IV Fluids for 4 hours, and Every day I run feeds for 16-18 hours… This is Me….This is what I see. This is what he should see, but doesn’t. How can he see all this, and still love me? How can he see it and still think i’m beautiful and sexy? I want to see what he sees. I want to see what everyone else sees.
On the other hand, what if it doesn’t work? The fear, the absolute heartbreak is crushing. Am I so afraid that I can’t trust completely? Am I so scared that i’m willing to lose love? I have a chance at love, a second chance at a really great love. Not everyone gets a chance at love like this, and here I have a second chance… And what am I doing? I’m letting it slip away. I’m slowly losing myself, I’m losing everything. I’m working so hard to stop, i’m trying to rebuild myself. The fear, it’s so there. How can I let it go? How can I love me again. How can I do this??? One day at a time… That’s how. Through the love, support and encouragement of friends, that’s how. I need to see myself as everyone else does. I need to realize my worth, realize how worthy I am of this love. Of all the good in my life.
Insecurities are a bitch. We all have them. We all struggle, just varying degrees of it. Some of us let it control us, let is shape us, affect our relationships. It’s so hard to be strong enough to resist, strong enough to overcome it. Trust.. It’s such a word we toss around, but when it comes down to it, do we have that in our lives? Do we fully trust people? Trust them with all of us?? Do we take that leap? The leap of faith and trust. The trust isn’t given freely, the ultimate trust is treasured. We hold back because we want to protect ourselves. Protect ourselves from potential heartbreak. But what if we didn’t? What if we put our trust in them? What if we took that leap? It could be epic, phenomenal.. Amazing. I know it’s not easy, I know we’re scared, but maybe, just maybe it’ll be worth it. I sit here, tears in my eyes, pouring my heart out. Please, don’t let your insecurities win, please face the fear, please find love and hold on to it. It’s ok to be afraid, it’s ok to be scared, but don’t let it ruin your relationship. I’m trying not to, i’m trying to overcome them.
It’s summer time!!! Time for heat, beaches and pool! Summer is probably the worst time of the year for me due to the heat. It’s been quite the summer! So much as happened! Who else has a hard time during the summer? Anyone have any special plans this summer?
My son has been battling a post viral rash for the last two months. He actually tested positive for a past Epstein Barr Virus infection. Like Whoa! However, his rash, It’s finally gone!! Yay! Just in time for his surprise vacation! I can’t wait to post pictures from out trip! It’ll be so exciting.
It’s been a rough few months. My feeding tube has been problematic, or more my body has been. I’ve had reactions to the formula, bandages, gauze. It’s just been alot! Finally we’re doing pretty good. I’m still about 800-1000 calories short a day, but i’m slowly improving, however I still keep losing weight. My GI team is fairly positive I also have intestinal-paresis as well. Which just makes things even more fun..Not! Lactulose and I are buddies now! LOL I got my Mic-Key GJ button last month, it’s been alright, the only thing is, I can’t vent my G-tube. Which really sucks. I’m also pretty much tube fed at this point. My body simply can’t tolerate any foods! I do try to get some ice cream a night though, as it’s one of the only things I can semi handle.
As you can see, i’ve definitely lost a good amount of weight. I think i’m down 15-20lbs. And sadly still losing it. I’ll get it sorted, i’m determined!
Now, here’s a bit of good news!!! Living With Dys, has been nominated for a WEGO Health Award!! How exciting?! I, myself have been nominated for three, so that makes 4 nominations for me. I’m amazed at it all. I feel so honored and blessed. If you’re interested, check out my nominee page: https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/18307.
How great is this? What are your thoughts on it? What would you like to see more of?
I saw my geneticist Wednesday. I was not prepared for the results that I received. We did complete genome testing. It’s been about 5 months waiting for the results. Well, boy was I surprised, well kind of not really. My results showed I have a genetic mutation in the COL4A4 gene, which controls the Collagen Type IV basement membranes. I don’t just have a genetic mutation, I have the ONLY documented case of this variant. Literally the only one. I’m not even a zebra anymore, i’m a darn Unicorn. My geneticist point blank told me, as of now, there is NO ONE to help me. No one knows what this mutation can cause, or what it can do. They’ve never seen it before. He’s advised me to seek out Duke and Johns Hopkins Research Department if they’d take me on as a patient. I did reach out to them this morning. It’s terrifying. Being told there’s no way to help you, that we don’t even know what’s going on or what can happen. It’s just overwhelming and so scary. I have low frequency hearing loss, and hearing loss is common with other variants of this gene. I’m being fitted on July 24th for hearing aids. I’m 33 and getting hearing aids… It’s just wow. My rheumatologist, whom I absolutely adore, felt so bad that there’s nothing he can do to help. He still feels somehow MS is involved, he also mentioned Duke or Johns Hopkins is where I need to go. So if that’s where I have to go, that’s where i’ll go. What’s scarier to me, is it looks like I’m a carrier for this genetic mutation. My first question to my geneticist was,”How does this affect my son?” My son will have to be tested, as does my mom, to see if she has a milder version of a variant, or nothing at all. The change my son has this is overwhelming to me. It’s scary. I’m determined to become the absolute best advocate I can possibly be. I’m going to make noise, and i’m going to be heard. Someone has to be willing to listen and help me! Be ready y’all. It might get loud!
Yes.fit… who’s heard of it? They do virtual races. You do them on your own pace. It’s great. Cycle, walk, swim. Any steps or movement counts! I did one recently, and completed it. It was nerve wracking, and I did it completely at my own pace. We should definitely do one together! Motivate and empower each other! Who’s with me?!
Alright… Now I want to do a few live events, talks or chats. Who would like that?? My etsy store has also expanded. How exciting? New shirts, i’m focusing on empowering and positive messages!
In the midst of all this, I’ve been really struggling with my insecurities. It’s been very hard to see past them, and overcome them. My friends have been os supportive, it’s meant the world to me. My counselor has helped me to focus on positives and do thought stopping exercises. My tube doesn’t define me, it doesn’t change me. I lost sight of that. I’m slowly finding my way again. We often can lose sight of this when struggling, it’s important we focus on ourselves and self care. Feeding tubes, ports, Piccs, mobility aids don’t define us. Using them, having them doesn’t change our identity. Our identity is not rooted in our diagnosis. So many lose sight of that, so many let their diagnosis become their identity. Hope… we’ve lost it, let’s find it! join my facebook group, “Finding Hope”. Let’s lift each other up, and encourage each other!
Now my beautiful readers, Go Shine. Don’t let your sparkle dull. Be the absolutely best you, that you can be!!!!
I’m sorry I’ve been absent for the last few months. A lot happened and I’ve been trying to process and deal. My gastroparesis has become a complete nightmare. On top of that I had to move unexpectedly. All this caused some major emotional distress and resulted in a depression/anxiety flare from hell. Lots of therapy sessions, crying and talking it out has gotten me back to a good place.
In March my gastro team decided a feeding tube was necessary. I wasn’t getting the nutrients i needed, and was becoming malnourished. I was barely eating anything. I couldn’t tolerate solid foods, nor liquids. I was averaging maybe 1000 calories a WEEK!!! This wasn’t good, not at all. My gastro team had suggested a J-Tube in November 2018, if things worsened. I wasn’t ready for that. I was scared. However, I knew I needed help, I needed something to help me get the nutrients my body so desperately needed. So, it was decided March 11th, I’d get my J-Tube. I was going to travel to my gastro team in Tampa. I discussed it with my dad, and made the plans. We talked Thursday, I explained to my dad how my levels were dropping, and I was becoming malnourished. He said he didn’t like the idea of a feeding tube and it wasn’t able to him until I was 105lbs. What, 105lbs, i’d be dead or nearly dead at that weight. However, he said he’d help and watch my son for the two days for me…
Unfortunately things changed drastically that weekend. Things changes as such that I had to move unexpectedly and within that week. I called my best friend Emily on the way home. She came and talked to me, leant me her shoulder. I had days to move. I needed to coordinate packing and moving in just a few days. I can’t lift furniture, I can’t over do it.. Yet I had no choice. My friends Chelsea, Emily and Aly rallied around me that weekend. Chelsea spent two days with me, just days after she had surgery. She was there, helping me pack. Sorting through everything. By Sunday, I had a lot done. We had help to move my furniture into storage. I moved as much as I possibly could into storage. I called my mom, we coordinated my move there.
Through all this I had to cancel my surgery, no J-tube for me. I had no time, I needed to move and get things settled here at my Mom’s. The emotional toll was heavy. This sent me into a flare, this made me feel unworthy, a burden. This made me feel so low and unloved. This affected my relationship with many people. If my dad could turn his back on me, who else could??? Sadly this affected my relationship, and still is to this day. I’ve been doing therapy weekly, working through my emotions, feelings and everything.
While settling at my mom’s my gastroparesis just wasn’t cooperating. I couldn’t tolerate much of anything. It was bad. My mom saw first hand how I was suffering. I was scared, I was so so so hungry but eating caused such horrible pain, bloating and nausea. I couldn’t handle it every time I ate. I was so tired of feeling sick. Finally I caved. I called my gastro, I explained how things were. Bloodwork showed I was deficient in a lot, I was becoming malnourished. My weight started dropping. I was so weak and tired. My mom’s support meant the world to me. We finally rescheduled my J-tube placement for April 11th. We showed up that day, prepared for surgery. Finally i’d be getting the nutrition I needed. Oh how wrong we were. Sadly my surgery failed. They couldn’t place my tube. My doctor said it was like someone glued my intestines together. What he didn’t know was that I had stage 4 endometriosis years ago. I had it on my bowels. I had so many surgeries to deal with my endo. I cried, I was so confused. I felt so defeated. This failure led to my needing a surgical team to place it. My gastro was able to get me into the surgeon within days.
I met with the surgeon. I wasn’t prepared for that appt. He feels my entire GI system is failing. I’m having swallowing issues, and issues with my bowels. He’s concerned if my system is failing, what do we do?? He said my nerve damage/EDS/Dysautonomia has caused this massive storm within my GI system. I couldn’t even process it. We discussed feeding tubes, possible colostomy.. How, how could this be my life now?? It’s not fair. From that appointment, within one week we had rescheduled my GJ placement. April 25th… what a lot to process from that appointment. Feelings of being a burden popped back up, feeling abandoned. Just so many emotions to process. When we arrived to the hospital, i started getting nervous. Was I making the right decision? Do I really need this? I cried, my mom reassured me I was doing the right thing..We finally got my GJ placed, and sadly within a week, the ER broke it. This resulted in a 4.5 day admission to the hospital. It was ridiculous. The good though, getting the nutrients I need, finally was an amazing feeling. To use my tube, to realize this tube literally saved my life. It’s eye opening just how bad things were. Another few weeks and where would I have been?
Through all this, I missed the comfort and support of my dad. He had no idea I was going through all this. I felt like a burden. All this, the lack of support, it takes a toll on you, both emotionally and physically. Not having the support you once had, it’s heartbreaking. It leaves you reeling, trying to figure out what YOU did wrong. I realized, this wasn’t on me. I did nothing wrong except try to let my parents know what was going on. I just wanted their support, compassion and understanding.
One thing that remained constant, my mom’s unending support and love. She rallied behind me, went to my appointments with me, we asked my team questions and made the best decisions for me. She’s been with me for every surgery, major diagnosis and through this entire journey. Her being a nurse has helped immensely. She’s helped me navigate this crazy stressful world of healthcare. She’s held me as I cried. Reassured me i’m still me, still loved and still beautiful. Each time I cried after surgery, she was there holding me, hugging me, lending me her strength and love. Having her in my corner has really helped me through this. She’s always been unwavering in her support of me when it comes to my medical care. Her here, holding my hand as I was prepped for surgery, then told it failed, was a godsend. Really, there’s nothing like the unconditional love of Mom. I’m thankful everyday she opened her home up to us, and has rallied around my son and I through this. I know with her, and my close friends in my corner, I can get through this. Je T’aime Maman.
I cried for days after my tube was placed. Every time I saw it I cried. Would I still be attractive? Am I still loved? Why? Why is this my life. I cried so much, I got so depressed. I decided to order a new bathing suit. Looking at myself, my body with this tube. Realizing this is my life. This is what is essentially helping keeping me alive. I’ve been through hell with my body. I’ve been through countless surgeries. Countless scars, 2 medical devices in my chest. Now I have one in my stomach.. This, this is alot to process. But you know what?? I’ve learned just how strong I am. I’ve learned i’m still me, I’m still a fighter. My scars tell a story, my body shows my journey. My fight for life. My fight and will to not let this illness destroy who I am. I’ve decided to embrace my tube, to live, to truly live.
This is the new me. The me that has to be tube fed due to gastroparesis, and intestinal dysmotility. It seems my entire GI system is malfunctioning. My Ehlers Danlos and Dysautonomia are wreaking havoc on my body. My levels were dangerously low, and I was malnourished. my weight was dropping rapidly. I fought hard to not get the GJ tube, unfortunately I had to make the best decision for myself and my health. I’ve struggled emotionally with this. I cried for two days every time I looked in the mirror. I struggled with the insecurities of this. This hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve lost friends, I’ve had family turn their back on me. I fight, I stand tall. The new me will rock this, I won’t be ashamed of it, for it doesn’t change me. It allows me to live. To get the nutrients my body so desperately needs. Without this, I’d be starving to death. And that isn’t an option. I look at myself and realize how strong I am. How hard I fight to never give up. This is Ehlers Danlos, this is Gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a horrible disease, but i refuse to give up. My feeding tube saved my life. I’m going to embrace it.
I’m unstoppable. Most importantly, i’m NOT a burden. I’m not an inconvenience. I’m hoping to go back to school. Get my degree in Interior Design. I want to specialize in Handicap Accessible homes/businesses. All inclusive. I dream of having my own firm. I’ll get there. Some day. I’l do it, for i’m not giving up. I’m just getting started.. This phoenix will continue to rise from the ashes. My darlings, I want you to rise too. I want you to believe in yourself. Go after your dreams. Don’t give those up!!!
I am home from Vanderbilt. It was a long appointment, and a very difficult one for me. The travelling was one of horrible experiences to date. Leaving Ft. Lauderdale airport, I was refused a wheelchair because I refused to check my carry on bag. By the time I made it to the gate I had nearly fallen 3 times, and was completely exhausted. The lights and sounds made my headaches excruciating. Being in an upright position for so long, affected my spinal headaches, so that gave even more joy to my travelling. The travelling had worn me down, and I was at my worst by the time I got to Vanderbilt Thursday morning. I stayed positive, rather them see me at my worst, than my best! Because of the cold, I was seizing even more than normal, I was also falling a lot more than normal. I arrived at Vanderbilt at 8:30 am, I was tired, nauseous, shaky, and just feeling like crap. We headed up to the 5th floor, my appt was at 9:30, but due to not knowing the area or traffic we left our hotel a little too early! We checked in, and sat down to wait. I was called in for the autonomic testing. They were to do the Valsalva testing, breathing testing, and a tilt table, minus meds.
The nurse shut off all the lights for me, due to my sensitivity to them. As the nurse finished hooking me up to the heart rate monitor, I started seizing. The pain was horrible, and my mom was trying to comfort me through it. Apparently I stopped breathing during it, so that scared her. According to my mom, who is a nurse, and the Vanderbilt nurse my heart rate went from 67 to 156 during the seizure. After that I was out of it for a few minutes. The nurse continued hooking me up to the monitors. She couldn’t get a reading on the continuous bp cuff on my finger as my hands were so cold, she had to use hand warmers and then use a baby cuff. LOL. As we started testing She was patient and comforting. We did the breathing test, where I had to breath against resistance, my goal was to hit 40, I didn’t even make it to 20. OOps. I became dizzy, it was awful. The other test was breathing in through nose and out through my mouth, I kept mixing it up and getting confused, and dizzy. This got me frustrated and near tears. After that was the tilt table. She tilted the bed up and almost immediately my nausea worsened, my chest pain worsened, and my dizziness increased. I kept saying I feel like i’m in Alice’s rabbit hole, according to my mom. I became very disoriented and confused, lethargic really. The test was finally over! After that we could eat and wait for my appointment with Dr. Robertson.
So the moment we had been waiting for, for 6 months was finally here!! We were taken back around 2:15, pm to meet with Dr. Robertson. I immediately liked him. He listened as I explained everything, how I felt, my daily routine, my limitations. He genuinely cared. He then asked me questions, and my mom questions. I tried so hard to keep up, but I kept getting confused and repeating myself. He was very patient with me. He then started his exam of me. He paid very close attention to my hands, in particular to my fingers, checking for inflammation. He also was interested in the severity of my photosensitivity. We spoke of my symptoms and how they affect my life. What’ I’d like to change. I explained I want to walk down the aisle, I want to dance with my husband for the first time. I want to be able to have a conversation with someone face to face without getting confused. I want to me able to go into the sun without feeling pain or passing out. He looked through the records I had with me from Cleveland Clinic. He was very interested in my case. He says I definitely have an autonomic dysfunction, but that’s not the only thing going on. We asked about MS. We waited with bated breath. His response was what i’ve known in my heart. That it’s a huge possibility. He suggested I get my MRI of my spine, he feels that’s where the lesions would be considering what is affected in my body. I still don’t know if I’ve processed everything. He wanted my records, since Cleveland Clinic did not send updated copies prior to my appointment. I told him I will make him copies, and send to him. He said he really wants to go through my records page my page, and really read them and make his conclusion. I walked out numb, not knowing to feel. He wants to stay in touch, and keep him updated on what we find. He was so wonderful. By the time we left it was after 4:30pm. I made the copies Saturday, and sent them via fedex, they will arrive tomorrow. I’ve already called his office and told them.
My Cervical MRI is scheduled for Next Monday, as well as seeing Dr. Tandri at Johns Hopkins. Finally, i’m getting closer to answers. I’m scared of what the MRI will show, I’m scared that in my heart I know what it will show, and you know what?? It’s ok!! If it is MS, I still won’t let it beat me down!! My mom was so supportive through this trip. My dad has been amazingly supportive at home. My boyfriend worries so much and supports my fight every single day. My son loves me. Despite this illness I have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve accepted I may never know my true illness, while it will be awful, and could be dangerous, I have faith. I have the love and support of my family and friends, for that I thank you all. Those that have been on this journey with me, cried with me, laughed with me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! My journey isn’t over. I still have a ways to go, and I’ll continue this fight as long as I can.