Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge- Day 14

Oh boy. Please keep in mind that this is a rant and ramble and if you’re easily offended, just skip this entry.

Diving right into it, the atmosphere on social media, Twitter in particular, has totally bummed me out lately. I don’t know what is about having 140 characters that causes people to just complain and attack and complain some more.

It sucks the life out of me and makes me not want to be a health activist in the first place, and makes me question if I want to keep writing.

There’s a ton of false information out there, and people retweet the click bait headlines without bothering to read the actual article and then are attacked for retweeting it and it just turns into this argument of one chronic illness person who was simply trying to share some good news, or what they thought was good news, to an attack.

Or someone shares their experience and gets shamed for it.

Or someone shares their political views and gets blocked by everyone else.

Or someone complains about the way one disease gets treated over another. Or one persons treatment choice over another. Or gets attacked for not knowing something about their disease.

It’s like we’ve forgotten to be humans. We’ve forgotten how to support one another and can only compare the bad stories.

It gives me all the ill feelings.

When I first came to Twitter, I found a community, a place to relate to people who were experiencing the same disease that I had, and place for support, for laughs, for encouragement.

It’s been a while since I have felt supported out there, truthfully. I’m not saying the advocates themselves aren’t doing a good job. Most of them are and I’ve been lucky to meet some them and feel supported by them in person or on other social media outlets. What is it about twitter that has changed where this is so hard to find? Are the people who are having a good life just not sharing it because they are too busy living it? Or has Twitter just become the place to complain about your life, and it’s not a spot to find support any longer?

This might cause some ripples, and I really am not trying to point anyone out or say that Twitter isn’t helpful. I’ve met some of my favorite health advocates out there. I’m just saying what has come across my feed recently, and it makes me sad. I’ve muted a lot of people lately, and I’ve added accounts that promote positive messages.

I’m certainly not saying that everyone has to be happy all the time. It’s important to share your truth, but that doesn’t mean attacking others for their experiences and it doesn’t mean every post has to be droopy and dreary, or every post has to be sunshine and rainbows. I just miss the rawness and hopefulness of it. Where’s the encouragement and laughter?

I’m ready for Tuesday because I’m not going to get sucked in to the complaining and attacking that occurs on social media, and I’m not going to let determine my outlook anymore. I’m not going to contribute to the divide. I am going to continue to promote my own message of health and positivity, and continue to share my story authentically and offer support and encouragement to anyone who accepts it.

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Gratitude Challenge Day 9- Quote

R.M. McNeil (my grandma)

My grandma said this to me a few months ago and it has stuck with me as a mantra for my life. With everything that’s going on in the world, giving back and giving an hand up or a hand out is important, and it’s a value I hold dear. These words remind me to be kind and generous and helpful, whether that be with my time, words or dollars. My grandmother has taught me a lot over the years, and I’m so grateful for her heart and the influence she has had on mine. 

30 Days of Gratitude Challenge

I’ve been utterly exhausted and so frustrated about the amount of negativity and attacking I’ve seen on social media lately. I’ve been lurking in the background swiping through posts upon posts of complaints and negativity and worries and fears. This toxic thought pattern has drained part of my spirit and makes me question why I came out to start this blog and find support out here in the first place.

I’m starting a 30 day gratitude challenge for myself. I need this. I need to reconnect with why I blog about how having a chronic illness impacts my life and my mental health.  I need to get back to gratitude for being alive, for having the gift of this life. I need to determine if I want to continue this. Be the change, right?. I’m tired of the negativity, so I’m not going to contribute to it.

Do you feel drained? Maybe you need this too?  Feel free to join me, I’ll be posting daily throughout November in honor of the month of Thanksgiving- and just reminding myself to give thanks, and to find the light in the darkness.

Here are the dates and suggested writing topics I created for the month to spark a gratitude practice. Feel free to screenshot, join, share and follow along on instagram and twitter, I’m @flareuphope pretty much everywhere. Let me know what you’re thinking of his month and tag me in your posts so I can see.


Chronic illness isn’t fun, but there’s always something to be grateful for. Stay tuned for my first post tonight!

Hope in Plot Twists

I’m married!! Our wedding was an amazing rainy day and we left and spent the following week in beautiful Northern California, ending in San Francisco before taking the red eye back home the following Sunday.

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I was blessed enough to be able to enjoy my wedding and reception in remission, thanks a lot to remicade and my lifestyle choices that I practice daily. I was planning on writing this blog about my tips on how to deal with IBD on your honeymoon,  but the tides have turned, so I’m writing to tell you about why I can’t take remicade until further notice.

I had a follow up visit with my GI just to check in (standard appt every 6 months) the day after we returned from our honeymoon. 
I was shocked and saddened and depressed and furious to find out that they are denying my remicade treatments for future infusions.
I had a blood test come back positive to TB.  My skin test came back negative and so did the chest x ray. The doctor stated in the office that due to my noncompliance and failure to see an infectious disease doctor, they would no longer sign off on the remicade.
Let me interrupt here and state how at this moment I burst in to tears. Noncompliant?! I had no missed calls, no voicemails, no letters no GD portal notifications that they always say to check, absolutely NOTHING that told me this was going to happen . No referrals, no notice by pigeon carrier or telegraph. Nothing. (I even called Verizon to verify my phone records after I left the office. They never called me or left a voice mail on the one date they said they did, may 17th My appt was June 14th.) I had no idea I was supposed to be getting a referral for an Infectious disease doctor and that I needed to start treatment for a disease I didn’t really have.

Needless to say, the PA handed me at box of tissues and said, and I quote. “Don’t stress. Stressing causes flares.”
Followed by
“UC is a very serious disease. You could loose your colon. TB is also very serious.”
No help at all dude. Why do you think I was bawling in your office? I know UC is serious, I have it. I was in the hospital and almost lost my life because if it. I am very careful in how I eat, drink, sleep, and am active because of it. I know my disease. 

He said I needed to see and ID doctor asap, but it would probably take a month or so and then whatever he decides would determine how we proceed. So basically I had no infusions and no plan. Just a wait and see.

I messaged my PCP immediately after I got home and left a message with her receptionist.  Luckily my PCP is an angel and she was up until midnight working to get me an appointment the next morning. She has a Jpouch and knows IBD, and knows I’m not a noncompliant patient. She made it very clear she’s here to support me. I wish everyone had a doctor like her. 

I went to the ID doctor and, to avoid getting into all the technicalities bc I understood nothing when I left there, I’m going to explain the results like how my PCP explained them to me.

I don’t have active TB. I was probably exposed to TB at some point in my life and that’s why it’s in my blood stream. It very likely could be that the blood test is a false positive and I was never exposed in the first place.  Other bacteria etc can produce a positive when it’s not actually TB.
I still have to be treated for TB before we can even think about restarting remicade, false positive or no. If you’re on remicade and you get a positive TB reading, it’s no more remicade for you, perhaps indefinitely.
My treatment is 3 months long, starting tomorrow, 2 medications twice a day. I would miss 2 infusions. If antibodies don’t build, I may be able to restart remicade and it may still work. We don’t know. And I have yet to get answers from my GI.
My GI was asked by the ID doctor to see if I can get both at the same time. I’m doubtful that they will approve it and I have yet to hear back from them since Tuesday.

So, I’m starting off my marriage going from total bliss and gratitude to shock, saddness, anger and really pushing our in sick and in health vows.

At the moment, I’m processing the fact that I have to take these medications in the first place. I’m devastated that the drug that has brought me to remission and given me a chance at a semi normal life is being ripped away. I have a lot of anxiety and depression creeping in. But, I’m coming up with a plan, and I’m dealing with it. This won’t defeat me. Us. This life we’re building.

The first thing this weekend is to get the space in my house cleared out and make some positive energy, because I’m going to need all that I can get for these next few months.
I’m trying not to dwell on the things I’ll be missing, but instead thinking of it as a new path I’ll be taking. A plot twist, if you will.

It’s not easy to think like this. I’m writing this through tears right now. It sucks. But, I’ve got a great support system, and like my husband (!) said, they will be there every “suck of the way.” There might be rain right now, but like the sun is coming soon.  And now I’m done with the metaphors, and have brought you all up to speed, so here’s some happy wedding day photos.

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Hope In Vacations

I can’t say I’m entirely thrilled to be back home in -23 degree mornings (yes, that is a negative 23 temperature), but man, I missed the privacy of my own bathroom and only having to share it with one other person. Little blessings.

Vacation was different this year. This was my first non-sick/IBD related day off from work in over a year and a half. You could say I was looking forward to it. I wasn’t even realizing that this was my first vacation with my IBD. The thought did not even cross my mind at all. I was thinking of sun, and sand and not having to think about anything else but just relaxing and doing whatever I wanted. I still had the mentality that vacation was going to be about lounging and laughing and eating and drinking and just letting go.

At my infusion before we left for vacation.
At my infusion before we left for vacation.

My infusion was the Friday before we left, and we were driving to avoid the chance of me getting sick with my immunities being so low right after the remicade (we both came back home with colds anyway) and my fiance drove the whole trip. I was nauseated a couple of times and had some cold sweats but mostly got through okay. Absolutely no urgency. We stayed overnight in Georgia so I could get a goods night sleep and be in full vacation mode when we arrived on Sunday. I think part of me was thinking that not only do I have time away from work and obligations, but part of me kind of thought I was going to be on vacation from this disease as well.I was so ready for Sunday and to be feeling better. As we were driving in to FL and a few miles away from the house, we had the windows down and the sunshine filtering in and it all felt wonderful. I closed my eyes and felt the wind come through the window onto my face and just smiled, feeling so grateful that I was well enough to be there.

The first couple of days were great. We went fishing and relaxed, went out to the everglades and just did whatever we wanted. I was still seeing some blood, but I wasn’t in any pain or too concerned, just waiting for the remicade to do what it needed to and watching what I ate to try to avoid anything I knew triggered a flareup before. I smuggled my own Ketchup in my purse. I don’t drink anymore because it triggers inflammation for me, but I was able to find some iced coffee everywhere and was a happy girl.

Every time my fiance and I have previously been to Florida on vacation, we usually spend a night at an oyster bar filling up on ketchup and horseradish and crackers and beer. It’s one of my favorite memories on our first vacation together, sitting on the patio with a corona and oysters, laughing and carrying on without a care in the world.
We went out to one oyster bar on our 4th or 5th night there, and I ended up breaking down. Reading over the menu, there was a large warning specific to “persons with autoimmune diseases” that eating the raw oysters may cause severe illness or even death.
Oh.
I never thought I would cry over oysters. Or in public. At a restaurant of all places. It was like a scene from a stupid cheesy movie when the waitress comes over to ask for your order an you’re trying to pretend like somethings in your eye. Sometimes I just get so tired of this disease surprising me. And on vacation?! Vacation is where you’re supposed to leave all your problems behind, right?
As I sat quietly through dinner of french fries and my smuggled Ketchup I tried really hard not to let the tears drop down my face. I just wanted a vacation. A vacation like I remembered. Like I used to have.
When we left the restaurant, I cried for a little while though I really didn’t want to. And then I asked my fiance to help me redefine vacation. If vacation wasn’t going to be what it used to be, I needed to change the way I thought about it.
I can’t take a vacation from my disease. It’s part of me, and I can’t neglect to take precautions, take medications, and take care of myself. Even for just a little while. I can, however, go to the beach. I can take walks to wherever. I can put my toes in the water. I can walk on the pier. I can drink coffee. All kinds of coffee. And smoothies. I can do yoga. On the beach. I can go visit old trees, and get close to alligators. I can eat strawberries fresh off the farm. I can watch the sunset. I can make the most of what I’ve been given, and not focus on what I’m unable to do.

This vacation helped me realize that many things are still going to need to be redefined in my life in the future. I’m still mournful there are things I used to be able to do but choose not to do now because they make my quality of life lower due to the disease I have. It’s not easy to give up some of my favorite things. The letting go allows something else to be discovered, however, and I know that there’s more out there for me to find. I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity to try some of these things once before, and that I have memories of those moments to call on and relive when I want to. This vacation reminded me of what a gift my life is, and what a gift each moment is. I really never know if there will be a next time. Neither do you. Hopefully, I can remember that more often.

Here I am, focusing on what I can do:  a bridge in front of a tree that is over 150 years old.
Here I am, focusing on what I can do: a bridge in front of a tree that is over 150 years old.

Hope Warrior-Astrid

Please bear with me while the blog undergoes some updates. It’ll be back to being pretty, clean and organized soon!

It’s a brand new year, thank goodness. I had the greatest new years eve, this year surrounded by many of my favorite people. Last year I had to worry about being close to a bathroom, this year, I knew I would be okay. Last year, I was about to face the biggest health disaster of my life so far, and this year, I was laughing and smiling and crying tears of joy.  Totally different from last year. I’ve never been so grateful in my entire life. There are days I wake up and I honestly have a hard time believing that the treatment is working. But it is. I’m alive, I’m well, I’m happy, and I’m so, so blessed.

To kick off the new year, I’d like to share Astrid’s story. When I was at my lowest point with this disease, she was always leaving me encouraging messages and continues to cheer me on as I do well, and when I need  a little boost. She seems to do that for everyone that she sees struggling or battling an aggressive disease like IBD. If there were more people in the world that shared the same caring attitude that Astrid did, no one would ever feel alone. Do yourself a favor and check out her art in the links below.  Thanks for being you, Astrid, and for letting me share your story. Happy Warrior Wednesday!

 

Hello My name is Astrid and I am an IBD/ UC warrior.

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I was honoured when Jacklyn from FlareupHope asked to feature me as one of her Wednesday Warriors, I felt a sense of sisterhood with Jacklyn when we first bonded on IG. It was comforting to find others with IBD and sharing our stories make me feel less alone and scared.

What type of chronic illness/autoimmune disease (s) do you live with?
I was diagnosed with Mild to moderate Ulcerative Colitis

When was your diagnosis? How did you cope?
June 2013, The diagnostic was a relief as I needed to know how to proceed with a game plan.

What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?
I have a very sensitive system to start and when I started taking Asacol, couple doses Salofolk following my doctor’s instructions, I felt more sick. I was only able to be on the medication for 2 weeks. My symptoms worsen and brought me to a full flare , that is when I went on a 5 weeks prednisone starting at 40mg to take the inflammation down.Because I didn’t want to rely on long term medication to maintain my everyday living, I worked really hard to find ways to manage my symptoms through diet change. I found the Paleo lifestyle a spring board to my healing regimen .

If you could tell yourself one thing looking back on your diagnosis, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid. This is a true test and will actually make you stronger . You are stronger than you think, you can heal your body, just listen to it.

What do you do to relieve stress?
Yoga, drawing and painting, walking in nature, bellydancing

You are an extremely talented artist. How long have you been creating? What inspires you?
Thank you for your compliment about my artistic abilities. I have loved creating as long as I could remember, silly putty was my favourite toy as a kid, I always had a pencil and paper with me, drawing was my thing, then I learned to paint in school. I am inspired by shapes, colours and texture from nature and love the uninhibited feeling in my children’s artwork.I love painting flowers.

Do you have a saying or quote or song that you turn to when you need to be uplifted?
This too shall pass

What keeps you hopeful?
Meeting more and more IBD/ AI warriors who is dedicated to healing the body through a holistic approach. My first GI told me that I would be 1 in a million if I can control my UC with diet alone. I really should buy more lottery.

What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?
Focusing on Breathing, seems so simple but I often forget to take deep breathes until I do yoga or bellydancing. Putting things in perspective when a stressful situation arise. Is my world really going to crumble? Is my family going to be harmed? Am I going to live through it? I used to jump at other people’s requests or demands. I would put their needs or wants first. Now, I prioritize my life better, my health and family always come first.

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. ..what are some of your favorite things?
A perfectly sharpened black drawing pencil, epsom salt bentonite clay bath, coconut anything, lavender, the smell of my children’s hair (when it’s cleanish ), a juicy grass fed steak

Social media accounts /website?
http://www.healmeinthekitchen.com
www.astridfoxartanddesigns.blogspot.com
IG: @astridfox_art

Biggest change you’ve made since diagnosis? I am better at managing stress now and have found a positive outlook in life. I have learned to calm my fight or flight habit and start living life with different perspective.
I have learned to adapted to evolving healing eating plans as my body changes. I started with going grain-free right when I was on my short course of prednisone, , then I embraced the Paleo lifestyle, now I have fine tuned it with AIP ( Autoimmune Protocol ) with low FODMAP. I cook 90% o f my foods, spend 80% of my waking time in the kitchen. I read labels because my wellbeing depends on it. I almost never eat out but you can often spot me with my thermal flask of bone broth at restaurants while out with my family.

Best thing about having this disease?
Having to learn how to face my fears and dig deep into my darkest places, I have become the person I have always want to be, I have learned to live with less fear and without regrets. (I love this-J)

What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?
M y greatest accomplishment besides being a parent is building a business from ground up. 17 years ago, My husband and I took our passion, along with our inexperiences and decided to start our own business. When we opened our retail fashion boutique in 1998, apparently our neighbouring business ,at that time, thought that we ( our business) would only last a couple of months. That neighbouring business has since sold and change a couple of hands over and we are still the longest standing business with the same owner in the hood. Being entrepreneurs isn’t easy but we stood the test of time with our boutique/cafe, Global Atomic Designs and Black Echo Coffee, in the fashion district of downtown Vancouver, Canada. We having survived the economically ups and downs throughout the years and continue to push trend boundaries .We have earned international recognition in what we do like making into the NY Times 36 hours guide.

Astrid is a whole food advocate, recipe developer, ferment fanatic, mother, wife, artist and entrepreneur. When she is not playing kitchen scientist, she is most likely plotting her next painting move from her yoga mat. Carving time to fill her different hats can be challenging, but she finds joy in balancing a holistic lifestyle to support her continuing battle with Ulcerative Colitis. She owns a fashion boutique/ cafe www.globalatomic.com and www.blackechocoffee.com in downtown Vancouver, Canada with her husband.

You can also follow her creative art progress on http://instagram.com/astridfox_art