Hope Warrior -Kristen Boehmer

It’s a new Hope Warrior Wednesday!

I’m so happy I get to share a little bit of Kristen’s story and how she copes with having a chronic illness. She’s a busy gal, but was able to answer a few questions. Make sure to check out her website Living Loving Paleo and her instagram @livinglovingpaleo for some mouthwatering food photography and her life with Crohn’s Disease.

Meet Kristen!

I was checking out your story on your website (I will link it here), and boy have you been on an unbelievable journey. I know you were young when you were first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, but do you remember how you felt when you received the diagnosis?

Being diagnosed with a chronic disease isn’t something that I could fullyunderstand as a kid, which in some ways, made it easier to cope with. My parents immediately took full responsibility for my health, but at the same time, I did have to grow up quickly.

Taking 96 pills a week at age 12 is a lot to swallow, no pun intended. What would you tell a pre-teen going through something similar right now?

I would tell a pre-teen that no matter what, they should never, ever give up. It may feel like your world is falling apart, but if you allow it, your illness can actually become your greatest gift.

It is really frustrating when I feel like some doctors are not hearing me. It sounds like you went through something similar. How do you advocate for yourself now?

I’ve found a practitioner outside of conventional medicine who really listens, and that’s made all the difference. Thankfully I’m healthy enough now that I don’t need any sort of outside intervention.

What is your current treatment plan? (Natural and pharmaceutical if applicable)

After spending many, many years on medications, I’m now able to control my disease completely through diet and lifestyle. I eat what makes me feel good and live a life that I love.

 Your website has lots of delish Paleo recipes. What inspired you to start Living Loving Paleo?

I wanted a place where I could share my journey (outside of social media) as well as my recipes, so a blog felt like the perfect format.

How do you balance working full time with managing your chronic condition and spending time with your family?

While I have Crohn’s Disease, it’s thankfully no longer something that I need to manage. I work from home and accomplish much of what I need to get done while my husband’s away at work (he works 48 hour shifts as a fire fighter), so that when he’s home, we can spend much of our time together.

You talk about the fatigue, waking up tired and going to bed tired when fighting infections and the ongoing battle an autoimmune disease fights with your body. Do you still have days like these? What do you to conserve energy?

My health is by far the best it’s ever been, so thankfully those days are VERY far and few between! If I do come down with a cold or the flu, I simply set everything else aside and completely focus on my health. My immune system is fully functioning now, so I’m very rarely sick for more than a couple days.

 We went to San Francisco on our honeymoon and feel in love with the city. I am so jealous that you get to live near a city with the best coffee and some awesome food options! Eating at a restaurant can be difficult for IBDers who are afraid or embarrassed to ask their food to be cooked in ways specific to their needs. Do you have any tips for handling these scenarios? 

I have a great dining out guide where I’ve shared all my best tips and tricks! It

can be found here – http://livinglovingpaleo.com/2016/06/15/tips-dining-

paleo/

I truly believe that our environment can play a huge part in healing. Do you have an area in your home that helps you gives you the hope you need to keep fighting? What does it look like?

I really do my best to keep my entire house filled with calm, healing energy.

How do you treat yourself when you want to indulge?

I get a mani/pedi or a massage and take myself out to lunch!

What are some of your favorite books and or music/podcasts?

I love reading and have too many books that I’ve enjoyed to list off. As for podcasts I love Balanced Bites, The Sessions With Sean Croxton and The Tim Ferriss Show.

If someone were to ask you to tell your story in one sentence, what would it say?

Although my journey hasn’t always been easy, it’s given me the most beautiful life I could ever imagine.

 Do you have a mantra or an image that you use to give you strength or encouragement?

I recently heard Tony Robbins talk about achievement versus fulfillment, and it really stuck with me. I don’t have a specific mantra or image, but I believe in filling my own cup up before I can give to anyone else. When I’m fulfilled and loving life, I put out my best work.

What are some of your hobbies and activities you enjoy?

Cooking, reading and being outside with my husband and dogs.

Where are some of your favorite places to travel?

Hawaii for sure!

 

Who gives you hope? Do you have any “Hope Warriors” that inspire you?

While my husband has always been my number one supporter, he’s taught me to love and cherish myself first, so I’ve become my own “hope warrior.”

 

Thank you so much for sharing, Kristen!  I’m so glad you’re doing well and enjoying a beautiful life. Love your story, and I’m honored to share it. 

Happy Wednesday Folks!

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Will Essential Oils Cure IBD?

No, they won’t. There is not a cure for IBD. 

They do, however, smell amazing and have some pretty cool benefits that could improve your attitude and maybe ease some physical symptoms, and perhaps much more. (Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not providing advice, I’m sharing what I learned at this workshop and my experience with essential oils thus far. I encourage you to do your own research.)

I took an essential oils workshop last week at Hilltop Yoga in Oldtown and really gave my scent sorter a workout. It was very interesting and educational, and I took away a few items that I’m bringing to my home environment. Maybe it will help ease some symptoms and increase quality of life or maybe it will just make my home smell amazing. I can find nothing wrong with being surrounded by good, natural smells that I enjoy.

So what exactly are essential oils? Essential oils are taken from plants in concentrated forms. Oils are broken down into a few categories depending on the plant itself. They could be roots, trees, herbs, blooms, seeds or other plant parts.  For example, Chamomile is a bloom while Thyme is generally considered a herb. The oil itself in pure form is used in aromatherapy practices and each oil has a different properties and different practices depending on what it is composed of.

One of my favorite moments of this workshop was at the beginning when the speaker stated that nothing she says here is going to cure an ailment. Essential oils aren’t cures, they are not evaluated by the FDA, but they have been around and used in medical practices since the beginning of time. She wasn’t forcing anything and saying you MUST use this if you have digestive conditions or you MUST do this if you have anxiety, but she talked about what symptoms the oil is known for helping to ease and what she’s found by experience in her own life. The sense of smell is highly personal, a lot like IBD treatments/symptoms where one size doesn’t fit all. Someone may really believe that rose essential oil (known for easing grief) eases their anxiety and offers comfort. For you, rose might remind you of your grandma who passed away and make you more depressed. You have to find what works for you, what feels good for your lifestyle, and it might be different every day. Maybe today the smell of Lemon makes your home feel clean and refreshed and tomorrow Eucalyptus brings you the focus you need to write that blog post you’ve been putting off for weeks.

I love that approach. Find what gives you that spark you need today.

If you’re curious about some of the more popular oils and some that maybe you haven’t heard of, I’m sharing a few of my favorites that I jotted down in my notes from that day. Most of what she was saying she was reading out of one of the books she had brought to class, which I believe was from Essential Oils Natural Remedies: The Complete A-Z Reference of Essential Oils for Health and HealingShe also stated that she had many other resources and had been studying for over 20 years so was also sharing her own personal experiences.

Again, I’m not providing advice. I’m sharing what I learned some of these oils have been found to help with throughout history and by other individuals in aromatherapy. This may not be true for you and you should always consult a medical professional for advice. 

Marjoram: known for pain relief. Smells like Vick’s vapor rub to me, which I oddly find soothing.

Thyme: increases white blood cells. Good in combination with citrus oils for diffusing.

Bergamot: boosts happiness. Works well in areas that experience Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder. It smells like an awesome sunshine blue sky day. Will probably get some of this for Michigan mid winters, when it’s grey and the sun hasn’t shown its face for weeks.

Cloves: this was my favorite scent of the day. It is known to provide comfort, is full of antioxidants to boost the immune system and is useful for treating depression and anxiety. This was the scent I chose to leave with, she put some drops in almond oil and told me to rub it on my neck hairline as I left class. I went grocery shopping after and got whiffs of the scent throughout the rest of my day. It honestly improved my mood each time I smelled it.

Myrr: known for healing wounds and was used for that purpose in ancient Greece. It’s a really thick, dark resin. It may assist in reducing inflammation in the digestive system.

Chamomile:reduces mood swings and eases PMS symptoms.

Lemon: uplifting, inspires positive thinking. Fresh and purifying.

Peppermint: cool, stimulating. Can aid head and muscle aches and promote a healthy digestive and respiratory system.

Lavender: stress reducing, comforting, relaxing.

If you’re looking to start bringing essential oils into you home, you could start with just a spray bottle from the dollar section at the grocery store and distilled water.  Throw some drops of your oil of choice in the bottle, add the water and then spritz around your home as you desire. Maybe keep it in the bathroom and spritz it on the shower curtain before you jump in, on the bathmat, fan, really wherever you want.

Then, if you find it’s really something you look forward to and want to invest in a diffuser or burner, you already know you like the scent and if it makes you feel better. If you want to use them with a carrier oil (like almond, coconut etc) and mix a few drops in then rub on you neck, temples, hands, whatever, BUT do your research first.  Some of those essential oils, like peppermint or cinnamon, are so strong they can actually burn you if you put them on your skin directly without a carrier. If you have animals in your home, make sure the oils you are using are pet friendly. While we are on the topic of research, I’m just going to go ahead and remind everyone that not everything you read on the internet is true. Use your brain, have an open mind but be cautious. Look at who is writing the article.  Again, I’m not an essential oil expert, I’m just sharing my experience. Think for yourself.

On my own essential oil adventure I made a yoga mat spray with tea tree and lavender and it’s awesome. I used tips from Adriene and the video is here. Do you use essential oils? How? Let me know! Find what smells good.

 

Resources: Aromatherapy. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/aromatherapy

Hope Warrior-Sarah

Hi folks.  Can you believe it’s April? Thank the Lord tax season is about to be over and my work schedule will calm down a bit.  Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately. Unfortunately,  my real job has priority right now as it pays for the superwoman infusions I get every 8 weeks that keep me standing. Please forgive me for my absence, and welcome April’s Hope Warrior.
If you haven’t had a chance to connect with Sarah Choueiry of the Crohn’s journey foundation, you’re a fool. Jk. But really. She’s amazing and has such an awesome energy. Links to her social media accounts are below. Make sure to give her a follow and share some love and encouragement.

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Hi Sara! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

What type of chronic illness/autoimmune disease (s) do you live with?

​I live with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease called Crohn’s disease. ​

When was your diagnosis? How did you cope?

​I was diagnosed at ​14, struggling with symptoms since I was 12. I remember it took my mom threatening my regular doctor with a lawsuit if he did not send me to a specialist. My gen doctor was saying things initially that implied what was happening was in my head or part of becoming a teenager. I remember the day I stepped into the GI’s office, she looked at me and read my symptoms and said “you either have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, we need to have a colonoscopy.” I also remember that first colonoscopy because they put me in twilight. Let’s just say it scarred my memory!
When I was younger I did not cope, my parents did. They tried to alter my food to a soft, low residue (as recommended by the GI – aka white bread, white pasta, white everything ) and encourage me to take my pills without hounding me about it. I remember multiple trips a month to the emergency room and wishing that I did not always have to go to the bathroom every place I went. Besides that my memory of Crohn’s at the time I was diagnosed was limited to that.

What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?

​I actually just had my first (and last) surgery (Feb 3) to remove what was supposed to be 10 cm of my small intestines, but actually ended up being 45 cm of my terminal ilium and part of my colon. Based on what the surgeon said, I no longer have any Crohn’s in my body! I hope not, after that surgery, was not easy for me.
Prior to that I switched GI’s about a year ago and so grateful I did. My new GI utilizes alternative medicine in her practice, from herbal medications to aid with calming the body to help reduce adrenal fatigue, creating teas just for my bodies needs at that time and making me tinctures just for my body.  ​She looks at the whole body and not just the symptoms. As for treatment, I was on humira in the beginning of 2013 and stopped some time in the fall because it did not appear to work anymore. I was then placed on entecort in the winter (2013), until surgery in Feb. I also did a couple rounds of Xifaxin while on the intro to Gaps diet and I felt amazing. The purpose of doing that was to help lower the collection of bad bacteria in my gut (SIBO = Small intestinal bacteria overgrowth), which I am convinced over 80% of people with IBD struggle with. I also altered my diet this past year and have been doing a variation of AIP with SCD and that has reduced the amount of discomfort and bloating I used to experience after meals immensely. I try to work on mindfulness every day through daily meditation, daily gratitude and yoga 3-5 days a week. I try to get outdoors as much as possible. Overall, I just try have fun in life and never forget the importance of socializing and being in my community of those I love. These are all the things I work on a daily basis and not easy to do, but worth it. (PS: I am horrible at grammar so forgive me 🙂 )

If you could tell yourself one thing looking back on your diagnosis, what would it be?

​I wish I would have told myself not to blindly listen to the doctor and explored diet. As a teen I was social, i worked out and I had fun BUT my diet was not the best. What I eat now is a total 180 from what I ate back then. I hate that the GI doctor told me that diet does nothing to help IBD. Just so disappointing. ​ ​Also that we were not encouraged to do things that helped reduce inflammation. ​Just a bummer and upsets me a lot at times. I do not believe diet is a cure in no means BUT it is a great way to help reduce inflammation and reduce your symptoms. I mean how can food we put in our body NOT impact how we feel!?

What do you do to relieve stress?

​I work on relieving stress daily. Not sure why but I tend to run more anxious. I think a lot of people with IBD do. Maybe from all the trauma we have been through?​ ​So this is something I try to focus on daily. I like to go on walks, yoga, spend time with family, talk to my close girlfriends, write in my journal, cook, go to the farmers market, sit at the beach and meditate. ​I would say those are my go to’s! So important to find what relieves your stress and do it as often as possible.

What inspires you?

​Hmm I would say the vision of a healthy me inspires me. I feel like I have opened my eyes the past couple years to a different world out there in terms of how to find happiness and health in my life and I have been working hard to get there. What inspires me are those who look at life with hope, love and determination, which makes up most of the people in my life. Another thing that inspires me are my close friends, parents and husband because they are so amazing, strong and beautiful inside and out, and to have them in my life inspires me to be the best person I can be.

Who do you turn to for hope or inspiration?

I​ turn to my IBD family I have created when I need hope or inspiration when it comes ​feeling discouraged about having IBD. It is comforting to have people who can relate to you, and just get you and say the right things to pick you up because they have been there!

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

​There are two things I do that help uplift me. First, non stop dance parties in my room while playing my hipster bbq radio station on pandora.
In terms of quotes, this helps me the most and I read it when I feel my life is out of my control and I need balance:
God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference. ​
What keeps you hopeful?

​My future, healthy self. ​

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. ..what are some of your favorite things when you are feeling bad?

​I would say it is all listed above. What I do when stressed and what I do to make me happy are all things I would call my coping mechanisms. The biggest one is to find daily gratitude on the shittest day. Last, be patient, compassionate and kind to yourself. Listen to how you speak to yourself in your head and question if that is what you would say to your daughter or mother if they had IBD. If not, then change that inner dialogue.

Social media accounts /website?

www.thecrohnsjourneyfoundation.org
http://instagram.com/crohnsjourney/
https://twitter.com/SarahChoueiry
http://www.facebook.com/MyJourneyWithCrohns

Hope in Letting Go

Disclaimer: This gets a little personal for me. I’m not looking for pity, and I know that things could always be much worse. I’m not trying to get sympathy. I just want to share the reality of what life is like with a chronic illness.Depression is in my family, so I’m always very aware of my mental health state, and I knew that I was slipping down that slope and had to make a change. This is my way of dealing with how this disease has changed my life. I’m sharing it because I know there are others who struggle with it and I hope it can offer ways of coping for them. 

Did you know that grieving over a chronic illness is a real thing?

I didn’t. I have experienced all of the emotions of grief, but I didn’t realize that it was actually a real thing that you go through with an autoimmune disease. My GI doctor seemed to shrug it off when I told her about my concerns. I was struggling with this so much over the past few weeks, and so relieved to find thousands of results on Google under “grieving a chronic illness.”

I was 24 when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, that was just about 2 years ago. I did not know anyone with a chronic illness aside from one of my best friends who had lupus, and she didn’t really talk about how much it affected her. I knew nothing about how much my life was going to changed, and my doctor never mentioned anything to expect. Our only talks were about treatments and how many bowel movements I was having. No one talked about the emotional part of IBD. And it’s a huge part. I wish someone would have talked about it.

I’m talking about it today.

When I got my initial diagnosis, I was actually relieved. That was the first emotion I felt. I even remember smiling and saying “oh, okay.” I didn’t have cancer. It wasn’t until I got home and later that night looked up on the internet what the disease ulcerative colitis actually was that I realized what I had.  And then I cried hysterically. Life would never be the same. Just like that.

There are many parts and pieces that are lost or changed when your life with a chronic illness begins. Working is hard for some, and the type of job you do might change. You might be absent from work on some days when you never used to call in before, or find that you aren’t able to keep up with those responsibilities that you used to handle with ease.

 Relationships that aren’t built to handle this type of challenge may become strained as some do not understand what you are going through. Some relationships may dissolve completely (you don’t need those people anyway). 

Grief can come at you in all forms as the disease changes you mentally, physically, spiritually and fully. With my IBD, every single day brings a different opportunity, and sometimes a different barrier. My identity of who I was pre IBD is gone. I still have bits and pieces, but it came at such a transitional part in my life where I was already trying to define myself, I absolutely had no idea who i was anymore or what I was going to be. All I knew was that I was sick, and it hurt, and I lost all sense of what life was going to be.

Depression is a slippery slope for many people with autoimmune diseases. For some, the grief cycle is continuous. Each new loss the disease brings can trigger what happened in the past. For others, seeing some patients thrive and be healthy can trigger jealousy and longing for the past healthy days. We may be truly happy for the person who is having the time of their life, but it may make us yearn for the days when we were healthy and naive. 

Sometimes, we are so ill, it is impossible for us to grieve what losses are occurring. It’s important that we set aside time to mourn what has been stolen, whether that be your pre IBD identity, your colon, your relationships, your finances, what ever it is. It’s SO important to go through that cycle, deal with the emotions, and let it go. Otherwise, you’re stuck. At least, that’s how I’ve been feeling.

When I had my diagnosis, and knew what it was through my own research, I felt sad, but I didn’t really know how much the disease was going to affect my life. It was hard, but I was getting through it and to be honest, life hadn’t really changed all that much. Fast forward a year, and I’m in the hospital getting a blood transfusion and I’m the sickest person the nurse has ever seen, and she had been a nurse for over 20 years. 

I was too sick to grieve. I was scared. I wanted my life back. I was mad. I was frustrated. But I was hopeful. And I eventually got out and was able to start slowly healing and getting some strength back. I didn’t really realize that I had said goodbye to pre-IBD me, and she wasn’t coming back.  Pre-IBD me is a memory. She is in the past. I have bits and pieces of her in my heart, but I’m not the same. So, who am I? I’ve been having to relearn a lot of things. 

Fast forward to now.

 I went on vacation this year, somehow expecting to be vacationing from my disease. Earth to Jacklyn, you can’t just send your disease to outer-space for a couple weeks and bring it back when you get home.

That realization triggered a lot of emotions that I hadn’t dealt with previously. I have to take this disease with me wherever I go from. now. on. Life as I knew it for 24 years is not coming back. I can hope and wish and pray, but it’s just not. For the rest of my life, until they find a cure, I will carry this disease with me.

What I do have, however, is a great life. I just couldn’t see it recently with all the emotional baggage falling over my eyes.

I decided this weekend that it was time to seriously grieve my losses, and then let them go. I am so tired of being triggered into a dark cloud of emotion every single time this disease defeats me. I have a very blessed life, and I want to be able to enjoy it with fresh eyes and stop yearning for the way it was previously. I did a lot of research and spoke with folks in my IBD community and found that many of them are also in this cycle of grief, being set off with different triggers as the disease changes and you again have to adapt and change what life was.

Now, before you read on, I want to make sure you know that I am aware this cannot be fixed in a weekend. But I want to share with you the beginning of my letting go (que the music), and I think I’m off to a good start.

My fiance is out-of-town this weekend, so I had the house to myself and was free to mourn my previous life. I did a lot of research, and decided on what strategies I was going to take to start moving on with my IBD life. 

I decided to have a funeral for my old life. 

 I started by writing a really long letter about all of the great things I did pre diagnosis. I wrote in my journal for hours about what I loved about that life. And then I said goodbye to it. I folded up the letter and put it away. I cried. I took a lot of deep breaths and focused as much as I could on letting go of that life.

 And then I wrote another letter. This time it was acknowledging all the things I was grateful for in my life right now.

I made my mantra Have presence in the present. Let it Go. And with each breath during my meditation I recited it. I physically practiced it during my yoga session. I wrote it down on a sticky note and stuck it on my door frame. I lit Rose incense after learning that the scent helps release pent-up emotions. But mostly, I spent the weekend doing a ton of things I enjoyed doing. I made lists of things I was happy about. Things I dream about. I played music that made me happy. Music that made me sad. I put on my favorite shirt. I laughed. I rearranged the furniture. I got rid of clothes that no longer fit. I put together a box of things to get rid of. I counted my blessings. I prayed. I watched a couple of sermons. I practiced putting my expectations in a box so I didn’t have to dwell on them.

 And now I’m here. Telling you about it. And I’m going to keep practicing letting go every single day until this longing for my old life moves out. I’m cleaning out what was to make room for what can be. And I know that there can be a lot of good, even with IBD. I truly think that I won’t be able to see the good in the present if I don’t let go of what once was and look to what is good now. 

If you’re looking to make the move for yourself, and have some time and space to do it, there are some links at the end of this post to some of the research that I found to be most helpful. There’s a lot more out there, so please find what fits for you and make sure to consult your support group if you don’t feel like you can get through this yourself. I’m not a doctor or a counselor, but I’m here to listen if you need it.

I’m just trying to find what works best for me in living with this disease, and my hope is that you can too.

http://www.chronicpainaustralia.org.au/files/Booklet%202%20-%20Grief%20and%20Loss.pdf

http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/070714p18.shtml

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/40-ways-to-let-go-and-feel-less-pain/

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: Alyssa

The Gift of Gratitude-My Hope Sparking Status

Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness. (webster.com)

Gratitude isn’t just the simple task of saying “I’m thankful for…”, though that is a good place to start. It’s being appreciative and showing it.

I came across and article in Real Simple magazine (does that show what my 26-year-old life is like? I now read Real Simple magazine, and I love it) called “Why Gratitude is Great.”  To sum it up very briefly, demonstrating gratitude can make you happier, more energetic, healthier, increase resiliency, improve relationships and turn you into a nice person. Wow. Most important to note for my fellow auto immune disease fighters; having an attitude of gratitude can boost your immune system. There are lots of studies and science out there to prove this, and I haven’t found anything to disprove it. So why not devote myself to this gratitude idea? I haven’t been able to find anything negative about treasuring good things in my life.

I consider myself a pretty appreciative person, but I’ll be honest; sometimes when going through the cycles of having an autoimmune disease, it can be pretty hard to find an ounce of gratitude and pretty easy to slope into the “this just sucks” attitude. I want to stop doing that. I’m not trying to take away from the fact that having an autoimmune disease is awful. It certainly is. But I think one of the great things about this diagnosis is the appreciation and elation you gain from the good days. If I have a day full of energy and I can smile and laugh without pain, am not dizzy or physically exhausted, or on some emotional tyrant that involves sobbing and then throwing shoes, I AM PUMPED. And like many others, I tend to try to do everything I possibly can when I’m feeling fantastic because I’m just so happy to be feeling good. I want to have that attitude more often.

So, starting today, the end of IBD Awareness week, I’m making myself accountable for having this attitude. It doesn’t mean that you won’t catch me saying I don’t feel good. It doesn’t mean my IBD will suddenly disappear. And it doesn’t mean I’m going to able to stop cancelling plans because I’m too tired to leave the house. But it means that when I’m having a bad day, I’m still trying to find something that gives me that elated feeling. A spark of hope, if you will.

I’m calling it my Hope Sparking Status. Every day, I’m going to be practicing being truly thankful, and showing it. I might not be able to post everyday, but I’ll at least be posting once a week with a sum of how I’ve returned kindness into the world for the days prior, or what I’ve done to show gratitude. I’ll be using the blog and other social networks to keep myself accountable (follow me on twitter @flareuphope or instagram @hopefulme2633) so you can follow me there to see how my status evolves. If you have a Hope Sparking Status you want to share, please do! I’ll feature it on the blog.

I think that what you put out into the world can cause a ripple effect. If I can practice being a source of light for others, my own light may grow brighter.  If I can give purpose to having this disease, it makes it more acceptable. And maybe, just maybe, I can make someone else feel better, so they can make someone else feel better, and we can light up the world for those who are surrounded by darkness. It just takes a spark to see in the dark.

So, to launch my attitude of gratitude venture, I’m having a giveaway! It’s just a small package of some of my favorite things to relax with when I need a new perspective. The package includes:

1 box of Bedtime Yogi Tea

12 tealight candles (eucalyptus and spearmint scented)

A microfiber HOPE pillowcase

A tea or coffee or whatever you want mug

A stained glass candle holder

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Want to enter!?! All you have to do is tag someone you want to show appreciation for in the comments below, or on twitter or instagram with the hashtag #flareuphope.

Contest ends on Tuesday December 9th at 8pm ET, so get your entry in now!

Can’t wait to share my gratitude journey with you. Thank you for your support!

Remission

This girl is one of the most amazing people I have met in this community. Not only does she give all she’s got to fight her autoimmune diseases and everything that comes with it, she fights for everyone else that’s suffering. Through her #purpleproject care packages, caring tweets, and hilarious sense of humor, she’s always bringing a smile to someone’s face. I picked this post to share today to give a little insight as to what it’s like to have an autoimmune disease. “Remission is a sigh of relief, Remission is family, friends and never cancelling plans. Remission is Hope, a Future, Remission is smiles. Remission means normal.”
Kelly, thank you so much for all that you do and all that you fight for, and all the joy you bring to people who need it. I couldn’t be prouder to have you as part of my IBD family, and I know we’ll be in this fight together through Remission and beyond.
What is Remission to you?

#purpleproject

im not sure what Remission means. its not something im honestly all too familiar with. the last time i was in clinical Remission, was before i was diagnosed with crohns disease or ulcerative colitis. Image

i capitalize Remission for a number of reasons, but the main reason being i see it as a state, a royal majestic state. if you read much of my writing, im sure youre annoyed by my constant writing habit of writing in all under case, with very few exceptions.

as much as i hate to admit it, there is no way around “if”. “if i knew what being in Remission meant.. “if i had enough energy to finish my day as strong as i started it”.. i think every single day, i find myself finishing my “if” quandaries differently. “if” is one word i one delete from the language of chronic illness. its so limiting, so…

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Awareness Week-Why I’m Participating

December 1st begins the week of awareness for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Since these inflammatory bowel diseases are the reasons I started this blog in the first place, I thought I should take part in this awareness campaign and share some information this week about Inflammatory Bowel Disease, specifically Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

5 million people in the world are battling one of these diseases.

That’s equal to the number of people battling Alzheimer’s in the United States as well as the number of people who die from tobacco usage each year. When I googled 5 million, these are the statistics that came up. As well as that 1.5 million people in the United States are living with Lupus. These are all terrible and scary numbers, and horrible diseases for people to battle, but that’s not my point.When I did this google search, after going through 7 search pages there had still not been mention of Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. I stopped searching after that.

There is not enough awareness for this cause. Inflammatory Bowel Disease is an autoimmune disease that has no cure. No cure. That means 5 million people have been told that they will live the rest of their life fighting this disease and taking medication to try to ease the symptoms (we’ll discuss these in a later post). 5 million people are being told they don’t know what caused the disease to occur, and whether the treatment will work. This number is on the rise, and it’s time to take a stand so no one else has to hear those words.

Speaking with some other IBD Warriors, one of the most frustrating things to deal with is the fact that most people do not understand that inflammatory bowel disease does not have a cure. People are constantly asking when you will be normal again, when you will stop taking your medications or getting your infusions or watching your diet. When will you be able to go out and party again like the old times? People ask this because they care, and because they don’t know any better. They don’t mean to offend or frustrate you.

In my opinion, the only way to bring understanding is to continue to raise awareness and be open and share what inflammatory bowel disease is as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

I remember when I woke up from my colonoscopy, still spinning from the anesthesia and heard that I had ulcerative colitis. Oh. What’s that? I figured it was just something I could take some antibiotics for and it would go away, like bronchitis or something. Uh, not exactly. The doctor said we would meet next week and discuss my treatment plan. And there I was, in my hospital gown with my mom, sipping on my sprite and realizing that my life had just been flipped upside down.

Getting a diagnosis of “no cure”means a lot of emotional turmoil. You battle with “it could be worse” and “why is this happening to me?” It means I get to have good days that I won’t let slip through my fingers. It means I have days where I don’t leave the bed until late in the afternoon. It means I have to take pills every day for the rest of my life, and deal with the side effects. It means that I don’t know if my medications will continue working. I don’t know when my next flare up will be. I will most likely need to continue taking medications and receiving infusions for the rest of my life. I will consistently be watching what I eat, because I’ve found that some foods trigger flare ups for me.  It means that someday, like 50% of others fighting these diseases, I may face surgery in my future. This may be surgery to remove part of their intestine, or their whole colon. And this means someone you know may be suffering. There are treatments that can put some of the symptoms into remission. Often these treatments bring very scary side effects. But they do offer a chance at a normal life.

It means I am passionate about raising awareness for these diseases. Every time I see someone else receive this diagnosis. Every time I go to the infusion center. Every time I go to the doctor’s appointments. Every morning and night when I take my medications. Every time I scroll my twitter feed and see someone else suffering. Every time someone from my IBD family gets admitted to the hospital.

Do I wish that I had never received this diagnosis? Of course. But I wouldn’t give it to anyone else in a heartbeat. I’ve met some of the most incredible people through this diagnosis that I would never have connected with if I didn’t go through what they were going through, or vice versa. And if I wasn’t fighting for more awareness, for a cure, who would be in my place? It could be someone you know.

Join me this week as I focus on these two diseases and how we can find hope while fighting them, and while healing.

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#ShowMeTheMummy-Raise Awareness for IBD

One of my favorite IBD advocates and members of my support team, Colitis Ninja started this awareness campaign and I am so excited to participate in it. What you do, is wrap yourself (I would suggest having someone help) up with toilet paper and hold up a sign stating how IBD has affected you, good and bad. You can read more about the actual campaign on her blog www.colitisninja.blogspot.com

I chose to do my photo while getting my infusion. One of my soul sisters was there visiting with me and she helped wrap the toilet paper so my IV didn’t get in the way and took the photos.

#Showmethemummy

IBD took a lot from me. It’s taken a lot of money, from hospital bills to prescriptions to vitamins to infusions to special food. It took my ability to eat anything I wanted any time I wanted. It made me buy diaper cream and prep. H.  It took my 26th birthday and made me spend it hooked up to IVs waiting for the all clear to get remicade. It took so much blood I had to get blood transfusions. It took my reliability and made me person who sometimes has to cancel plans because they need to be home close to their bathroom, or they are too exhausted to even try to leave the house. IBD took my emotions and threw them into a blender. It took my muscles, it lowered my blood pressure, lowered my iron levels, and stole my energy. It stole my ability to live a carefree life.Thanks to the infusions I receive every 8 weeks, along with prayer, diet changes and daily yoga, I am as close to remission as I am going to get. And even though I no longer am losing blood (thank God),I still have an autoimmune disease that has no cure. I still fight every day to have as much of a “normal” life as possible. The infusions come with their own side effects, and I experience a lot of hair loss, joint inflammation, and am more susceptible to other diseases and virus because my immune system is lowered.

It’s hard to look at the positive of being diagnosed with IBD. But it has made me stronger than I ever have been before. That saying where you never know how much strength you have until being strong is your only choice? That fully applies here. I know that because I can battle this disease, I can battle anything that comes my way.

Having IBD has also made me re-evaluate relationships in my life, and I can say with a full heart that all of my friendships and relationships are high quality, strong and true. I have some of the greatest friends, am closer with my family, and have found a person who will be by my side while I battle this for the rest of my life. I have weeded out the flakes, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. I don’t have time or energy for someone who is only going to be around when they need me.

IBD has also given me a dedicated yoga practice. I have learned so much about the mind body connection, and I practice yoga every day to stay in tune with my body and to relieve stress. On days when I can’t seem to get anything right, and my balance is off I can come to my mat for practice and remember when I couldn’t stand up long enough to take a 5 minute shower, or wash my own hair. And I am so proud of myself for how far I’ve come.

This disease has also brought me closer to God. I had a relationship before, but I had never fully experienced the power of prayer. Now I can feel it, and I know, and I talk to God every day. It keeps me grounded and lets me know that there is a bigger plan than all of this. I know that I have a purpose, and that comforts me and guides me.

Another unexpected perk (?) of IBD is the amazing circle of friends on social media and support groups that I have found. I often refer to them as my imaginary friends. I’ve never met anyone in my #IBDfamily personally. But I don’t know how I would have gotten through this disease without their support or encouragement. I am so inspired an encouraged by them, and so grateful for having all of these kind souls as a part of my life. It gave me the idea to spark hope and start this blog. It’s lead me to connections with others that would have never been possible without this diagnosis.

And that brings me to the final thing that IBD has given me. A sense of gratitude. I make it a part of my life every day to note the things I am thankful for. It can be something as simple as a cup of coffee, or an email someone sent today, or a phone call with my dad. Or as big as an IBD sister in the hospital healing. I’m thankful every single day, good or bad. I’m appreciative of what I’ve been given, because I know first hand that it can be taken away at any moment.

IBD is not a joke. It’s not a poop disease. It’s not something to be taken lightly. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I do wish it was more well-known and understood. Do you have IBD, or are you a caregiver for someone fighting the disease? Please share your experience using #showmethemummy. Raise awareness with us.

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