Sparking Hope Again

I want to apologize to you all for not posting the past couple of weeks. I didn’t want to do a post because I wasn’t feeling true or all that hopeful, and I didn’t want to force it.
When it rains, it pours and usually for someone with an autoimmune disease,  it flares.
I had a family emergency during week 6, and week 7 started experiencing some nasty symptoms that hadn’t appeared since May. When I saw the blood, I immediately started sobbing. No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t happening again. I sat on the bathroom floor and cried while my dog licked the tears falling from my face. I was crying so hard my fiance thought I was laughing. I came out of the bathroom and he saw my face and jumped up. I couldn’t speak enough to tell him what was wrong between crying so hard,so he just held me for a while until I could get it out.
It’s back.
I wasn’t prepared for that type of reaction from myself. I can’t remember the last time I cried that hard. the memories of being in the hospital came flooding back.  All the pokes, the unanswered questions, the pain, the steroids, the side effects. I wasn’t ready to go through all that trial and error again. To miss out on the world again.

While I blabbered  on about everything going through my head my fiancé reminded me to stop and just take it one step at a time. My next infusion was in 5 days. Maybe it’s just triggered from the stress of the previous week and being so close to refill time. I wasn’t in a lot of pain. No urgency. Just blood. Terrifying, but just blood.

So, I’m taking it day by day. I’m praying. A lot. I got my remicade infusion on Friday, and the blood has diminished,  though not completely gone yet. But I’m good. I’m taking time away, and I’m taking care of myself. I’m getting my hope back. Spark by spark.
For the next two weeks I have nothing planned but sunshine and relaxation. No work. No negativitiy. No anxious thoughts are allowed. Only love, and gratitude, and laughter are welcome here.
I’m going to be writing down three grateful moments everyday, to keep myself accountable. I’ll post them for you on Sunday. I need to hit the refresh button over here so I can keep bringing the hope to all of you. I’ll be checking in on twitter and instagram,if you need anything at all. Thanks for your support. You all mean the world to me.

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Hope Warrior-Colitis Ninja

I found Colitis Ninja on Twitter when I was looking for support/trying to find anyone to relate to what I was going through when I was in and out of the hospital in May. Her mission is incredible, the sole purpose is to support people suffering from IBD, and not just the patients but also the caregivers (so important!!). Her honesty on her blog is so refreshing and she’s just a great friend to have and an important part of the IBD community.  Plus she’s quick to respond to any question and checks in to see how you are doing! It’s continues to impress me the love and support I get from strangers and other people I have never met before.

I’m so thankful for what Colitis Ninja has created, and for the hope that she brings for anyone suffering with a disease. The disease sucks. It’s not just a poop disease. It’s real, it hurts, and it’s scary. When you can find strangers to support you in your fight for a cure, or for remission, or for recovery from surgery, or just to make it through the day, it brings a light into your life that might have been dimmed out a little bit.It’s encouraging, it’s empowering, and it helps me continue to kick this disease in the tushe (yea, tushe). So thanks for sharing that light, Colitis Ninja. You are so appreciated.

 

If you are suffering from IBD, or know someone that is, or just want to learn more about the disease, Colitis Ninja is an incredible resource and so, so supportive. Give her a shout on Twitter, or watch some of her YouTube videos and reach out on FaceBook. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog. I was lucky enough to get her to answer some questions for me about her experience with IBD. Look into participating in her #showmethemummy awareness campaign (Look for my post soon!)

TWITTER: @ColitisNinja
ShowMe1
What is the number one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?

This is a hard one. I have learned that I am stubborn (in both good and bad ways). I am also very prideful, and I’ve learned that sometimes I just need to let things go. 

When were you diagnosed?
Valentine’s Day 2011. I was blessed to get a quick diagnosis. I had only been suffering for a month and a half.

What are your current medications/what lifestyle changes have you made to treat your IBD?
I now have a j-pouch. I had the ileal pouch anal anastomosis surgery… in short, I had my colon removed. Right now, thankfully, I am not on any medications.
I tried multiple medications/diet changes and in the end, I had to have surgery.

How do you keep your mental health intact while dealing with the symptoms/changes of the disease?
For me, prayer–and lots of it!!! But not just that, being able to talk with others about it has been very helpful. Knowing I’m not alone in my suffering. Support is SOOO much more important that most people realize. A lot of people suffer unnecessarily alone and in silence. 

What do you struggle with most? What are you doing to overcome it?
I guess the thing that has hurt me the most (aside from the physical pain) is that I feel as though I was “robbed” of my black belt. Some people may think that is silly, but I fell in love with karate long before I started practicing it. I was 6 months away from my black belt when UC hit. I couldn’t go to my classes because I was glued to the toilet and anemic. Then there’s the whole Prednisone issue. It made my joints stiff and very achy. Not good when you’re in difficult stances. I have taken a step back and realized that just because UC came at the wrong time, it doesn’t mean I’ll never reach my goal. I am feeling much better since my surgery and I’m hoping that I can get back into it around the beginning of the year. Maybe even compete. The only thing is, I’ve moved 3 hours away from my dojo and finding a new (and suitable) one has proven to be another obstacle.

Any advice for newly diagnosed? 
My first thought when I was diagnosed was, “Good! All I have to do is take my meds every day and I’ll be alright!!!” Then it became the biggest and most frustrating battle of my life. I would tell someone in the same situation that this battle is neither fun nor easy. I would tell them don’t let it get you down! Find support. Don’t be afraid to try different treatments or diets! There are many people out there who claim to have been successful on alternative remedies. Never lose your passions. Never let this disease knock you down. You will have downs, but you will also have ups. You are stronger than you think you are.

Rules to live by?
Never lose sight of who you are and what you want to accomplish in life. 

Quote you turn to when you need to be uplifted:
“Now this is what the LORD says–the One who created you, O Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel–‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. (…) Because you are precious in My sight, and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life. Do not fear, for I am with you…”
–Isaiah 43:1-2 & 4-5a

Music/Song: 
So many. First, anything by Owl City. I dare anyone to listen to his songs and contain themselves. Such upbeat and encouraging stuff. My favorites include (but are not limited to) “When Can I See You Again?,” “Galaxies,” and “Dreams and Disasters.” Also, I adore Jon McLaughlin. That man has talent!!!

Go to Snack when flaring
Chocolate. Potatoes. Macaroni.

Activity that lifts your spirits:
Karate. Drawing. Blogging.

Your philosophy/mantra that you’d like others to know about you. 
I am a Christian. I am far from perfect. Without Christ, I would have given up on life a long time ago. I’ve had many battles (a lot of them UC related, but not all), and without the strength and grace He has given me I would be a wreck right now. I’ve had many nights and angry words with Him, but He always has my best interests at heart and He has NEVER given up on me even though I’ve given Him several reasons to.

What would you do with a million dollars?
Firstly, I’ll be honest, I would pay off the student loan debt I’ve acquired. I would invest some of it in Colitis Ninja to raise awareness and probably donate some to some of my friends who cannot pay their medical bills because of IBD. 

Who do you admire?
My husband, Dave, for his wisdom. Don Byington, my karate instructor. Multiple IBD fighters (too many to name!!!).

What is your mission?
I am VERY passionate about raising awareness and helping other people through their suffering. I want others to know that they are not alone. I want others to see that although these times are hard, there is also a beauty in the suffering. That’s been my experience anyway. I want to make others laugh. We do enough crying and mourning over our diseases, sometimes we just need some joy in our lives.

 

The Paleo Partridge- Hope Warrior

Thanks for tuning in this Wednesday folks!

Have you met the Paleo Partridge? AKA Martine? She is an amazing lady who creates some delicious AIP recipes to help ease her IBD, and makes many other tastebuds happy as well! Martine battles Crohn’s Disease, another inflammatory bowel disease that can cause some nasty pain and symptoms. But she’s a warrior and fights it with a positive attitude and is super relatable in her posts. She’s also been very encouraging to me personally as I battled my last flare, and her support was/is so appreciated still.  Check out her website www.thepaleopartidge.com . You can also find her on instagram posting mouth watering dishes and gorgeous shots of her travels @the_paleo_partridge. Get to know the Paleo Partridge below! Thanks for answering some questions for me, Martine. You’re the best!

martine

What is the number one thing you’ve learned about since your diagnosis?

I’m stubborn, doggedly so. This can be a weakness as much as it can be a strength, and I realize that while being obstinate about certain things-like your health-can bring great outcomes, it can also become a negative force. So it’s very much a process. (haha! Just ask my near and dear). I will say, though, I’m so proud of the determination I’ve exercised when it comes to my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing-I’ve made leaps and bounds progress and feel healthier than I ever have since my diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease.

When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 15. Goodness! It’s hard to believe it’s been a couple decades since that diagnosis.

What are you current medications/what lifestyle changes have you made to treat your IBD?

I currently take Humira 40 mg every two weeks as well as on-and-off Cipro and Cortifoam (a rectal steroid) for stubborn perianal Crohn’s. I started following a paleo lifestyle about eight months ago and implemented the autoimmune paleo (AIP) protocol four months ago with some unsuccessful attempts at reintroductions of eggs and nuts. So now I follow AIP for the long haul, and that is A-OK by me because I’m feeling fantastic.

For some people, medication is enough, but I’m not one of those people. On conventional treatments but without paleo and AIP, I struggle with abdominal pain and cramping, painful abscesses that drain causing fistulas, chronic anemia, zero energy, joint pain and horribly high inflammatory markers.

I’m so grateful to have found out about AIP because it eliminates all of those horrible symptoms. I don’t experience the constant problems with abscesses, and my blookwork has improved so much. I’m especially excited about consistently keeping my C-Reactie Protein (a sensitive inflammatory marker) in the normal range. I’m also ecstatic that my iron levels recently came back up on their own without the need of an infusion.

(THIS IS SO AWESOME TO HEAR!!)

How do you keep your mental health intact while dealing with the symptoms/changes of the disease?

Looking after my emotional and mental wellbeing has been the most challenging aspect of having a chronic illness. And even though I’ve been battling autoimmunity for so long I’ve only recently made progress in maturing my heart and mind.

About a year ago I found a Certified Hakomi Therapist (CHT) and worked very hard with her for several months in order to learn to love all of me, cranky colon included! I spent years loathing the part of my body affected by Crohn’s which means I spent those years actually hating a good part of me because I viewed the diseased part of my body as an invader, a betrayer and a monster. My therapist helped me learn to nurture and love my large intestine, which led to an incredible inner peace and calm as well as a feeling of wholeness, which had been missing since my diagnosis as a teenager.

What do you struggle with most? What are you doing to overcome it?

I still struggle with keeping my emotions in check, specifically I fight against negative thought patterns and anxiety related to the daunting permanency of an autoimmune diagnosis and the trauma of bad (and sad) memories related to suffering with this disease.

In order to keep all of that in check and not slip back into my old habits of self-loathing, I maintain a regular practice of yoga and meditation. The movement of body and mind augmented by breath is tremendously therapeutic and calming; it helps me regain focus and not allow that antagonism between body and mind emerge again. I’m so grateful for my practice of yoga and meditation; the practice has changed my life and I don’t know where I’d be without it.

Any advice for the newly diagnosed?

Hold your head up high. Don’t let IBD or any disease rob you of your self-worth. You are an amazing human being! Be proactive. Educate yourself. Work with the medical professionals to find a treatment-conventional, alternative, or both- that works best for you.

Rules to live by?

Never let the disease define you, you are so much more than the diagnosis. Oh, and prioritize sleep-get your eight hours, kids! 🙂

Quote you turn to when you need to be uplifted:

Hmmmm….this often changes, but I usually write down an affirmation for the month on a sticky note and put it on my computer. This month’s affirmation: “Your dream doesn’t have an expiration date. Take a deep breath and try again.” I love that! It keeps me focused and hopeful.

Music/Song:

Anything by Vampire Weekend- I totally dig every single track on every one of their albums (yep, I’m a fan-girl). Also, can I just say Stephen Paige (formerly of Barenaked Ladies) has the most awesome voice ever, and I crush on him regularly.

Go to Snack when flaring:

Roasted chicken and well-cooked mashed carrots with a big dollop of coconut oil, yummy cozy, soothing, low-residue comfort food.

Activity that lifts your spirits:

Yoga, yoga, and yoga. Meditation. Also dancing to a good beat! 🙂

Your philosophy/mantra that you’d like others to know about you:

I like to remain curious and thoughtful about the world because if you’re bored, you’re boring. And that’s just not cool.

WORLD IBD DAY- Hope in the Beatles

In honor of world IBD day and in honor of my 28th trip around the sun today, I’m reposting one of my favorite posts about my IBD story. I will never forget how this disease makes me feel. I will never stop being grateful, and letting others know they aren’t alone.

Been doing a lot of listening to the Beatles and anything on the Beatles Pandora station lately.

Here Comes the Sun always brings me to tears. Good tears. Something about the smiles returning to the faces, it seems like years since they’ve been here. I can feel that. And it’s such a good feeling.

Man, this last month has been…not describable in one word. Not really describable in one post either, which is why I haven’t been sitting and writing lately. Shame, shame, for I really wish I would have documented more. But I remember. I remember sleeping, or trying to sleep sitting propped up on my mom’s couch with a million blankets, only to throw them all off of me to sprint to the bathroom 6-7 times a night. Laying there with my hands hovering over my stomach, praying and pleading with God to make the cramping pain just stop so I could sleep. I remember feeling such loss and loneliness every time my boyfriend would go home after coming to visit me, just wanting so badly to feel better and be there with him, helping him with the purchase of our new home and packing and moving and just wanting my life back.

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

I remember the look of exasperation on my mom’s face when I wasn’t getting better, and the look of love as she made all of my meals to try and get some nutrition in me, and her talking to me about how important it is to have faith, and God would get me through this, He would answer our prayers. I remember her sitting in the car and praying with me for good news before we went in to my colonoscopy. Praying for answers, for results, for improvements. I remember her telling me that I will get better. That I’m an overcomer. And telling me it’s okay to cry. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. I remember her packing my hospital bag, buying random items from the gift shop to make me smile, taking care of my dog and bringing me water or pedialyte or blankets whenever I needed it.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

I remember my dad sitting by my bedside in the atrociously uncomfortable hospital chairs. All day. Every day I was at the hospital that he could be there. Even when I was just sleeping. I remember how tired he looked. How he drove around aimlessly and prayed for answers, and pondered unanswerable questions with me. What causes this disease? Why do I have it? What are we going to do about it? When am I going to be better? How can we get other people to understand this? What’s the bigger meaning beyond this? I remember him going for walks with me down the hall, and joking with the nurses.

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

I remember the nurses. The good ones mostly. But I also remember the one that blew up my vein when giving me a steroid infusion. And the one that said I was admitted for IBS. (IBS and IBD are two different ailments, one is a syndrome and one is a disease with no cure). I remember Jim, my favorite night nurse from  my first hospital stay at the beginning of the month, making jokes and giving advice on how to talk to the doctors to make sure I was heard. I remember on my second hospital stay, him coming to tell me hospital ghost stories and making jokes while I was getting emotional from the steroids and just not having any answers or improvement. I remember my favorite day nurse Jannell with her poufy hair and outspoken voice, telling me that I was one of the sickest patients she’s ever had, calling me Jack and telling me stories. I remember waking up to her Sunday morning telling me I needed blood asap and we were going to be doing a blood transfusion today. I remember being scared and sad and she told me everything was going to be okay, that she would be here the whole time and that I had choices. That it was going to be a good thing and she would be there the whole time.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

I remember the changes in the medications. The discharges. The parasite. The antibiotics. The stomach acid burning. The we’re going to do remicade. The no we can’t do remicade until you’re stable. The phone calls from my doctors cell phone that I needed to make myself available to be admitted to the hospital. The colonoscopy that was useless because I was too inflamed. The TB test that was incomplete because I didn’t have a baseline to compare it to my immune system was so shot. The chest x ray. The blood draws. The IV team being called because I have terrible veins. Baby needles. Poke after poke after poke after poke. The waking up to check vitals. Low blood pressure, high heart rate, danger of organ failure. Blood loss. Cramping. Tears. Weight loss. Worry. Treatment plan change. New doctor. Infectious disease specialist. Lifelong medications. Steroid infusions. Steroid pills. Night sweats. Sharing a bathroom with other patients. Not making it to the bathroom on time. IV poles. Unable to stand in the shower on my own. Passing out while buying dog food. Collapsing on the stairs into the house when my legs gave out from under me. Shaking. Scared.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

I remember the night my boyfriend came to visit me at my mom’s house in the evening. I remember when he looked me in the eye and told me “I need you to get better. Now. I miss you.” I remember his text messages telling me that he was always going to be here, that even though I am sick now, and not to undermine my illness, but this is part of life and we will get through it together. That he’s going to be there for me in the good times and the bad. That we’re a good team and when one of us needs the other one to be strong we balance each other out. I remember getting strength just from holding his hand. I remember just being held in his arms when I was able to move into our new home. Just being so grateful to have time together, to be able to have our new home, to relax and to heal and to make memories and be together. I remember sitting outside and crying just tears of joy at how lucky and blessed I am to be here and able to experience these moments of love and to just feel happiness.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

I remember the prayers. I remember my grandma coming to visit me at my mom’s house and crying on the couch with me. I remember her telling me that she does her walks in the basement and says her prayers. That she won’t stop, ever. I remember my aunts sending prayers and prayer chains and being on church lists. My grandma’s brother even did a whole sermon on me. I remember the novelas, my grandma praying every hour on the hour for my healing. Saying she won’t give up. I remember the prayers and visits and emails and texts from wonderful friends that I now consider family, bringing laughter and cheer and Golden Girls cards and books and magazines, and just checking in daily to see how I’m doing, sending pictures and memories past to bring smiles. I remember the encouragement from social networks, people I have never met before praying and sending kind thoughts and positive vibes. The power of prayers. And they were answered.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It’s all right, it’s all right

I remember getting discharged and my mom wheeling me out to the car to my waiting dog, and how he put his head right on my shoulder and just hugged me. I remember being weak and unable to walk through the grocery store, riding an amigo to get food. I remember sleeping and sleeping. I remember the first infusion. And the naps afterwards. And the feeling better the next day. Feeling stronger every single day. Doing a little more each day. I don’t want to forget it. I don’t want to lose sight of the beauty of this life. Because it is so beautiful. There is so much to be thankful for. I know that sick days can come again. I don’t have control over when this can happen. It’s not my plan, it’s His. But I do know that what I can do right now, is shine like the sun. And share love. And light. and hope with the rest of the world. Because it’s there. You just have to believe it.

Here comes the sun. It’s all right. 20140531_210240

 

Hope in My Body

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For the May Cause Miracles that I am reading, day 18’s affirmation is I am thankful for my body. This was a challenge for me today.

Today marks one year since I have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. April 17th, 2013. And I’m worse than I have ever been. I’ve lost 7 pounds in the past few days. The pain is incredible. Eating is ridiculous. The steroid enemas are not working. I’m going to the bathroom 10-20 times a day. I had to leave work today after almost having an accident.

I spoke with my gastro doctor this morning. She said it’s time. We’ve tried everything to avoid the oral steroids. We tried the lialda, the canasa, the uceris, the steroid enemas and we tried it all again. I went gluten free, soy free, and tried to stay as stress free as possible. But is it hasn’t been enough. Something inside my body just isn’t connecting with the healthy me I want to be. So today, I started Prednisone. And I’m hoping that it works. This was not an easy decision. When I got the phone call this morning that the prescription was being filled, this needs to get under control and this is the next step, I was very upset. I immediately started crying, outside in the driveway while letting my dog out. I felt so defeated. And scared. I’ve worked so hard to get my hormones under control, and I’m in a good spot emotionally, and this could totally screw it up. I tried so hard to see some light, and I just couldn’t.

So I called my dad. I tried to keep it together but as soon as I told him I needed a pep talk I just started crying again. And we talked for a while. I calmed down, and he reminded me how strong I am and how I’ll be able to get through it. I’ve tried everything. And yet I’m still determined. Maybe I won’t get the side effects. If I do, I’ll be aware of it. I’ll know that I’m being crazy because the drugs are making me that way. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. I really don’t care about the moonface or the weight gain or any of the temporary stuff. It’s the emotional theatrics that I’m scared of. So after I left work, I went and picked up the prescription. I cried again. All the way home. And then I got home and went to the bathroom and keeled over in pain. And the decision was made.

This is supposed to be such a happy time. My boyfriend and I are buying a house. I’m doing really well at my job. I have a great life. Except for this damn disease. And I’m not going to have that be a reason not to keep enjoying my life. I want to be out there.

And that’s the problem. I haven’t been able to enjoy myself the last few weeks. And I told myself that once the disease starts controlling my life and I can’t control it, I’ll go to the oral steroids. It’s time. I want to be able to hang out with my friends, happily. To go on road trips. To enjoy my summer. To work on our new house. To take my dog for walks. To do yoga. To be a good girlfriend, daughter, friend, person to myself. And I can’t do this when I’m stuck in the bathroom. Or laying on the couch. Or sleeping. I need to heal. And if this is what I have to do to get there, then I’m going to do it.

So, today I am thankful for my body. My body is a monster But it’s not an evil monster. It’s so strong, it kicks it’s own ass. It’s a ball of light that is meant to be shared with the world. It’s a vessel for healing, for sharing hope. For inspiring others. For living and loving and laughing and feeling the joys of life from the tips of my toes to the roots of my ever changing hair. It’s not for hiding away inside. It’s not for dwelling in pain. It’s not made to feel sorry for, not to deprive of joy. It’s made to nourish. To provide. To excel.  My body provides a haven for my soul. It allows me to love, to feel, to cherish. It gives me opportunities for change. It challenges me. It is beautiful. And it deserves to be loved.

And love is what it’s going to get. So, today, one year after diagnosis. I begin the drug that I tried for the entire year to avoid. I talked to my boyfriend about it when he came home. I get concerned some days that maybe this is too much for him. That maybe this is going to be the straw that breaks the camels back. And then he says “Anytime I start to get bothered by it, I think about how its 100,000 times worse for you, and that’s enough for me to deal with it. You’re so strong. You need to take care of you. Don’t worry about anything else.”

And then I realize that these are the thoughts of my ego. It tries to convince me that I’m not worthy of love, that I’m too sick, too many problems, to much to handle. That I’m a hot mess. Well, ego. I’ve got news for you. Your time for making me feel unworthy and sick is over. This year, this year I’m going into remission. The steroids are going to work. And the Paleo diet is going to keep me there (I’ll touch on this later). I have the ability to heal. This isn’t saying it’s going to be easy. It might not be. But it’s time

I’m not going to stop fighting for my health and happiness. I have hope in my body and my ability to heal.