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 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 my MRI scan

* warning* this is a long post
If you are looking for my tips on how to prepare for an MRI and don’t care about my experience scroll to the bottom. Thanks for reading!

I wanted to share my MRI experience last night in hopes to prevent others from going through what I went through. I was told that this would be a 30 to 45 minute scan, with no contrast but lots of breathing and holding my breath.

First off, let me say that I went into this with complete confidence. I’ve had an MRI on my back years ago and knew what it was like and was prepared for it. However, this turned out to be an entirely different experience.
I arrived at the hospital at 645 for my appointment at 7pm. I checked in, completed a form and sat down in the waiting room.
At 730 a tech came to get me and escorted me to a locker room. They were out of scrubs so she had me wait while she went to get some for me to change into. When she came back she showed me where to change and lock up my personal belongings and said she would be right back to escort me to the MRI.
Scrubs are so warm and cozy. Not. I was freezing.
Here I am modeling my new outfit.

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I paced the locker room that i had been left alone in while waiting, trying to stay calm and ease my anxiety. 30 minutes later another nurse came in to get me, not the original person. She acted surprised that I was still in there and asked if J* had been in there yet. She said she didn’t know where the original person was but that she would take me back even though I wasn’t her patient. This person (we shall call her S*) ended up being my angel that night, but at the time I was a bit frustrated for being forgotten about i had been at the hospital for over an hour at this point.  When we arrived back at the machine she asked me if I had been told how this would go. I said no, I had only been escorted to the locker room and told to wait there.
She had me sit on the bed that goes into the machine and handed me some earplugs. She got me a warm blanket and then the other nurse (j*) showed up and tosses a bag of fluids and contrast in my lap.
“Okay! Ready for your IV!?”
uh. What?
No one said anything about an IV.  The phone call prior to coming on to the MRI said I wasn’t having any contrast. I had no prior knowledge of this.
I felt my heart racing as I stared at the huge needle that had been dropped in my lap. My veins are poor and I had to stop drinking water at 2pm that day per the phone call for my scan. I knew I was dehydrated and would be a hard poke, and hadn’t prepared for it. You just don’t drop an IV bag and needle in a person’s lap without a warning. Especially me. Don’t do that to me with needles. I work hard to decrease my anxiety and it takes a lot of preparation, dropping a needle in my lap doesn’t help anything, especially right before I’m about to be stuffed in a small machine.

“Are you sure you have the right patient?” I asked. “I was told this would be a no contrast MRI,  just lots of breathing.”
“Nope,” she said without even checking. “Your orders changed and you’re essentially getting two MRI’s today.”
S* saw the sheer panic in my eyes and asked if I was okay. I stated that I’ve had some really terrible experiences with getting IVs before when I’m not prepared or hydrated enough and that this was a shock for me. I then went on to say I needed to be heat packed and needed a baby needle and they may need to contact the IV
J* interrupted and said she wished I would have told her this earlier so they could have worked on it already. (When would i have done this? When you forgot about me in the locker room?) She then said she would try a couple times and we would call the iv team if necessary.

Thank God S* took over and said she used to be an outpatient surgical tech and felt confident that she could get it on the first try. She asked J* to get a smaller needle, told me to lay down and breathe and try to relax.
She got it on first poke.
J* asked me why I was there, I explained that I have ulcerative colitis and the MRI is to check for bile duct cancer.
She asked when I went to the lab to treat my “colitis” and I replied it’s ulcerative colitis, not simply colitis, and I don’t go to the lab, I go to the infusion center and it takes a few hours for my medication.
She then shrugged, gave me ear plugs and had me lay down, strapped me to the table and put a brace like thing over my stomach. She said to stay as still as possible and said to listen to the prompts from the machine and that she would guide me through the whole time.
She left the room, and S gave me the panic button to push in case I had any problems. She put my arms above my head and a bolster under my legs and heard her leave the room as I  breathed deep and waited.  And waited. And waited.

And finally J came on the overhead and said the table is going to move, and in I went. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths.
The machine came on and told me to take a deep breath, let it out, take another deep breath and hold it. I held my breath while I counted, sometimes to 5, sometimes to thirty five until it told me to exhale. And it would make the sounds like the alarm and shake and beep. And I breathed. And this went on for what seemed like forever. My hands and toes were tingling and numb from being so cold, and I was started to get anxiety because I knew I had been in there a long time but had no concept of how much longer it would be.
J* came on the speaker and said I was doing great and they were going to start the contrast now, not much longer. I thought the contrast had already been in me. This must have been about an hour after we started. The contrast stung a bit as I felt it travel up and back down my arm again. I breathed, and tried really hard not to cry as I wondered why I had to go through this. I just kept thinking of my fiancé and going to California on our honeymoon and being somewhere warm and my family.
The machine had me hold my breath and breathe, hold my breath and breath for maybe 5-10 scans and then one scan lasted for maybe 10 minutes, no status update from the S* or anything. Finally it went silent. I lay there and counted to 100. Nothing happened. I said “hello? Can anyone hear me?” Nothing. Silence. My shoulders were aching, my feet were numb and my hands were tingling and I was starting to think they forgot me. My heart sped up and I tried to focus on remembering breathe. Finally she came on the machine and said one, maybe two more scans and we were done. Okay. I thought. Can’t be more than 5 minutes. I can do this. And closed my eyes again and breathed.

I heard the door open. I’m done!  I thought. I made it! And I looked up and backwards a to see S’s face. She said they entered the numbers in wrong and needed to redo the last 4 scans. (Wtf?!) She asked if I was okay and I said not really. I’m freezing and really uncomfortable and ready to get out. She felt my hands and said they were ice cold and got me a warm blanket to go over them and around my head. I asked her how much longer and she said about 15 more minutes. I breathed feeling the tears form and said okay.
I made it through the next 15 minutes dreaming of vacation and going through everything I am thankful for. And crying.
Next,  it was silent again for a few minutes I stretched, and waited thinking finally (again) it was over.
Then J* came in and said okay hun we have a few more to do, we can’t seem to get the machine right but you are doing just fine keep staying still, ok?
I was done. I had been in there for who knows how long at that point and this was the third time she said it would be one more time. I said nope. I’m done. They can use what they have at this point. 
So she left the room and talked to whoever and then the machine scooted me out and said she said well I guess it will be good enough. I was shaking through my whole body. S* came in with a blanket and wrapped me up. She then took out my IV and realized J* had taken away the cotton balls so there was blood dripping down my arm. S* explained to me what had happened during the scan and that I had been in there for almost 2 hours and was very strong. She said it was a very hard test, essentially two tests and I did great at staying still. She apologized for how long it took and that I wasn’t prepared for it and walked me to the locker room. It was 10 pm by the time I got to the locker to change my clothes and then had to wait another 20 minutes for the cd to be printed. I called my fiancé in tears, and drove home on the snowstorm.

If you read this whole thing, thank you. I wrote this in hopes that someone else preparing for an abdomen/bile duct MRI will know what they’re in for. So they will know it’s not a 45 minute scan, it’s about 2 hours. You will have an IV, you will have to hold your breath a lot and you should wear really warm fuzzy socks. Ask for extra blankets. You might not think you’ll need them when you get in there, but it only gets colder.  Don’t be afraid to hit the panic button if you need a break. Have someone there to take you home because even if you think it’s no big deal, the reality of it is you could benefit from the support.
And wake up in the morning feeling thankful. I woke up today thankful for my supportive,  loving fiancé who made me tacos and paleo tortillas and kept the warm and waiting for me to get home. I’m thankful for my health insurance that allows this test to happen. For my family. For the sun being out today. Let the experience remind you of what you have and what you are capable of. Don’t let how someone else treats you rob you of joy. You are more than a patient in a machine. You are a person,  and I bet you’re an amazing person. Remember that.

Hope in the mental and physical

I had an appointment with my PCP last week. I’m blessed enough to have a doctor that has IBD and can relate to exactly what I’m going through. Not only does she run every test possible and tell me about all the most recent research, she knows that IBD is more than just the physical symptoms.
We talked A LOT friday about my labs (which were beautiful btw) and the mental aspects of this disease.
The thing about most autoimmune disease is that is so hard for a lot of people to completely understand is that there isn’t a cure. Even if we did find a cure for IBD, there’s other existential organs that may surface with problems, she told me. I’m not ever really going to really be out of the woods. But I’m in a pretty good spot. The view is just fine, the trees are beautiful. Remicade is working, and physically were in pretty good shape and just have to keep ahead of it and keep my care managed. I’m getting an MRI to check for bile duct cancer, just to make sure we’re in the clear.
Mentally though, our conversation went something like this:
You wake up everyday and you have a disease. Some days you feel great. Some days there’s this looming possibility that you are going to flare. And some days you are flaring. You just don’t know. There’s a weight on your shoulders as you follow all the rules to take care of yourself and find what keeps you feeling your best, and sometimes that weight is SO HEAVY you just want to put it down and let loose and relax and laugh but you’re scared of what could happen.
I did a quick twitter survey a few weeks ago to see how many doctors talk about the mental aspects of having an autoimmune disease. The results were slim to none. I told my doctor about this and she wasn’t surprised.  Most GI docs are going to focus and getting your physical symptoms managed. And that’s ok. It’s important. But you have to manage the other parts as well. So, how?
You have to figure out how you’re going to face this disease. Every single day. Its not leaving. I’ve seen so much depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, eating disorders, emotional breakdowns and much more out here and on social media resulting from this disease. If you’re one of those people, please know you aren’t alone. I’ve been there. I might even be going through that right now too. It’s a cycle.

All of this being said, my blog is going to turn more it’s focus more i
to sharing how I’m dealing with this in the mental health aspect of autoimmune disease.  Now, disclaimer,  I’m not a doctor. Please don’t take this as advice. But I am a patient.  And I do have ulcerative colitis. And I’m going to share my experience here.
Stay tuned for more to come!

Sparks of Hope

It’s been 52 weeks since my first remicade infusion. I’m rarely rush to the bathroom anymore. The blood that used to show up every time I went has taken a hike. Bloating and gurgling still occur, but rarely. Mostly, and I feel like I should knock on wood and jump into my bed and hide under the covers as I say this, mostly I feel good.
I’m not cured. My life is no where near where it was before. My diet is very restricted. I don’t drink. I carry sanitizer everywhere and avoid sick people because my immune system is suppressed. Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.The remicade could decide to stop working at any time. I don’t know what will come next.
I’m tired a lot. I tire easily, especially at large social gatherings. It can take me days to recover from long weekends like this.  But the important thing is, I’m able to attend those gatherings. The important thing is, I may not have my life back in the way that it was before, but I have a life again.
This brings me to the reason for this blog post. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to move forward with this blog. I’ve met some incredible individuals that I want to keep supporting. I want to keep a part of this community of fighters. I’m not, however, an IBD advocate. That role is currently filled by some superhero and ninjas and doctors and your every day patients and they are ROCKING it. I will happily retweet and comment and like their articles and will continue to refer people to their websites, but I’m not one of them. I don’t have the knowledge or time to research for accuracy. (I’m not sure these people have the time either but they somehow continue to find a way,  thank them for that!).  I don’t have the answers, but I will gladly point someone in the direction of someone who does, and cheer them on along the way.
What I am is learning to live with my disease. And I am so full of thankfulness and gratitude for this second chance at life. At my last meeting with my general practitioner, after looking at my labs from a year ago, I was told that I should have been dead. I. Should. Have. Been. Dead.
I’m not dead, clearly. I’m alive and fairly well and given a chance to really truly enjoy my life. I just turned 27. I’m learning to do a handstand away from a wall. I go for long walks. I read books. I watch sunrises and sunsets. I go to garage sales  with friends and host cookouts and am getting ready to be married in a year. I hold babies and laugh and cry tears of joy because I can.
And I want to spend this 27th year of life paying it forward. I’m so blessed and so grateful for this life and I want to bring this sense of joy to everyone I can. I know that I alone can’t cure IBD or any autoimmune disease. But if I can make someone else smile, and maybe they feel the need to pass it on, then I can do something. I can do something. Doing something keeps me hopeful that it will lead to something greater.
So, the next year I will be focusing on a specific “hopespark” or random act of kindness each week for the next year. Follow on Instagram and twitter #52weeksofsparkinghope  and I’ll be documenting it here weekly. Stay tuned for next week and see what I’ve been up to!

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.

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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#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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