Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Could Have Been Me

This morning, I was about to pull into a parking spot, and I saw a yellow diamond shaped banner on a car an SUV away from the spot I had my eye on.

I forgot to breathe for a second. It really was not what the sign said that got to me. I have a few friends who are pregnant right now and even more that have babies. I'm used to managing my feelings about my loss of baby. But this  "BABY ON BOARD" yellow caution sign was on a car exactly like mine. Exact make. Exact model. Exact color.

Before I had a chance to wrangle the thought, it flew out of my head: "That could have been me." *sigh*  I pulled into my spot and glanced to see if the car was really real. Yep. Still there.

I drew in a big breath. No, it was not me. The sadness left as quickly as it came. I opened the car door, reached in and grabbed my camera gear. I was a woman on a mission. I have been working on a shot for a chronic pain photo contest for weeks and today was the day I needed to get the shot. The thought of the car faded into the background.

After my hour and a half long photo shoot, I was back in the parking lot opening the door of my rather dirty blue Saturn coupe.  I looked up when I saw a young woman about my age and smartly dressed walking toward me. She had said, "Hey!" I saw a Bluetooth in her ear and assumed she was not talking to me, so I simply smiled and got in my car.

As I was reaching to pull my door closed, I looked to my left and saw that the young woman was the owner of the identical Saturn on the other side of the SUV between us. She had probably thought I was getting in her car.

Her car. Her life.

It could have been me.

But instead, I chose my own.

 Mine is dirty and probably not what you'd chose if you were looking at it from a far.

But, I chose it. I am thankful for it. And the more I am thankful for it, the more happiness I find.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stimulation Stamina

My husband, George, and I went to two grocery stores this weekend. It was the first time I have been to one since the end of 2010. We walked through the automatic doors at Jewel, a local supermarket, and looking to my left I froze and gasped, "Look at all that produce." It was almost as though I had never seen a grocery store before that moment. I truly had forgotten how much food exists in a grocery store and what it is like to experience that.

Sound silly? My world has been the rooms of my house, my back yard, my neighborhood, and the inside of George's car on familiar paths to specific doctors. I have had occasional outings to a friend's wedding, a couple trips to the Botanic Gardens and a trip to North Carolina and Iowa earlier this year. But, my daily life is the definition of a sheltered, home-bound life. I don't run errands and until recently I barely did chores.

The next day, we trekked to Whole Foods; Sunday at noon was a very crowded time to go, but it was when it worked for us. At one point, I was so overstimulated that I could not figure out what to do next and simply stared at my list re-reading the word "yogurt". "y-o-g-u-r-t" was a safe place from all the assaultive sounds, intrusive visual objects and bustling people.  So George pushed the cart with one hand and held mine with another and led me around the store. Have you every looked at how many spices are available at your local market? That aisle alone freaked me out. I wanted to stare at each one and take each one in. Why? I don't know. My brain just needed to for some reason.  George and I are going on vacation soon and we both know that I need to be exposed to more stimulation so that I can handle the vacation which is why we went to these stores together, but I did not expect to be so overwhelmed.

Fortunately, my chronic illnesses have all improved somewhat making it so that we think our vacation is a possibility. I have been working hard to increase my physical stamina. Three weeks ago I started walking on the treadmill five minutes a day .5mph (the slowest it will go) and worked up to twenty minutes and 2.2mph! I am more active around the house and these things will help me to tolerate the vacation better. But, my experiences this weekend made me realize that it is not just my body's physical stamina that needs to be increased. It is my tolerance of stimulation that needs to be increased.

Isn't life with chronic illness interesting?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taking Control of my Out-Of-Control IBS

My Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) has been flaring for about a month now. It is not pretty. I am used to chronic constipation, but I am currently on a see-saw of extreme constipation then extreme diarrhea. There is no in-between. And along with that is daily, almost hourly severe abdominal cramping and nausea.

In the last week, I have had so much diarrhea that my body has become moderately dehydrated a few different times. I'm still recovering from one right now.  We thought it was only dehydration, but since I push enough water to make my pee run clear, according to every hydration resource I can find, this is supposed to mean I am hydrated.

Yes, I know we're getting into the Too Much Information category here, but you're still reading. So...

I picked up my book, IBS for Dummies, by Carolyn Dean, MD, ND and L. Christine Wheeler, MA yesterday to see if I could gleam any new information. As I was chauffeured by George the hour long trip one way to my acupuncture appointment, I read aloud. We found that perhaps, I have not just been experiencing dehydration, but also malnutrition. With the rate the food I have been able to get into my system is flying out of my system, it has not spent enough time in my intestines for the important nutrients like magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium to be absorbed. Why is this a problem? Because those are the vital nutrients for cells. You don't have those nutrients, you body stops working properly.

Reading the symptoms of having the different deficiencies were eye opening to George and I as I have been having unique complaints this last month that may be explained by my lack of consuming these nutrients.

Most everyone's solution for dehydration and restoring electrolytes is "drink your preferred sports drink." When I spoke with the nurse practitioner who did my acupuncture about my situation, she said "Maybe you should drink some Gatorade."

You have to search to find places that tell you how to restore your electrolytes (magnesium/sodium/calcium/potassium) by other methods than drinking Gatorade. I told my NP that I was frustrated that the common answer was to drink a sports drink. Ick. Just thinking of drinking Gatorade makes me want to gag.  I have a lot of food allergies and corn is one of them. Sports drinks have this ingredient called: High Fructose Corn Syrup. *shiver* As an aside, I found online where you can make your own rehydration solution with salt, sugar and water. Apparently they save thousands of people in Africa with this formula from dying of diarrhea.

From my searches online and reading the Dean and Wheeler book, I've discovered one can restore magnesium by eating leafy green veggies, avocado and potatoes. One can restore calcium (and probitotics) by eating yogurt and kefir. One can restore sodium in a healthy natural way by eating celery (who knew?!) And of course one can restore potassium by eating bananas. Oh and there are supplements galore, but I would not touch that without first speaking with my doctor.

In addition to restoring my electrolytes, I'm working on my IBS triggers. Up until reading the section on triggers yesterday, I had eliminated all triggers except: dairy, sugar and stress.  For weeks, there have been many days I could not force myself to eat much of anything because of the extreme nausea, but I could tolerate homemade rice pudding that has cane sugar and milk. I thought I was feeding myself, but I may have been contributing to the problem. Apparently sugar (and dairy) in the system creates excess yeast which irritates the lining of the gut. The easy things will be cutting down on dairy and cutting out sugar (as I don't eat much of that anyway). Stress. Well that is another post completely, but I think the key to stress is managing it.

So, the point is that I feel empowered now that I know something to do. I have an appointment set up with my GI doctor for early September. In the meantime, I have a medication that he prescribed a while back to help with IBS bouts of cramping.

Reading up on IBS has led to other important discoveries for me. I have been experiencing unexplained tachycardia (fast heart rate) since December 2010. After seeing a cardiologist and negative test results, my primary care doctor does not have an answer when I repeatedly ask him why this tachycardia suddenly cropped up. From my reading about IBS, I found that being magnesium deficient might possibly be the culprit. I have borrowed a book from the library on magnesium deficiency and plan on reading up on it and sharing the information with my primary doctor at my next visit in late September.

Sometimes I have felt as though I have been at the mercy of my chronic conditions. Being empowered today feels so good.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chronically Living

I am participating in the Patients For a Moment blog carnival. The challenge is to wordlessly tell the story of our lives with our chronic conditions. Press play to start. (To view the images full screen, click the arrows on the bottom right. The photos get a bit blurry, but they are bigger.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Less Bitter More Thankful

Glancing over today's news headlines I saw Being Bitter Can Ruin Your Health. I clicked on the article and half-heartedly read it. Many people who have chronic illnesses that cannot be seen on tests, read an article like this and cringe. My MRI is normal, so does that mean my chronic daily headache and chronic intractable Migraines exist because I am bitter?

Oh you've been lucky if you've escaped the phrase "its all in your head" in the chronic Migraine community. So, some of us are a bit sensitive when someone suggests anything mind-related might be affecting our health.

According to this article, bitterness can contribute to health conditions, create them, and if bitterness is removed even take the created health conditions away. Do I think it is that simple for us? No. But there is a take away.

Chronic illnesses have given many of us every reason to be bitter. Chronic illness has changed our lives in some form or fashion.  For me, the sum of my chronic illnesses has meant for George and me that we are not able to become parents though it was a huge dream of both of ours. We made this devastating realization and decision when my body exhibited yet another chronic illness that became disabling when we were most of the way through our adoption home study this past winter. Oh yes, that stung having that particular dream ripped from our hearts.

I have lost many dreams. Have you? I have lost the ability to work in a profession I loved. I have missed dear friend's weddings, been separated from family on holidays, and spent endless days sequestered in a house, in my bed or on a couch.  I do not lead a life that resembles anything close to what most people consider an average life.

This year, my body has come up with new and creative symptoms that make my specialists shake their heads and say, "Kelly, your body is just so sensitive."  After having the same trusted doctor compassionately say this on a few different occasions, I realized that my body is so sensitive that not even educated specialists know how to tame it. 

Over the last several months, I have been hating my body. I mean, really hating it. I have felt like it has betrayed me. Why is it so over-sensitive? I've cursed and told my body where it can go many-a-time. And yesterday, in the midst of more body-frustration, the thought came to me that I needed a different approach: to be thankful. I needed to thank my body and not hate on it any longer.

The truth is that my body could be doing a lot worse. I'm not having severe vertigo right now, and I know how hellish that can be. Thank you, Body for no severe vertigo! I have a Migraine right now, but it is not so severe I am curled up in a ball in a dark room with the shades drawn. Thank you body. Recently, I have experienced not being able to communicate because my body was malfunctioning, but I am able to write this post. Thank you, Body.

I am going to have chronic illnesses the rest of my life. I do not want to be bitter and miserable the rest of my life and at least I have a choice about that.

Oh I like that. I have a choice.

Venting is healthy. Hating is not. I am going to try to be less bitter toward my body and more mindful about being thankful.