Exercise

March 13, 2017

The basement was cold and dark, but I was determined. My morning had been hard but possible. My son and I made the bird feeder that he’d been asking to make for 3 weeks. We still had some deer fat from the fall so we melted it down, added seeds and stuffed it into a mesh bag. We made a big production out of going outside to choose the best spot to hang it, so the birds could find it and have easy access. We also wanted it to be somewhere we could see from inside of the house. 

Then there was all the cleanup, and since my 5 year old had been so involved in the stirring, there was deer fat and bird seed all over the kitchen. It was tiring, but I had promised. Each morning I try to do something fun with him, something that doesn’t involve screens or mass produced toys. If I was healthy I’d be taking him hiking, on nature walks, to the park, or at least somewhere out of the city. The way it is though I have to figure out activities that I can do, games that won’t make me feel like passing out. The bird feeder was a great craft for today, as tiring as it was. 

When I came back from dropping him off at school I watched a movie. It was about a woman who had been coerced by catholic nuns into giving up her son for adoption, and 50 years later she tries to find him. When it was over I gathered my resolve and went to the basement, put on my running shoes and got on the treadmill. 

I was determined to do 20min at a speed of 2mph. Winter is coming to a close and I want to feel safe walking my boy to school again. It was hard. My heart rate kept rising and my chest hurt. I tried to think of what it was like before, when I could just walk without thinking of it. In college I walked everywhere. I didn’t have a choice really, we didn’t have access to a car and the bus system was ridiculous. Walking was second nature and I never gave it a thought. When I moved to this city I walked to work everyday. It was a nice way to start my morning and I always got to work energized and in a good mood. Today on the treadmill, after 20min, I was weak and shaky. My heart rate was up to 145 and the pain was intense. As soon as I hit 20min I went upstairs, holding on to the railing in case I became too dizzy and fell down. I climbed into bed, congratulating myself for accomplishing what I set out to do, promising myself I’d do it the next day also, and slept until my husband got home.

The chest pain lasted the rest of the night. As soon as I finished cooking and eating dinner I went straight back to bed and lay down with my feet in the air, hoping for a bit of relief. 
Then I got this text. 

It hurt. I try so hard and no one understands. Every time I get out of bed I’m trying. By trial and error I’ve found out what I can and cannot do, what’s worth pushing myself for and what’s not. I’m the only one that has to live with the consequences of any exercise I do, and I’m the only one that knows how much it hurts. 

I know I’m weak. I know I’m fat. I know I’m deconditioned. I don’t need anyone else pointing it out to me. When you’re chronically ill people treat you like a child and feel entitled to tell you what to do, whether it be exercise, diet or medication. People stop framing ideas as suggestions or questions and instead give them to you as demands. Solutions that if you don’t try then you’re to blame for your situation. People can talk between themselves and make plans for you without consultation. It stems from a place of love and kindness, but overwhelming misunderstanding of what you really need, which is unconditional support and trust that you are doing what’s best. 

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My Rock

March 6, 2017

I remember the first time Dr. P gave me a hug. I had been his patient for just over 2 years, and had seen him mainly to get refills for my thyroid medicine, for ongoing issues after childbirth, and a few sinus infections. That day through I was really, really sick. It was the start of the year that I would be continually ill, catching everything that went around, and then developing a sinus infection on top of it. My immune system was nonexistent that year, and it only started to get better once I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease. 

Dr P had finished examining me for my main complaints, throat and sinus, when I mentioned that I couldn’t hear out of one of my ears. A quick check and He informed me that I had a sinus infection, strep throat, and ear infections in both of my ears. The relief I feel was likely palpable. I was happy to have my suffering validated. I wasn’t a wimp, I couldn’t have pushed through it. I was truly, legitimately sick and exhausted. He wrote me a prescription for strong antibiotics with instructions to go back in three days if I wasn’t feeling better. 

Then he smiled at me, a beautiful sympathetic smile with no hint of condescension. He put his arms around me and hugged gently, just long enough for me to feel his warmth and kindness. I felt supported and somehow stronger and better. This is how I feel every time I leave his office. 

Today I went in to ask for changes to the referral he made for me to a rheumatologist, now that the gynaecologist said I have a connective tissue disorder, possibly ehlros Danlos syndrome (EDS). I had made some phone calls and learned that the wait for the rheumatologist in my city was 2-3 years, but one 2 1/2 hours away was 1-3 months. I finished explaining what I wanted and he pulled out his cell phone, called the local rheumatologists office and made my case for me. He called me a “lovely girl”, with multiple health issues. 

My 2-3 year wait is now reduced to 3 months. 

I hugged him before I left and told him what I’ve told him many times before: he’s my rock, and he’ll never know what he does for me. I can never thank him enough. 

Not Okay

March 1, 2017

I thought I was alright with the pelvic organ prolapse but I’m not. I’m upset. I’m grieving the baby girl I’ll never have. I’m afraid for my sons health. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that he had a pneumothorax at birth, or his two broken bones. I’m tired of fighting for health. 

I’m tired in general. 

My chest hurts today. I did too much yesterday. I walked too much, wandering around a store with no intentions of buying anything. I did another round of purging my possessions, getting more ruthless still. I want nothing. I want nothing to tie me down. I want cleaning to be simple, and to have minimal daily decisions. 

I want simplicity. I want an easy life. 

I feel alone and depressed. 

In And Out

February 27, 2017

So there we have it: my bladder and uterus have prolapsed. I saw the gynaecologist this morning and it was a wonderfully easy appointment. I said what I suspected was wrong, he did an exam and confirmed it, then fitted me with a pessary to be used until I decide to have a hysterectomy. Done. Problem identified, addressed and fixed in one appointment, that doesn’t happen to me often.

I gained other information too. Taking into account my age, the number of children I’ve birthed (1) and his birthweight (7lbs 10oz), I shouldn’t have a prolapse. Dr. M believes I have a connective tissue disorder and we discussed Ehlors Danlos Syndrome, which I’ve wondered about in the past. Dr M stated that he doesn’t diagnose that condition, but recommended I see a rheumatologist. I’ve already been referred to one and am, as seems to be the theme of my life, waiting for the appointment. It feels great to have concrete proof of something going on. There can be no doubt that the prolapse is “in my head”. My organs are literally in my vagina. How’s that for evidence?

This appointment was refreshingly lighthearted, and I was in a good mood. Other than the actual exam, which no woman likes to have, it was fine. I even made the receptionist tear up with laughter. When I went to pay for the pessary, which had already been fitted and installed, I pulled out my credit card only to be told they only accept cash or cheque. I looked her in the eye, smiled and said “Do ya want it back?”

Blast From the (Medical) Past

February 14, 2017

I bought a new coat today. My weight is steady, but still much higher than I’m comfortable with. The only warm coat that fits is a colour that doesn’t look good on me and clashes with all my hats and mitts. The North Face store is having a big sale and, sick of feeling unconfident when I walk out of the house, I decided to take advantage of it. I found a great 2 in one jacket, in a colour I like and that flatters me, for 50% off. Unfortunately I brought my purse but neglected to bring my wallet, so I had to go twice. 

The second time I went back I recognised a fellow shopper as a doctor, but couldn’t place him in my past. He was tall, had a dark brown complexion and a mop of greyish black straight hair. He was shopping with his wife and two children a couple years older than my son. His height struck me as his defining feature, but I couldn’t recall if I knew it in relation to myself standing, walking, laying down, or in a wheelchair. 

It took a few minutes, but in the end I remembered him: Dr M, the internalist that diagnosed me with Addison’s Disease 4 years ago. I went up to him, reached out my hand and introduced myself as such. I didn’t know what I intended to say to him, but it all came naturally. I told him that I’ve had other health problems and nothing has been diagnosed as quickly as he diagnosed me. I said I appreciated how well he listened to me and, from the stories I’ve heard from other Addisonians, I was very fortunate to get such a quick diagnosis. He smiled and, from his remark about sending me to ER, I knew he remembered me. 

He asked how I’ve been, twice, and I said that I’ve had other health issues that aren’t being figured out nearly as easily, but I didn’t really go into it. It wouldn’t have been appropriate and I doubt it would have done me any good anyway. He shook my hand again and we parted. His wife’s face beamed with pride and I felt good for having given credit where credit was due. 

Hospital Times Two

February 6, 2017

I didn’t even get a chance to write about one ER visit before I was back for another. I took myself in today. For 4 days I had diahrea and was feeling worse and worse. It was at the point where I didn’t know if gastrointestinal symptoms were causing Addison’s symptoms, or if Addison’s was causing gastrointestinal symptoms. The days leading up to this I felt so alone and not understood. Each extra pill I took I felt like my husband was condemning me for it, even though I knew I needed it. As I got more sick and confused it hurt emotionally more and more. He’s supposed to be my advocate yet won’t learn anything. I’m afraid he won’t be there to save me when I need it. 


So this morning, when I woke up and voided every bit of fluid and the little food I ate the night before, I knew I had to be the one in control. I had to make the decision to go in before I lost my resolve, became confused, and just went back to bed. It was the first time I’ve gone alone to the hospital. Part of me didn’t like it, but another part of me didn’t care. This illness is my lot in life, and why shouldn’t I carry it alone sometimes? We as a family still had stuff to do that day: getting the basement ready for my cousins visit, my son had a birthday party to go to, general housekeeping and chores. Why should none of that happen just because my body is defective?

So I took myself, and I spoke for myself, and I managed by myself. Going was the right thing to do. I was so dehydrated that they couldn’t get a vein, and didn’t even bother trying the regular spots. For the bloodwork she even went in the top of my hand. Each spot they tried is now replaced with a purple bruise. One is even a centimetre away from the one still healing from my fall down the stairs after my experience at the dentist, which I never did write about and now probably won’t. 

The abridged version is that while trying to yell to my dad in the basement I fell down the stairs and dislocated my shoulder. I’m not sure if I fell because I got weak and my legs or ankles buckled or if I passed out for a second. It was more painful than anything else I’ve ever experienced. I had pain medication while in the hospital but passed down the prescription for home for fear of being labeled a pill seeker.


It’s been a rough few weeks. 

I’m so worried about what my son is absorbing throughout all of this. Two days ago he was sick too, with a sore throat, and I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be. I wanted to tuck him into a freshly made up bed on the couch, and bring him tea sweetened with honey. I wanted to read him books and stroke his hair. I wanted to massage his body and bring him popsicles. But I could only do any of that in 5 or 10 minute spurts. The rest of the time I lay in bed sleeping. During one long nap he wrote me a beautiful note and made me a present. He wrapped it up and hid it, then made me a treasure map so I could find it. I was so touched. He always finds something to do when Mom is sleeping. 

I’m crying now. Illness keeps robbing me of myself. 

When a Cavity Can Be Lethal

January 19, 2017

Yesterday I had a cavity filled. I was nervous about it, since it was my very first cavity in my 34 years on his planet. I read up on filling cavities and Addison’s disease considerations. I decided to take an extra 5mg of hydrocortisone, and told my husband my plan. I thought I had things under control. 

The dentist froze me and left to let the freezing set. I stared to feel strange: confused, dizzy, nauseous. My heart started beating quickly and I stared trembling. I was going to have a seizure, I could feel it. I concentrated on breathing slowly. In and out, just stay calm and wait for someone to get to me. Breathe, don’t give in to what your muscles want to do. Breath. In and out. Plan. What will you do when they come in. Ambulance? Breathe. Slowly. Don’t give in. Don’t get scared. In and out. In and out. 

The hygienist and dentist came back. I tried to explain. “Something’s wrong” I said. That’s what I always say when I need help. I can’t articulate what the problem is exactly, but something is wrong. “I need my pills”. I tapped my Fitbit and showed them my heart rate – 140bpm. Something’s wrong. They got my pills and I took one, they gave me oxygen. My heart rate went down and my muscles started listening. “Call my husband”. Down to 120bpm. I took another pill. At that point it seemed better than going to the hospital and getting 100mg solu-cortef in an iv. Heart rate down more, getting coherent. Kept the oxygen on, to be honest, I absolutely love getting oxygen. It makes everything seem so much easier. Each breath feels like the equivalent of 10 regular breaths. I’ll take oxygen anytime it’s offered. 


By the time my husband got there I was okay. His reaction really disappointed me though. He didn’t say much, but I felt like he blamed my nerves. I felt like what happened was my fault. I felt like he failed me as an advocate. I said I wanted to take another pill and he said I shouldn’t. I felt like a wimp. 

Since I was stabilized and was already frozen and had already used up so much time, I asked them to carry on with the filling. He drove me home afterwards and I felt like a failure. 

Later that morning I learned that epinephrine in dental freezing can lead to Addison’s Crisis. I had once again come dangerously close to crisis and came out on top.

That afternoon I became suddenly weak and fell down the entire flight of stairs to my basement, dislocating my shoulder in the process. But that story, and that crisis averted, is for another day. 

Putting It Off

´┐╝January 9, 2017

It’s been happening for over 2 years now. The feeling that my insides were falling out. I told one doctor in ER, back in February 2015, when I lost consciousness. Since then, and because of all I’ve been through with doctors and specialists, I’ve been too scared to bring it up in any appointment. I’ve prioritised my symptoms based on what limits my life the most, and just a bad “feeling” didn’t rate in the slightest. It got worse and worse though, as time marched on. It became harder and harder to use my menstrual cup, and having to shift things around up there made me almost throw up. 

A few weeks ago I finally got the courage to hold up a mirror and have a good look. I don’t have much experience looking at vaginas, but I was 90% sure that what I was looking at wasn’t what it used to look like. For all the naked women on the internet, there is precious little information or pictures of what a woman’s private area is supposed to look like, so I had to let someone in on my secret. 

My best friend got a text one day that read “I need you to do me a favour, and it involves your vagina and a mirror.” All women deserve to have a friend they can open up to completely. She (and her sister) confirmed what I had suspected: I likely have a prolapsed uterus and need to get it checked out. 


I had the appointment this morning with Dr. P. He didn’t do an exam, just took me on my word when I said that I believed I had a prolapsed uterus and sent in a referral to a gynaecologist. I left saying “what a pain in the ass” to which he agreed. Dr. P has always been a bit uncomfortable with women specific issues and it certainly was no different today. The perfect word to describe how I felt about the appointment was dread. I’ve had so many appointments and seen so many doctors, but I was dreading this one the most. I pictured Dr. P giving me crap for not getting it checked sooner. I didn’t want to start the process of dealing with it. I don’t know how it will affect my fertility. I didn’t want Dr. P to do the exam, at this point he’s such a big part of my life it would be like having my boss inspect my vagina. 

As much as I was dreading it, I do wish he had done an exam. It’s hard to explain, but even though I can see an internal organ when I look in my vagina I still wanted his validation. I can’t prove any of my other symptoms and I want nothing more than to be able to. This is another side effect of being undiagnosed: you learn to stop trusting yourself. 

So there we have it, another medical issue to be addressed. I’m not sure when the referral will go through but Dr. P told me I can start calling the office after 2 weeks. I do plan on picking the gynaecologists brain and asking about conditions that can cause a prolapsed uterus, since I’m relatively young and have only had one child. It’s possible it’s all connected and perhaps this will be just another piece of the puzzle that is my life. 

Christmas Eve

December 24, 2016

All I want for Christmas is enough energy for my sons memories of this special time of year to be positive. I’ve had a rough week – very bad chest pain that’s reduced my afternoons to naps that I just can’t make myself get up from. Each day I’ve had to put something off until the next, and I’ve felt the time slipping away. There are things that aren’t going to happen, things that I’ve given up on as a trade for energy to make it through the day. 

I have peace with the things I’ve given up through. I’ve prioritized my tasks, and put the utmost importance on being able to be present for the laughter and joy that’s happening in my house. This is personal growth, and I know my son will benefit from a mother who puts happiness and presence above the other Christmas “things” and events. 

Back to the Beginning Again

December 20, 2016
I saw Dr F, my endocrinologist today. He was apologetic about how long it had been since appointments and I told him the hoops I had jumped through to try to get in to see him. He said they had had issues with the receptionist, that were resolved now. Nevertheless, I made sure to book my next appointment (April 26), before I left. 

He was pleased with my progress, but said my thyroid and Addison’s labs still didn’t look good. We went over the last years history and I told him what I was planning to, which was that all the other specialists I’ve seen blame Addison’s or a fabrication of my mind. He said, with how my symptoms are presently, that Addison’s and hypothyroidism could be the cause and that it may be that I had a really bad crisis, followed by smaller crisis and poor Steroid replacement. It somewhat contradicts what he’s said in the past, but my symptoms were far more severe then. I’m not quite sure what to think in that regard. I really just want to hold on to the hope that I don’t have any more diseases. 

We talked about steroid options. I had wanted to try prednisone instead of hydrocortisone. He listed a number of reasons he doesn’t like prednisone, but listed to what I was asking. In the end we decided that I will try a higher dose of hydrocortisone for a month, then will switch to prednisone for a month to see how I feel. In the end he said he’ll go with what I decide, but offered his reasoning. Really, it’s about as perfect a doctor/patient exchange as I could ask for. He thinks I have an issue with malabsorption because of Celiac disease, which could affect why I need a higher dose. He wants me to be very liberal with stress dosing, and take extra before a long walk or my aquasize class. When my husband and I described my crashes, Dr F thinks they happen because, even though I’m no longer pushing my body to extremes, I still push until I crash. I both have daily or weekly low cortisol times and also don’t let my body fully recover from those times.

He did advise me not to go back to work yet though. He said we know how I feel now, and we’re trying to improve it with medication experimentation, it’s not the time to add in another variable. I understand that and, as much as I don’t want to, have to agree. Truthfully I’ve been very scared of working. Even for a few hours I’ve been fearful of just having to wake up and shower, without having the luxury of time to lay down afterwards. 
I left feeling very pleased and hopeful. Again though I feel like I still don’t give Addison’s disease the respect it deserves. The chest pain is still a nagging thought though. It still doesn’t seem to be typical, even though I should have come to loathe that word by now. He reiterated how complicated and unique my situation is. Because of the internet and the ease of finding a support system it doesn’t seem that rare to me, but it is. 1 in 100,000. 2 of us within the city limits. 

Sometimes when I look back on this saga I’m amazed that I’ve made it this far.