Rare Personal Update

Hello everyone,

Way back in my early years of blogging, I wrote a little bit about my life with chronic illness. As a brief catch up, for anyone who wasn’t here then and those who have perhaps forgotten, I’ll say a little about the past and move on. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain, fatigue, and a whole other wide array of symptoms for decades. I almost died of pneumonia at 2 and as a result my immune system was damaged, was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, mono and mild scoliosis at around age 13, chronic fatigue syndrome in my early twenties, fibromyalgia in my late twenties, and degenerative disc disease in my thirties. For the past six years, my family doctor has suspected an autoimmune disease but blood work never showed any markers.

Finally about three months ago, I was referred to a rheumatologist, at my request, because I was in the worst flare that I’ve had in at least ten years. This flare was relentless, lasting for almost two months with no sign of letting up. I’d been under great stress, which I’m sure is the catalyst for the flare. Earlier this month, I went back to the rheumatologist for a follow up. I was diagnosed with connective tissue disease, with some features of lupus and concern for developing psoriatic arthritis. The hope is that the doctor can get this contained before it goes full beast mode, as well as to prevent any further damage to my joints and connective tissue.

With high hopes, three weeks ago, I began taking Plaquenil, which is supposed to be the mildest therapy with the least side effects (except for the rare potential for blindness, nothing to be concerned about there). As the past three weeks wore on, I’ve only gotten sicker. More fatigued, more pain, nausea from hell, but I was willing to go through that thinking that it would swing in the other direction eventually. This was until a few days ago, when out of the blue, my knees felt like they were on fire and turned as red as a well cooked lobster. Over the course of a few hours, the redness dissipated but the joint pain was excruciating. Then, other joints in my body began hurting too and other symptoms set in as well. So, I called his office and was told to stop taking it immediately and to drink as much water as I can stand to help get the medication flushed out of my body. Who knows how long this will take, but I’m hoping not too long because frankly, this sucks. A new treatment plan will be coming up at some point in the near future. This makes me a bit nervous as that was the mildest treatment, but then again, something more intense might not be as bad as the reaction I’ve had to Plaquenil. Time will tell.

All I know is that right now, I’m in about month three of increasingly severe illness and feeling more than a little disappointed that the treatment has only made things worse so far. In my typical fashion however, I will not give up, nor will I let this keep me from getting back to the things that I love as soon as I am able to. The pain, fatigue, and brain fog have kept me from engaging in all of my usual creative activities but I’m sure that this won’t last forever. Just wanted to come here and let all of you know why I haven’t been around…and that I will be back…hopefully soon.

I’m grateful for a few people in my life, who have helped me to feel less isolated and have been so compassionate and understanding with my current decreased capacity. This experience is helping me to further clarify what I desire in my life, especially when it comes to my relationships with others. My circle is narrowing, as I move toward creating relationships which are healthy, reciprocal, positive, and fulfilling. Being this ill has taught me the wisdom of loving others, but loving myself more. Gone are the days of one sided relationships, and consistent energy sucking conversations. Most importantly, I’ve made the conscious decision to no longer be a receptacle for the negativity of others. Over the years, these types of relationships have taken their toll both mentally and physically and it has to stop, effective immediately. My health comes first, and that means conserving my energy for healthy relationships and activities which bring joy to my life, and hopefully that of others. It’s past time to bring more positivity back into my life.

This has been a really long post. If you’ve made it this far, thank you! I’ll see you again, hopefully very soon, and hopefully with something creative to share.

Much love,

Tracy

 

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Chronic Illness ~ The Elephant In The Room

It is a rare occasion these days that I write a post about anything personal. To be fair, it is a rare occasion that I post anything at all this year. With that being said, I felt compelled to come here today and write about my elephant in the room, which is chronic illness. In thinking back, I’m pretty sure that it has been at least a few years since I’ve shared anything about this, at least publicly. Why now?

In the past year, flare-ups of my conditions have been a fairly regular occurrence, more so than they have been for quite some time. I do know a big part of the reason this has been happening, but that’s not the point of why I’m writing today. This is all about the things that we who have chronic illnesses would like for others to know, and don’t often express. So without further adieu, here are some of the things that I wish for people to know.

  • We do not want pity, but compassion is welcome.
  • We want you know know that when we spend time with you, that we are making a conscious choice to expend precious energy to do so. This often means that we will have to spend a day or two resting, but it’s worth it to us. So, when times arise in which we can’t make it (and they will happen), it isn’t that we don’t want to. Our minds and hearts want to do the things you invite us to do more than anything.
  • We do welcome suggestions sometimes, just not when we’re in the middle of a flare. Giving most of you the benefit of the doubt, your intentions are probably good. If your desire truly is to help, wait until we are feeling better to make your observations and suggestions. To do so when we are sick can feel like an accusation
  • When we tell you we can’t do something, it means we can’t. Sometimes it’s clear that some of our friends and family hear “I don’t want to”, and that is not what we’re saying. We are not making excuses to get out of things. (See bullet point #2)
  • We understand that it can be challenging to be our friend, family member, or partner at times. We lose our patience with our lack of reliability too. Even though we may have to sit things out, please don’t stop asking us. Even though it is disappointing when we have to say no, try to remember how much fun we have when we can say yes. We sure do! Sometimes thinking of the good times is what gets us through.
  • From the outside it might feel to some that we are selfish, or even lazy. We are neither of those things. We often use up all (or much) of our energy doing the things that we manage to do. Even though we may look fine and don’t really say anything, we are often more tired or in pain than you know when we’re doing things. A misconception which might happen with this one is that by letting you know about this particular point, we’re trying to lay a guilt trip. Nope! We are doing all of the things that we do with you joyfully and cherish every moment, despite those things. We just don’t want you to assume that it means that we feel fine and will be able to do the same later or tomorrow.
  • We want you to know how much we appreciate the people in our lives. The little things that you do, often without even thinking of it, mean so much. When you drop by with something to eat or call on the phone just to say hello, that can be the highlight of the entire day. There are times when we may not have the energy to talk on the phone, but just knowing that you called means a lot. When we do not pick up the phone, and may not return your call for a day or two, it isn’t that we’re snubbing you, so please never think so. Unless of course, we never return your call.  >:)
  • Most importantly, please remember that even when things get rough for a little while, that we’re still the same person that you loved yesterday.

I’m sure that there are many things that I didn’t touch on, but for today, these are the ones which felt most important to mention. It is my hope that this reaches the screen of someone who needs to read it. While most of us would not assume that we are owed any of the things mentioned above, I think it’s fair to say that they sure are nice.