After a week long stay I was finally discharged from one of our local hospitals yesterday evening. I was admitted due to pain in my left eye which has optic neuritis, it had become overwhelming, to the point I felt I had to apply pressure on my eye to relieve it. I had also lost the sensation in the bottom half of my right leg.
During my time in the hospital they decided to carry out a Lumbar Puncture and MRI knowing that my neuro team wanted to do these anyway. The LP side effects I’m still dealing with, I am still having issues with my bladder, my whole leg now has no sensation, and I have a permanent horrondous headache. Both tests came back clear which left the dr’s there confused. On discharge I was diagnosed with Complex neurological disorders and global sensory loss in the right leg, and told my neuro team would take over figuring out the cause.
Today I had an Opthalmology appointment at another hospital. The opthamologist in charge of my care is wonderful. I sat down, he faced me and said “So you have MS ” he was quiet matter of fact about it. I corrected him and pointed out that my tests had come back clear. He muttered that they were wrong and went on to examine my eyes. After several tests he sat back looked me in the eyes and again said “Rebecca you have M.S”. He was quite insisted that my doctor’s must have missed something on my scans due to the state my eyes were in.
So where do I go from here? Such wildly different view points, everyone agreeing that my local neurology team needs to see me again and review what the different teams have found. However getting hold of them is darn impossible. Both myself and my gp surgery contacted them a few days before I was admitted informing them I was going downhill, and needed input desperately. Neither myself or my gp’s surgery has had a response yet.
Right now I’m very emotional and very stressed. I’m taking things moment by moment and trying to just accept things as they are and get on with it. But I work best with action plans and right now I don’t even know who’s responsible for my care. I feel very lost in the system.
When I was 17 weeks pregnant with my daughter I underwent surgery to remove a mole on the underneath of my right breast that had early cell changes. Due to the fact I was pregnant and it was a relatively short surgery they didn’t want to give me a general anaesthetic, so decided a local would do. Unfortunately my Ehlers-Danlos means I have no response to local anaesthetic and felt every cut, and every stitch. The whole process was rather traumatic and I’ve worked hard at trying to forget it.
I was admitted to my local hospital a couple of days ago due to worsening symptoms in my eye and leg. Due to this it was decided last night to bring my lumbar puncture forward to that evening. I explained that local anaesthetic does not work in the slightest for me. They decided to give me a double dose in the hope it would work; it didn’t, which I expected, maxfax team has tried injecting several times this amount with no effect previously. Now lumbar punctures are known to be painful anyway, so to know I was having one without effective pain relief was nerve wracking to say the least.
It was one of the most agonising experiences I have ever had. It took multiple attempts to place the needle correctly as they found the spaces inbetween the spinal collum to be be extremely narrow. It’s been just over twenty four hours since and I’ve struggled to move. My whole back is in horrondous pain, taking a deep breath or swallowing liquids really seems to agreviate it. I’ve also lost sensation over my waterworks which is concerning. I’ve spoken to the consultant but everyone’s answer over this is that I need an MRI, which apparently is booked but no can tell me a day or time.
I’m missing my kids loads but I know that being here is where I need to be. If this helps put a piece of the medical jigsaw in place and leads to better management that can only be a good thing. Just got to take everything one moment at a time.
Damon and I had always said right from the start of our relationship that we envisaged having three children. We both came from fairly large families, with him being the eldest of three, and myself the eldest of four children, so it seemed natural for us to imagine plenty of tiny feet running around creating havoc in the way only kids can. As my conditions were fairly well controlled when we met, the only issue with our forward planning was the fact that I had been told many years before at the age of 19, that I had severe endometriosis; to the point that they suspect I would be unable to conceive naturally and would need medical assistance to do so.
We have been fortunate to have been able to have our son Stefan Elijah, now three, and our daughter Evie Maise, now 18 months, without any assistance. Their existence to me feels miraculous. When we fell pregnant with Evie we discussed frequently trying for our third child shortly after her first birthday. It was exciting, and something I was really quiet fixated on. Physically I had managed to get back to a good place after having Stefan, and it seemed wise to do it close together, before my health started to go downhill. My pregnancy with Evie was a rough one however, and I spent multiple periods as an inpatient in my local hospital. We had hoped that after Evie’s arrival that my body would improve again as it had following Stefan. However, this time round it took months to get back in to the Botox system and once again I ended up in the hospital for over a week needed an NJ, constant fluids, unable to swallow, or really communicate. With each day the idea of a third was slipping further away, I refused to talk about it for awhile. It really affected my mental health.
While I have had periods of better health over the last 18 months, it has generally been a downhill, to the point where I’m now essentially blind in one eye, reliant on an electric wheelchair outside of the house, and being assessed for demyelinating diseases on top of everything else I already had going on. My hands are full to say the least. So Damon and I sat down and agreed that it would be unfair to even consider bringing a third child into the family; he was also concerned if my heart could physically take a third pregnancy as it has struggled with the last two. It was an extremely hard conversation to had. Even though we both knew it be the right choice to make, it didn’t make the biological want for another child any less.
I often get asked a mix of questions in relation to children. Sometimes people will ask “So when do you think the next one will come along?” It’s a well meaning question, that I always answer with a light hearted “oh my hands are full enough with two”, but it stirs the emotions, the want for another that is so strong since our daughter started to so much more independent. Other times it’s the slightly harsher “How you can even consider having biological children when you know some of your conditions are genetic?” Generally I don’t answer this question in public, mainly because it catches me of my guard. However it is fair. My Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has around a 50% inheritance rate, its slightly more prevelant in girls than boys. Yet there is every chance that both children have escaped without developing it, there is also a chance that if they do have the condition that it’s not as severe as mine. There is no way to know. It’s also worth bareing in mind that mine is made worse due to other conditions that impact each other. I would say that before you ask anyone about kids really think; if they have a medical condition perhaps stay away from the topic until they bring it up. In can be a sensitive one.
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness, for the majority of people, stirs up a lot of emotions. Its a process we all go through at different rates, and there is no wrong or right way about it. With illness there is often a sense of loss of normality, for every individual that’s different depending on your condition and what symptoms your experiencing. I really wished I had been given a heads up back when I first got ill about the grief I would feel, for the profound sense of loss I would experience. I fell into a really deep depression and for a long time was in denial thinking that somehow I was just going to wake up one day and be able to return to my Midwifery degree. If you go back to some of the first blog posts I ever wrote on this site it’s really quite easy to pinpoint which part of the Grief cycle I was in.
I turned to a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindful Meditation to help me come to terms with my health and my new reality. This was a good mix and after a fair amount of time had passed I reached acceptance. Now don’t get me wrong I still had blips, a friend would announce they had decided to train as a midwife, or I’d find my old coursework in a clear-out and I’d slip mentally for a few days, but I would always be able to pick myself back up again. However what I didn’t expect, and again I wish I had been warned that this was a possibility, was that with each new diagnosis that got slapped on to me, and with every new symptom that became clear was on a downward path and here to stay; that I would find myself having to repeat the Grief cycle again.
It of course make sense that you would have to. You are after all experiencing a loss of sorts again. Mentally and physically its challenging and draining. It is natural for you to grieve, to be angry, to want to challenge what your going through until you reach some sort of acceptance. I’ve found myself going through this again recently. I’m on my 7th bout of Optic Neuritis, along with loss of all sensation in my right leg; I have next to no use of it currently. My local neuro team suspect MS but are investigating fully for all demylation diseases to ensure nothing is missed. Finding myself once again with more limitations, really sent me spinning. I found myself asking why over and over again. I felt like I needed an explanation because it seemed insane to have yet another condition added to my already extensive list. I’ve not reached acceptance yet, but I’m remembering my mindfulness and I’m defiantly moving through the stages quicker this time.
If I had to give one tip to someone newly diagnosed with a chronic illness it would simply be to kind to yourself and to remember to practice self care. Your allowed to grieve, its natural, don’t beat yourself up. Make sure you don’t bottle your emotions up, confide in someone you trust. you will feel better for it.
When you become ill with Dystonia there are a lot of changes you have to make to your life. Mentally you often feel like you can still go out for that morning run, or dance the night away with your mates. The reality is extremely different. No two days are the same and spasms can cause simple daily tasks such as getting dressed to take hours upon hours.
Whenever I visit my Neurologist or my GP they both tell me to slow my life down and take things easy so as to give my body a bit of a break. They have been giving me this same piece of advice for over two years now. I know I should take their advice on board. After all they would not repeatedly tell me it if it was not necessary, however I find that I feel so determined/ stubborn to live as normal a life as possible that taking it easy just doesn’t seem to feel right.
I know that realistically my body would most likely thank me if I started taking it easy more often. Pushing the boundaries over and over only results in pain, I know that. However there is some small part of me that each time hopes that this will be the time I will achieve just that bit more. Instead my body goes in to hideous spasms that I have too spend a few days recovering from each time.
I think adjusting your life after diagnosis is one of the hardest parts of the illness. It’s not just your work life, but also your family and social life that are impacted. Having to explain to people that you yet again cannot do something because of Dystonia is incredibly disheartening, it helps if you are surrounded by people who understand and support you. At times it is not the spasms that prevents you from taking part but the fatigue from the treatment. I find the medication leaves me half asleep, which in turn impacts every aspect of life.
I have been living and adapting to the condition for around two and a half years now. I’m not sure if you can ever really adjust to it. I don’t plan on ever slowing down. I enjoy my life too much. I believe the best way to cope with this hideous condition is to take each minute as it comes.
Today’s blog post shall be brief as I have been up to London for my Neurology appointment and am now very tired. My Neurologist was quiet apologetic and concerned that the last lot of injections had not worked, which left me with my normal extreme spasms. Apparently this sometimes does just happen for whatever reason, but to be on the safe side in the hope that this will work better, he upped the amount he was injecting everywhere. This has reassured me and helped to quell my fears that this batch of my injections may not work. I am now feeling decidedly more positive about it.
He confirmed the Hand Therapy’s diagnosis that the Dystonia is in my hand as well. However my symptoms in my hand are nowhere near as severe as the symptoms in my neck, jaw and eyes which is very positive. He stressed it was important not to aggravate it, I’m guessing this means I really need to learn how to walk without tripping over my own two feet…or my walking stick! This once again throws my Midwifery dreams out the window. I’m starting to realise that until a Neurologist hands me a pill and says this will cure you that I need to find a new dream. Now that’s not to say that I’m giving up on it, it’s more like putting it to bed for a long sleep until/if it becomes a realistic option again. I left university in the summer of 2012 on health grounds and for the last two and a half years I have built my Midwifery hopes and dreams up only to have them go up in flames around me more times than I can count. For my sanity I need to take a break from the emotional rollercoaster ride that that dream has taken me on. My year of training was the best experience of my life and I treasure it and for now that will do.
My reflexology career has now also been put on hold due to the hand Dystonia. Whilst my neurologist said he didn’t mind me doing the odd bit of Reflexology work, I have to be careful not to overdo it. I have always loved reading and writing. I can get lost in books for hours on end and will happily write all day. There are plenty of degrees out there in Creative Writing and Publishing, perhaps I shall discover a new dream down that road. For now though I must put my love of reading into action and brush up on information on another genetic condition I have been diagnosed with. I’ll fill you in on this new diagnosis next time.
The last several days have been very busy and very positive. I finally feel that I am getting things in place that I need and have an aspect of control. As I have little control over parts of my body, having control over some aspects of my life is very satisfying and makes up for my Dystonia alien crazy ways.
This coming Monday I am going to my local hospital for an appointment with the Orthotic department. My splints have served me well over the last few months, however as it has gotten colder my spasms in my legs have gotten worse. My right leg spasms so strongly that it often manages to escape my splints. I am hoping Orthotics may have an idea of what they could do to help. If not I have some images of some splints that I think may be able to contain my legs. It would mean having a solid front section to the splint as well as a solid back, this I think would work well as it would be a lot harder for my leg to break through. I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas.
When the Dystonia hit my legs I was given your standard NHS wheelchair – lets describe it as sturdy. My poor mother struggles to lift it in and out the car, and watching my friends lift it makes me feel awful. Recently however the functional paralysis that I experience on and off has meant that my wheelchair needs some extras added to it but this is not something that is possible. This has meant that when I have an episode of paralysis affecting my back I have ended up flopping half out the wheelchair and being stuck till it comes back.
So after a couple of weeks of pointing this out repeatedly to the NHS Wheelchair service I am now being reassessed to see if I qualify for a voucher that would enable a chair to be customized for me. Even better news is that the even with all the extra things added to it the chair will still be much lighter than my current one.
Knowing that my splint and wheelchair issues are going to be dealt with has given me such peace of mind and enabled me to relax. They are such small issues but in the long run have a big impact so having the two solved will make a big difference.
Last Saturday I attended a bring and buy sale at my local Church. One of the stalls was raising money for The Dystonia Society. In the end just over a £100 was raised, which is incredible. I would just like to say a huge thank-you to everyone involved.
Several weeks ago, I had the chance to meet some fantastic women at a fundraising event where I gave a talk about Dystonia and life with it. Two of the women – Beth and Sheila – decided to do some of their own fundraising to enable me to get a special bath lift with chest and pelvis harness.
On Saturday I went over to the last event to meet 12 amazing women, who I must say are impressively creative. The had raised an incredible amount of money which will mean I can now have baths and showers safely. In the summer when we went away thanks to a downstairs wheelchair accessible shower as I was able to shower for the first time in a year, and I have been really missing that since.
It is amazing the mental boost a shower or bath can give you. Obviously being clean gives you a boost, but the natural pain relief and relaxing element of hot water is such a fantastic way to get alternative relief to pain. Currently I use a basin of water, some lovely lavender body wash and a sponge, and whilst I know that I am clean it is not the same cleanliness feeling that a bath or shower gives you. I am so excited to be able to bathe/shower again!
Once I figure out how to get the photos off my phone I shall upload some photos from Saturday. These women were so generous and I feel so privileged to have gotten the chance to meet them! This is one of those moments when in a way I am glad I am ill as I would have never met such kind wonderful people otherwise.
This afternoon I was up in London seeing my lovely neurologist. As usual I went armed with lots of questions. I feel very blessed that I see such a lovely man, who listens to everything I have to say. His manner is very calming, I hate needles, but his calm attitude puts me at complete ease, I would never let anyone else stick so many injections in me. I was excited to see him and to show him how much progress I have made with creating my life around my symptoms.
We went through all my queries before my injections and he was so helpful with each one. He is going to write to my GP explaining that I need the IV antibiotics for Lyme Disease, I am relieved he has agreed to do this as it means I do not have to argue with my GP about it. I have a severe intolerance to Lactose, which unfortunately all but one of medications contain. At first this was fine as my body was coping with the small amount, but now that it has slowly built up in system my body is reacting and is making my other medical conditions, e.g IBS, worse. The most annoying issue with it is that no matter how much time I sleep for I wake up feeling like I never went to sleep and I find it hard to keep going in the days, my neurologist has offered to get the pharmacy at the hospital to look into alternatives for me. This would make such a big difference. We have also juggled around my next two appointment to make sure that my jaw is in working order for Christmas and my 21st birthday.
We spoke about my functional paralysis and agreed that in a way it was positive as it was less disruptive to life, although it is not ideal. There is not much I can do other than take pain killers and try to stimulate the part that is paralysed in attempt to disrupt the incorrect signals that are being sent – this has not worked yet but I shall keep trying. I had my eyes, jaw and neck injected with Botox so my spasms shall continue to my kept in check and my jaw tremor should soon settle down for a few weeks.
It was a fantastic appointment. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful neurologist looking after me.