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.
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.
Today you published the article ‘Matt Dawson: I had to have heart surgery after a tick bite’. At first I was thrilled, it is always uplifting to see articles highlighting this condition being shared by the mainstream media. However as I eagerly absorbed each sentence , I could feel my heart sinking further in my chest. In fact I’m pretty sure it dropped straight out of me and into the flat below under the weight of my disappointment! You could have taken this opportunity to really highlight the world wide issue when it comes to diagnosing and treating Lyme and Chronic Lyme Disease. The fact that you didn’t leap at this opportunity is beyond me. What happened to the BBC being at the forefront of reporting, challenging the establishment, pushing boundaries?
You even went as far as mentioning that if Lyme goes untreated it can go on to attack and cause ‘debilitating neurological problems’. This was your perfect opening to delve into the devastating condition that is Chronic Lyme; you could have examined how the tests for Lyme disease are extremely inaccurate and false negatives are a frequent occurrence; you could have investigated how NICE guidelines have left the few doctors who are up to date enough with the research in the area to believe in Chronic Lyme, unable to treat their patients without risking their medical licence. You could have mentioned how, if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to fundraise money to pay for your treatment, you are looking at a minimum of £10,000 for private medical bills and that there is no guarantee that you will be cured. You could have investigated how many people that are given the early treatment are actually, years later, successfully cured.
I was bitten by a tick at the age of 6, at the age of 22 I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Almost 3 years on and I am still fighting. Last year I was informed by neurologists that they were 99% certain I had MS, but then my MRI came back clean, when I brought up Lyme my case was swept under the carpet. Sufferers are abandoned, left to battle their own way through the system, made to feel like a fraud whilst their lives and their health fall apart. Unlike your report suggests, it’s not as easy as walking into a hospital and stating you have Lyme and hoping for treatment. It feels like a life sentence.
Every now and then I receive wonderful comments/emails/tweets from people expressing how reassuring it is to see me post pictures of my spasms. These messages often include phrasing such as “I don’t know how you do it, it’s very brave” and “I wish I had your confidence”. I don’t talk about this much, but when it comes to my spasms my normal confident self generally disappears. The stares in the streets, the whispers of “look at her face!” and people’s general ignorant remarks “Could you please stop or do it elsewhere” (usually in reference to my arm spasms) have caused me countless hours of upset. I don’t believe in wasting hours on being tearful over something I have no control over though, I hope the pictures below show that while hard, life as a spoonie can be fun.
Does this splint blend in?Laughter; the key to making the most of the spasm free moments!
In many ways I’m your stereotypical 23 year old, I take way to many selfies, own far too many shoes and grew up head over heels in love with books; a passion that has resulted in me wondering where to put them all now I’ve run out of shelves! I have all the insecurities that is normal of somebody my age: I am overweight, I do not care enough about fashion as I’d rather be comfy, and don’t even get me started on my complexion. It’s tiny insecurities that are perfectly normal but when combined with my spasms often results in self-deprecation. There are days when I can walk about not particularly worried about some of the smaller spasms I experience, and then there are days when I’m hyper aware and embarrassed when in public, not just because I need an aid such as my wheelchair or stick, but because my eyes are spasming causing functional blindness, and my jaw is contorting to the point of dislocation; this is all whilst my left arm is casually attacking anything in range.
Teaching myself to accept the alien
When confronted by people asking me to refrain from spasms, I try to politely explain that it’s nothing I can control and apologize. But why should I. Should you apologize for shivering when cold? It’s a natural reaction that you would never dream of uttering apologies for. So why then should I issue out apologies for something that is just as natural. Sure, everybody and their friend may not experience it, but it’s my brain firing off incorrect signals that are just as natural as your shiver or yawn.
I live in pain every day and never know what to expect from my body. Yet people judge me for this. If all I manage to accomplish that day is a shower and pulling on a clean pair of pyjamas then who cares, all that matters is that I achieved it, other days I am capable of so much more. But just because I have had the energy and ability to carry out a task at that point in time, does not mean I will be capable of performing the same task five minutes later, let alone the next day.
I try to live every day ignoring the sideways glances and stage whispers, enjoying everything I am fortunate enough to experience. These days I try to capture my spasms on camera, as after all they are just as much a part of me as the functioning parts of my body. So when you are say I’m brave and ask how I cope the answer is quite simple. I’m not brave, I am stubborn, Dystonia and my host of other conditions will not stop me from living life. Coping is a different matter altogether. Some days it’s as easy as breathing, and laughing feels like the answer to everything. Other days curling up in my bed escaping into books where the words provide comfort and distraction is all I can do.
When you hear the word university student what do you picture? I’m sure that many of you conjure up an image very similar to my own. One of students sitting in a small dingy flat knocking back a stomach churning concoction from a mix as part of a drinking game; or stumbling back, shoes in hand, giggling from yet another night out. My ideas are based on experiences from my year at uni in 2011/2012. Whilst planning my return to university my mother and I have had many discussion on student life and how sensible I’m going to have to be this time round.
I have struggled to get my head round the fact that frankly I do not have the stamina I once did. My medication, spasms, and pain levels all have an impact. Now that’s not to say I can’t have a night or two out. I just cant do it back to back every night of the week. If I did I would be a spasming wreck and back in the hospital in no time. Whilst mentally I am the same old Becca, physically I am much weaker and more disabled than when I was last at uni. When I was last a student I was not battling Dystonia, I did not know then what it was like to lose control of your body like I do now. Although my condition is well controlled, it’s still up and down. I know when I’m on muscle relaxants I can’t drink, so my body will force me to be sensible every 6/7 weeks when my injections are due. The rest of the time will be down to self-control, and learning what works for me. Prioritising is key to making sure that I am well enough to attend lectures, and doing the studying that is required etc.
I have not lived any element of a student life since becoming ill. It will be a big adjustment process, which I will have to catch on to quickly. As my moving day creeps nearer (24 days) my nerves increase. I’m anxious to take this next step but nervous at just how much of an impact Dystonia shall have. However I am aware that as usual I am worrying over something that is outside my control, there is nothing I can do but enjoy my time at university and handle my spasms with my medical team as they come.
…and I don’t mean Beauty and the Beast style. This Beast of mine, is not going to transform into my Disney fairytale prince charming. Sitting in the Drs office earlier this afternoon, the Dr uttered words I had hoped I would never hear again. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The newest diagnosis to my add to my growing list, but not new to me. I have battled and conquered this hideous beast before. It took months and months in hospital. I never thought I would have to deal with this condition again. Last time it was in my leg. Now it is in my shoulder.
Emotionally I am numb, exhausted I know from the little sleep I have got due to pain. Part of me wants to draw the curtains, grab a pillow and just cry. But what good would that do me? It wouldn’t fix me, it wouldn’t take the physical pain away. I made the mistake last time round of avoiding everything that inflicted more pain, such as trousers (I lived in shorts), I couldn’t bear bed sheets, etc, anything touching me was agony. By avoiding touch I made the condition worse. I’m forcing myself to lie down on my back, to wear clothes that hurt, to put my handbag on shoulder even if only for a moment. By doing these things repeatedly hopefully my brain will relearn, again, that all is well.
The Dr went through my meds and was a bit stumped, as medication that he would have put me on to try to treat the condition, such as Gabapentin, I am already on the maximum dose of. We therefore agreed to trial Sertraline on the lowest dose. It may or may not work, but I’ll try anything right now.
In the meantime I’m going to close my eyes, and breath. Things could be worse after all. I defeated this beast once before, and I’ll defeat it once more.
I’m not sure where to begin. There is so much pain and if I am quite honest it is making everything extremely cloudy. After months and months of being seizure free I think today I had one, the memory loss that I seem to be experiencing confirms it. The devastation this causes is hard to put into words. I’m scared to leave the safety of my bed in case I have another, as one fall will be all it takes to pretty much guarantee an ambulance trip to the local hospital. After spending the last two days there (one planned trip, one unplanned), I don’t particularly fancy going back again so soon.
One of my Dystonia symptoms is a strong twitch/jerk, in my left arm. It flings my arm out rather violently to the side, it is completely out of my out of my control. This has been controlled by 3600mg of Gabapentin for the last two years but this no longer seems to be enough. It started off with just my shoulders jerking, I should have gone to the Drs then but instead I ignored this symptom. It’s got to the point now where my arm is flinging itself out to the side every few minutes with such a force that it causes horrendous pain when it collides with something, which it often does. I have had to resort to wearing a splint on my wrist to protect it as it had become rather swollen from the several times it has hit door frames, walls, hospital beds, etc.
My GP has decided to up the amount of Topiramate I take, which is an old antiepileptic medication to see if that will help. I take Topiramate to control my migraines but as my GP pointed out old antiepileptic medications such as Topiramate and Gabapentin often have many uses. So fingers crossed it works as I’m really struggling to cope. In all simple truth I just want someone to hug me but as I told my mother earlier I’m to scared to let her do so incase I hurt her.
I’m scared of my arm, the pain its causing and how my body irrationally responds to pain. This situation is impacting my life already – I daren’t walk into a shop now I’d break their stock – and I refuse for my life to be put on hold yet again! I really hope my little Dystonia Alien can hear me. I hope he is trembling in his tiny boots. As eventually my fear will give into rage, and I sincerely hope that the Alien has the sense to uproot and leave than do battle with me yet again.
The other day I wrote about how negative the majority of my appointments have been recently.I am thrilled to say that this trend has not continued recently. Last week I attended a physiotherapy session, I had gone prepared to do battle and expected to be discharged at the end of the appointment. I could not have been more wrong! The appointment on a whole was extremely positive and uplifting. I made such progress last week that I could not believe it, I don’t think my physiotherapists could either. I wore my splint for the entire session which enabled me to do more as my spasms are contained to a degree. My physiotherapists have not run a full session with me wearing my splint before, and I think they were quite amazed at the difference it makes. We are hopeful that the upcoming adaptations to my splint which in theory will contain my spasms further, will enable me to walk properly as my foot should not be able to turn upside down.
I met with the Orthotics today to discuss the adaptations that are going to be done on my splint. The original plan had been to make one that would fully encase my leg, however this had several risks to it. At the moment several of the straps on my splint are slightly elasticated, this is great for comfort but when my foot spasms it means it can get into pretty much any position it feels like. Instead of going for a full on enclosing splint they are going to swap the current straps for more restrictive ones with no give to see if this makes a difference. Hopefully it will, and if it doesn’t then we go back to the original plan. I also had splints fitted to both of my knees while I was there on the request of my physiotherapists. The idea behind this is that it will prevent my knees bending back as far due to my hypermobility, and they hope that this extra support may lessen the spasms in my feet. They have no idea if it will or not but it is worth a try.
Luckily these knee splints fit under my trousers as they are rather bulky! However to show you all what I am on about I have taken a photo with them over my trousers.
Todays blog i am going to keep short and sweet…you can all breathe a sigh of relief ;-p. I want to start by saying thank-you to all of you who have nominated me or endorsed me for a WEGO Health award, it is extremely touching! Below are some links that I think are really worth checking out! Happy reading.
I was doing my usual surfing of The Dystonia Society’s website and came across the link to The Global Dystonia Registry. This is a huge international database of Dystonia sufferers that scientists and researchers are using to understand Dystonia better. The more sufferers that register themselves on the database the more research can be done, and that can only lead to a more optimistic outcome for us all! For anyone who wants to know more here is the link to The Dystonia Society’s page which explains a bit more http://www.dystonia.org.uk/index.php/about-dystonia/global-dystonia-registry .
This year is full of exciting things, one of those is the London Marathon which my cousin David and his friend Sam are running in, to raise money for the Dystonia Society. I admire them for doing this, despite the weather we have been having, they have both continued training out along muddy canal paths and fields. They log their progress on Facebook and twitter so please follow them as they train to raise money for such a fantastic cause!