There Is Always Hope

Living with Chronic Illness is an act of bravery. When each of your days is spent in pain and discomfort, it takes a lot of courage to keep going. I want to talk about hope…how to have it to get through your life and how it helps to keep a person going.

there is always hope

What is HOPE? Here is one definition I found that I think sums it up:

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

Being optimistic is essential when you live with Chronic Illness, because the alternative is unacceptable. If you only see negatives, then you end up wallowing in misery and that compounds how you feel physically and mentally. I truly believe that even in the worst illnesses, there are positives to be found.

  1. You gain a better perspective of your own strengths
  2. You show more compassion for others who are struggling
  3. You understand the human condition for what it is and tend to reach out more to others
  4. Every accomplishment is a victory
  5. You find greater wisdom from those around you

Expecting with confidence is based on faith – trusting that what you want the most will come true. Realistic faith is a good thing and ridiculous faith is even better! What is ridiculous faith? It’s when you hope and pray for something which is beyond reasonable expectations, but still anticipate that miracles could happen.

Do you need Religion to have Hope? I don’t think so. It can help in many ways, as prayer can be a very comforting thing, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Many people consider themselves Spiritual rather than Religious and find comfort in ritual, nature or other traditions. Prayer may not be a part of their lives, but they still find comfort in the routines they’ve established for themselves.

I am a Christ Follower and find prayer to be essential to my well-being. It comforts me to know that I have a God who is bigger than me and who holds me in the palm of His hand. I trust that He has a plan for my life and though I may not understand it, I accept it. Acceptance on it’s own can be comforting.

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Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

So how does one go about growing Hope in their lives? What steps do you have to take to have faith in the things that are happening in your life, good and bad?

  1. Acknowledge your strengths. Chronic Illness can rob us of our confidence. Try making a list of all of your strengths and accomplishments. Read through the list and congratulate yourself for these positive traits. Understanding that you still have much to offer the world goes a long way in inspiring hope in the soul.
  2. Cultivate supportive relationships. As much as you can, surround yourself with supportive and caring people. People who help you to feel good and encourage you to be your best help to increase your sense of wellbeing. Having a supportive network of friends will help you to further your interests and goals. It’s much easier to find hope within a strong community as opposed to completely on your own
  3. Look at the activities and attitudes of people around you. See if any of them can serve as role models for what you would like to accomplish for yourself. Also, consider how the people around you act and make you feel. When you surround yourself with hope and success, it naturally trickles down into your own life. Like attracts like.
  4. Engage in pleasurable activities. Doing things that you enjoy can also help you to develop your sense of hope. By engaging in activities that make you happy every day, you will have a greater sense of purpose. If you are not sure about what activities bring you the most joy, try out some new things to figure it out. Take a class at your local community college, try a new exercise routine (Aqua-based activities are easy on the body), learn a new skill, or start a new hobby.
  5. Get involved with a cause. Volunteering for a cause you believe in is a great way to cultivate hope towards the future. This can be in either your local community or even an online community if mobility is an issue for you. Patient Advocacy is an area that is under-represented and working with Health Care Organizations can have a huge impact on yourself as well as others who live with Chronic Illness.
  6. Build relationships with others. When you start to build new relationships over common goals or projects, your sense of hope can greatly increase as you see results from your efforts. Involving yourself with other people who share your interests can help you to overcome alienation, which can cause a feeling of hopelessness.
  7. Get out of your comfort zone. This is essential to changing your thought patterns and learning to approach the world with more hope. Go out with friends after work instead of going straight home. Join a club or group so you can share new experiences with others. Develop a new hobby. Put yourself out there in ways that make you mildly uncomfortable at first.
  8. Keep track of your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Journaling is a great way to understand why you have been feeling hopeless and it is also a great stress reliever. To get started, buy a beautiful journal and a nice pen or pencil. Choose a comfortable place and plan to devote about 20 minutes per day to writing. Start by writing about how you are feeling, what you are thinking, or whatever else is on your mind.
  9. Try keeping a gratitude diary. Every night, think of three things you are grateful for and write them down. Doing this every day will help you to develop a more hopeful outlook and it can also help you to sleep better and enjoy better health. 
  10. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat healthy food, get plenty of rest, and relax. By taking good care of yourself, you are sending your mind signals that you deserve to be happy and treated well which can increase your hope for the future. Make time to take care of yourself
    • Exercise to the best of your ability.
    • Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
    • Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Use good sleep hygiene if you have trouble sleeping.
    • Set aside at least 15 minutes per day to relax. Practice yoga, do deep breathing exercises, or meditate.
    • Stay hydrated
    • Go for a massage or have body work such as Reiki to help balance you.
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Hope doesn’t have to be a fleeting thing…it can be a strong and deciding factor in your day to day life. I live every day with the hope it will be a good day. Positivity goes a long way in making me feel better physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m realistic about what I am and am not able to do, but I never give up hope that things will be better. It’s all about attitude and choosing how you want to feel.

I hope these ideas and suggestions are useful for you. I named my blog There Is Always Hope because I truly believe that statement. Even in the worst of our moments, I believe there is always a tiny light burning bright for us. We just have to look for it. Sometimes that means stepping out of our comfort zone and doing something we never thought we were capable of, but if we can overcome our fear, we may be surprised as to what we find.

And so I end this post as I always do and I mean it even more today…

There Is Always Hope

chronic pain and addictions (1)
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Interview October – Elisa Austin

Today we meet my final guest for Interview October, the wonderful Elisa Austin. Please join me in welcoming her!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

I am a 50 year old, mother of eight and grandmother. I’m a photographer and writer.

One fascinating fact about me is:

I am still existing. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have underactive thyroid (Hashimoto’s), Fibromyalgia, and IBS

My symptoms/condition began…

The thyroid condition was diagnosed in 1999 because I was just “off” and “dragging.” Fibromyalgia was diagnosed in 2004 although I believe symptoms began earlier.

My diagnosis process was… 

My doctor ruled out most things with blood tests and sent me to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist ruled out RA and by process of elimination Fibromyalgia was diagnosed.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

Knowing there is no cure and I will have to deal with the pain every day for the rest of my life.

A typical day for me involves…

Medication, necessary appointments or activities, and with luck some housework.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

It rotates through warm baths, heating pads, aromatherapy, family, exercise

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

That I’m stronger and more determined than I had originally thought. 

My support system is…

My family and an online group

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

I don’t even know. I no longer make plans or have dreams.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I am more supportive of others

One final thing I want people to know is: 

I refuse to give up.

Interview October – Shantay Marsh Thompson

I have another great interview to share with you today…please meet Shantay Marsh Thompson!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

My name is Shantay Marsh Thompson, and I am 42 years old. I have two grown kids that are working, and one is in college. I spend my time taking online classes since I am not able to work. I spend my time in the house the majority of the time because walking too much makes my back hurt. I do not go to stores to shop. I shop online or if it is something personal that I need, I will go to Dollar General so I can get in and out. My mother does the grocery shopping for me. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

That even though I am down with this illness, I continue to learn academically.  

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I have Fibromyalgia with chronic back pain, depression, Neuralgia, Arthralgia, and Dyslipidemia. The pain in my back is worse. I have trouble sitting and standing for long periods.

My symptoms/condition began…

In 2013 after being diagnosed with endometriosis. After I had my procedure, I started hurting badly after a month. I went back to my gynecologist and asked him to please give me a hysterectomy because I needed to work. I had to wait four months before I could get the hysterectomy, so I continued to work in pain. After I had my hysterectomy in 2014, the pain was still there. I worked for about a month then had to quit my job because I could not stand nor sit for long periods. 

My diagnosis process was… 

Terrible. I went through several doctors in Tuscaloosa, AL. Nobody would give me the help that I needed. I cried every day because my pain was so bad. The medicine they gave me, such as Tramadol did not do anything for me. I had to move back to Mobile County to find me a doctor that could help me. I found one, and he gave me some medicine that would help me reduce the pain some. It was June 2015 before I got a diagnosis.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

Dealing with the pain in my back. I have tried Fibromyalgia lotions and nothing seems to work good.

A typical day for me involves…

Laying in my bed watching tv or doing some schoolwork. I make myself go to the gym to at least once a week to do strength training and walking but I pay for it the next day. 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My Lyrica. I have bad nerve pain so I take Lyrica. After my daughter turned 19 in April, my medicaid ended so I had to go without Lyrica for some weeks and I was in pain. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

How to appreciate life more and do not take anything for granted. I have worked since I graduated in 1995 and I never thought my working career would end in 2014.  

My support system is…

My one friend, my family, my fiancé, my church family, and the  FIBRO CONNECT Group.  

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

Get out the house and treat myself. 

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

Being thankful that it is not a deadly illness.

One final thing I want people to know is: 

Fibromyalgia is real. I would not wish this pain on no one.

My Links

https://www.facebook.com/Health-Wellness-108684490547162/?view_public_for=108684490547162

Interview October – Jennifer Van Haitsma

I’m excited to share my next guest’s story with you…please meet Jennifer Van Haitsma!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hi! My name is Jennifer Van Haitsma, the writer behind the blog Diffusing the Tension. I am 33 and I live in Northwest Indiana (about an hour from Chicago). I’m married to my love of 14 years, and we have 2 amazing children. (They are 4.5 and 2.5). In my spare time, I love to watch TV. I’m an avid binge watcher when I can. I especially love British period dramas, procedurals, and true crime documentaries. I also love to read. My goal is to read 35 books this year. I try to workout several days a week as well. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

I am terrified of heights. It is strange because I am not afraid of rollercoasters or airplane rides, but any other situation involving heights petrifies me. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I live with bipolar disorder and chronic fatigue. Originally, I was diagnosed with depression, but my diagnosis changed about 10 years ago. 

My symptoms/condition began…

I began to exhibit symptoms of depression when I was 9 years old. I was a little more withdrawn at school and acted out a bit more at home, from what I can remember. 

My diagnosis process was… 

When I was 12 or 13 my mom took my to my first therapist. I remember not even wanting to talk to her at first. I had a lot of anger after my cousin’s death in 1995 (when my symptoms started) and really didn’t want to let a stranger climb the walls I had built inside. But ultimately, I was diagnosed with depression. In 2009, at age 23, I began to exhibit symptoms of mania (hyper productivity, irritability, and sabotaging relationships.) I sought treatment again, and in 2010 I was labeled bipolar 2 with rapid cycling mixed episodes. 

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

Definitely the effects it has on those around me. I sometimes lose my patience when it’s not necessary, and take it out on my husband and children, which makes me feel deeply ashamed. Another incredibly hard part is the fatigue. I am so tired that it is hard to stay awake past 7:30pm. 

A typical day for me involves…

Taking the day an hour at a time. I make the kids breakfast, then we do whatever we can to pass the time until lunch, etc. My fatigue makes it hard to stick to a schedule with them currently, as I often need to lie down for prolonged periods of time. 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My phone! It is where I store my pictures, others’ phone numbers, others’ address, where I get my entertainment, where I keep my to do lists… My phone is the central hub of my daily activity. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

It had taught me resilience in a way that nothing else could. I have had to learn that each day is a fresh start, and it is possible to make the most of my situation. It has also taught me the power of speaking about my journey so that I can help others through theirs. 

My support system is…

My biggest supporters are my husband and parents. My husband is my best friend, and he is always patient with me when my illness gets bad, and always stays by my side. My parents provide a lot of support where my husband can’t. The girls get a lot of play time with their grandmas during the day when he is working and I need the help. 

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

It’s funny how hard it is to imagine myself without my illness! I think I would get in a long workout and then spend the day doing fun things with the girls. Maybe a trip to the zoo or a local amusement park, if the weather was good. 

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

It helps you have more empathy for others who struggle. Before my diagnosis, I’m sure I often looked down on people with chronic illness. Now, I know they are just that: people. 

One final thing I want people to know is:

I am not my illness. I am so much more than just bipolar. I am a wife, a mom, a bookworm, a TV addict, a fitness nut, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a person. 

My links are:

Blog: www.diffusingthetension.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jvan3610

Facebook: www.facebook.com/diffusingthetension

Instagram: www.instagram.com/diffusing_the_tension

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/diffusingthetensionblog

Interview October – Jamie Pirtle

It’s time to meet my next guest, the lovely Jamie Pirtle. Enjoy her story!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…


I was born blind in one eye and with a condition called nystagmus, where my eyes continually move.  The doctors are not sure why, but have suspicions that it could be because my mom smoked and had mono while pregnant.  

I grew up in the south eating meat, potatoes, gravy and biscuits almost every meal. My way of eating was pretty much carbs, carbs and more carbs. A meal without a potato was pretty much a sin.

As a teen, I started to eat junk food, including diet coke and snickers for lunch and the diagnoses started coming in during my late 20’s. 

Conditions you have been diagnosed with:

  • Mitral Valve Prolapse
  • High Cholesterol
  • Arthritis (in remission)
  • IBS 
  • Lupus (in remission)
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (in remission)
  • Endometriosis (had hysterectomy)
  • Thyroid cancer (removed and now take meds)

I can remember staying in the bed all day one Mother’s Day crying because I couldn’t play with my 2-year-old daughter or go see my mom.  The pain and unpredictable bowel movements were just too much.  

I didn’t get to take vacation from work because I used all my time off going to specialist and staying home sick.

I can’t wait to hear about YOUR progress!

At about age 49, I started following a health coach on Facebook and listening to him talk about how what we eat results in autoimmune diseases.  This coupled with returning from a cruise so sick I missed another week of work, I decided I had to do something 

I first went gluten free and started eliminating junk food and diet cokes. Next, I cut out all aspartame, high fructose corn syrup and most fried foods. This helped, but there was still something missing. 

Then I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. When you hear these dreaded words, your world stops.  I remember sitting in the parking lot of the doctor’s office talking to my husband on the phone and saying, I have to figure out what is causing this. 

I started studying everything I could get my hands on and decided the only way to go was to eat whole, mostly organic foods. I also cut out as many carbs as I could and cut way back on sugar. 

After improving my lifestyle, I feel SO much better in my 50’s than I ever did in my 30’s and 40’s. I went from taking 9, yes NINE daily prescriptions to just ONE (my necessary thyroid medicine) and eliminated the pain associated with several autoimmune diseases.

One fascinating fact about me is:

I went back to school at age 53 and became a certified health coach so I can help others get healthy and not have to live in pain like I did.  I also beat cancer and plan to stay cancer free! 

My symptoms/condition began…

In my late 20’s. (born with the eyes) 

My diagnosis process was… 

Long and tedious. The doctors just kept telling me I was too stressed at work and I needed to learn to relax. I also knew something was wrong with my thyroid and it took almost 2 years for doctors to finally find the cancer after I insisted on a sonogram and biopsy. 

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

People think I am ignoring them when I cannot see them out of my bad eye or they think I’m drunk or high as my eyes move. When I was in school the teachers thought I was day dreaming because it was easier for me to focus on them by turning my head and creating a null point that made my eyes stop moving. It is also hard to do fun activities like bowling due to some joint pain from time to time. 

A typical day for me involves…

Eating healthy and making sure I drink lots of water, take my supplements, use essential oils and remember the food makes a HUGE difference in how I feel. I work a demanding manager job with a large aero defense company and have a side gig as a heath coach and blogger. 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My glasses for sure!  But also, healthy foods and supplements – I take lots of supplements. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

That life is precious and we really are what we eat.  I have also learned not to push myself and to try to destress as much as possible. 

My support system is…

My husband, family and friends.  I have also found joy now in my health coaching clients.  It is such a great feeling to see them losing weight and regaining energy. 

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

Go watch a 3D movie! They don’t work for me with my bad eyes.  

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

It has made me strong and made me a lifelong learner.  I can no longer rely on others to make medical decisions for me and research everything a doctor tells me. 

One final thing I want people to know is:

Food is a HUGE factor in your health and how you feel. Unfortunately, many doctors want to give you a pill and not educate you on the importance of good nutrition. 

My links are: 

Healthywithjamie.com

https://m.facebook.com/healthywithjamie/

https://www.instagram.com/healthywithjamie1/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2109386845847472/?ref=share

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamiehyatt1

Free recipe book with 23 gluten free and Keto friendly healthy recipes: 

https://healthywithjamie.com/free-recipe-book/#

Interview October – Jenny Jones

I’m delighted to introduce my next guest to you. This is Jenny Jones and here is her story:

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

I’m Jenny and I share my story of rare disease and chronic illness on my blog Life’s a Polyp. I have a Master’s in Social Work and provide behavioural health services to dialysis patients. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

 I started a research fund through National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) for the rare disease of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP). Life’s a Polyp shop has several designs across a variety of merchandise that helps to raise awareness of rare disease but also supports the FAP Research Fund through NORD.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I have two rare diseases – Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS). FAP is a hereditary, rare disease that causes 100s to 1000s of pre-cancerous polyps to develop in the colon as well as extracolonic manifestations. SBS results when too much of the colon and even the small intestine is damaged or removed resulting in malabsorption of nutrients and fluids that is often complicated by severe diarrhea and dehydration.

My symptoms/condition began…

FAP is a genetic disease that I was born with but I also developed Short Bowel Syndrome due to my colon and part of my small intestine being removed as part of my treatment for FAP.

My diagnosis process was… 

I was diagnosed when I was about 8 years old after having stomach pain from a pre-ulcerous condition which led my GI doctor to complete genetic testing due to my family history of FAP. It was difficult to obtain a referral to a GI doctor as my PCP told my parents I was “just a whiny child” and nothing was wrong with me.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

Never knowing what the day will be like or what the future will be. Working to be able to support myself is my primary goal in life and the best physical health years of my life are behind me now. I am terrified of the day that I will no longer be able to work and support myself. 

A typical day for me involves…

I work full time – 5 days a week but after work and on the weekends I require a lot of resting time to recuperate from the work week so that I may work the next week. Sometimes I enjoy outings with friends and family but I have to balance all of my activities with rest periods in order to continue functioning.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My parents – they are my foundation and support in life. They help keep me going while providing assistance as needed to care for myself. I would be lost without them. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

 The importance of taking physical and emotional care of myself and advocating for myself so that I may continue to maintain optimal functioning ability.

My support system is…

My parents and a few select friends make up my support system. I also receive encouragement from online groups for FAP and SBS.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

Probably spend the day engaging in all the activities I typically am unable to complete or am leery about completing due to my SBS symptoms.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

Chronic illness teaches us perseverance and empathy – both qualities that are important in caring for ourselves and understanding others.

One final thing I want people to know is: 

Chronic illness is hard to live with – both physically and psychologically. Counseling can be a key component of learning to accept and cope with chronic illness in a healthy way. It is also essential to be proactive in one’s care to ensure the best treatment possible from all medical providers.

My links are:

www.LifesaPolyp.BlogSpot.com

www.Youtube.com/LifesaPolyp

www.cafepress.com/lifesapolyp

www.facebook.com/lifesapolyp

www.twitter.com/lifesapolyp

www.instagram.com/lifesapolyp

www.pinterest.com/lifesapolyp

Interview October – Sam Moss

My next guest is the amazing Sam Moss from Australia. She has a fascinating story so I hope you enjoy reading about her!

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hi, I’m Sam and I live with my beautiful husband in Australia. I have been living with a series of complex medical conditions for over 9 years now. In 2014 my health deteriorated to the point of needing to medically retire. 

I had lived life in the fast lane for 30 years with a successful management career in financial services. Prior to medically retiring I was an Executive Manager in the Financial Services Industry. A career I loved as it predominately involved coaching and developing a Leadership team. 

I also enjoyed various change management consultancy roles for not for profit organisations. I loved every minute of those able bodied years and am very grateful for the experiences I have had.

My career highlights include;

  • Contributing to creating an award winning customer experience culture in the various Banking and Insurance departments I’ve managed.
  • Leading an inspired and motivated team of people, many of whom are now lifelong friends.
  • Receiving the inaugural Banking Leader of the Year Award just before I medically retired (such a special parting gift)
  • Restoring an historic church building to its former glory,
  • Appointed as a management consultant in the Anglican Church, and assisted Senior Church Leaders (Clergy and Lay) to bring about exciting reformative change.

Now I’m medically retired I’m exploring my long term passion to be a writer. I’m a member of the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network and an ongoing contributor to “The Mighty”.

With time on my hands I decided to start a blog called ” My Medical Musings” as a way to reach out to others dealing with life changing health episodes. I also founded a Global online support forum, “Medical Musings with Friends”. It’s a place for those living with chronic illness or their carers, wanting the hand of friendship, as they journey an often lonely and difficult path.

It is a place to laugh, cry, share and vent together. It’s my absolute passion and honour to walk daily with others who understand exactly what it is like living with chronic illness.

When health gets complex, it’s really important to find others who are also battling multiple issues to share the never-ending complexities that arise and share all aspects of life living with chronic disease.

One fascinating fact about me is: 

Not sure there’s much fascinating about me at all. My husband and I have moved 17 times in 24 years of marriage!! Some of those moves have been interstate and we have seen a lot of Australia as a result. That part has been a blessing.

Yes we are expert movers and this last move is definitely it. The combination of my husband’s work as an Anglican minister and my work in the Bank, was the reason for the majority of the moves. We have just settled into a lovely Lifestyle village which works perfectly for my disabilities, so hopefully no need to move again…EVER!!!

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

The list is way longer and complex than I would like, but here goes:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis ( diagnosed 2010)
  • Sjogrens Syndrome  ( diagnosed 2011)
  • Prolapsed Rectum ( diagnosed 2011)
  • Permanent Colostomy ( 2013)
  • Progressive Rare Bone Disease which causes my long bones to pathologically fracture. This includes both my femurs, 7 foot fractures, spinal fractures and severe Lumbar Spinal Stenosis with compressed spinal cord. Fractures won’t heal and surgery to fix my spine constantly fails as the bone disease continues to attack it.

My symptoms/condition began…

In 2010 I was in my mid 40’s, at the height of my career as an Executive Manager in a major bank.

In April of that year I was getting ready to take 6 weeks long service leave to spend some quality time with my beautiful husband. We were going on a road trip through South East Queensland down to the Hunter Valley in Northern NSW and I was so looking forward to having a break.

On the way home I started feeling really unwell and I just couldn’t shake off an extreme tiredness, joint pain like I had never experienced and abdominal pain. My hands were so sore that even the slightest touch was excruciating. I couldn’t hold my husband’s hand or pick anything up. My hips were so painful that walking normally was becoming difficult unless my husband supported me. We knew something was not right.

As soon as we got home we headed for my GP and a whole list of Specialist appointments followed. Long story short, 2 months later I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) after being first diagnosed with Q fever, Ross River Virus and a list of other false positive diagnoses.

My body was not behaving normally and my Doctors and I were to discover over the next 6 years just how abnormal it actually was. I had no idea what lay ahead.

As time went on…

With RA medication on board, I continued to work for another 12 months before my body began to basically break down bit by bit. My last day in the office was Melbourne Cup Day 2011. I was trying to push through the day and getting ready to judge my Departments “Fashion on the Fields” when my Personal Assistant found me in agony in the ladies bathroom and rang my husband to come and pick me up.

From that day my life was never to be the same again.

In 2011, I was diagnosed with a prolapsed bowel which refused to mend despite 3 attempts at conservative surgery. By mid-2013 we knew we had no choice but to accept that I needed a permanent stoma.

In November 2013 I medically retired and became the “proud” owner of a permanent colostomy. It has been quite a journey with my medical team including a Clinical Immunologist, Colorectal Surgeon, Endocrinologist, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Gynaecologist, Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, Infectious Disease Specialist, Neurologist and Dermatologist, all trying to work out what is causing my health issues.

I have been called “special”, “unique”, “one of a kind” but really they all believe overall, aside from Rheumatoid Arthritis, I have a rare idiopathic disease (a disease of its own kind).

I have lost count of the number of times I have been hospitalised over the past 8 years. I have had 14 surgeries since October 2010, with the prospect of more ahead.

I thought Rheumatoid Arthritis and a permanent colostomy would be an end to what my body was going to challenge me with. I hoped I could settle comfortably into medical retirement with my husband but I soon came to realise that my life was going to be an ongoing medical adventure.

Bone Fractures…

In October 2014 my left femur (thigh bone) broke spontaneously. Yes, all on its own, I didn’t fall from a great height or have a major car crash, which is apparently the type of accident I should have been involved in to have the strongest bone in my body break. Mine just broke as I was opening my bedroom door!

It is called a pathological break and my Specialists believe I have a rare genetic bone disease. My bones are extremely dense and marble like and my bone turnover is almost non-existent. We also now know that my bones are dying and much of the soft tissue around my bones is also dead tissue.

12 months after my leg broke, my right femur was also showing signs of disease on MRI with bone marrow involvement so a rod had to be placed in that to prevent an imminent break and repeat medical emergency like we had with my femur break in 2014.

I am constantly dealing with multiple foot fractures and none of my broken bones in my legs or feet will heal. My bone pain is excruciating on a daily basis. My left femur which snapped in two is still broken nearly 5 years later and has been diagnosed as a non-union break. I have been on two crutches or a walker since the femur broke and also have a mobility scooter. The disease is now attacking my spine and causing excess bone to grow into the spinal cord. Despite surgeries to try and remove the bone, it grows back so quickly the surgeries are deemed as “failed”. 

My diagnosis process was… 

Complicated to say the least. As above it was a long process but also quick in the sense that I was referred to the right Specialists and soon had a team working on my case to try and work out what was going on. Some diagnoses were by chance. 6 months prior to my femur snapping in two, my Clinical Immunologist had sent me for a Bone Density Scan.

His concern was low bone density (Osteoporosis) because I had been on Prednisone for 4 years. He was so surprised to find I had extremely high bone density, really high. That just shouldn’t have been the case. He quickly referred me to an Endocrinologist who began monitoring my bone blood markers. All was not good. High Bone Density and low bone turnover meant new bone was being laid down but the old bone wasn’t being replaced. Bone was being added to bone and my skeleton was getting thicker and thicker.

I remember my Endocrinologist saying, “hopefully it will just settle and you won’t get any broken bones”. 

I was suffering with terrible bone pain and within 6 months of her comment she was by my hospital bed in a state of shock as my left femur had snapped in two so spectacularly. I was so blessed to be alive as I was told it could have severed my femoral artery. I was also the pinup girl in the hospital…well, my x-ray was!! 

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

For me it’s the constant daily pain and exhaustion that accompanies it.

A typical day for me involves…

Morning…

Wake up around 6.30am, from a generally broken night’s sleep;

Take pills before I try to get out of bed. Crutches await my descent from my bed….the first effort to get out always fails. I just can’t weight bear until the pills help a little. My back often paralyses my legs and I simply can’t move until anti-inflammatory meds help take the pressure off my spine. When I first get up I only get as far as the ensuite and then straight back to bed;

Eventually I make it to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Depending on how I am feeling and if I need to stand rather than sit, I’ll make a simple breakfast of cereal with banana and a cup of tea. If I can’t do it my husband does. We sit and eat breakfast in the lounge room and watch the morning news and chat together. I also check in on my online support forum, emails and messages;

I take my second set of morning pills with food. These help but they fatigue me for the first 2 hours of the day making it even harder to coordinate movement;

I rarely cry. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’ve become used to my circumstances, although I still make plans in my head of all I’d like to do during the day, knowing that I’ll be eliminating items from that list constantly. Staying perfectly still the leg hurts but it’s a duller pain.

The slightest movement and it’s like I’ve broken it all over again. Fractured feet and stress fractures in the opposite leg add to my overall disability. The stenosis is by far the most crippling. Even lying down only brings temporary relief and I soon have to get up and try and move;

I’m determined but after breakfast I have no energy to get dressed just yet. I leave showering until the evening after dinner. So much easier to shower then knowing I can collapse into bed straight away.

In the morning I want to run around and stack the dishwasher, dust the furniture, get dressed and do my hair and makeup all before 7.30am. Ha! Not happening! I used to move at such a fast pace. I miss that. I will do all those things but it will take me 3 or 4 hours at a ridiculously slow pace.

I get told others should do those tasks for me but it is so important for my well-being that I keep as much independence as I possibly can. My husband does all the washing and cooking as that is outside of my capabilities.

I still have goals to get better and resume those activities, even though I know it’s unlikely. There is no cure for my disease, it’s progressive and my prognosis is unknown.

Afternoon…

After lunch the fatigue from battling the pain is beyond belief so I need to lie on the bed for at least an hour, if not longer. I’m not a day time sleeper so I just relax as best I can, read, watch TV, blog, write articles and manage my online forum.

In the late afternoon my husband and I will have afternoon tea on our back patio. The fresh air and sitting in our little courtyard/garden brings me so much joy and is so relaxing. We’ve set it up like our own private cafe and I arrange our afternoon tea as if it were served at a boutique coffee shop or tea house. The simple things bring such joy.

I sit in the lounge room for dinner while we watch the news. I take my evening pills, shower  and am back in bed by 8pm. My husband joins me by 9pm and we watch TV together. We love our evenings.

I rarely leave the house aside from medical appointments but I still have goals to get out a little more and we’ve started to achieve those once a fortnight.

Stoma…

All of the above is my normal routine unless my stoma becomes over active. I then have to manage changing my stoma appliance, putting all best laid plans out to pasture.

(I have a permanent colostomy due to a severe rectal prolapse. A ‘colostomy’ is a stoma formed by bringing part of your colon (large bowel) out on to the surface of your abdomen).

I do actually love my stoma, which I’ve had for 6 years on the 11th November. The pain and disability from having a severe rectal prolapse was horrific. My stoma restored some quality of life and I’m so grateful for it.

 The one thing I cannot live without is…

My husband

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

Life isn’t over with a chronic illness diagnosis and disability. It’s just different. New opportunities to connect with others and pursue new passions and goals, is achievable. It’s all about our mindsets. It’s about choosing to embrace new ways of living. I’ve learned to focus on enjoying moments, rather than planning ahead for good days/weeks or months. 

In many ways so much of my life has changed, but nothing has changed where my faith and trust in God is concerned. I am resolved to make the best of each and every day I am blessed with.

I love each day, as I know despite my unrelenting pain, I will have moments within the day that bring joy, laughter and connection with others in some small way. Just writing this has been something I’ve enjoyed. I will definitely be collapsing on the bed straight afterwards but it’s been a delight and an honour to collaborate with Pamela on her blog.

My support system is…

My Husband is my full time carer and my main support.

My Online Support Forum Members provide me with so much love and encouragement on a daily basis

Close Friends who stay in touch with a text, email or a visit (for those who live close enough)

Our family all live interstate or a few hours away so we don’t get to see each other in person much but they are amazing in their care and concern, and also regularly text, email and phone my husband and I. 

I have Government Funded support for Physio, Podiatry, Occupational Therapy, Carers, transport, home modifications, plus permanent approval for Residential Care if my health progresses to the stage of need 24 hour around the clock care.

Our Church, although having just moved to a new suburb, we are still in the process of forming new connections.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

Go for a long drive with my husband in the country. Visit little towns, stop at gorgeous cafes and walk for miles around country shops. 

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I think having true empathy for others suffering with chronic illness/ disability has been a growing experience for me. We think we understand what it’s like but when you’re relatively healthy, life is busy and we don’t take enough time to look outside of our own world, to truly understand another’s needs and struggles.

Ultimately the one positive….. the gift of time

One final thing I want people to know is: 

That moment when the focus shifts to the possible, rather than looking at the impossible, is a life changing moment. It’s the moment a cheerful heart has room to emerge, despite our chronic illness

My links are:

Blog:  https://mymedmusings.com/

Online Support Forum:    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1074726565969551/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/mymedicalmusings/

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/mymedmusings/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/My_medmusings

Interview October – Keiran Potter

It’s time to meet my next guest, the fabulous Keiran Potter! I’m excited about what he has to share!

Keiran Potter

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hello, my name is Keiran Potter, I am 21 years old and I am from the South West of England. I am currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at University and hope to pursue a career as a writer if all goes to plan. But you know what they say, best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

Not sure how fascinating any of my facts are but I am 22 this month and still often get mistaken for a 12 year old at my local shops. Oh and I’m gay, not fascinating but definitely a fact. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

Celiac Disease and Various Mental Health problems but for the sake of this interview I’ll focus on the former

My symptoms/condition began…

The symptoms of Celiac were present for an awful long time before I recognised them as something that could be potentially sinister. The stomach pain, migraines and bleeding had been such a regular thing for me, that it became the norm and I failed to question it for a long time. So I’d say as long as I remember I have had the issue but it wasn’t further explored until May 2018 

My diagnosis process was… 

 I had to have blood tests and several other samples. Celiac Disease can share some symptoms with other serious conditions like intestinal cancers, so my doctor was pretty concerned. Once they came back I got referred to a specialist on a 9 month waiting list. In the interim they told me to research about Celiac Disease and cut out Gluten from my diet. They failed to tell me that by doing this it would also put other aspects of my health at risk. Such as my heart. 

When I was referred I was then asked to eat Gluten again after being gluten-free for 9 months, in order to have an upper endoscopy and biopsy of my intestines. 

So all of my symptoms got more aggressive and I was in constant pain as my body had began healing in the 9 months that I had known about my potential diagnosis 

The first biopsy was inconclusive. I had to wait another 3 months and get another one done. It was quite a hellish experience to be honest but I finally got the 100% confirmation of the disease. Which in many ways was a blessing as I finally had some answers 

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

The constant vigilance and endless fatigue and stomach pain. Even when doing everything you should be doing. Sometimes you have issues for no apparent reason and there is literally no answer to appease your concerns or pain. 

A typical day for me involves…

 A lot of thinking ahead about the risks of everyday living. Such as eating or spending the day out of the house in an unfamiliar place. A lot of time spent on or near a toilet. University, I study English and Creative Writing. Lots of medication but thankfully a lot of laughs 

The one thing I cannot live without is…

 Not really a thing but my support system and the people who help and love me the most. I quite literally would not be alive if it wasn’t for them. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

To value every aspect of your life for what it is. You never know when those simple joys may be taken from you. It has also made me more appreciative of health in general. Our bodies are not as indestructible as we may like to think sometimes  

My support system is…

My Family, my mum specifically. I don’t think I would show up to half of the appointments I have if it wasn’t for her dragging me there by the ear. I’m very grateful for all the help and care she gives me 

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

 Eat some Chinese food and go do something productive and just enjoy the day without the illness. I would take advantage of some of the freedoms that I feel I don’t have as much access too since my illnesses have truly taken a hold on my life

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

I think one positive is how you can then use your knowledge of your own body and conditions to educate and help others. There is also a sense of community instantly when you find people who struggle with the same illnesses and experiences. It’s important that all voices are heard, so I’m glad interviews like this amplify the voices of disabled or chronically ill people. 

One final thing I want people to know is:

 Only because a person may not look ill, it doesn’t mean they are not struggling everyday to live their life as normally as possible. Always be kind to everyone you meet as even if you can’t physically see it, that person could be in pain and/ or mental strife. A smile could always brighten up their day 

My links are:

Https://KeiranCrying.com/blog

Instagram.com/keirancrying

Interview October – Melissa Temple

I’m pleased to announce that Melissa Temple is my next guest for Interview October. Let’s read what this lovely lady has to say:

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you… 

Hi. My name is Melissa Temple. I am 40 years old. I am a disability, fibromyalgia, chronic illness and Disney blogger. I am married and have 1 child. I had a blog called HappyFibroGirl but wanted to do more than fibro. So with my husband of 19 years we started Disabled Disney. 

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

Osteo-Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Depression, Anxiety, Type 2 Diabetes, Asthma, Endometriosis.

My symptoms/condition began…

I had arthritis symptoms in my 20’s but wasn’t diagnosed until my 30’s. My fibro symptoms really started after having knee surgery and a hysterectomy from severe endometriosis. 

My diagnosis process was…

I went to my primary care and told her about all my pain. She said she was pretty sure I had fibromyalgia. She sent me to pain management. The pain management doctor agreed. 

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

Not being able to do everything I used to be able to do. I can’t hardly walk or stand anymore. I used to dance, hike, swim, and do so many physical things! I used to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) but I had to stop because I couldn’t stand anymore for long periods.

A typical day for me involves… 

Medications when I wake up..doing some posting on social media for my blog..and eating breakfast…then a nap…then more meds and some more work on my blog and lunch…then another nap…then some more work on the blog if I’m feeling up to it…then more meds and dinner….then watching tv until bed….then more meds…then bed…

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

My husband, my cell phone and my muscle relaxers. My husband is my reason to keep pushing and going, he is my light in the dark and the love of my life. My cell phone is where I do a lot of my blog stuff. It also keeps me connected to the outside world when I am very isolated at home. My muscled relaxers…if I don’t take them I can’t move. 

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

Really enjoy everything because you may not always have it and you won’t know your about to lose it!

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed…

Be an advocate for yourself. Yes the doctors have gone to school but you know yourself and you have to live your life…they don’t. 

My support system is…

My hubby, my daughter and all my fibro friends on Facebook and my blogger friends on Twitter.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

I would dance, go hiking, run and jump…I would go walking around a mall….I would volunteer and be out!

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

It really shows you who cares about you. 

My social media links are:

Website/blog: www.disableddisney.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/disableddisney

Twitter: www.twitter.com/disableddisney

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/disableddisney

Facebook: www.facebook.com/disableddisney

Interview October – Michelle Curtis

It’s time for the annual series I run on There Is Always Hope called Interview October. I have spent time asking questions about health conditions that these amazing people are living with, and their replies help bring education and hope to my readers.

Today, we’re meeting my dear friend Michelle Curtis who runs the blog site The Zebra Pit. Let’s hear her story!

Include a photograph of yourself:

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hello! I’m a 47 year old queer disabled woman living in greater Cincinnati. I live a housebound life due to my conditions. Though I am completely disabled by my conditions, I work from home doing freelance writing and managing two websites. Lately, I’ve been working on reviving my creative writing career as a poet and fiction writer, as I’ve managed to improve my cognitive deficits enough to go back to writing and editing some shorter works.

I have been happily married for over 13 years and have a grown stepson whom I love very much, but get to see very little. I am an avid fan of the arts (both high brow and pop), music and nature and consider myself a lifelong learner. I am a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy, love to learn about astronomy, archeology and science, and spent much of my life protesting the abuse of marginalized peoples and our planet.

I hold a BA in women, gender and sexuality studies with minors in ethnic studies and creative writing and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing. Prior to becoming disabled by my conditions, I worked as everything from a cab driver to a college instructor and have experience in the fields of education, communications, business administration, human resources, healthcare and non-profits, not to mention my illustrious career in retail and banking prior to going to college. 

One fascinating fact about me is:

This is always a hard question for me. I think all people are fascinating when you get to know them. I guess the thing that people are usually fascinated the most with is that almost nothing about me is considered conventional: I have disabling genetic disorders, I am neurodivergent, atheist yet spiritual, pansexual and feminist.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I am what is known as a Trifecta Zebra, as I have a trio of rare illnesses that are often seen together; Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). I also have gastroparesis, IBS, Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, Dystonia, cognitive dysfunction with significant memory loss (both long and short term), coronary arterial spasm,  degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, CRPS in my right leg, endometriosis, and intractable migraine. I strongly suspect and am seeking diagnosis for chairi and/or craniocervical instability and autism. 

My symptoms/condition began…

As a child, though my symptoms wouldn’t become really apparent until early adulthood.  

My diagnosis process was… 

Fraught with misdiagnoses and errors. Despite my many health problems which I reported to every doctor, I was not diagnosed with EDS until I was almost 45. I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia around age 40 and CSF a couple of years later. A couple of years after that, I was diagnosed with POTS. I had to find EDS and MCAS, figure out that I had them and then find doctors to diagnose and begin treating them. 

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

The cognitive dysfunction. I had developmental delays as a child and everyone thought I was just plain stupid and wouldn’t do much in life. I had terrible self-esteem and no faith in my abilities. I didn’t figure out I was probably pretty smart until my mid-twenties and finally went to college because I simply couldn’t manage doing the only sorts of jobs I could get, those with a high level of physical labor.

I spent years working toward a career I thought would save me and that I loved more than I could ever imagine allowing myself to love anything. By the time I was done, I no longer had the cognitive ability left to actually do the work I’d been trained for, even if I could find ways to accommodate my deteriorating tissues.

I’m glad I’ve found new things to consume my life with and I can’t say I regret the journey. But the knowledge that I could have had a brilliant career had I the capacity to go on is sometimes too much psychic pain to bear. These days I try very hard to focus on what I can accomplish and find focusing on the present helps me to avoid these hard truths.

A typical day for me involves…

I like to say I live on tilt, because I quite literally have to. If I spend too much time in the upright position, I suffer terrible pain and cognitive symptoms and sometimes have seizures. If I’m flat on my back, I develop pain in the back of my head. So I spend much of my day tilted back in a recliner, working on my blogs and writing, trying to avoid the pain caused by being completely upright or completely prone.

Most of my time spent upright is to cook (I cannot tolerate processed foods at all), do therapies and keep up my movement routines of recumbent bike riding and strengthening exercises. In the evening, I try to relax in front of the TV or with a good book. 

 The one thing I cannot live without is…

Myofascial therapy! I’d be in so much pain if not for it!

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

Never to judge other people’s lives or make assumptions about why someone does something.

My support system is…

My husband is my primary source of support, but we both have chronic health conditions so things can get pretty hairy from time to time, but we usually manage! The remainder of my support comes from within the chronic illness/spoonie community.

I know there are any number of people I can turn to for emotional support or needed advice regarding my health and wellness. I would be lost without them, as I have few others in my life.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

It would be a lot like Ferris Buehler’s Day Off without the teen angst! A great deal of sightseeing, dancing and celebrating of life, topped off by an exciting and romantic evening of a show, an amazing dinner, more dancing and a carriage ride around Fountain Square. 

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

It’s made me take responsibility for my mental health and taught me what real support looks like, allowing me to walk away from all the toxic people in my life.

One final thing I want people to know is: 

No matter how bad things get, there’s always the possibility that things will get better, as long as you keep fighting. I spent years so inundated by symptoms and disabled by my health that I could no longer see the point of living. I nearly took my own life.

I’m so glad I managed to pull myself out of that deep depression, because it turns out I have quite a lot of life left in me. How did I succeed? I started saying yes to anything that I thought could help, searching exhaustively for solutions. It worked! I found my correct diagnoses and ways to treat my pain and symptoms that affords me a life I can live with.

Now I also have some joy and a sense of my own strength. I may not have beat chronic illness, but I am doing a pretty good job of not letting it defeat me and helping others to also find things to help them.

My links are:

https://zebrapit.com a health and wellness site for spoonies and zebras

https://mykiewritesit.blog a site to display my writing services, poetry and short stories, and discuss writing and blogging strategies and techniques.