Refresher Course

I thought I’d start out the year with a refresher course on the conditions I live with and how blogging has had such an impact in my life. Because of my blogging, I have had chances to be interviewed in a Canadian National newspaper, on two different podcasts, and several different articles online. The various conditions I write about are because of the fact I live with them and am personally acquainted with them. So, without further ado, here we go:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia / Myofascial Pain
  • Osteoarthritis (in all my major joints)
  • Forestier’s Disease (aka D.I.S.H.)
  • Type 2 Diabetes (on insulin)
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Gastroparesis
  • Internal Adhesions/Scar Tissue/Chronic Pelvic Pain
  • Hypothyroidism

So I’ve talked about my Chronic Pain from Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis, and when I say I have arthritis in all my major joints, I’m serious. I have it in my shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers, my cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, left hip (right hip has been replaced), knees, ankles and toes. Some areas like my left hip and right knee are quite serious and will need replacing, but the rest I’ll have to live with.

Meanwhile, my thoracic spine has a different type of bone condition called Forestier’s Disease or D.I.S.H., which stands for Diffuse (Widespread) Idiopathic (Of Unknown Cause) Skeletal (Referring to the Skeleton) Hyperostosis (Excessive Growth of Bone). It forms in the shape of a bone spur, but instead of a normal spur that could be removed, it looks more like melted candle wax on the spine, so nothing can be done about it.

Diffuse-idiopathic-skeletal-hyperostosis-DISH-of-the-spine-grave-290-male-50-60-yrs

I also have regular bone spurs on my right hand – I had one removed from inside my pointer finger as it grew through a tendon, and there is a second one on the outside of my middle finger growing through the knuckle. Both have been very painful and interfere(d) with typing and writing.

My Type 2 Diabetes has been with me for 8 years now and is mostly under control. I go for regular blood tests every 3 months, to get my A1C numbers that show my average blood sugar levels for the previous 3 months. Generally speaking, I average around 6.9 to 7.2 which is slightly higher than the 5.9 – 6.2 my doctor would like, but I do my best. I use long acting insulin at night, 14 units which does a good job at helping to keep things under control. I’m trying to eat better, but I’m a sucker for sweets and it’s hard to be disciplined.

My Trigeminal Neuralgia is something I’ve talked about before so you can read the article about it here.  The same goes for my Bipolar Disorder.

So, what else is on that list. Ah yes, the ever lovely Gastroparesis

what-is-gastroparesis

Now, the way they determine if you have this or not is through something called a motility test. In my case, they wanted me off ALL of my meds first to make sure they weren’t contributing to the problem, so for 2 days prior to my test I had to quit my medications cold turkey. That included my meds for Fibromyalgia, my anti-psychotics AND my opioid narcotic for pain. Do you have any idea what going through withdrawal is like? It was horrendous. I had the shakes, the runs, I couldn’t eat or sleep, and for those 2 days, I alternated between thinking I was dying and wanting to die to having to feel better in order to die.

On the day of the test, I went to the hospital to where the Nuclear testing is done. I knew that I was going to be eating an egg sandwich with a radioactive tracer in it and that tracer would be monitored through a series of special x-rays, but I explained to the nurse that everything I ate was immediately running right through me like water. She was so sweet…she “reserved” me a private bathroom, brought me my sandwich and told me to eat as much as I could while I sat there. Talk about embarrassing!!! It’s embarrassing writing about it!!! But, I managed just over 3/4’s of it, which she said was enough. She brought me into the x-ray room where there was a gurney to lay on, and then gave me a warm blanket.

The first pictures were taken every 2 minutes, so I just sat. Then they took them every 5 minutes apart, then 10 minutes apart, then 15, then 30 and finally 2 pictures 1 hour apart each. In between, I slept on the gurney, and my nurse brought me as many warm blankets as I wanted. She also brought me a cold wet face cloth for my forehead. When it was all over, I gave her a big hug and thanked her for being so kind. Then I took my medications asap!!!!

The tests showed that I have a moderate degree of low motility so my food sits in my stomach for a long period of time before moving on to the intestines. This explains why I always look bloated and pregnant. There are medications that can be taken, but I’ve asked my doctor if we can just hold off and wait on that for now. This is more of an inconvenience than anything right now, and I just don’t want any more drugs in my system than I absolutely need. If the problem becomes hugely bothersome, we’ll revisit it, but in the meantime, I’ll just try to watch what I eat, drink more water and try to exercise a bit more.

The Internal Pelvic pain is because I have had a number of pelvic surgeries over the years, so there is a lot of internal scar tissue left over that has attached itself to things like my bladder and bowel, etc. There are occasions when I move a certain way, and those adhesions stretch very painfully – it feels like velcro being ripped apart except it’s my body doing the ripping. It takes my breath away sometimes, it’s so painful, but it only lasts for a minute or two, then it’s gone.

Which leads to Hypothyroidism. For a long time, I assumed that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was the only reason for my constant exhaustion, as my Thyroid numbers always came back normal on blood tests done every three months. One day though, my thyroid went rogue and those numbers were crazy. I had been especially tired…like dragging my ass tired, needed toothpicks to keep my eyes open tired

DraggingMyButt

Oohhh, that is NOT a good look on me!!! My doctor put me on meds and I could feel a difference in a very short period of time. On my next 3 month course of blood work, everything was back to normal, so now I take Synthroid on a daily basis for the rest of my life, to ensure I have a properly working system. So glad that was an easy fix!!

So there you have it. It’s a tough road to walk, I have to be honest. I live with pain 24/7 and have for almost 30 years now. Suffice it to say that you have to be mighty strong to live like this, to get through the day-to-day of actually living in pain. I know some people who just couldn’t. They tried so, so hard, but in the end, their pain was too much for them, and they took their own lives.

I’m a huge advocate for assisted suicide for people who live with severe, intractable pain. We take better care of our pets when they are hurting than we do our humans, and I think that is just plain wrong. I believe every human has the right to choose to die with dignity and I’m glad our Government has come on board with this. I know it’s not perfect, but at least things have started and that’s the main thing.

One thing having all these conditions HAS done though is that it’s given me a platform to blog about them and to discuss them as a Patient Partner in my volunteer work. I live in Langford, BC Canada and I belong to an organization called Patient Voices Network. They help take the voice of the patient and partner us with Heath Care Organizations who need Patient Advocates for the work that they are doing. I’ve been involved in committee work, focus groups, conferences, quality assurance forums, seminars and more because of PVN. The educational experience I’ve received is on par to anything I attended in my working life and in fact, when I attend anything in their offices in Vancouver now, it’s like being greeted by family – I know everyone and they all know me, I’ve been there so often for meetings.

I currently sit on 4 different committees: I am a member of the PVN Oversight & Advisory Committee, I currently sit on the Clinical Resource Committee for the BC Emergency Physicians Network , and I accepted a role with the Laboratory Quality Council Committee. We are responsible for all Labs on Vancouver Island as well as all Medical Blood Collection Stations.

Most recently, I took on a new role as committee member on the Measurement System for Physician Quality Improvement- Surgical Group. I am surrounded by top surgeons in Cardiac Care, Orthopedics and Neurology, plus high-ranking members from the Ministry of Health, the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council and other Health Organizations – and then there’s me. The lone patient voice to represent the masses. It’s a huge responsibility and one I take very seriously. I’ve already spoken out to let them know that while they see quality one way, I as a patient see it differently, and I expect my voice to be heard. It was empowering to have them tell me that I am the whole reason the others are there, because it’s all about the patient in the end.

So all this adds up to some pretty amazing experiences for me because of the pretty extraordinary pain that I live with on a daily basis. I have been truly blessed in my life, and I’m fortunate to be able to share it with you, my Dear Readers. Thank you for taking this journey with me. I hope to bring you more articles this year about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and other Invisible Illnesses. And remember…

There is always hope

Needle-ittle Update On Things? Sure!!

I’m so funny! I make me laugh!!
Okay, first of all, welcome back! Now, I’m not sure if I’m welcoming you back to the blog, or myself. Honestly, it’s like I write in 2 month spurts, but I know I have so much I want to say….it just takes forever for me to feel well enough to write, and then I start and then I get tired and then I stop and then I get energy and then I start and then I get tired and then I stop and then I get energy and then…and then…and then. Well, of my 12 followers, and the few others who read this but don’t follow me (and you shouldn’t…I get lost a lot…more on that below too!), you probably know me well enough to know that my Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue pretty much rule what I can and can’t do. So, I write when I can, I keep short notes to add here later on when I’m able. Such as my hubby Ray and I heard that a dear friend of ours in Calgary was going through an extremely upsetting situation and facing some immediate financial challenges so daunting, she could lose her house. A mutual friend set up a Go Fund Me account for her, but Ray and I sent her an immediate $500 to help her right away. I wanted to share that because it was such a blessing to be able to help in a bigger way this time rather than just a phone call to tell her we were praying and that she was loved.
So, continuing with the story, I took my injection kit and headed off to see my Physiatrist, Dr. Winston on the morning of March 8th, all bright eyed and bushy tailed. He came into the examination room and asked if I had the Synvisc with me – it felt so clandestine (“Hey Rocco…you got the stuff?”). I gave him the box and told him I had a feel-good story for him about it. I mentioned in my last post that the cost for Synvisc-One is quite expensive – $481 to be exact, and when I had called my benefits provider, they had told me it wasn’t covered so we would have to bear the cost of it ourselves. Fine, no problem.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, but when Ray went to pick up the Synvisc-One kit…our insurance company covered the complete cost, no questions asked!!!  I love it when things like that happen…I believe it was God’s confirmation that we did the right thing helping our friend in need, and He provided for us in return. I’ve probably never mentioned on this blog that I’m a Christ Follower, but there you have it…the first time said, but probably not the last!
So, back to me and my knee!! Dr. Winston had another student with him for this appointment, another handsome young fellow named Lee (are all Med students so gorgeous now, like they’re all from TV shows???). Plus, Dr. Winston had a surprise for me…he had Botox for my face!!!!  Yay!  I wasn’t expecting that, so that was a real treat! He put some ice on my knee to freeze it a bit, then asked me to show Lee where I experience the facial pain, so I pointed to the area under the cheekbone. Then Dr. Winston explained to Lee that they don’t inject the Botox under that area or the muscles would droop. Instead, they do it along the side of the face, right by the hairline, going from the temple to the jawline and injecting approximately six small shots – more like tiny pinpricks, though I could feel the Botox spreading (more like oozing) as he did it.
I’ve had Botox injections done before, in other, more intimate places for muscles and it’s really not painful. So, he went ahead and did those injections while the knee froze, and it was quick and painless. After that was done, he got busy with my knee. The first injection was painful and he pointed out to Lee that you could physically see where I was shutting down because of pain…it was just agonizing!! Dr. Winston then injected some local freezing into the knee area and waited for it to take effect before injecting the rest of the Synvisc-One, which went smoother but still painful.
He told me to stay off the leg for the next couple of days and asked me to call him in a month to follow up, and then see him within 6 months for a follow-up appointment. So…what did happen after a month? Well, I’d say neither of the injections really did what I wanted them to do.
For the knee, there was a tiny bit of pain relief in the beginning, but after the first two weeks, the knee went back to collapsing with the sharp bolt of pain and the ache was there again, just as before. And with the face, I had a major TN flareup a month after the Botox, and have had several more since. I didn’t call to give him the follow up in the month after (probably because I was in the middle of the TN flareup then forgot), but now I need to call him to make an appointment because my right shoulder is giving me major grief. I mentioned it to him at the last appointment, and I’ve been doing the exercise he showed me, but I have a feeling I’ve damaged the rotator cuff and might need a surgical solution.
So, that’s where we’re at with those body parts. In other health news, I’ve had increasing auditory hallucinations, that continued to get louder and louder in my head, and the voices started getting louder as well. I was also able to distinguish the voices more clearly. They’ve always sounded more like “talk radio” but this time I could make out women’s voices and very clearly heard the word “her” being said over and over. At one point, I start having a panic attack, everything was so big in my head. Ray had his own Dr. appointment w. Dr. Leong and I gave him permission to talk about me. He told Dr. Leong that he was worried and Dr. Leong told Ray he wanted to see me asap. I went in the next day and Dr. Leong asked me if I knew why I was there. I answered, “because my husband loves me”. We’ve done a major prescription change…I am completely off the Seroquel for my Bipolar Disorder and I’ve started taking Abilify.
I think there’s been a huge difference already. The hallucinations have settled down, I have a bit more energy overall, I’ve lost a bit of weight, and I think my blood sugars have stabilized as well (it can affect a Diabetic’s blood sugars in both directions so I have to test my blood a little more frequently). I see Dr. Leong again on June 13th so I hope it’s all good news to share with him. It will be the first time in a long time I feel like I have good news to share!!!!  And in other news regarding Dr. Leong, he’s leaving Herald Street Health and moving to Mill Bay, BC, which is up the Malahat Hwy heading towards Nanaimo. He’s offered to keep me and Ray on as patients and I’ve accepted. Ray will just take time from work to drive me to appointments as mostly they should be every couple of months for prescription renewals and my Diabetes checkups, so nothing urgent. Ray will schedule his appointments with mine for the rare times he needs to go, so it should work out fine. Dr. Leong isn’t keeping a lot of his patients, so I feel blessed and honoured that he’s offered to have me stay with him.
Okay…enough of my health…let’s move on to what happened on our Seattle trip. I wanted to quickly say that I met up with my dear Chickie, Carrie Ann and she is just as delightful in person as she is online. We met up with two other lovely online friends from our Bloggess Pals group – a group of ladies who all love Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess.
Megan, Kimmy, Carrie and myself spent a few hours at Starbucks near our hotel, talking and laughing like we’d known each other forever!!!! We had the best time and it was hard to say goodbye.


Carrie then came to Victoria for a week with Ray and I. We went whale watching and shopping and hung out at home watching movies and just had a lovely time together!! I miss her very much. oxoxoxoxox

And how else have I been keeping busy? Why…volunteering of course!!!
I was not able to take part in the “Train the Trainer” course after all. I was having a lot of problems with energy and pain and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to bring my best self to the table, so I canceled with sadness. Fortunately, another opportunity came up for me to help others. I am going to be a Patient Speaker at the Island Health CARE Orientations. These orientations are for people who want to become volunteers just like me. Island Health is the Provincial Health Region I live in. Patient Voices Network is the Provincial Wide organization that I volunteer for. I wanted to make that distinction. I start on Thursday, June 14th by attending a CARE Orientation as an Observer, then attend a 2 hour coaching session in August. Once that’s finished, I’ll be put on the 2018/2019 Speaker Schedule and will speak 2-3 times (possibly more) in the Victoria area.
I continue to sit on the two committees mentioned earlier; the BC Emergency Medicine Network (@BCEmergMedNtwrkand the PVN Oversight & Advisory Committee (@PatientVoicesBC). My partner with the BC ER Medicine Network is Jolaine Cowherd – she and I are busy updating all of the Patient Information Sheets that are provided there. These are the sheets Doctors give you regarding various conditions when you are discharged; what to expect when you leave the hospital, what to do if your condition worsens after leaving the hospital, etc.  These are then approved and uploaded to our network so the information is always kept current. I also designed the sheet that Jolaine and I are using to update the information, as there hadn’t really been anything in place before – I’m not sure there had ever been a review process in place, and that’s why this volunteer position became available.
My role as Co-Chair of the O&A Committee has been a busy and enjoyable one. I’d been working with Ben Ridout, but he has now moved on to a newly created role, more tailored to his overall background, so I have a new partner in crime! Meet Teresa Bissenden! She’s absolutely delightful, as smart as Einstein, adorable as anything and is an amazing facilitator. We have been working together for a couple of months now and as the last thing that Ben and I decided, the main task for Teresa and I was to organize a Face to Face meeting for the O&A Committee. It would be the first meeting for many of us as the term for Committee members is 2 years, and so a great opportunity for Teresa to meet everyone as she starts her new role. So, that’s what we did!
Teresa and I worked on the agenda and then she and her amazing team, including Denise Pinto and Irena Apostu did the hard work of coordinating all the details, including travel, food, etc.  As a Certified Event Planner, I can tell you it is a HUGE job organizing these types of meetings, especially when you have people traveling from all around the province, including very remote locations. Everything was done very well…we all raved about Denise’s choice for lunch…delicious Indian food including fabulous Butter Chicken and Rice, and we all worked extremely hard on our agenda items, to successfully end the day with a finished document to present to the Ministry of Health. It was emotionally draining for me and I admit, I cried at the end when we were going around the circle giving our final thoughts (more about that below).
During our lunch break, I was supposed to be giving an interview to a reporter from a Nanaimo newspaper. He had contacted Teresa as he wanted to talk to a “patient partner” to get their feedback regarding the possibility of having WiFi in the Nanaimo hospital and all hospitals. The interview was scheduled for 12:30, but when we called him, he wasn’t around. His colleague offered to do it, but when I asked him if he knew the subject matter well, he said “not really”, so I said I’d rather do it with Spencer, the original reporter who requested to speak with me. I left my home number and asked for him to phone me this coming Monday (tomorrow) so we’ll see what happens. Not sure why he wasn’t available since he was the one who wanted to talk to me, but we’ll find out tomorrow I guess.
And now it’s time for some funny stuff, some sad stuff and some “you have to laugh about it now” stuff. After the meeting, I was so tired and emotional, I canceled my dinner plans and headed to the airport early (I knew my dear friend Donna would understand and she did). My flight wasn’t until late (10pm) so I realized I’d have a long wait – probably 5 hours, but I was hoping I could find a quiet corner and just rest. I hadn’t slept well the night before and actually not for several days prior, as is normal for me. I was also feeling emotional as I mentioned. The news about Kate Spade’s suicide had made me sad and then finding out that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide that morning (June 8th) had really upset me. It wasn’t until I was home that I realized all day, in the back of my mind, I was worrying how many of the successful ladies I was with all day were struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts of their own if any. Would I be able to tell? Could I help?
After leaving the offices where the meeting was held, I started walking towards the Skytrain station to catch the train to the airport. I had already checked in for my Westjet flight and printed my boarding pass, and I only had my purse, a small bag, and my walker. It was pouring rain and I was wearing a long sleeve long sweater, just a thin one, but the station is only a few blocks away…I love that convenience of the offices being so close!!!  Except….this time I had a brain fart. My brain somehow thought the station was somewhere else. And I forgot to walk ONE BLOCK and turn right and just kept on walking straight. Did I mention it was pouring? Yes, I did. And I kept walking, thinking to myself, “Self, if you just walk to Burrard and then turn right, go down a couple of blocks, it’s right there”. But Self thought differently, and I turned when I shouldn’t have and then kept on making turns and walking down roads while getting wetter and wetter and more emotional and more emotional until almost 30 or 40 minutes later, Self finally stopped at a Bellhop at a fancy hotel to ask for help, since Pride took a hike a long, LONG time ago. This handsome young man looked at me and asked me if I was okay. Me, with tears in my eyes, replied: “I just need to find the Waterfront station”.
He replied back, very gently and very carefully “it’s right across the street Ma’am. Just go up to the lights, cross at the intersection and enter through the main doors to the elevator”. I’m not sure if he thought I was going to hit him or hug him but at any rate, he stepped back a step, and I just looked at him with tear filled eyes, whispered “thank you” and trudged away, dripping wet. I found the entrance to the station, stopped inside, and then started to sob. Huge tears start falling down my face and now I’m starting to shake. I stood there, just trying to breathe, but more and more tears are falling, so I just let it out of my system…I don’t care who sees me. No one stops but I don’t care. After a few minutes, I feel a bit better so I try to wipe my face with a soggy Kleenex until it falls apart on me. I headed over to the Ticket machine and now I have to figure out how to buy a ticket to the Airport. And I start crying again. Then I spot two Customer Service agents…I walk over to them, still with tears. One of them sees me and with concern asks “may I help you?”. I look at her and then totally lose it.
“I..am…having..a “sniff” …very…”sob”…fifficult..time…”sob”…with..the “sniff” …ticket…ma..ma..”sob”..chine”
Oh, my word. The two of them couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful!!! One of them hugs me and asks if I’m okay. I nod and manage to tell them how I got lost trying to get there and she’s fussing over me and how I’m wet and she’s picking wet Kleenex off of my face and the other is helping me get my ticket and I’m giving her my money and the first one is telling to make sure I get on the YVR train, not the other one and then I’m all set. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it without them. Well, I probably could have, but I’m oh, so glad they were there to help. I was so wet and cold and lost and overwhelmed and emotionally overloaded….a breakdown in the Skytrain station is the last thing I needed!!!
So yes, I made it to the airport, found a quiet spot, rested, caught my plane and of course, made it safely home to the arms of my husband!!!
And to finish up this blog post and get you totally up to date, today, June 10th is my wonderful husband Ray‘s birthday!!! I love this man so much!!! We’ve had a wonderful day together…I went for my first motorcycle ride in 2 YEARS with him – only to Denny’s for his birthday lunch but it was a start. He’s done some gardening, I’ve updated all 12 (and more?) of you and he’s in the kitchen, making something wonderful for dinner. Last night, we were at a Slegg work sponsored event at Western Speedway which was great fun!
So my friends…there you go. Everything that’s been going on for the last couple of months or so. As always, I promise to do better at staying up to date. As always, I’ll probably fail. But…I’m never gone forever unless I die. So let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Because now, when I end with my motto like I always do, it’s gonna sound weird.
There is always hope.
ha ha ha…I kill me.
nope…still weird!