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