Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Curve Balls

health curve balls life's a polyp

Energy is a funny thing. It changes rapidly, without notice. And yet, even at our lowest we somehow manage to summon enough strength and energy to at least do the bare minimum of what's required of us. And then we collapse.

I've fought with energy on various levels since my colectomy that left me requiring iron and B12 for the remainder of my life. Even with iron medication 3-5 times a day, I have yet to reach a normal hemoglobin level again since that first surgery. With the use of daily microlozenges, I've achieved and maintained above average B12 levels.

And yet, my energy is just as much of a roller coaster struggle as it has been all those years ago. Oddly enough, even in my sickest years 8-12 years ago when all I could manage was to complete my studies and my work hours, there was an abundance of times that I remember as having more energy than I have now. I don't feel old, I'm only 29 and yet when I look back on all the various activities that took up every moment of my days for years, I become exhausted just thinking about it! I can't even force myself to maintain as busy of a schedule as I did 6 years ago!

At my very worst, I went to school and work only and I slept every chance I had. At my best, I worked part time, attended school full time, attended sorority events, college activities, and family gatherings with energy to spare. I went out three nights a week with friends, staying out until 3-4 in the morning and rising again by 7 am to start the day all over again. I don't remember resting any except for during the very worst times. I realize my memories become fuzzy after a while, not just due to age but more so as an effect that is associated with my PTSD and coping mechanisms. My energy must have been at higher levels during those years. Otherwise, how did I participate in the various activities demanded of me?

Presently, I am astounded by myself when I am able to participate in activities of chores, hobbies, or social outings after work anymore. Most nights I come home after work and veg on the couch, recuperating from the events of the day. My sleep cycles further affect my energy levels. Increased energy when I'm able to sleep and lower levels during sleep deprivation periods. I question how I managed such full schedules just a few years ago, I'm amazed at what I was able to accomplish on a daily basis. Even a year ago I engaged in more activity by balancing a full time and part time contract job. Now the thought of even PRN work makes me groan with exhaustion. It takes a while to face the truth sometimes. Things we don't want to admit, things we want to blame on our illness but some things we just can't lay at the feet of FAP.
 Slowly I've come to realize that yes, I did have more energy when I was younger and whilst FAP and my health drain my energy daily, I also have a depleted source of energy due to aging. Oddly, this has been a test of acceptance for me. I didn't want to admit that I'm already experiencing normal aging process. I still look incredibly young for my age and within my mind, I still see myself as 26. I actually forget I'm 29, getting ready to stare at 30 in just half a year. I'm accustomed to bothersome symptoms occurring as a result of the FAP, not a normal process that occurs to healthy individuals too.

Living with a chronic illness complicates any situation and blurs the lines between normal and abnormal. So often it's difficult to distinguish the cause of a symptom as related to our illness or related to normal processes. With these blurred lines, it becomes further difficult to notice "normal" symptoms versus the abnormal symptoms that fill our world that we have become accustomed to as a normal reality. Our minds flood with multiple questions in an attempt to identify the source of symptom changes. Is our health declining, is this a flare up, is this to be expected, is this a sign of something worse, could this be an additional condition? It takes us years to adapt to FAP and the associated issues, years of learning what our new norms are, how and what affects us, what is required to recuperate. In spite of our expertise in how our bodies work, a curve ball always presents itself. We become masters of the curveballs, juggling them with our typical issues; adapting, coping, growing...surviving.

A curveball isn't always big, they come in small sizes as well. Regardless of size, they throw us for a loop when we're least prepared for the change. Grab hold of the curveballs and throw them back at life. Prepare yourself the best you can for the next one that is heading your way.

Friday, December 19, 2014

When the Roles Reverse

caregiver life's a polyp

This week has been a whirlwind of scares and changes that I wasn't prepared to encounter.

My husband has been pretty healthy his whole adult life and hasn't seen a doctor for anything in over 20 years. Complete opposite of us FAPers. Everything changed this week in an instant, starting with a phone call early Tuesday morning.

After a couple months of excessive urination and thirst resulting in a long battle with severe leg cramps, he finally agreed to get lab work on Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning my doctor called us and informed us that his blood sugar was almost 1000 and he needed to go to the ER. We found out that day that he was Type 1 Diabetic and he had been without insurance for the entire year yet we had never received any cancellation notices. With insulin dependent diabetes, he would be required to find a new job within the next few months.

We had no doctor or insurance for him, about to be without a job, and were accruing plenty of medical bills for this serious new diagnosis. We were in a nightmare situation and the light at the end of the tunnel was growing dimmer at every turn. I was terrified of so many things that were happening and could happen yet I was the caregiver now for the first time and I needed to remain strong and calm for him. He didn't need the extra stress of worrying about his wife going to pieces on him while he was at risk of a diabetic coma or death. What a different role, from patient to caregiver. Everything was on me and I didn't know what to do.

Unexpectedly our luck began to change. My work allowed me to enroll him on my insurance for his coverage to start January 1st and the hospital gave me a large discount for making a relatively small payment up front. His employer was making accommodations to keep him employed. Now I just needed for him to become stable and for me to find a way through the next month until he had insurance and a doctor. By early afternoon, I was no longer fearful, I was strong and determined. And on an adrenaline rush. Nothing and no one was going to stand in my way. I was energized but that can last only so long when you're splitting yourself between various responsibilities. I spent the day and evening tending to him, tackling our issues, returning to work, and taking care of household needs.
By Wednesday morning, I no longer had the energy or the adrenaline that sustained me during the chaos of that first day. I could barely function mentally but I had a lot to do at work and it hurt to be away from him. I knew that I had to take better care of myself or I'd need a caregiver myself if I weren't more careful. I turned my focus to the evening, I had to get more sleep before rising early again to visit and help my husband with his morning routine. I needed to prepare for a new battle that day. How was I going to be able to afford his insulin and supplies before his insurance started and how was I going to have enough supplies to last him until we were able to obtain an appointment with a doctor?

I recalled all the time my parents and family members took care of me, of the time my mother and I were both hospitalized at the same time. How did my dad do it!? He worked, visited us, and took care of the house and land. I now knew how exhausted he must have been. How exhausted they all must have been.
The worry and the need for a plan and a safety plan were starting to become overwhelming as I tried to resolve every issue the best I could. I worried about his health and his mental health, the adjustment required to transition from caregiver to a  new patient is a lot for an individual as well. How was he doing, what did I need to do to help him adjust and to keep him motivated for his health as well?
My mind thought back to all of those who have helped care for me, they must have felt as helpless and overwhelmed as I did. As a patient, we feel so sick at times that we can't spend our energy on the same things as our caregivers. Our bodies need that energy for healing and survival. We barely have a chance to process our health changes and situation before we're thrown to the wolves of the illness and what is required for self care. And so our caregivers are left with all the worry and to also deal with our own adjustment issues yet we barely notice. So often our caregivers only show us their battle faces, not their exhausted, terrified, overwhelmed with emotion faces.

The universe smiled upon us on the last day. We received education from a diabetes nurse who helped us navigate what we needed and helped us obtain that much needed doctor appointment. She has remained with us as well as one of his ICU nurses. They're only a phone call or email away if more guidance is needed. I no longer feel alone in navigating the terrain of diabetes. We have a long journey; but we are well supported and well guided.

In the matter of 3 days, our world turned upside down and resurfaced different, but upright. At the end of it all, I've been left with feelings of intense gratitude toward so many people and for the favorable outcomes we found when we weren't entitled to such favorable outcomes. Not all situations are so lucky. We were fortunate to obtain resolution so quickly for so many issues. And I can't help but think, if it weren't for my own health issues that have shaped myself and my life in so many facets...I wouldn't have the same fortitude as I needed to complete my role in our crisis and maintain my new role as caregiver.

The struggle between patient and caregiver roles are real and they deserve our attention. We must draw on our strengths and our support systems to help each other cope with the changes in roles. Together, patient and caregiver can do a lot but not as much if separate.
Show your caregiver appreciation and allow them their much needed time without our demands. Communicate with each other and discuss what each one needs. This is a partnership and it deserves both people.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Supportive Lengths

 life's a polyp

In Alone Together, I shared my own struggles with disclosure of private information and the heartfelt pain that accompanies keeping secrets. This is a matter that is ever present in my life at this time and likely will be so until I'm able to obtain closure. Closure, something that I thought only would come with a final decision and announcement. But as my heart and mind weigh heavy and I'm brought to tears at least once a week, I'm realizing I need more than that. Sometimes we need a lot

I tend to overanalyze everything. I ponder, question, and mull over information, thoughts, feelings, and questions for hours, even days at times especially when I'm overcome with emotion. It is exhausting and we can only do it for so long before we finally give up - either accepting or no longer caring about what originally made us care so deeply.

I stopped the thinking. Instead I listened. I listened to my spirit and my spirit let it be known what is needed for that closure.

I shared this with my husband as I will need his participation. My darling husband is too good to me and is one of the most supportive and caring individuals I know, even if he doesn't always show it to the outside world. A couple weeks ago I told him that I wanted to have a private incense burn for cleansing. This week I expanded, I need a full smudging, not just some bits of sage thrown into a fire. I need to go through the actions and cleansing one another and because I am a very tangible, commemorating type person, I need it photographed. I need the visual reminder to further flood my memory and senses with that moment of shared release and love. A flooding that I will be able to grasp when I need that sensory reminder.

And after I shared with my husband what I needed and he dutifully, without hesitation agreed. I realized the supportive lengths our loved ones, especially our caregiving loved ones go for us. This cleansing is more for me than for anyone else yet I need my husband's participation, I can't reach that sought after closure that I so desperately need without his participation. I can't. It won't happen alone. And without me even saying that, he knows it. How are caregiving loved ones know us so well.

The things we need to finally feel better, safe, relaxed, at peace are sometimes very little and others are big and sometimes they don't make sense at all, particularly to someone not in our situation. With our disease, we have ample opportunities for much needed support and help.

When a loved one takes the time to share what you mean to them and to let you know you're not alone in your struggles.

When a loved one brings you a meal that isn't from the hospital cafeteria, when you sink your teeth into something you can't possibly get yourself and your tongue tastes the flavors of a home cooked or restaurant cooked morsel. Your heart sings and you instantly melt into a pile of gooey delight, forgetting where you are and what's wrong.

When a loved one gives you an item and you cling to it through your tests and procedures for as long as the medical staff will allow, when touching that item seems like the only thing that can ground you and make you feel a bit safe, a bit comforted through the stress and fear.

When a loved one tends to your affairs and your home for you as if it were their own because you're too weak and fatigued or worse, in the hospital again. The security of knowing your home needs, your belongings, even your living treasures are being looked after and the relief of the stress of managing survival and home needs.

Such are precious bits of support that fill us with gratitude, actions that touch our hearts and spirits with their gifts of relieving stress, providing security and comfort, sharing pain and happiness. We ask for such support without even asking a lot of the time. As sickies, we often share a common sense of guilt and stubborn pride. Guilt when we receive the support and help we, in reality, do need and a stubborn pride that keeps us from asking for all the support and help that we need.
With all the commotion related to our physical and mental health, we are ever so grateful but it's easy to not grasp the full supportive length a loved one is willing to go for us, particularly when it's not questioned and even when it's not spoken but just known that you need this length or that length.

To not be questioned about the rhyme or reason for why this length is needed over another length, this is a gift in itself as well. This is the gift of love.

I hope you have such a person in your life. These individuals are a gift and as much as they understand you, your needs, your situation and your difficulties...be sure to let them know amidst the commotion, you appreciate all their efforts and willingness. Odds are, these individuals also see you as a gift in their life.
After all, without this shared love, at the very least our struggles would be much greater and their lives would be much less interesting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

If Only My Doctor Knew...

if doctor knew  life's a polyp

Most of us have things we don't completely share with our doctors. Things you don't worry about and don't find necessary to disclose. You get to a point where you know you're fine but you don't want to rock the boat with minor details or you don't want those minor details to make you not fine. You find your balance, when you know you're beat and you have to fess up to your doctor for help and when you can let it slide and it'll work itself out.
Case in point, my doctor freaks about some things. Granted, some are understandable. Some I tend to disagree with and let the information slide.

She's strongly against her patients eating sushi or getting tattoos due to risk of bacteria and infection. Now I won't get a tattoo but I will not give up my sushi. And so I keep that to myself and we're both happy...me with a tummy full of sushi and her thinking I'm not at risk of food poisoning from sushi.

Every visit my doctor asks me how many times I use the restroom. I've learned over 20 years, if I tell her 6-8, she doesn't like it but accepts it. I never actually counted, I just made a rough guess and learned that 8-10 times a day answer caused my doctor freak out and talk about having an ileostomy again. For both of our sake's, I stick with the 6-8 story. But then one day, I actually counted for a full 24 hours. And if I told my doctor that my average 24 hour period is 15-20 bowel movements...she'd really, really freak. I'll go back to an ileostomy when I feel it's needed, not before. And honestly, I'm ok with my 15-20 bathroom trips, I'd rather have that than too few and feel constipated and bloated.

Another frequent question she has is how many bloody stools do I have. It's hard to tell because it's not a regular occurrence but when it does happen, it doesn't worry me. I've learned that if I don't or am unable to use the restroom for a long period, my intestine will become irritated and bleed. It typically lasts a few hours, always less than 8, and it's over. Only today has me a bit worried to be honest. I've been having bloody stools for 24+ hours now, I don't remember this ever occurring for such a long consecutive time. I'm not rushing to call my doctor though, I'm going to try to let it slide. But yes, if it continues for the next 4 days, I'll call my doctor on Monday and fess up. Because I will have to admit that 5 days of constant bleeding is a problem. For a couple reasons I'm really hoping this will stop before Monday though so I won't need to share this bit with my doctor. I'm pretty sure she'll make me have a scope if she knows about this and I don't want this to be a regular question/concern to discuss during visits.

An instance I don't think I've ever actually told her is that I get overheated rather easily, particularly more so since the last year. I've gotten where if I'm inside during winter, I'm usually hot. When I'm over heated, I enter a daze where it takes a lot of effort to walk or talk, I'm sweaty and clammy, I feel like I've entered a tunnel yet my vision is fine. It takes about 3 hours before I feel normal again after this happens. This has happened twice this month and the last time I discovered that my blood pressure and pulse rate were both high. A nurse advised this could be caused by dehydration. The overheating happens regularly yet infrequently enough that I've never thought to tell my doctor. But now, I'm curious about the blood pressure connection and I'm even wondering if my blood pressure fluctuates often without knowing it until I'm overheated.

My next visit is in February and so the dance of  picking what I find necessary to disclose and what I will let slide will occur once again. We shall see how the dance turns out.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Alone Together

together but separate  life's a polyp

We all have things we don't feel able to share with others. We usually have at least one person we feel able to share almost everything with. And others we designate to know certain things we wouldn't with others, such as our fellow sickies know details others don't but are still left in the dark about our other secrets. And then there are secrets or topics only shared amongst two people, not known for the public.
So are we ever fully known by someone else? Are we ever not just alone together with our secret keeper?

That's how I feel lately. My husband and I are currently making decisions for our future that I don't yet feel able to announce as we are not in the final stages of decision yet. But I also don't know how to breach the subject with others yet to even let others in. And this weekend, as we draw nearer and nearer to being required to make our final decisions...the more it's hitting me. I hadn't released any major emotions attached to this matter as we made our unofficial decision together. Yet this weekend I have been flooded with emotions, crying spells, and grief. I don't believe I'll change my decision but the finality on a matter, particularly a delicate matter, can be heartbreaking as you close the door on other options. Saying goodbye to anything hasn't been my strongest skill.

And so, I'm alone together with my spouse. Caught in a perpetual limbo until a final decision is reached and allowed to be made known to others. Even then I feel confined to our secrecy, how to randomly tell others, many who likely don't really care yet I remain pulled to make known what is a huge part of our lives, a major decision for us.
Most who know me, likely think it's a matter I already have figured out and many who likely don't understand my stance at all - past or present but instead made their own judgments and assumptions. I did have everything figured out. But with life information changes, people change, circumstances change. And so our plans, dreams, and hope change.

This is an universal struggle. How many things have you struggled with disclosing to others? Things that another may or may not need to know yet you needed to let someone know. The pain of holding the information, the attached emotions within yourself almost bursting through you. The need to be understood, for empathy and support as you make your way through a difficult time, a difficult decision, and the difficult aftermath. We all need someone to share our experiences with, someone to help us through to the other side.

I hear this struggle within others in the forums. Especially related to close relationships with others. How, when, and whom do I tell someone I have an ostomy, my health condition, etc. A struggle we all understand and there is no right or wrong answer. We can tell all, we can tell none. It's within our rights, our power to tell whatever, whomever, whenever we want. And yet, we often remain in a secluded state. Fearful of reality, of others' judgments and misjudgment, of the unknown, and finality that disclosure brings. A finality that may or may not be in our favor. A finality that may be painful and heartbreaking. A finality that closes the door on other options.

Perhaps it's not really the disclosure we hide from, but the finality, what it means and brings that we are so timid about discovering. There's a loss with finality but there often is a gain as well.
Prepare for losses you may have, but also prepare for the gains and once you've found a place of peace...make your disclosure as you feel needed. Step away from being alone together into being together with others. It's okay to take your time and to feel right with your disclosure and your timing. I'm working on this presently and when the time comes, I hope you'll be together with me during my disclosure.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Worry Wart and The Carefree

worrywart carefree life's a polyp

Twice in one day I had two different people tell me that they worry about me and my health. I appreciate the care and concern of others but I don't hear the literal words" I'm worried about you" often. So infrequently so, it actually sounded strange. And in that moment, I asked myself why and do I even worry about my own health.

I suppose I do worry but not in the conventional way. I don't think about my future health very often. The only time I truly feel like I worried about future health was when I had my ostomy and was desperate for a reversal. I thought and worried about my future health and hope for a reversal opportunity everyday during those six years with an ostomy. I think of death often, however, the only concern about death I have is pain and outliving my husband. Otherwise, I feel ready for my time. I don't recall worrying about future health even during my worst struggles to survive. I didn't have the energy or strength to worry. And then it just...became normal.

I find myself worrying most about my activity ability. I worry days, weeks, even months ahead of time about activities I want to participate in but am at risk of not being able to complete due to how my body may be acting at that time. For instance, I've been worried that  my body will interfere with my hunting chances this weekend and my excursions on my cruise in 8 months!

There's always so many variables to consider in relation to food, drink, short bowel, and restroom access. I must be careful of when, what, and how much I eat or drink before, even up to the night before, an activity or I may suffer from short bowel, cramps, and pain.
But even these worries have become second nature as I proceed with strategizing my day around the activity and demands it will place on my body.

I've said before, I could be considered to be in a place of denial, resignation, or acceptance about future health and health risks. I did, however, request to restart the Sulindac in efforts to reduce polyp growth and aid in management of my degenerative disease within my neck joint. Perhaps I'll even undergo another scope or MRI with contrast in the next few years again! I probably should worry more, but at this point in my life...I just don't have it in me.

Worrying is just exhausting though. We can worry ourselves to death with unceasing focus on our risks. It's all a fine line we must try to balance. Between taking care of ourselves and not dwelling on the problems and risks. Yet most of us don't balance, we lean or fall to one side before we pick ourselves back up to try to walk that tightrope once again.

What do you find yourself worrying about? Are you a worry wart or are you carefree with your health and future health?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wish List

health wishes life's a polyp

Do you remember the last time you felt normal, even for your new normal? When those days are so far apart, it's hard to remember the last time you felt good without any symptoms bothering you at the moment. I long for those days. It's usually one thing if not something else. It's rarely ever just a feel good all around day. Such days happen so rarely that my mind doesn't register it for a while, I'm so accustomed to experiencing pain of some sort that when pain is absent, it's almost unrecognizable. Those days are to be cherished. Those days are on my wish list.

I first had this thought this weekend when my eye must have gotten an irritant, that I haven't been able to find, in it as it's been painful, watering and even sensitive to light for 2.5 days now. But little did I expect my wish list to require an adjustment.

I've previously discussed my neck issues that have plagued me all summer long and what becomes the norms of our chronic illness here. This morning I had my physical therapy follow up after doing so well last month prior to a couple neck flare ups over the last couple weeks. I brought more of my medical records for my therapist to read. While discussing my body's inability to absorb nutrients, I learned a few things that have left me devastated today:

  1. My body's impaired ability to recover from injury, even something slightly strenuous such as walking
  2. The damage to my neck has resulted in a chronic condition and although several factors contributed, the fact that I was improperly performing leg lifts was a large contributing factor. Which means to me, I did this to myself. I caused my neck injury and now I will have to live with it for the rest of my life.

I'm well aware of my inability to absorb and maintain nutrients, I've been fighting this the majority of my life. But I never thought much of my recovery ability or recovery period. It makes sense, it all connects, but my attention has never been drawn to it. With my health issues, my body takes twice as long to recover from anything. Because of this any type of exercise I do participate in, I need to cut in half and double the recovery period in between increasing the amount because my body can only take small amounts of strenuous activity. Again, makes sense. This is why I do well with activity such as Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi when my stomach will allow participation.

This extended recovery period also applies to my neck injury. Although I can achieve a decent level of comfort, I'm not able to make all the symptoms disappear. Even during the best week I've had this summer, I could still tell that there was something wrong with my neck, although minimally bothersome. And so, whenever my neck becomes agitated, it will take about a week to recover. This whole time, I expected my neck to recover and that would be the end of it. I never once let myself imagine that I would have a new chronic condition. I'm used to all the negative symptoms that the FAP has caused, I deal with it. I don't know any different and I'm prepared for what's likely to come down the road with the FAP. But the news of chronic neck pain for the rest of my life has thrown me into a self pity crying party as I grapple to adjust to this concept. I wasn't prepared for a new chronic diagnosis and the symptoms. My whole life centers around FAP, not other health issues and especially not other chronic conditions. And perhaps, what makes the coping harder is that I blame myself. If I had never started the leg lifts, I probably wouldn't be in this position or at least not this soon in my life. If I had only known the risks, I never would have started the exercise. I take health risks with my FAP and the cancer returning and I own that. I don't take polyp growth reducing medications and I refuse colonoscopies. But I know the risks I'm taking. I know that when my cancer returns, I'll most likely find out later in the game than if I would undergo colonoscopies again. That's a risk I'm willing to take at this point in my life but I know about it.

It's something else when you don't know the risks and engage in a behavior/activity that causes you great harm because you didn't know the risk or didn't think about the possibility. You become consumed with the "what ifs" and I'm so angry with myself right now. I'm angry and I'm devastated. I'm hurting, physically and emotionally.

And so I'm going to practice what I preach. I'm going to have my cry out but I will do my best not to live there. I will add minimal neck pain days to my wish list. I will cherish the days I feel good and I will recognize those days. I will hold onto the hope for those days. At the end of the day, we need that hope to make it to the next day and a lot of hugs along the way really help too.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Preoccupied Mind

preoccupation life's a polyp

I read the posts of newly diagnosed FAPers and I can almost hear the panic and fear in their written words. And it makes me realize I've never really been that concerned with the future risks and cancer parts of FAP. My attention was focused on my desperate need for my ostomy to be reversed. Even when near death, my only concern was if I could have my ostomy reversed.

I've grown up in the medical field and perhaps that's part of being diagnosed as a child versus a young adult. As a child, you take things in more strides than an adult in some ways because your child mind doesn't comprehend the fullness, the vastness of it all. That can be a blessing. I'm fully aware that I'll have cancer again, maybe a few times even and I'll likely die from cancer. Although I'm still rooting for a quick heart attack haha. But I'm not preoccupied with this reality. I'm not even overly concerned with my health symptoms even though they dictate all of my decisions and daily activity. What to eat, how much, when, where and when should I plan a restroom break, can I walk that far, do I have enough medication and supplies, should I sit or lie down, and so forth. But that's my life and it has been for years.

I'd say I'm in part denial and part acceptance. Amidst my awareness of future risk, I still refuse colonoscopies unless under my terms. I know that's not good and although I likely don't have a tumor in my abdomen at present, I know it's a possibility that I could wake up to any day but I could find out later in the game because of my testing refusals. And at present, I accept that. Perhaps it's my own death wish at play. That and my stubbornness.

I've been pretty lucky in a lot of ways. In spite of nearly dying several times and years of misery, my health has stabilized. I haven't developed any desmoid tumors and I'm very grateful for that. I've even miraculously been able to stop taking Lomotil for the last 2.5 months. I carry lomotil with me as I never know when or if my intestine will decide this is only a trial run to forgo the lomotil. I'm hoping the unexpected trial will be a permanent change but time will only tell as my body likes to make random changes of varying time periods.

I have to stop myself when I have the urge to think chill out with the newly diagnosed. It is a scary thing and it's not a pleasant disease. We all cope differently and our experiences with this disease are all different. The effects are different from person to person. We each find what works best for ourselves through a trial and error learning process and with the help of others. My coping would have been very different if I had been able to be exposed to others with FAP outside of my family.

Just remember, wherever your preoccupation resides try not to become consumed there. Do what you need to live and cope with it to get by but at the end of the day, don't let the preoccupation be your only focus. I've lived like that for years and it took a heavy psychological toll.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Zebras and Ducks

rare disease  life's a polyp

Anyone with Familial Polyposis is already a rare individual. National Registries show FAP occurring in 2.29-3.2 per 100,000 individuals. And if you're anything like me, this rarity is only the beginning of rare health issues.

My GI doctor has for a long time, quite accurately told me that:
 "You look like a duck, act like a duck, sound like a duck. But actually, you're a zebra".
She couldn't be more correct. She tells me that there's no reason I should have the severity of stomach pains, bloating, severe malabsorption, and issues with rich foods that I do. She has stated for years that I would be a perfect case study for medical students because I'm not your textbook example of a FAP patient, what is typical is never typical with me. Everything is the opposite. Doctors check your abdomen for a quiet gut, they actually shouldn't be hearing constant gurgling. However, because I'm always the opposite, my doctor knows that if she doesn't hear steady gurgling from my abdomen, I'm in serious trouble.

It's not uncommon for health issues from FAP to lead to other problems. And it makes sense. With years of malnutrition, other parts of your body are at risk. My neurologist and my physical therapist don't know what caused my bulging disc but my malnutrition issues, past and present, definitely have further complicated my neck issues as discussed in my previous post. Since my last post, my physical therapist diagnosed me with an ALAR ligament sprain and told me this is a rare occurrence and his first in his 20 years of experience. Seriously!? Well, go figures. Why not, that makes a total combination of 4 different issues with my neck - disc, joint, muscle and ligament. I'm pretty sure that the only thing left is for a broken bone. Ha. My neck issues change rapidly, improving and worsening without warning. And due to the constant unpredictability, my physical therapist has joined my GI doctor on the zebra train and now refers to me as a lil' zebra. I can't help but laugh, it's only the truth.

Being a zebra in a world of ducks can be frustrating. You don't really fit in, medical providers don't really know what to do with you, you're more likely to undergo much more testing and procedures in efforts to rule out what normally would be the cause of symptoms, more treatment methods you have to sift through in a trial and error basis. In spite of all the frustration, there is a positive side that the ducks won't experience or contribute to the medical field.

When you are a zebra in a duck suit and you have good medical providers, they can be armed with this knowledge to look for the stripes instead of the feathers, to remain open minded to alternative answers and explanations and to consult more with others in their fields. Consultation is beneficial to all involved - increased understanding, awareness and opportunities for learning and different treatment approaches to complex health issues.
So embrace your zebra stripes. I've learned to wear my zebra stripes as another badge of honor. Nothing makes me smile quite as much as when a medical provider, like my physical therapist, declares "There is nothing normal about you".
Nope, there isn't. And that's what makes me so special, within and outside of my medical issues.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Norms of the Unhealthy

sick as normal life's a polyp

Do you remember the last time you felt normal? How long did your new health changes become normal for you?
I remember the time that I felt normal, it was when I was 9. But don't remember what it's like to feel normal, no recollection...I imagine it would be no pain, eating wouldn't be bothersome, butt burn wouldn't exist but those are just speculations, not memories. Perhaps if I hadn't been so young when my life changed I'd be able to remember. But that's the thing, I don't remember much of anything from before my health changed. I have a few memories of events and people, but not many and they're more like flashes. So it makes sense that I wouldn't be able to remember feelings and sensations.

Trying to remember what normal is makes me wonder how long it took for my current health to become the norm for me. I'm further drawn to this wonderment as I've been dealing with neck pain from a bulging disc, muscle weakness and a joint issue for the last 4 months. The pain from the disc (which has since cleared) and the remaining muscle and joint issues hit me much, much harder than I would have ever expected. I've been experiencing pain daily in my neck. Now, I'm accustomed to my daily stomach pain. But this neck pain, I can't imagine becoming accustomed to. The neck pain varied greatly from dull to sharp, coming and going unpredictably without warning. The constant gnawing and unpredictability left me in bouts of depression and frustration, crying daily for periods of time.  I kept asking myself how in the world did my stomach pain and related symptoms ever become normal for me!? How long did it take and how long would the neck pain take to become normal for me. I was dumbfounded. I don't remember depression and anger over the stomach symptoms, that was directed toward the ileostomy and my medical providers. It's quite possible I was depressed by my health symptoms too, but that's not what I recall in those blurry memories.

I don't think I can fairly say that the ileostomy was ever normal for me, as I've addressed before I never accepted the ostomy but my physical feelings I did come to accept at some point. I don't think twice about having stomach pain or other bothersome symptoms anymore. They're an inconvenience and annoying but I expect them. I know certain foods will exacerbate my symptoms and yet I also know that I also can't accurately predict my symptoms at the same time. And although I don't prefer to feel sick the majority of the time, I'm oddly okay with it at this point. I don't usually feel frustrated or downhearted by it, this is my life. There's no way around it. Now how sad is that!? How long does this attitude take to develop, to be beaten  into everyday reality and acceptance without hesitation or rebuttal? I'd like to know how long this process took to wear me down to such an apathetic view. Is that what true acceptance is? I'm not sure and yet I remain unmoved to rebel, I utterly accept that this is my life and at this point, I know no difference. Either way, I've found a way to cope with the daily struggles and I'm grateful for that. Because the daily struggle of my neck is completely wearing and draining. The last 4 months have been the worst months I've spent in a very long time.

And to think, a muscle, joint and disc issue is what brought me to my knees emotionally after such a long physical and emotional fight with my FAP that I feel I had overcome 6-7 years ago as my health stabilized. Perhaps that's it, with my health stabilized for such a period, I've become unaccustomed to coping with additional health issues. I was no longer fighting daily extremely bothersome symptoms but instead was enjoying the gradual decline and eventual plateau of my health symptoms rather than the ongoing valleys I experienced for several years.
This is similar to a previous discussion  of my difficulty to willingly subject myself to medical tests and procedures now, I've had a sense of freedom from the rigorous course of tests we often are subjected to. I've broken free for the time being and emotionally I can't make myself go back there, whereas previously I was stuck there...what was another test, I was already emotionally raw without anytime to retreat into a post battle wound licking or recovery. But I have now for 7 years, I've been free from the constant barrage of medical harassment. My coping has suffered as such, I'm at a fairly peaceful place in my life and I'll go back to the medical nightmares kicking and screaming before I accept those again as normal.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Conclusions

anti inflammatory diet

The anti-inflammatory diet that I started has come to an end and although I feel better, I don't believe any my results were due to eliminating food allergens. To recall, the anti-inflammatory diet eliminated gluten, soy, corn, dairy, caffeine, sugar, alcohol.

I experienced the same feel good results as when I eliminate junk food, carbs, and starches and eat healthier in general. These are the same results I've experienced many times when watching what I eat by merely watching my calorie intake. When I eat healthier foods, I have less bloating and sluggish feelings. I usually have some increased energy as I'm not feeling weighed down. This also results in reduced stomach pain and cramping. Just like when I just eat healthier, my diarrhea increased on this diet. I attribute the reduced bloating and constipation/sluggish feeling to the increased diarrhea that allowed my gut to thoroughly empty. My gut is emptied is when I feel my best anyway and thoroughly prefer diarrhea to constipation.

 I did mention some sleep improvement at the first week of the study, but my sleep has been erratic since I discontinued Gabapentin for my bulging disc and it has remained erratic to this day. I seem to sleep better after several days of poor sleep where I wake up after 3-4 hours of sleep and remain awake for another 2-4 hours. This cycle leads me to become exhausted and thereby allowing me to sleep well for a night or two.

Although I try to limit my intake of milk and ice cream (due to not liking milk and the calories of ice cream), I do have increased diarrhea from these two dairy products. However, I still maintain that the side effects of milk and ice cream on my digestive system is due to the magnesium in milk and the sugar of ice cream. I've noticed that high sugar foods often result in increased diarrhea and magnesium is a natural laxative. I don't have the same side effects from other dairy products so I don't believe I'm lactose intolerant. 

So in conclusion, although this diet has benefited others I do not notice enough of an improvement for me to continue a life on the anti-inflammatory diet. Instead I will continue my efforts to eat healthy and will enjoy the benefits of healthy eating.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Anti-inflammatory Diet Progress

anti inflammatory diet life's a polyp

The anti-inflammatory diet study started the 17th so I've been on it four days so far. I've noticed a few changes thus far.

My appetite is decreased, I feel fuller with less food and fewer urges to snack. I've been going to the bathroom more regularly. As you may recall from earlier, I haven't required my Lonox for over three weeks now because I had been very sluggish, even constipated feeling. I still am not requiring my Lonox but I'm not feeling so bloated, sluggish like.

I've lost six pounds, mostly water weight I'm sure. I've lost so much this week that a co-worker asked to be put on the diet too! I did require a potassium pill tonight but my potassium was low at my last lab draw a week ago so I wasn't surprised by the cramping. I'm just grateful I'm not requiring 9 potassium pills a day anymore, those suckers are huge.

Finding foods to eat hasn't been difficult even though it is restricted. I actually have too much food I can eat in my fridge and I'm afraid I won't be able to eat it all in time so I'm being mindful of possible need to freeze some food lol. I was very grateful when my mom brought me some homemade salsa as I'm not allowed store bought because most of it has forbidden ingredients. My frittata wouldn't have been nearly as good without my mom's salsa! I've even told my husband he can't have any of my mom's salsa lol!
The hardest thing to give up though has been coffee. It's not because of the caffeine either. Caffeine doesn't seem to effect me, I drank 11 cups of coffee and then went to bed 30 minutes after my last few cups one night. Didn't have a problem sleeping at all. No, it's more the sensation of coffee, the flavor, the feel of it on my tongue and filling my stomach. Cold or hot, I really enjoy coffee beverages and they've been a nice treat and even a filler when hungry. I miss it :(

I hesitate to say my sleep is better because my sleep goes in cycles since I stopped taking gabapentin and I could just be in a good cycle right now. My energy level hasn't increased but I've been sleeping soundly and not having difficulty falling asleep this week.

Overall the diet hasn't been bad. It's amazing the will power I have to follow a strict diet when it's really important to me. Besides currently, I've only followed strict healthy eating practices for my wedding and professional photographs. Lol. But I would consider research for us FAP'rs to be highly important and I'm appreciative to have been selected for the study.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Anti-inflammatory Diet to Begin

anti inflammatory diet life's a polyp

Tomorrow is the day, I start the anti-inflammatory diet for the pilot study. 14 days to be exact. I'm very eager to see how the diet effects me and at the very least I'm looking forward to eating healthier again and shedding a few pounds. Beyond that, I'm really hoping to notice a change in my sluggish feeling I've been having for about three weeks now, as I previously discussed last time.

I've reviewed the materials I am to follow and completed the health questionnaire rating my symptoms of the last month and family history. Boy, when you have to rate and score your different health symptoms you quickly realize what areas really bother you. To no surprise, gastric and stool symptom areas were most bothersome but my sleep and head symptom areas really surprised me.
Basically, for the diet I'm to avoid all gluten, soy, dairy, sugar, corn, caffeine, alcohol and additives. If I stick with fresh, unprocessed foods I'm good to go. Fresh vegetables except for corn, fresh fruit and meats will be my foods. I'm to limit beef and pork though, I can have rice and quinoa. It shouldn't be too difficult as long as I don't eat out. Although you can eat out, it sounds like it'll be more of a hassle than cooking at home so I'll be limiting restaurant meals.

I already try to limit carbs and starches in order to maintain my weight but I've also noticed that carbs, which most contain gluten and will be eliminated by this diet study anyway, seem to feel heavier on me and increased bloating. I don't have celiac and I've read that removing gluten from your diet doesn't have any effect on you unless you have celiac disease. I'm skeptical that gluten itself will have any effect on me but I, personally, suspect it's the carbs themselves that cause the negative symptoms for me. But, I'm not an expert and I'm not really concerned if it's the gluten or not. Just a personal observation and reasoning I've come to.

I'll be updating you with my experiences, symptoms and conclusions. Who knows what will happen but I'm ready to find out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Med Needs Changes

medication changes life's a polyp

So a weird thing has been happening for over two weeks now. I had a really bad food week where I ate junk food out for at least one meal a day. Now this usually makes me bloated, sluggish, even constipated feeling but once I start eating healthier the diarrhea comes back in full force. My guess is trying to rid my body of the unhealthy junk and rebalance itself. But I've started eating healthier after that week, although some days were worse than others. But yet, I still feel sluggish enough that it's better not to take my Lonox. And on days that started out normal and I did take my Lonox, it ended up a mistake as I became too constipated again. So I haven't taken it regularly for two and half weeks. This is longest I've gone without my Lonox. And I'm on the lowest dose as it is, I used to require the highest dose!
Now I'm not about to suggest for a moment that I no longer need the lomotil. I actually think if I strictly ate healthy, I'm certain everything would return to usual. But I am confused why it's not back to normal already, even with the sparse unhealthy meal.

I'm excited to see though how my bowel will act once I start an anti inflammatory diet pilot study through the Hereditary Colon Cancer Foundation. I'm very curious to see if I notice any changes with quality of life and symptoms. I'll be sure to discuss my results and experiences with you all as well. The HCCF is hopeful for clinical trials of the diet to be approved for further research. It will be very interesting to hear what results they gather.

Hopefully in the meantime my bowel will resume usual function so that I'll feel my "normal" again lol. I really prefer the diarrhea and empty, light feeling it provides to the constipated, heavy, bloated, overall yucky feeling. Some might disagree but I've become accustomed to my SBS.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book Awareness

life's a polyp

I'm taking a moment to shamefully and not so shamefully tell you about a book you absolutely must read. Although this book isn't directly related to FAP, it's written by a well known character among the social media ostomy and IBD circles and by association, is relevant to all sickies of the bowel realm.

If you haven't heard already of The Spider and The Wasp, I'll briefly tell you a bit and provide my review to you as well for your own determination.

The author and close friend of mine, Matt, shares his personal story of Ulcerative Colitis and the traumatizing near death experiences he experienced as a teenager and young adult. Many of us FAP'rs can most likely relate to many of his experiences, I definitely can. But he goes beyond the medical backstory and shares how he survived a hellish, hostile work environment with a boss that could quite arguably be described as insane. For example, yelling uncontrollably at him for not answering his phone while using the restroom. Through his medical trauma and PTSD, he details his accounts of coping with a extreme bully boss in a hilarious fashion.

My review:
" Matt Haarington illustrates in a hilarious manner the necessity of survival skills to face the variety of challenges life presents. Challenges at the basic core, we can all relate to regardless of where we are in life or what we’re facing. Just happens Matt’s survival skills are honed over years of trauma and trial and error coping with the aftermath. Like so many survivors, Matt shows us one method of coping is through humor and it is beautifully demonstrated in Spider and the Wasp. No doubt some of his keenly crafted phrases will spread like wildfire and “clown-boning ass-biscuit” will become the next popular catchphrase you’ll hear while walking down the street.

Matt’s handiwork contributes another piece to his readers beyond a good laugh at the expense of another. We feel a sense of comradery, of empathy toward our fellow mankind to rise up against the unjust and fight for the little guy. And with or without intention, he also brings forth further awareness of chronic medical conditions and the stigma and discrimination that many endure. Awareness of the physical and mental ramifications that many of us with chronic medical conditions face through our battles with the diseases, ourselves, and with others. Matt contributes a work of help to the bowel and bladder disease/disorder community and aids to further instill a sense of pride and honor among those struggling.

As a fellow trauma survivor of similar health issues, I’m proud to recommend The Spider and The Wasp to anyone dealing with their own health issues and to anyone looking for a good read and a good laugh."

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Accepting Help

accepting help life's a polyp

Sometimes it's hard to share with others when we're experiencing health issues and when we do, sometimes it's hard to accept help from others. If you're like me, I'm appreciative of the offers to help but I don't think about how others could help me. I'm fiercely independently dependent. I'm reliant upon help from my parents and my spouse yet accepting help from others doesn't come naturally for me and even obvious suggestions don't come to my mind easily. Even now during recent health struggles, friends are offering to help me out. Only, I can't think of what one could do to help me outside of just talking to me. Sometimes you have to hit someone over the head to get them to accept help. Perhaps I would be more open to concrete, specific offers of assistance rather than general offers, haha.

In high school when I had a central line for TPN for six months, I couldn't get my central line wet resulting in the inability to take showers. I had to cover my central line with plastic, I then kept several hand towels over my central line and then kneeled over the tub and washed my hair under the faucet. My parents helped me with this usually, although I could manage by myself. It wasn't until shortly before I had my central line removed that the suggestion of going to a salon and having my hair washed was presented. And with that concrete suggestion, I went with it and it was absolutely heavenly. I was able to relax, have my hair washed thoroughly and without pain of my central line pulling with my arm movements. All for a small fee of $5, it was one of the best $5 I spent. And to think, I could have accepted someone else's help six months before even if it was just occasionally intermingled with my own efforts.

A friend of mine is having back issues and was needing help with transport to a doctor's appointment and childcare during the appointment. Again, it didn't cross my mind that others outside of my parents or spouse could or would be willing to go to appointments with me. I simply scheduled any medical tests with my parents' schedules in mind so that one could go with me. Even as an adult, I still want someone to go with me when I'm undergoing any medical tests or procedures. I just simply don't think someone should have to go alone and frankly, the thought terrifies me. I don't think anyone should have to face medical tests or procedures alone.

Despite how hard it may be for us to accept help from others, especially others outside of our health circles, it can be a wonderful thing. Typically, if someone is offering to help you out it's a genuine act of care and they're concerned about you. And let's face it, sometimes we really do need some help...even if it's just a shoulder to cry on.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

National Cancer Survivor Day

cancer survivor life's a polyp

Happy National Cancer Day to all you survivors out there! What are you doing today to commemorate your victory? It's hard not to look back and think about the time since fist diagnosis and treatment. It may have only been a short time for you or perhaps, like myself, it seems like a lifetime ago.
 I tend to forget about what I've been through, what I've survived, until reality provides me a sharp reminder. Reminders can be beneficial though. We can be reminded of where we've come from and where we're going, what we need to do to continue surviving and enduring. How we can help others through their battles. What we're made of, the strength and fight that's within us and coursing through us. What motivates us and what ultimately can heal our wounds.
Regardless of how long it's been since sometimes we lose sight of it all. Often times we either can't escape the past or we try to outrun it. Stay in the present, remember the past and where you've come from but don't live there. Be proud of your endurance but still take preventative measures for your continued health, take stock of the emotional and psychological trials you've gone through as well so that you may begin to heal.

And every so often, when you need it most, make sure that you do the following, because you deserve it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Healthy Digestion

keeping healthy digestation life's a polyp

I've been eating very healthy for the last two weeks and what a difference I've unexpectedly noticed in my digestion, not to mention my waistline. I've been avoiding and at minimum reducing intake of starches, sugars, fats and focusing my meals on meat, veggies and fruits.  Boy what a difference that makes!

I'm not feeling bloated, abdominal pains or what's considered to be "constipation" for me. I'm still able to control my SBS with just one Lonox and engage in my activities. I'm feeling fuller with less food but without the pain and blah feeling of overeating and unhealthy eating. I'm feeling so much better than when I was giving in to all those unhealthy cravings. I wake up and feel like playing in the hills, not sitting on the couch holding my stomach because it's uncomfortable or painful to move.

Everyone should talk to their doctor before making diet changes, especially as some of us with GI issues have a difficult time digesting fiberous foods, specifically vegetables. I've been fortunate that vegetables have never been a problem food for me, even when I had an ileostomy. My mother though is plagued with intestinal blockages regularly, even when carefully selecting and chewing her food choices. Even too dry meat causes a problem for her.

Bottom line, it's important to consider our food choices to make better ones for ourselves. Yours may be different than mine, our bodies are similar yet different with FAP. But if you're having some negative symptoms, try some changes out with your doctor and see what happens. I've been too stubborn to make changes before with food and medications but those changes have always proved to be the better choice for me. I hope yours do too.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lab Battles

lab battles life's a polyp

Like many others with GI issues, I have to constantly fight my electrolyte levels to keep them balanced. I've touched on the chronic fight and about the severe all out war I had with my electrolytes in the past that have since stabilized with diet and medication alone.

I experience cramping in my hands and feet on a daily basis, usually beginning in late afternoon so I decided I probably needed to read my last lab results. I was shocked by how little I'm able to maintain my electrolytes just in the low normal ranges. I shouldn't be surprised but I was. I knew that my hemoglobin remains below normal to just barely normal but I was surprised by my sodium and potassium levels and the ongoing difficulty I have to keep them in the normal ranges. I hadn't paid any attention as my doctor reviews them as normal and focuses on areas I need to improve, i.e. Hemoglobin.

I don't think I'll ever have a healthy hemoglobin. I take anywhere from 2-5 iron tablets a day just to keep my hemoglobin where it's at. It's hard to tell when my hemoglobin has dropped more or what just feels like normal to me. I try to notice though if I seem to be taking more naps and if so to try to take more iron, just in case. I eat a lot of salt compared to the typical person and it's a good thing because my sodium stays just above normal! I have potassium pills if I need to take them but I rely primarily on diet alone for potassium. Although, perhaps I should start taking them to prevent the daily cramping!

My B12 has been above average and increasing with my daily B12 microlozenge. I discovered to really have to let the microlozenge dissolve under your tongue without swallowing, as directed, versus just chewing it or it really won't absorb as well. I discussed before how I truly require a B12 in the 1000s, far above normal, in order to feel the benefits of a normal B12.
I have a theory on why the microlozenge works better for me than the injections, contrary to what my doctor expected. Because of my SBS and increased difficulty with absorption, I require a steady supply of nutrients in order to maintain whereas four shots a week isn't as steady as daily and there seems to be a short life to B12 anyway.
Fortunately my albumin is also well within normal as I'm able to eat enough protein to keep it safely maintained.

We all have ongoing battles with keeping everything balanced for our overall health. The first key is to be aware of where we are presently so we can know how much further we need to go. Don't assume your labs are alright just because your doctor doesn't point them out as an area of concern. You may need to be altering your diet and supplements on occasion to keep you out of concerning levels. It's just a good idea in general to be aware in order to be proactive and healthy. Let's keep fighting the good fight!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Taking the Personal Non-Personally

taking personal nonpersonally life's a polyp

I think we've all had encounters with others that really peeved us off and even hurt our feelings, even though that likely wasn't the other person's intention. We take what seem like everyday normal comments personally, because for us they aren't everyday normal things.

For example, I work in the medical field with very ill patients who don't realize I have my own health issues that can be life threatening. So on a regular basis I hear about how I don't understand what it's like to be chronically ill and the difficulties in life a life threatening chronic illness brings. But only I do, I just look healthy.
Another common encounter is when I have to take time off work or leave work early because I'm sick. Others make comments about how nice it must be to leave early or take a day off, even asking if I'm just saying I'm sick in order to leave. Again, I look healthy and they're probably just trying to be funny.

But it's not always funny. Sometimes I just want to scream "You have no idea just how ill I am, how much I struggle." But I don't, usually I just shrug it off but sometimes it's really hard to make that shrug. Sometimes it's painful. And after I've vented to a trusted friend about how others shouldn't make assumptions about others, I feel better. And I remember that others don't always know nor are they usually meaning to offend. They may even be going through their own struggles I'm not aware of so I shouldn't make assumptions others.

Perhaps it's asking too much of society to place more thought into what they say because they don't know what others struggle with. It's certainly frustrating listening to others make non-personal, personal comments with no clue that they're talking about us. We have a choice at that moment. I choose to pick my battles, not everyone needs to know my health details and other battles are more deserving of my energy and focus.

 Try to shrug off the little ones, let's focus on the big battles that can be life changing. Lean on trusted friends for support when we need a shoulder and perhaps even band together for change.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Changing it Up

life's a polyp

Life is an ever changing being, what once was may not remain. I've experienced far too often and far too infrequently the unexpected. We never know how we will be tomorrow or a few years down the road. Time changes us and it's no different for how our body and systems are affected. Seems like every so often my body goes through a cycle of changes on how it operates. S

 The first major unexpected changes were after my last surgery as over time my body started to adapt and I was better able to tolerate food and a larger variety of foods. In Evils of Food, I first discussed food and what once was an excruciating experience gradually returned to an enjoyable experience, for the most part. Still though, there are times when food remains to be the primary contributor to flare ups that usually last for just a day or a night and I'm able to return to normal activities the following day. But then again, this can change also. Foods that are normally upsetting cycle and are not upsetting for a period whereas "safe" foods become bothersome. Periodic changes make it difficult to know what to expect and how to resolve the issue. A few years ago, I went through a period where any food other than raw vegetables and fruits were very upsetting to my stomach and system. Any other foods caused severe abdominal pain and cramping. This lasted for a couple of weeks and my system seemed to reboot itself and returning me to my regular diet.

I've experienced cycles in how my body reacts to medications as well. Through a Medication Mix Up I discovered that Lonox, the generic for Lomotil, was once again an effective medication for my SBS. Yet in just over a month, my system changed again and I required an increased dosage of the Lonox. And then, just a month or less later I was able to reduce the dosage yet again. I'm nervous to find out how long the current effectiveness of Lonox will last as I'd prefer not to return to the higher costing brand name Lomotil. Only time will tell.

I'm currently enduring another change that has yet to resolve itself. Due to the SBS, I usually am up during the night to use the restroom 2-4 times. And although this may seem like a lot to others, it's actually preferable for me. The last week or so I've been sleeping through the majority of the night without any restroom use. Because my intestine isn't being voided, my intestine is slowing to an uncomfortable pace leaving me feeling bloated and in pain until late towards the next day. I'm not sure the reason for this sudden change. I suspect it may be related to reducing calorie intake as I'm eating healthier or perhaps I'm not receiving enough fluid intake although I drink when I'm thirsty except  I try not to eat or drink within a couple hours of bed though. Drinking too close to bed causes severe pain from abdominal cramps all night long and is very miserable for me. Is it the foods I'm eating or the amount of or timing of fluid I'm drinking that needs to be altered? Or perhaps it's just my body's way of saying it needs to be flushed out? No clue. As I experiment with altering my habits once again to accommodate my body, I'm hopeful I'll find the solution or my body will resolve itself as it usually does over a period of time.

We're never guaranteed that life will remain the same, we're always faced with challenges. And that isn't a bad thing. The status quo becomes stagnant, stifling. Challenges break us from the mold, we're forced to find new solutions, fight new battles, enjoy new blessings, learn a new way. We strive, we strengthen, we change along with life.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

20th Anniversary with FAP

fap life's a polyp

I'm not very good about remembering health milestones. I don't usually think about how many years since my first surgery or my last and when I do it's not typically anytime around the anniversary. But this year I did remember that it's been 20 years since I've started with my GI doctor. 20 years since diagnosis of FAP, 20 years I've been listened to and 20 years I've battled what FAP is and can become. 20 years.

I had such a difficult time getting any PCP to listen to me and my parents to obtain the necessary referral to see a GI specialist. I'm not sure how after such a fight for the referral I finally obtained one for the best pediatric GI specialists in the state and who is well respected outside of the state. But I did and I'm so grateful. I haven't always liked my doctor. As I mentioned in my last post, there were several years that I hated and blamed her. As I started my own psychological healing, I've realized how terrified I am of losing her as my doctor. I greatly admire and respect her. She has always stood by me and fought for me, whether with other doctors, hospitals, insurance, schools and jobs. She is my greatest advocate. 20 years I've been so fortunate.

I've seen a lot in the last 20 years with diagnosed FAP. I've had seven surgeries, more than enough near death experiences, endured PTSD, cycled in and out of severe depression, given the prognosis of stomach cancer by age 30 (I have two more years to make it past that prognosis!), completed school and maintained full time employment, got married and looking at surrogacy. I have good and bad days like everyone else but I'm hopeful that the worst days are behind me. 20 years it's taken to get to the place I'm at now.

Who knows what the next 20 years will hold. There's always guaranteed sadness and happiness. I do know that I won't have my doctor for another 20 years, it's very likely in that time period to develop cancer again, I hopefully will have adult children by then., I am likely to have lost and gained more family and friends. These are all realities I keep tucked away, taking it one step at a time.

That's how the last 20 years have gone, one step at a time. Although at times it felt like crawling steps and at times giant leaps. I look forward to seeing the future and what's in store but for now, I'm going to savor where I am at now and honor what has transpired to get me here. Our trials and our joys deserve to be honored, they help shape us and direct us in life.

20 years, I've made it. And here's to another 20 years.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Keeping Hope and Finding Acceptance

finding self acceptance and hope life's a polyp

This year marks 19 years since my first surgery, the surgery that resulted in a "permanent" ostomy for six years, making it 13 years since my ostomy was reversed. Although neither is a milestone anniversary and I tend to always forget about the anniversaries anyway. But occasionally my mind is lingers to think about the amount of time that has passed.

When I had my ostomy surgery I was told that it would only be a temporary ostomy and after three months to allow healing, I would have a jpouch in place of the ostomy. As I've discussed in previous posts, this obviously didn't occur according to plan. Due to complications, I wound up with a "permanent" ostomy. I was told there wasn't enough rectum left to be attached to my intestine. My rectum was kept in place though in spite of having a "permanent"ostomy. I never had any pain or issues with still having a rectum and I'm so grateful it wasn't removed.

 I experienced a lot of anger and denial after the complications started. I hated my doctors, surgeons, hospital and even my parents. I wanted them to all pay for what they had done to me and through a series of life events I was consumed by the rage and became suicidal and homicidal for several years after that first surgery. I never accepted my ostomy. Deep down I knew I wasn't meant to have an ostomy for the rest of my life. I believed it fervently, I hoped for a miracle obsessively. 

After six years, all of a sudden, after a routine colonoscopy my doctor thought that there may be enough rectum to attempt a straight pull thru and referred me to a surgeon for consultation. I could hardly contain myself. It was a long shot, but I had to take it. My life was about to change with the sudden option for reversal. I was terrified I'd wake up after surgery to find out it had been a failure. My parents agreed to give me a thumbs up or thumbs down as soon as I opened my eyes so I would know the result. I didn't know how I'd react if it was a thumbs down, I feared I'd break down immediately and cause my physical pain to increase. I couldn't wait to find out though. Fortunately for my mind's sake, it was a thumbs up and I was able to relax and drift back into a drug induced sleep.

Not everyone reacts or copes with having an ostomy the same way. Ostomies are life saving and can greatly improve quality of life. An ostomy is nothing to be ashamed of and the improvements to ostomies over the years has been amazing to truly make living with an ostomy very good. In spite of this though, some of us have an extremely difficult time with acceptance. I was one of those people and fortunately for me, I was able to have my ostomy reversed. For me, that's what I needed because I was fixated, trapped in a world of rage. I hope that had it been a thumbs down that I would have eventually been able to find self acceptance and lived with the love of life and dignity of so many ostomates I know and admire. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Expecting the Unexpected

expecting the unexpected life's a polyp

Familial Polypisis information, awareness and groups are spreading and growing like wild fire since I was a kid. People outside of bowel disorder groups still don't really know about us, but so many more within such health groups do. As a kid, I only knew one person outside of my family with this disease. Because of that, I've always felt a special connection to every FAPer.

I've mentioned in an earlier post that my mother, grandfather and likely some of his siblings were also FAPers. I didn't really understand what that many until I was diagnosed. Before that I knew what an ostomy was and how to take care of one and how to live with one by watching my mother and grandfather. I knew they both had cancer and were doing better now. I didn't know I'd be joining them or there was that risk. But I don't think my parents really knew either or at least didn't expect me to be diagnosed in grade school but thought it might be something I'd have to be tested for as an adult. After all, that was when it hit my mother and grandfather. Even after I was diagnosed, we didn't expect me to live with an ostomy for six years. The surgeon had prepared us for just three months until everything went terribly wrong.

Through all the growing FAP groups I've gotten to know other FAPers and it always amazes me when I come across someone and they were the first one in their family to develop the mutated gene. I definitely didn't expect any if this for me but I also wasn't completely unprepared due to having family members with FAP and ostomies. I can't imagine being the first in my family and to be the one who figures it all out, endures it all and potentially prepares their future generations for what may be heading their way. Although it would also be nice to know that no one prior had to go through FAP, perhaps it will end with you if your children are the lucky 50% and living without the fear or stress prior to being diagnosed.

As I've discussed before, my goal is to end my family's cycle of FAP, even if that means I have no children myself. But I think a lot of that comes from seeing how its ravaged my family through the generations and I'm the last born to have been diagnosed, my aunts and cousins have all been cleared. Perhaps if I was the first diagnosed, I wouldn't be obsessed with being the last.

There's definitely advantages to both the expected and the unexpected, it just depends on your response. And even when we do our best, we're never completely prepared. We just do our best with what we know.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dose Up

medications life's a polyp

It's amazing how the body changes its reaction to substances it has processed for years. You think you'll react on the same old way until one day it's not quite the same and nor is the next day and so forth. I've experienced this with food in drastic ways but also medication. I mentioned before during a Medication Mix Up that I discovered that my body was able to once again handle the generic for Lomotil and I only required one pill instead of four.

After a year my body started to become immune again. And after a lot of resistance, being my usual stubborn self, I finally gave in and upped my dose to two pills a day. And oh my goodness the difference! I wish I hadn't been so stubborn and waited so long, thinking it would just get better, that I just needed to wait to eat until after an activity. Sure, I still have the issues and consideration I always have when dealing with food and activity but with a slightly increased dose those considerations are once again reasonable. I've been able to exercise daily this week! That alone is a huge deal for me as any exercise stimulates my SBS. 

So I've learned my lesson. Sometimes change isn't bad, sometimes it's good to admit something isn't working as well as it once had and that's okay because sometimes the change is just what we needed. Change doesn't have to be a step backwards, it can be the step in the right direction we've been seeking.