Friday, April 7, 2017

Awaiting Results

test results  life's a polyp

The year 2015 ended my 8 year streak of being free of cancer screenings and hospitalizations. During an unexpected hospitalization for dehydration, I finally consented to undergoing scopes again to screen for cancerous polyps in my GI tract. I had previously refused scopes after my last one in 2007 due to the harsh prep my GI doctor required prior to each scope. Psychologically, I couldn't endure the pain that accompanied the prep and preferred to take my risk with cancer than undergo the psychological torment any further. However, I relented with a new doctor who didn't require a prep for a scope due to my short bowel syndrome. In 2015, it was discovered that I had developed stomach polyps in the 8 year span without scopes and I had 4 deep ulcers at my straight pull thru connection site.

I thought I would begin undergoing yearly scopes once again with this new doctor. However, in 2016 my doctor advised me that FAP guidelines had changed to recommending scopes every two years rather than yearly. I wasn't one to argue. After all, I had gone 8 years without scopes. I wasn't too worried about one more year. This doctor also advised me that FAP polyps only develop in the colon, rectum, and duodenal area - no where else in the GI tract. I question this as I've read and my first doctor advised me that FAP polyps can develop anywhere in the GI tract. My first doctor even anticipated I would develop stomach cancer by the age of 30. Fortunately, the stomach polyps discovered were benign and non-FAP.

I started 2017 off with yet another doctor and just completed this year's scope with my new GI doctor. He entered my recovery period and advised me that I still had small stomach polyps, a superficial ulcer at my connection site, and a new polyp on my ampulla. Biopsies were taken of the new polyp and the ulcer and I'll receive my results within a week. The news of this new polyp shot through my body. I wasn't able to keep my first thought locked within my mind as I blurted out "I'm not going to do chemo".

I realize there's a chance that this ampulla polyp isn't even a FAP polyp. I realize there's no sense in worrying while awaiting for the biopsy results. Stressing and worrying will not change the results nor will serve any beneficial purpose. Yet I can't forget that my understanding from my doctors and the experiences of fellow FAPers is that this area is the second area most likely to develop cancer after the colon. Based on this knowledge, I'm led to anticipate that this is indeed a FAP polyp.

So what if it is a FAP polyp? It's already been removed for biopsy. But what next? How soon will more develop? I feel as though I'm simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. In all likelihood, I will develop more pre-cancerous or cancerous FAP polyps in my lifetime. In all likelihood, I will develop cancer again in my lifetime. So why can't this be this time? Why can't this likely possibility simply occur now rather than later. Why am I always waiting for the inevitable? Can't it simply occur and be over with. I'm tired of waiting. If I'm going to develop cancer, let it be now. Not later.

And so I wait.
I wait to hear my biopsy results.
I wait to hear about what my future may hold for me.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Traveling with an Ostomy

traveling with an ostomy  life's a polyp

Traveling with an ostomy is manageable and even enjoyable but it is faced with risks. There are risks of inconvenience in regards of restrictions when flying, restroom access, and appliance welfare. Recently while traveling to visit my Great Uncle for a week, my mother experienced an intensive week of ostomy issues – specifically, appliance issues.

We decided to fly to arrive to our destination and was as any flying ostomate, she was faced with the typical TSA regulations of traveling with ostomy supplies and restroom restraints. Fortunately, she didn’t encounter any hassle from TSA regarding traveling with her ostomy supplies and wasn’t selected for a body scan or pat down. You may find the UOAA's travel tips for ostomates helpful for additional guidance, particularly when flying.

We were away for a full week and my mother packed enough supplies for 5 days worth. Typically her ostomy appliance wears for 3-4 days per change. With your typical run, 5 days worth of supplies was expected to be plenty. However, fate shouldn't be tempted. When something can go wrong, it seems as though it often will do so. And so was the case for my mother.

Her activity didn't particularly change out of the norm from her usual activities. Rather, her activity lessened if anything. While away she was unable to participate in her regular exercise classes and physical therapy sessions. She bathed normally and used the same products she typically uses during an ostomy appliance change except for one product that she occasionally uses. She even followed the procedure exampled by her ostomy nurse. And yet, her ostomy appliance leaked five days out of the seven days we were away.

We brainstormed about what was being done differently, what needed to be done differently. The only difference were the two days that instead of a regular shower, she took a sponge bath. Nothing that we could think of should have been causing such an excessive increase of appliance leaks. With an ostomy you are meant to be able to participate in activities, even strenuous, physical activities. You are meant to be able to shower daily. You are meant to be able to live in various climate zones.

It was Sunday evening and my mother had two days worth of supplies left and we were scheduled to return home on Tuesday. After four days of consecutive appliance leaks and desperate for a lasting appliance, my mother opted to forgo a regular shower Sunday night and instead take a sponge bath in the morning. Miraculously, she awoke Monday morning without any appliance leak. She had two days worth of supplies remaining, one for each day of the trip remaining if needed. Monday day and night passed without incidence. We thought she was in the clear but remained concerned about what would happen if her appliance leaked while traveling home. There wouldn't be time on the plane to an appliance change and the tight quarters of the lavatory would make a change highly difficult even if timed were allowed. But what should she do if a leak did occur? We brainstormed once again and I suggested she use her medical tape to tape a Ziploc bag onto her skin with the appliance safely tucked away into the Ziploc bag and paper towels wrapped around the appliance itself. This would allow for the appliance to remain contained. If needed, she would be able to cut the bottom of the Ziploc bag and attach a pouch clip to even allow for emptying of the pouch.

Tuesday morning arrived and the night passed without issue once again. All of the appliance leaks had occurred during the night. We successfully completed our first flight of the day with just one more flight remaining after a layover. Once again, we thought we were home clear. Twenty minutes prior to our flight boarding the feared but unexpected occurred. Her ostomy appliance leaked. She headed to a terminal bathroom to hastily adorn her makeshift Ziploc bag appliance container. I watched the clock to check on her progress and update her of the flight status at the 10 minute mark. At 8 minutes, we were called to start boarding the flight. She finished her process and we headed toward the plane. Unsure of the makeshift container, her appliance remained intact for the remainder of the flight and drive home.

In spite of the difficulties, our travel was worth it all. Next time though, my mother will pack more than enough supplies in case of such a rare occurrence again. And perhaps know the local ostomy resources ahead of time.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hydration via Speedlyte: A Review

hydration  life's a polyp

Disclaimer: I have been given this product as part of a product review. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

Hydration is an essential key to living well as a living being. However, for those of us whom are missing parts of our intestines, dehydration can be a dangerous game. Without our full intestines, we are easily at risk of dehydration which increases our risks of electrolyte imbalance, cramps, fatigue, lightheadedness, intestinal blockages, and increased stools which worsens dehydration.

Even though I live with a straight pull thru and have Short Bowel Syndrome due to removal of my colon and part of my small intestine, I am not a keen observer of my own hydration status. I drink liquids when I'm thirsty and I tend to drink a fair amount of coffee and tea, which both further dehydration due to their caffeine content. I don't typically experience overly bothersome effects of dehydration. I'm not prone to intestinal blockages or cramps and my electrolytes have been remaining stable during blood lab checks.

My mother, who has an ileostomy and Short Bowel Syndrome, suffers with dehydration on a daily basis. In addition, she has Diabetes and Restless Leg Syndrome. With her combination of medical conditions, she experiences electrolyte imbalances that cause severe daily leg cramps that are so painful she is brought to tears on a regular basis and experiences partial intestinal blockages on an almost weekly basis.

So when I was contacted by Einsof BioHealth regarding a hydration product, I immediately thought of my mother's frequent dehydration. I have been given this product as part of a product review. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

I received Speedlyte, a product for Pediatric and Hypotonic Dehydration. When I approached my mother about using Speedlyte to improve her leg cramps, she was interested and sought the medical approval of her doctors. My mother was diagnosed with abnormal kidney function and must be mindful of the products or medications she utilizes. Her Gastroenterologist and Nephrologist both approved her use of Speedlyte to boost her hydration.

Speedlyte was designed to increase absorption up to three times faster thereby requiring less volume of liquid than other products by utilizing an Encapsulated Nano-Electrolytes formula. This means the transportation of electrolytes into the cells is more efficient and allows for rapid rehydration. With this different formula, Speedlyte can be absorbed in spite of a reduction in villus cells as a result of diarrhea. According to Speedlyte data, this new formula has been shown to reduce unscheduled intravenous rehydration therapy by up to 19% and reduce scheduled intravenous rehydration therapy by up to 73%.

Speedlyte comes in an orange flavor and is relatively low cost for a 20 ounce bottle through Amazon.
It is also made without any artificial flavors, colors, or sweetners and contains a low amount of sugar. This is important as sugar and artificial sweetners increase diarrhea and sugar content must be monitored for those with Diabetes, such as my mother. My mother was approved by her Nephrologist to drink two bottles a day. However, due to the size of bottles my mother opted to drink one per day. She drank a bottle throughout the day rather than in one setting. She was not fond of the orange flavor but did report it tasted better when it was chilled. I, however, did not mind the orange flavor and found it to more appealing than other orange hydration products. I was advised by a Speedlyte representative that the orange flavor is being improved and additional flavors are being developed for future release.

My mother often experiences worsened leg cramps in the evening and during the night after she exercises during the day. She found by drinking Speedlyte through the day she no longer experienced leg cramps in the evenings or during the night. After exercising during the day, she would begin to experience the beginnings of a leg cramp in the evenings. However, upon drinking Speedlyte at the onset of a leg cramp she was able to curtail the leg cramp from developing within 20 - 30 minutes of ingestion and the symptoms dissipated. This allowed her sleep to improve significantly as she wasn't waking up with cramps and required to "walk them out".

Overall, my mother was satisfied with the reduction in her dehydration symptoms while utilizing Speedlyte and found it to be a "good product". Also, as an added benefit the representative advised me that some Medicare beneficiaries are able to receive Speedlyte through their Medicare benefits for a monthly supply.

If you're interested in learning more about Speedlyte or trying this product for yourself, you can find more information at Einsof Biohealth and purchase through Amazon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Journey of Chronic Illness

journey of chronic illness  life's a polyp

an act of traveling from one place to another.

"she went on a long journey"

trip, expedition, excursion, tour, trek, voyage, junket, jaunt

Imagine yourself disembarking on an adventure exploring a vast land with only your mode of transportation and a map. This map can take you anywhere amongst this land. Whichever way you choose to go will determine what you encounter along the way. Each way you turn will vary in the experiences and people you encounter. Some ways will be similar while others will be substantially different in comparison. Individuals may join you and leave you at various points. Your experience along the paths you choose differ from those of others according to their chosen paths. No adventure will be exactly the same. There are too many variables leaving each traveler with a unique experience, a unique reality.

Life is a winding road of never ending experiences and adventures. The synonyms of journey truly fit the uncertainty of life. You never know what life has in store for you, what will come to be with each decision you make in life.

And so it is with chronic illness as it is with life in general. We never know from day to day if our chronic illness will change. If we will experience new symptoms or a reduction in symptoms. We enjoy our plateaus of good health while they last but these plateaus are never guaranteed. Change is the nature of chronic illness. The doctors we see, the hospitals we attend, the medications we take, the foods we eat all play a role in our chronic illness life. Each may be a positive or harmful decision for us that has the power to drastically change the development of our chronic illness. Unfortunately, like life, we don't have the foreseeing power to know what the best decision is for our chronic illness. Instead, we must make the best decision based on the knowledge we have and the circumstance we are faced with at the time. And we hope for the best.

Others disagree with using the word "journey" to describe living with a chronic illness. I, however, embrace this term for my chronic illness life. My life and my chronic illness are not mutually exclusive. For there to be one, there must be the other in my life. It is a fully inclusive circle. This isn't my preference but it is the way it is and so I will embrace this journey.

Just as we trek through life that is full of surprises - good and bad - so we trek through the journey of chronic illness. I have been overwhelmed by my encounters with others I never would have crossed paths with - physically or virtually - if it hadn't been for my chronic illness. I have made lifelong friendships with many individuals on their own chronic illness journey. I have held very dear friendships that played important roles at key moments in my life. I have been blessed with some outstanding doctors who help me along my journey. I have also been cursed with some very devastating moments throughout my chronic illness but with the support of family, friends, and medical providers I have survived those dark moments and am flourishing along a good path at present.

We all enjoy the smooth, easy paths on our voyage through chronic illness. However, we wouldn't be able to fully appreciate the beautiful tours of life if it weren't for the dark, trying passages. When we cross the bridge from the dark into the pristine, we are able to enjoy the ease with a new understanding, a new gratitude. Our eyes are reopened to the greatness of life and so we experience life with renewed senses. Unfortunately, we wouldn't experience these fulfilling moments to the same degree if we didn't trek through the difficult paths of life. And so these experiences go hand in hand to make the experience that is life complete.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Throwing Out New Year's Resolutions

new years resolutions  life's a polyp

I'm just going to say it, I think New Year's resolutions are a bit silly. Sure, I've made my own resolutions for the new year in the past. They were usually for some type of betterment of myself. Some new, improved version of myself. A healthier, skinnier, this or that better me. And like the majority of people, I didn't keep my resolutions. And then I asked myself "Why am I waiting for the new year to start accomplishing my goals? Why not start now? Why do I need a holiday to do something for me?"

So I threw them out and I started doing things for me in the now, not for some day. This was particularly true as I found my own strength and freedom after my marital separation and divorce. I promised myself to do more things for me and I made a list of what I wanted for myself. And so far, I've kept those promises to myself. I didn't wait around for a few months to pass for the new year to come around. No, I made a change that day and with the first opportunity that came along for me to act on my promise, I did. I want to stretch my wings and experience the life that I want without fear that I won't have someone to share those experiences, those adventures with along the way. I'm determined to enjoy and experience life regardless who is by my side or rather, who isn't by my side. This is my life goal and it isn't waiting around for a particular day. It's happening now and I best be on board or I'll miss out.

We don't need some day. We need now. Life is too short and too complicated, particularly when chronic illness is involved. We never know what tomorrow will hold. The days change from one way to another in a moment's instance with our health challenges. When we have the moment, let's grab it. Let's not wait around for the next moment.

Since I stopped waiting for the next moment to come along I feel more alive, more content. That's what I want for all who I cross paths with along my life's journey. I want to feel the thrill of life pulsing through my veins. I want us to enjoy the ride together with no one on the sidelines waiting.

What's your life's ambitions? What do you want out of your life? This isn't a resolution, this is a life change. It's more important than a once a year resolution, this is for a lifetime. With something this large, it can require soul searching to discover our heart's desires to determine what really makes us happy and excited about life. Once we make this discovery we can start to establish our game plan for achieving what we want out of life. Every game plan gains momentum when we start with small, achievable steps that lead us to our ultimate goal. Let's make a plan and go for it. Get out there and enjoy life for all its magical ups and downs, twists and turns.