With the introduction of the new lockdown I had had been planning on getting crafty with the kids again. That idea was snuffed out after an email landed in my email box confirming that nursery would be doing live home lessons followed by tasks to be completed, photographed and emailed to his teachers. All well and good except my partner works shifts and I have an 18 month old whose favourite word is no, also takes no as a yes and will most deffinently try to touch every key on my laptop.
So today was the first home school lesson. After half an hour of technical wrestleling we finally got on to Teams and were met by a chorus of STEFAN. The children were happily mucking around with each other, my daughter was desperately trying to join in and the teacher? Her laptop had the same issues mine had to start with and never made it to the lesson. Round two tomorrow!
Dystonia and Me Holistic Health Coaching is officially up and running which has added a lovely touch to my evenings. I have been thoroughly enjoying chatting with different people with a range of issues and starting them on their journeys with me.
I would love to hear if any has had the vaccine yet? From the calculator I predict mine to be late Feb to March at the current injection rates and would be interested to hear your experience in the comments. I personally will be accepting the offer of the jab, I just would like to go in to it eyes open to side effects.
Following on from yesterday’s Facebook live where we touched briefly on genetic causes of Dystonia, I wanted to delve into this a little more. DYT1 gene is the cause of some cases of early onset Dystonia and seems to be the one people are aware of. However there is a number of other genes that can cause Dystonia. Knowing whether it is a genetic cause is worth investigating as treatment can differ. For example I have the GCH1 gene which is the cause of Dopa Responsive Dystonia. I’ve lived with my symptoms for eight years and only recently found this out. I’m now awaiting to start on the appropriate medication for this particular type of Dystonia.
Being diagnosed with Dystonia for the majority of people is a long road, and more complicated still if you don’t know the medical history of your parents, grandparents etc. I haven’t had contact with my father for years but I know from my mum that he had hand tremors and was often called shakey. Now this could be caused by anything and that’s important to remember but based on the fact that my hands also spasm and tremor it’s a significant point.
When I was on the initial road chasing for a diagnosis only one doctor recommended genetic testing and this was never followed up on. I then spent years fighting against the label of functional Dystonia, which seemed to being applied purely based on my previous traumas. It became a frequent sticking point, one in which I often pointed out that fighting for treatment and belief was by far more traumatic at the time than issues I’d already worked through with therapists.
It was only after resorting to private genetic testing that we discovered that I had a genetic cause; I’d been blaming it on a horse riding accident for years purely because my neck spasms started shortly afterwards.
So does having a genetic cause change anything? Yes! Some types of Dystonia are far more likely to respond to Deep Brain stimulation, while others respond to specific medications better.
It is important to remember however that not all Dystonia causing genes are known yet. This is one of the reasons family history is so important. I only went digging into my genes after my maxfax surgon mentioned that their appears to be a link between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Dopa Responsive Dystonia.
Other causes can be medication induced (tardive dyskinesia), brain injury, as a symptom of another condition etc. If you have concerns over the root cause of your condition please speak to your neurology team.
Some of you who have popped on to here over recent days will have noticed small changes popping up around the site. It’s an exciting time for the blog. In the eight years its been running for it has had the same look, so it was about time it had a make over along with a brand spanking new feature. Hopefully this means you’ll find it easier to navigate, but as always I’m only a message away and you can always drop me a line over on the Dystonia and me Facebook page if you’re having any difficulties.
Spoonie Talks is the blogs latest new feature, this will be a weekly podcast posted up every Friday evening. I am overly excited about this. It’s an idea I have had bubbling away in the pipeline for awhile but it was never quite the right time. However sometimes you’ve just got to grab the pandemic by the horns and give things a go, so I’m launching Dystonia & Me: Spoonie Talks podcast and hope to have the first episode up and running by the end of the month.
How can you be involved?
While some of the the episodes will just myself talking, I’m aiming to make this an interactive series bringing light to issues that my readers, and the Dystonia and me community feel strongly on. This really could be anything! It could be on a specific condition that you would like to spread awareness about, you could be a carer and wish to discuss what that’s like, maybe you want to share your journey to diagnosis, tips on balancing illness and home life, pacing, perhaps you are a charity and want a platform to speak on. The possibilities are really endless.
If you think this is something you may be interested in, drop me a message through the facebook page and we can have a chat. The more the merrier!
The Return of Facebook Lives
During National lockdown I was on the Dystonia and Me facebook page twice a day doing facebook lives to check on how everybody was doing both physically and mentally. This meant I could provide links to resources for those who were struggling, and hopefully for those who were feeling isolated it meant that they had something to look forward to.
Now with my health not being at its most stable at the moment twice a day is not something I can commit to, however I feel (and some of you have messaged) that the lives returning would be helpful with so many local lockdowns in place again. With this in mind I’m going to be coming Live on the Facebook page 7.30pm every Monday and Wednesday night. It wont always be awareness spreading, it might just be a friendly chat to see how you are all doing, so join in in the comments. I will schedule these on the page, you’ll be able to set reminders for those who want to join.
When I met my partner Damon back in 2016 I was upfront about the fact that I had a whole host of chronic conditions some of which would deteriorate as I aged. It was a subject that I broached on our first date, romantic I know, but it was important to me that he knew life with me would not be an easy one; our first date lasted five hours. What was meant to be coffee, turned into a museum trip, and hours spent talking on a bench overlooking the River Cherwell. At the time my Dystonia was my most limiting condition. The EDS was annoying and had its fair share of debilitating moments but in comparison was easy enough to deal with.
However over the years with a good combination of medication and very regular Botox injections my Dystonia is often far more controlled, yet my EDS has spiralled dramatically so. My jaw which takes the brunt of both conditions is in need of replacement yet both conditions make replacement not necessarily the easiest call for my surgical team; it’s an ongoing argument. My knees are in a similar state. They too need replaced. They currently sublex at 0 and 30 degrees constantly yet bracing doesn’t seem to work due to the change in position with each time the knees come out of place. I frequently joke that I’m falling apart and honestly it feels that way.
The latest part of me to be affected is my hearing. My hearing tests have showed that im hearing impaired and im awaiting further appointments on the next steps to see what aids will help me. Whilst my hearing being affected isn’t overly surprising, it wasn’t something at 27 I expected to be told. However after almost a year of struggling I knew it was time to give in and get some help.
If you look at me you could be forgiven for not realising anything was wrong. Which is one of the reasons Rare Disease Day is so important. Disabilities come in all variations and I for one never look the same one day to the next.
Today you published the article ‘Matt Dawson: I had to have heart surgery after a tick bite’. At first I was thrilled, it is always uplifting to see articles highlighting this condition being shared by the mainstream media. However as I eagerly absorbed each sentence , I could feel my heart sinking further in my chest. In fact I’m pretty sure it dropped straight out of me and into the flat below under the weight of my disappointment! You could have taken this opportunity to really highlight the world wide issue when it comes to diagnosing and treating Lyme and Chronic Lyme Disease. The fact that you didn’t leap at this opportunity is beyond me. What happened to the BBC being at the forefront of reporting, challenging the establishment, pushing boundaries?
You even went as far as mentioning that if Lyme goes untreated it can go on to attack and cause ‘debilitating neurological problems’. This was your perfect opening to delve into the devastating condition that is Chronic Lyme; you could have examined how the tests for Lyme disease are extremely inaccurate and false negatives are a frequent occurrence; you could have investigated how NICE guidelines have left the few doctors who are up to date enough with the research in the area to believe in Chronic Lyme, unable to treat their patients without risking their medical licence. You could have mentioned how, if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to fundraise money to pay for your treatment, you are looking at a minimum of £10,000 for private medical bills and that there is no guarantee that you will be cured. You could have investigated how many people that are given the early treatment are actually, years later, successfully cured.
I was bitten by a tick at the age of 6, at the age of 22 I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Almost 3 years on and I am still fighting. Last year I was informed by neurologists that they were 99% certain I had MS, but then my MRI came back clean, when I brought up Lyme my case was swept under the carpet. Sufferers are abandoned, left to battle their own way through the system, made to feel like a fraud whilst their lives and their health fall apart. Unlike your report suggests, it’s not as easy as walking into a hospital and stating you have Lyme and hoping for treatment. It feels like a life sentence.
Reaching a point of diagnosis in too many cases is a long and hard road to travel down. Despite being the third most common movement disorder there is an astounding lack of knowledge in the medical community. The lucky minority may get a diagnosis in months, but for most it takes years, sometimes decades.
In a way I was lucky that I had heard the word Dystonia once before, though I had no appreciation of its signifinance. Looking back at my medical history I had symptoms long before I realised there was anything potentially wrong. In 2008/2009 I developed severe neck spasms, however this kicked off after a rather spectacular fall from a horse which resulted in me landing on my head, so it was easy to put the spasms down to this. Then in 2010 I experienced for the first time Oromandibular Dystonia. My jaw dramatically deviated for a painful 3 months before we found a maxiofacial consultant surgeon who knew what was wrong. I was informed that a quick operation where my tempromandibular joint (TMJ) would be washed out and botox administered would solve the problem. I never questioned this and presumed that Dystonia must be some sort of infection. This belief was reaffirmed by the fact that the operation was a success. Shortly after this I developed arm and back spasms, but for several years I shook these off as simply violent shivers.
In the summer of 2012 I was coming to an end of my first year of midwifery training. For a couple of days I’d had ear ache and swelling and had planned to visit the GP but was in no rush to do so. I now recognise this as a sign of whenever my jaw is going to play up. That weekend I’d popped home to visit my family, whilst relaxing in the garden with them my jaw started to spasm and once again deviate. My mum offered to drive me to the local hospital which I declined, convinced it was just an infection.
My GP that Monday was horrified. After one look at me I was on the way to the hospital with her convinced I had had a stroke. Countless blood tests and xrays were taken, and eventually a consultant appeared. He was the top bod in his area and had an ego to match. Due to his station I didn’t question his plan to wire my jaw shut. Less than 24 hours after the operation my flatmates were rushing my back to hospital, the spasms had returned with vengeance, breaking every wire in my mouth and dislocating my jaw. From that moment onwards the consultant dodged me. Refusing to see me or remove the wires which were ripping my mouth apart.
It took a further 3 months to find a surgeon willing and able to help me. Sitting in front of the surgeon who had treated me back in 2010 he was apologetic for the state I was in. By this point we had started researching Dystonia as I was now wheelchair bound and unable to brush my hair or feed myself.
I often wonder whether 5 years on I would have received my diagnosis if I had never met my neuro. The Dystonia Society UK have a wealth of information that has been invaluable. It’s enabled me to ask for treatment and referrals appropriate for my conditions and have informed conversations with doctors.
I never expected to still be fighting for correct care. The current hospital I am in would far rather blame my symptoms on past traumas than acknowledge the existence of Dystona. It makes me thankful daily that I have a neurologist willing to my corner.
Today is Rare Disease/Disorder Day 2017; it’s focusing on bringing much needed attention to complex conditions that are sorely in need of more research. I’m not going to to go into much detail about each of my individual conditions as each of their awareness weeks are just around the corner, what I’d like to discuss instead is my experience of day to day life when you have a rare condition.
When you read the words mobility aids I’m going to bet that the majority of you instantly conjured up an image of a wheelchair, crutch or walking stick. You’re not wrong all three of these are part of my day to day life depending on the condition of my body that day; and just because I perhaps didn’t need a wheelchair first thing that morning, doesn’t guarantee I won’t be completely reliant on it an hour later. In my daily life I have to use compression gloves, splints for my thumbs, wrists, arms and knees, neck brace and ankle stabiliser to try and keep my body in a somewhat functioning capacity. Now that doesn’t mean that I wear them all 24/7, but at any given time I’ll have the majority of them on.
A selection of my day to day living aids
I’ve had to come off the majority of my medication due to pregnancy, but I’ll admit I’m counting down to being able to have my botox injections and anti-inflammatory meds again. Just 5 minutes standing at the moment is enough for my feet, ankles and knees to swell up like balloons and takes a good hour to go back down. If my body is really playing up then just standing up wrong results in a knee slipping out of place. Between the spasms, the subluxations/dislocations and seizures, medication has become a vital part of my everyday routine. This involves being aware of when in the day I have taken them, remembering which ones it’s important to eat beforehand with and which ones I need to avoiding eating before taking, it involves planning in advance to make sure I never go out without my medication on me plus bringing along some spares because you never know just what may happen.
It’s been almost 5 years and I’m still not used to the looks and comments I receive. I’ve heard it all, that if I drink enough green tea, lose weight and seek therapy then I’ll be cured. People don’t seem to realise that every suggestion they can throw at me I’ve most likely tried, and that living with a chronic rare condition isn’t like getting over a bad cold. My brain literally doesn’t work in the manner it should, my genetic makeup is faulty which has resulted in a connective tissue disorder that will only get worse, and don’t even get me started on having a treatable chronic infection that the NHS won’t treat as A) They don’t like to admit that Chronic Lyme Disease exists and B) They’ll treat me if I get a positive lumbar puncture but because I have a movement disorder I can’t have a lumbar puncture. Honestly it’s all a bit of a joke.
It can be difficult dealing with general society and medical professionals refusing to accept your explanations. To a degree I don’t blame them, half of my symptoms are crazy and, as they are rare, people aren’t familiar with them and like to brush them under the rug. But doing that doesn’t make it any better, the symptoms don’t magically resolve themselves, if anything they get worse as I’m not receiving the treatment I need.
My Health Varies From Minute to Minute
There’s not much rhyme or reason to my symptoms, which makes it hard to predict what to expect and when, which in turn makes it difficult to manage. One day I may be perfectly capable of getting up, dressed, and having a generally active day. The following morning I may wake up unable to even roll over in bed. The unpredictable nature means planning in advance is key but also difficult. More often than not plans are cancelled at the last minute due to ill health.
The Reality of Knowing I’ll Never Get Better
This is something that I’ve known since 2012, but with every new diagnosis of yet another rare condition that cannot be cured it gets harder to deal with. I find it hard to picture anything ahead of time simply because I know these illnesses aren’t going anywhere, that pain is always going to be a prominent feature in my life. How do you cope with knowing that? It’s been 5 years and I’m still working on acceptance. What I find hardest is when people say in a well meaning manner “I hope you get better soon”. It’s an automatic social nicety but it brings out the jealous monster in me. I want to be well more than anything, it’s just not a reality for me, and knowing that the one condition I live with that can be cured is unlikely to ever be sufficiently treated due to sheer stupidity inflicted on sufferers by NICE guidelines, well that just takes the biscuit.
Yes that’s right Dr, at the tender age of six I was bitten by a mythological creature. Within six months of this terrifying beast having a chew on my thigh you diagnosed me with M.E. You had exhausted all other diagnostic criteria. Not once did you consider that something so dramatic as a dragon bite may have occurred. Had you have taken a thorough medical history maybe right from the start you would have suspected Lyme Disease, perhaps you would have treated me and cured me of this hideous illness straight away. But how silly of me. You are a Dr, you do not deal in the likes of maybes, possibilities and mythological creatures; only cold hard facts, ones that fit nicely into your tick boxes.
Over the last 17 years do you know how many times your kind have uttered the words “It would appear you have X, but I am unsure because you just don’t fit into any of these boxes exactly!” Since when did the boxes become so rigid and unadaptable, are we not all unique individuals with our own mix of conditions that affects us all in varying ways? If as people we are so unpredictable in the way a condition may manifest, why then are your boxes so unforgiving. Only Monday of this week the Dr sat there trying to decide whether to diagnose me with inflammation of the optic nerve in both eyes or inflamed retinas in both eyes. Frankly the lovely woman was lost, I had her quiet confounded. She could see plainly that I was rather ill, her barrage of tests confirmed that, but not one of them could put their finger on as to why. I sat there quietly next to my mother, both of us whispering “The dragon bit me 17 years ago, but you don’t believe in Chronic Lyme Disease.”
Now replace the word dragon with a tick. This small seemingly insignificant creature is known to carry, in many cases, Lyme Disease. A disease that more often than not will report a false negative during testing due to the lack of accurate testing methods available. Oh but a lumbar puncture would pick it up you say? Yes, it sometimes does, but my neurologist swears me away from it for fear of making my Dystonia worse. One hospital says we will give you IV antibiotics that you need to cure you but we will only do this if you have an L.P, another admits they are 100% certain I have chronic Lyme but their hands are tied due to regulations that are out of date and blinded with inaccuracies.
Chronic Lyme is often hailed as the Great Pretender. You only have to look at me to see why. Here I am in another flare up of symptoms, attempting to treat each one as it appears. Its distressing really, knowing that IV antibiotics would cure but regulations prevent this as I’ve had both positive and negative results. So in the meantime it’s a guessing game of what will subdue the next round of symptoms for now.
If only Drs believed in mythological beasts like Dragons and Lyme Disease.
I’m currently on week seven of my Botox cycle. My injections are not being administered for another week due to a mistake (lets presume it’s a mistake and not my new neurologist being devious, because being frank I would not put it past him). I should be in bed asleep right now. Normally I would currently either be asleep or out with friends. Instead I am medicated to the extreme, I have lavender wheat bags heated up wrapped round my neck, and resting along my jaw and heat packs stuck along my back. To say I’m in agony would be an understatement.
I have resorted to taking Oramorph, a medication I try my best to avoid, however I would much rather give in and take it than have a seizure (click here to read what a seizure is like), and right now I’m concerned that with the amount of pain I am in that I will have one. My brain is not staying connected to my mouth tonight, functional paralysis is something I have suffered from for a few years now, but it has never ceased to terrify me. I understand that it is simply my brain being unable to cope with the amount of pain I am in, so it disconnects from the affected part but it is an unnatural experience that no matter how much I attempt to laugh off unnerves me.
Tonight my jaw is particularly bad, and is frequently being functionally paralysed leaving me unable to verbally communicate. It may seem like a small thing to some, but when you are trying to desperately to get any part of your mouth; whether that be your lips, tongue, just anything, to move and they won’t, apart from when they spasm, its horrendous. I cannot yell for help if I need it, I cannot cry in frustration or call someone to talk too to distract myself. I am stuck with my jaw spasming, distorting itself in ways that should not be possible, threatening to dislocate, and all I can do is cry silent tears, pray that I do not have a seizure and use this blog as an outlet for my pent-up frustration with this crushing condition.
I have a 9am lecture tomorrow morning. Which I am determined to attend, most likely in a wheelchair for my own safety, one of my close friends has agreed to take me there which has helped put my mind at rest. For now it is back to attempt sleep and hope that my little Dystonia Alien allows me some rest
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.