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.
Today I had a meeting with speech and language to assess my ongoing difficulties with swallowing. Some days the issues fade into the background and are not to much of a problem, other times I struggle to swallow anything which has previously resulted in over a week in the hospital on IV fluids and having a temporary NG tube placed. I had no idea what to expect from the appointment as I’ve not met with speech and language before.
She came to my house, and was immediately met with Stefan and Evie talking a thousand miles a minute, both very curious over her PPE. We discussed my symptoms and long medication list and then she got down to examining me. She had a feel of my throat whilst I drank an ensure and picked up my usual spasms. While we were talking I was doing my usual post meal coughing, something that’s mild enough that I don’t really notice it, nor was I aware that my voice then became hoarse something my partner brought up.
The speech and language therapist explained what was happening was due to my spasms that I was aspirating during my meals. She’s arranging a barium swallow so they can get a look at the extent that this is happening. It also explains why I keep getting such bad chest infections; the last one left me needing two rounds of antibiotics and a course of steroids.
She mentioned the possibility of a PEG tube again, something that’s been circled around for a while, as well as refferal back to the dietitian. This will hopefully be after the barium swallow has been conducted as this should show what consistency of liquid will be best for me.
I’m feeling quite positive about it all after today’s meeting and will be hearing from her again in four week for an update.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or if you’ve been here since the beginning, you’ll know that pacing (for many years) was like a swear word to me. The doctors threw it around a lot, really pressed the importance of it, but no-one really explained how to implement it properly into my life. I felt like I was being told to sit down and accept my fate of not being able to do anything, anymore. As someone who likes to be busy, I didn’t accept this instruction.
Don’t misunderstand me, I tried. I’d manage a few days of what I viewed as pacing and then I’d slip back into my old habits, trying to live a normal life of activity with no adjustments. The consequences of doing this was that I hit that ’empty spoon’ wall hard and often. Each time regretting it as I then took days to recuperate.
I’m currently coming towards the end of the 3 diplomas I’ve been studying, in Health, Wellness and Life Coaching – specialising in life management with chronic illnesses. I’ve loved the course itself but seeing the difference applying it to my daily life has had, has been amazing. It’s completely changed my understanding of pacing and therefore helped me to apply it to my life with ease.
Yesterday, for example, I was feeling much better than usual so I asked my son what activities he would like to do. I had already decided I would say yes to whatever he chose to do and would find a way to adapt it if needed. He asked to cook with me. So we got the soup maker out to eliminate the amount of cutting and hot heavy lifting of pans. He loved peeling the onion and garlic, cutting out the amount of herbs. It was a gentle session, sat down and full of laughter. I know energy filled days won’t always be here even when I’m 100% on track, but by pacing, asking for help more etc.it reduces how often flare ups will happen. It’s making a huge difference not just to how I’m coping physically but also to my mental health which has had a real boost.
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.
Since I last blogged things have been hectic. I have spent the majority of my days either at the hospital having various investigations carried out, or on the phone to them chasing down followup appointments. This week I have had more bloods taken and an MRI of my brain, eyes and spine with contrast performed. Tuesdays MRI experience seemed a bit surreal. It took 35 minutes, three medical personnel and 7 attempts before I was successfully cannulated as my veins were up to their usual disappearing act. This time allowed for me to internally become quiet anxious at the thought of being in the MRI machine for a minimum of an hour – in the end it was about one hour twenty. I am generally not a claustrophobic person, but this machine brings that fear out in me, this is most likely exacerbated by the fact that I have to be strapped to the table to ensure my spasms cannot move me around to much and distort the images.
My stress levels have been through the roof this last week. I have fought so hard over the last four years to be put on a medication regime that allows me to have more control over my body again, and live a relatively normal life. The mere thought that my body may become more of an issue again is distressing. However I am lucky that I have a good support system in place, my family help keep me distracted, my boyfriend is great at talking through my concerns with me, and my councilor has been a fantastic space for me to vent and explore my frustrations at my faulty body.
I get the results of my MRI on Monday. So I shall know then whether more investigations need to be carried out or if it is MS.
I was up in London today for an appointment with my fantastic neurologist. Whilst I always stress over the little things like timings, how the injections will go and medications, I never stress over seeing him. His manner is so calming that during the appointment I feel as if it doesn’t matter what he says, it’ll be okay as we will always put a plan of action in place to try and make the future as pain free and positive as possible! The hospital I attend has some fabulous Toy Story themed stickers on the wall in the waiting room which I love. As I’ve mentioned before I always picture my Dystonia to be a Toy Story style alien named Benedict. Which is why this picture naturally had to happen today 🙂
I’m currently coping with Optic Neuritis on top of everything else. The hospital which I’m under for this had decided to leave it up to my neurologists as to whether or not I was treated with steroids. He has decided that he wants me started on steroids and wants an MRI with contrast carried out, as this is my second flare up in six months. I shall be spending Thursday at the eye hospital so hopefully I can talk to them about getting all of this put in to place and moving forwards.
As Dystonia Awareness Week draws to a close it is hard not to draw comparisons to previous years. Today is my beautiful sisters 21st birthday; Happy Birthday Eloise! To celebrate we drove down to Portsmouth, where she is studying, to visit her for the day. This is something we do each year for her birthday, and it’s always a fantastic laughter filled day.
The first year we did this was 2013, my Dystonia was still very much new to me and we had not found a treatment regime that worked yet. Due to this I had sunglasses on and off all day as the sunlight was aggravating my blepharospasm, I was wearing several layers and huddled in blankets as the bite of the wind was increasing the severity of my spasms. At this time, I was completely reliant on a wheelchair. I had major trust issues when it came to people pushing me around, I was terrified they would tip me out, so you can imagine how I felt about this.
Whereas today I got out the car and strolled to my sister’s house; if I had still been in my wheelchair I would not have been able to get through the front door! I was able to enjoy the sunshine without worrying about my eyes, and it was hot enough to not need to layer up. Even though my Botox is a week late I only had a handful of spasms over lunch, and I simply laughed through the pain. I think my mother may have doubted my sanity at this point as she asked me to recite the alphabet backwards to prove I was completely conscious.
Today has been extremely upbeat, it has shown just how far I have progressed thanks to ongoing treatment.
Whether you are ill or not having a support system in place is something everybody needs. Everyone deals with varying difficulties in life, and whilst experiencing these a support network helps keep life ticking over and enabling you to feel like you can cope. Often during difficult times, it becomes very tempting, and easy, to simply shut yourself away from family and friends. I know personally that I would much rather deal with a problem by myself, this is simply because by talking to others the issue feels more real and daunting. However, acknowledging it and making plans to resolve it with people you trust is a key to moving forwards.
When I was first diagnosed with Generalised Dystonia in 2012 I shut myself away from most of my friends; even a trip to Tesco was difficult as I did not want others to see what had become of me and judge me. Reflecting back on this now, I know that this was more a fear of seeing others react to my spasms and having to admit that I really was having to deal with this. A huge chunk of me wanted to pretend it was simply an unpleasant dream. Despite knowing that talking amongst trusted individuals is helpful, I still fall back into bad habits whenever life goes slightly askew.
This past week I have been coming to terms and dealing with some difficult situations outside of Dystonia. Admitting that they happened and needed dealt with was a hugely difficult step, but a necessary one. My botox is a week late this time round, I am receiving it this coming Wednesday, so dealing with a combination of life being more flawed than usual and my spasms progressively increasing in severity, has been more than I felt I could cope with. This is where a support network is vital. Family and friends can help give an outside perspective on how to manage life events, and advise what steps to take. This is an invaluable tool! Sometimes though, you need more than just the loving circle of individuals. Realising this is key. I have just started talking to a councillor. This is something I had hoped I would never have to do again, but it’s been necessary and I know is helpful.
Living life with Dystonia is never going to be easy. I greatly admire every individual who does so. Realising when you need support is not a sign of weakness but of great strength. So please remember to talk to those around you. This condition drives us all barmy, sometimes we need grounding.
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