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.
It’s a painsomnia night so I thought I would share with you all something that I’ve been coming back to frequently recently. Personally I’m a very sensitive, emotional person; now some may view that as a bad thing, others a good thing, some of you will be neutral. I can see the pros and cons, but it’s what makes me me, so yes I may cry buckets everytime we watch certain episodes of Vikings, or The Lion King but i’ll also laugh myself to stitches five minutes later. It’s a rollercoaster of life. It’s real, honest and truth.
So why do I, and I know many others with chronic illness will be able to identify with this, go on autopilot everytime a doctor, family member or friend asks after us? You know the drill, you walk into the drs room the doctor greets you and asks how you are before you get down to the nitty gritty. It’s a formality, so like a healthy person you respond with I’m good thanks, and you? It’s ridiculous! Why is it so hard to say you know what I’m actually not great at the moment and I need some help.
I forced myself to do this yesterday. I could hear the usual auto response slipping out my mouth, so I caught myself, took a breath, looked the doctor in the eye and said I’m pretty awful and I don’t know what to do. Now saying that wasn’t easy but boy did the relief for sharing the burden feel good. Making that choice to let the facade of I can cope with everything slip for a moment to ask for help took an incredible amount of inner strength and it’s something I’m going to practice doing more often. Vulnerability is not something to view in a negative light, in fact it allows others to reach out and see if they can improve your situation. Sometimes just talking things over can make a difference.
So just pause for a moment and think; are you like me and guilty of putting walls up? Is it worth flexing your inner strength and letting that vulnerability show? Let me know what you decide to do!
The issue with being chronically ill is that when a new complication arises it can be hard to know whether it has been caused by a preexisting condition, and if so which one, or if a new condition has popped into the question. Over the last few weeks I’ve had increasing amounts of pain in my knees, calf’s and feet. I tried to brush this off but slowly and surely my feet and legs have started spasming. So now I find myself trying to work out if this is due to a spread of Dystonia or a relapse of Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease.
I had a long chat with my neurologist on Tuesday, he’s of the thought that my Dystonia has progressed as I’m still within the 5 year time frame for a spread of symptoms. Personally I’m hoping it’s Lyme related, as whilst still hard to treat, the possibility of remission again is real.
The idea that it could be Dystonia scares me due to the painful nature of the spasms; but I know I can get through it. I just have to take it one wobbly step at a time. I never thought I’d see the day when I would have to strap my leg splints on again but they’re worth the discomfort.
So here’s to crossing my fingers and seeing where the next 12 weeks takes us, by which point we will have a better idea to the cause and therefore treatment options.
I have spent the majority of this week at varying hospital appointments, today is my rest day before heading back to the hospital for more testing tomorrow. Frustration and disappointment has been my main response so far to these visits. Part of this is most likely because I am under the care of several different specialists who are experts in their respective fields and generally wonderful. I’m quite lucky to have them as my doctors. However, every now and then I meet a new Dr and have to fight the same misconceptions and preconceived ideas from scratch; it’s exhausting, emotionally draining and depressing.
I’m quite good at finding the positives in being chronically ill, I’ve been known to be in agony, hospitalised with spasms and dislocations and still be giggling away at whatever ridiculous manifestation my symptoms have appeared in this time. That being said I’m aware of how important it is to be completely honest with my care providers about how I’m managing and asking for help when I need it.
I had been counting down to yesterday’s appointment to see the local obstetric consultant as I am really at a loss with what to do to help myself. The advice so far has been plenty of bed rest and to use my wheelchair if I have to go out. This makes sense and I’ll admit I was unreasonable hoping the Dr yesterday would wave a magic wand, but university restarts at the end of the month, my fingers dislocate when I push myself and I’m pretty sure turning up to uni doesn’t count as bed rest. So I sat in front of the consultant asking if there was anything, even the smallest suggestion, that he could think of to help me help myself. “Just stay positive” was his advice. It was also the last thing I wanted to hear. 5 minutes later he admitted he didn’t have a clue about any of my conditions, so I walked him through them briefly. His advice changed to just come to hospital every time you have a fainting episode so we’re aware of you; my episodes are at the moment generally occurring over 10-20 times a day, so I’ll just move in shall I?
This whole appointment got me thinking about my array of conditions, which are confusing and do overlap, so for those of you who are curious here’s a brief introduction.
Generalised Dystonia – this trickly little brain alien causes painful and often debilitating spasms in my eyes, jaw, neck, left arm and torso. It’s not curable, and every patient presents slightly differently. It’s currently playing up as I’m off treatment for the rest of my pregnancy.
2) Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3 – Unlike my Dystonia, unless I have dislocated or subluxed you cannot tell I have this condition. It causes fatigue, brain fog, pain, dislocations, allergies amongst many other symptoms.
3) Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Dysautonomia- This is a relatively new diagnosis for me. Currently this means I can’t even sit up without my heart rate shooting through the roof and my blood pressure plummeting. It’s pretty bad at the moment, due to blood pooling when I eat I pass out during meals. I also pass out if I get too hot, move too quickly etc. My autonomic nervous system is basically a bit temperamental and therefore many different automatic functions can malfunction.
4) Non Epileptic Seizures – Previously my care providers thought these were pain related but now they think my PoTS may have something to do with it. Often Drs misunderstand these seizures and presume they are either psychogenic or part of drug seeking behaviour. 5) Endometriosis – I fought for years to have this investigated, constantly being told that it was simply bad period pains. Many drs ignored the fact that they were every 2 weeks, extremely painful, and very heavy. By the time a diagnostic laparoscopy and treatment was carried out extensive damage had been done and I was told that my chances of unassisted conception were very low. This make me all the more grateful for our little miracle.
6) Chronic Lyme Disease – Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that if caught early can be treated easily. When it becomes chronic, like in my case, it is extremely hard to cure. It affects multiple systems and therefore is frequently misdiagnosed.
When I saw my personal trainer Beckie the other day she pointed out to me that she had trained with me for a year now. Reflecting together on the progress I’ve made in the last year was a real eye opener. I think sometimes I forget just how much I have improved, I allow myself to become absorbed in the pain and the spasms. I focus on fighting constantly against the Dystonia. When I met Beckie I could barely stand for even twenty seconds without my legs spasming, my whole body out of control, I was completely reliant on a wheelchair. Lyme disease was eating away at my life and I was fighting what felt like a losing battle.
I remember the first time Beckie came round; it was a meeting between herself, my mother and I, to discuss what exercises I could do without setting a seizure off. Although our aim has always been to not trigger a spasm, I’ve always made it clear that if I spasm, I don’t mind. Let’s pause, wait for it to pass and then carry on. I’ve carried on with my mind-set that my brain will learn (I understand that this is unlikely but a girl can hope)! When we began it was completely baby steps, learning what my body would cope with and what would cause it to throw a complete fit.
Now, after being on Lyme treatment for a year, and finding a regular Botox regime that works for my Dystonia, I am capable of so much more in our sessions. Some exercises still cause my body to go into spasm, but I apply the same method as I did a year ago, pause, wait and then continue. It works every time. Beckie has helped me strengthen my joints after my body successfully caused a lot of damage to them. I will never forget the look on my physiotherapist face when she first assessed my legs and realized the damage the spasms had done to the ligaments. I’ve gone from not being able to stand for more than twenty seconds to being able to walk. I admit I need knee and ankle splints to be able to do so, and sometimes I need walking sticks, and if I’m having an awful day I rely on my wheelchair. BUT I have made so much progress. I don’t reflect often enough. Looking back on this time last year I cannot believe how far I’ve come. I look forward to the progress I can make in the months to come. Learning to manage these conditions one step at a time.
Its been a few weeks since I blogged and it is hard to know where to start as so much has happened. I have had hospital appointment after hospital appointment, and I find that I am still trying to wrap my head round them all. I’ll keep todays blog brief and just mention a couple of appointments.Thankfully though my Dystonia has not been too bad as of late, my legs are tolerating my splints with more ease which is making life and physiotherapy much easier.
Last week I had an appointment at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital to see a specialist to do with my Joint Hypermobility syndrome, she has decided she wants me put on an outpatient program there building up towards being put into a 3 week intensive rehabilitation program. It was extremely a positive appointment that has left me feeling very optimistic. Joint Hypermobility Syndrome combined with Dystonia means my body can end up in some weird and wonderful positions, which can be rather painful, so I am hoping this program will give me some coping tools.
On Wednesday I attended a local private hospital that treats Lyme Disease to see if they would consider treating me. The Dr was rather lovely and very thorough in her examinations which left me feeling quite confident. They took blood to test for a number of things including Lyme Disease, and explained the treatment process if the results they needed came back. Having treatment through this hospital will be extremely expensive however you cannot put a price on health. Lyme disease has robbed me off so much of my life, and in many cases literally takes people lives, I don’t plan on being next. The NHS turning a blindeye on this condition will be one that in years to come they will look back on with regret.
This coming week is filled with more appointments. I am rather looking forward to seeing my neurologist, I am going to ask if he will botox my calf again and see if this helps with learning to walk!
I have put off writing this blog post for a few weeks now. Not because I didn’t want to be open about what I’m currently experiencing, but because putting it all down into words makes it all very real and I am finding it extremely hard to deal with. As I have mentioned before the doctors believe my Dystonia is caused by damage to my brain by Lyme Disease. I contracted Lyme Disease when I was six and have been on oral antibiotics for it since May last year.
A couple of weeks of a go I finished the last of my oral antibiotics. Although I had been told that realistically I needed IV antibiotics to cure my neurological Lyme disease, I had hoped that a year on oral ones may have been enough. Unfortunately it had not been and over the last few weeks my hand spasms, back spasms, vocal tics, fatigue, on/off functional paralysis etc have all come back. I have been coping with this the best I can, its been coming back slowly so I have had a chance to ‘adjust’. However now and then spasms will happen and I will have a bit off an emotional wobble. I cannot write anymore, I struggle to do my make-up, getting dressed has always been hard due to my Dystonia but throw in Lyme Disease and it takes most the morning to accomplish on a bad day. Yesterday I was just trying to pay for an item in a shop and my hand spasmed around the card reader, I could not let go. My friend had to try to yank my hand off it whilst the till worker pulled the reader out. I was mortified!
Yesterday I visited my GP who does not believe in Chronic Lyme, my mother and I went prepared to do battle. He is normally very dismissive of anything to do with Lyme Disease and had previously said to me that even if my symptoms came back he would not be willing to prescribe me anymore antibiotics. Thankfully he seems to have had a slight change of mind and has give me 2 more months worth. In this 2 month slot I have an appointment at a private hospital that are known to treat Lyme Disease, I am hoping that they will be willing to give me the IV antibiotics that I need to cure me. I am not sure how likely it is that I will get anymore antibiotics off my GP after this 2 month supply runs out. I started them today, and should hopefully see an improvement in the next few weeks. For now I am keeping my fingers crossed that this private hospital pulls through!
On a much more positive note I had my Botox injections last week for my Dystonia which means my jaw and neck will be in place whilst I am on holiday!
Last Friday I attended my rescheduled Orthotics appointment. I was unsure whether there was anything they would be able to but my worries turned out to unfounded. The decision was made that no permanent alterations would be made over the christmas period as that would involve my splint being taken away. Instead elastic type material (but not as stretchy) was attached in a figure of 8 pattern to my splint over my ankle area, my normal velcro strap then went over this to reinforce it. If this design manages to hold my foot in place then my splint will be sent off to have these made permanent. At the moment it is looking positive and doing its job.
Yesterday I went up to London to see my Neurologist. He gave me my usual six injections, which have such a fantastic result. After showing him a photo of my foot in spasm that I took the other day, he has offered to next time administer some Botox injections to my calf and foot. I would be very interested to hear from anybody who has received injections at these sites!
I am still taking medication to treat Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease, since I started these medications around six months ago I have had amazing progress in areas affected by it. So much so that my neurologist even remarked how happy and amazed he was to see the improvements. I am still, with the support of my neurologist, battling to receive IV treatment for Lyme Disease which will hopefully get rid of anything the Oral antibiotics have missed.
Everything seems to be quiet calm for once. Now that the Botox controls my most painful spasms I have been able to reduce the amount of painkillers and muscle relaxants I take. This has resulted in me feeling much more with it and my brain feels less foggy. It all seems to be calming down just in time for Christmas and my Birthday, which is perfect!
This morning my mother and I travelled to Warwickshire to see an Infectious Disease Specialist who supposedly (according to his secretary) treats Chronic Lyme Disease. I left the appointment with extremely mixed feelings. On one hand I was rather disappointed and on the other hand I was satisfied with what he has said he shall do.
At the start of my appointment he made it rather clear that he did not really believe in chronic lyme and thought that ongoing lyme could be cured with a 4 week course of antibiotics. He also thought Lyme Disease could cure itself…I have not heard or read about this. After hearing about my life medical history and an examination he informed us that he was certain that I had had Lyme Disease for a few years but did not think that I still had it. However he said that I at least deserved to have testing done. Therefore he is going to write to my GP and have my GP arrange for me to have an IGM (that may be wrong) blood test and a lumbar puncture for PCP testing to see if there is any lyme in me. Lyme disease testing is inaccurate at the best of times and the fact that I am on antibiotics for Lyme Disease at the moment means that the antibodies shall be suppressed meaning a negative result is more likely. I expressed my concerns to the doctor, who admitted this could happen. However I am very happy he is going to ask for these tests to be arranged.
He was a lovely guy, however I am unsure how I feel about it all. I am going to go ahead with the tests. If they come back negative then I shall book myself into the Breakspear hospital and go through this all again. One big positive out of this appointment is that he confirmed our suspicions that I did have Lyme. That there, in my eyes, is the reason I have Dystonia. My neurologist admitted that they know that Lyme disease can cause Dystonia. It gives me some peace of mind to know that there is a reason behind it all. Now I just have to wait for the NHS to arrange these tests.
Today was just a slightly wobbly stepping stone to future treatment. One way or another I will get to where I need to be.
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