I live with an elephant in the room; it comes with me wherever I go. Some people don’t mind the elephant, some have one of their own, others have a dislike for these elephants. It’s not always clear as to why. Maybe it’s worry, perhaps lack of understanding, and sometimes it’s ignorance.
Learning to accept my elephant of many names was a task that took great strength and many many years of learning to love myself all over again. I’m a sensitive soul; when my elephant upsets others it’s hard not to be offended. But I cannot change what I am, nor the diagnoses attached to me, or the symptoms that are ever present. Therefore the elephant is always in the corner. Sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes putting on quite the performance.
However, I am who I am because of the path my life has taken. Disability has taught me a lot about myself, and it has opened my eyes to the need for self advocacy in a world that is a far cry from being disability friendly. The next time you are in a room with an elephant, address it, embrace it. Disability elephants are not scary things.
After a week long stay I was finally discharged from one of our local hospitals yesterday evening. I was admitted due to pain in my left eye which has optic neuritis, it had become overwhelming, to the point I felt I had to apply pressure on my eye to relieve it. I had also lost the sensation in the bottom half of my right leg.
During my time in the hospital they decided to carry out a Lumbar Puncture and MRI knowing that my neuro team wanted to do these anyway. The LP side effects I’m still dealing with, I am still having issues with my bladder, my whole leg now has no sensation, and I have a permanent horrondous headache. Both tests came back clear which left the dr’s there confused. On discharge I was diagnosed with Complex neurological disorders and global sensory loss in the right leg, and told my neuro team would take over figuring out the cause.
Today I had an Opthalmology appointment at another hospital. The opthamologist in charge of my care is wonderful. I sat down, he faced me and said “So you have MS ” he was quiet matter of fact about it. I corrected him and pointed out that my tests had come back clear. He muttered that they were wrong and went on to examine my eyes. After several tests he sat back looked me in the eyes and again said “Rebecca you have M.S”. He was quite insisted that my doctor’s must have missed something on my scans due to the state my eyes were in.
So where do I go from here? Such wildly different view points, everyone agreeing that my local neurology team needs to see me again and review what the different teams have found. However getting hold of them is darn impossible. Both myself and my gp surgery contacted them a few days before I was admitted informing them I was going downhill, and needed input desperately. Neither myself or my gp’s surgery has had a response yet.
Right now I’m very emotional and very stressed. I’m taking things moment by moment and trying to just accept things as they are and get on with it. But I work best with action plans and right now I don’t even know who’s responsible for my care. I feel very lost in the system.
When I was 17 weeks pregnant with my daughter I underwent surgery to remove a mole on the underneath of my right breast that had early cell changes. Due to the fact I was pregnant and it was a relatively short surgery they didn’t want to give me a general anaesthetic, so decided a local would do. Unfortunately my Ehlers-Danlos means I have no response to local anaesthetic and felt every cut, and every stitch. The whole process was rather traumatic and I’ve worked hard at trying to forget it.
I was admitted to my local hospital a couple of days ago due to worsening symptoms in my eye and leg. Due to this it was decided last night to bring my lumbar puncture forward to that evening. I explained that local anaesthetic does not work in the slightest for me. They decided to give me a double dose in the hope it would work; it didn’t, which I expected, maxfax team has tried injecting several times this amount with no effect previously. Now lumbar punctures are known to be painful anyway, so to know I was having one without effective pain relief was nerve wracking to say the least.
It was one of the most agonising experiences I have ever had. It took multiple attempts to place the needle correctly as they found the spaces inbetween the spinal collum to be be extremely narrow. It’s been just over twenty four hours since and I’ve struggled to move. My whole back is in horrondous pain, taking a deep breath or swallowing liquids really seems to agreviate it. I’ve also lost sensation over my waterworks which is concerning. I’ve spoken to the consultant but everyone’s answer over this is that I need an MRI, which apparently is booked but no can tell me a day or time.
I’m missing my kids loads but I know that being here is where I need to be. If this helps put a piece of the medical jigsaw in place and leads to better management that can only be a good thing. Just got to take everything one moment at a time.
After discovering recently the wait to be assessed in my area for an electric wheelchair was likely to be several months if not more, we decided to explore what other options were out there. My happy accident after days of searching and getting to the point of really feeling like I was just going to have to accept that I was essentially mainly house bound at the moment, I stumbled across National Mobility Hire, which I have until April 2021; hopefully by then I will have had my assessment but that’s about the current wait time. I only wish I had found them sooner. This morning they dropped my electric wheelchair off and it’s as if they gave me the key to life back.
As soon as Damon had got home from work we set off out with the kids to test drive the chair. It was a complete and utter dream, to be in control was empowering and so uplifting. It gave me such a boost. Since loosing the use of my leg I’ve been unable to take my son to school, such a basic task every parent does and it has devastated me. We weren’t entitled to help from the council as he’s not compulsory school age, my partners hours change every other week so he couldn’t take him, and Covid-19 has limited our options for help as we live in a Tier 3 area. Honestly with each week that was going past it was harder to figure out; this chair completely changes that, it enables me to get him there and back again. Knowing I can do this myself again brought me so much joy.
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness, for the majority of people, stirs up a lot of emotions. Its a process we all go through at different rates, and there is no wrong or right way about it. With illness there is often a sense of loss of normality, for every individual that’s different depending on your condition and what symptoms your experiencing. I really wished I had been given a heads up back when I first got ill about the grief I would feel, for the profound sense of loss I would experience. I fell into a really deep depression and for a long time was in denial thinking that somehow I was just going to wake up one day and be able to return to my Midwifery degree. If you go back to some of the first blog posts I ever wrote on this site it’s really quite easy to pinpoint which part of the Grief cycle I was in.
I turned to a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindful Meditation to help me come to terms with my health and my new reality. This was a good mix and after a fair amount of time had passed I reached acceptance. Now don’t get me wrong I still had blips, a friend would announce they had decided to train as a midwife, or I’d find my old coursework in a clear-out and I’d slip mentally for a few days, but I would always be able to pick myself back up again. However what I didn’t expect, and again I wish I had been warned that this was a possibility, was that with each new diagnosis that got slapped on to me, and with every new symptom that became clear was on a downward path and here to stay; that I would find myself having to repeat the Grief cycle again.
It of course make sense that you would have to. You are after all experiencing a loss of sorts again. Mentally and physically its challenging and draining. It is natural for you to grieve, to be angry, to want to challenge what your going through until you reach some sort of acceptance. I’ve found myself going through this again recently. I’m on my 7th bout of Optic Neuritis, along with loss of all sensation in my right leg; I have next to no use of it currently. My local neuro team suspect MS but are investigating fully for all demylation diseases to ensure nothing is missed. Finding myself once again with more limitations, really sent me spinning. I found myself asking why over and over again. I felt like I needed an explanation because it seemed insane to have yet another condition added to my already extensive list. I’ve not reached acceptance yet, but I’m remembering my mindfulness and I’m defiantly moving through the stages quicker this time.
If I had to give one tip to someone newly diagnosed with a chronic illness it would simply be to kind to yourself and to remember to practice self care. Your allowed to grieve, its natural, don’t beat yourself up. Make sure you don’t bottle your emotions up, confide in someone you trust. you will feel better for it.
Mental Health awareness day was last week and I wanted to write this blog post then but honestly it was too hard. My mental health right now is not great. I’m by no means awful but it’s not where I’d like it to be. It’s been an accumulation of being chronically ill for numerous years and stressful life events adding on top of that.
A major part of the problem right now is my medication. One of the many side effects that many of my medications can cause is anxiety and depression. Whilst I wouldn’t class myself as depressed, I am aware that my anxiety and amount of pain attacks have increased recently and I’m defiantly on the weepy side. However life events haven’t helped either, Just last week I went to collect my little boys prescription from the chemist and found myself being motioned to sit silently on the floor with him due to a lady with a knife ransacking the place; this understandably has made me anxious about leaving the flat on my own, even though I know that I am being irrational as I know that the chances of being in that situation again are very small.
Yesterday I attended the emergency eye clinic at my local hospital and was informed that I have my fourth bout of optic neuritis is a year and a half. Due to this and some more symptoms they have made the decision to refer me to a specialist neuro and carry out testing again for multiple sclerosis; another spanner in the works.
Between my physical & mental health plus the stress of uni work, I feel like I need to let myself have a good cry, pick myself up and carry on except there isn’t time to cry. Don’t get me wrong I love my life but I’m finding it hard to know what to do to help myself. I force myself to do what scares me like leave the flat but it’s draining working up the courage to do so. I would talk to the doctor about it but I daren’t risk it as I know they will stop my painkillers if they start worrying about depression which I need for my seizures. I have ordered myself a mindful mediation manual and CD and hoping that a holistic attitude will help.
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.
The title says it all. I am filled with relief. I have spent the last week hardly sleeping, overthinking and consumed with dread at today’s hospital appointment. Good news for a change though. I do not have MS! The Dr was uncertain as to whether the issue with my sight is being caused by inflamed optic nerves or inflamed retinas, she’s leaning more towards the problem being with my retinas. Because my left eye, which is my ‘good eye’ also shows signs of being affected I have been prescribed a 3 week course of steroids to help speed up the recovery process.
Emotionally I feel drained, and a lot of sleep needs to be caught up on but I am thrilled to know what’s going on with my body and that it can be sorted! This evening is being spent recuperating with Harry Potter, and dairyfree chocolate. What more can a girl want?!
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.
This week I have had three GP appointments, and visited three different hospitals. It’s been busy to say the least. For the majority of it I have managed to stay relatively calm and think in clear cut clinical terms. Today that went out the window. My GP this morning, unhappy at the treatment I was receiving at another hospital sent me with an urgent referral to my nearest emergency eye unit. It has been an extremely long day of explaining symptoms, examinations and watching the same concerned expression on the nurses and Drs faces, when they realize that yes I really cannot see out of my eye.
Optic Neuritis for the second time in just under six months had the Drs in charge of my care today fairly concerned. Today they presented the fact to me that they had to consider that Multiple Sclerosis was the reason behind my Optic Neuritis. So tomorrow I’m heading back to the hospital for blood tests as there are a few other conditions than cause vision problems that they want to rule out, and at some point in the next two weeks I’ll be having a contrast MRI of my head and spine to give them more of an idea of what is going on. Now I’m doing my best to remain optimistic, my way of thinking so far is that I already have a fair few neurological issues, so surely it’s another part of the bodies turn to be the problem. Not the most logical attitude I know, but it’s working for me.
In the meantime, Disney soundtracks are my distraction.
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