Tag Archives: HEALTH

30 things about my invisible illness you may not know – 2011

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30 THINGS ABOUT MY INVISIBLE ILLNESS YOU MAY NOT KNOW

1. The illness I live with is:  Systemic Lupus Erythematosis, Sjogren’s syndrome and autoimmune hypothyroidism
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year:  1992
3. But I had symptoms since:  I was 9 years old
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is:  avoiding UVA/UVB rays
5. Most people assume:  I’m NOT sick because I don’t often look ill
6. The hardest part about mornings are:   joint pain
7. My favorite medical TV show is:   Mystery Diagnosis!
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is:   sunscreen lotion!
9. The hardest part about nights are:   joint pain.
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No comments, please) 14
11. Regarding alternative treatments I:  wish I could afford acupuncture (because I haven’t tried it) and craniosacral therapy (because it really helps)
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose:  NEITHER!
13. Regarding working and career:   I used to work full time but am now on disability
14. People would be surprised to know:  how much sleep I require
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been:  realizing that I can’t work full time, even if I want to.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was:  travel.
17. The commercials about my illness:   really don’t tell the whole story.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is:   basking in the warm sun.
19. It was really hard to have to give up:   being outdoors on a regular basis.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is:  designing and creating jewelry.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would:  spend the day outside at a park.
22. My illness has taught me:   patience.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is:  “Have you every tried …..?”
24. But I love it when people:   tell me they keep me in their prayers.  It really helps.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is:   When God closes a door, he opens a window.
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them:   you are not alone.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is:   the isolation of living with a disease none of my friends have.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was:   give me a hug.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because:   I have lupus.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel:   I’m not alone.

one year later ….

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My sister once told me that it takes about two years to settle in to a new living environment, new city, new community, new life.  That would mean I am halfway through the process.    Life is good in Cape.  At the same time, I really do miss many aspects of  my old life in my hometown.  I can’t help it.

Initially, I spent a lot of energy shutting out and shutting down the frustration and anger that comes from losing a job and an independent life.  Living with lupus for 19 years taught me to push through the process.   I know how to operate in “survival readjustment mode”,  because that’s what people with lupus do.  It wasn’t hard to transfer those skills to life on disability and unemployment.   I’m getting good at that.    Moving forward is more challenging.  I’m not sure why.  It just is.

Some elements of life seem to be in a continual state of uncertainty.  Like my health insurance.  I may or may not get state aid and if I do, it may or may not cover the infusions I need every three weeks.  I may or  may not move to Wisconsin; it depends on money and health insurance.  Stuff like that drives me crazy, so I try not to think about such things very often.  I have no control over it anyway.

Spiritually and emotionally I feel like I’ve been living in a desert.  It took me about a year to realize I’ve wound up in the desert, and I guess it will take a while to figure how to get out of it.  I have attempted to reconnect with my spiritual self through music.  Singing has always been my preferred method of praying.  I hope it works.

Some days I consider myself very fortunate.  I’ve had some amazing trips this past year with friends and family, and have visited parts of the country I’ve never seen before.  There have been a few occasions when I’ve been able to drop whatever I was doing to help someone out during a major or minor crisis.  I’ve reconnected with my inner artist and continue to design jewelry.

Obviously, I haven’t written much this year.  I was shocked to see my last post was in February.  My inner slacker has been running wild.  Then again, I’m at it again today and maybe I’ll be inspired to write on a more regular basis.

I guess I look at everything with a very cautious, tentative attitude these days.  It’s an intentional tactic, one that I haven’t tried out very often in the past.  If it seems vague and uncertain, I guess it is because it’s a reflection of how I feel.  For now, I feel I’ve reached a saturation level of physical and emotional chaos and upheaval.    I’m trying my best to stay calm and carry on.

Mixed Blessings

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My Social Security Disability application was approved.  I’ve been told that only 30% of  first-time requests are granted disability payments.  I’m obviously relieved and grateful to qualify for social security.  My initial reaction to all this news was something like … “Great, I’m approved for disability!”;  followed by … “Crap, I’m approved for disability!”

Millions of people live with an invisible illness, like lupus.  Many have full-time jobs.  I’ve had lupus since 1992 and worked until this spring.   And that’s a weird situation for me.  It is challenging to accept the realization that I have serious health issues.  In my head and heart I’m the same person I was four months ago.  I certainly look the same, except for a 30 pound weight loss.  My laboratory studies, on the other hand, are seriously messed up. And every three weeks I’m in the hospital for immunoglobulin infusions because my doctor believes that aside from a very unlikely stem cell transplant, IVIG is my last treatment option.  But to look at me, I’m just your typical middle aged white woman.

Regardless of what happens in our life, living with mixed blessings is part of the package.  I’m lucky enough to qualify for social security.  So many people are less fortunate and have to juggle unemployment, disability, and poverty.  I’m one of the lucky ones that can afford health insurance and have a supportive family.

My life is certainly less stressful.  I take care of most of the household chores and errand-running.  My days are filled with tasks like folding laundry, watering the plants, making jewelry, preparing dinner, and writing this blog.  I promised my sister that I would be her bitch around the house.  So far, it’s working.

It would be wonderful if my lupus went into spontaneous remission.  It would be wonderful if I had the stamina to work again.  In the meantime, I’m counting my mixed blessings.

Life in Cape

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Life in Cape

The moving expedition to Cape Girardeau was crazy.  Note to self … moving on the hottest weekend of the summer is not a good idea.  However, I had no choice.  Armed with the physical and emotional help of friends, family, cold bottled water and the welcoming arms of my sister, I started a new chapter of my life.

The procession of boxes going in and out of my house seemed endless.

Almost reminds me of a procession of bridesmaids.  Except for the boxes.

The best photo-op came when my queen size box springs was taken out of the bedroom via the balcony, as it was too big to fit thru a narrow stairwell.

At the end of a very, very hot and sweaty day the crew was happy to pose for a picture.The Moving Crew

I’ve been in Cape  for a month.  Living with my sister is great.  We have established a routine of sorts, and my days are productive.  When I’m not taking care of the house, I’m busy making jewelry, which   I’m planning to exhibit my work at a local arts and crafts fair in November and am designing all sorts of fun earrings.  In a couple months I’ll host a wine and cheese “premier party” for my jewelry line, called Harmony Beads. At some point, I’ll have a Facebook page for Harmony Beads that will feature more inventory.

Designing and creating jewelry at home provides me with a creative outlet. It’s a very lupus-friendly activity. Because I have lupus, working at home lets me control my environment, especially when it comes to temperature and light.  I’m also able to take breaks when I am tired, and get up and move around when my joints get stiff.  These type of accommodations are not typically found in a traditional work setting.  In the meantime, my sister is providing me a home.  I am able to contribute somewhat with my unemployment check.  I should find out about my disability application soon.

Change is hard.  I didn’t ask to lose my job and move to another city, but I’m dealing with it. Every three weeks I return home to receive IVIG infusions and visit with friends.  I now have the opportunity to travel and visit my son in Wisconsin, my brother in Colorado, and my niece in North Carolina.  I may be unemployed and living with lupus, but I’m a tough cookie.

So many things in life are out of my control, yet I remain optimistic.  Lupus will continue to throw me some nasty curve balls, but I work hard at being thankful for the blessings and abundance in my life.

Boxes, Bins and Flowers

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One week from today I’ll be living in another city.  I’m up to the task of moving and the adventure that comes along with it.

The Moving Tower of St Louis

The Moving Tower of St. Louis

This week I had a semi-surprise goodbye party hosted by The Ten-Thirty Singers, a church music group I’ve been singing with for over 25 years.  Today I enjoyed a goodbye lunch with some great gal-pals … the PMS Girls (which stands for Peggy, Pam, Mary Anne and Sue).  Nothing like a 3 hour lunch on a Saturday to motivate you to take an afternoon nap.  I’ve been toasted, gifted, regaled with flowers and hugged to the max!

Next week I am hosting several packing parties at my place.  Amazing the things some people will do for a free lunch.

Boxes and bins are my new best friends.  I’ve acquired quite the selection of plastic bins with locking handles.  I even went so far as to delegate colors for certain rooms.  The pink ones are storage, blue for my bedroom, green handles for dining room, and purple handles for linens.  They stack and won’t fall apart.  They will never end up in a landfill because I like them too much, so in a way, I’m “going green” … or pink or blue.  I never thought I’d be one of those people who color coded anything.  I used to laugh at them.  Now I’ve become one of them.

At first I was strolling down memory lane while sorting all my worldly goods.   I was getting nothing accomplished.  Now I am ruthless about what stays or goes.  Goodwill has been happy to see me recently.  What I don’t keep is going to charity.  I have no patience for selling stuff on Craig’s List.

Surviving a move when you have lupus or any chronic illness is a tricky little game to master.  So to keep sane I work in small increments of time, sandwiched with a bit of  rest, like writing this post.    I try not to do more than 5 hours of work a day.  Hopefully, my joints will not protest and my vascular problems will remain quiet.   You won’t seem me outside much on Moving Day.  It will be hotter than hell and I will have the assistance of my son and a couple of his strong high school buddies doing all the lifting and shoving.  Having physical limitations can come with some benefits, such as help from others and I have no problems letting people move heavy stuff.

I did have a bit of a situation while cleaning last week.  I kept smelling something yucky in the living room.  At first I thought it was food or cat barf but the smell wasn’t constant.  Then I thought that maybe it was ME, as I was sweating up a storm and was possibly stinking up the house.  Finally, I decided to move the furniture around to look for the source of the by now, rancid smell.  So under the couch I found the source of the problem.  A dead bird.

Natural born killers?  Not so much.

Natural born killers? Not so much.

I immediately grabbed some paper towels, threw it out, and fumigated my house. Then I started wondering just where in the hell did it come from?  I mean really, how did it get inside my house?  Did the cats kill it?  If they did, why didn’t they eat the damn thing?  That’s what cats are supposed to do.

My only concern with the cats at this point is the 2 hour drive to another city.  They are not fans of cat carriers and car rides.  I’m expecting them to howl and shed all the way to Cape.  Who knows what will happen when we arrive at our new home.  Stay tuned.

I’ve moved a total of nine times in my life, most of them as a single mom.  By my standards, that’s a lot of moving, but I know people who have moved a lot more than that.  Moving sucks, but on the other hand, if I lived in one place all these years I would have accumulated too much stuff.  At least moving forces me to clean up and throw out. And by now, I’ve learned a thing or two.

One, get yourself some bins and forget the boxes.

Two, if you must use boxes, go for the paper boxes with lids. 

Three, don’t pack everything too soon, or you’ll be digging through your kitchen stuff to make dinner, like I’m doing tonight. 

Four, hang on to wrapping paper … my friend MaryAnne gave me 5 enormous bags of white paper left over from her move a couple years ago.  What a lifesaver! 

Five, and this is the most important, let people help you.

When the dust settles, I’ll start blogging again and fill you in on the details of my great adventure.

Trust The Process

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There’s nothing like a enormous, old-fashioned calamity to get my creative mojo in maximum overdrive.

Last month I experienced a big one.  I lost my job of 18 years.  Holy crap!  Don’t ask me about the details.  Trust me, you don’t want to know.

I took the news on the chin, packed up my office, drove home and crawled in bed.  Then I proceeded to cry, scream and freak out in more ways than I thought humanly possible. 

Fortunately, with the support of friends, family, wine and miscellaneous drugs, I avoided a trip to the crazy farm.

Still, I was left with quite a challenge.  How is a middle aged woman with lupus, who has an extremely photosensitive skin condition, chronic joint pain, increasing cognitive dysfunction, kidney damage, central nervous system deficits, anemia and minimal physical endurance going to find a well-paying job?  How is she going to find a job that allows her to be absent from work every three weeks so she can go to the hospital for day-long infusions?  How will she pay her bills and health insurance premium?

A life of crime had too many start-up costs.  And I didn’t want to cash in my vast fortune of inherited wealth.

Instead, I decided to trust the process.

Sometimes, you just have to rely on optimism that even if your life seems like it is going down the toilet, it probably won’t. Change is hard.  Life isn’t fair.  Having lupus sucks.  Being unemployed sucks even more.   However, I firmly believe there is a process that will keep me resilient and open to all these changes, as long as I have a little faith.

I’ve spent the last six weeks spinning a lot of plates.  I filed for unemployment and got my resume updated.  If I can find a job where I can work in incandescent light, take frequent breaks to rest, accommodate a zillion doctor appointments, be relatively stress free, and make enough money to afford increasing medical expenses … great.  But I also applied for disability because my health limitations are pretty crazy and aren’t going to miraculously evaporate any time soon.  Realizing I can actually qualify for disability is hard to accept.  My doctor had a great way of explaining my stress, health and work challenges and living with lupus.  She said “just because you can drive yourself to the office doesn’t mean you can actually do your job.”  Mind you, I haven’t turned into a full-fledged nut case but check out this work-related-stress site called Cubicle Freak Out.

Trusting the process involves realizing your limitations, emotionally and physically.  And I have an ever-growing list of both.

Trusting the process also means that if you’re lucky, people will help you get through the bad times, as well as celebrate with you when life is good.

Trusting the process helps prioritize what is truly important. And I’ve come to understand that it isn’t about where I live, or what I may or may not do for a living.  It isn’t how much material stuff I have accumulated or what kind of car I drive.

Trusting the process is realizing that my overall health is my biggest priority.  I want to live long enough to enjoy my family, friends and future grandchildren.

To that end,  I will soon be moving to another city and live with my sister.  I was eight years old when she was married and left home, so this will be a new adventure.   I’m grateful and looking forward to sharing her big house, her patio, her garden and most of all, her company.  I’m hoping to devote more creative time to blogging, photography and painting, making jewelry, cooking and helping my sister manage her home.  My sister is such a blessing!

Life is not a static experience.  One day I lost my job and before I know it, I’m starting over in a new city.  And once again, living with lupus has changed the quality of my life.

Trusting the process does make a difference.  Try it.

The Circle Game

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Good things never last forever.  And bad things come and go too.  I’ve had a steady uneventful four months of relatively good health in the lupus department.  So it shouldn’t come as a shock to me when I see the obvious signs of a lupus flare starting to circle back again.  First it was about the kidney problem.  The nephrologist said I had lost some kidney function, but for now we will simply monitor the situation.  That was good news.  Now, I’m accepting the fact that the vascular rash that is the primary nemesis of my particular brand of lupus has returned.  The familiar cycle of hives on my face is, well, back on my face.  The small vessel vasculitis on my legs is slowly reappearing.  My arms, torso, back and thighs are affected again.  The stinging feeling on my arms and back has returned.

I have no idea why.  It just is what it is.  And the circle game begins again.

I’m diligently taking all my medications.  I get infusions at the hospital every three weeks.  I have a very long and expensive trail of paperwork that my insurance carrier sorts through on a monthly basis.  I’m an insurance underwriter’s nightmare.

So this is when I start trying really, really hard to be Little Miss Pragmatic.  This disease comes and goes in cycles.  It will probably get worse before it gets better.  And I have faith that the vasculitis WILL improve.

One of the most frustrating things about having lupus is accepting the cycles of feeling well and feeling ill.  I’ve had this diagnosis since 1992 and I still manage to get all pissy when I develop flares.  I get all snug and cozy when I get lucky enough to enjoy a pain-free, rash-free stretch of time.  Heck, I even start to feel …. dare I say it …. relatively normal!  And then I get blindsided when my autoimmune system starts to go haywire.  Again.  And again.

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For now, I will start back up chanting my “coping with lupus mantra” …..

I will stay out of the sun.

I will wear long sleeves.

I will not get overheated.

I will try to avoid stress.  (However, if anybody reading this knows a sure-fire way HOW to do this, please get in touch.)

I will tell myself that even though I may not look the way I want to, I’m still the same person on the inside.

I will rely on the strength of my faith, family and friends.

I will continue to pray for a cure.

I will tell myself that I am not my disease.

I will remember that living with lupus is a circle game.