Tag: chronic illness

The 5 Stages of Grief After Becoming Chronically Ill

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Everyone has heard of the 5 stages of grief, I’m sure of it. Whether you’ve studied it in school or have read about it in a book or magazine, you at least have a basic knowledge of what it is. Most, if not all, of us have thought about various losses in our lives and applied the principles of the 5 stages to what we’re going through. A death, the loss of a job, of a friend, and in my case, my health. I never thought of it too seriously until the last couple years when I became ill. I quickly found that you don’t go through the 5 stages in a linear fashion. I wish it was a simple formula so you know if it would be coming to an end soon. But it’s more like a lot of hopping back and forth, until you’ve finally reached acceptance, and even then, is the process really complete? So here it is, how I’ve been going through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Denial

I couldn’t tell you how many mornings I’ve woken up hoping that my becoming ill was all just a horrible nightmare. One big, long, horrifying dream that I will eventually wake up from. Becoming so sick (literally overnight) just happens in the movies; this couldn’t have possibly happened to me. When the grogginess of my sleep fades away and I realize that I’m still tethered to my IV bag, the heaviness of what my life is like now settles back onto my shoulders, I throw off my blanket, and start my day with a weariness like no other.

I still have moments of denial from time to time when I think that I can do something that I could once do when I was healthy. Even just my schedule has to reflect my energy and health, and if I ignore that and deny the fact of how sick I actually am, I pay dearly for it and end up sick in bed for days at a time. Denial likes to hang on as long as it possibly can. To make sure you miss your old life, miss your health, miss whatever it may be, for as long as humanly possible.

Anger

OOOOO! This one was, who am I kidding, is, a tough one for me. I don’t even know how to start expressing to you how angry and devastated I was that I got so sick. I was angry at myself, at the doctors, at the hospital, at the situation, at God, at probably anything and everything that could have possibly changed the outcome of how I came to be so, so very sick. I was mad that I woke up so ill. I was mad that I couldn’t have any more babies. I was mad that I couldn’t work anymore. I was mad that I’m suddenly so dependent on others. The anger and bitterness that seethed out of me the first few months were awful.

I don’t know how many times I literally fell to my knees, so angry that I was crying, yelling and cursing up at God. I have used some ungodly, not so lady like language in my ranting to God in the past couple years, and you know what, that’s alright. I learned that God can take it. He would rather you let it all out and tell Him how you’re feeling. He knows your heart anyway, might as well just vocalize it. Do you know how cathartic it is to yell AT someone? Some of you may think I’m absolutely crazy for yelling at my God, but it’s better than keeping it in and it’s WAY better than yelling at someone else in your life. If I yelled like that to my husband, well, I don’t think he’d appreciate it so much!

Bargaining

To be honest with you, I didn’t spend too much time on this one. I think because I’ve always been a realistic person – I’ve never seen myself as either optimistic or pessimistic. I’ve just always realized what is, is. There’s really not much to be done. No point in regrets. Let’s learn from the past and move on. So, who would I be able to bargain with? Sure, I pray that God will miraculously heal me. “Heal me and I’ll do literally whatever You want me to do!” Maybe I should switch that around and say “I’ll surrender my life and then maybe You’ll heal me?!” But realistically I know that my health and my life has changed dramatically and there’s no point in wishing and hoping and wondering what could be. This is it, it’s in my own hands now and I need to push forward. I’ve always hated relying on others, so maybe that’s where that attitude comes from.

Depression

I struggled with depression since day one of my “new” life. This is about as vulnerable as things get with me, but when I woke up from being sedated and was told that my small intestine had been removed and that my quality of life would be severely diminished from now on (actual words from the doctor with horrible bedside manner) I wanted to die. That was it. I was in so much pain both physically and emotionally. I was absolutely devastated. And the challenge set before me was too hard. I didn’t want to deal with it.

Although I would never call myself suicidal, I would have been perfectly okay if something had happened the next day and I would’ve died. This is the attitude I held for the first 18 months of being sick. I KNOW I’m not the only one who has felt this way. I’ve spoken to many people who would describe their depression in the exact same way as that: “I don’t want to kill myself, but I’d be okay if I were to die tomorrow.”

I finally realized that I needed help, I sought out a counsellor, and after months of seeing her, I realized I also needed even more help and I went on anti-depressants. By far one of the best decisions that I have ever made. There is no shame in needing help; whatever form that may take.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. A friend, a doctor, a counsellor. There’s also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in Canada 1-800-273-TALK and the National Suicide Hotline in USA 1-800-SUICIDE.

Acceptance

I think that I have finally come to the point where I have more or less accepted my illness. I say more or less because I still hate it. I hate my diagnosis. I hate that I’m sick. I hate that my life is governed by these circumstances. However, this has become my “new” normal. Soon enough I won’t be able to call it my new normal, and it’ll just be my normal. I know how to structure my days and weeks so that I can benefit the most out of them. I know how to save energy for certain events and that I’ll need days, sometimes a couple weeks, to recover. I know the consequences of forgetting certain meds, eating certain foods, and staying up that extra hour. I’m used to this now. This is my life now.

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I don’t know if I’ll ever come to 100% accept my circumstances. I’m sure I’ll go back and forth and go through these stages again and again, especially when it gets in the way of living life “normally”. But for now I think I’ve accepted things as best as I can and I need to be okay with that. And no matter what stage you personally may be in, that’s okay too. There’s absolutely no need to rush through the stages of grief, regardless of what you may be grieving. It takes time and it’s important to fully process the losses in our lives. Everyone grieves at a different pace and in different ways.

And that’s okay.

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Why Sepsis Should Be Taken So Seriously

Septicemia

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Sepsis. This is a medical term that I knew nothing about, hadn’t even heard of, until I was diagnosed with it back in 2015. Sepsis is a toxic reaction, a poisoning of the blood, to an infection found in your body and can lead to death (Mayo Clinic). In fact, 1 out of every 18 deaths in Canada is due to Sepsis (Sepsis Alliance). There are more deaths due to Sepsis than Colorectal and Breast cancer COMBINED in Canada (Statistics Canada).

Last summer, if you know me or follow me on Facebook, you would know that I ended up back in the hospital twice due to an infection in my central line – that was Sepsis. The bacteria started in my Hickman, which my nutrition travels through and goes to my heart. Then my heart pumps my nutrition throughout my entire body through my blood. I wasn’t in the hospital just because I was unwell, but because if left too long, I could have gone into Septic Shock and died. The mortality rate for Sepsis increases 8% EVERY HOUR that treatment is delayed (Sepsis Alliance). Sepsis is that serious.

I had decided to write about Sepsis after one of my fellow SBS warriors was admitted into the hospital last week due to Sepsis. Many people that I know that are on TPN has had Sepsis before. It’s very common to those of us with central lines and unfortunately an ongoing battle that we will forever face.

I have been told since my first day leaving the hospital with my line that if I have a fever that I MUST come into the hospital and be checked for infection. It’s not something that I’m willing to play with. It’s not worth risking my life. Thankfully, every time I have been to the hospital with a fever, they’ve taken it very seriously and at least isolate me, keeping me safe from any other infectious diseases that may be in the air.

Why did I choose to write on such a serious and some may say morbid topic? Because this is my reality. Sepsis is something that I, and many others with a Hickman, fear. This is why I’m so paranoid about keeping my line clean. I can’t go in public swimming pools or in the lake for a swim. I have to keep my Hickman site covered at all times. I have a sterile area in my bedroom for where I connect to my TPN, and only a Registered Nurse, my husband or myself touches my line. I’m constantly using hand sanitizer. I have had to become a germophobe to ensure that I stay healthy. Yet another part of my life that has severely changed since my diagnoses.

A huge part of why I do this blog is to educate, and this is what I’m doing today. I’m wanting people to know about another part of what I struggle with, with my diagnosis.

Here are the symptoms of Sepsis:

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Educate yourselves. Sepsis isn’t found just in people who have central lines or suffer from a chronic illness. It’s serious, let’s treat it that way.

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4 Reasons Not to be Envious of the Chronically Ill Life

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Although I believe that these things are said in good nature, people often comment on being envious of different aspects of my new life, and these things, to anyone in my shoes, come off as quite ignorant. These are on the same level of frustration as platitudes for any of us living with a chronic illness. We roll our eyes at them, but really they become quite exasperating after a while. It makes me wonder what people really think I do with my day.

I’m sure we’ve all seen these memes that were really popular a few years ago:

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I don’t actually spend my entire day, flopped on the couch, eating popcorn and loving a lazy life. Here are a few of the comments I’ve received over the last couple years of what makes people covet that I live the chronically ill life and they do not.

  1. “You’re so lucky that you get the perfect mix of calories and vitamins! How convenient!”

I wonder if when people say this, if they realize why I need an IV bag with all my nutrition in it. I’m missing an entire organ. A very large one at that. I have to now spend twelve hours a night, five nights a week, attached to an IV bag. Yes, I get my vitamins and calories. No, I don’t have to worry about eating the perfect diet. But this really isn’t something to want. It baffles me that people would actually seek these out. It’s really not something to want. Eat right, stay hydrated, and for the love of all that is good and holy be thankful you have control over your own nutrition!

  1. “You’re so lucky that you don’t gain weight!”

I miss working out. I miss being able to eat anything without any significant consequences. I wish I could go back to watching what I ate. You’re right, I don’t gain weight from eating. But the issues I have from eating literally anything and everything are quite brutal. If I don’t want to have those consequences (and I’m hoping that you’re all smart enough to figure out what the consequences of eating food without a small intestine does to your… uh… visits to the lavatory) I have to go without eating anything. Those are my two choices. Chronic diarrhea (there I said it!) or not eating… What would you choose? You may say it’s an easy decision until you’re faced with it in real life.

  1. “I wish I could Netflix and Chill all day and not go to work.”

Ok, I’ll admit, before I was sick, I would’ve thought this was awesome as well. But it gets boring really quick. For the first 10 months of being sick, I didn’t even have the energy to read. So literally, all I could do was watch TV. My brain was FRIED. I wish I could go back to being a productive member of society. I miss working. I had an amazing community of colleagues where I worked and I really miss those friendships. I now take care of my daughter, which I do love doing! And if asked what I do, I now say I’m a stay-at-home mom, which I wear that title with pride. But I didn’t willingly step down from my position. This decision was forced on me. Hopefully, one day, maybe, I’ll go back to work, but as of right now it’s not even a possibility. So watching my daughter from the couch, while I read or watch Netflix, is my current job. That and being chronically ill; it really is a full-time job. Trust me.

  1. “I would love to be able to sleep 9 hours a night!”

Yes, I sleep 9 hours a night on a good night, but I literally never, ever, ever feel refreshed in the morning. Ever. And it’s also not like I sleep in – I have a 2 year old and 2 year olds love getting up at the crack of dawn. I go to bed early because I am so beyond exhausted after supper that I can’t keep even my eyes open. I also have a lot of nights that I don’t sleep through the night. I often have to get up to go to the bathroom, and although I’m not in the bathroom for this long, I’m usually awake for a good hour – hour and a half when I’m up. Once I’m done in the bathroom, I lay in bed and I can’t calm my brain down. I still replay what’s happened in my mind all the time, and for whatever reason, my brain likes to remind me of my illness, my stresses, and all that goes with this new life at 2 a.m.

I get it, in a perfect world not working and not gaining weight while eating whatever you want yet still not becoming malnourished all while watching Netflix sounds like a super sweet deal. But when that all comes with chronic fatigue, chronic diarrhea, being hooked up to an IV 12 hours a day, getting awful cramping, etc. etc. – it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. Be thankful for your health, be thankful for your job, and be thankful for those calories you have to count. Because one day, all of that can just be snatched up from under you and you’ll wish you had all of it again.

You envy my life? A day doesn’t go by that I don’t wish that I had yours.

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Why Fatigue Is The Most Difficult Part Of My Day

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What was the most challenging part of my day? Let’s rephrase that. How about, what IS the most challenging part of my every day?

One of the toughest tasks of my day would be actually getting up in the morning. Let’s be honest, the majority of us have had a hangover at some point in our life. Maybe some have only felt it once or twice, others more often. No judgment. Just a fact. I wake up every morning feeling hungover. But here’s the thing, I don’t drink. Yet I wake up every morning feeling groggy, lethargic, stiff, head hurting, and dehydrated.

It’s really no fun getting the hangover without the fun stuff the night before. But alas, I know that a large part of the chronically ill community feel this way in the morning. I had 9 hours of sleep last night. That’s a lot of sleep, and yet I’m still absolutely exhausted. All my energy is taken up by my body trying to function as normally as possible. In the evenings, I’m so tired that my body slowly starts to shut down, making it impossible for me to keep warm and making me need the bathroom even more often that throughout the day.

Now, let me tell you a bit about fatigue. Because so often when I tell people that I’m tired someone says “oh me too!” I am not trying to minimize that others are tired. You’re all working all week, raising kids, trying to meet deadlines, and trying to have a life outside of it all. I get it, I once was there too. But fatigue is very different.

The best way I can describe fatigue will unfortunately only resound to a percentage of the population: women who have been pregnant. Remember that feeling during your first trimester? The complete exhaustion? That tiredness that no matter how much you slept at night, no matter how many naps you had during the day, no matter how lazy of a day you had, you were still exhausted throughout the entire day? Nothing could satisfy that fatigue. That’s how I feel literally every day. Not just for 3 months. EVERY DAY.

I was going to try and summarize this video that I saw a few weeks back, but insteadI’ll just post it. It’s spot on as to what the differences are between fatigue and being tired. Take 2 minutes and give it a watch.

https://themighty.com/2017/01/video-chronic-fatigue-vs-tiredness/

Honestly, I’m not sure what I can do to make this easier. I do what I can when I can. I’m physically unable to do more than my body will allow. I’ve had to learn to listen or I become violently ill. It’s just a partof my day now and I’ve had to learn to deal with it.

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Is There a Time Limit on Grief?  

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I’ve learnt over the years that we not only grieve when somebody in our lives die, but that it’s natural to grieve any form of loss in our lives. Of course we grieve when people near and dear to us die. The world has grieved the loss of many celebrities this year. We grieve as we see the devastations happening around the world – both natural and man-made. We grieve the end of relationships and friendships. Grieving the end of a chapter in our lives, the end of a good vacation, even the end of a really good book.

The question I want to ask is, is there a time limit to how long we’re allotted to grieve? Are we given just a few months and then expected to move on? Only allowed to relive the empty space that was once filled by said person, event or thing on the anniversary of its death?

I’ve been grieving the loss of my health for the last year and eight months. Now, for those of you who have never had major health issues, you probably think I should have moved on by now, right? For any of you who have had your diagnosis for the entirety of your life or from a very young age, maybe you’ll give me more time, but you may also think that at a certain point I need to put on my big girl pants and get on with it. But those of you who had good health and then fell ill, losing such a huge portion of your life, you understand what I mean when I say I’m still grieving.

I know I’ve broached this subject before, I probably will again to be honest, but for the first time in months I finally feel like writing again. Why you ask? Because I’m still grieving. This all still hurts. And it’s so much easier to crawl back in my hole than to try and make you all understand how it feels.

For the majority of people with any sort of chronic illness or pain, winter is awful! I live in Canada and although winter solstice is right around the corner, we still only have sun for a maximum of 8 hours a day at the moment. It gets very depressing when there are many days where it’s very gloomy and we don’t see the sun for days at a time. And the days when it is sunny, it’s extremely cold. Everything hurts because of the cold and the damp weather. It hurts just to wear the heavy coats and layers of clothing. If it’s bad weather I’m stuck in the house. Even on nice days, to take my daughter out takes an exorbitant amount of energy just to get us both bundled up to go outside.

I’m reminded on a daily basis of what I once had. The holidays make it well known to me that I am still very sick. I spend the rest of my day exhausted and in pain if I decide to take a couple hours to bake or go do my Christmas shopping. I have had to turn down parties knowing I need to save my energy for other events. I’m not even able to go see my family this year because the travel will cost me too much for the short amount of time I’d be able to spend with them.

I think all of this still part of the grieving process. It’s hard to shake the sadness off. I’m forcing myself to get out of the house, to shower, to get dressed. All things people who grieve struggle with on a daily basis.

I literally can’t go a single day without being reminded of what I’ve lost. Some days are easier than others. Will I ever have a day that I don’t feel sadness? Jealousy of others living without an illness? Anger that this all happened to me? No clue. But I know that I’m not giving up. I will trudge through this. And I will take all the time I need. I refuse to put a timeline on my grieving.

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Broken

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In Japan, there’s a term called “Kintsukoroi”; it refers to broken objects which are repaired with gold. This way, the flaw is seen as a unique attribute to its history and adds to its beauty.

Shortly after my first surgery, when my small intestine was removed and I was told I would never eat or drink again, I was in ICU and my mom was there visiting. I was obviously processing this grim news and spent most of my waking hours in tears. I was broken in every sense of the word. My mom took me in her arms, as much as she could being that I was attached to multiple IVs and oxygen, and with her head next to mine she whispered to me that she would take me broken over not having me at all.

Although these words comfort me on a daily basis, it still hurts my heart. I’m broken. I have pieces missing. And no matter how far I may come with medications or surgeries, I will forever have the scars that remind me that I am and forever will be broken.

But really, who isn’t broken in one way or another?

I love the idea, however, that maybe this brokenness can make me more beautiful. That gold can be added to these cracks and scars. Who doesn’t like to add a little bling to their life?

Ok, physically I’m not a fan of the scars that have been left on my body. But I have noticed how my being broken has changed me in other ways. I don’t get offended easily – it’s not worth the energy that it uses up. I make sure to spend some quality time with friends and family and I get family photos any chance I can. I’m more patient now. I’ve learned sympathy is a great asset to have. I’m slowly outlining my scars with gold. Making my brokenness beautiful with things I may not have had in my life if my life didn’t take this turn.

I woke up from a dream last week full on sobbing and I whispered “Jesus, I’m too broken. I need you to carry me.” I don’t remember what the dream was, but I’ve been hanging on to those words all week. “I’m too broken. Carry me.”

I’ll never get through this on my own strength. I’ve had to rely on family, friends and my church. Now I really need to let Jesus carry me for the time being and let more gold fill in the broken parts of me.

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Discovering My New Self Since My Diagnosis

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Through every stage of life we’re trying to figure out who we are. What is our role in society, how do we fit in, who are we really? What side of us do we keep to ourselves, show to those closest to us, what do we show to the rest of the world? We are constantly evolving. Jobs change us. People change us. Age changes us. But most of these changes happen gradually enough that we adapt without any thought. What happens though when something comes along and changes everything rapidly? Everything about you needs to accommodate for your new reality.

Since becoming sick, I’ve had to stop working, my social life has changed dramatically, and my relationship with my husband has changed. I no longer work out, my energy level has changed dramatically. My months are filled with appointments instead of coffee dates. I sport an IV line on my chest which everyone stares at, have a handicap parking pass, and have a walker for my really rough days. I’ve made new friends, lost old friends, and grown closer to friends that really stuck by me through all these changes. The list goes on and on, but name something and I can pretty well guarantee that it’s changed in one form or another.

I’ve been saying it for the last year and a half, and I’m sure I will be saying it for a while yet, but I miss the old me. I miss my old life. I was full of life, joyful, positive, loud and opinionated. I loved going out and I hated staying in. If I had an afternoon free, I would either be out being social or working on one of my various projects.

I’m quiet now and much more reserved. It takes a lot of energy to be full of life. I’m not surrounded by people all the time anymore, partly because of not working at the moment and also because going out takes a lot out of me. I find it really difficult to follow conversations now, especially in the evenings when I’m really tired.

How do I go back to being who I used to be? Is it even possible? With my diagnosis and disability has come wisdom and an empathy that has helped me reach out to people. But would I give it up to be the old me again?

I’m sitting here trying to put into words who the new me is and I’m having a hell of a hard time doing that. I think I need an “Under Construction” sign to put on me for the time being. I don’t know who I am right now. I’m still trying to figure out how all of this plays into my new life.

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Yes, I am a mom, a Christian, a wife. But I’m talking about more than labels right now. I’m talking about what knits me together. What words others would use when describing me.

Ideally I’d like to eventually piece who I am back together. Some of my old self and some of my new self. The joy and thirst for adventure I had with the wisdom and vulnerability this new life has taught me. I’m still trying to figure it out, it may take time, but I want people to see the joy and the shine that used to show in my eyes.

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What I Post On Facebook vs My Reality

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We all know that what we see on Facebook isn’t always what exactly happens in real life. Everybody posts the good stuff. They want to show off, show the progress that’s happening in their lives, and boast the highlights of what’s happening in their life. Well, here’s the inside scoop of what my reality actually looks like vs what I like to show on Facebook.

When I’m Put Together vs My Everyday “Sick” Look

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Anytime I go out in public or have people come over, I make sure I look good and 9 times out of 10, I post a selfie from that day because I feel good. I feel like garbage 99% of the time, no point in giving people a visual of what I’m actually feeling on my down days. I’ve heard “but you don’t look sick” so many times. Trust me, if you could sneak a peek at me while I’m at home alone, you wouldn’t be saying that! And there’s a reason for that – I use a lot of my energy to look good because it helps me feel good. So why use up that energy on days that I’m A. not feeling well and B. sticking around home anyway. I’ve limited the audience to a very select few who get to see me on my terrible days. It’s not how I want people to see me.

To get ready for a day out or for a visit takes an insane amount of energy. Any of you who deal with a chronic illness or pain totally feel me on this one. I can’t simply jump in and out of the shower and get ready quickly. My routine takes a long time as I really need to pace myself. Simply standing in the shower for more than 5 minutes winds me – forget the days I need to actually shave my legs! I’ve needed to put a chair in the bathroom to do my hair and makeup. I even get tired holding my arm up as I dry my hair. My outfits are carefully chosen, making sure I wear something that flatters me as my surgeries have left me with many lumps and bumps. I always need to rest whether that be just sitting down or sometimes even laying down, as this entire process exhausts me.

Some of you may say “well why waste so much energy?” I’ve come to discover, for myself anyway, that if I’m always in my pyjamas and not put together, I feel sicker. I do try to at least get dressed on days that I stay in, it doesn’t always happen, but even just putting jeans on helps to change my mindset from being ill to just really tired.

Going All Out For Projects vs How I Pay For It The Next Day

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I’ve always loved projects. I love learning new skills. And although I’ve had to put many on the wayside because of my energy levels, I still need to indulge in them from time to time for my own sanity, even though I know that it’ll cost me greatly in energy.

Just the other day, I decided to try my hand at making marinara sauce. I got the recipe from an Italian, so it’s got to be the real deal, right? The amount I made came out to about 35 litres which was way more than I anticipated, but we’ll be stocked for pasta and pizza sauce for a while now. It was a delicious success! Thing is, three days later and I’m still exhausted from it. I loved making it though, even if it means I’m out for the count for the next week. I love the aftermath of a finished project – is there anything better than seeing a task be completed?

I knew that this would tire me out, but it still surprises me when I get knocked out for so long from something that in the past a good night’s sleep would’ve cured.

Going Outside With My Daughter vs The Rest Of My Day With Her

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I like to share a lot of pictures of my days with my daughter. Although the plan was to go back to work once my maternity leave was up but plans changed when I was diagnosed with Ultra Short Bowel Syndrome. I am very much enjoying the extra time I’m getting to spend with her, but any of you who have spent any amount of time with a toddler knows that they never stop. Like ever. I wish I could do more with her. I wish we could spend more time outside and on the play structure. But after 20 minutes max of playing outside, I’m tapped out. I physically am unable to continue. The rest of the day is spent watching her play from the comfort of my couch.

I’ve tried play groups, but chasing after her for 2 hours is impossible. I’ve looked into swimming lessons, but I can’t go in public swimming pools as it could cause me to get an infection. We have most of our play dates here as I know the environment and I can more or less control it.

Thankfully our living room closes off from the rest of the house, so we spend our day in there. Me on the couch and my daughter playing with her toys. She is a very independent child and is perfectly content playing on her own. I really wish I could keep up with her, but it’s just not possible.

Events I Go To vs How I Prepare Leading Up To The Event

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I love sharing pictures of events I get to go to. It gives the illusion that I do have a life sometimes. What you don’t see however is how exhausting the smallest event can be for me. Each incapacitating me for at least a couple days afterward.

Being chronically ill has changed pretty well everything in my life, but I still do my best to make it to events such as concerts, weddings, trips, etc. I do however have to plan ahead for them differently than I would have previously. I went to a concert back in July and literally stayed in bed until supper time so that I would have the energy to stay at the concert as long as possible. At weddings. I unfortunately don’t have the energy to dance anymore, and I miss it, but I stay as long as I can and at least try to enjoy the dinner. And my trips so far are planned around leaving the hotel mid-morning, napping for 3 hours in the afternoon, and returning by 8pm for the night. None of these are ideal, but if it means I get to enjoy these moments, then it’s what I need to do.

My Family vs My Family

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I brag ALL THE TIME on Facebook about my family and it’s the same in reality. My husband is the most loving, caring and supportive man I could’ve ever asked for. Those pictures of my daughter always smiling, that’s pretty well how she always is. My family brings me so much joy and happiness. They keep me grounded and they give me hope for the future. There’s no point in showing it any differently on Facebook because they’re already pretty freakin’ great!

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4 Things I’ve Learned When I Realized I’m Not Invincible

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Unless you’ve faced death early in your life, most people believe themselves to be invincible, believing they won’t have to fear death until they are much, much older. The majority of people my age have only experienced death from afar – a friend of a friend, a grandparent, a long lost relative. But for the sake of this post, when I’m talking about facing death, I’m talking about a first hand experience. Having stood toe to toe with death yourself.

Usually the certainty of living until you’re closing in on your 90s is something possessed by those younger than their mid 30s. The thought that nothing will happen to them. Tragedies are only in the movies, far off lands and only found in the news. With this view of our lives, I find comes two responses. The first is that death won’t find you, and therefore you can take on the world and test your luck. You can do anything and everything and hope that the worst that’ll happen to you is a broken bone or two. The second response is that you have plenty of time to get things done. Things constantly get put off. You continue to dream, but you’ll find a better time to live those dreams out. Focus on the here and the now.

The latter form of thinking was me. I’ve always been a dreamer, but felt I had to be practical first. Things or people always got in the way. Excuses upon excuses kept building up and my dreams kept getting pushed to the backburner.

Then the unthinkable happened. A freak accident. My small intestine twisted up and became necrotic, and if it had not been caught when it had, I would have died. I was so ill going into the emergency surgery that I didn’t even realize what was happening. It was when I was going into my second surgery a week later that I had realized how serious this all was. I was laying on the surgical table, and my surgeon came to talk to me before they put me under sedation. I will never forget that moment. Looking up at him, I could see it in his eyes. The sadness, the hopelessness. I could tell just by looking at him that he thought that I wouldn’t make it out of the surgery alive. Tears rolling down my cheeks, I told him that he needed to make sure that I survived; I wasn’t ready to die.

My view on life has changed since those days, and I really want to share with you guys what realizing that I’m not invincible has taught me.

#1 – I’ve had to give up on some dreams, but I can form some new ones. We all dream. We all want big things for our life. I’ve had to give up on some big dreams: going scuba diving, running a 10k, getting pregnant again, living in Africa. Some dreams are easy to give up, and others are ridiculously hard. My heart still hurts, and may never stop hurting, that I can’t get pregnant again.

I’ve also come to realize that I need to start taking advantage of the life that I do have left. I’m crossing off things on my bucket list that I’ve put off for so long. Ok, so I may never be able to go scuba diving for fear that I’ll get an infection from the bacteria in the ocean, but I’ve had other dreams brewing for a long time. I’ve had the opportunity to cross a couple off my list already this year that honestly, I would’ve put off even longer if I hadn’t become sick. I have to plan for things differently to make sure I don’t get too sick, or plan that I do nothing for a couple days after knowing that I will be very sick. But, at least I know to plan for them. Life looks different now, but I still have to take advantage of my time here on earth.

#2 – I look at my loved ones in a very different light. I do my best to invest in the relationships that have always been there, and putting more time in relationships that I want to see grow.

I almost made my husband a widower, my daughter motherless, and my parents bury their only daughter. These are things that are always close to my heart. Not as something that devastates me, but as a reminder to really prioritize these relationships. I say sorry when I’m being a jerk, I never leave the house without saying I love you, and I get in all the hugs and kisses that I can. You really never know when the last ones will be.

#3 – I’ve learned to not fear death. I have a strong faith in God. I know that when I do die, I’m going to Heaven. But I really do think that if God saved me from dying, there’s a reason for it. I’ve come to the point where I’m not scare of dying, but more so scared of leaving people behind. I think that’s what helped me be so strong and fight for my life, the people I knew that were waiting for me.

#4 – Now I’m learning to not be afraid of living. I think this is honestly one of the hardest ones for most of us who live with a chronic illness. I said earlier how I’m working on crossing things off of my bucket list, but those events only come a few times a year. Those are the big things that you plan for. When I talk about living, I talk about the day to day life which is so hard for us to face. I guess this point has less to do with realizing that I’m not invincible, but embracing my life with chronic illness. I’ve come to realize that life is ridiculously short and I don’t want to waste it sitting at home all the time. Thing is, if I leave the house, I will pay for it later that day, the next day, and sometimes even longer. But – I keep having to remind myself it’s worth it. I sometimes literally have to force myself to go out, even if it’s just for a coffee run. I’ve made a goal for myself to make plans with friends at least once a week. I never regret making plans, even if it knocks me out for days. I can’t live the rest of my life cooped up in my house, no matter how terrible I feel.

Yeah, being faced with death sucks, for anyone, but we also have a little nugget of wisdom and insight on life that not everyone gets. Take advantage of that and LIVE.

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The Chronically Ill Cha-Cha – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted something, and as much as I wish that it’s because I’m having an amazing, fun-filled summer, it’s not.

With having a central line (my Hickman), as soon as I have a fever, I have to go to the emergency department – no ifs, ands or buts. So it was quite a disappointment, when on my husband’s birthday, I was running a fever for the first time since being discharged from the hospital in June, 2015. The hospital took cultures, which takes a few days before showing any signs of bacteria growing, and sent me home as with my lowered immune system I would be safer from other infections there. Three days later, I was called in and admitted for a bacterium found growing in both my Hickman and peripheral veins. After trying my best to not have my Hickman pulled, the hospital removed it and a PICC line replaced it. After all was said and done, after two nights spent in the hospital, I was sent home on IV antibiotics.

I was doing ok, showing no signs of fevers, until a few days later when I woke up ta 4am with a 39.5°C (103.1°F) fever. In the morning, we were off to the hospital once again where I would end up spending the next week away from my family. For the first five days that I was there, I kept running fevers, my white blood cell count was at 0.87 (the norm is 5-10), and I was unable to connect to my TPN (IV nutrition) for five days as the infection had spread to my PICC line and they didn’t want my TPN to go through the infected line, picking up the bacteria, and sending it to my heart (where a central line ultimately leads to).

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I’m going to just go off on a side tangent for a moment here to help you understand how I was feeling after those five days. I went five days with no nutrition. Most of you know that I can eat, but I don’t actually absorb anything. And because I can’t absorb anything, there’s no point in a feeding tube either. Fevers were taking all my energy – having at least 2 or 3 a day. By day five, my muscles were hurting because they weren’t receiving the nutrients that I needed, my concentration was gone, and my body completely drained. Walking to the bathroom took energy. Staying awake for visitors would exhaust me. Everything, literally everything, became an arduous task.

They finally figured out that the bacteria growing was called Gordonia. It’s mainly found in long term TPN users, and very rarely at that. The doctors put me on a pretty potent antibiotic, and after 48 hours fever-free, I was finally sent home.

Although the fevers were gone, the antibiotics were kicking my butt, making me beyond fatigued all the time. No amount of sleep or rest cured it. Thankfully, with my husband, mom, and mother-in-law by my side, our home continued to run and myself and my daughter were well taken care of.

The day I went into the hospital for the second time, before my week long admission, was a Friday. We had plans for an amazing weekend – I had been looking forward to these plans all week. Friday we were going to take a picnic and go to a splash pad with our toddler. Saturday we’d go to the Farmer’s Market (where they have the best dumplings!) and then for locally sourced ice cream afterward. And Sunday, go to our church where we always feel an outpouring of love when we attend. I was SO looking forward to a “normal” weekend, which is far from the norm for our family, and it was ripped away from me.

I recently posted this picture on Facebook:

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I posted that more so to try and encourage myself, to try and make light of the ridiculousness that has been my life these last two years, and to help myself see that this new life of mine isn’t all that bad. But unfortunately, it didn’t quite do its job.

Here’s the real reason why I haven’t written a blog post in two months. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. And I’m tired. I don’t want my blog to be a cheerless space. I want people to be able to find encouragement and hope through my words, at least some, if not most of the time. But people keep asking me how I am, and truthfully, I don’t know how to answer. I was doing ok. Getting used to my new normal. And then I got sick again. Infections and Sepsis come with this illness’s territory, I know that, but how frequent will these hospital admissions be? Will I ever come to terms with this? Every time that I start adjusting to my life as someone with a chronic illness, will another infection come along, knocking me off of the mountain I’ve so desperately been working to climb?

Hopefully my next post will bring a little more light to your day. But I needed to make known how hard these last couple months have been. Being chronically ill is hell on earth. This post isn’t to get sympathy and I definitely don’t want your pity; I just needed you all to know that just because I may look like I’m better, I’m not.

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