An Immune System, what’s that?

My body is no long familiar with what an immune system is, and quite frankly I’m not sure I am either hah! They say laughing is contagious and I’ll tell you, I wish lack of immune system made me more vulnerable to that instead of making the common cold seem like a never ending soap opera! That’s one thing I wouldn’t mind catching! Being treated with anti TNF inhibitors, immunomodulators, biologics, etc.. all of the fancy-shmancy medications we owe our life to come with a price to pay. Side effects are inevitable at some point in time living with a chronic illness. One of the most common is making us more susceptible to infections whether that be viral, bacterial, cancers (yep), and other immune sexinessdeficiencies or diseases. And there’s no way around this side effect because it really just means the medication is doing its job. They all act in different ways but for the most part they all are compromising or “working on” our immune system since Crohn’s disease is basically an abnormal immune reaction to the GI tract which causes inflammation and complications.

My body never “caught” things more often than the normal person before. The doctors kind of just put thoughts in my head to be extra careful. Being exposed to certain infectious diseases can be extremely dangerous to a person with a weakened immune system, and by that I mean life threatening. We, as patients, have a responsibility to be aware of this but it does make it easier when medical professionals and the ones we are closest to are aware to (and this is where vaccines come into place as well, another post on that controversy to come lol). I once kind of freaked out at the carelessness of Baystate hospital for putting me right next to someone with TB when I had a serious flare, a very bad kidney infection, and was on multiple medications that significantly lowered my immune system (yeah that happened). But other than that I’ve never really experienced anything significant.

That is until… I wasn’t responding to the usual dose of Humira which is an injection every other week so my doctor increased my dose to once a week. TADA! Crohn’s buh-bye! I feel great! Until I start experiencing allergies (or you may call them sensitivities) that I have never had before. Muscle soreness and much longer recovery time after the gym. Then… Here comes “cold and flu” season so my body decides it’s just going to catch everything under the sun! It has been about a month and a half and I have had little to no relief. Not only is this wearing on the body but on the mind as well. Doctor visits, urgent care visits, physical therapy, xrays, MRI’s, blood tests, sinus infection, laryngitis, tendinitis, I could go on and on of what the past two months have been.. This sounds pretty miserable right? Yep it is. But it’s the price I’m willing to pay. I no longer really have to worry about a bathroom nearby every time I eat (YEAH IT’S A MIRACLE), and stomach pain is few and far between. (We all have our bad days that catch us by surprise.. like the week of my period might as well just stay in bed for a week straight between cramps and the mini flare I get every single time.. but we’re not focusing on that here.. so, moving on..).

I decided to take things into my own hands and try different methods of controlling my symptoms so I can regain quality of life. I will be writing another strength.jpgpost to expand on this but for right now I’m just trying to raise awareness to the fact even though a person with a chronic illness may be in remission, it still affects their day to day life. It is all about balance and what a patient will endure or physically can endure to get relief from symptoms of their disease. I might consider my Crohn’s Disease to be in remission although my doctor hasn’t clinically declared this, my stomach symptoms are almost obsolete, but my quality of life just isn’t there yet. I’m working right now to change this because I truly believe I can (especially the mindset of it). I’ve been about ten years with no little to smileeeeno remission so sometimes you just man up and take one problem over the other. Just keep in mind, we might not complain to the world about these issues we face (only to the ones we love the most 😉 ) because it really is nothing compared to the pain and frustration of having a flare up of disease. As I say: throw a smile on despite the struggle of getting out of bed, life could be a lot worse, we have a lot to be thankful for, and its just another day in the life of a Crohnie!

 

-xoMichelle

Prep time! :D

Today’s the day… the day of the dreaded prep. I’m going in for my yearly colonoscopy tomorrow to check and see if my medication is working. It’s always this time of year it seems to come: summertime and the weathers nice. But hey it’s just another day in the life. I’ve been feeling okay lately. Just okay. I’ve been a little more tired than usual, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because with the steroids I was staying up night after night, the insomnia was REAL. Also, my appetite hasn’t been there but I’m not entirely upset about that either since I packed on the pounds during my last 9 month stretch on and off of the roids (Prednisone and Uceris). A lower appetite also means this prep won’t be as miserable as usual. I have pain here and there, very localized though, I can almost put a pin on it. It’s my usual pain, like a knife in the stomach kind. You have to catch your breathe a little bit from it. But, it’s definitely less frequent than normal *thumbs up!* 😀

So after my recent off of Uceris, as you know, I’ve had good days and bad. I seem to be having a lot of IBS symptoms unrelated to Crohn’s. I’ve had to use several courses of antibiotics to treat these over the last 6 months or so. When my taper from steroids starts I almost prepare myself for the days on days of fatigue, countless and very urgent bathroom trips a day, and unbearable stomach pain. But knock on wood, this time like I said I am doing okay! I’ve been completely off Uceris for about a week and a half now, which doesn’t seem very long but it is. It’s nice to see my body coming back and my face going back to its normal size ha! No more moon face woohoo! Just crossing my fingers my insides show some good news as well.

I’m anxious for tomorrow to be over with, I usually go under full anesthesia for the colonoscopy and this time I’m not. My doctor only performs them under partial sedation and the last time I had partial… it was a nightmare. Probably one of the most painful things I’ve endured besides kidney stones. I was sick on the couch for a week afterwards. I’m hoping I’m more healed on the inside so the recovery will be easier. After this procedure we’ll see if this run on Humira (my third time in about five years) is working. I went from an injection every two weeks to once a week a few months ago and it seems to be helping more. This is frustrating though because no matter how I feel if I still have inflammation or signs of active disease then I have to visit other options. I think this just stems from the everyday struggles of living with a chronic illness. We don’t know what completely “normal” or “healthy” ever really feels like, and the reality of it is most of us won’t ever know. But, my doctor tells me I have two more options we can talk about. Thankfully the world of medicine is ever expanding and if those don’t work I will most likely qualify for some sort of trial, or some other treatment will hit the market. That’s the thought, or hope.

Tomorrow I will be participating in research by donating samples of blood, hair, nails, and tissue to help Crohn’s research. Even if it won’t directly benefit me, it might save someone else’s life in the future. So please keep helping me raise awareness and money! Some of us desperately need it! And to those doctors and medical workers who are constantly pushing for new treatments, my family and friends who are a constant support, and all of the people who share social media posts and donate money, I owe you all my whole life. I wouldn’t be here without all of you.

 

-xoMichelle

Fall Down, Get Back Up.

Days like this make you appreciate the good days. The frustration of feeling like crap all the time lately is really getting to me. Anxiety of not being able to go anywhere unless there is a bathroom within running distance -__- All of it that we deal with daily has just been magnified lately. Oh, and by the way some ofIMG_1006 you that follow my blog. I did end up getting kicked out of school even after going all the way to the top. At least the President of the school had some sympathy for me, thankfully he let us have some peace in all of this. I just want to give a quick shout out to the Director of Nursing and Dean of Health at STCC for making my life a living hell for two and a half weeks, threatening me via email/letter, along telling me to consider a new profession. (I’m still a little bitter) But anyways, I’m no longer attending nursing school this year, talk about a knife to the stomach. Literally, the stress sent me into a bigger flare than I was already in. But hey, that’s what this life is all about isn’t it. You fall down, you get back up. Everything happens for a reason.

Working my two part time jobs is about all I have in me to do. And yes, I feel like a piece of crap sometimes to the people around me. I feel we (us, Crohnies) often get labeled as “lazy” or “unmotivated” but what a lot of people don’t understand is the strength it takes to get through the day and still keep a smile on our face while doing it. Pain medication has almost become a daily thing now, which I hate, just so I can get through dinner with friends, getting out of the house, etc. But that shit (excuse my French) takes a lot out of you and also makes me pretty emotional.. More than your average girl on her period lol Speaking of periods, being in a flare and having your period at the same time is I think one of the worst things I’ve experienced. Thankfully I’m on birth control where I only have to experience this every three months hah God bless you ladies with complicated Crohn’s cases that get your period every month. I feel for you.

Since my colonoscopy my doctor has changed my whole medication regimen. I came off of the Entyvio and prednisone (thank the Lord). I am now on Uceris, Methotrexate, and Humira… Again. This is my second time on Methotrexate and my third time on Humira. I’ve never taken them together though so hopefully this is the lucky combination. I had a meeting today with my Humira Advocate and after she left I was thinking to myself: “Okay, I’ve had Crohn’s now for over 10 years and in the past 6 of those 10 I have never been in complete remission but I’ve been close to it for a total of maybe 6 months”. That’s kind of craziness. I have hope though that something will work, sooner than later.FullSizeRender (8)

With no cure, that’s all that gets us through this disease is hope. At this point my biggest hope is that these side effects don’t throw me over the edge and have to come off of the med like every other time. I’ve always said with Crohn’s, any other disease, or in a perfectly healthy person: life is quality, not quantity. Even though a lot of the time my quality of life is pretty shitty, the days that it’s good makes it that much better. You don’t know if you’ll be here tomorrow so do what makes you happy and feel good at that time and place. Don’t worry about what other people think, keep that smile on and do you.

-xoMichelle

 

Mentality is Everything

Since I’m done with school for a couple weeks and killed this past academic year with my bare hands ;p I decided I’d write a little bit. I do kind of miss it; not writing as much as I used to. But, I can’t believe I have actually gotten through a WHOLE school year without getting sick or being hospitalized. I keep emphasizing to the people around me that “I’m done, I finished a year!” and they’re probably getting annoyed at this point like “okkkkeyyy we get it, you’re done” lol. But it is a huge deal for me. The past five years of my life (and throughout highschool), I’ve struggled with school. I could never figure out how to not get overwhelmed by a heavy work load and I never thought that I could actually do it. “You’re going to get sick” was in the back of my mind ALL the time. And when I saw all the time, I mean at pretty much every waking second. The struggle was real and this was probably the worst mindset a person could have. After having to withdraw twice from school, several hospitalizations/in home IV treatments per year I was pretty much at a loss when it came to my education. It didn’t help that the schools were not at all understanding especially Westfield State, I kind of wish I took more action with it but at the time I was so sick I didn’t even care. Regardless I decided I needed to do something with my mindset. I first started with encouraging myself (even if I didn’t believe myself I knew eventually I would) and finding a stress outlet, which was the gym. I think that’s truly when things began to change for me. Stress is hands down my #1 trigger to a flare up. It only takes me about two or three weeks of being stressed out to start noticing significant symptoms including- energy loss, bloody bm, canker sores in my mouth, severe joint pain, bloating, etc. Although these past final weeks of school have sent me into a little flare from the stress, I have changed my mindset to control my stress levels and it’s finally paying off. I have a 4.0 gpa to show for it!

The gym and living a healthy lifestyle has no doubt changed my life. Not only do I see myself physically looking healthier and stronger, my mentality is as strong as it’s ever been. It hasn’t been as easy as it sounds though. It’s taken me a few years to figure everything out and I’m still a work in progress (mentally and physically). Some people may call me a bit obsessed with the “fit lifestyle” but I just loFullSizeRender (7)ok at it as dedication. Yes I log my food, and yes I count calories/macros, but how else do you learn? It also allows me to make sure I’m getting the amount of food and nutrients I need to stay healthy. And not to mention keeps my brain occupied with something I really enjoy doing.  Being able to channel my stress, or anyone being able to do that in a healthy manner is one of the keys to happiness. I am now successfully able to block out negativity (which I was terrible at before) and it feels so damn good!

Not only is changing your diet/focusing on a healthy lifestyle and exercising is a good stress reliever but it can be beneficial to IBD itself. I’ve noticed that even when my body might not feel that great, my mind still does which is vital in living a somewhat normal life with Crohn’s. Your mind is everything.. Exercise also tends to calm down my digestive system and allows me to IMG_1613have normal bm! Craziness. I tend to not have the best appetite, so when I exercise it also keeps me hungry and my metabolism in check!  Another benefit of exercise is the benefit it has on your bones. Us Crohnies have most likely been on an obscene amount of steroids, which can long-term lead to breakdown of bones (osteoporosis), so this can be a great preventative method for IBD patients.

Well as this school year comes to a close I am a happier, more accomplished me 🙂 Not only am I closing a chapter but I am opening a new one and starting the nursing program at my school in the Fall. Life is only today, and you can accomplish anything if you really want it. Not to say there aren’t obstacles but take it day by day, moment by moment and you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve!

 

-xoMichelle