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

A Fork in The Road

It was Thursday morning a week into nursing school, the sun was shining, and I got up bright and early to go study before class started. As I go through my notes my phone lights up with an email. It is from the director of nursing at STCC. The email is telling me she wants me to meet with her and the Dean of the Health Department to discuss my “situation” right now. Right off the bat this didn’t give me a very good feeling. I had contacted her earlier about any further steps I needed to take regarding my vaccinations. I am on medications for my Crohn’s that prevent me to receive live vaccines (which I’m sure many of you Crohnies are familiar with). Unfortunately when I got my titers done I had not converted over with almost all of my immunizations. I think the only thing I was immune to was Measles.

When I found out this information over the summer I contacted to school immediately and provided documentation for everything. They told me all I needed was a doctor’s note stating I cannot receive these immunizations. After I did this I didn’t hear from them so I assumed everything was fine. Well, needless to say they are now trying to kick me out of the program due to medications I’m on and not being able to receive my immunizations. They told me I am not health cleared because I have not received these shots. I do understand this is important and that they have to hold up to the contracts… Buttttt, what baffles me is anyone can refuse any vaccinations for religious reasons (they have forms for that to fill out) and still participate in the program and clinical. Discrimination? I think so.

When I was sat down with the Dean and director I was told I need to withdraw immediately to prevent losing money (by the way, this was the last day of the semester to withdraw without penalty, coincidence?). They did tell me I would have automatic readmission to the program but if I were to go back on all of these immune suppressing medications (I am on methotrexate, prednisone, and Uceris) I would then have to withdraw again. She proceeded to tell me, “I should really consider a new profession”. Rude. If this wasn’t a knife to my stomach I don’t know what would be. And also, am I the only sick person who wants to become a nurse? Like come on, let’s be realistic here this can’t be the first time this has happened.

I have worked so hard to get into this program, I lost it when they told me this. They let me sit there and cry in front of them while they just stared at me with blank faces. After leaving I thought about it more and was absolutely not withdrawing. This was not right and something about the whole situation had to be illegal. I called my mom and doctor and they were on it like flies on shit. They clearly did not know who they were messing with. To me it sounds like they just don’t want to be bothered filling out extra paper work and/or make special arrangements for me (find a place I can clinical at). Oh, and I didn’t even let them tell me I can’t attend lecture and labs. I was not going to fall behind while this gets figured out.

The past five years of my life I have struggled to stay in school due to health issues. I have had to withdraw twice due to hospitalizations and I’ve taken multiple semesters off because of it. When I finally am feeling good and am ready to go to school full time they just have to knock me down. I’m not an easy one to knock down though. My family and doctor have both worked really hard to keep my psyche in check because this disease is so wearing on the mind. When you’re not able to go to school or work you feel useless and like you’re not going anywhere in life. I’ve had this feeling many times during my life but it vanished when I got accepted into nursing school. I could finally see my future and what I was meant to do. This isn’t just school to me, this is the rest of my life. It is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Even if in the end I am not able to attend nursing school, they’re not going to get out of this one without a very big fight. And if they think lawyers won’t be called and extreme measures won’t be taken, well they have another thing coming.

Life isn’t always fair, but in my head I keep saying over and over again: everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe that. Don’t just be a fighter against your disease, be a fighter in life.

-xoMichelle

What The F&#*

Excuse my French, but today was that kinda day. The past few days I haven’t been feeling that well at all. Been going to the bathroom a lot and lost all fight in me for a second when I looked down in the toilet (after sprinting out of my microbiology lab) and saw blood… Like wtf. Can we catch a break sometimes?! Like longer than a month in the past ten years! Blood and mucus and literally running to the bathroom with every bite of food I’d eat. I tried to eat a lot of calories tonight even though it wasn’t the healthiest food choices I do not want to put myself in the position of losing a lot of weight. I’m hoping this will resolve itself without any medication but that’s usually not the case. I feel like this happens so often I mention it to friends or anyone and they just completely disregard it, and ignore it. It makes the battle even harder, I’m sure my Crohnie’s know what I’m talking about. Again, I never look for sympathy but it does make a difference, you might even make someone’s day better just a simple “feel better” or something. I know people around me get sick or annoyed when I talk about it a lot or say “I don’t feel good” a lot. But I don’t make this stuff up… I get sick of being sick. And the hardest part of it all is I take such good care of my body. Exercising, eating healthy, rest. And it doesn’t even matter.

It seems like it’s never going to end. Well I guess in reality it isn’t hah. I’ve definitely already accepted that but some days are much, much harder than others. It’s the unpredictable nature of the disease that’s the worst and I believe a hard concept for others to grasp. I mean I didn’t feel that great but I was still able to bust my butt yesterday at the gym and today walking to and from class was difficult. I either had severe lower abdominal pain or panic that I wasn’t close enough to the bathroom.

Actually something interesting happened the other day. In Anatomy Lab we were testing our hematocrit levels and my professor was describing how the buffer after separation (WBC’s and platelets) should be so small, to the naked eye it’s non-existent. Well, I saw mine.. Pretty damn clear too. This actually explains a lot. I could be having a huge flare and my blood work never shows much at all except for elevated WBCs. Woohoo thanks for the heads up A&P! -__-

Well getting words out and writing definitely helps turn my thought process around but I’m still frustrated as hell. Especially when I’d like to go out with my friends this weekend but I know if I push myself and even have one drink that’s a totally and completely horrible idea. Oh well, l guess life never gives us battles that we’re not strong enough to fight.

ibd

-xoMichelle

The struggle of “sick season”

Prednisone was beginning to be a miracle worker, per usual. I literally felt like super woman lol It was so so soooo nice to be in the gym full force and have energy to get up in the morning and last throughout the day. Today was just one giant step backward. That is, if this is my flare breaking through the prednisone or the dreaded viruses/bugs you see this time of the year. I know that it is inevitable to have days like this, but it was such a drastic change from how I was feeling. That is, after I weighed myself and totally freaked out at the number 93 that popped up in front of my feet. I even got off and back on to make sure it wasn’t just the scale. Nope, it was the truth. I’ve lost about 7lbs in just a few days.

I’ve consistently been on 40 mg of prednisone for about two weeks now. Side affects, oh the side affects. Just noticed my face getting puffy 😦 and my mood swings have been so frustrating to not only me but the people around me. It’s so strange how medication can affect your head. I am like a crazy person one minute and the next I’m in the best mood ever and I know exactly when it’s the medicine. I have tried to control it by recognizing when I get that crazy feeling (I know it sounds weird) and then taking a step backward whether that be just stop talking/doing what I’m doing or explaining to the person I am being crazy towards/around the dealio. It’s hard being on prednisone around people who don’t understand how big it’s affects are lol They don’t believe it can actually make you angry, emotional, super happy, or anything. It’s hard getting anyone to understand anything about the medications we take, how we feel, etc. But all we can do is try.

Although my rapid weight loss I’m not sure if this is my Crohn’s acting up more or a bug/virus. My mom was sick last night and today and I started feeling terrible today. I still have no appetite, to the point where I need to force myself to eat. I know it’s not the healthiest thing (which drives me crazy because eating good and being fit/healthy is so important to me) but when I can’t eat I try to drink a lot of my calories whether it be 550 calorie drinks from Starbucks, juices, or even soda. I am at the point where anything I can tolerate I need to eat. If I lose anymore weight I could be looking at a hospital stay. One thing I’ve been good at this time around is staying hydrated. I cooked a bunch of food tonight thinking I’d eat more if it was already made (it works most of the time) but healthy food just rips up my stomach, ugh. It’s so frustrating. I needed to eat something desperately tonight. I had to resort to McDonald’s chicken nuggets and French fries. I still to this day have no idea how or why that is the only food I can eat when I’m really flaring up but if you have Crohn’s or colitis you know you will do or eat anything you can to keep weight on. Because losing too much weight usually, as I said earlier, results in a hospital stay.

Well I had to take a pain pill because of my stomach pain tonight -___- And it made me feel pretty weak, Weak enough to not want to keep typing lol but my stomach pain is better and I’m a little hungry so I’m gunna try to eat something. Apologies that this post was pretty damn boring but sometimes I just needa write for myself. Sweet dreams everybody 🙂 Happy Tuesday.

-xoMichelle

Never Stop Living

Well well wellllll. Here we are again. The dreaded sleepless nights due to this awful drug prednisone. Although you feel like a million bucks on it (besides gaining 10 lbs. in a week) these side affects are brutal. My stomach hasn’t quite responded as fast as it usually does with the prednisone but side effects are still raging. I swear I am going to need hip replacements at age 30 and that is no joke. I’m on this stuff three times a year at least. At least this time it isn’t via IV or a hospital visit, although I shouldn’t say that too fast hah.

With everything in this world that is happening it actually makes me look at it in a positive way. My brother put it perfectly, this world is a ticking time bomb. You never know when your time is up. You could get in a car accident, or drop dead tomorrow by an unknown cause. I feel good on prednisone and living in the moment is all I can do. Right now I chose quality over quantity. My options are limited and I start my last available medication (unless something better comes out) either at the end of this week or next week. It was actually quite scary hearing my nurse on the phone tell me it’s my last option for now. I’ll take all the time I can get feeling good because for all I know it might not work, or like I said I could drop dead tomorrow. This might be looking at it in a negative way but I’m really not. smileeeOf course I want and am praying for this treatment to work! But for God’s sake live in the moment! I might have more health issues to deal with when I’m older, I’ve already accepted that, but you can’t live life to the fullest being so concerned with the future. Because after all, you might not be here. It might sound a little harsh but it’s thinking this way that has put that spark of life back in me that’s been dwindling down to nothing but a dull ember. Yes, Crohn’s disease is horrible and I wouldn’t wish it upon the person I hated the most but life could always be worse and why not live it how you want RIGHT NOW. Some people will never have that option. You are lucky to be in the ‘now’ and there’s nothing better than the present, living in it. Put a smile on and count your blessings!

 

WARNING: rant in progress…

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS. It’s been blowing up the media and it really frankly pisses me off the people who are shitting on it and saying people are doing it for attention and all that. I think anyone with any kind of illness, chronic or not, would agree with me. I don’t care what it going viral for the internet or if no money is being raised (by the way donations have gone out of control of ALS woo!) but if something like this was done for Crohn’s I would be absolutely ecstatic, I would probably cry of happiness. Awareness when you have a disease is the one thing you want. You want someone to at least try to understand what you are going through. No one fully understands until they are the one going through it but I have had people say “oh yeah you have a bad case of diarrhea all the time” and its frustrating because this affects every aspect of my life even though “I look good”. This actually is one of the reasons I initially started this blog. To help people better understand what we IBD patients go through. That was just a rant though about the latest rage on social media. So shut your mouth and mind your own business. If you don’t want to support a cause keep it to yourself because the negativity is definitely not needed, grumpy pants people.

Anyways, a friend with stomach issues brought this hilarious article to my attention and I really felt the need to share it with my fellow Crohnies. http://www.healthline.com/health/crohns-disease/would-get. I think every point in this post applies to me, even the jury duty one haha. Nothing worse than interrupting a court room because you urgently have to poo and then trying to explain yourself!

Like I keep saying over and over. Laugh it off, we poop a lot. Although it’s much, much more than that, shit happens (ha) and some people might not understand but you don’t need those people in your life. Find your number 12 if you haven’t already (in the link above), live in the moment, be happy, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. SMILE! 🙂

meee

-xoMichelle

And so it starts…

Well, down to 10mg of prednisone and the Stelara is officially out of my system. I’ve never in my life has this little medicine in my body. I guess which is good to kind of cleanse my system of it all but it’s also bad news bears. Today I was posted up in bed and on my couch sipping on chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate. Granted it’s freezing out so at least I kept warm (hah). But needless to say I’m feeling like crap and my insides are bleeding and a mess. I mean you wouldn’t know because “I look great!” Especially from the weight I’ve put on from this extended dose of prednisone. I registered at the hospital for the fecal transplant trial today and made my appointments. I’m due to get it on April 10th. I’m extremely nervous the colonoscopy is going to make me sick and not allow for the transplant to work. I’m hoping for the best but expecting the worse. This timeline kind of sucks for being sick though. The St. Patrick’s day parade near me is next Saturday and if I’m feeling this bad now I can’t even imagine how I’ll be feeling then and I do have plans to go to it with my girlfriends.

I haven’t had this lack of interest and motivation in a while. Some may call it depressed but I don’t like that word.. It’s a toxic word. I’m just under the weather not only physically but mentally as well. And I know it’s from not feeling good because the past week has been pretty exciting regarding my future and growing my dad’s business as a family business. I’ll expand more on that at some other point, when my mood is a little more chipper. You just get to the point where you don’t really care and just try to get through the day and onto the next. Actually now that I put it that way it sounds kind of pathetic. But that’s the life of a Crohnie from time to time. You have to expect these types of days. They’re unavoidable.

To make this situation worse I’m stuck here in my apartment pretty damn lonesome. Why, you ask? Okay maybe you didn’t ask but I was going to tell you anyways. The pup is at home with my parents. I left her there because my neighbor downstairs complained she barked too much when I wasn’t home. Even though they have to be lying because I take her everywhere with me or leave her at my parents when I’m gone for an extended period of time. So that’s a crock of bs. But anyways, I decided to leave her at home for a few days. And screw them downstairs I’m lonely so she’s coming back tomorrow. I’m just in a bad mood. I was feeling so good for a while. I definitely took advantage of that which was good. But, now I’m back to square one. Yeah, I have something treatment wise to look forward to but it’s not that promising. At least for the long term.

So, that’s all she wrote. Literally. Don’t have much to say tonight just wanted to get out my frustrations of being sick and update all my followers on how I’m doing… which is not good. Boooo. I’m starving and I can’t eat. Throwing myself a pity party then going to bed. Because we are allowed to do that once in a while. Goodnight my fellow Crohnies.

-xo Michelle

Who Said One Can’t Make A Difference?

One of my previous posts I wrote a letter to the President of Brigham and Women’s hospital about my stay. I had thought about it for a while and figured the first step in making a change or difference is letting them hear your voice. Basically, in short, I told her how awful it was staying in that small, cramped, white room for four days. Obviously, no hospital stay is roses and rainbows but I’ve had my fair share and this was definitely the worst of them all. My transition into the adult world was to say the least, a hurricane of emotions. Well, my letter must have made some impression because I got a call last week from the Brigham! We have been playing telephone tag for a little while now so I haven’t been able to actually talk to them but I made an impression! It’s crazy to think I did that. They’re actually listening! I never labeled myself as one to be proactive about that kind of thing, but this was different and so I went for it. It was a simple letter. I made a difference!

This just makes me think, imagine if everyone who had experiences like this voiced their opinion and was proactive about it. How much better could we make the world. It sounds corny, but it’s true. People do listen to you, they do pay attention. All it takes is for you to speak up. As cliché as it is but you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. So go for it! Who cares what they say, if they don’t respond at least you tried. And even if you don’t get a response someone probably read or listened and now you have placed your thoughts in someone else’s mind to think about. All it takes is one person, one letter, one call. And more often than not, you will get a response.

They told me they’d take about a half hour of my time to ask me some questions. I don’t know what kind of questions they’re going to ask me when I talk to them, but I’m preparing myself for anything. I’m absolutely ecstatic they read my letter! I’ve been trying to come up with every possible question they might ask me.  I will write as soon as I here back from them and let you all know how my letter made a difference.

Next time you have a concern or certain experience that makes you think, bad or good, let them hear your voice! You never know whose listening!

Make-A-Difference