Fighting The Good Fight Against Chronic Illness

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April did not get off to a great start. The last time I updated, I was in the midst of a double bowel prep for my repeat colonoscopy. The double prep was absolutely miserable. I think every nook and cranny in my entire body had been cleansed. I was lucky enough to get a nurse who got my IV started on the first try and I was ready to go. The nurse who came to take me back to the procedure room remembered me from my last colonoscopy attempt (maybe my purple hair makes me memorable). The whole team taking care of my procedure were great. Because I struggle with extreme nausea after anesthesia, the anesthesiologist tried a different type of medication. Dr P came in the room and said “Let’s do this!” and the next thing I knew I was in recovery crying. I have no idea what I was crying. The nurse said it was from the type of sedation they used and for the record, I still woke up extremely nauseous. After asking for Zofran, I asked the nurse if they were able to complete the procedure and breathed a sigh of relief when she said yes (my worst fear was waking up and being told that it failed again).

Dr P stopped by my room before I was discharged and gave me a heads up on how the colonoscopy went. They removed a polyp from my colon that was the same type of polyp they removed from my stomach during my EGD in February (called an adenoma). There were no signs of colitis and the junction where my bowel was resected looking good so outside of the polyp, the inside of my bowel looked healthy and unless something comes up, I won’t need another colonoscopy for 5 years! Hallelujah! I will need a repeat EGD next year but those are a breeze in comparison.

The most important thing discovered during the colonoscopy was scar tissue. Dr P said he had a very difficult time navigating because my bowel wasn’t as mobile as it should be and seemed to be fixed in place. The scarring is likely a main culprit of my abdominal/pelvic pain and pain with bowel movements. I am glad my colonoscopy occurred before my appointment with the surgeon as I knew this would be helpful information.

Two days later, my husband and I went back to Charlotte to see the surgeon. Just a brief recap of my endometriosis-specific ultrasound, they did not see any large implants but small implants or scar tissue are not visible on ultrasound. After reviewing the results, one of two things would happen. If they thought that surgery would be the best avenue to explore, they would set me up to see Dr S. If they thought that another type of treatment would be a better option, I would see Dr M.

The office called and set up an appointment for me to see Dr S. Because of our prior discussion, I assumed that seeing Dr S meant moving towards surgery and knowing about the scar tissue discovering during the colonoscopy as well as the crippling pelvic pain, I thought that it might be a really good option to look into.

I was wrong. That’s what I get for assuming, right?

Basically the point of the appointment was to tell me that I am not a candidate for surgery because I am too high risk due to my history of scar tissue and obstructions. I totally understand wanting to avoid the cycle of surgery to remove scarring which in turn means more scarring and then more surgery, etc. I totally get it. I am glad that I have doctors that aren’t scalpel happy but when do you get to the point where the benefits outweigh the risks?

One thing that Dr S wanted to check was my hormone levels because of my history of recurring endometriosis after a total hysterectomy. He said that my FSH level could indicate if any ovarian remnants were producing enough estrogen to fuel the endo. However, even if they found that any pieces were left behind, they still would not do surgery but would instead prescribe a estrogen suppressing drug like Lupron. I told him that hell would have to freeze over before taking that drug again. He was not amused.

The cherry on top of this fantastic appointment (cue sarcasm) was his comment that the source of my problem could come from having too many fat cells. Now I was the one who was not amused. He swore that he would have made the same comment if I had walked in at 100 lbs but you don’t tell a woman that she’s too fat and not expect her to be hurt and/or give you the death ray stare.

To summarize the appointment: 1) they will only do surgery when the scar tissue completely shuts down bowel function (cue bowel obstruction nightmares); and 2) I still dislike male gynecologists (would you go to a mechanic that never owned a car?).

Once again, I’m not sure if I had just built everything up so much in my mind that it wasn’t realistic or something else but I left feeling like I was no better off than where I started. In some aspects, I feel like I have taken a step back. I wanted to just crawl in a hole and hide out for a long, long time. I felt such a wide range of emotions that it took me some time to process hence why I didn’t update sooner. I have felt angry, defeated, hurt, depressed, anxious and betrayed.

I’m not sure if there is any worse feeling when facing a chronic illness than that of feeling like your pain and struggles aren’t validated. Out of the whole experience that is what hurt the most. So I let myself cry a little bit and grieve a little bit but I reminded myself that the fight is not over. That particular battle might have felt like a loss but there are many fights to come and I will overcome. I will be strengthened knowing that my God is a Warrior and that I am not fighting alone. I will be strengthened by the unfailing love and support of my amazing husband.I will be strengthened by the smiles and songs of my beautiful daughter. I will be strengthened by every word of hope and encouragement that I receive from every comment, every email, and message that I receive from all of you reading this.

Words cannot express how deeply my heart is touched by this community of beautiful and strong women (and if there are any guys that may pop in from time to time).  When I was asked how blogging has impacted my journey with chronic illness, I couldn’t stress enough how being a part of a community has helped me push through and keep fighting. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am ready to keep fighting the good fight against chronic illness! Are you in?

Am I Crazy? Am I Enough?

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Welcome to Week 2 of Blogging for Endometriosis! Can I start off with some amazing news?! The Blogging for Endometriosis fundraiser has raised $100 towards our $250 goal to support the ERC in providing support, advocacy, and research resources for endometriosis! Isn’t that amazing?! I totally think we can blow our goal out of the water!

This week’s topic is to share about the effects of endometriosis on our lives beyond the physical – our relationships. So many times people only consider the physical impacts of an illness without considering how illness affects every aspect of our lives. 

Dealing with the mental effects of endometriosis has probably been the hardest thing to adjust to after my diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong, the pain can be unbearable at times and difficult to work through but I think pain can be more easily acknowledged by others whereas the mental (along with emotional, spiritual, and social) aspects of chronic illness are not validated and therefore can leave you feeling pretty isolated.

I have mentioned before that I have always been a perfectionist, almost-Type-A personality. I  like feeling in control. I like for others to be proud of me (whether it be my parents, professors, or spouse). I have always sought to be the best as possible – highest grades, first chair in orchestra, etc. I like having a list that I can easily check-off. I like saying yes to projects and feeling accomplished when they are complete. So when I was diagnosed and really started being impacted by endo on a daily basis, my ideas about what my life should be like came crashing down. I never thought that I would have six surgeries in nine years. I never thought I would have more diagnoses that I could count on one hand. Fighting for disability at 32 was not a part of my life’s plans. All of these things add up to never feeling like I am enough.

I have shared about my anxiety and the struggle to regain some kind of control of my emotions.I have written about trying to get to a point where I can mentally accept my “new normal” in life and let go of my previous life without chronic illness. Heck, that is even what I based this blog around almost seven years ago. But why can’t I just accept it once and for all? Why do I have to keep fighting?

Sometimes I really wonder if I have gone crazy. Is the pain really real or is it in my head?

Sometimes I really wonder about the fatigue I’m battling. Is it real or am I just lazy?

Sometimes I really wonder about my worth when I look at my family. Am I enough?

Sometimes I wonder about how spiritually empty I feel. Do I just not have enough faith?

I cannot count the nights I have cried myself to sleep asking myself these questions even though I know my pain and my fatigue is real. I know that my lack of healing isn’t the result of having too little faith. I know this in my head and in my heart but being the perfectionist that I am, I think the Enemy has found where I am weak and cause me to question how I view myself as well as how I think others view me.

I want to get past this. I really do. I feel like I have been in the same cycle for the last six months. I was to embrace the incredible support and unconditional love I feel from my family. I want to be able to look ahead without saying “if only..” I feel like I keep saying the same words over and over. The same struggle over and over.  I want to do more than put up a front that I’ve got it together. I want completely embody the hope I am so eager to share with others. I want to make the choice to believe that I am enough.

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