Health

Ariane sitting at window

Here's a truthbomb for you: I'm not going to get better.

Before you jump in with a barrage of platitudes, please just check your healthy privilege. This isn't about the "what-ifs" and the "maybe somedays". This is about reality, this is about my reality. And if I sound angry, it's because I am angry, and I bloody should be.

This is about looking at what has happened so far, and predicting what will happen in the coming years based on reality. Every month I've gotten sicker. Since five years ago, when I was still able (albeit, with difficulty) to work 30 hours a week, keep myself fed, and keep my home respectably in order all on my own, things have gone so far downhill I can't even see where I started anymore. I can't do any of that now. I can't work. I can't take care of myself or my home without help. I'm no longer financially independent. I can't go most places on my own, and I can't go anywhere without a mobility aid. I can't travel (the two small attempts have been miserable failures). And I've lost a significant chunk of my prime career building, not to mention childbearing years, to chronic illness that has continued to go un(der)-diagnosed. Yes, I cope. I try and make the most of things. But the reality is crushing.

There are SO many things going on that I have written numerous blog posts in my head about, but my hand pain continues unabated (I've been having trouble getting on the medication that is supposed to help, a story for later...) so I still can't type very much. Arg! I've decided to try and post shorter than usual posts a bit more often, so that I can at least get things down on paper so to speak. First up: a (likely final) update on the LPR. (There are 3 other parts to this story: 123.)

This all started roughly 8 years ago, and began with voice problems and a chronic cough (of the choking/sputtering till you want to vomit variety) that cropped up after a bad bout of bronchitis (pneumonia?) that I had for the better part of a year around 2008. It was pretty mysterious in the beginning, and I thought surely it would go away, but it's only gotten worse. No treatments have really worked, and I continue to have major issues with LPR and my voice (I can only talk for 30-60 minutes before my throat gets sore and hoarse and I have to stop or else I start getting coughing fits and losing my voice). (Note: In case you're not an LPR sufferer and are confused, LPR is a type of reflux that doesn't give you heartburn, but rather throat, esophagus, and vocal issues.)

As anyone who has this condition will tell you, LPR and specifically the vocal problems it causes have a significant impact on my life - apparently the quality of life impact is even medically documented. It severely limits my ability to communicate, and it also means I can't use voice dictation software regularly to compensate for the joint pain in my hands restricting my ability to type. It deepens my social isolation, intertwining with my being housebound a lot of the time, since I can't talk on the phone or Skype anyone for more than about 30 mins (talking in person requires less projecting so I can often do bit more if it's somewhere quiet), and even if someone wants to come over and visit, one-on-one visits where I have to talk a lot lead to me getting a really sore, hoarse throat long before a typical visit would be done. Often, we just have to watch Netflix so there's not as much talking, unless there are other people to take the conversational burden off me. As someone who LOVES talking and time with people (and writing!), it flat out sucks. Obviously enough, it also affects the amount of work I can do on Textillia, which is already frustratingly small to me.

I'm sitting at home, while Bruno is out at a concert, trying to use voice dictation to write this post. I've been meaning to write this for a while, to update on what I posted a couple, or make that four months ago, but I've been having a bad arthritis flare, so I have been putting it off since typing feels like hot daggers in my finger joints. Voice dictation is a last resort - it doesn't work great, and since I still also have problems with my voice, it's just wearing out a different body part. Communicating is hard! I momentarily thought about doing a video blog, but I have one friend who is deaf and occasionally reads my posts, and I know I wouldn't be able to transcribe the video myself, so it just doesn't feel like a good option. We'll see how this goes, thanks in advance for extra typo/punctuation forgiveness!

I was glad to have this past week off from medical stuff, as I've been having a marathon of doctors appointments these last few weeks. This week is another doozy (including an early morning MRI with IV contrast - fun, fun), but I'm hoping things will calm down after that. After all of this slogging, I'm finally coming to the point where I've exhausted most of the options and routes towards figuring out why I've gotten so sick. But even though I was told over and over again that there was nothing to find, and that I was just stressed and not coping well with having IBS and chronic fatigue syndrome, my persistence has paid off. My diagnoses may not be the most concrete or common, but I finally do have some real answers.

I've been working up the nerve to post about this, so here goes. Two weeks ago, a little blue friend came into my life, and suddenly I am no longer trapped at home. I knew logically and had even been saying out loud, "I've been mostly housebound for the last couple years", but I didn't even REALLY understand it until I started going out again two weeks ago. As soon as I got what I'm calling my "wheelie" (rolls of the tongue better than "combination rollator and transport chair"), I pushed myself to jump right into the outside world again. It isn't exactly easy, but it's now actually possible to go out without major concerns of literally keeling over on the sidewalk, and it has been nothing short of amazing. Grocery store trip = exciting!

Over the last couple months I've had two really wonderful opportunities to participate in some advocacy projects for chronic illness and disability. One is a written/photographed interview for As We Are, and the other an audio interview for In Sickness + In health. I wanted to document them here for posterity, and to share both of these amazing projects. They go beyond looking at the illness itself, and dig deep into what it's like to live with chronic illness and disability in a world that often wants to sweep people like me under the rug.

As We Are

Ariane in purple dressBack in September a mutual friend put me in touch with an amazing young woman, Zoya Jiwa who has started a project called As We Are: style strategies to navigate health conditions. Zoya is a university student who has been living with chronic illness since she was a teenager, and started this project as a way to talk about how style and fashion can be supportive tools when living with disability, and chronic and/or mental illness. She's also been kicking major advocacy butt - she just did a TEDx talk at my alma mater, Simon Fraser University, won the university's Terry Fox award for community engagement, and was named one of this year's Fellows for both RADIUS and The Next Big Thing Foundation! You can tell she's a passionate advocate for both herself and the larger chronic illness community.

(Photo by Zoya Jiwa)

I've been putting off writing an update for so long that I barely know where to begin. This will necessarily be rife with omissions... And just FYI I finally crunched the data on the healthcare experiences survey I had posted (it's now closed to new entries). Thanks so much to everyone who responded! I had some interesting results and am looking forward to sharing them soon! 

It's been a weird summer - things have been pretty apocalyptic. Plagues (bad chronic illness flares for me, plus Bruno and I both had a bad cold/flu virus a few weeks ago - fevers and snot galore), locusts (we keep getting explosions of maggots in our compost bin because of the heat, and they got into our garage), crazy weather (namely the incessant heatwave, though we've finally got a little break from that, but also the couple days of thick forest fire smoke)... It's been one thing after another.

Anyway, let's get to it.

You've got what it takes and it will take everything you've got

I don't want to write this post, but I'm going to anyway, because yesterday led to me completely losing my shit at a medical appointment. I left uncontrollably sobbing, shaking...and not even from the extremely painful medical test I had, but from how much lack of compassion and actual caring there was around providing me the recommended treatment. 

I've been keeping most of my medical traumas private for a while now (aside from what I put in issue 2 of my zine), after being shamed and judged by several people for talking about my health related experiences. But I'm working on overcoming the feeling that I need to keep quiet about these experiences, because I feel it's an important part of demystifying chronic illness and advocating for better understanding and care, for me and others who are sick or disabled. I don't want to let the judgment and shaming of a few people silence me, so I have to keep telling my story.

Mini Iris

It's been a really bizarre few months here, not just because of the freakishly early spring we're experiencing in Vancouver, while the rest of the country is under a snowbank. They've kind of passed in a blur. The family emergency in December and January was really stressful and made me brutally sick, but I'm finally starting to get back to closer to whatever passes for stable these days. It also led to me reconnecting with some family members I hadn't been in touch with in a long time, including one of my parents. Some positive things have come out of it all, but it's been kind of up and down and overwhelming. It's a lot to get used to right now, and I don't really want to get ahead of myself because it's too easy to assume things will keep going in one direction or another, when it's all totally unpredictable. My feelings about so much of it are totally all over the place and far from clear...and I don't even really care to work them out at the moment.

I haven't had a lot of time or energy to give to the whole thing, as I've had to yet again completely shelve everything aside from the bare necessities so I could focus on trying to get back on my feet again. I'm behind on so many things - but they have to wait. Emails being put off, my supposedly monthly newsletter that I've had a ton of signups for but haven't sent out since before the holidays, sewing projects that have been sitting in a pile untouched, the web project/business Bruno and I have been talking about and wanting to develop, even less-essential health appointments... I'm pacing myself heavily, and they all have to wait - maybe for a long time to come.

Hi nice people! I had a really crazy December and January, dealing with a family emergency and then working on recovering from the terrible health flare that it set off...one of the worst bits of which is my hand/finger joint pain went through the roof, making typing something I've been having to moderate even more than usual. But just the last few days I've been starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, something I always find uplifting after a long slog through flare-ville.

Lots more to catch up on, but for now I just wanted to share some neat stuff I've come across recently in the textile and sewing world...

I guess the end of the year is as good a time as any for this big, nay enormous, long overdue health (and life) update - how appropriate that this is (in Drupal-speak) "node 1000", aka. the 1000th post on this site! December just had some surprises in store for us, and I got a bit sidetracked and wanted to get this one done first.

You may not have noticed but over the past couple years, even though I've continued to write posts about health and chronic illness, most of them haven't been particularly specific to what's actually been going on with me. I've written a few posts about my throat issues and adrenal fatigue, but otherwise I've been sticking to more general conversations about the ins and outs of living with chronic illness. I wish I could tell you that this was simply because of my commitment to speaking out about chronic illness, but that would be leaving out a significant portion of the truth. The truth is harder to talk about and more complex. 

My desire to keep personal details hush hush has unfortunately really cramped my ability to write about many topics that I have a deep desire to write about. Specific health issues, work plans, personal/family relationship stuff... I've been thinking long and hard about this, and have waffled back and forth several times about it, and have finally decided that it's time I just have out with it all so I can get back to really talking about all the things I want to here.

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Now, where to begin... Maybe a recap.

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