Saturday Submissions – With MeggioMum

Todays Saturday Submissions is brought to you by MeggioMum A.K.A Heather, who lives with Pots and EDS, be sure to check out her wonderful blog about ‘Two cents from a Midwest Mom’, HERE.

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Potsy Mamas: What We’re Hiding

No, I’m not talking about marijuana, though that would definitely be an interesting article. I’m actually talking about coping with chronic illness while raising a family. Perhaps you’ve heard of Disautonomia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Perhaps you haven’t. But these conditions are very real, and being a mom of four (soon to be five) while living with them is a surreal experience full of both suffering and beauty.

Imagine for a moment that, like every mother on the planet, you have more things to do in a day than are physically possible to accomplish. Now imagine trying to tackle that when your body feels heavy like you’re wading through thick mud, and coffee only makes the feeling worse. You’re exhausted like you’ve just run a marathon… ALL THE TIME. Walking up the stairs is like mountain climbing without oxygen. You have to constantly write yourself notes and set alarms on your phone because your memory is swiss cheese. Complex situations are overwhelming because your brain is in a fog, like when you first wake up in the morning, except it never goes away. The mere act of standing makes your heart jump in your throat, and the smallest movements can dislocate a rib or hyperextend a knee. And you are in significant pain every waking moment.

What happens when you live like this every day is both heartbreaking and inspiring. A series of things start to unfold. The first thing to go is your house. Dishes and laundry pile up, as does random clutter everywhere. You forget to clean the cat box and don’t have the energy to mow the lawn. Your house starts to look like an episode of Hoarders and you’re too ashamed to invite people over or even let your kid’s friends inside to play.

Then goes your self esteem. You blame yourself for all the things you know you should be doing. You feel lazy and worthless. Thoughts creep into your mind like “I’m not trying hard enough”  “I’m such a burden” and “My family must be so disappointed in me.” You curse your body for not working right, and feel resentment towards both yourself and towards healthy people who live more mainstream lives. Your marriage suffers, both physically and emotionally, and you start to tell yourself that your spouse would be happier without you.

The guilt and self-blame are the worst when it comes to your children. You want to give them the world, and instead they don’t even bother to ask if you’ll take them to the park because they know that pained look in your eye all too well. You teach your children to be self-sufficient and independent; more out of necessity than anything else. You are proud that your teens can cook dinner, wash their own clothes, and fix their own bikes. You love how your younger kids can quietly entertain themselves outside in the fresh air without you hovering over them. But you also know that their childhood is flying by at lightning speed while you’re laying in bed trying not to throw up.

Then comes the judgement squad. Doctors not familiar with your condition, random people on the street, your kid’s teachers, coworkers, sometimes even your own family members. Everyone has an opinion on how severe your illness is and how you should be handling it. A lot of people don’t even believe your condition is real because you look “normal” on the outside. Your slurred speech and shaky movements means you sometimes get mistaken for an alcoholic or drug addict, and then treated with open disdain and discrimination.

Some people will be sympathetic, but insist you’ll be cured if you would just take more ginseng, or stop eating gluten, or do more yoga. My personal favorite is when they tell you to think positive and visualize yourself healthy.

I am a strong believer in homeopathy, clean eating, healthy exercise, and so on. But none of these things are magic cures that will stabilize the blood flow to my brain and keep my joints from dislocating. None of these things will keep my autonomic nervous system from misfiring like an electrical short. This is what leads to the final stage: the mask.

You start hiding your condition as best you can from the world. You grit your teeth and smile through the dislocations and spasms. When someone asks what’s wrong, you tell them you’re “just a little tired” instead of telling the truth. People get tired of hearing about your symptoms and start to tune you out. You avoid social interaction as much as possible, and start lying to cover up for it. (“Oh I’m sorry I missed the meeting, I had a flat tire”). You completely shut down in stressful situations because everyday life is already stressful enough, and you just can’t bear any more. You decide it is so much easier to put on the normal facade than wasting energy trying to make everyone understand. (Because 80% of them never will.)

I am trapped inside this body like a butterfly in a cocoon, except I don’t get to break free and fly.

There is an odd beauty to it though. This purgatory of inbetween health- not sick enough to be disabled, but not healthy enough to be normal- is like slowing down and living your life in stop motion. You learn to appreciate tiny moments like the sun warming your skin, the crinkle of smile in your daughter’s eyes, the earthy flavor of a hot cup of tea. You appreciate the people who stick by your side, and love them fiercely for it. You learn to let go of the things that don’t matter; like messy hair,  dirty kids, and judgemental people. You learn to slow down and just breathe.

We are moms (and dads) worth knowing.

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Thanks so much to Heather for submitting this post today, does this relate to you? How do you find juggling parenting and family life with chronic illness? If you relate, please leave a comment or consider following the directions below and submitting your own post to share!

——— Wanna Be Part of Saturday Submissions?———-

All you have to do is tell us a little about yourself and write a blog post (Any word count) in relation to your chronic illness, or how a relation/friend/patient with an illness affects or interacts with you, etc. all welcome!

You can include photos (preferably your own, if found online be sure to add links to where you found them)

Be sure to add links to your social media accounts so people can link back to you OR You can write it anonymously if you like just be sure to put your details in the email so I can respond to you personally 🙂

You can send your submissions to: irishpotsies@gmail.com

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The Sphincter of Oddi and Other Stories!

Say that in the voice of the narrator from He-Man and you have a pretty formidable title there!

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The last time I was admitted to hospital at the end of March, early April the surgical team came to the conclusion that I could possibly have something called Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction (SOD) that was being masked by what they thought was Gallbladder pain.

In the last blog post I outlined what this was and that there is a test to check for it called an ERCP, endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography, a procedure that uses an endoscope and looks directly deep inside the duct system while taking pictures and measuring pressure. You have to be sedated or under general anesthetic as it is way deeper into your system that they have to look than a regular esophageal, stomach endoscope or similar.

While they do this, they inject some Botox into the tiny sphincter itself which relaxes it and allows it to open again. If after about 2 weeks your pain is gone, this is a sign you have the dysfunction. Sometimes if the pressure in the bile ducts is measured as too high or if the surgeon deems it necessary at the time they will cut the sphincter muscle first time.

Cutting the sphincter of Oddi muscle surgically during an ERCP is called a sphincterotomy. It’s generally effective and relieves symptoms of SOD about 70% of the time.

The long term cure for it? a series of ERCP’s where again I will be put to sleep and they have to cut the sphincter to weaken it to the point where it can’t clamp up any more. This should take a few turns because if they do it all at once and cut straight through it, there is serious risk of heavy bleeding and Pancreatitis with this so they do it in small stages over time to make it safer.

A video of the procedure can be seen here, if you have the stomach for it! 😉

Since coming out of hospital in early April, I have had a number of follow up appointments. I’v been seen by a gastroenterologist in Nenagh General Hospital. He reviewed my case and changed my pain meds saying that the morphine I was on was a spasmodic drug and wasn’t helping the pain in my side so told me to ween off them and start other anti-spasmodic drugs which he prescribed. He also gave me new antiemetic meds for my stomach and gut as I am constantly having trouble with it. He said getting back over to London to a GI specialist over there when I am well enough is greatly advised, but to wait until I am well enough.
He also prescribed me with a spray for under your tongue, usually used for people with angina but said as it’s job is to open the blood vessels and relax muscles that it may help the pain in my side, and it really does, although drops my blood pressure and gives me a cracking headache but I would rather have that than the pain in my side!

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I have been to the Pain specialist in Croom hospital for more injections into my Sacroiliac joint and hips which usually takes about 3 days to a week to kick in, but of course I got cocky and tried to hobble out of the bathroom the day after getting them, without any chair, crutches or support, thinking I could do it and SMACK! I slapped off the ground hurting my hip, but thankfully not seriously so it has healed again and the injections have slowly begun to work to ease the pain in my lower back and hips. Unfortunately though they only ever last about a month so I am coming to the end of that relief already.

11205026_10203754927464867_7609355477687548601_nI was back into the University Hospital Limerick for a follow up from when I was admitted last and to see when my ERCP will be. I was told I should be called sometime this month so I am currently still waiting on the appointment and hopefully I will be called soon as it is getting very sore and uncomfortable.

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and finally… My powered wheelchair finally arrived! I had to chase it up through the local OT manager because I was getting nowhere emailling my OT about it. The manager got things moving immediately once she knew I had been waiting nearly 2 years and the replies to my emails were just one excuse after another, it finally arrived a couple of weeks ago, Miles too big for me, refurbished and not new but mine, great fun and gives me great freedom! The powered chair deserves a blog post of it’s own so I will do that as the next post. It’s name is Marvin and I’ll explain where that came from too! 🙂

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For now, that’s all my current news! 🙂