What it is like Living with a Chronic Illness

I can’t speak for everyone because we are all different. But living with a chronic illness is often misunderstood.

Imagine that the next time you get one of those horrid colds that knock you off your feet, disturb your sleep and make you feel like crap for a few days.

Then you get better and go back to normal, glad that it’s over, you survived intact.

Now imagine you don’t get better and it just carries on like that for weeks on end. Or maybe it gets better for a while but you know it will be back again in a week or two. That’s what living with a chronic illness is like.

The Spoon Theory

six silver spoons

A lot of people refer to the Spoon theory. When you are not well you can imagine a day where you wake up with a number of spoons. Then after every activity you take away a spoon until there are none left. Sometimes they can last all day and you may even have an extra one for the next day. But you can also have days where the spoons get spent very quickly and you are left unable to do anything else for the rest of the day. You can even overdo things one day, leaving you with fewer spoons for the next day.

A lot of chronically ill people refer to themselves as spoonies, I am a spoonie.

My Story

Three years ago I was taken ill quite suddenly. I don’t know what caused it but I’ve learnt since that shocks can trigger your body into attacking itself. And I’d had a shock when my Father-in-Law had suddenly dropped dead in front of me with a heart attack,while I was taking him for a hospital appointment.

Two days later I was back in the same hospital myself, virtually paralysed. Totally numb. I was originally diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and told I would recover within a couple of months. A year later I was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome plus PERM and told that recovery was unlikely.

Things I have Learned Since I Have Had a Chronic Illness

Life with a chronic illness is hard, harder than you can imagine.

Life is also difficult for loved ones, they have to watch you suffer and see someone they depended on become someone they have to look after instead.

It’s difficult to carry on with a normal lifestyle, even if you are well enough to continue working you will need to take lots of time off sick.

It’s hard being a Mum, especially when your child needs you and you can’t be there for them.

You’re mental health deteriorates, you may start out feeling positive that you can beat the illness, but as time goes by you feel like it’s just not worth living any more.

People don’t like to be around sick people.

You find that people just don’t understand how you can be ill so often.

People stop asking how you are.

You stop being invited to events because people just assume you won’t be well enough to go.

It’s difficult to plan for anything because you don’t know if you will be well enough.

A lot of partners cannot cope with life with a chronically ill person and decide to leave them.

Staying Positive

It’s amazing what a difference having a positive attitude can have. I am not always positive, but when I pull myself out of my self-pity and hold my head up I feel so much better.

Life is not always easy, not for anyone whether you have a chronic illness or not. But, it’s up to you how you approach life, how you deal with it, that makes things better. I may not find any relief from my pain, but it certainly makes me feel better when I can laugh and have fun with friends and family.

I’ve just had an awful weekend, I’m not sure if it was side effects from my infusions, or related to something else but I really was ill. I could barely do anything but watch television. My family just left me to it. But there is only so much I can take, I will push myself to do things, not give in to the pain, probably even make myself feel worse in the end. But, in my mind I want to be the winner, not the giver upper!

There has to be a balance though. Sometimes when you are rock bottom it’s okay to admit it and give in, so long as you are willing to fight for it when you are ready. I gave in, I watched 3 hours of Friends and 4 hours of Doctor Who over the weekend. I’d had enough by then, enough lying around and giving in. But I’d also allowed myself to wallow and rest. It was time to fight.

One day I know the fight will be gone, but until then I’m going to polish my spoons and keep on keeping on.

courage is not having the strength to go on, i'ts going on when you don't have the strength
Debs Random Writings
Twin Mummy and Daddy

10 Facts About My Condition

I have Stiff Person Syndrome, I am one in a million

Stiff Person Syndrome Awareness Ribbon

Today’s Blogtober prompt is 10 Fact About Yourself. I’m turning this around a little and using it as a little awareness for my condition. In just five days times it will be our Awareness Day for Stiff Person Syndrome so this is quite timely.

I have this stupid Stiff Person Syndrome which is a condition which does exactly what it says, it turns it’s victims stiff. But it’s an extremely rare condition, believed to be one in a million sufferers world wide, and each person has different symptoms and reacts to different treatments. No doctor really knows what to do. And whenever I end up in hospital and say I have Stiff Person Syndrome I just get blank looks like I’m making it up. 

Let’s get on with some facts about Stiff Person Syndrome….

  1. Stiff-Person syndrome is characterised by fluctuating muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms.
  2. People with Stiff-Person syndrome can be too disabled to walk or move, or they are afraid to leave the house because street noises, such as the sound of a horn, can trigger spasms and falls.
  3. Stiff Person Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, psychosomatic illness, or anxiety and phobia
  4. There are some rare forms of Stiff Person Syndrome that are due to Paraneoplastic Syndrome. The person has a cancer and might not know it yet. The immune system Ramps up to fight the cancer and goes haywire attacking other organ. In SPS case it’s the central nervous system: brain and spinal cord.
  5. Most, but not all, of patients with Stiff Person Syndrome have elevated GAD65 levels in the blood indicates that the body is creating an antibody that attacks GAD, impairing the body’s ability to make GABA.
  6. Some people with Stiff person syndrome have the glycine receptor anti-body which is generally an indication of the PERM type of the condition.
  7. Stiff Person Syndrome can cause swallowing problems to the point of medical crisis. The patient then develops severe anticipatory anxiety about swallowing and starts to avoid eating.
  8. Other disorders that can cause symptoms similar to Stiff Person Syndrome include hyperekplexia, multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, occult vascular malformations, neuromyotonia (Isaac’s syndrome), Schwartz-Jampel syndrome, muscular dystrophies, and metabolic myopathies.
  9. Stiff Person Syndrome was originally named Moersch-Woltman Syndrome after the doctors that discovered it.
  10. There are 5 types of Stiff Person Syndrome:

-classic stiff person syndrome
-focal stiff person syndrome
-jerking stiff person syndrome
-progressive encephalomyelitis with rigidity and myoclonus (PERM)
-paraneoplastic-related stiff person syndrome


Stiff Person Syndrome and Me

I first fell ill on 1st January 2016, but I realise now that I’d been showing symptoms for about a year previously. When I did get ill I was admitted to hospital unable to move. Intravenous steroids over a 5 day course got things working again and then I had physio to help me learn to walk before returning home 13 days later.

I was originally diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis after an MRI and lumbar puncture had ruled out MS. A year later, further testing of my muscles, nerves and blood showed that although I was GAD negative (see 5 above) I did have the Glycine Receptor anti body and was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome plus PERM (6)

Next week I’ll be promoting the new Stiff Person Syndrome UK website and Youtube channel. I’ve been preparing lots of things to share on our Twitter account and I’ve made a video from clips of sufferers all over the world. The more people that know about our condition the easier it will be for future diagnosis and treatments to be made, so awareness is extremely important. 

Thank you for reading, and if you ever want to know more about Stiff Person Syndrome then please ask. 

A zebra with text "The zebra stripe ribbon for stiff person syndrome refers to training in medical school where they teach future doctors that "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras!"
Please watch out for my zebra pictures on Twitter next week 
#Blogtober18

It’s a Week of New Things

a purple star with the word, new, in the middle

Last week my word of the week was School as we had found a new school for the Little Man. We went out on Saturday to buy his new uniform and although we got everything we need the day didn’t end well. More about that in a little while. First I want to tell you that the Little Man absolutely loves his new school. He’s made lots of friends already and thinks his teacher is great. In one week I’ve found him keen to read his book just so I can give him his comment in his reading log (he’s never been keen before) and he’s been singing songs to me that he’s learnt. 

He is happy and excited to go to school in the morning and comes home bubbling. I have missed him like crazy but it was certainly the right decision to send him back to school, he is so much brighter.

The Crash

We also have a brand new, I mean, so new it’s only just over a month old, car! It’s a top of the range Mazda with leather seats and so many features, including many safety features. Graham is in love already. BUT, it’s not ours really, it’s a courtesy car while our poor Skoda, Bernard, is being repaired. 

After uniform shopping on Saturday we were involved in a car accident. While waiting to turn right another car ploughed into the back of us at speed. Thankfully the girls were safe at home with their big sister so there were only three of us in the car.

Graham was fine at the time but has since become stiff and sore from whiplash and is suffering from recurring headaches. The Little Man was hysterical, but it was more fright than anything. He hit is head off my seat, despite being strapped in. He has bruising on both his legs and also has a stiff neck and shoulders. 

I don’t even remember what happened but I remembered seeing blood from my foot and my shoe was missing. My back was really hurting and I’d gone stiff in spasm from my condition. I can only surmise that the shock of the accident caused my startle reflex to set in and I somehow managed to get pretty bashed. I was taken to Accident and Emergency by ambulance, but my experience at the hospital was not good. The Dr had no idea how to treat me because my stiffness meant he couldn’t make his usual examinations, after poking my back and sending me into a massive spasm again. It’s difficult to examine someone for spinal injuries when they already have a knackered spine. I can’t blame him for not knowing what to do, nobody ever knows how to deal with me.

I left hospital unable to weight bear on my left side and my back has been hurting like crazy. But, it is slowly getting better so I just need to heal. If it was getting worse I would be worried. About three days after the accident I also suffered from the stiff neck and shoulder pain. My ankle is also swollen, bruised and grazed. But the main thing is, we survived. 

New Plan of Treatment

On Tuesday I was back at the hospital but this time for a scheduled appointment with my consultant. We first discussed the IVIG which I am feeling benefits from now that I’ve been having it for a year. Changing it to every month, rather than every three months, has made a big difference. 

Then we discussed all the new issues I’d been having and he told me that they are all side affects from my medication. I’ve been taking this medication for three years now without side affects, but now that the IVIG is in my system there seems to be a battle going on with the IVIG and my medication. So, the plan is to reduce the medication and adjust the IVIG so that I get the best benefits without the side affects. 

It sounds good to me. I’m quite happy to be pumping less drugs into my body, especially if it gets rid of the side effects.

Other issues I’ve been having can be put down to me lacking in B12 and folate. My medication can stop my body from absorbing these from my food so now I am taking supplements for four months to help. 

I am actually beginning to feel more positive. I know there are other drugs that can be used to help my condition, but as it’s so rare it’s hit and miss as to whether they work. So although, although I’d give anything to take something to make me better, the thought of taking even more drugs was making me feel anxious. I’m so hoping this works out, my consultant seems quite confident it will. 

The Reading Residence Debs Random Writings

The Little Things That Help

Being faced suddenly with a disability can be a daunting experience but there are things that can help.

a wheelchair sign on the grass showing the way to a step free route

Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

Nearly three years ago now I was admitted to hospital after becoming suddenly paralysed for apparently no reason. Over the two weeks in hospital with treatment and physio I regained some senses and learned to walk a little. When your nervous system gives up on you no longer have communication between your brain and the rest of your body. Putting one foot in front of the other becomes a confusing task. 

When it was time for me to come home they would not let me go until they knew my home was safe enough. That meant that someone had to come out and visit my home and then state what aids I would need to be able to get around once home. Despite this being horrifying at the time (‘I’m not using a zimmer frame, What do you think I am, and old lady?’) Nearly three years on I have found these aids invaluable for my safety, my sanity and my independence.

Aids

So what were these aids? First up was the stairs, we had a fancy banister on one side but I would now need two, so a second handrail was fitted. The second rail covers every part of the left hand site of the stairs, which is the wall side. I also needed to get around so I was provided with rollator frames for both downstairs and upstairs. These are basically your normal zimmer frames but with wheels on the front so you can push them rather than lift them while walking. I called mine Zelda1 and Zelda2. I now only use a Zelda if I’m feeling really unwell, I tend to use my walking sticks more.

Bathroom

Then there was the bathroom. Thankfully we have a low access shower in one of our bathrooms so I was provided with a chair to sit on while showering. It’s not exactly the best way to shower so I prefer to use a bar instead and stand. My dream is to have a proper wet room, I’m sure the kids would like one too as when they shower most of the water ends up on the floor rather than in the shower basin. Around the toilets we have hand rails, they can be moved but I’m thinking of replacing them with drop down rails which are less obtrusive. I know I’m disabled and appreciate the aids, but it would be nicer for guests not to have to put up with them too.

Kitchen

In the kitchen I have a stool. It’s high enough for me to reach the worktop, cooker and sink, but it doesn’t move around so I only sit if I’m tired or can’t stand anymore. It’s handy for when I’m chopping up vegetables or mixing a cake, but I have to make sure I have everything in my reach. My favourite kitchen gadget is my trolley.  It has two trays and is on wheels, I can push it around and carry twice as much as usual, probably twice as much as you. Not only is it useful but it’s a walking aid as well! I can use it to cart things around the kitchen, or move things from the kitchen to the living room and vice versa. I think every home should have one and I think it’s looks the least like a disability aid.

Getting Out.

I don’t walk much outside, basically because I can’t. Uneven surfaces are almost impossible for me, even with walking aids. I can’t walk on slopes either ascending or descending. And I can’t walk more than a few metres without freezing. If I am familiar with a place I will walk a little with my sticks or crutches, but I am so, so slow. Honestly a tortoise would be quicker, or maybe even a snail.

So, I have a wheelchair, a power chair in fact which is now a little battered and bruised after our car accident. At first I had a manual chair but I didn’t have the upper body strength to push myself far and had to depend on someone to push me. It’s not a nice experience, particularly if you have someone who has been a parent push you, because they tend to treat a wheelchair like a pushchair. When they stop to speak to someone they’ll push you past so they are talking behind your back. Or in a shop you’ll end up being pushed passed the cashier so you can’t interact with them.

A power chair gives you back some more independence, you are in control again. I don’t know what I’d do without mine. At first I thought I would get better and that I would only need the wheelchair for a short while, but now I have little hope of ever being able to walk again so I tend to look at wheelchairs like someone would look at cars. There is always something better I crave. For the time being though, I have to be satisfied and as long as I can get from A to B then I’m happy. Sometimes getting from A to B is not easy and it’s easy to start thinking that it’s better not to go out at all, but then I think of all the wheelchair users that have been in their chairs all their lives and count my blessings. 

a power chair from Careco
My wheelchair

And So to Bed

So far I don’t have too many aids at bedtime. All I have is a frame attached to the bed, kind of like the ones you get your toddler to stop them falling out. But mine is metal and I mostly use it to grab on to when I want to move around or get out of bed. 

Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I am disabled, especially as it happened so suddenly and without being in an accident. I have Stiff Person Syndrome which affects around one person in every million world wide. My type of Stiff person also comes with a few extra surprises, Progressive Enchephamyelitis with Rigidity and Myoclonus, or PERM for short. On October 25th it is the Stiff Person Syndrome awareness day. It’s important to raise awareness, as sufferers we are often faced with blank faces when trying to explain to any medics we encounter what is wrong with us. There is little research being done, and no-one knows the best way to treat us. With awareness we hope to change this and give future generations the chance of proper treatment or even a cure. 

This is a collaborative post but all words, thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Boobs and Me! Blogtober 2018

I’ve decided to join in with Blogtober this year again, I missed a year last year but I did join in in 2016. With Blogtober you are given a prompt to write about each day during October. As it’s the 2nd of October I’m already a day late so I am combining two posts in one. The first prompt is All About Me and the second is Boobs, Breast Cancer Awareness.

All About Me

As I said, I’ve joined in Blogtober before, in 2016 and here is my All About Me post from then for comparison.

I’ve gained a couple of years since then, no surprise! But I’ve also had a few major changes. I got married!! So my surname has changed. I also had a new diagnosis for my illness. Back then I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis from which I had a good chance of recovery. A few months later my diagnosis was changed to Stiff Person Syndrome with PERM. This condition is progressive and can also be fatal. I’m working with my consultant on the right course of treatment, but it’s not easy with the condition being as rare as one in a million world wide. 

I’m a mum of five, two adults and three younger ones. My children all live at home still and we have a five bedroomed house in South Birmingham. Life is very chaotic at times! 

a selfie photo with me in the middle, the Little Man to my left and Boo hiding behind my shoulder.
A selfie of me and my two youngest

Raisie Bay

This blog was born in 2011, a year after my youngest child. Until then I’d blogged about him in another Blog, Baby Number Five. Prior to that I’d also blogged about my  journey to conceive my third daughter who is now 13. The blog spread over two years so you could say I’ve been blogging for 15 years now. However, even more impressively, my first ever blog was set up in 1998 and was all about my life as a university librarian. I had no blogging platform back then and had to write the whole site in HTML. 

Raisie Bay started out as a record of my younger kids life and that is still a major part of my blog. But as the kids get older, and seem less reluctant about appearing here, my blog has started recording more of my life in general. Basically, it’s changed from a Mummy blog to a lifestyle blog. My family is still at the heart of everything I write though.

Header form my blog I started in 2003!

Boobs

My type of Stiff Person Syndrome is often apparent in cancer patients. Generally, when the cancer is treated, then the Stiff Person Syndrome is treated too. This is why some forms of chemotherapy may be the answer to curing my condition. I have been tested for all types of cancer and so far I’m okay.

I am insured against Breast Cancer. I took out the insurance 12 years ago when a friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Breast cancer and we both had babies. Sadly, she passed away when her child was just five years old. Since then I have had five friends succumb to the same awful condition. They are still around and still fighting. 

I hate cancer, it’s a cruel disease that takes away so much. The sooner it is caught then the best chance there is of beating it though, so awareness is so important, as is checking yourself often. Find out more information on this here on the NHS site.

To find out more about Blogtober and see all the other bloggers taking part please click the button below or visit Big Family Organised Chaos

#Blogtober18

A little Note About Positive Reviews on Raisie Bay

A little Note About Positive Reviews on Raisie Bay

Some people only write reviews when things go wrong with products, which is good because it lets people know that there could be potential problems. I’ve also seen negative feedback with say things like, I had to return this item because the colour did not suit me…is this useful?

I write reviews on most items I buy because I like to give genuine feedback. If I have a genuine problem with a product I will write my review in the appropriate place.

I write reviews on my blog too, but they are mostly positive. Why? Because I only write reviews for the things I’ve loved. If I don’t love them I let the person who sent me them know with details why and then let them decided if they would rather me write a negative review or not write one at all. It’s always the latter.

This is my blog, my place and I’ll let you know about the things I love. If you want to find out what other people have hated about the product then you will need to look elsewhere.

My reviews may all be positive, but they are still genuine.