CRPS Awareness photo challenge: time

Photo challenge: The biggest roadblock in my life other than pain.

Time.

Suzy's photo challenge, 2015, day 16

 

 

I have limited activity per day re pain management.

I have limited activity, functionality, independence per day re the worst of the Dysautonomia symptoms.

I have limited ability to think, process and get brain stuff done because when I use my brain I can only do so for a while. Then it falls over and stops functioning and I’m blooming useless until it recoups. How long that takes depends on multiple variables.

With pain management and brain time it is the unexpected opposite… use it and I lose it. Every time. Though there’s no guarantee that I’ll have any type of functionality at any given time either .

So time when I’m able to think and do is so precious because of its rarity and fleetingness.

x

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CRPS Awareness photo challenge: a pain aid

ScreenShot00170

(source: a screenshot of the loading page on my laptop)

Role Playing Games (RPGs) are helpfully immersive and so make a brilliant pain distraction tool. These are more helpful if they don’t have lots of decision making in them as people with chronic illnesses make lots more decisions throughout each day and so run out of neurotransmitter chemicals far quicker. Fortunately most modern games allow roaming and choice, so we can choose game activities that can help to distract us without having to deplete our brain even more.

My recovery game is the Lord of the Rings Online.

x

Losses and hope

There’s a photo challenge running this month for CRPS awareness. Yep, Nervember has come around again and I’m sporting my orange awareness ribbon on my bag and have matching ribbon lacing my knee-high boots just to make it stand out more. Every year I’ll get asked about it and that’s the whole point. Raising awareness amongst people who wouldn’t come across the information otherwise. 🙂

One of the challenges is to post a poem or quote which describes the losses I have experienced as a result of CRPS impacting my life. And the very next day the challenge was to post a picture about hope.

The losses challenge resulted in me just writing from the heart, that bit was natural. The hard bit has been making myself post it.

The list of losses are initially from way back (I’ve come a long way in knowledge, pain management and personal growth these 16+ years) and the last loss is just 5 years ago (please don’t worry – I’m coping. The last line is less severe these days as I have worked to find new meaning in who I am. I am still grieving, but also living again).

Losing so much as a result of an acquired turn of health is enough to make anyone depressed but CRPS is known in the USA as ‘the suicide disease’ because without diagnosis there is no treatment, no support and crucially no understanding for a patient who has mystery pain which doesn’t make sense. People just want out. It’s too much. Too relentless. Often with no answers.

But loss of neurological function is different. It’s terrifying when you find out what’s happening but before that it’s just confusing. Everything is confusing. Basic conversations become really difficult because you just end up guessing all the time. And then you try to reply with something which hopefully is on the right lines to make some sort of sense. The likelihood of misunderstandings beginning and continuing is frustratingly high when we’re going through this.

Loss of family is so common for CRPS patients that it is surprising (but wonderful) when we meet a fellow patient who hasn’t.

It’s so hard to rise to the awareness month challenge and post this. I don’t like to focus on the old losses and I still struggle daily with the latest one. Egads! Okay,
here goes…

Suzy's photo challenge, 2015, Day 6

 

And because I can’t end this post on that note, here is the post about how I eventually managed to find myself and start to re-build my life:

The way forward for me after the greatest loss was to find who I am at my core. I had to anyway because loss of family meant a large part of my identity was no longer there. So I had to rebuild with me at the centre instead. It felt very alien to do so, and was rather like a rollercoaster ride but it was worth it.

Knowing who we really are at our core is one thing but having our identity built on that alone is quite another and it allows us to live that core openly and comfortably every day which results in a sense of peace and a kind of improved emotional suspension system which smoothes out the bumps. When we are truly ourselves resistance falls away. We can just be, because when our identity is rebuilt on who we truly are (instead of where we come from, who our family is, what others think of us, what we do/did for a living, societal role expectations and so on) there is no resistance. There is just us. Other’s opinions may affect our emotions but our sense of self is no longer affected by them. And from that point life kinda opens up. 

Suzy's photo challenge, 2015, Day 7

 

xxx

 

 

Yes I still exist (honest guv’)

Imagine my surprise when I realised I hadn’t written a blog post since the end of last year! Lawks! I’ve been writing drafts when I can but poor ole Betsy the laptop has usually (always) got too many browser tabs open to cope that well! How is it possible that time passes by so quickly these days?!

I have been posting on the Facebook page though of course. Just never seemed to get to complete a blog post. The main reason has been lack of Brain. It pops in now and again but it doesn’t hang around as long as it used to. So I realise I need to change my way of writing to accommodate this change because mostly it’s resulted in me not writing. And as writing has become a love of mine I have been getting twitchy!

As I’m in the UK I was initially dealing with the tail-end of the continuing coldness through the Winter. Always a toughie getting through to the Spring, eh? Pain levels are up, natural vitamin D intake is down, relentlessness is the name of the game and by the end of Winter (well deserving of it’s capital W) we are begging and pleading the weather to bring Spring to us so that we can start recovering.

Winter was actually pretty mild here, but that just means that I wasn’t at quite such an extreme of my wits end, y’know? Winter is *always* hard. Springtime rocks!

I’ve been having some more health issues and I’ll write more about that in due course, but initially it appeared like it was a crazy-arsed allergic reaction to anything / nothing / everything which lasted all the time / 4 random minutes at a time / stopped for a few hours then came back with a vengeance. It was pretty weird. And yes it became apparent that it was so bizarre that it was reminiscent of my respiration issues a few years ago, so I knew it was a systemic overload which had to be stopped. Hence.. more on that in a separate post.

In March I said “yes” to a concert because I figured how could I not? I mean, it was in Winchester Cathedral, maaan! Beautiful! I didn’t realise just how cold it would get in there or that I should’ve dressed for the outdoors to better manage my pain levels, but fortunately they had some doghouse sized radiators to cuddle up to! So yeah, I went and saw Anathema perform acoustically in a gorgeous cathedral. It was stunning. Truly fabulous.

There are a few cathedrals around the UK who raise some of their funds through events like this so if you get the chance… dress warm, take a cushion if you need one, and because it’s acoustic it’s not like you’re gonna get your head blown off by mega-speakers so the volume is more compatible with sensitive ears (though if you’re unsure I can recommend the noise-reduction earplugs as they reduce the volume without muffling the sound).

Winchester Cathedral acoustic concert, Anathema

How stunning is this?!

 

I’ve also had the wonderful experience of two fellow CRPSers travelling from their home countries to come and visit me in real-live-3D, wow! That will also be a separate post because it was so fabulous 😀

Two of my friends got married and Magic Dude and I attended the sci-fi wedding in Star Wars fancy dress. Which I made with my own fair hands, I might add! My sewing machine and I are no longer nemeses, we have made friends and now I wish I had more time during which I am more functional to make some clothes. I now have a new creative project with the sewing machine which I’ll post about soon, too.

And for anyone wondering… I am dressed as Jareal (after the make-up has come off and been re-applied a gazillion times X-) ) who I found out about by researching the comic characters, and Magic Dude is dressed as Plo Koon who was briefly in one of the prequels (very briefly – when asked about his choice of wedding costume he said something like “you see him in one of the spaceships for a moment and then he dies”).

And of course that same month we had the UK government election. Voters were at a loss who to opt for if they even voted at all, many didn’t. The ‘majority’ on our ‘first past the post’ system was a shock. The majority means the party who got the most votes, even though the people who voted for them are actually in the minority of the voting population. Even weirder, our system is set up for the main parties and to keep smaller parties at bay. So this means that votes for the Conservatives adds up to more MPs from their party than exactly the same number of votes would get for another party. I know. Don’t ask. It’s so out of date. Anyway the shock factor was massive. No-one expected the same government to be voted in again. Not even the government peeps themselves! Many of my disabled friends were in tears at the news – welfare cuts have been horrific here with the poorest and most vulnerable getting hit multiple times through different cuts. The new welfare ‘assessment’ process is causing mental health issues to the extent that there have been suicides as a result. Before getting re-elected the government promised a further £12billion welfare cuts so you can see why so many people were in tears. I seemed to last a while in shock until Magic Dude’s Dad said something blinkered and I burst into sobbing and couldn’t stop for some time. The UN is now running a second investigation into the state of human rights in the UK to expand on their earlier investigative report.

So yeah, now I’m an activist. As it turns out. Not just a health activist any more, but an activist for the poor and vulnerable generally. I can’t do much in my state of ill-health but there are petitions I can sign, ideas I can bounce, people I can help. Being chronically ill isn’t going to stop me from caring about others and doing what I can to help reduce the additional shitstorms coming their way. Takes up quite a bit of Brain Time of course, another reason I have been so absent from the blogging as usually May is the time of year when I would begin to manage to write a bit more.

So anyway that’s enough for the body to have to handle whilst still working through the months slowly recovering from Winter, right?

But I’ve also been doing my usual full-on overdoing it for one day in April and one day in June at Tai Chi tournaments. As you know it takes months for me to recover from Winter and weeks to recover from each tournament, so the overlap of tournament with Not Recovered From Winter Yet is substantial. But I do it because I am so limited and restricted every day that pushing myself for two days per year feels worth it because although the aftermath is horrific the memories last far longer. 🙂

The April tournament this year was not the usual nationals in Oxford but my first ever Europeans. (The Europeans were originally going to be held in Latvia and so this was a last minute alternative and much more viable for me to get to).

I performed the Sun Style 73 form which is not a flowery style so I have to show my understanding and skill levels in different subtle ways, so that was my challenge. I also performed the 42 form (a tournament form incorporating 5 different styles of Tai Chi) so performing two different things at one tournament was also my challenge. I was a bit awed that my teacher had put me in the advanced/open section whilst I am still officially at intermediate level, I guess that was also my challenge. Hey wait a minute? How many challenges am I fool enough to take on at once here?!

I was amazed that I ended up with a silver for my 42 form (with two lovely ladies from the Netherlands either side of me with gold and bronze) and a good score for my first ever tournament performance of Sun. But more fabulous was the fact that this was the first time that I’d been part of a larger team. We’ve only had a maximum of 3 of us there before, but this time we had a whole gaggle of us. Some in beginner, some in intermediate and some in the over 55s. Everybody in the team was supportive and encouraging to each other, and lots of fellow Tai Chi-ers there were positive towards us too. In fact I was so pleased to find out that my teacher had been told that her team were notable for their friendliness and positive attitudes. What a fabulous endorsement for her first event managing a larger team. 😀

Tai Chi, 2015, European silver

The next day I met up with my lovely teammate who also has chronic pain and was staying in the same hotel. We have travelled our Tai Chi paths alongside each other these past four-ish years and we have cheered on each other’s progression with such joy because it’s one heck of an achievement in the face of our respective health issues. I hobbled from bed to lift, and from lift to comfy chair in the hotel lobby. I sat in one chair with my feet up on a second, had my hot water bottle under my legs, blanket over the top, painkillers in my bag and he had been his usual sweetheart self and got the coffees before I got there. Several hours later we were still there nattering away. Movement was not very viable for either of us and it was great to be company for each other through the pain levels.

My lovely Magic Dude turned up later with the wheelchair so that he could get me out of the hotel room the following day. We went into Oxford town and I went camera crazy as I always do when I actually get out somewhere! It was really lovely to get to see the city this year. That wheelchair makes such a difference! 😀

Oxford, bicycles.jpg

Pictures obviously included bicycles (and many many grotesques and gargoyles on the old buildings)….

Oxford, Bodleian library

…the inspiration for Hogwarts main school hall in the films (Bodleian Library)…

Oxford, street pianist

…and a pianist on wheels who was super-prepared for any sudden change in the weather! Totally normal, nuthin to see here! (Actually his piano playing was gorgeous).

The weeks between the Europeans and the June Nationals whizzed by and I was not in great shape healthwise (starting the tournament day with the screaming ouchies in my left leg at a mean 8.5/10, boo!) but I managed to get the pain levels down a bit to perform in Sun Style at my intermediate level and got a good score considering I was racing through the 5-6 minute form to complete it within the required 4 minutes *and* I added in an extra move by accident, too! X-) Being able to get a decent score with Sun style was my aim. And extra wonderful was that my teammate (yes, that same friend) got the exact same score for his multiple-style 42 form and so we ended up on the podium together with joint silver, wow! I can’t tell you how awesome it felt to be standing there with my friend sharing that achievement after coming such a long way together in our journey to help our health situations. There really are no words to describe the singing glee in the soul but it was flipping wonderful! He’s put in phenomenal work to get where he is today using both physical and psychological tools to find the best pathway round the health stuff. If anyone deserved to be standing on that podium it was him, and I found myself standing on the same podium with him which felt so perfect that I wasn’t on a different podium or even a different level – we were on there together. Go Team!

I also entered the advanced/open section with the 42 form, managed to fluff it up in amazing style, made it look like it was meant to be that short honest guv’, and ended my performance somewhat (a lot) earlier than I should have, har! A good score considering the extent of my very silly error, and some wonderfully positive words from head judge Faye Yip telling me to come back next year because I have “potential”, yay!

Oh and no wonder my body has been so screwed because the classes that I use for physio’ include adaptive Kung Fu in which I have got my red sash and first level brown sash this year too. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to achieve those! Although the brown grading was during the heatwave and my legs were glad of it even if my nervous system wasn’t! My body needs more tiiiiiime, man!

And yet I posted on my personal Fbk wall the other day that it would be nice not to have to deal with people telling me that I am “lucky” to “not have to work” / “get to stay at home all day” because I get those sort of comments as a result of how people see me when I am out of the house i.e. looking ‘normal’ because I am doing my physio’. If only they could see me the rest of the day eh? Needing a wee and not being able to get to the loo in the adjacent room, wanting a cuppa and having to wait several hours til Magic Dude gets home and can make me one. Ah well, people just don’t get it eh?! 😛

And then we were getting the house ready to put up for sale. It sold at the end of July and we’ve been searching for our new home ever since. Not sure how much longer our buyers will hang in there but if they pull out it’ll sell straight away again. The market here at the moment for the main price bracket of £120-210k (your basic 2-3 bed homes with the usual squished space that we have in UK houses) is basically at about 15 buyers per house. Apparently we wouldn’t have the same extent of trouble if we had £210-250k. Oh if only eh?! Har, dream on!

We need some more space y’see. I moved into his one bedroom place and so nearly everything I own has been in the loft for the last 5 years. If one of us wants to do something creative there’s no space to set it up and leave it so most of my physio’ time is taken up with getting everything out and setting it up and then putting it all away again afterwards which doesn’t leave much time for whatever the activity in the middle was supposed to be (I want to get painting again). So yes we need a little more space but also….an enclosed garden. Currently we only have an open outdoor space between the house and the pavement out the front. Apart from how nice it would be to have some private space the main reason is (dahn-da-da-daaaaah…) we wanna get a dog! But the housing market is slowing down for chrimble so I’m expecting our buyers to pull out sometime soonish and that we’ll be re-selling in January when potential new homes start to show up in greater numbers.

So with fewer house viewings taking up my physio’s I finally have some time again, wheeee! Except for how that creative project I mentioned will now take over any available physio’ time. I look forward to sharing that when all the material has arrived. 🙂

Anyway, now you know I’m still here.

Phew! That was a heck of a catch-up!

Loves xx

Inspiring addition

I was window-shopping online during a time of brainlessness and I spotted a cushion cover which made me feel inspired.

We are often told we “can’t” do things and we soo often feel that we “can’t”, especially as we have a tendency to compare our abilities with that of our former selves. Change over time happens to everyone and we are being rather unfair on ourselves by comparing the me-now with the me-in-the-past, and extra unfair by focusing on what we can do instead of who we are. Change happens to everyone in various ways. And yes our health changes can be pretty massive, but the way forward is helped enormously by the way we view things. Our reality involves our perception of it. And perception plays an extra big part for us when it comes to coping skills and finding the positives.

Being able to turn those “can’t”s around into “can”s is a truly fabulous feeling. And feeling inspired is often such a floaty-light moment of gloriousness where we rediscover our smile, our hope, our confidence, our determination. It is not to be underestimated or neglected.

So I bought that cushion cover for myself. Every time I looked at it online I felt inspired so bringing that inspiration into my home where I could see it every day seemed eminently sensible!

It arrived yesterday, having travelled all the way from Australia, thanks to a shop on eBay…

Inspirational cushion cover

And the monkey was a pressie from, and created by, one of my friends from school so he makes me smile too. He and the cushion are a pretty good pairing!
(Thank you Jaime, he’s been enjoying sitting on the chair by the window in the front room). 🙂

What inspires you?

Is there something you could move to a more prominent position so that you feel lifted when you most need it?

x

Interpreting new medical information

How do we find reliable information and not freak out when given a new diagnosis?For those of us with multi-systemic conditions new diagnoses are pretty much par for the course, but our laid back attitude to new conditions is won from experience.

Weirder still is how we also have to deal with no clear diagnosis as this often means the continuation of confusion in the medical practitioners working with us.

This year I’ve experienced both!

I’ve been to see the UK’s top autonomic dude and been told I have POTSy stuff going on but not enough to be diagnosed with POTS. This is confirmation of autonomic dysfunction and how in my body it is also wreaking extra havoc with near-fainting (near syncope). Not that less specialist practitioners really know what to do with ‘autonomic dysfunction’ or what array of ‘interestingness’ that can result in.

I’ve also been to see one of the team at the UK’s top department for hypermobility and been told that I have partial hypermobility. After all my years working hard on my legs (for example I no longer have to work my kneecaps until they loudly *bang* back into place)! I am still very hypermobile in my core, though. This explains why even my breastbone has been subluxing in recent months. (Subluxing is a patient shorthand for sub-luxation which is when joints pop out and back into place, it’s a partial dislocation rather than full-on dislocation/luxation). So I received some instructions to get referred to physio’ rather than any diagnosis which would be clear to other medical practitioners.

Frustratingly the hypermobility expert noted that she didn’t see any signs of CRPS in my skin at all. I wrote to her asking for this to be amended in her report as although a CRPS expert would know that whether any ‘signs’ of CRPS are present or not at any given moment in time has no bearing on whether that patient has CRPS or not, she sadly did not deign to a) respond or b) amend her report. So her report effectively includes what looks like a query over my CRPS diagnosis which only experts would realise was unfounded and any other medical practitioner would actually take that questioning of the diagnosis on board. *sigh*

The latest info’ arrived long after the hypermobility appointment as a result of an x-ray which was requested by the expert to ascertain whether I had shallow hips. I’m going to use the resulting letter to show how I choose to filter search information online.

First rule of searching online: searching individual terms is handy for a clearer understanding. I don’t want to find lots of vaguely or potentially related information, I would have no idea whether what I was reading would be related to my personal situation or not, so first of all I only want to find the exact meaning for my body.

Second rule: use a reliable source with a clear explanation. Once again.. I want a direct translation, not a load of vaguely related gumph that might not even relate to my own personal situation. So no wikipedia, no tangents into something that includes the terms I’m searching, simply a good medical dictionary or medically grounded information website.

So, here’s the info’ from the consultant’s letter..

Letter, hip x-ray, part 3

 

Essentially I want to translate this key bit of a sentence:

“…minor dysplastic changes with minor degenerative changes in her hips.”

First of all – note that “minor” is used in both cases. Long-term chronically ill folk usually don’t panic anyway, I mean, what’s the point right? I wrote a post a while ago about the time I visited a cardio’ doc’ and he said he could think of nothing that would make my permanent near-fainting anywhere near bearable or functional except for a pacemaker. Even in a situation like that it’s a case of allowing the emotions to pass and then getting back to life. We don’t do our thinking when we’re emotional because we recognise (from that bumpy old road of experience) that our thinking is pretty poor under those circumstances. It’s just the way the human body works so don’t worry about that happening, it’s just the way it is. And anyone with autonomic issues knows that when the ‘fight or flight’ kicks in then we’re not to even bother thinking at all, coz that mechanism means we don’t have full access to our higher functions anyway. So, even if you receive a shock diagnosis…. allow yourself time to calm your nervous system down. Stop, sit, have a cuppa and don’t try to figure out what it might ‘mean’ because our brain is not equipped to do that until we get calm again.

So yes, back to looking at how to decipher medical info’, which we only do when we’re feeling calm…

“Minor” sounds positive, “degenerative” can sound scary. It would be quite natural to skip past the “minor” and focus on the “degenerative” but it’s unhelpful and inaccurate to do so. Once we allow our emotional response to choose the focal point then our imaginations start getting involved. Our imaginations are amazing things, that’s why some of the scariest horror films are the ones that don’t show you what is actually happening to a character at the time – because it’s way scarier to let our our imaginations do what they do. So leave the imagination out of it. We simply want facts. Just a translation. Keep focused on that because it is key to dealing with medical information in a manner which is most helpful to our health (both mental/emotional and long-term physical).

The initial question is: “what does dysplastic mean?”

We can type “dysplastic” into our search engine, but then we also have to remember that we need a reliable source with a straight-forward translation in medical terms so adding the words “medical dictionary” or “medical terminology” or something like that might help us. But even then the search will still find case studies, specific types of dysplasia, maybe even hip dysplasia which sounds so appropriate that it would be tempting to follow one of those links, but I just want a meaning for “dysplastic”. That’s all. I don’t want to read stuff which may be medically relevant to the subject but not actually relevant to my health or my body.
I can read around the subject after I have a basic understanding.

It is important to notice here that the information that we choose not to explore is at least as important as the information that we do choose to read. Restricting our initial reading reduces that chance of reading things which don’t actually directly relate to us and which might make us worry unecessarily. Choosing to look after our mental health and emotions at this stage is as important as finding out how to look after the physical health issue we are looking into. We deserve to be able to work through new information in a manner which is informative without adding extra layers of potential distress.

So I ignored pretty much everything that the search brought up because it wasn’t specific enough. What I did take on board was that it is a very vague term. “Dysplasia” bascially means that something is not entirely ‘normal’. It simply means that there is a standardised ‘norm’ for things and we do not fit that norm exactly. So in that letter I’ve basically been told that there are changes which have resulted in my hips no longer being described as ‘normal’. That is all I need to know at this stage – it is vague, and my hips are just different. But vague is better than wrong, so my careful filtering out of lots of info’ has done it’s job…

Many of the links included references to moles and cancer, imagine what could have been taken away from a search on “dysplastic” if I hadn’t been so determined to simply find a translation. Anyone in this situation could have started worrying that the changes are really scary, it would have been all too easy to make assumptions about what that letter meant, about what’s happening inside the body, what it might mean to future health etc. So yep, translation only – avoid all round-the-subject information until you are sure what exactly has been reported about your own personal body.

So, “minor dysplastic changes” meant that my hips had developed something different from the norm. The next bit says there’s some minor degenerative changes, too. But that’s it. There is no other info’ there to make it any clearer. And when you live with a complex condition where many possibilities exist then there’s no point worrying about anything unecessarily. Whatever is, just is. So all I want is some more info’ to clarify what I’m dealing with because key to working with this is to know what I’m working with, of course!

So I asked my GP for more information. She’s used to me asking for more info’ and she knows that I ask simply because I want to understand how to do the best I can for my long-term health. I live in the now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t look after my body for my future.

The extra info’ the GP gave me is from the radiologist and is less of a potential emotional minefield as it simply requires translations of terms for parts of the body…

Letter, hip x-ray, part 2

The “femoral heads” are simply the top of the thigh bone (femur), and “acetabula” is the rounded bit of the hip joint that is part of the pelvis (plural of acetabulum so it refers to both hips in this case). Simple searches can uncover this information as long as you continue to refuse to get led astray. ‘Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts!’

“There is minor uncovering of the femoral heads but the
acetabula appear well formed”

So, interestingly my hip joint is not too small, which is what usually happens with dysplastic hips (see how easy it would have been to read information which is relevant to the words used, and even to the condition in general, but incorrect for my own body). So as the tops of the thigh bones are not fully covered by the joint sockets then I guess they must be too big, or is that another assumption?! See how easy it is! As my fabulous fellow blogger Isy Aweigh pointed out it could alternatively be as a result of my ligaments being too stretchy to keep things where they should be (totally viable in my partially hypermobile body), or it could be that I have a strangely chunky amount of cartilage in the mix, or even a mix of all three of these things. I don’t know because the information doesn’t specify. Whatever it is, whether it is a result of the changes over time, or whether the changes are something else and I’ve always had abnormal femurs/ligaments/cartilage is not something which is explained here. So that is unknown because you can’t assume anything when it comes to your health! Though the hypermobility expert has interpreted them as “dysplastic changes” in her letter so maybe she was privvy to more information than the GP and I, or maybe she made an assumption, who knows?!

The last bit of the radiologist report reads:

“Minor degenerative change noted with some sclerosis. Joint space is preserved.”

It doesn’t answer the questions I would have as a non-medically trained patient… ‘degenerative change to which bit?’ Don’t be afraid to ask your GP to explain things to you. And don’t be afraid to ask them to get more information from the expert in question if the issues are not fully explained.

In this case my GP translates the radiologist’s report as the tops of my thigh bones having the degenerative issues and my joint sockets as being a-ok. My wonderful nurse friend has also said that if it doesn’t specify where the degeneration is then it means that it’s in the joint space (which includes the cartilage and the ends of the bits of the bones that help to form the joint), but as patients there’s not really any way we’d have of knowing so asking medical practitioners for more information can be very helpful.

Whereas a quick search on “sclerosis” wasn’t actually very helpful. *sigh* The various links advise that it is a thickening or hardening of tissue and then go off on various different specifics which may not relate to my personal situation. Once again the handy Nurse Isy crops up to advise that sclerosis is basically scarring – tissue that has been damaged and repaired, but the repairing tissue is different to the original tissue, it’s thicker and denser – hence the thickening and hardening effect.

Knowing that the joint space is still good is great news as it means that the bones are not grinding on each other, which would involve further issues to be looked at if they were.

As it turns out, I’ve been taking high strength glucosamine with chondroitin for, oooh, about 12ish years now I guess, maybe more. It’s a good combi’ for cartilage repair (not regrowth) and even repair to some small fissures which can occur in the ends of the bones at the joints; or at least that’s what the research said years ago! It’s still said to sometimes help with joint pain anyway. So who knows… maybe that’s part of the reason the issues are still noted as “minor”. Either way, it’s been no bad thing for my body to keep taking the combo’, which is rather nice to know. 🙂

So, if this was your medical info’ would you be champing at the bit to find out more yet? Okay, okay!

Now that we’ve checked out the terms one by one and got a clearer understanding of the basic issues as they relate to the specific patient’s body, let’s see what wider reading on the degenerative issue can tell us…

A search on “degenerative hip joint” basically brings up Degenerative Joint Disease and advises that it is also known as Osteoarthritis. Oh. Right. That seems pretty clear then! Except it’s not – it turns out that they are not the same thing in diagnostic terms at all, and each have very specific criteria which at this early stage I would not meet. So I had figured that I had early onset osteoarthritis, and yet it was not the case at all. I am predisposed towards it yes, I have early signs of hip degeneration yes, but at this moment in time I am a patient experiencing issues with my hips, but I am not a patient with a diagnosable hip condition. Again, another example of how tricky it is to find truly accurate and reliable information online, and another whopping great example of how important it is not to over-interpret what we find. Keep it specific to you and your body, don’t expand the information to broader health issues because they may have nothing to do with your current situation.

I would always advise the same filtering system to be in place when you search anything on the internet, especially anything health related because the impact of false or even just tangential info’ can be so problematic for our understanding and current health as well as how we are to assess any changes to our lifestyle for long-term health.

Rule of thumb: look for a medically sound website which is not pushing one aspect or another. We want to know what works, or not. Not what sells. Remember… ‘Just the facts, ma’am!’, and just relating to your body.

I found a link when I originally searched which noted all sorts of different treatments from cortisol injections to surgery, and I loved the information in that link because it was also noted that many of the treatments enabled a short-term improvement at the expense of worse long-term issues. I immediately knew that I’d not be opting for any of those and that my existing approach of exercise (including strengthening), good nutrition, and medical/fitness support on hand if I need it would be my way of working with this development. I have just searched again and haven’t found that link. That just goes to show why our self-imposed filter system is so important in these kinds of searches.

As far as me having hip problems goes, it’s no biggie. Many people get joint issues developing from middle-age onwards regardless of any pre-existing health issues. I’m just starting somewhat earlier that’s all. And it’s not like I don’t know how to manage pain, or how important both physio-exercise and recuperation-rest is. So this is easy to take in my metaphorical stride (even though I’ve been stuck on the sofa for several hours recovering and resting after my morning physio’ earlier today, I can still metaphorically stride, right? 😉 )!

But my letter that I’m using as an example could easily have been perceived as scarier. In fact this example could have been scarier simply by handling the learning process differently and failing to filter out the excess of information which may not even be relevant.

So if you’re going to search medical info’ (and I recognise any ‘expert patient’ is going to do that at some point because we’re the centre of our health web and need to know what’s what).. be aware of the importance of how to search medical information, and of the importance of keeping the info’ specific to your body. Most especially be aware of the huge importance of how to filter out the less reliable information and that which is less specific to your body. And never forget to allow yourself time for the emotions first – medical searches are not helpful when we’re feeling emotional in any way. Allow yourself time first, then if you’re going to search for something only do so when you are feeling calm because that means that our brain is in a better state to filter and work through the information accordingly.

And finally, there is a footnote in the letter from the expert, did you notice it?

Letter, hip x-ray, part 3

“Should she continue to have significant problems despite that a referral
to a local orthopaedic surgeon is advisable.”

Would it have worried you?

Remember: this is a footnote for my Doctor. It is not a note for me to worry about. If I go to her at some point in the future to report worsening hip problems it simply gives her a pre-set starting point instead of a new round of referrals to ascertain where it is best to send me first. That’s all. And in addition it also confirms that I’m doing the right things, which is always great to know.

Hoping this helps a little bit,

From your friendly blogger who, medically speaking, might actually be… quite hip?! 😉
(I know, *groan* right? Sorry).

(Not sorry, really. Hehe).

x

What I did on my AWOL-idays

Goodness me, I’ve missed being here! But where did I go?

Last Spring a Tai Chi mag’ asked for articles and I offered to write one about how much Tai Chi has helped me with my health issues. The tricky part was that they didn’t reply until this Winter, and you know how much pain we’re in through Winter, right? Yeouch! So I had to concentrate on writing the article as I was having far less Brain Time to write. The trouble began when I was subsequently asked a few extra questions and instead of them being practical health questions they were more about my experience and motivations…. and then my brain fell out.

The end! Eek!

I still don’t have much brain, but that’s hardly surprising coz I’ve actually been doing rather a lot while I’ve been missing my blog.

In the UK we have a cliche of the homework title that we were all had to write for when we were young children at school: “What I did on my holidays”, but as I’ve been awol I guess it’s “What I did on my awolidays”. Here’s what’s happened since I last got to write to you…

I spent a lot of time creating a CRPS FAQ for a support group that I admin’ in, and yes – it is to be uploaded here too. Most of it is now transferred to the weblog so I’ll be able to post it here soon, x

My beloved car, my companion for 7.5 years, started to keel over and I had to part with him. The Magic Dude and I have bought another but it’s not the saaaaaame!

I had lots of dentist appointments after losing an old crown from a molar tooth.

I had a haircut. That counts as ‘news’, right?! 😉

I finally got to go to a graduation ceremony for my MSc that I completed with my own CRPS research last year. The Open University do a good graduation ceremony 😀
P.S. I wore high heels across the stage… take that CRPS! Mwoohaaahaaa! Of course my wheelchair was nearby for the rest of the day, but, y’know, rawr!

I finally got to go and visit Stone Henge. Woot! As I now live on the south coast of the UK it wasn’t that far to travel and the wheelchair allowed ambling around the visitor centre and going for a cup of tea afterwards too.

Stone Henge

I went to see Giant Steve 2 at the cinema! (That’s Captain America 2, of course 😉 ). Although it was on the same day as the trip to Stone Henge (what was I thinking? Doh!) so I spent the whole time trying not to pass out!

Near-syncope at cinema

Not doing a very good job at guarding Magic Dude’s popcorn, eh?!

I finally got to start the salt tablets to see if they’d help the near-syncope at all as it’s been getting worse all year so far (more on that to come in a later post).

Lots and lots and lots of Tai Chi practice during physio’-time and in-my-head practice to strengthen those neural Tai-Chi-ing connections when I was able to do so. This was in preparation for one local and two national tournaments.

All sorts of doctors appointments for blood tests, blood pressure monitors, discussion after I ended up in Accident & Emergency (ER) one day and chasing up a nightmare referral to a local cardiologist (which still isn’t sorted). So you know, the usual!

I taught my first class of Tai Chi! Wow! My teacher was unavailable for a week so the two classes that I usually attend anyway as part of my physio’ became ones where I physio’d by teaching instead. Cor, who’d have thought eh? 🙂

I found that I have had so very horrifyingly little Brain Time that I turned to gaming in the last few weeks of the run-up to the last national tournament to let my brain and body wind down together. Magic Dude has had to replace his old laptop and he’s now got a sparkly newfangled one so we decided to finally try out the online Lord of the Rings game. 😀

I went to a concert – Seasick Steve, and he was aaaawesoooome! It was stoopid timing with the tournament stuff, but he really was ace and I really am stubborn!

Concert, Seasick Steve

I’ve spent the last few days away as poor ole Magic Dude hasn’t had any time off work for so many months (except to drive me to and from appointments and the tournaments) and I’ve been struggling with pain and near-syncope highs of 9s for many weeks now. So we got away, we saw Things, and we did Stuff.

And, in true ill-person style, I am now trying to recover from the few days that we spent away!

And now I’m back and have a huuuuge amount of things I want to do and there’s never enough time to do it all in. At least, there’s never enough time where my brain is working well enough and my pain levels are low enough to do all of the things I want to do, but you know I’ll try anyway!

More to come soon,

Hellos and hugs and bestest wishes from me,

x

Friends in my laptop and the festive season, xxx

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again! When there’s more to organise, to buy, to cook, more travelling, more socialising, and all whilst in pain / near-fainting / struggling to process information and more.

Too often we try to do everything ‘like we used to’, just to try to join in or make it special for kids and other loved ones. Even sometimes to avoid too much aggro’ from people who we only really see at this time of year simply because they just don’t understand why we seem to look ‘fine’ to them and yet we keep claiming we’re not fine / taking painkillers / going off to have a lie down etc.

Oh the joys of being ‘invisibly’ ill during special occasions! <wry smile>

Thank goodness I have my friends living here in my laptop!  Contact, understanding, humour – they all help us to keep going, especially through the tough times and all the more needed when it’s a tough time that many non-patients just don’t realise is so detrimental to us.

Some of us international buds have swapped addresses, so there I was in the Post Office earlier this month sending cards abroad to some of my international friends. Who’d have thought it, eh? I’ve gone from little lonely me who has trouble visiting friends nearby… to meeting up with friends in entirely different countries (so far we’ve only met inside my laptop but that totally counts! 😀 ).

Anyway, there I was telling the postlady which country each card was for so that she could price them accordingly (after commenting my approval of her very festive jumper of course). As she looked at one of the cards her eyes suddenly lit up and she started telling me about the trip she and her family took to Iceland last year. Her husband wanted to see the Northern Lights so they and their grown-up kids went for four days and crammed so much in to the time that I wondered how they did it! But it was wonderful to have a conversation with a random someone that wasn’t about the weather or something else mundane. Instead it was about one of the many countries my friends live in, and all these countries seem so much closer these days, more ‘real’ somehow than they ever could have before.

So, as christmas is what I will be celebrating here (with a little ‘c’ because I’m not religious, but christmas is a part of the culture I grew up in) I will be resting my legs with Magic Dude’s family around me (with a blanket and a hot water bottle whilst playing ‘Cluedo’ or ‘Snakes and Ladders’ with the nieces is likely) and at the same time I shall have my friends of near and far in my heart…

Knowing that my Icelandic friend will have her favourite dried fish as a treat, hearing in my mind my Belgian friend as she jokes about Belgian fries and beer, sending love to my friends from the Netherlands, grinning at the thought of one of my Canadian friends swapping beautiful hand-made gifts whilst wishing love to all my other Canadian friends, hoping that my Swedish friend actually has TV and internet by then (it’s just not right if she has to miss the christmas Dr Who!), knowing that my Swiss friend will probably awake on Christmas day covered in happy and warm cats, thinking of my French friend and hoping that she’s having a lovely restful time, crossing my fingers that my Australian friends are getting on okay with the different temperature over there, and thinking of my USA friends spending time with their families and pets.

And though this is an international themed post I of course will mention my wooonderful UK friends who all live in my laptop too. I can be sitting here in pain after very little sleep and way too much socialising for my brain to cope with the processing (as is always the case for me with any social gatherings) and yet I will still be smiling and thinking of you all.

You, my friends, are a lot of shining lights in my life that bring joy and peace to my heart. It is hard to express how much I care about each and every one of you, I value your love, your friendship, your happiness, your individuality, more than I can say.

Research shows that connecting with people online is a good and helpful thing, but it doesn’t tend to explore how real, true and deep friendships can be forged both in person and from afar. I feel that the value of the people who live in our laptops, computers, tablets and phones tend to be underestimated. There are real people in here, real friends, and when festivities push us too far there are always friends nearby ..as close as the nearest internet connection. How wonderful it is to know you all, xx

And just in case you fancy a chuckle.. I have created an alternate ’12 Days of Christmas’ song that we can sing alongside all the ‘normal’ healthy people, tee hee. So that we can sing it loudly without obviously singing something different.. I’ve made it rhyme with the original and tried to avoid too many loud ‘s’ noises whilst they’re singing softer sounds. Do you think too much thought has gone into this? 😉

Here’s the original…

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And here’s my version…

12 Days of christmas

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Or you can go for The Muppets way of doing things, of course! ….

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I will be thinking of you all and wishing you well as I do the christmas gathering in the 3D world. Wishing you love, light and happiness (and as low pain as possible this winter), big hug from me,

x

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Informal International Network of CRPS Bloggers:

Some excellent advice from Lili in Canada here: ‘Weathering the Winter Holidays

and from Jo in the UK (this one was posted last winter): ‘Getting Through Yule: Chronic Illness, Pain and the Festive Season

Isy in the USA discusses how celebrations vary around the world and that we don;t have to get swept along with them, we can create our own way of doing things that works for us: Happy Everything!

Suzy in the USA looks at her own loss of family and shares the way she keeps a journal to help her to deal with it day-to-day: A Christmas Wish

Photo Challenge for CRPS Awareness, Day 27

A Day In My Life Photo Challenge for 30 Days Of RSD/CRPS Awareness, June 2013

Day 27 – A picture of your favourite triumph in pain memory

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Okay, I’ve already mentioned the Tai Chi medals during the challenge, so today I’m going for the academic side of things.

On the 12th June I got the results for the final research module I’d completed in March towards my Masters Degree. I passed! Which also means that I have successfully completed my MSc. Hurrah!

Yes, I’ve got degrees before but this one was different. I studied for my BA Degree straight after school. I did it because I’d always expected to continue in education and back when I was 18 the UK education system did not involve scary tuition fees so the money we owed by the end of it could be just a few grand, not the devastating amounts that students find themselves owing these days. I was lucky. And I didn’t know how lucky I was at the time. I pottered along in life, got myself a job, met a guy, changed jobs to move to the same area as him, bought a house…. all that jazz.

By the time I studied for my BSc Degree I was in lots of pain. I studied it to retrain because I had a career path in mind, I wanted to make myself useful in the world and I’d spotted a niche that I could make a difference in. During that degree my health got worse, I went from crutches to wheelchair, I went from working to having to give up work, and I went from having no clue what was wrong with me to getting a diagnosis. The diagnosis turned up in the same month as my final exam.

My health was to scupper my career plans, but I didn’t know it back then so I rolled straight on into my MSc. I studied three of the four modules then had a major life rethink, and moved to a different county to be closer to my family. My family have always been most important to me in all the world so, unsurprisingly, my assessment of my new disabled life made me decide to change everything to be nearer to them. But I still could not give up all hope of following my career path, so I moved closer to my family but not right over into the same county because my hypothetical working future had more of a chance in the inbetweeny bit of geography. So, closer to my family and more of a chance of making a positive difference in the world. Ace, right?

But I had no money left to pay for the final module. As time went by my health got worse rather than better. By the time I’d saved enough money to do the final module (that took 6 years) the neuro’ symptoms were rife. My chances of studying to the standard I had done previously were seriously compromised. My viable study time was no longer ‘just’ affected by the chronic pain issues, but also by severe autonomic issues as well as brain fog that could render my brain pretty useless for days, and even weeks, at a time. I’d be a fool to spend the money on a venture like that, right?

So, fool or just plain determined maybe, I figured that my choice was to either a) try it and fail knowing that I’d at least tried, or b) not bother and always wonder if I could have done it. The second option didn’t appeal at all. So I went for option ‘a’.

Towards the end of the time period that I had available to get my research completed and written up as a dissertation… I lost my brain. For three looooong months. Good ole CRPS, thanks a bunch! So by the time I could comprehend things properly again I was three months behind. I was in a bad position but I wasn’t going to give up. The encouragement and belief in me from my friends online was phenomenal, plus my fellow students have been such a lovely bunch of people to travel this road with, of course Magic Dude did anything he could to help me healthwise so that I could concentrate on studying, not to mention the two amazing ladies who were my research reliability coders.

On the day that I completed my dissertation I took photo’s of the event. Whether I passed or failed would not detract from the achievement of just completing the challenge and doing the best I could for my fellow patients who I hope my research can eventually help.

But I did pass. And now I’m awaiting hardcopy feedback from the university so that I can address any issues before completing the paper for submission to an Open Access journal out there somewhere. I even entertain the thought of a PhD from time to time! But one step at a time. And each achievement should be celebrated rather than rushing on past it. Life is to be lived, good moments are to be savoured, and being proud of yourself is a good thing.

Completing the challenge was an achievement. Passing was a bonus!

MSc

x

P.S. If you’re thinking about studying despite your disability I say “go for it”! In the UK there is a Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) which can help you. It applies to all universities including the Open University (if, like me, regular attendance is not an option). Here’s a post I wrote previously about studying with the help of the DSA.

Photo Challenge for CRPS Awareness, Days 24 & 25

A Day In My Life Photo Challenge for 30 Days Of RSD/CRPS Awareness, June 2013

Day 24 – A picture of your favorite snack
Day 25 – A picture of your day

Two days in one go today coz I’m trying to catch up a little bit!

snack

Whatever fruit and veg’ I have to hand because it makes me feel more alert and functional, and always some ‘aged’ cheese because it helps my brain functionality. I get allergic if I eat much cheddar so this is Red Leicester (om nom nom). My fabulous blogging friend Isy made me aware of the cheese brain-boost, thanks Isy 🙂  Aged cheese boosts dopamine levels which helps our neurotransmitter chemicals to replenish more quickly. Which is really important as making all the tiny decisions that we have to make as a result of the complications in every day life as chronically ill patients actually depletes our neurotransmitters much quicker than in healthy people.

Oh, and I love bananas but my jaw is so painful these days that I can’t open my mouth wide enough to eat them so I have to cut them in half longways!

I’ll eat a snack like that whilst sitting in a position like this…

Elle and the Auto Gnome, at the laptop

Though not always this upright, (courtesy of the near-fainting), and more often on the sofa than the bed at the moment.

x