Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The one you don't really know, yet accused- invisible illness

I have been pretty fortunate overall to have understanding people, but over the 12 years I have experienced all of these at one point or another by someone. Many close friends have had the unfortunate experience of losing MANY more people than I have and dealt with a lot more issues more frequently related to all this. I just felt like I needed to educate people on invisible illness and the need to not make assumptions just because someone doesn't look sick.

The one you called lazy has been up all night sick & fought to get out of bed just to make it through the doors to work or school.

The one you say is attention seeking because they use a medical device or parked in HP spot & doesn't "look" sick considered leaving that device at home, just to appear normal, but would be putting health and comfort at risk.

The one who went to the bathroom after eating only a few bites that you accused of having an ED has a paralyzed GI tract (Gatroparesis and Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction) & can't keep food down.

The one you judged & shut up for being honest when you asked how they felt just needed someone they thought cared to open up with. Don't ask if you don't really want to know.

The one you cut out of your life because they can't spend as much social time with you and missed your party or wedding has been fighting just to make it through a single day & accomplish basic daily tasks and chores. Why not visit THEM for once and plan an activity they can participate in?

The one you used to love & cut out of your life because they are not the same has an invisible illness & needs to be understood. Listen to their story. If you don't believe them, talk to others who are in the same shoes. So many people with the same stories aren't making this stuff up! Plus, look at the medical test results and description of what their diagnosis can do!

The one who didn't buy you a nice gift in return for a nice gift you gave them is on disability, has high medical expenses & is just trying to keep from going into debt from medical bills and general living expenses alone.

The one you accused of being depressed and not physically caring for themselves had to lay down five times in between bathing, dressing, taking meds, and doing simple "get ready to go out" tasks. They may have had to shower the day before simply to be able to get up and go the next day.They may have been up for two-three hours just preparing to go out and be somewhat presentable. They are just TIRED from simply doing that and may not feel very social!

The one you gossiped about for not dressing as appropriately as necessary may not be able to wear "normal" clothes. They may have a paralyzed gut that holds food in, making them bloated and they need to wear comfortable clothes. Their hair may be falling out from poor nutrition and they may need that scarf or hat to hide bald spots. They may have pain from osteoporosis, neuropathy, auto-immune disorders, and need to wear comfortable shoes.

The one you accused of being self-focused and not caring about you is dealing with so many overwhelming pressures and fears themselves that sometimes they just can't give back what you expect or want. But they DO care about you too.

People with invisible illnesses need your support & need to feel included. They need to be treated normally, but also need to know you are there for them if they need you. Don't think of them as being lazy, attention seeking, making things up, self-centered, or not caring about you & YOUR needs too. Your accusations only make their situations worse and harder to manage.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 11, 2006 vs. March 11, 2011

I'm too tired to blog much for March 11, 2006. I'll write more on the 12th (it actually is the 12th, but this is for the 11th!). It was two days before my transplant. I honestly don't remember much about those last few weeks. Either I was too sick to comprehend them much, or the anesthesia and transplant trauma wiped out the last few weeks of my pre-transplant life. I'm basing my memories on the overall life before transplant and fill-ins from what I have been told.

For tonight I am just going to say that I know on March 11, 2006 it was a Saturday. I never liked Saturday's. I don't know why...they were just like almost any other day except the TV shows were all different. They seemed to drag on FOREVER. Plus, my mom usually went grocery shopping or out to run other errands so I would get kind of lonely. That just describes how much my life was so limited. It all revolved around surviving...just getting through one minute, one hour...from one TV show to the next. There was nothing I looked forward to. I was glad when I slept, and not happy to be awake! There was nothing to live for, at least not that I felt!

The difference now? I fight sleep! I want to be awake more often than not. I have too much to do to sleep. Sleep? Who has time for that? I have a website to launch, fans to keep updated, friends to connect with, people to see, errands to run, projects to work on, phone calls to make, e-mails to answer...oh, can't forget about my Frontier...can't let the chicken go hungry, gotta cure the pox...oh wait, it's 6 PM...have I even had a snack all day to supplement my tube feedings? Dang, it's time to hook up. I don't have the time to hook up! Wait...tomorrow I am supposed to do what? But I want to do that now while it's on my mind and I know I am anxious to get it done. Must I stop what I am doing? Which project do I make priority? They are all priorities and I wanted to have them all done last week! What is on TV these days anyway? Carissa time? HA! I've gone to the OTHER end of the spectrum! Now I am trying to make up for what I lost!

It's all become background noise...the TV isn't how I pass the time or define my days and time. My days tend to fly by too quickly now because they are so full of...something! Something productive. Something with hope and a future. Something that could change the world. Something selfless and others focused. Something that keeps my heart beating with passion...and sometimes with anxiety and stress! :) But nonetheless, I love it. I love life. I love waking up with things to do and I hate going to sleep until it's all done. It will never be done, so I prefer not to sleep. Of course, that only lasts so long......and then I find myself asleep on the keyboard in the middle of a project, e-mail, or FB message...sometimes I read my outbox and think to myself...what was I thinking??? I was obviously half asleep. I have woken up in the middle of the night with my fingers still on the keyboard and a completely nonsensical message halfway completed. Good thing I never hit send...I push myself to the ultimate end until I literally, drop off to sleep. I just enjoy being awake and enjoying every moment I have. I don't want to sleep through them...even the tough ones I want to face up front. I'm not quite THAT strong though...I DO have my days when I just prefer to take my "happy drugs" and just sleep it all off. I just know it will all still be there when I wake back up, but I'm ok with that. I can handle it now. It's not too much for me and I welcome the challenge. There is way too much GOOD in my life to let life bring me down for long. Sure, I get down, but it doesn't take long for me to get back up anymore because I know I don't have the time for that...and speaking of sleep...more blogging later on the 12th...hopefully on the actual 12th and not the 13th!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My life March 10, 2006 vs.now

On March 10, 2006, it was a Friday, just three days before I would get my transplant call. I'm sure I had to go to 7W that day for something because I was so sick. I was living at the Family House with my mom where we had been since Dec. 2004. I had given up on ever getting a call by this point. The hardest part of transplant world is the wait...the never ending wait for that call. Knowing you always had to be near a phone or pager in case the call came in, the limitations on traveling so you could be close to the hospital, and then getting the dreaded call that doesn't end up working out in the end after hours of prep for surgery.

Kareem had asked me days earlier if I was starting to give up. I was. It was my turn for organs. It had been for a long time. So many who came after me and were far less ill had already received theirs and were returning to more normal lives and had been able to go "home home" from the hospital. I needed that call...and soon. The real one. I needed my organs or I wanted to just go home and finish out whatever days I had left.

The previous week my mom had left Pittsburgh and come home to take a break, at the advice if my doctors, so she would be strong and capable of caring for me post-tx. She left me in the care of my grandmother. I was so scared while she was gone and sobbed and sobbed up to her leaving because I was so scared that while she was gone, my grandmother would walk in my room one morning and find me dead. I knew there wasn't much time, but I never told my family this. I kept that bottled up inside.

Now, 5 years later I am living at home again and not sitting around waiting for the call. In fact, I am trying to avoid any calls that have anything to do with Pittsburgh! Some of my friends transplanted before me are doing well, and some I have lost. But I am plugging away and have been able to move on with my life outside of the hospital and away from Pittsburgh. My life no longer revolves around Pittsburgh and my health, but is more about my life and Pittsburgh and my health is part of my life. It is NOT my life any more. I can focus on the future more in terms of months and years, rather than days or hours. I no longer have to hook up to complicated and dangerous IV feedings, antibiotics, or deal with central line sterility. I have a feeding tube now, but I am much safer with it than IV lines and generally manage the feedings much better than I did pre-transplant. In spite of that, I am still able to eat and drink some to supplement them.

I have been able to resume my hobbies and start new ones. I get out of bed on my own and shower on my own, and the years of sponge bathing to protect my IV lines are a memory. My mom has been able to return to work and her more normal life too. She no longer has to care for me 24/7. I do not have to accept deliveries of TPN and supplies once a week, and my refrigerator has FOOD and DRINKS instead of bags of white fluid full of lipids, vitamins, and minerals intended to drip through a vein and not enter naturally- like through the mouth. What is in my refrigerator now is much tastier and less stinky too (unless I forget to clean it out regularly...and find baking soda boxes that expired in 2007...)...

What I was doing on March 9, 2006 vs.now

My transplant b-day is on March 13, 2011. I am writing some of my thoughts of life before transplant down as I am about to turn five years old with my new organs!

On March 9, 2006 I was lying in bed all day watching TV and sleeping, hardly able to walk a few feet to the bathroom, unable to care for myself at all. I needed my mom to keep track of everything for me, put my meds together, and hook me up to my IV fluids and TPN every day. I was hooked up to two drainage tubes from my gut, IV lines, and an ostomy bag. I was never on the computer and disconnected from everyone. People tired me out and my previous love for kids changed because they were too energetic for me to keep up with. I had no hobbies, no life whatsoever. I was unable to keep up with G-PACT and had no passion to see it continue or succeed. I had stopped going to church years before this because I was too tired to ever get out of bed that early and didn't make it a priority to try. I never went out for fun. I had no energy and was very depressed. I was very malnourished at 62 pounds and nearing the end of my life at that point.

Now I am able to drive most of the time, can care for myself physically, volunteer with kids at LCBC (my church) and in the office during the week. I have a Life Group from church and have developed some very close friendships. My passion for G-PACT is so extreme and my desire to see its success and help find a cure for DTP is phenomenal, even stronger than the early years when it was founded. I want to fight for everyone, whether I will ever personally physically benefit from it as a result or not.

I love people so much. I love everyone and value every single relationship I have. Whether I know someone in person or just through the internet, I love you and want to help you and get to know you better. I don't care whether we agree politically, religiously, or what your background is...it doesn't matter. Even if you cut me down or don't agree with some of the things I do or the way I think, it doesn't matter. I care about you, perhaps sometimes too much that it really affects me! Your life matters to me. Your hurt, pain, and burdens, no matter what they may be, are important to me.

I absolutely love kids. It hurts when I want to get down on the floor and wrestle and tangle, but just don't have the strength or energy and have to to be careful to not break any bones! But I often ignore that and find myself in a "pillow sandwich" anyway! I push myself to the limits because I want to make up for so many lost years in bed. I love it. I love being busy. I love waking up in the morning with a lot to do! I love working with people to fight DTP and I love the activities, opportunities I have had, and the fabulous people I have met in the past five years that I wouldn't have if not given a second chance!

So, since March 9, 2005 one of the biggest things for me that I have been able to experience is life in a new way...with new vision, new perspective, new passion, new love, renewed hope, and a totally changed attitude towards the importance of life and living it out to the absolute fullest. My love for others has changed. I want to give back to everyone however I can since I will never be able to give back what was given to me! I want to utilize the gift I have been given to the maximum by giving and improving life for others through any means possible...whether a cure for DTP, a relief of a burden, hope, a joke to make you laugh, a card or gift to make you smile, or doing a simple task to help lighten your load!