Pig With a Purpose: The True Value of Pocket Change


One of my favorite and earliest childhood memories is how my dad would come home from work every day and empty his pocket change into this big, clear jar on his dresser. Slowly, that jar would fill up &  and when it started to get near empty-ing time (hardly ever did we wait till it was actually FULL), my sisters and I would add in any change from our (sad) little piggy banks and the fun began! 

For awhile we put the coins into wrappers, we learned to sort them, count them, and break them up into equal piles once they were sorted by coin type, it was a fun learning task, a fun thing we did together. After sorting we would all go to the bank and get cash. Later on, though, we found a magical new way to do things…

Suddenly we could pour the change into the AMAZING coin eating machine! This magical being somehow counted our coins and spit out a receipt that dad gave to the bank tellers and in return, they gave us… CASH!! WOOHOO! 

My dad would give each of us girls part of the pot – sometimes it was more, sometimes less. Sometimes more pennies, sometimes more quarters. Either way, we each got some money and that was so exciting. But we would also talk about how some people don’t have as much as we do, some kids don’t ever get $5,$10,$20, they don’t even get new toys or special ice cream treats or in the worst situation we could imagine the kids didn’t even have 3 meals a day or a house with enough rooms for everyone, enough beds, or heat during the winter.

My dad often bought groceries for families in need, spent time at school checking in with the kids who lacked a healthy support system at home, and he was available around the clock, 24/7 for the staff and families that worked/attended the school where he was principal. He is truly a beloved pillar in our community. I was, and still am, always so proud of him and all he does for others; he is a true inspiration. 

So even though we wanted the money for ourselves, we learned how to be empathetic and we experienced first hand that it is a HUGE GIFT to be able to GIVE. I am so thankful to have two parents who instilled this in us just by being them, just by showing  it in their day to day actions and words. They never ask for more, never complain or want, they give all they can and sometimes maybe more than that. 

I can only hope that I will be able to do so much good for others with no underlying goal for approval or recognition, simply b/c we are inspired and driven to do so. 

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If you and/or your children have a piggy bank that is awesome, if you do not have one but would like to start one, I absolutely encourage you to do so. Whether you donate or keep the funds to yourself it is a fabulous way for kids to learn about money, learn about money management or how to spend some save some, or how to be generous and donate!

If you want to donate, I can recommend a fabulous cause 😉

If your child would be interested in helping create a package for a young newbie tubie around their age they can sponsor a Newbie Tubie Care Package!

You can do this through a monetary donation or you can purchase the items to put together a package for a specific tubie based on their age & interests!

We have online wishlists via Etsy & Amazon – book wishlists, button buddy wishlists (purchase an animal for me to create a button buddy – animal with matching feeding tube), tubie essentials on Etsy, and then we have shopping guides to tell you what we include in each package, that way you have a guide to follow as you shop in person or online!

It’s an incredible gift and it means so much to our tubies, young or older, to know someone put these items together specially for them! It’s also a great experience for gift GIVER. Learning early on how great it feels to GIVE is an invaluable lesson that no amount of rolled up pennies, or even quarters, could buy, it is a “live it to learn it lesson.”

We have lots of young children & young adult tubies (mostly ranging from ages 0-36, but also older tubies) so sponsoring NewbieTubies of any age (child or adult) is welcome and SO meaningful, truly SO appreciated! You can make anonymous donations, sponsor anonymously, or you can send a card with your info so that the tubie you sponsored can get in touch if they want to do so!

I will link our wishlists and provide contact info so you can let us know if you have any questions or want to get involved in any way aside from making a donation.

Thanks for reading and share if you can! 

ETSY MUST HAVES: https://www.etsy.com/people/rsb4fc/favorites/newbie-tubies-wish-list?page=3

AMAZON:   

MAIN LIST: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1J7LHVRD4V3A6?ref_=wl_share

BUDDIES : https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/W9IXBH9TFV4A?ref_=wl_share

Sponsor a Book! https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/A2HGIE93P9BL?ref_=wl_share

PAY PAL: positivelyrachel101@gmail.com // VENMO positivelyrachel/positivelyrachel101@gmail.com

Shop Away, Newbie Tubie Style

Below are NewbieTubie Package shopping lists and links to our wishlists for items we are in need of right now! This list is current and we keep our wishlists updated based on supply!

We are so thankful for each and every donation, we truly cannot do this without your support and generosity! We are in need of donor support for products as well as for shipping fees to keep going, so share our posts to help us reach more donors so that our loyal followers and community don’t have to keep funding it 😉

Thank you in advance and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or suggestions on fundraising or other possibilities ✨

ETSY: https://www.etsy.com/people/rsb4fc/favorites/newbie-tubies-wish-list?page=3

AMAZON:   MAIN LIST: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1J7LHVRD4V3A6?ref_=wl_share

BUDDIES NEEDED: Purchase A Buddy to sponsor a button buddy! Add a note so we know who it is from and we will send you photos when we create the Button Buddy and send it out! 

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/W9IXBH9TFV4A?ref_=wl_share

Sponsor a Book! https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/A2HGIE93P9BL?ref_=wl_share

PAY PAL: positivelyrachel101@gmail.com // VENMO positivelyrachel/positivelyrachel101@gmail.com

SHOPPING LIST: ITEMS WE NEED: 

MINI GERM X – you can get these for 97C at Walmart as well as at any pharmacy or the dollar store! It is SO important that our recipeints have these while they heal, especially since they are having surgery during COVID19. So when you shop for yourself in person, for pickup, or online, add in a few for Newbie Tubies! 

MINI Q-TIP Containers! We need q-tips! The travel sized ones are PERFECT for our care kits! You can find them RIGHT BESIDE the MINI GERM-X at walmart for 97C or at the dollar store for $1! What a steal! We put these in EVERY PACKAGE we can! 

BARRIER CREAMS – We need barrier creams (similar to diaper creams!) for our newbies to use as their stomas (tube sites) heal! 3x antibacterial ointment and calmoseptine also work, if you find them in small tubes we can send those out! Off brands accepted!

CHAPSTICK – We are out of chapstick and it is almost that season again! Any type of chapstick is accepted, so send us your favorite kind to share with a newbie!

FACE MASKS/Self Pampering- (Skin care masks, not surgical/COVID masks, tho we do need those , too!) We love including care items as well as spa/pamering items like face masks & epsom soaks and nail kits to let people do at home pampering post op! A little self care is always comforting and makes you feel nice and fresh, so send us some of your favorite face masks and soaks or any other self pampering products so we can send those out!

FACE MASKS – AGAIN? We do love including surgical masks, so if you make cute COVID masks, send them our way!

Baby Bath & More – We need baby bath supplies as well! Fun items like bath paints are always great but also sponges, towels, bubble bath, and bath toys are welcome! We also use baby socks, chewies, and all care items.

Onesies – Solid colored onesies – if you have any of these on hand or see them on sale, send them our way!

FUZZY SOCKS – who doesn’t love these? 

TUBIE ITEMS- We always need tubie pads, clips, tracheostomy pads, and more! Our Etsy list is the place to go!

BOOKS – What are some of your favorite childhood books? We collect books for children ages 0-10, so donate any lightly used or new books that we can include in packages! We put at least one book in each child’s package; whenever possible, we include a book written about tubies! We have a “Sponsor a Tubie Book” list on amazon that has books written specifically for/about tubies! That is linked here!

Like buddies, the books on this list can be such fabulous tools for kids to learn about feeding tubes and alternative feeding! They help explain the “why” and “how” in a non-scary way that helps kids feel a lot more comfortable with the tubes, both tubie and kids who are siblings or children of a tubie, classmates, friends, etc. 

Both toys and books are a way kids learn about the world and normalize, so reading about feeding tubes with young kids can make them into something they are aware of, have a basic understanding of, and don’t consider to be icky or scary or weird. How cool is that? Kids are truly incredible in how open they are to learning and how ready they are to accept new, different things if we make them open and available to them. 

BUTTON BUDDIES – We are always looking for stuffed animals to use to create our Button Buddies! We do accept lightly used bears if they are in great shape and haven’t been kept in bed with you or chewed on by babies or dogs, etc. We also have a wishlist on Amazon that has lots of fabulous options that can be sent directly to us! 

Button buddies are a tubie’s best friend. They are a learning tool for newbies and fabulous for showing children how to care for a tube, to show they are not scary or bad, they are just another way to eat! We encourage parents with young tubies to use button buddies as a tool to normalize the feeding tube for the tubie as well as their friends, siblings, and classmates. Books and buddies are a huge gift to a newbie, they truly bring light to their eyes and joy to their faces. 

Buddies are also a comfort when you are admitted, traveling long distances to see doctors, and having infusions or shots or any type of treatment! No matter the age, having a buddy can bring some comfort, and any amount of comfort or joy you can bring into such a serious and scary situation is a huge deal.

You now have the opportunity to sponsor a buddy! Simply purchase a stuffed animal from our wishlist on amazon (or anywhere else) and it will be sent straight to us where we will create the button buddy! Make sure to add in a note with your name and contact information so we can send you a photo of the buddy you sponsored and who it went to! 

We include Button Buddies in as many packages as possible, and thanks to both AMT Medical Supply & ESutures we are able to create & send these to so many more tubies! We couldn’t do that without their generosity. 

Thank you to everyone who reads, shares, and donates to our efforts. You are all making a difference for someone who’s is in need of happy mail and love, so you can feel good about that. Sometimes giving feels even better than getting, and I can guarantee that this is one of those times 🙂

A Day in the Life of a Migraineur

A guest post by John Martinez with Axon Optics…

A day in the life of a migraineur is not a normal day. It’s like a day of playing dodgeball, but if you get hit, you have to call out of work and live with head-splitting pain. Migraine triggers can appear at any time, and the migraine can rear its ugly head on a moment’s notice. 

Living with migraines can sometimes feel like going on vacation, without any of the relaxation of going on a vacation. You need to check the weather, make sure you’ve packed everything you need, and always have a backup plan in case things go south. 

If you have a friend or family member that experiences migraines, this is worth a read. A day in the life of a migraineur revolves around migraines: avoiding them, treating them, and explaining them to others. 

Avoiding Migraine Triggers 

A day in the life of a migraineur often includes dodging triggers. The list of migraine triggers goes on as long as a migraine itself. Any of the following could also cause a head-splitting migraine:

  • Hormonal changes 
  • Changes in the weather
  • Stress 
  • Certain levels of physical activity
  • Strong smells
  • Bright lights
  • Loud music 
  • Dietary changes 
  • Caffeine or alcohol 

 

A day in the life of a migraineur may include turning down an invitation to happy hour, staying inside when they want to go outside, or trying to change an event to a more quiet and low-key location. All the while, the migraineur is attempting to stay calm, because too much stress may just bring on the migraine they are trying to avoid. 

Throughout the day, migraineurs may be recording their diet and activities in order to discover and control their triggers. Not all people with migraines are triggered by the same things – the process of pinpointing triggers and then avoiding them can take up an entire block of a migraineur’s day. 

What’s In A Migraineur’s Purse? 

It’s not always easy to dodge these triggers; how are you supposed to know when a change in barometric pressure is going to cause numbness and pain throughout your entire body?  

If migraineurs can’t avoid migraine triggers, they will have to treat migraine symptoms. This means carrying a bag with everything they need to deal with migraines. 

Medication 

Over-the-counter medications offer some of the quickest relief to migraines. It’s always good to have your painkiller of choice on hand when symptoms start to arise. Over the counter medications include Aleve/naproxen, Excedrin Migraine, ibuprofen, and Motrin migraine. 

For those of us who have severe, chronic migraines there are also prescription medications that you can take when you have a migraine coming on, imitrex being the most commonly used. There are quite a few options for daily medications and even some shots that are supposed to work for a month at a time, but these are new and not always covered by insurance, like any other med, they don’t work for everyone.

Hormonal medications may also help to regulate migraines – but this is not applicable to everyone. Female migraineurs should talk to their doctor about taking contraceptives or other hormonal medication if they have migraines. 

A Cold or Hot Compress 

This lifesaver can also provide relief in a pinch. Cold or hot compresses against the back of the neck or on the forehead can help to numb some of the excruciating pain of a migraine. Unfortunately, it won’t treat blurry vision or other types of numbness. 

Sunglasses

I recommend FL-41 Glasses specifically!

Migraine glasses, also known as FL-41 glasses, have begun to give a lot of migraineurs hope. These rose-tinted glasses have been crafted to block out rays that trigger photophobia (sensitivity to light.) They can be worn indoors or outdoors. Migraineurs who don’t enjoy wearing glasses can order FL-41 contact lenses.

If you have ever experienced photophobia, you probably get significant relief by wearing sunglasses indoors. However, research shows that over time, it can make your light sensitivity WORSE. Maybe too much of a good thing really can be bad? If you want more information on this, check out, “Why Wearing Sunglasses Inside is a Bad Idea”   by John Martinez at Axon Optics.

Caffeine – coffee, coke, etc.

Like hormonal medication, caffeine can either cause migraines or treat it. A small can of cold brew or a soda sometimes helps migraine patients, but this is not a widely successful trick and is definitely not a long term answer. 

The Dark

Sometimes nothing helps with a migraine and you are stuck laying in bed in the dark, wishing away the pain and nausea and whatever else comes along with your migraine, everyone has their own “aura” or mix of symptoms – light sensitivity and sound sensitivity are some of the most brutal triggers, so stepping out of your cave, trying to turn on a light to focus on a task, or even just looking at your iPad to Netflix your migraine away can cause a massive wave of killer discomforts of all kind.

Eye masks/sleep masks and ear plugs are your friend. Noise machines with peaceful background sounds like fans, white noise, rain, etc. can also help block out the more painful noises and give your brain something to focus on that ins’t “dangerous.”

Support

Most importantly, don’t fight alone, except when you’re mid-migraine and can’t stand even the smallest of noises.

Whether you find your support through religion, family or friends, your dog, or an inspirational playlist on your phone, it is important to have something that helps you stay positive and hopeful. There are also support networks on facebook and other social media sites that can make a big difference. Of course, having a supportive doctor is also very important, so keep that number in your wallet, too.

…But Don’t Take Our Word For It 

Every migraineur has a different experience. While some people feel like an ice pick is piercing their temple, other people experience numb fingers and blurry vision. (These are real quotes, by the way.) Some people may experience symptoms for mere minutes, others, for hours or even days.

Whatever it feels like, it doesn’t just feel like “a headache.” Lucky for most, you won’t ever have to feel this pain, but part of being a migraineur involves telling people that migraines are not just headaches, that they are serious, and that they need more awareness, more research, and more treatment options, much like any other chronic, misunderstood illness.

 

Guest blogger John Martinez, in association with Axon Optics, edited / posted by Positively Rachel as an awareness post for chronic migraines

Thank you, John for sharing with us, as always I am excited and grateful to have a guest blogger!

If you want to read more about migraines and how they affect daily life, you can check out my own work on a previous post, “Chronic Migraines: More Than Just a Headache” or “Kids Get Migraines, Too!”.

My Story: Year 3 Tubie

**Happy Feeding Tube Awareness Week! This is the first new post, keep your eyes open this week for more posts including but not limited to : Tips for Tubies, a project update, New tubies: Products to start with and where to get them, more on my personal experiences, and a special video! It’s also a great week to buy a painting or send a donation to Newbie Tubie Care Packages, so click here if you’re interested in more information on that :)**

Next month, in March of 2k18, I will celebrate both my 22nd birthday and my 3 year tube-iversary. In March of 2015 I was in school at UVA where I celebrated my 19th birthday on March 8th and then was admitted to the hospital the next week with a blood infection from my central line, which was keeping me nourished and hydrated at the time. On March 24th I was again admitted to the hospital for surgery to place my first long term feeding tube, a GJ tube that went through my stomach and into my intestine where I get my feeds.

 

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Our first admission– Dec. 2013, I was 17 and a senior in high school

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My admission in Dec 2014– first year at UVA but about to get a picc line!

 

Although I’ve had gastroparesis since high school, I never could have imagined that my case would become so severe, leaving me with a feeding tube(s) that could be part of my life indefinitely, taking me out of school, and changing the way I was able to plan for the future. When I first got my tube, my doctors hoped it would only be for a few months or maybe a year if I was really struggling, but we had no idea that my “flare” was about to become my new normal. Instead of having a few months of worsened symptoms like I had in the past, I waited a year… and then another year… and now another year with no relief.

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March 2015; I did a trial feed with an NJ tube and then scheduled surgery!

 

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That’s my GJ tube in the fall of 2017, before surgery!

After I finished my first year of college my health was at an all time low and I wasn’t able to go back to school in the fall. My tubes did help my nutrition, but I never tolerated them well enough to get in as much feed as the doctors wanted me to, never enough to gain a lot of weight back. It’s been three years on medical leave now; my classmates, my friends, will graduate in the spring and I won’t have had another day to be there with them.

My parents and I worked so hard to find answers, anything that would bring even partial relief; our original goal was that I could go back to school, but after a year and a half of incredibly severe symptoms and the addition of 3-4 new diagnoses, our goals became things like, “getting Rachel out of the house more… helping get her able to volunteer or babysit sometimes,” and at my worst times, it’s just “getting Rachel more energy and less pain/nausea so she can get out of bed…” From the Fall of 2015 through Summer of 2016, I saw at least three different specialists who are top in the nation on my conditions. Sadly, there are only a few medications that are used for gastroparesis, most of them not even FDA approved, and they can have nasty side effects.

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4 hour cardiology/EDS appointments are always an adventure 🙂

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Family road trip to Cleveland! They try to make these trips somewhat enjoyable.

My last (and current) motility specialist is at the Cleveland Clinic and is considered to be one of the top specialists in the world on gastroparesis and dysmotility conditions. He did extensive testing to find a root cause of my GP and to try to find a treatment option, but what we found out is that my gastroparesis had gotten so bad that the numbers were matched with only one other girl’s testing as the second worst cases in CC records. I actually met the other girl online and have been able to talk to her and compare notes and, sadly, she’s still struggling in huge ways—she could use your thoughts/prayers.

Because my dysmotility (lack of motion, “motility”) has moved into my intestines and almost stopped my colon’s motion (colonic inertia), my options are very limited. I had one viable treatment option that we were told was a long shot at working, but it’s my best/only shot. We have been working for over a year now to get IVIG (IV immunoglobulin therapy) approved, it has been a long and tedious attempt that has involved 3 doctors and multiple infusion centers, lots of disappointment, and plenty of reality checks. There isn’t a great chance of it working, but it’s essentially my last major treatment option, so it’s what we have to keep fighting for.

Last year around this time, a few months before, I started having a lot of trouble with my GJ tube flipping up into my stomach leaving me unable to do feeds. Because it was happening 2/3 times a month, I was getting malnourished and dehydrated and had lost even more weight—my all time low. It was decided that I needed to have a jtube placed, one that goes straight into your intestine, not through the stomach first, but it took us awhile to make that happen.

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Tubie bear needs an update- surgery!

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Recovery is the hardest part….

 

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Double tubie at Christmas time

 

It took me almost another year to get that surgery done due to my malnutrition and some complications with doctors and finding a surgeon who would take on my case, but on October 18th I had surgery for my new feeding tubes. There were some complications during surgery as well as in the week post-op, and recovery was long and extremely painful. But, during that time I came up with my plan for my new project, Newbie Tubies, and now that has come to life and is such a wonderful part of my life.

I may not have ever been able to imagine my life turning out this way, but I have learned, been inspired, shared my knowledge, and seen things in a new perspective. I couldn’t do it without the support of my family, I’m so, so blessed to have parents who are willing to do anything needed to care for me and help me be comfortable.

 

Being a tubie is just a part of me now, and I’m more than happy to share all I can about that for Feeding Tube Awareness Week. <3

More Acrylic Pours For Sale!!

A Glimpse at Inaccessibility From a First Time Wheelchair User

The other day I had my first experience using a wheelchair in public. Out of four and a half years of being chronically ill I’ve reserved wheelchair use to rolling in and out of the hospital, mostly out of pride. My illnesses limit me in so many ways, I didn’t want to allow it to take any other ability from me either. So instead of using a wheelchair as an aide when I was sick and weak, I powered through or sat on the sidelines. Recently, I decided letting life go by because I’m too stubborn to admit I need help is silly and I ventured out for a day of shopping with my girlfriend. I made it through the first few stores leaning on the shopping cart as support but by the end of the day it was clear I needed to use a wheelchair. I expected the stares from strangers but what I didn’t expect was the blatant inaccessibility “accessible” places are.

Because I was too weak, I required my girlfriend to push me. This tied up her hands and crossed out the option of a shopping cart or basket to carry our items. Suddenly I found lap full of various things we wanted to purchase. While this wasn’t a huge pain this time, it would’ve been a problem if we were buying more or heavier items. How can shops expect a wheelchair user to navigate with either a small basket attached to a motorized cart or no basket at all?

The second thing that was an issue was my sight line was cut in half making it impossible to see the higher selves and options on them. While shopping in one of my favorite stores, I found myself able to see only about half of what I normally experience while shopping. And forget trying to reach anything on a high self, it was hard enough to grab things from my sitting position in the wheelchair.

But by far the biggest problem we ran into (pun intended) was the fact that the aisles weren’t wide enough. I’m sure anyone will admit the aisles in stores are narrow and navigating it with a shopping cart is hard enough, but I never imagined how hard it would be to find my way in a wide wheelchair that wasn’t exactly fantastic at taking turns. We found ourselves bumping into corners and trying to wiggle our way out of the line of other shoppers trying to pass.

Until this recent experience, the inaccessibility of stores was never forefront in my mind. I knew my friends who use wheelchairs often encountered issues while shopping, I just never realized how frustrating and inconvenient it was. Making sure spaces are accessible is extremely important, but so is ensuring those spaces are truly accessible for all.

Blog by Carolanne Monteleone

You can find more by Carolanne @aheartforhumanity.wordpress.com

Learning to Live in Today

This week, while the class I began school with started their fourth year of college, I started my third year of medical leave.

People often ask me if it makes me sad to see posts about college or to drive through grounds when I’m headed to the hospital, but mostly what I feel is disbelief. How has it been so long? Does life really move on so easily without me? Will I ever get to be “normal” again? Do I even know what that means and could I return to it if I tried?

At a young age we start to understand that our lives follow a guided path; sure, everyone’s is different and we all stray from that path at times, but in general, it is set up for us. We grow up being loved and cared for, we learn right vs. wrong, we go to school and hopefully graduate. From there, you either get a job or “further your education,” aka more school. Some people get married, some have children, some do neither. The order isn’t the same for everyone, but we all make plans and in general, most people end up following some variance of “the path,” as I’m calling it.

Well, my path was altered in high school. I got (really) sick when I was about 16. It took me years to get real answers, in reality, I’m continuing to seek more answers to this day, but since getting sick, my life has been anything but “normal.” I spent time on homebound from high school, I did one year of college before withdrawing on medical leave, I’ve lost countless friends because of these illnesses, and I’ve lost any firm perspective on what my future may hold. However, I’ve also grown and become a stronger and wiser person.

Do I wish I were starting my fourth year with my friends right now? Of course. But I’ve learned that we can’t always predict where we will be in four years or four months or even four days…

You don’t have to fit anyone else’s mold. Yes, go to college; study whatever you want! Or, take a gap year. Travel. Volunteer. Be an actress, an athlete, an architect, a doctor, a musician. Be a stay at home mom, a stay at home dad. Be you.

Most importantly, don’t hold back. Splurge where ever you can, big or small. Do all you can to live in the moment and enjoy every possible second. Today, right now, is all you have. Now don’t go spending your family’s life savings on lottery tickets or a trip to vegas using the excuse “Rachel told you to,” but buy yourself something you’ve been wanting when you get your paycheck, just because you earned it. Take your parents or your family out to eat just because they deserve it. Do something just because it makes you or someone else smile, do it just to make memories.

Life is beautiful, but it is short and unpredictable. Throw caution to the wind and always follow your heart.

Battling Gastroparesis: Happy Awareness Month!

In December of 2013 I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Like majority of people, I had no idea what that was or what the diagnosis meant for my future.

When I got my diagnosis I was given minimal information about the condition, and because I didn’t know what it was back then, I didn’t know I wasn’t getting the full picture. I was told I had delayed movement in my stomach, it wasn’t emptying food like it should be. They told me gastroparesis is a chronic condition but since mine is what they call “idiopathic” or without findable cause, it was likely post-viral and would go away within a year or 18 months.

This discussion, my original gastroparesis diagnosis, lasted only minutes, and I was left to figure out most of it on my own. My parents and I left that hospital thinking I just had to get through this flare up and then it would hopefully go away for good. I had no idea on that day 4 years ago just how much gastroparesis was going to change my life.

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Some more info about GP– symptoms especially! And yes, that is my tube and a donut tubie pad!

Since my diagnosis in 2013, I have had countless tests and tried endless treatments, medications, diets, and therapies. Gastroparesis is extremely difficult to treat and there is no cure. In 2016 we found out that my dysmotility (movement disorder) had moved into my intestine and colon as well, so that became a major complication. Luckily at this point my parents and I had become experts on my conditions; after my original diagnosis we started to learn how to do our own research, we joined online support communities, and we went to see specialists who could give us more information about my conditions and prognoses as I was diagnosed with more conditions down the road.

The journey you go through when living with gastroparesis and generalized dysmotility is extremely taxing on both your body and mind; it’s exhausting and disappointing to try and try again and often get little to no relief. But, we have to keep trying in hopes that one day we will find the right treatment and hopefully a cure.

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As part of awareness month, I want to give you a glimpse at what it’s like going through testing and treatment with gastroparesis, so I’m going to list some of the tests, procedures, and treatments I’ve tried over my time with GP.

I was originally diagnosed with an Upper GI series, an endoscopy, and a 90 minute gastric emptying scan. Since then, I’ve had 3 more 4 hour emptying scans, multiple endoscopies, countless EKGs, lots of ultrasounds, endless x-rays, a breath test (SIBO), esophageal manometry, anal manometry, smart pill test, CT scans, MRIs, and so much more. And these are only the tests that have to do with GP—not my other conditions.

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I’ve tried physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, dry needling, chiropractors, and essential oils. I try keeping up with walking and core strength and I keep a positive mind set—no one can tell me I’m sick because I’m depressed! 😉 I’ve even read mindfulness books and watched documentaries on how to “heal your body,” although I wasn’t 100% sure about that one!

When I was able to eat, I’ve also tried a lot of diet adaptation. I was on the BRATS diet, low FODMAP diet, gluten free, dairy free, a gastroparesis diet, a liquid diet more than once, and I’ve been on both TPN and tube feeds. As of now I am completely dependent on my feeding tube for nutrition and my port for IV fluids daily.

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I stared with a picc line for TPN, then I had an NJ tube for a trial run with tube feeds before quickly deciding to have a GJ tube placed surgically in March of 2015. Since then, I’ve had my tube changed out over 26 times in IR due to either clogs, having it flipped into my stomach, or just needing a new tube (every 3-5 months). I also had a port a cath placed in August of 2016 and have that accessed 24/7 for fluids and nausea medication.

I won’t even list all of the medications I’ve tried because that’s just a ridiculous number and I don’t think you or I have the attention span for that. But you name a motility agent, a nausea med, a non FDA approved trial drug for GP, or pretty much anything used to control symptoms or promote motility or hunger and I’ve almost definitely either tried it or discussed it with my doctors and ruled it out as an option.

 

Over these (almost) four years I went from being able to manage my symptoms with a specialized diet and nausea medications to not being able to eat at all. Gastroparesis and generalized dysmotility are cruel illnesses, and paired with my genetic condition, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, they’re relentless and grievous. My condition has progressed to a very serious level and I’ve tried most of the options available to me.

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Learning to embrace my medical devices 🙂 there should be no shame or shyness towards life saving devices like tubes and central lines!

Almost a year ago I saw my motility specialist at Cleveland Clinic, a man who is considered to be the best of the best, and he gave me three options. We’ve ruled it down to one option, but sadly insurance isn’t thrilled with it. 9 months later and we are still fighting for it. But we won’t give up. Gastroparesis won’t win this fight.

Happy Awareness Month! Keep your eyes out for more posts from me and others as we try to spread awareness and work our way towards a much needed cure!

Xoxo

R