Chronic Fatigue Battles Adrenaline

So I am gonna go out on a limb here – I feel like it is probably safe to say that we have all heard or said the phrase, “I’m too tired to sleep,” right?

If you have not heard it or you don’t know what the heck it means, just keep reading and I think you’ll understand by the end of my post! If you don’t, feel free to ask 🙂

One of the worst, but most commonly understood struggles that comes with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Dysautonomia/POTS is when you wake up from a “solid” nights sleep and you still feel exhausted. You have a full day ahead of you with no energy? I mean, does anyone else feel like you have energy when you don’t need it but are lacking when you need it most?

Chronic fatigue is a really difficult condition to live with. It almost always shows itself as daytime fatigue – chronic fatigue, duh right? Okay, but that absolutely does not mean you are guaranteed a solids night sleep just because you are exhausted, right? Duh! You can have chronic fatigue and sleep all day and night and still be physically and mentally exhausted. You can sleep all day and be awake all night, and not by choice, not because you’re out partying or staying up watching movies and eating ice cream, but laying bed in the dark, exhausted and trying to sleep…

Fifth grade. I was in fifth grade when my insomnia came to life, so I’m a pro by now. I also have hypersomnia, something most haven’t heard of but essentially, I’m exhausted all the time and require regular rest, often times a nap or two throughout the day, & on my bad days, I am sleeping more than I’m awake. What really complicates things for me is the hypersensitivities, adrenaline rushes and narcoleptic spells.

Majority of the time I am extremely fatigued, mind and body, but there are times when I am feeling such exhaustion paired with severe pain and whether it be due to pain, fatigue, or medication, I slip into an adrenaline rush that takes me from 0-100 in the snap of your fingers. These adrenaline rushes most often hit when I’m in a state of physical and mental fatigue & exhaustion and are in no way healthy, pure energy –  it does not come after a good nights sleep or a killer cat nap, it doesn’t occur when I have plans made and am looking forward to that, it is a surge of adrenaline that hits at any time, lasts who knows how long and sometimes, for what feels like a minutes time, masks my exertion, distracts from the pain, and allows me to have a little, tiny taste of the energetic, alert, and active person I was before I got so sick.

You know those anxiety driven dreams we have about showing up naked to school or tripping and falling in front of a new crush? Well, in the life of a spoonie, those dreams come true! I have had more than my share of awkward hangout happenstance, with both old friends and new friends, most of the latter never having asked to hang out again. I’ve fallen asleep at a bar, in someone’s car, had to take IV meds plenty of times, plus just telling people about it all is always kinda awkward since people don’t know how to react, but basically every “get to know you” question leaves me with a blank if I am trying to avoid talking about my health situation, so it’s better to be up front about it than to try and make things up. I have yet to try to go on an actual date with a guy I might like since getting so sick, but if it’s anything like making new friends, I think I will hold off for awhile on that.

I am often able to be up and about and even get more done during one of these rushes; I definitely communicate more, sometimes talking fast and nonstop, rambling on about who knows what and driving my family crazy, which can be a hint I am having one. Though annoying, I think my parents sometimes enjoy my less than legit bursts of energy b/c I am more like my pre-illness self when I’m hyped up, so yes, we know they aren’t “normal” energy but what about me is normal? 

The challenging thing about this is that these rushes can last 30 minutes or 3 hours, but once it’s over, it’s over and I crash HARD and FAST. When I go down, I go down, and depending on what I used that “functional time” for, I often require a day or two of recovery time. Usually, though, it is so worth it.

That said, I’m thankful to be having less and less narcotic episodes – I am almost 6 months “clean,” aka no longer falling asleep standing up or mid sentence. I have found a couple medications and lifestyle routines that help allow me some sense of freedom or independence since I’m not being babysat 24/7 – I have plenty of photos of myself sleeping in different locations thanks to my family members who like to send them to one another. I have my little tricks for revitalizing and also know what symptoms to look out for and when it’s time to cut a social visit off before having it spiral into “no second hangout” zone. I’m ready to go.

Being sick for so long and going through so many surgeries, procedures, tubes and lines and changes in my body I just don’t have a great self confidence, I’m uncomfortable in my body physically and mentally, it doesn’t feel like MY body. I was a fit athlete, a healthy eater, I spent hours at the gym every day before I got sick, and now I have so little control over my body and it’s not easy. I have to remind myself that I am worthy and able, that I enjoy every outing I say yes to, that meeting new people has been fun, even if, for whatever reason, we only hang out once.

The world can be an intimidating place when you are isolated from it for so long. It’s not easy to navigate as a medically unique introvert who leads a very unusual life, but if you just look past that and into who I am, I’m really not any different. I may have a unique perspective on things and a pretty open schedule, but that’s about it 😉 Oh, and I won’t eat your left overs, heck, I’ll cook for you and still not eat your left overs 🙂 Who can beat that?

I want so badly to be part of the real world, but my body is fighting so hard every step of the way, almost as if it has a mind of its own and wants me all to itself. It’s an every day battle, all I want is for my mind and body to be one, to feel like one, to function like one, to be a full person, a whole woman again.

So even those short periods of relief from pain and the unpredictable, short-lived bursts of adrenaline have the ability to give me a taste of the world, a taste of life, a taste of ME. Not sick me, not poor Rachel, not anything aside from just being ME. It reminds me that there is a life out there that I am fighting for, that my life outside of illness is worth fighting for…

I WILL find my way back to being just Rachel.

Until then,

xoxo

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!”.

Medical Trauma: A Special Guest

Medical trauma and medical PTSD are two of the most under-identified and misunderstood occurrences in today’s medical system, even in our own developed, educated country. Doctors are supposed to be trustworthy and well intentioned, they even take a vow to do no harm. From day one we are taught to put trust in doctors, nurses, and any other medical professional, trust them with our personal thoughts, habits, and of course our bodies,  our minds; hospitals and doctors offices are supposed to be “safe zones” if we need help… but is this always the case?

From my years of battling chronic illnesses I’ve seen TONS of doctors, specialists, nurses, xray techs, med students, etc. and it’s shocking how some of them treat patients. I can give you handfuls of personal experience with negligence, betrayal, false accusations and biases, and personal traumatic experiences brought on by the medical systems, doctors and nurses themselves. I’ve gotten to a point where I have anxiety over  new doctors, a true fear of admissions to the hospitals who are said to be there for treatment, help, healing. I’ve been denied medical treatments by insurance agents who don’t even have a degree in medicine or pharmacology, but choose money over my quality of life. There’s so much more to the medical system than the average person imagines.

To share another perspective, I’ve been given permission to quote the testimony of one of the kindest, most respectful and compassionate fellow “spoonies” that I have gotten to know thanks to online networks that let us find one another with just a hashtag.

So, thank you Nicole, and here we go…

“Ever since I started struggling more and more with my medical trauma and also was recently officially diagnosed with medical PTSD so I wanted to spread awareness about how traumatic this chronic life can be. From doctors treating you badly, to traumatic surgeries or procedures to doctors not believing you to life threatening situations there are unfortunately many possible traumatic parts of being sick and/or disabled and it needs to be talked about more.

Vivid nightmares. Anxiety and panic attacks. Depression. Avoidance. Flashbacks and intrusive memories. Always on guard. Easily startled. Trouble experiencing positive emotions. Loss of interest in things that you enjoy. Trouble sleeping and concentrating. Irritability. Guilt.

These are just some of the things that come along with medical trauma or PTSD.

Unlike with some other types of trauma, for us who are complex chronically ill and/or disabled patients we literally cannot avoid our trauma.  We cannot avoid hospitals, doctors, medications, treatments, surgeries, etc. This makes coping with and healing from medical trauma very very challenging. For me even little things like doing my daily line and tube care can bring on flashbacks of sepsis hospitalizations and awake, painful IR procedures and things like new patient appointments can bring on severe anxiety about possibly not being believed. This can cause us to generalize all our trauma and have anxiety and PTSD symptoms around everything medical not just the traumatic event/s. For me I get awful anxiety when I have any kind of medical appointment due to the trauma being brought back through intrusive memories, feeling unsafe and a strong urge to run/get home ASAP, agitation, impatience, feeling like I may literally explode from anxiety and panic and much more.

All trauma, no matter what it is or how severe, is real, valid, important and is deserving of healing, therapy, support, treatment etc.

Medical Trauma and medical PTSD needs more awareness so doctors, nurses, medical professionals etc can be aware that it exists, that is a huge struggle for the patients that deal with it every single day, and learn how to help it and do everything they can to try to prevent it.

We have to strive to make healthcare *Human*Care so that medical trauma and PTSD stops for good and no one else ever has to go through such a horrific condition again! Maybe if medical professionals treated us as actual HUMANS – not just another medical case – many of these traumatic situations could be avoided.”

Quote by Nicole P // IG @itsapotsielifeforme

 Sadly, Nicole and I are not the only ones dealing with this. I think you would be amazed at how many chronic illness patients have experienced some form of trauma through the medical system.

I just recently had another experience with a doctor I have been seeing for years and had developed a good relationship with when out of the blue he lied to me and denied me the treatment I have been on, when out of nowhere he decided to put blame on an innocent party and deny me relief. How could someone let someone suffer when he had the ability to help, to help me have some relief from pain? Does that seem helpful or harmful?

Not only has he stolen my pain relief, but he has stolen my faith in him and triggered my anxieties and fears from past trauma and past doubters. Do I not deserve to live to my fullest potential? Why would one human – who took an oath to do no harm, to help patients in any way possible – leave another human suffering, by choice?

If you are a patient who has experienced something like this or any other medical trauma or neglect or malpractice, share your story with me and I will share it on my blog & on my social media pages – let’s bring light to this issue.

For more details just message me!

Thanks to my readers for reading and taking time to be aware. Keep an eye out for more to come✨

Positively Rachel

 

Mindful Impact

Mindfulness. It is just amazing how big of an impact our thoughts can have on our bodies, on our ability to heal. It’s important that you fill your mind with optimistic or positive, healthy thoughts and your life with all of the things that have always brought you joy, all of your hobbies, and the people who put a smile on your face.

Today’s technologies allow for incredible connections; there is a huge online presence of “spoonies” (as we call ourselves) all over instagram and facebook, both individual pages and group pages! This resource is a HUGE gift to those of us who suffer from severe illnesses that leave us homebound or bed bound with little to no social interaction, but there are cons to this as well.

When you surround yourself with individuals who are sick, and you are sick and have been for a long time, it begins to feel normal. You start to forget what it feels like to be healthy, to be a functional, productive person. When you start to feel that way you know it’s time to reevaluate your perspective, remind yourself of what makes you feel like YOU. Not sick you, not healthy you, but YOU.

Be mindful, know your limits physically and mentally. Will all of these posts from other sick chicks –  some of them trending towards competitive over who is worse off, some who seem to thrive off of the attention from being sick – make you focus too much on the sickness? Does life revolve around illness? Because it doesn’t have to; no matter how sick you are, you are more than your illness.

There’s a lot more to mindfulness than this, but it’s a start. I encourage you all to focus not on your illnesses, not on symptoms and treatments and bad doctor visits, not of scary unknowns and dooming diagnoses, but on all of the aspects of your life that were there before illnesses, that exist independently from illness, that bring you simple pleasure, joy, distraction, love. Positivity. Light.

Mermaid Soul

When I close my eyes, I go to the peaceful, beautiful underwater world at the lake. It’s dark and mysterious, the lake floor just deep muck squishing between my toes as I push off to surface like a dolphin, emerging just to take a breath before going back down, being engulfed by the water. You can hear the motor of boats before you see them, it is a soft, rhythmic stutter that comes and goes with the small waves. I could swim like that all day, every day and never be tired of it.

And then I’m in the clear, pure water in the rivers I swam in as a child, always searching for treasures in the slippery rocks under my feet, daring to go a bit farther, a bit deeper, conquering the current, being one with the water. There’s moss beneath my feet, the rocks I hit with my knees, and the little pinchers of crayfish. I find the deepest part and disappear for as long as my lungs will let me, sometimes swimming away and seeing if my family noticed how long I was gone, if they worried at all, other times just sinking into the water and just being one with it, listening, feeling the cold water and the hot sun, washing my problems away, down the river they go, I am at peace.

Chlorine. Salt. Sweat. The pool, the water I spent so much time in, practicing my strokes, competing, loving and hating it at the same time. I always seemed to tire before others, my heart rate was always higher, and even when I took my inhaler, I couldn’t breathe, but still, it was my passion. Summer mornings diving into the cold, cold pool, a shocking wake up call for swim team practice, back and forth, often toe to finger close to the person before me, the person behind me. When swimming for fun, not practicing, I will disappear under the water, swimming without coming up to take a breath, going deeper and deeper, testing out my lungs, happy and at ease.

One day I’m going to be free of central lines and feeding tubes and I’m going back to the water. I’ll live on the lake, I’ll travel and see the incredible beauty of the underwater world through my own eyes, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, maybe hippos too – just no snakes. ☺ I can’t wait to return to my life as a mermaid, feeling the water, seeing the beauty, feeling no pain, just peace and happiness, such simple things.

These memories are worth gold, they’re what I need to have faith and they inspire me to make my dreams come back to reality. A piece of my soul belongs in the water, the thought of return comforts me when I need an escape, being my happy place when I need to disappear, and gives me hope and drive to find my way through my trials and back to my underwater world.

When Life Gives You Limes

People often use the expression, “when life gives you lemons” when things aren’t going quite right, you’re likely familiar with the phrase? Well, humor me as I explain why I’d like to adapt the statement to, “when life gives you limes.”

In my opinion, lemons are tasty and you can do so much with them, many options being super simple! For example, of course you can make lemonade, then there is lemon cake, lemon bread, lemon cookies, pie, and more! I mean lemons are great for tea, detoxing, or simply put in your water. Lemons are just so handy, but limes? Limes are a little bit more complicated, they’re slightly more sour and although you can use them in drinks and recipes, it’s not quite as common, kind of like chronic illnesses – complex and uncommon.

That said, I have quite a few limes in my life. I’ve been diagnosed with over 10 chronic illnesses, a handful of which are seriously debilitating and progressive. I’ve had to take medical leave from the school of my dreams, now having watched my classmates graduate without me, and put my future goals on hold. Because of my symptoms– mostly nausea, pain, and fatigue– most days I am not even able to leave home and I spend majority of my time in my bed resting and sleeping.

I have new limes thrown at me every time a doctor gives me a new diagnosis, every time a treatment doesn’t work, and every time I wake up feeling worse than I did the day before. However, I’ve learned to take these limes and use them to help me find all of the gifts in life, all of the things that I am so thankful for. When you’re given challenges, sour moments, it really teaches you to be so much more thankful for every little moment or object that makes you feel joy.

Some of the sweet things in my life that regularly help me get through the sour moments include my dogs, Baxter & Dexter, my family, good music, and my online support network. There are also little gifts day to day like a 75 degree day, a special visitor or getting something in the mail, being able to take a walk, an Epsom salt bath, taking a drive and seeing pretty scenery, etc. Lots of small things bring me joy, and I am so appreciative of every happy moment I am given.

I’ve had a lot of curveball limes recently, broken tubes, line infections, flare ups of pain and nausea, exhaustion, and doctor troubles to name a few, but I’ve learned to put up walls that keep all of this from affecting me too much, only allowing through the smallest amounts of stress or worry possible – the last thing I need on top of my illness happenings? Extra limes.

Learning to filter out some of the extra stressors, even the smallest things you may hardly notice can make a big difference in the long run. Hold on to every happy moment, every simple pleasure, and let go of negative energy; hold no grudges, and never go to bed or leave your loved ones angry. Forgive, love, laugh, and remember not to waste precious time on trivial issues. When life gives you limes, take a moment to find your own sweet moments and happy thoughts, play your favorite song or cuddle with your dog, text your best friend or your mom, take time to express yourself, share your love and gratitude, spread the joy in random acts of kindness, random words of affection. Life is too short to be sour.

 

Sponsor a Book for our Little Tubies

I grew up with two early childhood educators, so books have been a staple for me since day 1, and that is a true gift my parents gave me. Books help us learn about the world in a fun, visual, and age-appropriate /understandable way, teachings us the simplest of things like letters and animals to right and wrong, to all you can do when you grow up, and how to be the best YOU that YOU can be, whatever that means.

Books are part of what help us learn about new and different things we may come across, and it’s important to give children resources to help them be aware of all of life’s diversities and that being unique is never something to be ashamed of, so authors include all sorts of characters and situations in books that help prepare kids for life, even if the kids think it’s all just a story…. What about books for kids with illnesses? Children with wheel chairs, bald heads, or feeding tubes?

When I started Newbie Tubies I had a goal to help all of my “newbies” have all of the important information and to feel as supported as possible, and to learn love and acceptance for their new gadget and for themselves. Some people have a harder time than others with this, and that is completely fine, but sometimes you need to let those around you help you get to that point by letting them support you and accept you and your tube for you to see that your tube doesn’t change you, it just keeps you around…

Well, back to books, sometimes it can be hard for our littler tubies to adjust when they go to school and all of a sudden are thrown into a world where peers are eating lunch and bringing in cupcakes for birthdays and you’re no longer in the safety of your home, but both tubie and classmates start to see differences, even at a young, young age, and it’s time to bring in the books to help normalize tubes, to make all of the classmates learn through the avenue they know best – books.

For the same reasons, picture books about tubes can also be very beneficial for adult tubies who have young children or work with young children. Visual, audio, and hands on awareness and normalization is more than we can ask for, and starting young, starting by reading these books to the next generation is just awesome.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a book for our packages, we include one in each package we send to our little tubies and we appreciate every donation! I’m attaching the link as well as the list, so if you have a tubie of your own and want to buy a book, there are quite a few great options!

Our “Sponsor a Tubie Book” wish list on Amazon carries some FABULOUS tubie books for our young tubies! Click HERE to go straight to the list, the names of our most used books are listed below in case you shop elsewhere 🙂

 

BOOKS!

“The Adventures of Team Super Tubie”

Kristin Meyer

“Tubie Kids Like Me”

Annette Fournier

“When My Brother Got a G-Tube”

Jordan Tarbutton

“My Belly has Two Buttons: A Tubie Story

Meikele Lee

“Emma’s Special Tummy”

Paula

 

My Tubey Series by Rhiannon Merritt-Rubadue (full series on amazon!)

“My Tubey Goes to School:  A My Tubey Book”

Rhiannon Merritt-Rubadue

“There’s More Than One Way to Eat: A my Tubey Book”

Rhiannon Merritt-Rubadue

“My Tubey: A Day in the Life of a Tube Fed Girl”

Rhiannon Merritt-Rubadue

“My Tubey: A Day in the Life of a Tube Fed Boy”

Rhiannon Merritt-Rubadue

The Rarest of Guest Bloggers: SMA Syndrome

My name is Danielle and I am 26 years old. Growing up I suffered with ongoing stomach issues and doctors just couldn’t seem to figure out a cause. These symptoms would come and go in waves and there were even periods of time where I would begin thinking I was doing okay! Sadly, those times were short lived and when my senior year of college came about, things took a turn for the worst.

In 2015, I became very ill. It began with my endometriosis creeping back in and that was followed with my gallbladder needing to be removed, and despite those things, I continued to progressively get worse – especially stomach wise. I was having severe abdominal pain when I ate, nausea, vomiting, early satiety (I would take a few bites of food and feel overly full instantly), bloating and weight loss. I was only 105 lbs to begin with so I didn’t have any weight to lose so things became critical rather quickly.

In February of 2016 I was hospitalized because at this point I was not able to keep anything down, not even water. I had dropped to 90 lbs rather quickly and we were very scared. My doctor had run so many tests but could not figure out what was wrong with me, until he happened to be in the right place at the right time. He was at clinic where he overheard a nurse, who isn’t typically at that clinic, talking about another girl who had just been diagnosed with this rare condition. He immediately thought it sounded very similar to me so as soon as he was done at clinic, he came directly to the hospital and went to the radiologist. He told the radiologist to relook at one of my CT scans but from a different angle.

They immediately saw the problem and he came up to my room where he finally looked at me and said “I figured out what is wrong with you. You have SMA Syndrome,” otherwise known as Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome.

This condition, SMAS, I’ve never heard of it, I don’t know what is hitting me and how it is going to change things, what my life will look like now, all I know is it is rare, and though it has terrible symptoms, it can be very hard to detect. I had numerous CT scans but until they specifically looked for the compression itself, they were missing it on my scans for the longest time even though it was right there. The compression can be seen on CT scans, angiograms and upper GI studies with barium.

SMAS is an extremely rare and potentially life threatening stomach condition in which the third portion of your small intestine (duodenum) becomes compressed between your abdominal aorta and Superior Mesenteric Artery.

In other words, part of your small intestine becomes crushed and food is not able to pass through, creating a blockage.

This can lead to severe malnutrition, sometimes resulting in death. The mortality rate for SMA Syndrome is so high (1 in 3) because it is so rare and often times there is a delay in diagnosis. As you can see from my story, I was extremely lucky that he found it when he did or otherwise I might not have been here typing this today.

So how is SMAS treated? There is no cure.

There are also 2 types of this condition. One being acute onset, caused by extreme/sudden weight loss often following something like scoliosis surgery. The other being chronic, meaning it develops over the course of their lifetime. Surgery can be done to relieve the compression, or sometimes gaining weight (usually via feeding tubes) can also relieve the compression and allow food to start passing through again. However the damage done before it is found cannot be reversed and often times the symptoms can still remain even after surgery or weight gain, which is why there is technically no cure. In acute cases, the prognosis is better and oftentimes weight gain is enough to correct it and relieve the symptoms.

Chronic cases are a bit different, these cases are where the symptoms can still remain even after medical intervention, they aren’t easily treatable and there is absolutely no cure. That was the case for me. As soon as I was diagnosed I was immediately put on TPN (total parenteral nutrition) to help get me stable enough and I had surgery within 3 weeks. Since then, I have continued to have an avalanche of problems and my symptoms have remained. I continue to have pain with eating, nausea, vomiting, bloating and severe motility issues. The damage done to my body from SMA Syndrome has caused the entire rest of my GI tract to slow down and not function properly, so I have developed other chronic motility issues from it as well (such as Gastroparesis and intestinal dysmotility), which sadly is often the case for many people diagnosed with SMAS.

After numerous attempts to try and get things under control, I had to get a feeding tube placed in my abdomen to help give me the vital nutrition I need to sustain myself. I had a surgical GJ tube placed a year ago. I also am currently on TPN through a central line (port) in my chest due to the severity of my motility issues at the moment and not being able to tolerate my tube feeds right now. So often times feedings tubes are needed even after surgery to help manage the symptoms that remain and to help sustain individuals with SMA Syndrome.

Getting a feeding tube can be very overwhelming. It isn’t easy to process what it is like to have a tube surgically implanted into your body and it is a huge adjustment.

But what made the transition easier for me when I had my surgery was Newbie Tubies. I came across Newbie Tubies on instagram (@newbietubies) and saw that they create packages for people who are getting feeding tubes that are filled with all sorts of awesome things to help someone recover from the procedure and different items for the new tube as well.

The goal is to make the transition easier for someone by sending them a package to brighten their day. You can apply yourself or you can nominate someone to receive a package.

 

When I recieved my package it had things such as a blanket, water bottle, socks, handmade heating pad, tubie pads to decorate and protect the tube, bath bombs and a coloring book. It also included a list of tips for living with a feeding tube for those who are getting their first tube. Also, everything was donut and dog themed to fit my personality, which can be noted on the application to make each package more personalized to the recipient.

I cannot express how much receiving that package meant to me when I returned home from the hospital and how much it lifted my spirits. Newbie Tubies is truly amazing and it is creating an awesome community of fellow “tubies” on social media. It is awesome to be able to connect to others who have feeding tubes as well because you can relate to them and also share tips and tricks with each other to help make living with a feeding tube more manageable.

So if you have a feeding tube, are getting one or know someone with one please go check out Newbie Tubies on instagram. Or even if you just want to help, you can donate money or items to go in the packages sent out. So please check it out!
I share my story and my experiences with SMAS with hope that it will help someone else find their diagnosis and know they aren’t alone in this journey. It can be incredibly hard finding any answers, and I know that if it weren’t for individuals working to spread awareness through social medias and the stories others have shared, I wouldn’t have been diagnosed, I would have continued suffering without answers for much longer.

SMAS is an extremely rare condition, and because of how rare it is it is and due to overlaps with symptoms of many other stomach conditions, it often isn’t thought of. Not a lot of doctors know much about this rare disease, most of the time they have only read about it in textbooks during medical school, but each patient, each case, is unique and complex, not one fitting the case studies or textbooks perfectly.

I had no idea what it was until I was diagnosed, so I hope that reading my story can help someone else out there and just educate more people about this condition. For more information about SMA Syndrome, you can go to https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/7712/superior-mesenteric-artery-syndrome.

 

Post by Dani Fantaskey — guest blogger and newbie tubie package recipient


 

Thank you Dani!! Your post is fabulous and I am SO glad your package made such an impact on you – seeing your positive remarks truly inspires me to keep working hard to individualize each package. I love doing it, so I’m glad it doesn’t go unnoticed 🙂 So happy to have you, keep in touch and I’d love to have you back involved with the project anytime! Lots of love!

If anyone has questions or comments for her, comment below or contact me and I will get you in touch with her 🙂

xoxo

Rachel

New Years Thinking

Every New Year I like to think, this is my year. I look back on the last year, or really just on my journey in general, and I think of course of my illnesses and my desire to find a cure or a treatment that would lead me to a more “normal” lifestyle, but year after year that doesn’t come. This year, I’m not relying on specialists with new perspectives or treatments that will be approved by insurance, I am instead looking at myself and my situation and thinking how can I work to maximize my experiences and the value of my time? I may never have my cure, and I may not get rid of my medical devices, but I can make the most of the life I have, and now that I’ve been through all the tests and all the procedures and I’ve seen the biggest and the best doctors out there, and here I am, how can I help myself?

I have just as many goals and dreams as I did when I was 16 and healthy, but now they mean even more to me. I want to get back to who I was, who I am, as much as I can. I don’t plan to achieve all of my goals this year, but I think setting myself up with healthy goals and positivity, a hope for a fulfilling life, could be the most effective “treatment” I can have.

I want to be more active, both in a sense of being able to spend more time outside of my home but also being stronger and feeling more fit and less frail. I want to make friends who are here for me regardless of my health and all that comes with that.

I want to fall in love, I want to feel like I am loved and adored no matter what my stomach looks like, no matter what I can or cannot do, no matter what date night looks like. I want to know there is a person out there who doesn’t need to see past all of my greatest insecurities, but is understanding of all I’m working through.

There are so many places I want to go and things I want to do, and I want to be able to do it without limitation, but if I have to work around things, I will. I can’t do a lot of the things on the top of my bucket list right now – swim with dolphins, scuba dive, snorkel in the tropics, etc. – but I can work up to it. If I’m facing a lifetime with health complications, I’ve got to start embracing that and working with it even more than I do now.

It’s not as if I can pick up and go today, I’ve got a few things to try to manage a bit better before I go too crazy, but it’s only January 7th so no one is too far into resolutions, right?

I have to learn to push myself in healthy ways but form a relationship with my body where I am able to feel more control while still continuing to listen to my body. I’m going to start with keeping up with the blog, revamping and working hard on Newbie Tubies, and trying to be more active.

 

Happy New Year 🙂

Willfully Determined

Yesterday I pushed myself to do more and to do different. I decided to be a 22 year old for a few hours, I just ignored the fatigue, took the pain meds, and went to back to back movies (7-11:30pm) with my sister, who didn’t think I could stay out late anymore. It was a gift to both of us to be able to spend that time together, just enjoying doing something that was so out of the norm.

Usually I sleep through 60-80% of movies anywhere we watch them, our basement, my room, the movie theater, other peoples houses… But last night I worked hard to stay awake, and I did a stellar job. My POTS/dysautonomia leaves my body unable to pump blood to my brain when I sit down for too long, so I fall asleep or pass out even if I’m loving a movie or having a great conversation with someone; but usually, if I move around or take a walk I start to feel much more human again and stay awake for at least 10-20 minutes 😉

My family asked me if I really had energy for this, and here is what I told them,

“No, I don’t have the energy, but this isn’t about energy.  This is about desire and determination.”

Sometimes I have to accept my symptoms, accept my situation, and make a choice to push past all of the exhaustion, pain, nausea, and sensitivities so that I can remind myself and those around me that I’m still me, and that there are still things out there, outside of my “safe zone” (aka my house and my room). Watching the world go on without you can be a very strange feeling, it’s like watching from an outside view, looking down on the life I thought would be mine and watching others continue on without me. The world doesn’t wait for anyone.

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of “nothings” from doctors; some literally don’t have anything to say, don’t answer emails or calls or anything, others telling me they can’t take on my case or I’ve exhausted the options they can offer. It’s a lot of “keep you comfortable” and “manage symptoms.”

After so much of the same, I’m so tired of doctors and meds and tests or treatments that no one actually thinks will work. I want to live. I want to experience my youth, I want to really feel alive and I want to cross items off of my bucket list.

I want to travel and see incredible sites and take countless photos. I hope to visit all of the girls who I’ve met online, the ones who have helped me through these years of illness, and I want to meet new people, and fall in love. I want to get rid of these tubes so I can swim with dolphins and scuba dive, get as close to my mermaid dream as possible.

I have a lot of goals, and I may never accomplish all of them, but they make for some happy thinking & I never pass that up. 🙂