Corlanor and Other Frustrations

Last week was the roughest week I’ve had in a while. My migraines have returned, my stomach has continued to be a hot mess, and my heart is becoming a major problem again. What a great mix!

I saw a new electrophysiologist on Friday, and he confirmed my diagnosis of Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia. I was diagnosed with IST back in February after an electrophysiological study, but due to a terrible experience with that doctor I hadn’t done much about it since then. I’ve tried metoprolol, verapamil, and propanolol to slow my heart rate, but all of them failed to do so and caused side effects. Although I actually really liked this new electrophysiologist, he made big promises; promises he should have never made.

He started me on Corlanor, and told me verbatim this would be a miracle drug. As a skeptic with an asshole for a body I didn’t really believe him, but I was hopeful. I hadn’t done much research on IST, surprisingly since I love to research things, but now I have a million questions, most of which probably don’t have answers. Here are my questions, so if for some reason you have answers or have IST I’d love to hear them!

  1. Is IST a form of Dysautonomia?  The internet is giving me mixed signals
  2. What are other treatment options if beat-blockers, calcium blockers, and corlanor don’t work?
  3. How could this affect my laundry list of symptoms that no one seems to have an answer for?

Unfortunately my body is not liking the corlanor at all. My pulse is all over the place, sometimes “normal” around 75, and other times I’m still very much tachycardic at 120. It has also caused me to become extremely fatigued, hypotensive, and dizzy. Pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday I couldn’t do anything because I was so out of it. I started to get super disoriented (which does happen to me sometimes without medication) and couldn’t formulate sentences or comprehend anything I was trying to read. I’m on the lowest dose of this medication so I don’t think we can make this work.

I decided to stop taking it Sunday night, because I have a busy school week this week and I definitely won’t be able to go to school with all these side effects; It’s also not safe for me to drive when I’m so out of it. As far as I’m aware this is the last option I have to treat the IST, which is incredibly frustrating. I can feel my body progressively getting worse and returning to a dysfunctional state, which really scares me.

So far in the six weeks I’ve been in school I’ve only missed one class and it was for the electrophysiology appointment. I’ve been pushing myself incredibly hard and studying a ton, but if my health gets worse I’m afraid I’ll go back to missing school all the time. I just really don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made or have to leave school again. Maybe I’m thinking about this too much, but it’s really hard not to. We’re going to call the doctor today and see what he says about the side effects; I’m supposed to have a follow up on November 3rd, but it looks like I may need to see him sooner. I also have a gastroenterology appointment on October 18th with a new doctor, so hopefully that will bring some answers for my GI problems.

As for the migraines and daily headaches, I’m not sure I’m ready to go back down that road again. I’m feeling really emotional right now and the lack of control I feel over the situation is getting to me. I know that I can handle this because I’ve done it so many times, but honestly I just really don’t want to feel like like crap all the time and not be able to function. All I can try and do is hope that the electrophysiologist will have some ideas and the gastro appointment will go well.

I hope you all have a good week!

Advertisements

The Language of Disability

Not that long ago I didn’t consider myself disabled. Society had taught me disabled people were in wheelchairs, had some level of impaired mobility, or had moderate to severe cognitive disabilities. Sure chronic illness had completely taken over my life, but in my eyes I wasn’t disabled enough.

Fast forward to maybe nine months ago, I realized I was in fact disabled by my chronic illnesses and took on the label with pride. For me disabled is both a description of how chronic illness affects my life and a political label. I don’t have a problem with being referred to as disabled, because it’s true.

A lot of people however don’t seem to like the word “disabled.” When I was in high school I applied to become a “Best Buddy” which is a program where you befriend someone in the special education program. Fortunately or unfortunately for me (depending on how you look at it) they didn’t have enough special ed kids for all of the volunteers to have a buddy, so I never got one.

I did go to a training class after school one day, and something from it has stuck with me. They talked about how you shouldn’t ever say someone is disabled, instead say “a person with a disability, differently abled, or handi-capable.” The funny thing about the language of disability is I only see parents/caretakers asking people not to say disabled, never actual disabled people. I’m sure there are disabled people out there who don’t like the term, but I personally haven’t run across any. Many people take on the label with pride and try to advocate for themselves and others with disabilities.

I personally have a problem with the term “differently abled.” Disabled people aren’t differently abled, they are disabled. There are things we can’t do, point blank, end of story. For me some days I can do something and the next day I can’t, but there are also things that I’m never abled to do no matter the circumstances. “A person with a disability” isn’t offensive, I just find it unnecessary. The argument for the other side is that you should put the person before the disability. I feel you don’t have to take that literally. As long as someone is being respectful and isn’t  using a demonizing or belittling tone, then there isn’t anything wrong with saying “disabled people” or a “disabled person.”

Of course you should treat someone like a human being, and not reduce them to their diagnosis. However I don’t fid it necessary to say “person with a disability” every time you speak about disabilities. What are your thoughts? Do you use the term disabled to describe yourself?

What’s Next for my Health?

This is the question always in my mind:

What’s next for my health?

Lately I’ve been doing really well. For the last three months I’ve felt better than I have in at least a year. This is great news, and something to celebrate, but my health has a specific pattern it likes to follow. Summer/early fall I do well, sometimes I’m doing great within this time, other times I’m doing just okay, but I’m able to function much more than when it’s bad. Early/Mid Fall things decline and by the time winter arrives things are really really bad.

I’m scared of the months to come. I’ve signed up for college classes, and I desperately want to do well in them and not be absent all the time. It’s not the pain I’m afraid of anymore, it’s what it takes away. I want to move on with my education and my life in general. I want to make friends and have an active social life. I just want to live a more normal life.

Last week I went to see the rheumatologist I saw back in April. She’s very kind, but she doesn’t think whatever’s going on with me is rheumatological, and doesn’t think there’s much she can do. I’m incredibly tired of having this conversation with doctor after doctor. I don’t seem to fall under anyones specialty, and no one wants to help. The rare few doctors who do want to help, like her and my GP, don’t know what else to do. Part of me doesn’t think anyone is ever going to be able to figure it out.

I’m trying really hard to “live in the moment,” and enjoy the time I have while I’m feeling well. It’s incredibly hard to do that though, when you know what’s to come. Honestly I would much rather feel terrible now and then feel better in the fall when classes start, but that would be too easy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful to have been feeling well these past three months, I know many people with chronic illnesses don’t get a few good days let alone months.

My rheumatologist and GP spoke and decided I should do some genetic testing. We’re doing it through 23&Me which makes me a little skeptical of its accuracy, but it won’t hurt to see of it gives us any decent information. I sent it off a few days ago, but it takes up to a month to process. Even if we don’t get nay good medical information, it will at least be interesting to see where I came from. Being white, I know it isn’t going to be every exciting, but it will still be interesting.

What’s going on in your life?

Have you/are you doing any new testing or starting a new treatment plan?

 

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

The Guilt of Chronic Illness

We shouldn’t feel guilt of things that are out of our control, but I don’t know anyone who’s dealt with a chronic illness that doesn’t ever feel guilty.

I mostly feel guilty that my parents spend so much time taking me to doctor, especially my mom, and that they have spent so much money on medical treatments. They never try to purposefully make me feel bad, but I know this is hard for them too. They didn’t ask for this anymore than I did.

For almost all of my doctors appointments my mom’s been there. It’s not that my Dad doesn’t care, his work just isn’t nearly as flexible. She’s spent countless hours in doctor’s offices, ER’s, and hospital rooms. She’s advocated endlessly for me, even when she was tired or not feeling well herself. I am so grateful for her, but I also feel terrible that she’s sacrificed so much for me.

The money is a different issue. We’ve always been very fortunate to be middle class. During the five years I’ve been chronically ill my dad was laid off and then unemployed for a little over a year. Luckily he got a pretty good severance deal from his previous employer but it was still really hard on our family financially and emotionally. My illness did not stop just because he lost his job, and paying tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills took a blow to our finances. While we’ve also been very fortunate to have always had medial insurance, the cost of doctors office visits, medications,  and diagnostic testing really adds up. Knowing that even if I have a job that pays really well in the future, I will never be able to repay them is a hard pill to swallow. I see that every time they check the mail there’s another medical bill that’s usually for me, and it makes me feel incredibly guilty.

Another thing that makes me feel guilty is seeing my parents get upset when I’m not feeling well. Sometimes I try lying and say I’m feeling okay, but they can usually see right through me; I’m not a very good liar. At times I forget that this is really hard for them emotionally as well. They are nearly as frustrated as me that I don’t have a diagnosis or an accurate treatment plan. Their heart breaks along with mine when we hear another doctor tell us they don’t know what’s going on or another medication doesn’t work. I wish I could take all of their pain away, and knowing I can’t is the  hardest part.

I know that feeling guilty won’t fix the situation or make it any better, but seeing your issues affecting someone else is difficult. I hope that if you feel guilty about being chronically ill that you can see that it isn’t your fault. Chronic illness is a beast that no one causes.

– Alyssa

 

Self-Advocating with Chronic Illness

Now I have to admit, this hasn’t always been my strong suit.

I would try to build the courage to speak up and stand firm against doctors when they questioned my symptoms or wanted to start a treatment plan I didn’t agree with but when the time came to self-advocate I found it rather difficult.

I’m definitely more comfortable disagreeing or refuting doctors now than I was at the beginning of my journey, then again I’ve had five years to practice. Doctors are people too, even though society puts them on a pedestal they don’t always get it right. As a patient there are times where it’s your job to say no and put your foot down. It’s so easy to blindly follow a Doctors orders, but that can end poorly quick. Doing your research and getting to know your own body is crucial when chronically ill.

Self-advocating is probably one of the most important things a chronically ill patient has to do. Sometimes you have to push and push to get the adequate medical care you deserve. Other times you’re fighting with the insurance company to try and get them to cover a medication that you desperately need. It’s never ending and exhausting, but so so necessary. Unfortunately with some chronic illnesses many Doctors may not be aware of all the treatment options available or even aware of what the illness entails at all. While it’s always best to see a doctor who’s treated someone with your specific illness before, that isn’t always an option. In those cases you have to be able to self-advocate and teach the health care professionals about what you need.

I have a lot of symptoms that are “weird” or don’t match the other things I deal with. I’ve also dealt with some side effects of medication that are rather uncommon, and instead of listening Doctors and other health care professionals can make excuses or just straight up not believe you. One problem a lot of people with chronic pain run into when visiting the ER is the staff not believing you’re at a certain pain level because you’re not crying or don’t “look like you’re in that much pain.” I personally don’t respond to pain by crying, and unless you know me really well you probably can’t tell by my face how I’m feeling. There is no wrong reaction to pain, but sometimes certain reactions make it more difficult to receive the care you need.

When you’re in the ER or admitted to the hospital it’s always best to have someone there who can help advocate for you. There may be times where you’re too incapacitated to self-advocate and it’s important to have a friend or family member who knows your situation and can help relay information to the doctors and nurses. I know when I’m in extreme pain, brain fog sets in and it makes it a lot harder to explain things and recall everything that’s happened leading up to the ER visit, hospital admission, doctor’s appointment etc. Other times I just don’t have the energy to explain everything or go back and forth with the doctors and nurses.

A big part of self-advocating for your health comes down to confidence. Confidence speaking to strangers and authority figures, confidence talking about your body and uncomfortable things that may come with that, and confidence being honest about how you’re really feeling instead of giving everyone the rose-colored glasses version. For me (and I think most people) confidence will always be a journey. Some days I feel ready to tackle the world and I don’t care what anyone else thinks, and other days I feel insecure. Self-advocating for my health has helped me gain confidence when speaking to authority figures and talking about uncomfortable subjects.

Do you find self-advocating difficult? How do you self-advocate? Let me know!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

All the Appointments!

Since I last did a health update a lot of things have happened.

First I went to an allergist/immunologist who I really liked and she ran the Tryptase test for MCAD. Unfortunately that came back fine, and so did all the other tests she ran. She started me on Singulair, ranitidine, and Allegra for the all over itching I’m having. They’ve kind of worked, but the days I still have the itching it’s extreme and I feel like I want to peel back a layer of my skin.

I also went back to see my electrophysiologist for a follow-up from my EP study. It wasn’t surprising to me that this visit was kind of a waste, but it was still annoying. He upped my metoprolol dose to now 25mg 2x a day from 12.5mg 2x a day. Due to some unexplained episodes of waking up gasping, my heart skipping a beat, then beating really hard and pain shooting through my body I’m wearing a monitor for a week. I’ve done the 24 hour Holter monitor before but this is the Cardiokey. Hopefully it gives us some answers. He doesn’t think they are anything to worry about, but he also doesn’t do much diagnostic testing and in my opinion generally does not care. Unfortunately I have to see him in May to get the results from the monitor.

My mom works as a case manager in a hospital and one of her friends is a Cardiologist. She explained my whole cardio story to her and she thinks I should get a second opinion and that my electrophysiologist isn’t doing enough. So now we’re looking for one who will take seventeen year olds.

Because I definitely needed more specialists in my life, I saw a rheumatologist for the first time. I’ve been having joint pain and swelling that didn’t go away after I weaned off topiramate, so we went to see what they could do and what suggestions they had. My mom had to call 12 different rheumatologist to find one who would take me. Most of them didn’t see anyone under 18, so she called pediatric places but they wouldn’t see new patients over 16, being 17 I was screwed. Fortunately she explained my situation to one office and the secretary asked the doctor if she would make an exception and see someone under eighteen and she agreed, God bless nice people. This doctor was so kind and understanding.  She ran something like 21 blood tests to make sure I didn’t have any signs of rheumatology related diseases like Lupus or RA. I also got x-rays of my hands and feet, and we should get results from all of this within 1-2 weeks.

She thinks I may have fibromyalgia on top of whatever mystery illness I’m fighting, but doesn’t want to diagnose me with it just yet since it’s something that is way over diagnosed and once you get that diagnosis most doctors won’t look past it. I’m not surprised she thinks I could have fibromyalgia, but I am really happy she wants to do more and look into other things.

In two weeks I have a follow up with the allergist, then in eight weeks I have a follow up with the rheumatologist, and in seven weeks is the follow up with the electrophysiologist. Ahh so many! Some of these would be sooner but our insurance is changing as of May 1st so for the first 15 days while things are switching over it’s best not to have any appointments. I also have a dentist appointment to fix some broken fillings in May. It’s gonna be busy, but I’m glad we’re getting the diagnosis process going again.

If you read this whole thing, thank you but also why? Haha I’m kidding, but seriously thank you for taking the time to read my posts. Let me know how you’re doing!

Lots of Love

and appointments,

Alyssa

Daith Piercing for Migraines?

Whether you have migraines or not you may have seen posts that circulate the internet about daith piercings being cures for migraines. The daith is the inner most piece of cartilage on your ear and it’s supposed to act as an acupressure point.

406d8b05aa4e8f1622f5be6cda05295d-2

As a skeptical person I’m not really buying this as a migraine cure. I get the idea, but I don’t really think it will work. With that being said, my mom has had three co-workers get this done and all of them have had less migraines. I could try to come up for explanations for why they got better after getting the piercing, but I’m not going to. It really worked for them and so I’m going to try it… with no expectations of course.

The worst thing that could happen is that it doesn’t work. This isn’t invasive and I really like the look of them so I would probably keep the piercing either way. The place her co-workers went specializes in this piercing for migraines and is reasonably priced, so I’m going to go there as well. I’m not a huge fan of a lot piercings but I think one or two on the ear (that aren’t the typical lobe) can look cool. Some people look really good with other piercings like their nose or septum, I just don’t think I would be one of this people.  I’ve wanted my helix pierced for around two years now but I’ve been vetoed by my parents.

This place doesn’t do appointments, only walk-ins but I’m planning on going on Saturday. You have to get one side done, wait a month for it to heal some, and then get the other side done if it doesn’t completely relieve your migraines or you get them on both sides. I plan to make an update post once I get it and then again after I’ve had them both for a few months.

Have you ever tried any “internet cures” for your chronic illness? Did they work?

Lots of Love,

Alyssa