First post of 2012! (Some pictures, a painting, and a recap.)

Your 2011 year in blogging

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

In 2011, there were 99 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 123 posts. There were 37 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was December 29th with 83 views. The most popular post that day was How I Forgave the Doctors That Called Me Crazy.

Well thank you, everyone! I’ve recently begun getting a lot of hits on my black bean brownie recipe, too? Who would have thought!

I hope 2012 will be a productive year. In just a few weeks I’d have completed my bartonella treatment, hopefully. More on that once I actually get there, but I haven’t–to my knowledge–had any reliable exacerbations every five days. ;) My LLMD was impressed, and said one more month of treatment, to be sure.

Okay, so I’ve managed to post about life lessons, recipes, and articles lately, without any mention of how I’m actually doing… So symptom charting, right! I had a mini-flare (???) around the 16-23rd of December but it wasn’t too severe–the main symptom was excruitiating fatigue. For the past five days (about) I’ve had lots of what appear to be Lyme symptoms. This is pretty typical since I often have a Lyme flare up at the beginning of the month. The “fire foot”/”hot foot” sensation, in my left leg. The “dragging left leg” thing, yesterday. Numbness in my left leg, and today in my hands. Facial nerve disturbance (pictures I take of myself during this scare me a little!). Severe cognitive dysfunction. Joint pain, nasty headaches (but none today!), worse fatigue, minor palpitations, internal tremor, eyes going every-which-way, seeing things, temperature of 99.5, complete lack of appetite, needing ibuprofen every evening. I stopped having headaches for I think a week…then they were back. The past week I’ve also found several bruises–one on my ankle, one on my shin, one on the back of my arm, and another on the back of my elbow on the other arm. One actually appeared on a day I know I didn’t hit anything, so I’m assuming them to be sporadic. Anemia-related? It took me about a week to recover from Christmas, but it went very well–I took lots of rest breaks!

Randomly, my new favourite thing to put my lemon juice in, is pineapple juice. Three ounces of pineapple juice (natural, not concentrate!), 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and three ounces of sparkling water–detoxing never tasted so wonderful!

Also randomly: I’ve developed a new migraine trigger of…cheetos. Yes, cheetos. Apparently fake “cheese flavoring” is not something my brain likes. Nor is the sucralose (splenda) I found in my antacids, of all places!

Since my last ability scale checkpoint in October (which was right after I started Bactrim, but before the Lyme had a chance to hit me again) I have gone back down a bit. In general, I was thinking last week that.. as much as I hate to admit it, I think I’ve overestimated myself on the ability scales, out of genuine forgetfulness of what it’s like to be healthy. I have been ill for a length of time that begets forgetfulness about what normal people, with their non-diseased bodies and mitochondria, are capable of…
I remember enough to know that I could go go go all day then sleep it off and be fine; that I could lift things all day and just be sore from it, not experience muscle paralysis; that I could think about a tedious problem (technology or math) and not get physically ill from the mental exertion; and that I could keep things in my short-term memory for more than a few seconds. But for the most part, I forget that my level of improvement is completely relative, and that my 40% or 50% is completely different than someone else’s. Perhaps those who read my blog and happen to be less ill, or those who are healthy, don’t realize that, either. It might really become a problem if I were to tell someone in charge of determinig my disability status what level I think I’m at, because 50% recovered to me, just means being able to take care of myself and my basic needs!
None the less, since my last checkpoint, I am for now at: 15% physical ability, 15% cognitive ability, and 40% symptom severity. I’ll reiterate that bad days are worse, and good days are.. well, better/higher up on the scale. For instance, today I was up a lot more, and New Year’s Eve was also a better day in which I stood up a lot and didn’t need much assistance. But in general, this is where I am. I need caffeine to take all my baths, and even then they are often an immense task, but I’m just so glad I still have those options!

I’d like to end this with some pictures I took on a day when I was bedbound, as well as one I took when I wasn’t! Afterward, a painting I did a couple of weeks ago, when my days were horrible but, for some reason, I felt better for an hour or two each night (probably from resting all day).

Clicking them will obviously enlarge them in the gallery, then if you want to read more about a particular picture (or comment), click on “permalink” and it will take you to the individual description page. Happy New Year, my fellow spoonies!

a rainbow at night

Letting go of society’s expectations, symptom recaps, and improvement with bartonella.

Despite the fact that my brain has been functioning a lot better recently, I haven’t much felt like updating. Completely the opposite of several weeks back, when I couldn’t think to save my soul but desperately had things to say! I’m learning a new language, so most of my spare brain energy has been going into that. It will also help me decide if I may be able to attempt finishing my degree come next August. If I cannot, however, I think I’d be okay with just letting it go. Afterall, I do have at least one degree–even if it’s not what I set out for–and my health is too precious to waste on going to university to finish a degree I may never be able to use, and which may worsen me trying to complete.
I have fought too hard to get to this point, and I don’t want what society says I should be doing to dictate what would actually be best for me. If I do reach the point where I am finally stable, then I would love to try and finish and become a researcher, or at the very least, a counselor. But that would take a lot of trust in the fact that I’d still be stable and healthy enough to actually do those things after my degree was finished. If I never again become that well, wouldn’t it be better to attempt some type of small job with the degree I already have, than use up everything I’ve gained in pursuit of something that won’t do me any good? But even that would require more health than making sure I don’t starve on my own. If I only improve enough to take care of my basic needs, I will be thankful.

Illness has taught me my worth is not defined by how much money I make, or what level of degree I have, or what job I have (if any, if ever). I am worthy because I am here, because I exist.

Randomly: I’ve gotten several followers the past few weeks from all over the world–oh, the power of the internet is amazing!

Okay, let’s see. From the 16th-23rd I was having a typical Lyme flare… How is it possible that this pattern hasn’t changed, practically since the time I got it? Is it really THAT predictable? But yes, severe headache and neuropathy issues, and I also recall being more cognitively impaired during then, as well as thirsty–again, all typical. What’s not-so-typical is that I’ve had nasal allergies the past week. I can’t tell if it’s eosinophilia related (hopefully not) or something I’m exposed to in my environment. It’s not like I go outside or even open the windows lately, with it being so cold, but either way, since I’m not allergic to anything except chamomile, this is puzzling! I’m definitely reacting to something–I just don’t know if it’s internal or external. I have Astelin, until I figure out what’s going on.

I felt it’d be okay to restart my stretching routine a couple weeks ago, so every other day I get some exercise! No relapse, yet. I’ve been able to cook a lot lately, also, which is encouraging. It’s still difficult and frustrating because of my muscles and their tendency to fail the day after using them, but hopefully that will improve more soon. If it got worse when I got these infections, surely it will improve as I continue to treat them.

Dare I say that the bartonella eradication is going as planned? The Bactrim is amazing, and I think the bart is.. well, it might be gone, or at least, finally beat into submission?! The protocol is to continue treatment two months past the cessation of symptoms, and I talk to my Lyme specialist next month, so we’ll see what he says. Then I can start Tindamax to finally treat the Lyme! The antibiotics I’m on now treat it, but only very minorly–just enough to keep it from taking over. I’ll be stopping the Rifampin since I can’t take it with Tindamax, but I may stay on a maintanence dose of the Bactrim, since bartonella has a crazy-high rate of relapse, and I do not want to go through this again. I feel I’m probably being unrealistic that I should never face it again, with the way my immune system is, but… For now I’d really like to enjoy my improvement.

Three days ago I started my Zoloft to ward off PMDD and control any outstanding OCD symptoms. I don’t think I was having PMDD yet, but since I was supposed to have taken it again in September, it’s bound to show up soon. My OCD has been flaring and I’ve been hungry all the time, so I know some brain chemicals were out of alignment. I last took it in June, I think, and it was by far too late then!

The past three weeks I’ve had this odd collection of symptoms that fit the description of pelvic floor dysfunction–not saying I have that, but symptom wise, that’s what’s going on. All of my muscles there would randomly tense and were very uncoordinated, no doubt the result of nervous system disruption. :\ I have gotten this on and off over the years, for a day or two at a time, but never three weeks. It’s mostly gone away now. My menses started two days ago so they’re somewhat on schedule again, with every 45 days being my usual. However, if things continue to be.. bizarre, I may see myself going to yet another doctor, so it’s worth keeping track of, yes? I’ve been slightly anemic even before this, and yesterday I had the most random craving for crushed ice (a further sign), so it’s probably no wonder I have been beyond exhausted and out of breath with every move I make. (Anyone else start singing The Police just then? No? Okay.)

A recent study found a correlation between high doses of Vitamin C and a reduction in the rate/increase of heart failure symptoms. Granted it’s just a correlation, but now I feel even greater about taking two tablets per day since last year!

Til next time

a rainbow at night

Cardiologist appointment… Oh, and other things.

That day started with some relief–my menses had resumed. Which, honestly, I wouldn’t care if they never came back, but if they didn’t that would just mean more doctor visits to rule out things like cancer, and I’d rather not, thank you. I did set a new record, though, with how long they’ve disappeared at one time–nine weeks!

When I got there he started by asking how I was feeling since last time. I said “good” and he said I looked well. I was very pleased to show him I was out of the wheelchair.  Then the results came.

So, I still have the valve regurgitation. (I do not have mitral valve prolapse, just to be clear.) The primary issue is mitral regurgitation; I also have pulmonic and triscuspid regurgitation, but they’re always “trace to mild” and haven’t changed in two years. The other thing is that my heart function was decreased. He said it was at the lowest end of the spectrum to still be considered normal; my left ventricular function measured as “low normal.” I’ve always been over the base 55%, but this time it was at 55%, so he wants to watch it. I apparently have a new heart murmur in the mitral valve. (Perhaps this happened after the recent flea incident, during those three weeks I had chest pain and worsened symptoms of the regurgitation?) Oh, and I had wheezing in my lungs, no doubt the result of whatever caused me to be coughing those three weeks. By the time I got to the visit (on the 25th), my cough had stopped, though. He said I can expect a worsening of all this when going through things like infections and physical stressors.

He asked if I had any symptoms such as swelling in my feet or ankles, shortness of breath, fast heart beat, coughing, and frequent urination, specifically waking in the middle of the night to urinate. My answer was yes to everything; he didn’t mention that these are all symptoms of heart failure, but it’s me, and of course I know that. All of these things will happen if I’m not careful, but with my adapations I’m usually able to avoid them, which he suggested I continued doing. I told him about having a lot of trouble breathing when I lie down, which he noted, and said to come back sooner than our scheduled 6 month check up if it starts waking me up at night. He strangly also asked if I had nausea, so that must have some related thing, as well? I spontaneously get nausea for any number of reasons, but, doesn’t everyone?

Then we talked about my arrhythimias–they are there, but just didn’t occur very frequently! (If you recall, my symptoms had actually started to resolve by the time I wore the event moniter, ahaha.) Which makes more sense to me than the previous declaration of “it was just tachycardia.” He actually took the time to explain and show me the event monitor results sheet, and point out where the beats were messed up. Many times, the sheet said something to the effect of not being able to show the abnormality because of the heartbeat was too fast? How is that even possible? Anyway.

He just wants to monitor me, I guess to see at what rate things will progress. There’s not much that can really be done right now, besides what I already do. I take Co Q-10 daily, of course, and L-carnitine, for my muscles, so I hope things will delay themselves for as long as possible.

Now, what I didn’t mention to him, is that the hearts of people with M.E. have decreased cardiac output the day after exertion. It’s one of the few ways you can actually prove our disability: We are in heart failure the day after we exert. If I had thoroughly exhausted myself the day before the test, I could have SHOCKED this poor man with how much it could fail! But, I couldn’t mention it at the risk of him then disregarding the decrease and not wanting further followup, as I’m not about to just assume–as incredibly likely as it is–that’s all it was. I had a doctor visit the day before I did the echocardiogram. Hopefully that’s all it was, but. For the next test, should I rest up the day before to see how I fair on a “normal” day? Or let loose and allow people to actually SEE what my muscles do after exertion?

Other than that, I got the results of my bloodwork and yes, my eosinophils are indeed elevated again. But good news is, I haven’t had any more random hives or allergy symptoms, so hopefully they’re on the decrease now that I’ve got the Bactrim.  I’m also anemic again (hemolytic) which, coupled with the eosinophilia, is exactly what my bloodwork looked like when I got the fleabites the first time. So it makes sense, and hopefully things will even out. My cardiologist said at least there wasn’t a raging infection that would put me in imminent, immediate danger. My white cell count was good! In the 30s! It used to stay in the 20s for several years, but lately it’s been pretty stable, and that’s good. :)

I’ll explain why I was suddenly able to type all of this, in a new post! But basically: Bloodwork reflects hopefully-resolving infection, fleas did a number on me but I’m okay, and as usual, we’ll monitor my heart problems, which are minor as long as I stay within my limits.

a rainbow at night