Invisible Illness Awareness Week–Series of Articles on Endometriosis

Here is a post from guest blogger with excellent information and links about endometriosis!

She started a blog to help her in her journey through grief, infertility, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, migraines, PTSD, depression and, hopefully, to help others in similar struggles. She uses the name “snowdroplets” because she wants to convey both her sadness and hope. Snowdrop flowers are a symbol of hope. Some will bloom in winter. Droplets…as a symbol of tears. Also as cleansing water and the life-giving properties of rain. Put together… snowdroplets.

Please click on “snowdroplets” below to see her entire blog.

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As we kick off Invisible Illness Awareness Week, I was so happy to see The Guardian publish a whole series of articles on endometriosis today!! Endo is part of my #invisiblefight. It made me so very happy to see this awful illness receive this kind of attention and to see the discussions that these articles kicked off in the comments section. I hope this will help us to get more funds for much-needed research. Here are a few of the articles:

1) Endometriosis: the hidden suffering of millions of women revealed

Often dismissed as ‘women’s troubles’, endometriosis affects one woman in 10 of reproductive age, yet a lack of research and funding means sufferers can live in severe pain, unable to work or socialise…

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/28/endometriosis-hidden-suffering-millions-women

2) Endometriosis: 20 things every woman (and every doctor) should know

For example: you do not have this disease because you failed to breed in your early 20s. And pregnancy is not a cure!

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/28/endometriosis-20-things-every-woman-and-every-doctor-should-know

3) ‘I’m not a hypochondriac. I have a disease. All these things that are wrong with me are real, they are endometriosis’

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/28/im-not-a-hypochondriac-i-have-a-disease-all-these-things-that-are-wrong-with-me-are-real-they-are-endometriosis

4) ‘The pain is paralyzing’: 30 women describe living with endometriosis

http://www.theguardian.com/society/ng-interactive/2015/sep/27/the-pain-is-paralysing-30-women-describe-living-with-endometriosis

5) Endometriosis: if your doctor isn’t taking you seriously, it’s time to find a new one

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/29/if-your-doctor-isnt-taking-your-endometriosis-seriously-its-time-to-find-a-new-one

Thank you Guardian, for raising the profile of this disease!

Thank you, snowdroplets, for writing this blog post!

Invisible Illness Awareness Week is September 28 – October 4

This post is from the Rest Ministries Invisible Illness Week website (http://invisibleillnessweek.com/)

What is your invisible fight?

Invisible Illness Awareness Week is September 28 – October 4 and we are creating a big buzz in social media, spurring on awareness, understanding, and dispelling myths and misconceptions about living with illness.

We live in a culture that understands acute sickness. Tell a friend you have strep throat and your friend has an idea about what your next three days will entail. Friends grasp your need to rest, to eat a certain way, that you may or may not be online, the amount of medication you may take, and that you likely won’t be getting together for an event or working.

Chronic illness, however, is confusing to most people.

Illnesses that are indefinite (chronic) have a growing list of symptoms that differ between those with the same illness–and overlap with those who have different illnesses. There are no rules or guidelines about what you can and can’t do or should or shouldn’t do.

How can a person with illness barely be able to get out of bed one day and running errands for two hours the next day? If the medications are working, why haven’t you returned to your favorite activities? Are you depressed, and that is why you keep going back to the doctors over and over?

All of these are common assumptions from one who has not experienced a chronic illness.

Invisible Illness Awareness Week is trying to change that with a 2015 “My Invisible Fight Photo Campaign”

What are the photos of?

This is the fun part! Take photos of anything that is an #invisiblefight for you.

What is a fight for you that few people would even notice or understand?

Some ideas of invisible fight?

  • A staircase (or even one stair!)
  • A restaurant menu
  • The shower
  • The scale
  • A jar of spaghetti sauce (cannot open it!)
  • A pair of shoes
  • Your bed
  • A certain outfit or item of clothing
  • A blow dryer (that is heavy to lift)
  • A heavy door
  • A car’s steering wheel
  • Your purse (too heavy to carry?)

It doesn’t have to signify something you cannot do. It can represent something that is just an extra challenge for you, something that makes you sigh with frustration, or perhaps hold your breath with a bit of anxiety.

You can take as many photos as you want and share them all over the place between now and October 4th.

If you can, add #MyInvisibleFight to the actual photo.

What hashtags to use

The specific hashtag for this event is #MyInvisibleFight.

Additional hashtags you can use that are for Invisible Illness Awareness Week 2015 are: #invisibleillness #invisiblefight and #iiwk15.

Here is one of the photos I’ve posted:

A pic of how I usually look to others, and how I look at home. It was hard to post the 2nd pic, but it's important to make people see the "visible" part of invisible illness. #myinvisiblefight #iiwk #invisibleillness

A pic of how I usually look to others, and how I look at home. It was hard to post the 2nd pic, but it’s important to make people see the “visible” part of invisible illness. #myinvisiblefight #iiwk #invisibleillness

Lisa Copen established Invisible Illness Awareness Week in 2002 and she is excited to see how you touch lives this year in 2015!

My #InvisibleFight

“You’re looking pretty good today. How do you feel?” The response I often want to give is, “I feel like crap, but thanks for asking.” However I’ve come to realize that isn’t helpful to me or the person asking. It just shuts down communication, and I feel worse. I should be grateful that someone asked how I feel, even if it is just in passing.

If someone doesn’t suffer with an invisible chronic illness, it’s impossible for them to understand or comprehend the pain, struggle, and suffering we go through every day. Yet, we want them to understand, don’t we? Except for a few close friends and my husband who have walked alongside me with my invisible illnesses, most people don’t understand the numerous doctors appointments, pills and supplements, and traveling great distances for consults, second opinions, and skilled surgeons.

One of the most effective ways I do my #invisiblefight for the invisible illnesses I and my family have is through social media. It started simply by someone recommending to me a website called Rest Ministries (http://restministries.org), a website that ministers to the chronically ill. It has daily devotionals that speak to my struggles, informative articles, a chat room called “The Sunroom”, and specific groups that I joined to discuss specific illnesses or types of support. Eventually, I submitted several devotionals and articles to Lisa Copen, the founder, and she graciously accepted them for inclusion on the website. At Rest Ministries, I find great camaraderie, empathy, and understanding from fellow writers and others fighting invisible illnesses here.

The three invisible illnesses I have are ulcerative colitis, lyme disease, and endometriosis. Fortunately, my ulcerative colitis has been in remission most of the 33 years I’ve had it by taking daily oral medication. However, my two grown children both have Crohn’s disease, one diagnosed at age 8 and one at age 20, and they have had significant flares and changes in medications over the years. By God’s grace and advancements in research and medication options for Crohn’s patients, they are both in remission. My “go-to” website for information on these illnesses is the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (http://ccfa.org). This website has webinars with leading doctors and researchers in the field, a separate web area just for teens to talk with one another, the latest information on medications and treatment options, stories of those with Crohn’s or colitis who are making a difference, and many ways to get involved in supporting and promoting these diseases.

Due to the controversy over whether chronic lyme disease is a reality, I found it difficult at first to find reliable information, but through meeting hundreds of patients and being treated by two great Lyme Literate medical doctors (LLMDs), I have found reliable websites that offer names of LLMDs, effective treatment of lyme and its co-infections, and ways to advocate and support legislation for better research and testing. Just a few of those sites are ILADS Lyme Society (www.iliads.org), Lyme Disease Network (www.lyme.net), and the LDA–Lyme Disease Association (www.lymediseaseassociation.org).

Of the three invisible illnesses I have, finding current and reliable information on the internet, or anywhere else, for endometriosis has been the most difficult. It’s not considered a “big deal” in the hierarchy of chronic diseases–a few bad cramps, some severe bleeding occasionally, a few “minor” surgeries, and you should be up and running. If all else fails, most gynecological surgeons recommend a hysterectomy.

I’ve had endo for 27 years, had five laparoscopies, a hysterectomy, worked with a pelvic floor physical therapist, and tried numerous medications, and at age 59, still have pelvic pain. After my most recent laparoscopy in April 2015, I got serious about researching this disease and found that there are only a few surgeons in the U.S. who are endometriosis excision specialists. If you want to learn about endometriosis and find support from others who are experiencing debilitating symptoms, ask to join Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education & Discussion Group on Facebook. Two other great resources are the CEC–Center for Endometriosis Care (www.centerforendo.com) and the EFA–Endometriosis Foundation of America (www.endofound.org). Through these groups, I educated myself and am sending my medical records to three excision specialists with the hope of eradicating endo from my body for good.

Finding good resources of information from other people suffering from your same illness, discussion groups on Facebook, Twitter, or websites, or your own experience with good doctors can empower you and give you hope to keep up the #invisiblefight. And you can pass it on to others who are also fighting the #invisiblefight.

My ultimate weapon for my #invisiblefight is prayer and the strength that Jesus gives me when I don’t have the mental or physical strength to function. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God hears my cries when I lie awake at night wanting to sleep, but can’t. He knows my suffering because He suffered great physical pain, too. When no one else understands, He will never leave me nor forsake me. When I am unsure about a medication or treatment plan laid out before me, He gives me His wisdom that is way beyond my finite mind. He collects all of my tears in a bottle and gives me peace in the midst of the #invisiblefight.

But the greatest gift Jesus gives me in the midst of my invisible illnesses is joy. Joy in spite of the circumstances. Joy in His creation if I open my eyes and ears. Joy that He never sleeps and is always awake for a good cry or conversation. Joy when He uses my struggle to comfort and come alongside another who has the same illness. Joy that I can pray for others when I can’t do anything else. Joy that He is my greatest warrior in my #invisiblefight.

 

The Heat of Life Ripens Our Ministry

This is a devotional I wrote that was published on the Rest Ministries website (http://restministries.com).

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are alwaysRM ripen image for devo_10-5-14 green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8).

I live in Pennsylvania and by mid-August, the hot, humid summers give us ripe, red, juicy tomatoes. The kind that you take off the vine and bite into, with the juice dripping down your chin.

But not this year. It’s mid-August as I write this and our tomatoes are still green. Others who planted tomatoes are having the same problem because we haven’t had a hot, steamy summer, like we usually do. In fact, we’ve had only nine days at 90 degrees or above.

As a person who is not fond of hot, humid weather, I’m not complaining. However, our green tomatoes are proof that they only thrive in these conditions. This summer, the plants craved as much sun as their little solar-collecting leaves could gather.

Chronic illness can be like these tomato plants. We yearn for days when we have less pain, more mental clarity, and are more productive. Yet, our ministry to others is most “ripe” because we’ve experienced the discomfort of blistering heat, and the distress of oppressing humidity.

Our ministry is most “ripe” because we are totally dependent on God for our next breath, or our next hour.

We can only understand others’ suffering if we walk that same road. I empathize with women who have endometriosis because I’ve had it for 25 years and had it recur after a hysterectomy.

Our family helps others navigate Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis because three family members have these diseases. I understand the mental and physical pain that comes with depression because I’ve “been there.”

Though none of us chooses the path of illness, God can use it to comfort others in their pain, loneliness, and suffering. As we rely on God for our strength and perseverance in the “heat” of our illness, He is ripening us to minister to others.

When you can’t take another day of the “heat and humidity” of your illness, know that God is preparing someone to come and pluck you from His vine and to enjoy the juicy morsels of godly wisdom and comfort that only your experience can provide.

Prayer: Lord, it’s hard for us to reach out to others when the “heat” of our illness saps all of our energy. When we have better days or go into remission, help us to look for people in our lives who have chronic illness and share our experiences to minister to their hearts. Amen.

What have you discovered in your journey with chronic illness that could be helpful to someone else?

Guest Blog from Dave Hershey, Campus Pastor for Penn State Berks

Today  I share a post from a guest blogger, Dave Hershey. Dave is the campus pastor for Penn State Berks and leads a club on campus called Christian Student Fellowship (CSF).  This post is one of the best explanations on sharing Jesus that I’ve ever read. If you enjoy this post, please visit Dave’s blog at http://davehershey.wordpress.com.

What A Student Who Loves Doctor Who Taught me About Faith

On Monday, November 23, I found myself in a theater surrounded by “Whovians.”  For those of you who don’t know – a “Whovian” is a fan of the British television show Doctor Who, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  The show’s recent popularity is due to its return in 2005 after a long hiatus.  Many young people on both sides of the Atlantic have become fans.

The show follows the Doctor, a Time Lord, who travels through Space and Time in the TARDIS that looks like a British police box.  When mortally injured the doctor can regenerate into a new body.  This is the reason the show has lasted for fifty years, with eleven (or is it twelve?) different men portraying the Doctor.

I first heard of Doctor Who a two years ago from a student named Elizabeth.  Elizabeth came to CSF to observe us for a project she had to do in one of her classes (a mini-ethnography).  We have had a few students come to CSF for this reason before and usually they don’t hang around after the project is over.  I don’t think Elizabeth planned to either, but she did.

She found a welcoming and life-giving community in CSF.  When she interviewed me for the assignment we discussed her Catholic faith and whether that was a barrier to being a part of CSF.  I recall explaining that CSF seeks to be a place where all Christians can come and grow in their faith in Jesus.  (Of course, we also hope to create a place where people who are not yet disciples of Jesus can come and learn too.)  I know there are things Christians disagree on, and we discuss such things sometimes, but we try our best to lay those aside on campus so we can focus on what really matters.  On a campus filled with broken people there are more important things to do then argue our particular theologies.  What matters on campus is learning to love Jesus and spread this love to others.

Soon Elizabeth became good friends with many members of CSF.  She was part of an especially tight-knit group of ladies.  The next year, which was last year, she served on our leadership team as secretary.  Now in her senior year she continues to be involved in CSF.  Just a few weeks ago I took a group of students to the Penn State football game to work in a concession stand with the CSF group up there. Elizabeth could hardly hold in her excitement as she got to see Hannah, one of her best friends, and one of the first students to welcome her to CSF two years ago.

Elizabeth is a huge Doctor Who fan.  When you meet Elizabeth you soon find someone who enjoys good books, movies and television shows.  I suppose this is appropriate for someone who is a professional writing major.  As Elizabeth talked about Doctor Who other students who watched it also talked about it.  Others of us were so intrigued that we soon began watching it too.

This is how I found myself in a theater full of Whovians the Monday before Thanksgiving.  Bryson is another of those students who first welcomed Elizabeth to CSF.  He is now at University Park but was home for the holiday.  I joined Bryson and Elizabeth in watching the 50th anniversary special in 3D on the big screen.  Fun, nerdy times!

One evening a few months ago I was at the diner with CSF students.   They were talking about Doctor Who.  There was probably a new student who had just confessed to not ever seeing it.  I recall Elizabeth made an interesting comment – “I never tell people to watch Doctor Who.  I just talk about how much I enjoy it and they want to watch it.”

“And there’s your lesson on evangelism for the night,” was my response.

Too often we Christians create this huge pressure to sell Jesus to unwilling customers.  We approach it like a used-car salesman.  We hate it though as deep down we feel dirty…kind of like our stereotype of a used-car salesman.  But this is not what evangelism is.

What if evangelism is simply talking about what we are passionate about, what defines us, and what if this is primarily Jesus Christ?  I don’t need to take a class to learn how to tell someone I love my wife.  If you spend time talking to me, my likes and dislikes will come out.  And just as people may watch a television show we are very excited about, they may decide to visit our church or crack a Bible due to our excitement.

I feel the need to add a caution – this is not a program.  This does not mean we need to artificially create a false-excitement for the Jesus.  When I talk about my wife, or a book I really liked, or a movie I saw recently, I don’t pretend to like it out of outside pressure to get you to like it.  I really and truly love something and it naturally bubbles out of me.

So the challenge for me, the challenge I give my students and those reading this now, is to get to know Jesus.  Read the gospels, encounter the real and amazing person at the core of our faith.  I believe through this you won’t help but talk about him.   As you do, you’ll find others are wanting to marathon the Gospels much like marathoning episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix.