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!

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Gratefulness in the Midst of the Battle

Ecstatic! Amazed! Grateful! I feel all of these and more about my right hip replacement I had 3 months ago. I’ve been back to work full-time since early July, and am tolerating that very well. Each day I gain strength and flexibility in my hip and leg, and I marvel at the skill of the surgeon and the way God made our bodies to heal!

Although there were days that were difficult, I am grateful to God for many of you who prayed, sent cards, made meals, drove me to appointments and physical therapy. I’m especially grateful for my servant husband, who faithfully filled my ice machine every night to reduce the swelling in my leg, who assisted me when I was learning to walk with a walker, then a cane, then no support, and who didn’t expect me to make meals once I was healthier and started back to work. We ate dinners from Chipotle, Chili’s, Moe’s, and some of our other favorite haunts more than we cooked…and that is OK:-)

I’m also grateful to my physical therapist, Randy, from Commonwealth Orthopaedic Associates Physical Therapy at Body Zone Sports & Wellness Center. He has rehabilitated just about every major part of my body over the last 12 years with skill, encouragement, and a lot of laughs.

On the disappointing news front, my Lyme disease is still active, and my pain from endometriosis is beginning to rear its ugly head again. And yes, that’s after a hysterectomy and a subsequent laparoscopy to remove endo after the hysterectomy.

Regarding the Lyme disease, my doctor thought I might be in remission, but when the blood test came back, it showed I still had active disease. I am also beginning to have some symptoms of a co-infection, Babesia. So I will be back at the Lyme doctor in September. In the meantime, I’ll take oral antibiotics to continue to fight the Lyme.

And regarding the endometriosis, apparently what I’m experiencing isn’t all that uncommon. Many women believe that a hysterectomy is a cure for endometriosis, but actually, it just gives doctors more treatment options. However, many of these treatment options don’t work.

An online article by The Cleveland Clinic states, “Whether endometriosis will recur after surgery depends on how severe the disease was at the time of surgery and how completely the surgery removed your lesions. Lesions that appear after surgery may be new or pre-existing. For this reason, it may be difficult for your doctor to tell whether your disease has come back or is progressing. The most recent studies have shown that endometriosis recurs at a rate of 20 to 40 percent within five years following conservative surgery. Um hmm….you read that correctly…..20 to 40 percent.

About 5 million American women have endometriosis. Endometriosis can occur in teenagers and adult women of all ages, but most typically it occurs in women ages 25 – 40. Mind originally occurred in 1988 when I was 33. I had about 4 laparoscopies over a period of 20 years before I had the hysterectomy and subsequent laparoscopy last August in 2013.

Implants can form in many areas, most commonly in the following locations in the pelvis: ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterine surface, cul-de-sac (an area between the uterus and rectum), bowel, bladder, rectum, and the peritoneum (the smooth surface lining that covers the entire wall of the abdomen and folds over inner organs in the pelvic area). Rarely, remote sites of endometriosis may include the spinal column, nose, lungs, pelvic lymph nodes, the forearm, and the thigh.

On my last visit to my gynecologist, whom I’ve had for 31 years, he said my exam was better than previous ones, but I was tender in the spots where he found endometriosis before. So we decided to wait until I’m at least 6 months post-op from my hip replacement to give the nerves, muscles, and tendons time to heal. After that, we will decide how to address the endometrial pain going forward. He says it will probably be another laparoscopy.

So, even though I sometimes feel like just pulling the covers over my head and sleeping through life, God has shown me that I need to be grateful for life, whatever state I’m in. If I wake up in the morning, can put my feet on the ground and move forward, it’s a blessed day. I just ask God for His strength and wisdom to give me a good attitude and the physical and mental ability to do the tasks for each day.

So stay tuned for Lyme and endometriosis updates…and keep those prayers coming!

 

The Bionic Woman

bionic woman

Sorry for the delay in this post, but I was making changes in the appearance of my blog.

The Bionic Woman is an American television series starring Lindsay Wagner that aired for three seasons between 1976 and 1978 as a spin off from The Six Million Dollar Man. Wagner stars as tennis pro Jaime Sommers who is nearly killed in a skydiving accident. Her life is saved using “bionic” surgical implants similar to those of The Six Million Dollar Man. As the result of Jaime’s bionics, she has amplified hearing in her right ear, a greatly strengthened right arm, and stronger and enhanced legs which enable her to run at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour.

Well, I’m not The Bionic Woman, but part of me went bionic on May 9 when I had a total hip replacement of my right hip. It’s kind of surprising for a woman who recently turned 59, had been a group fitness instructor for 28 years, works full-time, and leads a very active life with her husband. Frankly, I was shocked! Here’s the backstory.

In December 2012, I had a robotic-assisted hysterectomy to remove painful endometriosis. It was a very successful surgery….we thought. However, when I returned to work a month later, I began to experience pain in my right lower back and pelvic area. No, it can’t be…..it should be all gone.

After several examinations by the doctor, seeing my chiropractor (who noticed I had a limited range of motion in my right hip), and getting xrays and an MRI from a hip orthopedic doctor, I found out I had some arthritis, an arthritic cyst, and some bursitis in my right hip. After several hip injections with little pain relief, I went to a pain control doctor, who gave me several steroid injections in my spine, as I have degenerative discs in my lower back. Still, no relief.

Eventually, I was able to plead my case with the gynecologist that endometriosis was still present. He did some research and was hesitant, but he trusted that I knew my body. On August 19, I had a laparascopy and two small spots of endometriosis were found embedded in deep tissue and sitting on nerves, which was causing the intense pain. Whew…I was right and now the pain is gone. Woo! Hoo! Thank you, God, for the perseverance and the trust and skilled hands of my gynecologist.

I recovered from that surgery well, but a nagging pain lingered between my right hip and back. Back to the chiropractor and physical therapist I went. PT did not bring pain relief or improved range of motion, so my PT recommended I see a doctor who does hip arthroscopy, as he might be able to open the hip, and fix what is wrong. Surgery…really?

running in circlesAfter having a pain injection and MRI with the hip arthroscopic doctor, he stated that my hip was too deteriorated to correct with arthroscopy, and he wanted me to see the hip replacement surgeon in their practice. It is now December and both the hip replacement surgeon there and the original hip surgeon in my city agreed I’m not ready for a hip replacement, that it might be my back, and I should go back to the pain control doctor to see if injections might bring pain relief. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! I’m running around in circles here, God. Please direct my path.

Mid-January through March, I had several injections from the pain control doctor that brought limited and temporary relief. He sent me for nerve conduction studies, which are all normal. I also found out in January that my Lyme disease had returned. Ugh…can’t be. How much more, God?

I returned to my PT, who recommended I purchase a cane as my gait was really uneven. If I would have had a cane in my hand, I would have probably hit him with it! A cane? At my age?

 

My Glow-in-the-Dark Cane

My Glow-in-the-Dark Cane

So I decided if I’m going to carry a cane, I would go in style, so I purchased a fold-up cane called “Glow ‘N Go” where the handle and tip glow in the dark:-) Fun! And it was quite a conversation piece:-)

After a few weeks of therapy, my PT recommended I go back to the surgeon as my hip was not improving. I did that and told the doctor I had done injections for my back and was doing PT, but the hip was getting worse. He did a standing hip xray, and when he pulled it up on the computer, he turned to me and said, “Well, I now can do a hip replacement.” (He doesn’t mince words.)

I was shocked and asked, “What happened in the last 3 months?” He put the xrays side by side. The one from December had cartilage and the one he took that day had none. I was bone-on-bone in my right hip joint.

Startled, I asked, “Isn’t that unusual?”

He said, “Everyone deteriorates at a different rates, but the end result is the same–the hip needs to be replaced. Now, let’s get a date on my calendar.” Oh, I can’t believe we’ve actually come to this point. It’s all moving so fast.

After doing some research, getting a second opinion from the hip ortho doc in my city, and getting questions answered from the surgeon, I made arrangements to be out of work for at least six weeks and for my husband to be with me the first week after surgery. Before the surgery, I had one lingering question that no one had been able to answer….

I had an appointment with my Lyme doctor a week before surgery, explained to him the quick deterioration of my hip and asked him, “Did Lyme disease cause this quick deterioration?”

Without hesitation, he said, “Absolutely. Yes. Lyme disease can affect the skin, brain, nervous system, muscles, bones, and cartilage. After my own knee quickly deteriorated and I had a knee replacement, I surveyed my patients and researched Lyme disease studies. The research indicates that infectious spirochetes [the tightly coiled bacteria that causes Lyme symptoms] can remain adjacent to or embedded in cartilage for extended periods,even after antibiotic treatment. Also spirochetes love hiding in cartilage because it’s one of the immune system’s weak spots.” Ok, great…I had to ask, didn’t I?

walking outside 2Well, I had an answer, but it was another ugly surprise about this disease called Lyme. I am recovering very well from the hip replacement surgery, and my strength is coming back quickly because I had a newer procedure called the direct anterior hip approach, which doesn’t cut any muscle. More about that in a future blog.

There are days my recovery has been slowed or halted because of overall muscle and body aches from Lyme, but I am now walking with that flashy “Glow ‘N Go” cane again and have already put that walker you see in the picture away.

Something I read in a Karen Kingsbury novel while I was recovering has stuck with me. One of the characters in the book had just had a delicate surgery, and another character asked the doctor, “What if it doesn’t take?”

The doctor replied, “Oh, it’ll take. In fact, the area where there was trauma, replacement, and healing will actually be stronger than the unaffected parts of his body.” I thought about how amazing God is that He gives this skill and wisdom to doctors, and that He designed our bodies to heal even stronger. Where there was trauma and eventually healing, that section would be stronger than any other.

And so it is in our marriages, our families, our work, and our relationships. Trauma will come to many relationships. Disagreements, differences, arguments….sometimes acute or chronic pain. God knew we’d need some surgery, so He gave us His Word full of advice on how to make points of trauma, places of healing. And come out stronger because of our obedience and His Grace.

I’m Working My Way Back to You, Babe…

Image

I couldn’t resist using a song from the 60’s as the title for this post. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted here, and I hope to change that going forward. Yet, some of that is out of my control. I last posted in December 2012. I had robotic-assisted surgery for a hysterectomy, and my first few weeks were amazing…pain free. Shortly after Christmas, pain returned and except for working, much of my spare time was spent on referrals from specialist to specialist searching for pain control.

None were successful, so I’m kind of back to square one, scheduled for surgery next Monday, August 19, to see what’s causing the pain. It’s going to be a laparoscopy with the goal of removing any scar tissue, adhesions, etc. that are causing pain. It probably sounds weird, but I’m looking forward to it. After 8 months of unexpected pain, I’m praying for skilled hands of the surgeons, being pain free, and being off work only a week (the expected recovery period). I covet your prayers for perseverance in the next week, for the surgery, and for the recovery.

On a completely different note, I attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference July 31-Aug. 3, absorbing information and being encouraged by other Christian writers such as Bob Hostetler, Ken Gire, Cindy Sproles, and many others. I had the opportunity to have 15-minute appointments with and have my writing critique by agents and editors. It was my 4th conference, and it’s always both overwhelming and uplifting. I hope to post some of what I learned in future posts.

For now, I just want to let you know I’m back and hope to be sharing my heart and hearing about what God has placed on your heart, too!