Treatment Update and Anniversary

Six years ago tonight began a journey that has tested me in every way possible; brought me closer to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, than ever before; deepened my love and gratitude for my beloved Steve; and helped me to grasp the incredible resilience of the human body/human spirit.  Thank you Lord for your sustaining grace through it all!

Rather than go into the details, I will simply refer you, Gentle Reader, to my story here.  Briefly, I got deathly sick with viral hepatitis after kayaking in a local reservoir and never fully recovered.  Seizure attack episodes began on a daily basis within a couple of months and have yet to resolve.  This serious illness has had many names, required extensive treatments at considerable expense, and rendered me unable to work in my profession of occupational therapy.  I miss working.  The social isolation, sense of loss, grief, and various disabilities have changed my daily life considerably.  Without my faith in Christ I would not have made it this far.  I do have hope for a better tomorrow which brings me to my quarterly treatment update as follows:

Recent lab tests found extremely high pesticide toxicity.  I immediately increased Far Infrared Sauna and various detox treatments until I could meet with my functional medicine Doctor.  Now after two intense weeks of exhausting research, medical appointments, and enough follow-up that would make the great T.V. detective Colombo proud, I am hoping that my Doctor’s office has processed a referral to a State Toxicology Center.  I found a neurologist that specializes in seizures related to toxicity and I want to see her as soon as possible!

In the meantime, I try to function as best as I can.  Sadly the very difficult titration of a new medication either keeps me up most nights or wakes me up with breakthrough tic attacks every two hours.  (I still spend most weekends in and out of bed with sickness.)  The focus now is to inhibit acetylcholine that we hypothesize is causing the seizures because of damage from organophosphate poisoning (OP).  Acute treatments for OP are well known but not for long term effects; we simply do not know how long I have had this toxicity.  The medication is an interim measure.  I am wondering if various Lyme, fungal, viral, and even parasitic infections have sequestered OP like these organisms can do with other toxic agents.  We know that detoxification can increase feelings of sickness called “herxing” (from release and recirculation of mycotoxins for example) when we either detox too fast or our liver or kidney pathways are blocked.  I now use bitter herbs with various binding agents in a “push-catch” protocol that helps to better tolerate the process.

organophosphate poisoning, round-up, pesticide, herbicide, toxicity, toxic, clonidine, seizures, treatment,acute

So here we go again with another new treatment direction!  At least this time I have concrete lab values to help explain what is going on along with a new, promising treatment direction.  In the meantime I’ll be hanging out as the “chick in the box” (as Steve says) at about 124 or more degrees, trying to literally “sweat it out” in our sauna. There will be no anniversary celebration per se for enduring six years of hell albeit with some sweet moments sprinkled in here and there.  There will be humility though as I try to be a godly steward of this journey my Lord has entrusted to my care.  I do have hope for a better tomorrow.  That is where this blog began 6 months into this 6-year journey and I hope that is where I will remain beyond that too.

Thank you for sharing the road with me Gentle Reader.  When I see my stats ticker go up a notch my spirit gets a little lighter, knowing you are there.  Thank you.

With love,  JJjer, 29:11, jeremiah, hope, future, plans, says the Lord, Christian

I learned it from Charlotte

She was wearing an oxygen cannula 24/7 and needed to take a break to rest after walking from one end of her house to the other.  Having battled breast cancer years ago, she had come into the late stages of another bout of cancer that would take her life a year later.  She was no longer able to leave her home except for medical appointments and did so with a supremely taxing effort.  Too weak to perform all but the most basic of daily living chores, she still had an amazing ministry that reached across the country . . .

Grief Share, friendship, mentoring, older women, younger woman, grief, loss, grieving, fellowship, Charlotte

From left: Julie, Miriam, Charlotte, Mary, and LuAnn from a Grief Share Ministry in 2007

Charlotte prayed for persons that she had found in an online “care” ministry.  These patients had opened up a personal webpage usually when in the hospital to facilitate communicating updates on their medical status to loved ones.  Charlotte searched the database for individuals that spoke to her heart then enlisted prayer warriors she knew via email and social media to pray for them too.  I was in awe of her outreach!  Exhausted from chemotherapy, radiation, or just taking a breath was no deterrent for a woman with a heart bigger than anyone’s I had known.  “I have the time,” is all she would say about it.  And time was her greatest gift as she spent it in the service of others, lifting them before our heavenly Father’s throne of grace.

So when I have been bedridden over the past few years, I have taken on my own version of Charlotte’s prayer ministry.  I pray for everyone I can think of until I can get out of bed again.  I was often amazed that once I got started, the Lord would bring so many names and faces to mind:  persons I had met online, an individual named through a prayer chain, or maybe someone I saw in public when able to leave our own home to go to medical appointments.  “I had the time,” so humbly to pray would be the best use of it.  It has been amazing to me when these instances occur . . .

Today a bunch of folks came to mind during 2 hours of continuous seizure attacks after injections of antibiotics at my doctor’s office did not go so well.  I lain on a hard treatment table in the dark to shield my eyes from the bright lights, hoping that the hell would not go on as long as it had during treatments earlier in the week.  My neck throbbed from the violent shaking, thrashing, odd posturing, wailing, repetitive pulling forward of my flexed torso, and general torture of it all.  (Unfortunately the facet block injection in my neck 3 weeks ago had already worn off!)  Sure, the nurses checked on me every so often; they had seen these episodes many, many times before and knew the score.  There was an agreement however, that if the convulsions persisted they would call an ambulance to take me to the emergency room of the hospital adjacent to their office building.  I doubted if that would do any good.  Would she be making the call the next time she came in the room?  The next time after that?  The total duration had already exceeded 90 minutes which was well beyond our agreed upon period.  “Is there anything I can do for you?” she would ask in plain English.  Sigh.  Not really.

Then she came back again and I squeaked out to yes, please ask the doctor if he could do a chiropractic adjustment on my neck.  It might help stop the wretchedness as it had in another appointment in the past.  Finally another nurse came back with the good news:  the Doctor would see me!  I began to cry . . .  then praise the Lord . . . then pray some more.  Soon my time thrashing about whilst laying flat on my back and mighty sore gluteus media from 6 injections this past week would be over.  I had so much to do later this evening before a surgical procedure tomorrow.  I had better get my time with the Lord in now not knowing how the rest of the day would fare.

Things got better after more gut-wrenching yelps, yells, screams, bursts of hot tears, yada, yada with the chiropractic adjustments and I was finally able to leave the building under my own power about 20 minutes later.  Whoa!  Shell-shocked I had made my way to the bathroom, put on my coat, and gathered my things to leave as if moving slow-motion in a black and white flick from the 1950’s.  But the evening was just getting started so miraculously the pace revved up a bit from there.

Within the hour I would be tossing all precaution to the wind and digging in the garden with our pup chewing a bone nearby!  Whaaat?  Hey, I figured that I’d get the borders of 2 flower beds tidied up knowing that I would likely be on a lifting restriction after placement of a power port in my chest wall early the next morning.  SO I DUG, DUG, DUG LIKE THERE WAS A TREASURE OF GOLD HIDDEN IN THERE SOMEWHERE!!!  Even the darkness and the drizzling rain did not stop me from doing what I love, doing the most that I could possibly do in some sort of a cathartic shedding of my personal hell on the way to and earthly Garden of Eden.  Well, sort of!

Maybe Charlotte would smile at how things turned out for me this evening.  It’s been about 7 years since her passing.  She had an impact on my life for sure.  If she were still around I would give her a call and listen some more to her wisdom that helped transform my life at another tumultuous time.  Well I guess that is happening again dear friend.

Thank you Jesus for Charlotte’s legacy.  Perhaps someday together we will tend to the sumptuous riches in the gardens of our Savior’s wondrous dwellings that You have prepared for us to bask in Your glory one day and forever.

There is so much to look forward to Gentle Reader.  I hope to see you there too.  :JJ

Just doing my job

occupational therapy, O.T., home care, home health, assistant, therapist, accessibility, tub transfer, adaptive equipement, Hope Beyond, therapist heal thyself, tub bench, transfer, gait belt, bathroom treatment, therapy

An O.T. assisting a client in a tub transfer using bathroom safety equipment.

When I was working in my career as an Occupational Therapist, I coined the following phrase to describe my role to my patients and their families:

An Occupational Therapist takes a look at how a person occupies his or her time and the skills needed to get through the day.

This definition worked well, given the diversity of populations, conditions, and treatment interventions utilized in O.T.  Having a simple, quick definition helped me better communicate my 30+ years of licensed and skilled interventions from a variety of treatment settings that might be called upon at any stage over a course of therapy.  Together we then crafted a course of action to get the person back into his or her life as best as possible.  Funny how the person that may have benefitted the most from all of this is the one writing to you this evening . . .

Recovery from a serious illness has been a case of the phrase “therapist heal thyself” coupled with the expertise of a few other licensed professionals.  My part was to study, research, document, evaluate, revise, manage, and just hang in there by my fingernails to get through these past 4 years.  However I will credit the Lord, Jesus Christ for providing the courage and hope that my husband, Steve, and I needed to actually start seeing some progress.  And guess what, it is starting to happen!  The Lord has allowed recovery to begin!

Six weeks ago I began an ongoing, intensive course of IV antibiotics for the treatment of chronic Lyme disease.  In the interim I experimented with liposomal melatonin, 5-HTP (a precursor to serotonin), and now CBD oil (from industrial hemp).  I believe it is that latter that have helped to move my sleep/wake cycle from that of a brown bat to a gal that is just slightly a night owl.  I am starting to dream again and have a little more energy, clarity of thought.  Also the years spent chasing down mercury toxicity, mold illness, dental issues, and secondary infections have prepared me to tolerate this level of intensive treatment.  Are you ready for the biggest change of all?

The two to five hours per day of violent convulsive episodes is diminishing in intensity and duration!  This has been consistent for about two weeks now.  PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!

We are thrilled for some positive change in my condition!  We are now hopeful that the powerful doses of antibiotics will help kill the Lyme bacteria and co-infections likely causing the seizure attacks and other noxious symptoms.  Whoa.  So how do I fill my days?  I am continuing my full time job of daily detoxing, preparing  a specifically crafted diet, maintaining a detailed treatment log, medical appointments averaging daily, supportive relationships, study-and-research, medical treatments (some complications came with the IV treatments), connecting online to forums critical to these efforts, the “stuff of life,” and taking a walk at least once per week.  Maybe this week it will be twice?  Yeah God, the pup will love that one!

Like in the past, right now I am just doing my job.  I am grateful that the Lord saw fit to lead me into the profession of occupational therapy as it provided me the skills needed to manage the mechanics of this illness.  Along the way my beloved Steve has been the greatest friend, confidant, witness, and spiritual leader that I could have ever asked for to walk this road with me.  He has labored tirelessly night and day for me, for us.  Thank you Jesus for Steve.  There are many unknowns and many more months of treatment yet to follow for sure.  No problemmo.  With my Lord and Savior at the helm, I will be fine.  Lord willing, I am going to get well!

Just thought you might like some good news from the “Hope Beyond” blog, eh?  Take care Gentle Reader.  And thank you for your support.  You rock!  JJ

So much to consider

Phil 1:12, Philippians, trials, suffering, endurance, Christian, crisis, long term, illness, chronic, humor, gallows12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”  Phil 1:12

Just as this picture and this scripture present two extremes of perspective for the activities of life, they are united in one theme:  we shall rejoice with Christ as our guide!  Yeah, I know that is a stretch . . . but we do know that the God of the universe has a sense of humor too, right?  I mean he created aardvarks, zebras, and tse tse flies!  What’s up with that?  Oh I know that the Original Adam named them all but just how did he do that?  They were all such weird creatures!  So it follows then that humor can help us endure many kinds of extremes, even the ones you and I are facing today.

Take for another example the thieves that attempted to steal gasoline from an RV.  This is a true story:  instead of tapping off the gas line they ended up tapping off the septic line instead!  When the fluid started flowing it was not fuel it was the polar opposite:  stool!  So sad.  Such a righteous punishment I must admit!  And as a grateful owner of a travel trailer all I can say is:  Tee hee with a smirk.  ;}

I cannot say that I can relate to the paradoxical themes of life with much right now with much lightness of spirit right now, however.  I’ll just keep it simple:  there’s some good and there’s some that is not.

On a good note I am grateful to report a widening of social contacts of late.  I’ve reached out to some old friends and some newer gals have jumped back into my world from my local church.  I appreciate the friends that I’ve met online (and you know who you angels of mercy are) and hope we can extend our fellowship.  All of this is good.  It’s amazing how all believers in Jesus Christ share a common unity even when the circumstances of our lives can be so different.  We all have our daily wants and needs; our Lord cares for the desires of our hearts tenderly and for these we can pray in earnest for one another.

On a less good note, new I.V. antibiotic treatments for chronic Lyme disease are going quite roughly.  Yup, revisiting Lyme since the persistent seizure attacks sure look like the episodes of others dealing with the neurological complications that can happen long after the acute infection has come and gone.  It was 4 years ago that I first started treatment for Lyme when things got sidetracked for treatment of mold and mercury toxicity, dental issues, Candida, parasites, and a possible oxalate burden exacerbating fibromyalgia pain.  Use of a Rife machine brought daily seizure attack episodes and treatment of Candida escalated them from 2 to 5 hours of convulsive episodes per day!  I was bedridden the better part of about 4 days each week this past Spring, Summer, and Fall.  So beginning in January I was started on high doses of IV Rocephin (antibiotic) and I remain sickly but out of bed more of the time.  This treatment coupled with the wintry temperatures below freezing have brought incredible pain.  However, the days that I am up until daybreak every night of the week has cut down; tinnitus, brain fog, and other executive functioning skills are sloooooowly shifting for the good.  Sometimes even the pattern of convulsive episodes shift as well (thank you liposomal melatonin!).  Just maybe these past 4 years have not been wasted after all!  It appears that each new treatment has prepared me for such a time as this:  we just might be able to treat this remaining beastly diagnosis and its co-infections to get well . . .

There is so much to consider.  Will I continue on antibiotics long term?  Will my health insurances help us out or cut us off next week?  Will I be able to get a port to spare my aching skin and forearms from repeated pokes and dressings that trigger more wretched episodes?  When would I transition back to more herbal-with-pharm-grade supplemental interventions?  Will the reactivity to mold and fragrances ever come down or do I have to go live in a pristine environment somewhere for a few months later on to fully detox?  How much more stress can my beloved husband, Steve, be expected to bear?  And how will we pay for all of this?

As the frigid Winter temperatures of the Midwest bring more of a sense of retreat than charging forth into the unknown, we are choosing to press on anyways with my treatment for chronic Lyme disease.  I just wear long underwear everyday to keep warm!  We are starting where we are with a local, Lyme-Literate Medical Doctor who has treated dozens and dozens of cases successfully.  I know that to be true.  I have met many of them when we had a local Lyme disease support group.  I noticed that each of us facing this dreadful disease had chosen a somewhat unique path to his or her recovery based upon the damage the infection caused to our bodies and our individual resources.  (See this link for more info on chronic Lyme.)  Perhaps my case was one of the more severe.  Perhaps the Lord had more than “recovery” in mind when He allowed this serious illness into my life.  There is so much to consider that simply was not on my radar over 4 years ago.

If you have found this blog by way of your own journey through chronic Lyme disease or some other serious illness, know that I am praying for you.  There is hope!  You are not alone, Gentle Reader.  Please comment below and allow me, if you like, to connect you with a larger community of those finding meaning beyond his or her diagnosis.  Our Lord, Jesus Christ, grieves for your suffering, your fear, your broken heartedness.  He sees you and will see you through what you are facing as He has done so for me and Steve.  He loves you more than anyone (including the furry pup above who has found his prize squirrel in the sunshine of a better day).

May we both smile some day in the arms of our Heavenly Father for having connected this day, for His glory.  And, um, when we get our prized prey I’ll just say, “please pass the catsup.”  Squirrel on the Bar-B-Que anyone?  Ewwwwww!  :JJ

The Price of Admission

Garfield2016-01-15

Garfield tells it like it is and that is the way I like life to be as well . . .  No pretense here, ever!  He must be chemically sensitive too?  I digress . . .

To get well from a serious illness, one consistently pursues recovery as if he or she is on a journey, not sprinting as if in a race.  My journey of late has included a trial of molecular hydrogen, nebulizing sea water to ease a chronic sinus infection, and experimenting with a Glutamate-Aspartate Restricted Diet (GARD).  Yeah it’s never just one thingy with me!

Some additional research and a consultation with my Doc suggested a link between the GARD, sinusitis, and latent Lyme disease that might be addressed with a course of antibiotic treatment.  Yes, IV or IM Rocephin may address all three.  Rat studies have shown that Rocephin can lower glutamate levels thus helping to raise seizure threshold.  Since I am a card-carrying lab rat anyways it seemed logical to go for a trial of antibiotics for a week then re-evaluate my tolerance for it during my next Doc appointment in 7 days.  Very likely the treatment will continue for several weeks.  Today was treatment day #1.

I began this process pressing forth to complete a lab test beforehand so as not to skew the results with the upcoming antibiotic.  The preparation required a restricted diet of only 2 foods for 24 hours, fasting, and some stressful sampling procedures all ending just one hour before the first IV treatment at the hospital.  The Lord sustained me as I assembled the kit and wolfed down a supremo salad that I had prepared the night before.  I left our home shortly after the FedEx truck picked up the completed test kit while giving our dog something to bark, bark, bark about.  The wings of my Savior, Jesus Christ carried me to the hospital on just 3 1/2 hours of sleep:  less nervous and ready to blast the heck out of whatever might be keeping me sick.  Let’s do this!

Not so fast though!  Just before heading into the Outpatient Clinic I had a violent expulsion of stool!  Whaaaaat?  Good golly!  Looks like the Lactulose test prep was taking effect all at once!  Now what should I do?  I was soiled through all of the layers of clothing I had worn to keep warm.  Fortunately this all happened in a hospital where they have linens and hospital scrubs available.  Alright so I cleaned up, put on the call light, confided my plight to one of the nurses, changed my fashion motif a bit, and returned to my chaise lounger a little wet, a little shook up from everything.  let’s do this?

The biggest hurdle for me in receiving the 50+ IV treatments and 50+ lab draws I’ve had these past 4 years has always been the needle stick procedure.  Virtually every time a needle either goes in or out it triggers massive convulsive episodes.  Fortunately Jennifer, the RN, has more tricks for poking rolling, spindly veins than anyone I have ever seen for care.  The first stick failed resulting in the usual shakes and shouts.  So we just waited until my world calmed down and I got a few more moments of the best distraction ever under my belt:  HGTV on the little swing-away monitor at my station!  Watching Island Hunters and the like has saved me from tears many times for sure.  (Such a treat!  We don’t have cable service at home.)

Gratefully the second stick was successful.  Gratefully there were no ill effects during the infusion just fatigue.  Gratefully I was able to run an errand to the meat market secretly in wet jeans underneath my scrubs before returning home.  Gratefully the nap came easily after showering and without seizure attacks.  The hell returned later in the evening but overall I got away with at least one fewer episode today.  God is good.  He carries me through so much!

I ask the Lord often why things always have to be so difficult for me?  I really don’t get any answers other than to know that He sees my suffering and promises to love me through it all.  That love is tangible in the graciousness of my beloved husband, Steve, who listens to my stories and sees me through the roughness that characterizes some part of every day.  Perhaps someday I will get to see why the “price of admission” for me to get through my life has been so devastatingly high.  This stuff ain’t for wimps ya know!  In the meantime I will carefully wrap the IV in my arm before showering, clean myself up, run more loads of laundry, and shed some tears along the way.  I am not alone and know what to do.  I have been through IV treatments before and so have many of my fellow sojourners.  We can do this!

At least now there is fresh bacon in the house.  And that Gentle Reader is a mighty good thingy!  I am sure Garfield would agree!  JJ