New Year, New Direction

Like many times before in January these past 7 years, I am seeking a new direction for my medical care as a serious illness continues. A recent autoimmune blood test found antibodies for a particular type of central nervous system disease. So of course we are off now pursuing the next big thing! Here’s an initial brain dump on the subject (absolutely no pun intended!).

Autoimmune disease (AD) is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. There are up to 100 different types of AD (depending upon which resource you use) and 3 triggers that I can discern that initiate the onset of symptoms:

  • Gene expression that gets turned on. This is where your have genetic markers for a particular condition coming from somewhere in your family tree that starts to express itself as active disease when triggered by stress, infection, toxicity, or some traumatic event.
  • Infection by bacteria, fungus, or viral agents. This appears to apply when the infection is severe or chronic.
  • Cancer. This may be a chicken-or-egg type of dynamic where a patient may never know what came first.

Docs have diagnosed me with a few conditions in the past that may be considered autoimmune disease. But it wasn’t until my Doc finally decided to start testing me for AD antibodies (Cyrex Array #7) that something concrete was identified and it is serious. The condition mimics a neurological disease that my Father had. The biotoxin illness that triggered my 7 years of chronic illness (beginning the same year in which he passed away, interestingly) and subsequent infections may also contribute to my situation. Thankfully, no cancer has been identified so we will stick with the first 2 triggers as entering me into the AD phase of my long term treatment plan.

So I started researching as usual and discovered two primary approaches to neurological disease in general: 1) manage the symptoms of a debilitating, degenerating course, or 2) treat it with immunotherapy and medications that have the potential to reverse its course when there is an AD component. My Doc suggested continuing various supplements and physical therapy. A second Functional Medicine Doc suggested a “functional medicine chiropractor” and a neurologist who specializes in Parkinson’s Disease. Of course I will consider these but I am also not going to wait around while my body deteriorates without seeking something more substantial! Fortunately it appears that for me, there may be medical treatment options including what is called IVIg that have the potential to REVERSE THE EPISODES THAT APPEAR SEIZURE-LIKE, VIRTUALLY EVERY DAY FOR NEARLY 7 YEARS!  Yes, let’s do that!

Yesterday I set up an account and submitted a brief case history for review by the Autoimmune Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Their neurologists specialize in neuroimmunology, participate in the latest research, and are willing to initiate trials of immunotherapies and medications to help their patients. I had contacted a couple of researchers directly, consulted the leader of a regional support group, watched lectures and interviews, and reviewed the literature on the factors relevant to my case. “Time is brain” and “time is cerebellum” appeared several times in the studies, suggesting not waiting around for something to happen. Overall, this field of study is very complex; I believe that I understand the main principles enough to share with my beloved Stevers and, as one accord, proceed in this new direction in my medical care.

As with anything new and complicated, there are many unknowns ahead of us. Will the neurologists accept my case and when will I be able to schedule my consultation, testing, treatment? How much, if any, will my insurance cover? How will I tolerate a lumbar puncture procedure likely needed for comprehensive diagnostic work-up even if administered under anesthesia? Will we be able to pay for the travel and out-of-pocket expenses that, for immunotherapy, could exceed tens of thousands of dollars? Can any of the treatment, if indicated, be completed locally and how many times will I need to return to Mayo Clinic (a full day of driving away from home)? In the winter when it’s too cold to camp, will I be able to tolerate staying in a hotel often laden with fragrances that trigger convulsive episodes? Will our aging and endearing pup Elle be able to travel and stay with us?

You know we are praying about all of these questions already! I am a bit frightened by the diagnosis I have been given, having worked with persons with movement disorders during my career as an Occupational Therapist. Yet I am also in awe that this information came NOW and not 3 years ago when I first considered a consultation at Mayo Clinic. We have learned so much since then, ruled out other conditions that don’t apply to me, treated conditions that put me in a better position to benefit from an Autoimmune Clinic, confirmed that this illness is not psychiatric, and know the process of travelling for medical care (as in my craniomandibular specialist whose care continues).

I feel like the expression on Elle’s face in this picture. Three paws in view and one paw under the rug with the unknowns lurking underneath there as well. Will there be Rubber Duckies or sweetness from the Lord to lighten this journey? Surely. Each phase of this time in my life has brought blessing with the hardships. Besides, you know I love road trips with Steve! And Elle!

Hang tight Gentle Reader. We may be headed north really soon! JJ

Known in the Gates: Part 2, The Inside Story

One of the movies that has really resonated deeply with me is, The Breakfast Club.  Please see my previous post for the catchy theme song that underscored the film and one of the most poignant scenes that is also pertinent to Part 2 of this 3-part blog.

In Part 1, I described the isolation that I have felt when enduring a serious illness and how the Lord still gets me through the toughest of days.  His Word is my greatest comfort; the leading of the Holy Spirit and His presence are my greatest companions.  I ended with a question,

But how well does he really know me?

Sure, my Lord crafted me before I was born and set forth all that I would be, all that I would endure and accomplish.  His Words in Psalm 139 declare that He knows my “innermost being.” Does this include the longing of my heart as well?  If it does, why has He allowed me to become so dreadfully isolated?

Maybe someday I will get to see why so many family and friends have chosen to “walk on by” me as it says in the theme song of The Breakfast Club.  Have I not been a good friend?  Maybe I was not.  I remember about two years into this ordeal someone contacted me and asked me about getting together for coffee.  I replied “yes” and then I never heard from her again.  My spirits had soared then crashed and burned.  For believers in Jesus Christ, the answer to the “why” question is usually left for eternity.  We simply may never know “why” this side of heaven.

Those of you not living in isolation may not have any idea how much Satan uses this experience to tear a person down.  He can prey upon all of our negative emotions and be allowed to create havoc in our lives.  (Yes, ultimately God is still in charge!)  Yet I know that it’s really not about resisting Satan or about losing the people in my life.  I resist the devil and his demons with the sword of the spirit:  the Word of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-17.  People come and go in our lives and that is the normal ebb and flow of life.  It really is about my response to the taunting, the loss of these relationships.

My challenge has been particularly great due to the effect that this chronic illness has had on my brain.  Responding to Satan’s lies and the loss of relationships has been affected by the change in brain chemistry that came with chronic illness.  My ability claim victory in the name of Jesus Christ and fully embody the companionship of my Lord have been affected.  Satan’s lies have been magnified.  My social skills have eroded.  My ability to think clearly has been altered.  And I struggled to override these skill deficits but could not, even if I tried.  Allow me to explain.

Only recently did we discover that excessive neurotransmitters called catecholamines (epinephrine, norephinephrine, and dopamine) are likely contributing to my mood changes, thinking and communication skills in addition to possibly causing the convulsive episodes.  This is happening due to the expression or “turning on” of polymorphisms (SNPs) or breaks in several enzymes that help form my DNA code.  The DNA code is the instruction manual or blueprint from which the body functions.  Everyone has a unique combination of broken SNPs that get turned on by illness or significant stressors in the environment (such as exposure to mold).  For me the factors included everything that I have written about in this blog:  biotoxin illness/hepatitis, latent Lyme disease, Candida toxicity, mold illness, infected root-canaled teeth, and mercury toxicity.  That’s a lot of stressors!  These illness and environmental challenges became a trigger for disaster.  I even have the data to prove it, all of it!

methylation cycle, Dr. Amy Yasko, SNPs, Lyme disease, mold illness, mitochondrial, mito disease, methylation, B6 deficiency, CIRS, mold illness,
One version of a methylation cycle from http://ihateticks.me/2014/10/06/methylation-for-dummies/

For some people this process manifests as a Mitochondrial Disease or a disruption in the methylation cycle inside the nucleus of the cells of our bodies.  My thought life was affected.  My mood was affected too.  I had waking and nightly nightmares not based in any reality past or present.  Those were internal things that my beloved husband, Steve, and the healthcare community could not see very often.  Several healthcare practitioners labeled me as having a mental illness of sorts, often without even completing a mental status exam or workup!  Gratefully, Steve believed me.  They all saw the wretched convulsive episodes that have plagued me for hours every day for 3 1/2 years.  And Satan was allowed to enter into the whole dynamic with lies and attacks that I will definitely write about at another time.  Absolute mental and physical wretchedness.

But now the gig is up!  Two days ago I woke up from a lovely nap after starting to treat this condition.  I had my first 16 hours seizure-free!  It’s as if someone turned on the lights in my brain!  Not only do I have a formula for correcting the brain-part of the process but the prayers of deliverance against the spiritual warfare are taking hold.  The cascade of negative mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual suffering is beginning to turn around. Lord willing, I am going to get well!

My Jesus knows all about every aspect of what I have described here.  He also knows the desires of my heart.  How do I know this?  My prayers long before this illness began was to become whole.  I had been broken by the consequences of a hard life:  events out of my control.  Many times during trauma the Holy Spirit would bring encouraging scripture to me that kept me moving forward.  Yeah, finding hope and finding myself has come through horrible, ongoing isolation and trauma.  I have worked hard to recover from so much suffering in my heart, my mind, my body.  Each step of the way has been both painful and meaningful.  Yet I tell you, Gentle Reader that nothing has been wasted!  I have learned to trust the process in EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE under the protection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And now the desires of my heart are being realized.  Cool beans.

So how does one rebirth the desires of one’s heart?

Jer 29.11b

To be continued in Part 3 . . .