Growing the CRPS Community

Today’s been one of those days where you try with everything you have to get things done but it just doesn’t work out! I got three quarters of the way through writing today’s post when my computer decided it was going to crash. There’s a reason that we are suppose to “save draft” and its most frustrating when you abide by that golden rule and your computer doesn’t do what its suppose to do! It really sums up the type of day I’m having but what can I do but laugh. There would have been a day where I would have let all of that really bother me. Ok! So it still really bothers me!

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic as I get closer to hosting CRPS Awareness Day! Last minute details are falling into place and I’m trying to maintain my health and everything that’s going on there as well. Nothing new on that front except for the fact that the revolving door of doctors appointments continues. I’m very lucky however to have a team of health care professionals working with me that care and are working to figure things out. I can’t begin to explain how it feels knowing that they are there for me when I need them the most. They have never given up on me! I always consider myself very blessed to have a team like this because I know this isn’t always the case.

This week I wanted to bring you a message that’s a bit different! I want you to read this today thinking about how important it is to support others around you who might be sick. This week I got the opportunity to spend some time with someone else dealing with CRPS who I’ve been visiting with from time to time. He’s fairly new to his diagnosis (within the last two years) and so he’s having to process everything that’s going on within this life changing event! Clearly he’s having a tough time in dealing with everything, and so I’ve been trying to go and just be that support to let him know that someone is there for him. Its a hard time for not only him but the rest of his family. For me its a flashback to the beginning and it brings back a lot of emotions that I had to experience at that particular point in time.

Then there was the person I spent some time on the phone with this week who’s been living with CRPS for the past nine years. She lives in a very small town and there’s nobody around her for support. She’s been unable to find a doctor in her area that understands CRPS, and therefore its left her feeling frustrated and desperate for help. If that isn’t hard enough her family isn’t  supportive making things all the more difficult. After a short conversation I told her I would ask my care team if they would contact her to see if there is anything they can do for her. I couldn’t offer a lot but the fact that someone was willing to listen and try and help gave her hope that she didn’t have before.

So why am I bringing up both of these individuals? Because just like the people I have in my life they need people that aren’t going to give up on them. Nobody should have to take on an illness such as CRPS or any other illness for that matter and be all alone. All this week I’ve had a word stuck in my head and that word is community! When you look up the definition of community it reads “a unified body of individuals” that come together. Isn’t that what we should be doing? Coming together and helping each other when we need it. Let me clarify what I mean. I’m not saying that we can be there in every circumstance or for every single person that we come across that’s in the same circumstance, nor am I saying that we don’t already support one another. What I am saying however is that we need to make the extra effort when opportunity presents itself, even if it means putting them in touch with someone else.

There is just something so powerful about community! When we’re there for one another a strong support system develops! I can’t say how important it is to have that! I live in a part of Canada where resources are minimal and support for one another is hard to find. So those friendships that develop take on a whole other level. That’s what I’m trying to get at! Its that one person who you reach out to that has nobody around them for support. Or the person who’s newly diagnosed and scared but doesn’t know what to do or who to turn to! Having walked through all of that it gives me a voice to speak into their lives. I can share my experiences and story to help them navigate their way.

So I’m going to ask you this one simple question. Have you reached out to someone around you that might be dealing with CRPS? If your part of a chronic illness community then I want you to think about what it is that makes being a part of that community so special. Take it one step further and think about those in the community your in. Were they welcoming, helpful, or supportive? Probably all of the above! Wouldn’t you want that for someone else? Some of you reading this understand exactly what I’m trying to say. Its a simple message but one that is so important and vital in us growing as a CRPS community. When we come together things start to happen!

 

What Direction Are You Headed?

Hi everyone! Yes I’m still here although you’d never know it with how frequently I’ve been writing! I’ve been trying to get to posting but things are crazy right now and I’m trying to stretch myself in ten different directions. Never in a million years did I think that my advocacy efforts would take off in this way but they are. In a couple of weeks we will be holding CRPS Awareness Day(Nov.2) again and I’m happy to say that after only one year we are finally making a impact. Its been a really long road to get to this point but I’m positive that we are taking baby steps to create change!

As usual my health has been up and down one minute I feel good and the next I feel like I’ve been hit by a train! To give you all an update I’ve been dealing with a lot of extra pain in my neck and back as of late that’s been setting off flare ups with my CRPS. I’m working with my neurologist and team of care givers to figure all of this out. We don’t know a lot at this point however I am undergoing some testing. For the time being I’m putting all the tools I use to manage this illness into place in order to help me deal with the pain. With any luck I won’t need more surgery down the road. All I can really do at this point is pray and trust that God gives me the answers.

There’s no use in letting all of this drag me down because that’s not the way I live my life! I’m not sure if you ever truly wrap your head around everything that happens with a diagnosis of CRPS. God can however so I just give Him all the hard stuff to figure out! Yup this disease and everything it puts you through sucks! Without a doubt it will test you more than you ever thought possible! Sometimes however life doesn’t play by the rules and there isn’t much you can do about that. In a past post I said that living with CRPS was like climbing Mount Everest, you encounter storm after storm and at times trying to make it to the summit seems pretty much impossible. In my head I kept getting stuck halfway up the mountain as I was battered by storm after storm. For the longest time I felt as if I was pinned down by these storms as one after the other tried to knock me off the side of the mountain.

Honestly I really feel as if the weather has cleared and now I can keep climbing to get to the summit but its going to take work and determination to get myself there. For all I know there’s another storm around the corner. The will to push on has to come from within and that is something that can only come from me or you! When you find yourself up against storm after storm it can be easy just to turn around heading back down the mountain in defeat!

I know this message might seem a bit repetitive but I can’t stress enough about how much “you” the person dealing with chronic illness play a roll in getting better! You might be saying to yourself right now “but I can’t get better because I have no cure” however I don’t believe for a minute that you can’t. So why is it that there is no cure for CRPS yet I can feel so much better compared to when all of this began? Without a doubt the main reason is because I’ve asked for God’s help to navigate me through all of this. There were storms that I had to weather and it would have been impossible to get through them without His guidance. Did it mean that it made the storm easy to get though? No! Some of those storms have been the toughest things I’ve ever had to ride out in my life. What you need to take away is that God often has us walk through things like this to build strength or courage, and to learn certain things about ourselves.

I guess my question to you is this! Are you willing to do the work it takes to continue the journey and reach the top? Or are you going to turn and head back down the mountain? Its a hard place to be in and trust me when I say that I understand the fear of being stuck and all alone on the side of that mountain. Although you really aren’t alone because God hears your every thought! You just have to ask yourself are you willing to receive the help? I guarantee that He will help you on that climb but what I can’t guarantee is what that path might look like. So are you confused yet?

What I’m trying to say is that I can’t tell you what the rest of your journey is going to look like. You might have to deal with some stuff or go through a few more storms because God doesn’t tell us that everything is going to be easy all the time. What I can tell you is that a peace and strength has been restored in my life that I can’t even begin to understand! All you have to do is ask!

How Do You Navigate Rare Disease?

Today’s been one of those days that finds me moving just a little bit slower, and feeling just a bit more pain than normal. Par for the course in a life that I’ve come to know and accept. Every day is a new adventure and like I tell so many of you, never expect your day to turn out the way you had planned it. I’m not trying to be negative in what I’m saying but I’m just being realistic as a person who’s living with CRPS! Today’s adventure is to sit down and try and maintain focus on putting together this post. With any luck I get this done!

When I sat down to write this post I had a completely different post in mind. At the same time I was thinking about another message that’s been nibbling at the back of my brain. It has to do with the whole area of how we handle having a rare disease. Yes it frustrates me to death that so many of us get lost in the shuffle and are often left to navigate our own way through it. This is something I find comes up over and over again with patients fighting rare disease, and won’t change unless we are helping in trying to facilitate change. Not only within my own disease but within other rare diseases as well. Desperation is pushing people to their extreme limits and it just comes out naturally in aggression and frustration. So often though that anger and frustration has a negative affect on how we handle living with our illness.

Although I completely understand why those feelings are coming out and have had to deal with them myself, we need to find ways to focus that anger in a positive constructive way. At the beginning of my diagnosis I was angry and wanted answers. So I expected that “all” physicians should be know what CRPS was, and that they should have been able to give me the answers I needed. They are doctors after all! At the time I had no compassion for physicians and that they don’t always have the answers. Clearly as times gone by I’ve discovered that there’s a need to educate and raise awareness! I discovered within myself that the anger that I held inside myself wasn’t going to get me anywhere, and that I needed to take a good hard look at how I was seeing and dealing with all of this. Instead of putting this giant blanket over “all physicians” and their understanding of my rare disease I needed to see it in a completely different way.

There was so much frustration and anger at the beginning that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me. The need to educate and work “with” the medical community and different government levels. It was very clear when I looked outside myself that I needed to change how I was approaching all of this. Why not put the time and energy into working with the physicians, members of government, and the research groups! There are great physicians and members of parliament or government who are willing to work with us and do know about the things we face. It’s a matter of finding those people and then teaming up with them to educate and create awareness. Am I saying not to get frustrated with that physician or member of government who doesn’t give you the time of day? Absolutely not! We are going to experience those emotions time and time again. The question is what are you doing to harness those emotions and then turn them into something positive?

So how do we flip all that anger and frustration around and create something good from it? Maybe it’s as simple as sharing your story. Our stories are a powerful tool for teaching and educating those around us what is going on with us both physically and emotionally not to mention creating awareness. In the last few years I’ve started sharing my story with medical students, nurses, and members of government. From that other members of the medical community and government have reached out to ask me to share my story. I’m saying all of this in order to get you to see that by simply sharing my story in various ways to different groups I’m making some kind of a difference. It’s a very simple yet powerful way to have a positive affect on bringing about change.

Another way would be to take part in things such as clinical trials and different research studies that will help those studying rare disease to find answers that might eventually lead to cures. There are all kinds of organizations and people that can aid us with research studies. At the same time there are certain rare diseases where there are opportunities for research because not enough is being done. Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to play a part in raising awareness for research. Whether it be getting involved somehow with the research itself, or maybe you get involved in a fundraising campaign of some type. There are so many ways that we can channel all of those frustrations that we face in living with rare disease. However it is a choice that each of us has to make! The question is what are you choosing to do?

For myself the choice is easy because I’m looking at the bigger picture of all this. This isn’t just about myself! I’m choosing to get involved in all the ways that I do because “all” of us need answers. I care about each and every one of you who are sick and only want to see you get better. The way we do that is by coming together as a patient body fighting together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Your Frame of Mind?

Things have been a blur the past few weeks because its been so busy! The month of June is one of those months where you both love it and hate it! With the school year coming to an end we have all the usual year end things happening and at the same time we can’t wait for summer holidays to start. Just get me through the month and all will be good. Throw in the tail end of our cottage build and finding time to practice self care has been really hard. I just have to keep telling myself I’m almost there!

I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that today I’m not doing so hot, and doing everything I can to fight off pain and keep myself functioning. Sometimes I think that this is when I do my best writing however because it helps me tap into the reality of what I deal with every day! I have always tried to live life with a chronic illness with a positive attitude, to be an example to those around me that life is still great in so many ways!  That will never change! I promised myself one thing when all of this started and that was to make a difference in other peoples lives! To learn as much as I can about CRPS and take that information to as many people as possible, being a voice in the process to those affected by this illness!

Sometimes this disease gets the best of you and it takes nothing to get mad at it! Why? Quite simply because every single day it reminds you that its there and that its trying to steal from you. The key however is that I won’t let it. Even on days like today where I’m having a bad day with pain, I focus on being positive and not letting it steal from me. That’s where surrounding myself with people who are positive and help me to focus on the good things is so important. I can’t stress that enough because it can be so much easier to pick out all the bad stuff that’s going on. I try and look at all the good things I have in my life like my faith, family, or circle of amazing advocates that I have around me. They’re always there to pick me up when things get really frustrating and when I want to naturally go to that negative place!

I’ve also said it a million times and I’ll say it again and again God is the single most positive influence through all of this. When nobody else can be there in those really hard times for me He can be! I’ve said a lot of prayers through this journey and will continue because I know He hears them all. When things seem impossible at various times He makes them all very possible. Too many times I didn’t have the answers or the obstacles that were in front of me seemed just too difficult to get passed! However every time I ask God for help a path or a door opens for me to get through or that answer becomes quite clear. That isn’t chance or something random that happens. That’s God answering prayer!

Some of my fellow advocates have gone through journey’s that seem just too unbelievable to be true! I don’t see them that way at all. Often some of those stories have brought people really close to death. I look at them and see a testimony that a person has and the power to speak into someone else’s life. This again is God working through a person and using that person in a certain way. I know talking about faith isn’t very easy for some people but for me it is because I believe in the things that He has done and is doing in my life. I have experienced first hand the way that He works in my life and through others. So when people tell me that they are all alone I tell them that your never alone because the truth is that you aren’t!

I always tell people that even though I’m going through all of this every second of every day I couldn’t feel stronger on the inside. Again I believe that this is something that God has placed within me in that He has enabled me to face or handle anything! There are days like today where its a struggle and that the pain is intense, but God never said that there weren’t going to be hard days or ones in which we don’t have to face adversity!

Together We Thrive!

Well after an exhausting weekend in Chicago at the HealtheVoices17 conference I came back with renewed vision and refreshed ready to get back into the trenches of advocacy! Did I ever leave? No you never stop! For the last four days I’ve met with advocates from all over the world! Yes we had advocates join us from as far as Australia, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil, and United Arab Emirates at the conference. It was a pretty amazing group of people and I can’t tell you just how much they inspired me! The theme of the conference was “Together We Thrive” and I couldn’t have walked away this weekend without feeling more as if I now have this extended family in my world of advocacy.

Without a doubt the weekend was crazy powerful with so many amazing advocates from across different patient communities. Such a great opportunity to learn, grow, and support one another. The support started with Janssen US and the other sponsors who funded everything for all of the patient/advocates to be in Chicago for this conference. A huge thank-you for believing in us! To the TonicLC team I couldn’t have been more blown away by how great a job you did in putting on this #HealthEVoices17 conference. So often as a patient/advocate your efforts are largely unheard and you feel as though your that small fish in a very large ocean. It was refreshing for a change to know that our efforts were being recognized, and to hear companies like these say that “we were teaching them”!

To the new friends that I made and the ones I didn’t get as much time as I’d have liked to over the weekend, I thank you all for inspiring me in the ways that you did! I’m missing so many of you already but at the same time looking forward to working with you in the future. Its important to remember that “Together We Thrive” and so I encourage all of us to stay in touch with one another. As we all get back into the trenches and get back to advocating for our various causes remember that we are powerful together no matter what the cause. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you who inspired you and ask for their advice. At the same time make sure that you take those who are around you and raise them up! Encourage, motivate, and help to empower them in their own advocacy efforts.

At #HealthEVoices17 we were able to learn so much about the powerful tools that we have at our fingertips to aide us in our efforts. They are only powerful however if we put them into use! So I encourage each and every one of the 100+ advocates that were there over the weekend, to take what you were able to learn and apply it in the ways it will benefit your cause. We need to understand that partnering together is only going to make us stronger as patient/advocates. Before you do any of this however remember that self-care is your first priority. This was something that was front and centre at the conference! We were urged to make use of the quite room or take the opportunity to go back to our room and watch the live stream as we rested. Remember your a patient first and need to take care of yourself first before any of your advocacy efforts.

This was a weekend that had so many levels to it! Trying to pick out just one highlight is a really hard thing to do. On Fri night we had an “Open Mic Night” and all I can say is that you had to be there fully appreciate just how raw and real things got! What was suppose to end at around 9:30pm ended up going until 11:00pm! Its hard to describe the feeling but it was clear from day one that that no matter what you were dealing with, that you were part of this larger extended family that supported you and would be there for you in the future. We laughed together and shared experiences with one another, as well as having several moments where our emotions got the best of us producing the odd tear!

We can learn so much from one another as patient/advocates! Being able to speak to other advocates and the communities they belong to, as well as hear about the challenges they face is a great way to learn and grow with one another. It allowed us the opportunity to see if there were things in which we could add or change about our own efforts. Every moment right down to the meals together was pretty special! The entire weekend left me pretty speechless.

It really was an honour and a privilege to be asked to be a part of this conference this year. We walk away impacted and changed in so many ways!