Hi everyone! I know its been a while since my last post and so I figured I better get something up. That’s if any of you are still reading this blog! Today is really just an update on what has been going on. In Sept things were busy with a couple of speaking engagements and a week-long trip to Ottawa involving advocacy work. While in Ottawa for that work an opportunity arose to speak with representatives from both the Liberal and Conservative Governments in regards to Bill C-81 the Accessible Canada Act. This was a real privilege to take part in and I had to ask a lot extra of myself in order to do it.
In October I started experiencing a really bad spike in pain which ended up with me making a visit to the hospital. I have managed to get the pain under control however am still dealing with some unanswered questions. Pushing forward and not wanting this setback to derail me, in mid Oct I was asked to speak at a conference in Montreal. I was given the opportunity to share my story with researchers from the Society for Medical Decision Making. Another opportunity that you don’t get every day, and one in which I got to share on behalf of the patient/advocate with researchers from across North America.
After sharing my story a researcher attending the conference pulled me aside. She told me that the highlight to her week was listening to my story, and that it opened her eyes to just how much rare disease affects an individual and their family. Then she thanked me for helping her to see things from a different perspective, and that this would change the way that she would do her research moving forward. At moments like these it doesn’t matter how many individuals are at the conference! Being able to impact just one person in the way that I did make it all worthwhile.
Arriving home from Montreal and with commitments out of the way I could now spend more time on self-care. A good thing because dealing with my health right now has to be my focus. At the moment I am undergoing different tests to figure out why my pain is spiking so much as of late. It all gets to be so much at times but you do your best to pull out anything positive you can. You will see in one of my next posts, that a great deal of positive can result from a these trials we face.
I’ve moved past the point of allowing anger, fear, or any of the negative that tries to creep in. In the thirteen years since diagnosis when it comes to research, treatments, or even cures there’s been very little changed with CRPS. Yet this tends to be where people fighting this disease get stuck and spin their wheels. People diagnosed get paralyzed in fear and start to feel helpless because of the uncertainty of so many different things.This is an area in my life where God has really broken down walls and not only fills me with hope but also helped me to keep moving forward with my life.
I’m not willing to let life pass me by! CRPS can throw everything it has at me but every time I’ll get up and fight stronger and harder never giving up. I guess in a lot of ways you can compare crps to the likes of learning how to ride a bike for the very first time. At times you are going to fall off, and so you dust yourself off and get right back on the bike.The hard part is in telling yourself to get back on. For me personally God is the one who lifts me back up every time I fall off, encouraging me to keep going and move forward with my life.
Like I said before there really is no message in today’s post. Although if you read between the lines maybe there is one I don’t know. What I will say is this. We know that as each of us walks through our own personal journey’s, that we might come up against some really tough situations. Right! It’s in my own personal opinion that we need to see them as opportunities to learn and grow from them. Even if that means not understanding the why’s of a given situation! God has really helped me to strengthen this area of my life. Empowering me to use those obstacles or tough times that I go through in a number of positive ways.
Not everything about this diagnosis has to be a bad thing. The person I have become as a result of being sick would require me to write an entire chapter of a book in order to explain. Yes chronic illness has radically changed my life along with the rest of my family. What I am choosing to see however are all the ways in which it has had a positive impact on my life!

 

 

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!

You Hold The Power To Create Change

Happy New Year everyone! The very fact that your reading this means that not only “you” but “I” managed to get through the holidays! Yes its a little past New Years but everything in my world goes at a slower pace! It’s a new year and I’m looking forward to renewed health and wellness for all of us that are suffering from chronic pain. For me personally it’s been a challenging few months battling a few symptoms, that lately seem to be in a constant state of flare. However it doesn’t change how I approach this illness, and I continue to remain optimistic and hopeful. At the same time I’m feeling the need to take a time out and rest my weary body.

In starting out the year I need to refocus and get back to basics which is looking at myself, and to know that the single most effective way to beat this illness is held within me. I’ve been digging deep within myself lately asking myself how I’ve been able to get as far as I have in this battle against CRPS. When things have seemed impossible they’ve been made possible and to that I need to give credit to God for being there through it all. My brain starts to hurt when I think of the number of times when things were too tough to handle, or when the roadblocks I faced seemed next to impossible to get past. Every time though with strength, determination, and a positive attitude I manage to get through whatever situation I’ve faced. Once again I have to give credit to God for giving me all of those things.

Attitude and how we approach our illness is huge, and often I think we can find opportunity to do a much better job at this. I want to be really careful in how I word things because my intention is to make us think about how we approach our illness. Some things are not in our control and I realize that! So there are variables that of course are going to affect how we think, approach, or even act on our diagnosis. That being said I always think there’s room for improving. So what I’m saying is look within your own situation and really ask yourself is there anything you can do differently, or change about your attitude or how you handle your illness. Its a really tough question because this is where some of those variables come into play. You may have had bad experiences with physicians or family members that just don’t understand what your going through. So my question to you would be this. Is there an opportunity to have grace or forgiveness in that situation? Or are you holding on to anger and resentment towards them? I use these two examples because these would be the two that most of us can most easily relate to.

Both these areas do hold opportunity for use to change our attitude, and although it might not be very easy it might just make walking through your journey a little easier! We get so caught up in some of the things that are out of our control that it stops us from seeing that some of the answers are right there within us. Not to mention that it can cause a huge shift in our attitude! That doctor who’s working really hard to help us in a really crappy situation isn’t responsible for us being sick. Yet often anger and frustration often gets directed towards them just because they can’t provide us every answer “you” or “I” want. Even when we come up against that physician or specialist that doesn’t know about our illness or doesn’t treat us the way we deserve to be treated. There’s an opportunity right there in how we deal with the situation that may arise as a result! Try to look at things from a different perspective because maybe just maybe some of the answers aren’t as cut and dry for them as they may seem for us. We get so desperate for answers however that we lose perspective of that because we start letting our emotions take over.

Believe me I get it! All I’m really trying to say is that sometimes we miss what’s right there inside of us. We hold this incredible amount of power within ourselves to change the entire outlook of our diagnosis. Along with changing how we manage every day life within our illness. Do you get what I’m trying to say? The question is this! Are you willing look within yourself to find it?