Hi everyone!I know it been a while since my last post but I’ve needed a bit of a break. With family and multiple advocacy commitments it hasn’t left a lot of time for writing. Yet its such a vital piece in helping me to express myself with all that rare disease has thrown my way! Some days it just feels like such a never-ending battle and I’m not going to lie its hard. I wish I could explain what its like to wake up in the morning ready to take on a new day, yet feel as if you’ve had the “crap” kicked out of you already and it’s not even 9am!
CRPS is so much more than just chronic pain! Yet we focus on the pain because that is what we know and hear about most of the time when it comes to this disease. Pain, swelling, and a fire burning that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody are most definitely the primary symptoms affecting me. However there are numerous other symptoms that people affected by CRPS and other chronic illnesses suffer from, and we don’t hear or do enough about them. Things like stress, social withdrawal, irritability, loss of interest, poor concentration, easy tears, lack of energy, sadness, and depression just to name a few. So let’s just say that the pain side(or the ones we hear about most of the time) are “Part A” and the invisible ones(not heard about of enough) are the ones that make up “Part B”.
We talk about one side when really both sides come as a package deal. The articles that I read in relation to my own diagnosis CRPS, always seem to address issues surrounding the pain but don’t seem to go much further than that. I can’t help but think that if we spent more time on educating about both sides, that we would be so much more effective in how we treat these illnesses. The best example I can think of to back this statement up, is the high suicide rate that comes along with CRPS. What are we doing to address it? I get that patients are desperate and being pushed to their limits because I’m one of them! In order to effectively treat and manage however we need to bring both sides of the puzzle together. This is often where the problem lies.
There is no one reason for how or why things breakdown. We as the patient have a voice and need to do our part in speaking up! If we want things to change then it starts with us. That means talking to our physicians, members of government, and others who have an active role in our healthcare system. We can’t just remain silent and hope that everything magically changes itself. To create change then we have to take an active part in trying to make that change happen!
On the other side of things lets look at the healthcare professional or physician who has been highly trained to perform that roll to the best of his abilities. I decided to look up the definition of physician and this is what I found!
A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simple doctor is a professional who practices medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments.
The use of this definition isn’t to slight physicians in any way but rather to illustrate the point I’m trying to make. Most of what I have dubbed “Part B” is contained within the last two words “mental impairments” however it isn’t confined to just those two words. Just like with the patient there are opportunities within a physicians profession that could help in bringing together the necessary pieces.

 

Look! I could find all kinds of reasons for why these problems exist but that’s not the point of me writing this. There’s a problem and we need to start working towards fixing it. I’m not the expert when it comes to policy or the healthcare system but I am an expert in my own body and what I have had to deal with over twelve years since diagnosis. I can bring value to any conversation that happens, and can be effective in trying to bring about change!
If I do my part then I don’t think I’m asking for too much when I ask others to do theirs. I get that chronic pain, rare disease, chronic illness, or however you want to label it are tough to diagnose and treat. The fact remains that there needs to be a basic level of care and treatment that one has to receive! When you speak to others within different health communities they will tell you that those basic needs aren’t being met for whatever reason. That’s what needs to change.
So I’ll end with this! There are some of you out there who have crazy powerful stories that need to be heard. Those stories can be a huge part of how we can influence the change that needs to happen around us. Look at your personal journey as a way that you can inspire, motivate, and empower those around you. A simple story can be so powerful! Don’t be that mouse that hides in the corner but the lion that is loud and can be heard for miles around.

 

 

Helping Yourself!

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope all of you had a relatively pain-free Christmas & New Years and are finding things alright as you ease back into routine. The holidays are always tough for us to get through but we do our best using all of our coping skills. Good thing I have such a supportive family that understands all of what comes with my chronic illness. Luckily we spent most of the Christmas break at the lake so it allows me the escape that I need in order to manage through the Christmas season. I wanted to put some form of  a post up seeing as I’m well past due to put one up.

Today I thought it might be appropriate to talk about food which I don’t often talk about when it comes to chronic illness. At this time of the year a lot of our family gatherings center around food and so it only makes sense to talk about food in a post around this time of the year. Over the last couple of years we’ve been trying to make a real effort to look really closely at what we are putting into our bodies as a family. Our reasoning wasn’t only because of my health but for the entire family overall. As we (or should I say my wife) started researching more about the science behind everything it really made sense that we had to start making some changes in the foods we were eating! Not that we ate really badly before but because I don’t want to be consuming things that aren’t suppose to be in my body.

When you watch the documentaries and read all the books on what our food is supposed to contain and what it should be doing to properly fuel our bodies and what is really being produced and the end results of what really ends up on the shelf it scares you. It really makes one think what is this doing to my body! I owe my wife a lot because the countless hours she puts into the research and the preparation are endless. Eating healthy is work just as going to the exercising is, and if you want to see results then you need to do the hard work it takes in getting to your goals. Making all these positive changes had a whole other side to it with me however in that it could only help in trying to manage my disease. For  someone such as myself who deals with CRPS and Osteoarthritis one of my symptoms is severe swelling, so introducing foods high in anti-inflammatories like spinach, kale, nuts (almonds and walnuts), turmeric, and blueberries into your diet only makes sense.

With no cure for CRPS and a limitation to what treatment options are available to me, I’m left to look for ways in which I can help myself. There are several ways in which we can help ourselves. However food is one of those obvious ones that people have complete control over. So why a food post now when it’s that time of the year when all people do is eat? I’d love to say that I have this great big theory behind why I wanted to write about food today but I really don’t. Its something I’m trying to be more conscious of but lets face it isn’t always easy. However I truly am noticing a difference in how I feel! Now I notice that when I break down and eat that chocolate bar once in a while that I don’t feel so good!

When you actually start seeing the benefits of eating well you don’t want to revert back to your old ways of eating. I’m not doing any crazy diets or anything like that just eating the way that we were intended to eat. We’ve become a society that would rather get all of our vitamins from a pill rather than the food that contains those vitamins! Now am I against vitamin pills? No I’m not! But I’d rather get them the way that I should. Again I have to give all the credit to my wife who is the one in my family that does all the cooking. She looks at ways that she can cook for us that will give us the maximum benefit! How did I ever get so lucky as to have such an amazing wife.

I just makes sense to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to control whatever factors we can when it comes to managing your illness. I can’t help but think that so many of these autoimmune diseases that are being diagnosed today have links to food. With all the chemicals that are being put in our food how can it not! The changes we’ve been making are smart ones like trying to get rid of white sugar, and replacing white flour with chick pea flour. We cut back on gluten and our biggest change would be getting rid of things that have preservatives. It’s really getting back to more of a plant-based diet. It might sound like these changes are simple but don’t be fooled because it takes work like I mentioned!

In my next post I’m going to get into things a little more in-depth. This is a one of two posts so you’ll have to check back in a week to read more about my food journey! See you all right back here!

 

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!

Back to Basics!

Today has been one of those days where your body reminds you that your still sick! So sometimes you just have to know when to give up and let your body rest. The last few weeks have been more than challenging and its times like these that make this illness so challenging. This won’t change how I face my disease just slow things down until I regain my balance! What’s really important right now is to rely upon my support system that’s in place. Family and fellow advocates are right there if I need them and I’m so lucky to have them there for me.

In recent weeks I’ve been having a lot of problems with not only flare ups but brain fog has been really bad. I have to admit that time for self-health and healing hasn’t been what it should be and I need to get things back on track. After eleven years I’ve learned really well to recognize when somethings not right, and that I need to get back to the basics of managing this illness. It’s a reminder that as much as quality of life has improved that I’m still dealing with a beast that can derail you at a moments notice if you don’t take care of yourself!

Chronic illness doesn’t take time off and so you have to make sure that your staying on top of the things that control the symptoms! Especially with an illness like CRPS where something so little can set off a major flare up. It seems as if CRPS has decided to turn things up a notch so I need to turn up my defense systems as well. That means a whole lot of self care and then turning to the biggest defense system in my life in God. I can’t say enough how much strength I draw from Him when things seem impossible! In fact I don’t often say enough how He’s helped my family and I through this journey.

Am I having a rough go of things right now? You bet! I feel at times as though I could crawl out of my skin. At times my nervous system goes crazy and the emotional swings I’ve felt in the last few weeks have at times been really hard to deal with! If I could tell the gerbil in my head to stop running on his wheel then I would. What doesn’t waiver however is my positive spirit!  You see in order to fight this illness I need a small army to go to all the different areas that are at war in my body. Just like an army mobilizes various units to go fight in various regions or areas of a war, I have to do much of the same with my CRPS. I send one unit to deal with the pain and another to deal with the mental area of the fight. Then lets not forget that I have to send a unit to fight against my nervous system.

Mobilizing an army in this way takes a born leader one well versed in strategy and the ability to get the job done. God is that leader to me! His ability to strategize and bring victory is unmatched! When I’m battle weary He sends help to the areas I need provision in order to allow me to regain my strength to continue on. You have to have trust and confidence in a leader, even though sometimes the battles that you fight and where you find yourself being led don’t make sense. I have to have complete faith that God knows how to take on the enemy that’s trying to wear me down and win this battle. Your best line of defense is being under the leadership of someone who knows how to outsmart the enemy!

So with that being said I want to leave you with this one thing to think about!

2 Samuel 22:33-41

33It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. 34He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. 35He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 36You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great. 37You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way. 38I pursued my enemies and crushed them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. 39I crushed them completely, and they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. 40You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. 41You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes.

Who do you want leading your battle as you fight through adversity? Mine gives me all of this and more!