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Reflections on 2017

2017 has been a year full of ups and downs. Before I go on I will no doubt mention on numerous occasions:

Without further ado, lets get started…

January

My amazing friend Sabrina beat breast cancer then got married abroad, and I was lucky enough to be able to make it to her wedding reception for a couple of hours with the help of another friend. Definitely a highlight as I hadn’t seen her since I moved to Brighton six years previously.

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I also managed to make it to a tutorial for my Open University course at the London School of Economics – I finally felt like a real student!

February

The first two weeks of February were a washout with a nasty virus that wouldn’t leave me and more fatigued body alone. It was a long, horrible few days. A trip to see a friend in Midhurst was cancelled and I was pretty upset and blue.

On recovery I managed to meet Stuart in Preston Park where it snowed and we went on our first mysterious ‘assignment’. An utterly fantastic and hilarious afternoon.

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I finally got an appointment with a real medical professional who for once didn’t patronise me, tell me to join a gym or make me cry, I had some medication increased and was booked in a month later to see how I was doing.

March

My wife and I finally had a day out together and we went to Worthing. After hearing numerous horror stories I was pleasantly surprised at the beautiful beach, different wildlife and lovely town centre.  It was also the first day of two solid months of heartburn.

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I wasn’t well enough to make a tutorial at Kings College London, again, but did manage to look round a few old bookshops with Stuart instead.

I went on a solo mini trip to Seaford, a local town, to sit on the beach and write. Again, I was surprised at what this small seaside town had to offer in way of views and scenery. It was also a beautifully warm spring day.

I had to give up my university studies with The Open University. I obtained a letter from my doctor supporting my decision. the university kept all my money and sent a letter saying I have to recover by November or I lose it.

April

Stuart took me to his studio before we went on an ‘Industrial Assignment’. I came home to find my wife and brother in law tucked up asleep on the sofa.

The second week of April saw Nat and I celebrate our fifth anniversary and we had a lovely little treat planned. With a cat sitter booked in, we headed off for a delightful french afternoon tea at Julian Plumart, shopping for a Pandora bracelet and then on to The Grand Hotel, a stunning luxurious Victorian hotel on the seafront where we had a suite, a queen size bed and more floorspace than we knew what to do with. Oh, and a bath – all hail the bath!

May

I joined a local gym and before working out decided to get some expert advice. I found a trainer who said his mum had fibro so thought we’d be a great match. On the day of one of my first session I was very ill after a lot of overtime at work. After emailing to cancel he replied saying lying in bed won’t cure me and I should get off of my backside. I didn’t go back.

‘Assignment Carouselfie’ with Stuart. No further words are required.

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I met dad in London for a trip on a Route Master bus and took fun photos with my polaroid camera.

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We bought Suzie Smart Car. A lifelong dream come true!

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I attended Marie Clare Future Shapers in a flash London hotel. A great but utterly exhausting day, but I met another fellow Lancashire Lass living south and we spent the day hanging out together while she looked after me.

Woo, a busy month!

June

Nat and I visited the animal rescue centre Raystede. A beautiful day and nice relaxing drive through some quiet countryside.

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I was meant to attending a blogging event – Blogtacular – but wasn’t well enough to go, as usual.

The guys from work chauffeured me and Nat in a rather posh car to One Aldwych for afternoon tea, my birthday present from Nat.

July

My parents came to stay. A lovely weekend. We took them to Julian Plumart for afternoon tea.

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I stayed with my friend for a quiet, sleepy weekend in Midhurst and went to watch her perform in her local village choir. A beautiful evening.

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August

I bought Nat horse riding lessons for us both for her birthday. Note to self, don’t learn to horse ride at 31 and definitely don’t do it with chronic pain. I actually couldn’t sit down for a week. However, riding a horse over the South Downs was an incredible, if not extremely painful, experience.

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I had lunch at The Lanesborough in London following on from a work trip. A delightful, delicious experience.

Nat and I hopped in Suzie for a spontaneous trip to a small local farm. We acted like children, got lost in a maze and attacked by the most persistent wasp ever to have existed. A jolly good day in the sunshine.

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September

I met my buddies from the ME/CFS NHS group I attended last year – the first time we’ve all been well enough to meet up together. It was so amazing to see them again.

I had a brain and head scan to see what on earth is so wrong with my painful locked jaw. I must have a huge brain as it took over an hour!

October

On a way to a local cafe to meet Stuart I fell upon a book fair. Needless to say we had the most wonderful afternoon with some excellent antique finds.

November

I didn’t recover, thus lost my university fees.

I headed for a restful weekend in favourite place on earth – St Annes on the Sea. With the help of staying in a luxury guest house a two minute walk from the seafront I had a relaxing, sleepy time and saw some of the most beautiful sunsets and chatted to some wonderfully friendly people. Lancashire is definitely my spiritual home.

Nat and I stayed in a hotel on Brighton seafront a few minutes in a taxi from our home. With a mahogany four poster bed and sea views it was a lovely treat, and dinner at Prezzo was indulgent and delicious.

I started working with Jody Shield – the healer, coach and mentor and got taken under the wing of her and her amazing team.

Nat and I went to a local Christmas Craft Fair at Brighton Open Market, a stones throw from our house.

December

Mom came to stay while Nat was at a Buffy The Vampire Slayer Convention. We had a lovely festive weekend including a buffet and Christmas song evening with Stuart.

I attended both the Advent and Carol services at my local church which is a beautiful example of architecture with stained glass windows and a stunning original organ.

Christmas (early) at my parent’s house was the most festive I’ve felt in years, with gifts, decorations and Christmas dinner it was quite perfect indeed.

Nat and I also went with Stuart to a traditional night of ghost stories as told by the Victorians in the run up to Christmas.

And so I finish writing this on the 21st December, with the real Christmas day still to go. I have of course omitted most of the parts where I have felt dreadfully unwell for most of the year, and I simply couldn’t include every wonderful lunch or tea/coffee shop visit with Nat, lunch and serious selfie dates with Stuart (or Dr Mystery as I prefer to call him) and the many wonderful times with my parents or I’d never get this post finished! I have also seldom mentioned my beloved Trinny, the fluffiest, prettiest nurse around. 2017 wouldn’t have been the same without her…

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I also haven’t written about my job. I work with an amazing group of people who I am proud to call my friends and colleagues and I am being supported in my ever changing career no end. They take me to and from work to save on energy, run my errands if I am too unwell to go out and are just an awesome bunch who look after me, so a huge thank you to everyone at Consec 🙂

I am currently working on my hopes, dreams, goals, aspirations (whatever you want to call them) for 2018. But the product of that is definitely for another blog post…

So as I bid farewell to 2017 I want to take a moment to express gratitude to the friends who have checked on me when I’m ill, not got annoyed when I cancel plans for the fifth time and bought me loads of tea!

Here’s to a fabulous 2018!

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A Fatigue Flare

A fatigue flare is debilitating.
Its life changing.
It comes at a time when you are already struggling with chronic life.
It’ll replace the insomnia.
Four hours of sleep a night will be replaced by twelve.
And even then you could sleep more.
Naps last four hours.
You are horizontal on the sofa when you’re awake.
You’ll lose your appetite.
You’ll feel persistently sick.
You’ll have to drink with a straw.
Noises are too loud, smells too strong, lights too bright.
Showers are impossible, and don’t even think about washing your hair.
Cleaning your teeth becomes a dreaded chore.
And work, oh work, how your body will cope you will never know.
But you’ll make it, just.
It’s about asking for lifts home from work.
Then getting into bed without removing your make-up.
It’s about asking for help with dressing and putting on pyjamas.
It’s about your favourite company becoming your cat.
Because you can’t hold a conversation.
Or string a sentence together.
You can’t find the right words.
Questions are unbearable.
Thinking hurts.
You’ll watch re-runs of your favourite shows.
Because you can’t handle new themes or stories.
YouTube becomes too busy.
Twitter and Instagram overwhelming.
Just at a time when you need your online chronic illness community most.
You’ll become to unwell to communicate with them.
Everything hurts from your fingers to your toes.
It’ll hurt to sit, and hurt to lie down.
You’ll take more medications, you’ll feel even more sick.
You’ll be too exhausted to feel sorry for yourself.
But never too exhausted to feel afraid.
You’ll have no choice but to wait it out.
Eventually it’ll pass.
You’ll go back to your normal exhaustion, the normal fatigue.
Insomnia will return.
Naps will be two hours.
And you’ll be able to hold a conversation again.
Until the next time it returns, like a rug being gently pulled from beneath you.
You’ll fall back into bed, and begin the process all over again.

 

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Daily Routine With Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS

My daily routine is far from what it used to be before I became unwell. I can’t do most of my hobbies now (gardening/baking/long walks/running) because they are just too painful and exhausting. I work part time, have had to give up my studies with The Open University, rarely cook a decent meal, and spend most of my time at home resting with a cup of tea, a pile of unread magazines and books (in the hope I will be able to muster up some mental energy to read them) and cups of Pukka Ginger Tea being frustrated about the pile of washing up in the kitchen and the clutter that surrounds me. So I thought I’d write out my routine for work days and days off just to put into perspective what life is really like, even though I’m only thirty (almost thirty one ahhhhh!) and look relatively well.
Work Days – Mon/Tue/Thur/Fri
7:15am: The alarm goes off, I snooze endlessly as I usually haven’t been asleep long.

7:40am: Finally drag myself out of bed, stretch, creak and crunch and stagger over to wherever my cat is sleeping for a morning cuddle. I let her out, change her water, poopie scoop her litter tray and top up her biscuits. She comes first as she is totally reliant on people to care for her. Tea, breakfast and medication, you get the idea…

8:30am: Leave the house to either get my bus right by my house which drops me outside work (its quicker to walk but that’s out the question) or get picked up by colleagues. I have a special pass for the bus that allows me to sit in the priority seats. The bus journey usually involves some funny looks from people who see my pass.

9am-3pm (5pm on Mondays): Work. By early afternoon I’m clock watching as I am struggling so much. Exhaustion set in a while ago and the pain creeps in behind it (and this is on a good day). A lot of the time I get a lift home from colleagues. Absolute life savers!

3:30pm I’m in bed having drunk a glass of water, taken tramadol and the kitty is usually sitting on me purring. Pyjama time has begun.

7pm: Out of bed (later on Mondays) and make the sort walk to the sofa. Still exhausted I’m in great need of a cup of tea. I’ll probably burn myself on the steam or spill some hot water.

8pm: Dinner time. Far later than I would like, and I definitely don’t have the energy to cook. Probably a ready meal, something out of the freezer chucked onto a tray or a tin of soup. Yep, I’ll burn myself again at some point during this short process of heating up crap food.

9:30-10pm; Shower. I leave it as late as possible as it is surprisingly hard work. Getting dry and dressed is exhausting. Take a handful of medication and more painkillers if I know I will be in (increased) pain all night.

11:30pm: Back to bed. I read, sometimes listen to meditation and hope for a good nights sleep.

1am: Still awake…. I can’t get comfortable from pain, my mind is racing but I’m too exhausted to get up. Sometimes I end up dragging myself to the sofa for a cuddle with my wife if she’s not working or getting up for an early shift.

2am: Probably still awake.

3am: Hopefully asleep. But often not.

Days Off:

No routine. I let my body do what it wants. It’ll sleep, snooze and rest, tell me it needs pain relief, when it’s peckish and make sure I leave the laundry, washing up and cleaning for another time (we really need to get our amazing cleaner back but at fortnightly visits it was still so expensive). These days involve endless cups of tea, a chance to flick through the pile of magazines, watch YouTube and stay in my pyjamas all day. I probably won’t go out and if I do, it’s been planned down to the very last details, and I’m probably terrified of the exhaustion that will come with it. These days are all about saving enough energy to work and earn a living. Sadly life is ruled by the need to pay bills and not look after my body and mind.

Picture credit: Meowingtons 

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Fibromyalgia Conference Part 2 – Andrew Pothercary, the Pharmacist

I was excited to hear a pharmacist was speaking at the conference. Andrew worked for many years in Worthing Hospital Pharmacy and now works in a Cornwall Hospital Pharmacy in the Rheumatology department. He has also spent time working in hospitals in Jersey. https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/andrew-pothecary/43/811/273 His one hour slot proved to be quite informative, here’s some of the main points he spoke about:

(A quick disclaimer: This is notes and information I took from the presentation. Please speak with your doctor before taking or changing your medication, or driving/operating machinery whilst taking medication.)

Opiate Medication

  • New regulations of opiate medication have been brought in with regards to driving (think Tramadol, Morphine etc). whilst there is a level the police measure, it is possible to be about the level and not be impaired or below the level and not fit to drive. If you do get stopped and tested, it’s down to the discretion of the police force.
  • If you do take opiate medication, it may be worth keeping a repeat prescription or letter from your doctor in your bag if you do drive.
  • Tramadol was moved in to Class C and regulated drug controls because of illegal misuse, not because of prescription medication.
  • If you are prescribed a controlled drug, the prescription is valid for only 28 days, and you should not be prescribed more than one months worth of tablets.
  • When collecting the medication you will now be asked to sign a blue box on the back of the prescription, you may also be asked for ID.
  • With Morphine, it is highly addictive and in time can lead to increased pain, and then more Morphine leaving you in a viscous circle of pain and reliance.
  • Tramadol gives improved functions, but is known for dependency and withdrawal symptoms.

Pregabalin and Gabapentin

  • The patent has now expired for the medication meaning it can now be made by other drug companies and will not come in a box marked Lyrica, it will only state Pregabalin.
  • Lyrica is usually prescribed as pain relief, although it is not licensed for fibromyaligia, pain is a symptom of the condition.
  • In studies, 28% of people stopped taking Gabapentin due to side effects.
  • Another study suggests 1 in 11 people get significant improvement of symptoms when taking Pregabilin.
  • Pregabilin is adsorbed quicker than Gabapentin and therefore is more effective.
  • Gabapentin gives higher levels of pain relief but 1 in 3 found side effects for pain treatment intolerable.
  • 300mg per day of Pregabalin is the minimum requirement to provide pain relief.
  • A drug called Microgabalin is in trials. It is similar to Pregabalin but has more specific targets (pain).

Amitriptyline

  • 4 out of 5 trials showed a positive pain outcome but;
  • Long term use was shown to work in 4 out of 5 people.
  • Leaves people with a ‘hangover feeling the next day’

Prozac (fluoxetine)

  • This drug showed positive outcomes in both pain and function.

General points

  • With antidepressants, side effects will diminish over time.
  • New antidepressants are being trialled for fibro symptoms but so far they have had serious side effects.
  • Visit clinical trials.gov and search for fibro. There are currently no open studies in the UK. This is a US site but worldwide studies are listed there.
  • There are a number of ongoing trials in South America, Europe, New Zealand and the US into many types of deficiencies and benefits of medications.