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It’ll Pass

One of my favorite book series is Anne of Green Gables. In one of the later books after Anne is married she befriends the old sailor Captain Jim that runs the local lighthouse. Captain Jim is a lovably simple fella, but sometimes he says things deeply profound. One of those quotes, which I am sure I will butcher, has stuck with me and always comes to mind on particularly rough days. He said something along the lines of “Even on those days when I’m hurtin real bad I feel sorta cheerful cus I know sooner or later it’ll pass.”

Sooner or later it’ll pass.

Captain Jim would know–he weathered plenty of storms in his time as a sailor.

So far in my life I’ve always found this to be true. All the pain I’ve felt–migraines, broken bones, surgeries, sprains, strains, infections, gallbladder attacks, unbearable cramps, gastroparesis, depression–no matter what the pain or the cause of it, always it has passed.

Sometimes in the moment of extreme pain you can’t imagine it ever will. It seems it will last forever–that there never has been and never will be anything except this all-encompassing pain. Hundreds of times I’ve felt like I couldn’t make it til it passed, I couldn’t handle one more second of pain. Somehow I always did. Always do. And then eventually it always eases. Always passes.

I’ve been thinking about that with this cough. I’ve already been sick for more than a month. It seems so long and yet it could last for much longer still.

At the absolute worst point–when the coughing fits came about 40-50 times a day and each one left me gasping, choking, crying and each cough was agony to my ribs–I felt then I couldn’t handle it. Each time I felt like I couldn’t take even one more coughing fit. I wondered how I was supposed to keep going with my classes–or at all really. Each of the jabillion times I woke up in the night to cough and choke and choke and cough one thought kept going through my mind. This Sucks.

But each time I handled just one more coughing fit. One more day. One more night.

And then this past week something awesome happened. All the sudden it started to ease. Coughing fits were less intense. I stopped needing my handy vomit bags so much. I felt like eating more (something about regularly coughing up part of whatever you last ate makes it not very appealing…). Then coughing fits came less frequently. Somehow by the middle of the week I could go an hour, or two even without a single fit! Suddenly I could go to all of my classes and it was hard, but doable. Without even realizing it at first I had made it through the worst and it started to ease.

Believe it or not, it looks like even whooping cough passes. And it might even do so before the hundred day mark!

So head up, feet forward and be a little cheerful, cus sooner or later it’ll pass.

A Baby Disease Busted My Rib

Ok so remember how I said I had a bad case of bronchitis and then disappeared a couple weeks ago? Well it turns out I did not have bronchitis. I do almost definitely have whooping cough.

Technically the swab results from my seven hour stop off at the ER this past Wednesday

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A rare action shot of an ER patient hoping that the footsteps she hears is someone coming to tell her something useful. Also yes I’m doing hw. French.

haven’t come back yet, but my symptoms are dead on AND there has been a verified case of whooping cough at my school. Add to that my incompetent immune system that doesn’t gain immunity from vacccines annndddd. Boom. You’ve got a twenty-two-year-old with a full-blown case of whooping cough.

From the very first week of school there’s been a bad “cold” going around. I’m thinking that really, most people have had a watered-down case of whooping cough. But luckily for me, other zebras and new-borns, you don’t need to have a full case of whooping cough to give the full-blown thing to someone else.

So what does a full-blown case of whooping cough look like in an adult?

Well first you get a “cold.” It’s really not even that bad of a cold. Then after about a week you start getting a nagging cough. That gets worse for a couple weeks until you find yourself having anywhere from 15-50 coughing fits a day that are so intense you throw up and gasp for air as seemingly infinite amounts of sticky mucus obscure your airways. (In my case the very worst of the attacks only lasted for a little over a week.) Then things get just a little better. Your coughing fits are less frequent. You aren’t choking, gasping and throwing up quite so much when you cough. You stop feeling like you’re going to black out with each coughing fit. That’s where I’m at now. Apparently this bit can last anywhere from 2-10 weeks.

Oh yeah and I forgot to mention–you might cough so hard that you break, bruise or dislocate a rib or so. It freakin hurts, but don’t worry there’s not much they can do about it.

That’s maybe the worst thing about whooping cough–there’s almost nothing that can be done. If caught early enough a course of antibiotics can lessen the severity of the case, but otherwise you basically just have to ride it out.

In China whooping cough is known as the 100 days cough, because it often lasts for three months or longer. So I pulled out my calendar and counted 100 days from the day I got sick. According to Chinese tradition I should be better by December 19th, give or take a few days. I have no idea why I thought that would help. I guess I can start a count down or something. At this point I’m at least a month in so… only 70 more days to go!

This is definitely not how I wanted to start off the semester. Or finish it… But it is what it is. It’s not going to make for the smoothest semester, that’s for sure, but I’ll do my best. And that includes making a sincere effort not to vomit or pass out in class 😉

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We swiped a bunch of the ER vomit bags so we could feel like our trip hadn’t been a total waste. I carry one around everywhere to catch whatever comes up during a coughing fit.

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Doing the nebulizer. This thing is almost as old as I am and it’s still kickin! We call it the Darth Vader machine.

Trolls, Molds and Woman Colds

Well that title is fairly self-explanatory I think. So see you next week.

Just yankin your chain.

This week can be somewhat appropriately represented by these three nouns.

First, Trolls. 

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You know what hugs are great for? Sharing germs. Way to go Poppy.

My oldest niece is currently going through a Trolls phase. At least twice a day she asks for “Everybody oh oh oh.” Since she is not quite two, I can understand why the bright, song-filled movie is appealing to her. In fact, the adults of the house have agreed that the movie was either designed by a think-tank of five-year-olds, or the people who made it were crazy high the whole time. Either way I think we are all excited for this phase to be over.

Second, Molds.

I’ve been getting allergy shots for my new-found mold allergy for over a month now. I do feel that they are already starting to help–I have been sinus-infection-free since July despite the very wet September we are having (molds love the rain). The only downside to the shots is that they tend to trigger migraines. In the long run this may be a good thing, as that suggests that mold is a big migraine trigger for me right now; once I get the allergy under control my migraines will likely improve. For right now though, it does make shot day a tad tricky.

Third, Woman Colds.

The Woman Cold is a term I have decided on to describe a phenomenon as real and as ancient as The Man Cold. The Woman Cold, like it’s masculine counterpart, can of course be experienced by either sex. Its name is simply an acknowledgement that the majority of its sufferers are women.

The Woman Cold refers to a cold/illness that the sufferer chooses to ignore and remain in

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Ron with his Woman Cold

denial about until something drastic happens. The owner of The Woman Cold will continue with life as normal, steadfastly insisting that “it’s not that bad” until they either recover or get much, much sicker.

This week I had a Woman Cold. There’s been a cold going around campus and I finally succumbed. Really, as far as the cold itself goes, it was nothing to write home about. The cold was not the primary problem though–the whole week my chest was getting tighter, I was coughing a little, then a lot, then A LOT.

Just part of the little, trifling cold I was sure. It will pass.

Eh. Wrong.

Friday morning I came back from my morning class. I set my backpack on the floor of my room. I bent over to retrieve my phone from its depths. Suddenly I was seized by an intense coughing fit that led me to discover this equation:

Intense coughing + bent over Miranda = throw up on my poor backpack.

Oops.

Now I really, really didn’t want to throw up on someone else’s backpack, so I finally accepted that it was time to stay home from class. My Woman Cold had sneakily metamorphosized into bronchitis.

Actually, as I have already mentioned, this development wasn’t sneaky at all, but as a fundamental part of The Woman Cold is denial, virtually every outcome except full recovery comes as a surprise to the sufferer.

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And don’t think for a second I’m saying that The Woman Cold is a good thing–if many of my professors and classmates hadn’t come down with this particular branch of the cold then I probably wouldn’t have gotten it. They were in denial, they came to class sick, they got other people sick and that ultimately led to me getting bronchitis. The Woman Cold is just as annoying and foolish as the man one. Well almost.

 

 

11 Good Things That Come From Chronic Illness

1)  You care less what others think of you.

  • In high school, perhaps the most self-conscious, image-obsessed stage of most people’s lives, I had the good fortune to not give a crap. Quite frankly, I had bigger problems than what so-and-so thought of me, how cool I was or how many friends I had–instead I worried about infections, medical tests, doctor’s appointments and injuries. I worried they wouldn’t let me graduate because of how many days of school I missed. I worried about missing another game and letting my team down. I certainly didn’t worry about making people like me. Being sick gave me a broader perspective.

 

2) You find your own source of strength and confidence.

  • Even though I have an awesome support system from my family and a few good friends, ultimately it’s my illness. I’m the one who has to deal with it every day. I’m the one who has to make the call that I have another infection. I’m the one who has to stick the needles in each week. When you have a chronic illness it’s sink or swim–and that unlocks strength and endurance that you didn’t know you had.

 

3) You value independence.

  • One of the hardest aspects of chronic illness is that it can take away some or all of your independence. Having to depend on other people and feel like you are a burden, that really smarts. But that just makes you all the more determined to do what you can yourself and value whatever independence you are able to achieve.

 

4) You learn how to prioritize.

  • With limited spoons (or chocolate ), you have to choose carefully how to spend them. In my own life that has helped me clarify what is most important. One of my favorite quotes is:  “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.” -Robert D. Hales

 

5) You learn to go with the flow.

  • Like I talked about last week, chronic illness is crazy unpredictable. You have to accept that you aren’t in control and adjust minute by minute, day by day.

 

6) You realize earlier what is most important.

  • I’m 22. So what is usually most important to 22-year-olds? I’m so out of touch that I’m really not sure… What I do know is what actually matters in life–working hard, helping others, striving each day to become more than you were yesterday, aaannndddd chocolate. Of course.

 

7) You are more grateful for little things.

  • Do you ever stop and think “HOLY CRAP THIS FOOD IS SO GOOD I’M SO GRATEFUL I GET TO EAT IT!” I do. All the time. Before gastroparesis came into my life I never thought to be grateful for something as mundane and everyday as being able to eat.

 

8) You are always working towards something.

  • No matter how sick you are with a chronic illness there’s always a goal in mind. Whether it’s getting healthy, getting stronger, living as long as you can, or just getting through the day, you are constantly fighting for something. That gives you a warrior mentality.

 

9) You see people for who they really are.

  • It’s incredibly valuable to know those who will stick with you through thick and thin, through week after week of cancelled plans, through grumpy pain days and break downs. Being sick reveals those who are most important in your life.

 

10) You empathize with others better.

  • I’m not naturally a super empathetic person (my Myers-Briggs type is INTJ), but my own suffering has softened me to the suffering of others. I understand better how they feel. That understanding leads me to want to help them. My experiences with sickness and pain enable me to connect with others in a way I never could have before.

 

11) You become an endurance master.

  • Living with chronic illness is dealing with constant setbacks and discomfort. It is unrelenting, so you develop incredible endurance just to be able to live each day–you have to.

The Chocolate Chest Theory

Today is a perfect day to talk about chocolate. Why? Well isn’t every day?

We Macfarlanes take our chocolate seriously. Two of my dad’s great loves are chocolate and wood working, so a couple years ago he decided to combine the two and make himself a “chocolate chest.” When he first told me the purpose of this chest he was making I thought he was joking–he was not.

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The Chocolate Chest

I consider myself to be an authority on very little, but my life thus far has given me reasonable education in at least two categories: chocolate and chronic illness. Both of them are apart of my daily life. Both of them, one might even argue, are written in my genetics.

So I decided to follow dear-old-dad’s example and combine these two faucets of my life into one. The product: The Chocolate Chest Theory.

If you have a chronic illness you’ve probably heard of The Spoon Theory–it explains the limited energy/strength a person with chronic illness has to work with each day (if you haven’t heard of it I encourage you to look it up).

The Chocolate Chest Theory is like that, except tastier.

Let’s say everyone has a chocolate chest. The chocolate in there is your energy for the week. A typical chocolate chest looks like this at the beginning of the week:

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All that chocolate you get all to yourself–more than enough most of the time right?

Well a person with chronic illness is like my pops–they don’t get the chocolate all to themselves. Each illness is like one of dad’s chocolate-loving children and grandchildren–they (we) eat away most of the chocolate before he can even get to it! So instead of starting the week off with a nice full store of strength, a person with chronic illness opens their chocolate chest Monday morning to find something more like this:

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Not only is there barely even any chocolate, but it’s mostly the gross stuff like baking chocolate or *gag* white chocolate. That’s all the strength and energy a person with chronic illness has to work with for the entire week. Because our illnesses eat away so much of our chocolate, we have to be very careful how we use what is left to us.

In my own life I spend almost all my chocolate on being a full-time student. Then if there’s anything left it is reserved for church, family and exercise. When I’m asked about extracurricular activities I participate in, I laugh. Extracurricular? Extra? Ain’t nobody got chocolate for that!

The Unpredictability of Chronic Illness

Yesterday was a pretty good example of how unpredictable life can be when dealing with chronic illness. I expected my Monday to go as follows:

  1. Get hand lump cut off by Hot Doctor
  2. Get allergy shot with mother
  3. Come home and write a post about getting hand lump cut off
  4. Do some chores
  5. Go to gym

Instead, my morning started off with a call from Hot Doctor explaining how he had consulted with a dermatologist and they decided it would be better for me to get my skin lesion cut off by a skin specialist. He said they decided this because of the size, location and the fact that they don’t know what it is so they want to get the whole thing to send off to pathology. So my procedure was cancelled and I must now await the dermatologist’s office to call and schedule me. I appreciate Hot Doctor taking the time to consult with other doctors and what not, but honestly it’s not that big of a deal to me–somebody just cut the thing off!

After an unexpectedly free morning my mom and I headed to the allergist’s to get our allergy shots. It was our first time getting shots together; mom has been doing them for several years already. She was very excited to be “shot buddies.” I mean we were very excited… I’m afraid I was a disappointing shot buddy though as I was rather too focused on finishing Wuthering Heights to talk much (I finished it–it’s not my favorite).

Since we had more time than expected, we were able to stop by Barnes & Noble after our shots to use our birthday gift cards from June. I was very excited to move on to less depressing literature.

After a quick hour agonizing over whether to get Lilac Girls or a collection of all Hemingway’s books (on my part at least) we headed home. I started my chores, but only got to the part of destruction before most of the actual cleaning and organizing takes place when all the sudden I started feeling weird–tired, dizzy, tingly, kinda sick to my stomach. A few minutes later it became clear what was happening–a massive migraine had come swinging out of nowhere to one-hit-KO me. A productive evening of cleaning and working out flew out the window. Instead I spent the rest of the day dealing with my petulant head.

Like I said, my wayward Monday is a good example of why making plans with chronic illness is kind of a joke. It’s like a child pretending to drive from the backseat–they can turn their make-believe wheel all they want but they have no actual control over where they go; I can sign up to do this or commit to do that but in the end I have no control over whether I’ll be able to keep those commitments–my body is in the driver’s seat. Chronic illness laughs at plans and any pretense of control or predictability. That’s just how it is.

And it’s not such a bad thing really. Sure, it makes going to school, having a job, and even having a social life pretty near impossible sometimes (sometimes actually impossible). But it has also taught me not to worry so much about the future–thanks to my illness I’m learning to take life one day at a time, do my best with the time I’ve been given, and then trust the rest to a loving Heavenly Father. That’s not so bad really.

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Here’s a poem I wrote a while ago. I’m no poet, that’s for sure, but I think the message is pretty clear despite my iambic inadequacy.

P.S. the line with “gall” is a gallbladder joke–I wrote this just before gb surgery 😉

Make of me what you will,

Administer another pill,

Promise this one to bring relief,

Another lie to cross your teeth.

 

Cut me open, take it all-

It’s yours to have with no gall.

I’m in pieces anyway,

Slowly crumbling day by day.

 

Put me under, let me sleep,

I’ve been under-in too deep

For an age or five or ten,

Encased in my fleshy pen.

 

Look at me, rambling on,

Screeching out my sorry song,

Bitterly biting in the ear,

A tale we try not to hear.

 

An illness real, with no romance,

Waste of time at a glance,

No one wants to really see-

No one wants reality.

 

Instead we look to Hollywood,

Make it shining, show us could!

Present it as always, everything,

Everything always glistening!

 

My song not so sweet to the taste?

Suck it up, give me a break!

Beauty is in everything,

But not as a gory romance teen.

 

Don’t twist life in a knot,

Making it something that it’s not.

Sorry are the eyes can’t bear to see,

Real pain, real beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

Just a Zebra Girl in a Muggle World

Today is an awesome day–it is the day of birth belonging to both J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter himself.ms-c1NBLK

I was first introduced to Harry Potter when I was eight years old by my grammy (thank you grammy). Since then–and you’re gunna think I’m totally insane, but oh well–I’ve read the first HP at least twenty times. That’s not an exaggeration. That’s real life.

I swear I’m not crazy though. When I was a kid and they were still coming out, I read the series at least twice a year–once for fun and once in preparation for the next book coming out. Since the last one came out when I was 12 I haven’t read them as often. But whenever my world is too much; whenever I am sick of being sick, tired of being tired or feel lonely and out of place; whenever I yearn to explore and escape–I go back to Harry Potter.

I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me this trick at a young age. They couldn’t have known then how valuable it would be for me–how books have brought me through when my body was stuck sick in bed or my mind was tired of being me. They taught me by example and patience to love reading and learning. (That being said they certainly aren’t perfect as neither of them has ever read any of the HP books. Smh.)

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I owe my love of reading to my parents (although obviously I have outstretched them when it comes to taste in books), but I attribute my love of writing to the authors I have loved and the worlds they have opened to me. Foremost of these is Joanne Rowling–the first time her words let me into Harry’s world I realized I wanted to be a writer. She, more than any other author, has taught me the value that the written word can have. She will never know exactly how much her words meant to a little, wide-eyed girl, to a sick and angry teenager, and to a young woman trying to find her place in this muggle world. But now you do.

We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” 

-J.K. Rowling

 

 

 

Good News Annie, You Can Stay

Annie is a cat, not a person. It didn’t actually occur to me to ask them to test for an allergy to other people. I’ll have to look into that some time. It seems likely, especially an allergy to people who *gasp* don’t like Harry Potter or chocolate or other extremely important things.

Just in case that introductory paragraph didn’t make things crystal clear–I had skin allergy testing done Tuesday. Technically, redone, since I was also tested my senior year of high school. The first time everything was negative. Initially it was a let down, but it turned out to be a good thing because it enabled us to do further immune system testing…which led to my PI diagnosis.

This summer I reluctantly asked Dr. C if we could repeat the skin testing. I was kind of embarrassed to even ask, since I’ve had so much allergy testing done over the years and it’s almost always been negative. But my recurrent sinus infections and everything-resistant nasal congestion this year made me desperate enough to venture once again down that allergy avenue of insanity–doing the same tests over and over again and expecting a different result.

Well I didn’t really expect a different result. I fully expected it all to be negative. I expected this because I secretly hoped that something would be positive; I’ve found it best in the medical world to expect the exact opposite of what you hope for, so that it’s a little less demoralizing when your hopes once again fail to be realized. That may seem rather pessimistic, but it doesn’t really matter–I can never fully manage it anyways. No matter how many times I’ve been disappointed, it’s awful hard not to hope.

So when the nurse exclaimed, “Dang. One of them is trying to start reacting already!” before she walked out of the room I fought it. It probably will go back down before the fifteen minutes are up, I thought. That itching is probably just the histamine control. No, bad hope! Get back where you belong–outside of the Dr.’s office!

Hope must be a cat because it never listens. Even as I sat there freezing in my little paper gown and reading about poor Edmond Dantès and all his hopes being destroyed I couldn’t control it–hope settled in on my chest purring and kneading me repeatedly with its sharp, little claws. What if? it purred to me. What if?

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Well hope you little rebel, you were right this time. I reacted to one thing–the Aspergillus Mold. And really, I might add, I did a pretty thorough job of it.

The bad news is that Aspergillus Mold is a primarily outdoor mold that is just about everywhere all the time in Virginia. The good news is that I get to try allergy shots for it! Naturally, I expect that the allergy shots won’t help that much…because I secretly hope that they will help both my sinus infections and migraines a lot.

To prove to myself how little stock I was putting in the allergy shots, I kept my ENT appointment for yesterday. Unfortunately that kind of backfired because after hearing about the results of the allergy testing the ENT told me I definitely needed to do the allergy shots and then patted himself on the back for a job well done. So it was a bit of a wasted appointment, except perhaps, for the ENT since he got to feel very accomplished over doing absolutely nothing.

10 Things Not to Say to a Zebra

1) You Should Have More Faithms-h4t1vN

  • By telling me that you are exercising too much faith that I will not smack you in the face. Faith isn’t a fix-all substance. If having faith meant you never had any problems then there would be no need for you to have faith.

 

2) You Should Get More Exercise

  • You should exercise your brain more–out of the two of us, who do you think knows better what my body can handle and what is appropriate for it?

 

3) A Couple Germs Aren’t Gunna Kill You

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  • Probably they won’t, you’re right. But they have a very good chance of making me very sick. And if your “harmless” germs make me very sick then they might just end up killing you, albeit in a roundabout way.

 

4) So When Are You Going To Be Better?

  • Please visit a dictionary entry for the word “chronic.” You also might want to stop by the term “genetic” and perhaps try a google search for “how to have a filter.”

 

5) You Should Try *Insert Diet Here* I’ve Heard It Heals Every Health Problem Ever

  • No. Just. No. I can’t do this with you right now–ever.ms-oyjwvd

 

6) You Need To Gain Some Weightms-TfNOJd

  • Would if I could, next. But also, did you know that it’s possible to be insensitive about someone’s weight even if they’re not fat?

 

7) I Could Never Deal With That

  • I can often never deal with a paper or other school assignment…until the night before it’s due and then I have no choice, and somehow I always manage to face what I couldn’t the day before. Either I face it, or I fail. And I really can’t face failing.

 

8) You Should Just Try Getting Up Earlierms-bLCjjx

  • For someone who has chronic illness, getting more tired does not automatically equate to getting more/better sleep. It does often lead, however, to getting sick or having a flare.

 

9) You Should Come/Should’ve Come

  • I promise you that you are not fun enough to merit a migraine, a virus, an infection, etc. If I felt like I could go (and wanted to), I would.

 

10) You’re Too Young To… Feel Like That, Be That Sick, Be That Lame, etc.ms-QyCRGr

  • Oh thank goodness! I’ll just inform my body of that and then it will realize its error and poof magically into alignment with your views of what it means to be young.

 

 

If you’re wondering what you CAN say to a zebra then try this:

If they confide in you about their illness say those two magic words–

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If they don’t then just treat them like a normal person!… Sick people are also just, well, people.