Check out my latest post on Endometriosis Surgery and how the mental battle with Gastroparesis resurfaced.
Check out my latest post on Endometriosis Surgery and how the mental battle with Gastroparesis resurfaced.
I haven’t written in awhile because I have taken some time to once again focus on myself. I’m beginning to find that it is important to once and awhile give yourself a time out to focus on yourself. It seems that I appreciate this even more since battling Gastroparesis.
Over the past few months, I have continued to focus on my food selections and exercising. I am happy to report that it is paying dividends, not only for my physical strength but my mental strength as well. I’m really starting to feel like I am getting my life back and am here to say that there is hope. So NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP!
Over the past few months I have taken time to reflect on where I am now and compare that to where I was last year (especially last spring). I can’t even believe the differences. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even know I was the same person. I feel like I’m being given a second chance in life and intend to make the most of it. Part of that includes letting everyone with Gastroparesis know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It takes A LOT of trial and error. A LOT of hard work. A LOT of NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVING UP! But I am living proof that it CAN get better.
Yesterday, I ran a 5K with my best time since high school. I’ve also been focusing on strength training, and today I was able to deadlift 135 pounds. So it is possible to come back from Gastroparesis. Yes, I still have bad days but the bad days are getting fewer and farther between.
I’ve also started to become at peace with how some people chose to treat me while I was at death’s door. They are the people who have to live life treating people that way and saying the types of things they said. I am only torturing myself more by hanging on to the hurt. I finally realized that letting go of the hurt is not letting them off the hook but freeing myself from the last bit of pain that they have caused me. Good riddance to them and am happy to now have myself surrounded by people who survived the storm with me because if they can help me through the horror days of when Gastroparesis was at its worst then they can help me through anything.
So keep your chin up and keep fighting, because there are better days ahead!
Also, stay tuned. This time away has developed some ideas brewing in my head, I just have to figure out how to implement them.
Love you all and thanks for following this blog, even though I took another hiatus!
So you hear all these things about these amazing super foods that are so great for you. Which for a “normal” person is probably true, but when you have Gastroparesis you have no idea what you are getting yourself into. One of the super foods that we keep hearing so much about is avocado.
Well a few weeks ago, on my adventure to becoming gluten and refined sugar free, I found a great recipe for buffalo shrimp with a side of avocado. I have had all of the ingredients of the buffalo shrimp before and knew that it would be safe. THANKFULLY I can still have hot sauce. I really don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t have my hot sauce. I’ve given up coffee, sugary treats, bread, pasta so I think I can keep at least one thing! The shrimp is also okay, but not something I would eat all the time. It’s a nice change up about once per month as a special little treat. So the only untested item on the menu was the avocado. (Insert an ominous piano sound from a cheesy movie.)
Normally I am extremely diligent at researching the nutritious facts of everything that I eat to look for warning signs. However, the avocado is a super food and a fruit so it should be fine. For whatever reason, the fat content never even crossed my mind. Let me just say that thank goodness I only ate two small slices (probably no more than a quarter cup). Within five minutes, I experienced the worst stomach cramping of my life. Having Gastroparesis means that I have experienced my fair share of stomach cramps, so these being the worst is saying something. I couldn’t even stand up straight. I immediately said that we are going to the Emergency Room now. Usually I spend half the night writhing in pain before I admit that I need to go to the Emergency Room. Not this time. I wanted to get there ASAP.
This is where I need to derail from the avocado situation and discuss my experience in the Emergency Room waiting room. Waiting rooms are always an interesting experience, but I have never wanted to vomit on someone so bad in all my life (with the exception of my third grade teacher but that is a story for another day). My fiance and I are in the waiting room. I am in yoga pants, an old shirt, slippers, glasses, uncombed hair in a ponytail, doubled over in pain in the ever so comfortable chair. I am also constantly getting up to excuse myself to the restroom to vomit. The older woman (about 60ish) across from us was dressed to the nines along with her husband who was also dressed quite nicely for being in an ER at 9 pm on a Thursday. This woman kept looking at me as if I was a drug addict going through the detox shakes. After one of my trips to the restroom, she rolled her eyes, gave me a disgusted look, and turned sideways in her seat so that she wouldn’t have to look at me. HELLO?! Sorry that I didn’t get the memo to wear my Sunday finest to the ER while I am vomiting and feel like my stomach is going through a ringer washing machine! She was so rude that I seriously contemplated vomiting on her fancy boots, but I really needed to see a doctor an couldn’t get thrown out.
Now…back to the avocado. I kept my fiesty Irish roots in check and was eventually taken back to a room. Thankfully the doctors in this ER are familiar with Gastroparesis, so I didn’t have to go through the hour explanation of what it is. The doctor recommended some morphine and nausea medicine and an IV of fluids. Believe it or not, the morphine did absolutely nothing for the pain that these two slices of avocado were inflicting on me. All it did was make me ask for my dog and ask where she was. My poor fiance was sitting in what appeared to be the most uncomfortable hospital chair of all time and I was asking for my dog! (On another side note, we had to ask for a chair for him since there wasn’t one in the room. He was initially standing for awhile.) Eventually the doctor ordered some special medicine for me for muscle spasms. It had to be delivered to the Emergency Room so that took quite awhile, but it worked.
So after about 4 hours in the Emergency Room, we were on hour way home. And now every time I see or hear about avocados, this is what I see:
Avocados might be a super food for most but it is super pain for me!
One thing that I still struggle with is viewing myself as strong. When you go through such a lengthy bout of sickness, your brain has been reconditioned to always be on alert for triggers. You are afraid that if you do too much physically, then you will get sick. You are always trying to conserve energy so that if a flair up hits, you will have enough energy to get through it.
Gastroparesis affects you on so many levels and those battle scars are still there even when you start feeling well. I have spent the past year and half on a journey to reclaim my health and my life. I have been determined not to let Gastroparesis win. It may have won some battles, but it isn’t going to win the war. Fortunately, I have found a way to manage my Gastroparesis the majority of the time so that I am not too limited in my day to day life. My diet is crazy, but I can work, visit with friends, and exercise.
Exercise is still where I battle the GP elves that are running around in my head. I still struggle with viewing myself as strong. I still struggle with pushing myself to my limits, because in the back of my mind I am still afraid of getting sick. The days of laying on the bathroom floor, going for IVs, and living off smoothies is not that long ago. (Actually, less then 12 months ago.) All of it is still fresh in my mind and I still worry that I will do something that will trigger me back into that state. A state that I have worked EXTREMELY hard to move away from.
However, I have been fortunate enough to find an amazing gym with an amazing trainer who is really helping me have a mental breakthrough in viewing myself as strong instead of sickly. (All of the trainers are amazing, but one in particular really seems to “get” me.) The gym focuses on kettlebells and she always encourages me to go with a heavier weight than I think I can do. When I pick up the weights, the nagging little GP elves tell me that I can’t do. They tell me that I’ll get sick and it will take weeks to recover. I pick up the weight, tell the GP elves where they can go, and focus on getting through the workout. With every rep and every rep of the workout, I think in my mind, “take that GP”. “Take that GP. You won’t run my life. This is for all the others struggling. I will win this war. So you may have won a year and a half of my life, but you don’t get any more.” Viewing Gastroparesis as a tangible enemy seems to make me fight and train harder. I want to crush GP into the ground more than Rocky and any of his opponents!
Through all of this, I am here to tell you that it is possible. I competed in a lifting competition called “BOLT” which is 10 minutes straight of pressing a kettlebell over your head. The goal is to see how many repetitions you can do in those 10 minutes. This Gastroparesis girl lifted a 10 kg (approx 22 lbs) kettlebell over her head 120 times in 10 minutes. Which means, I lifted 1,200 kg (2,640 pounds) in 10 minutes!!! Who would have EVER imagined that.
Below are real photos of me (the first one ever) as proof:
This is proof, that you can begin to feel better if you have Gastroparesis. Don’t fall into the gloom and doom cycle. (Yes, you will have days of depression but the key is not to get sucked into it.)
A HUGE thank you to my amazingly wonderful trainer (you know who you are) and to my cohort counting my reps that pushed me through those last few reps (you know who you are). Your encouragement and support means more to me than you realize! THANK YOU ladies!!
Well…here it goes. I have REALLY been mustering up the courage to type this post. The root issue of this post is what has been my mental barrier with writing on a consistent basis. However, I feel that I need to get it out in the open. Out in the open like everything else I write about with Gastroparesis. Today’s topic (which is the hardest thing I have written about to date), the guilt that comes with feeling well the majority of the time in spite of your chronic illness.
This is how I feel. I feel like I am hiding behind a curtain because I don’t want to make anyone feel bad or frustrated that he/she is still struggling with Gastroparesis symptoms. I still have days that I struggle. I’ll still get random muscle spasms that show through the twisted expression on my face. However, I have found a way to feel well 95% of the time. (Let’s hope that I didn’t just jinx myself!) But with feeling well comes an extreme amount of guilt. The guilt of knowing how many others aren’t feeling well. I want so badly to help everyone return to a semi-normal state in life. I don’t want the fact that I feel well to make others think less of themselves. I don’t want others to think, what am I doing wrong? I don’t want others to think, it’s not fair. Here are the facts: you are doing NOTHING wrong and it isn’t fair. It is okay to mad. Heck, it is okay to be furious to the point you want to throw things at the wall. (I sure as heck did, but didn’t have the strength to left a finger.)
It’s this unfairness that causes the guilt. It is such a hopeless feeling. However, the side of this equation that I keep forgetting to look at is this: if I can get better then there is hope. There is hope for all of us. There is hope that needs to be shared in the Gastroparesis community. We need to stop focusing on the gloom and doom and start focusing on hope. Yes, it is NOT easy. Yes, during my darkest days I did not want to hear a word about hope because it seemed impossible. However, I there is hope. You need to know that. You need to believe that. You need to fight your butt off for it.
I don’t want to give false hope to anyone and I definitely don’t want to stray anyone from the advice of his/her medical professionals (doctors, acpunturists, nutritionists, health counselors, etc.) But I will say this, I have found a few key elements which have helped me tremendously and I recommend them to you.
1) Acupuncture. I will swear until the day that I day that acupuncture gave me my quality of life back. My acupuncturist is extremely humble, but he worked so extremely hard to get my digestive system back in order. Many people with Gastroparesis have found success through acupuncture.
2) Cutting out negative, non-supportive, self-centered people out of my life even if they are related. This is just good advice for anyone. If the person drags you down and sucks all the energy out of you then he/she is an “energy vampire”. Ditch them. It is hard but in a few months time you’ll wonder what took you so long.
3) Cut the chemicals out of your diet. If you can’t pronounce it then don’t put in in your system. Eat clean and natural. I’ll save the GMO soapbox for another day. PS…This includes Caffeine & refined sugar!
4) Eliminate stress. This is probably the hardest item on the list because this is the most out of your control. However, the more stress you eliminate the more relaxed your body gets.
5) Keep moving. Even if it is only 3-5 minutes a day of walking in place. Keep those muscles moving because they help in digestion.
6) Probiotics & Digestive Enzymes. I notice a HUGE difference in how I feel when I forget to take these. If you are interested in brands, e-mail me at email@example.com
There you have it! My 6 keys to hope! (I will not say success, because we all know that Gastroparesis is a moving target and we all define success differently.) However, I cannot stress enough…KEEP HOPE ALIVE!!!
What I have learned through this is this: I shouldn’t struggle with posting about feeling well. I need to post about feeling well to show others living with Gastroparesis, that it is possible to reclaim your life!
If you are doubting, or saying “Millie, you really have gone and lost your mind this time”, I will give you a sneak peak at tomorrow’s post. It will be about how last year, when I started this blog, I could barely find the strength to wash my hair. However, yesterday, I ran 6 miles, took a 2 hour break, and then competed in a kettlebell lifting competition. I lifted 10 kilograms (22 pounds) a total of 120 times in 10 minutes. So if you do the math, I lifted 1200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) after running 6 miles. soooo….THERE IS HOPE!!!
I love you all and thank you all from the bottom of my heart for following this blog!
Wow! How fast a year goes by. It is hard to believe that just over one year ago I started this little blog because I couldn’t find anything that talked about the day to day life of someone with Gastroparesis. I felt that it was important to provide this insight so that others would know that they are not alone. I felt it was important for family and friends to be able to read about what a GPers life is like, because lets be honest. GPers get sick and tired of talking about it and repeating it to different people. Our energy is limited and we don’t want to waste it talking about being sick.
I wasn’t sure if anyone would even read this blog outside of my parents (Hi Mom & Dad! Thanks for always supporting me and being there!), my fiance (Hi! You still don’t realize that I wouldn’t be where I am today without you!), and a handful of friends (Hi there buddy who sat on a burrito!). However, much to my dismay I didn’t realize just how much there was a need for a blog like this. The messages I have received over the past year have been extremely touching. I am especially touched by the parents of teens with Gastroparesis who follow this blog. Their teens do not want to open up and have told me that the blog helps them understand better what their kids are going through. It never crossed my mind that these parents would need a resource. I have received messages that have brought tears to my eyes and remind me how important it is to keep writing. (YES, I NEED to write more regularly than I have been lately.)
The LAST thing I expected was for this little blog to reach over 80 countries!!! It’s reached 83 countries to be exact and the image below shows just how much of the world 83 countries is. The darker the color the more times the country has been reached. Who knew so many people from Canada, UK, and Australia would be following this blog. So I’d like to say hello, cheers, and good day to all of you!!
This blog and helping others with Gastroparesis have given me a purpose out of all of the garbage that comes with Gastroparesis, so THANK YOU to everyone for following and reading this blog and helping to spread positivity.
As I reflect on the past year, I am truly in utter shock as to how much my life has changed. I will be writing about this throughout the week because last year at this time I would never believe I would be feeling as good as I do (most of the time) today. I would have never thought that I would complete 3 half marathons between then and now. I would have never thought that I would by lobbying for Gastroparesis in Washington DC between then and now. I would have never thought that I would have raised over $1,400 for Gastroparesis research between then and now. (HUGE thanks to the friends that donated.) I’ll be honest, I had a hunch I would be engaged between then and now. 🙂 I would have never thought that I would be able to work full time between then and now. I would have never thought the friends that I lost and the friends that I gained between then and now. I would have never thought that I would eat solid food between then and now!!!!
So 2013 might have started out fully in the gutter but wow did I show it and Gastroparesis a thing or to!
THANK YOU AGAIN for following this blog and supporting positivity in the face of trials!!
Do NOT be deceived by the delicious looking green apple above! It looks so healthy and yummy, which it was. However, this little gem brought on some of the worst muscle spasms that I have ever experienced.
It all started after the holidays. THANKFULLY, I was able to enjoy the holidays relative Gastroparesis symptom free. Of course there was the occasional discomfort, bloating, and all of that fun stuff. But on a general whole, it wasn’t that bad. I knew that I was eating things that I shouldn’t and really wanted to get back to a strict gluten-free/refined sugar-free diet. Researching this type of diet led me to the 21 Day Sugar Detox.
I purchased the book and the cookbook, knowing that I would need more recipes to pick from due to the already known food limitations with Gastroparesis. I spent an entire Saturday mapping out the Gastroparesis adjusted meal plan for 21 days, the shopping lists for each week, as well as the shopping list for the pantry. Then my ever so patient and supportive fiance and I made up a spreadsheet and priced out the food and pantry items at all of our local grocery stores. (Yes, I am a HUGE spreadsheet nerd.) We knew that completely overhauling our diet was going to be expensive so we wanted to save money everywhere that we could. We found deals on Amazon for pantry items, got the pantry stocked, and shopped for week 1.
The only allowed fruits during the 21 days are bananas which about send me to the emergency room (if they could actually do anything, then maybe I would go), grapefruit which has sketchy results with me, and those lovely green apples. I eat red apples all of the time, so these will be fine, RIGHT?
Well…the first week’s worth of recipes called for a total of 20 green apples. Since I’m splitting half of the food with my fiance then that means 10 green apples for me. Day 1 came along with the ever so wonderful Polar Vortex and about a 30 degree drop in temperature. Of course I tanked and was in a lot of pain, it’s the Polar Vortex RIGHT? Day 2 came along, I force feed myself to keep my nutrition up but the pain is getting significantly worse, it’s the Polar Vortex RIGHT? Day 3 came along, I started to feel a little bit better and powered my way through work. Even though at one point I had my head down on my desk clutching my stomach. Then Day 4 came along, and I felt muscle spasms like I had never felt before. It was truly awful. I thought about going to the emergency room, but as all GPers know there isn’t a whole lot they can do for us. Then on Day 5, I was screaming in pain. I tried my dear friend the heating pad, I tried hot baths, my dog tried doggie kisses, nothing was working. The Polar Vortex was long gone by this point so we were knew it had to be something we were eating. I have had all of the ingredients before. Everything is all natural, no chemicals, and uber healthy so what the heck could it be. Then my fiance realized that on Wednesday, the one glimmer of light day, we had very few apples. He thought it had to be the green apples it was the only thing different. Which is crazy since red apples go fine. We started to eliminate the green apples and I slowly started to feel better. Within a week I was back to lifting kettlebells and going to spin glass.
So now when I look at green apples this is what I see:
But when I eat the apple, I don’t go into a nice slumber while a bunch of woodland creatures clean my house. I go into a torture pit of the 7 Gastroparesis Elves mining away at my stomach while working overtime.
At least I have my prince charming to wake me up, but I assure you that I do NOT look like Snow White. (Unless she was blown around in a tornado!)
Okay, this is what should have been outside of my front door this morning. It was, instead, covered with cobwebs in the back of my brain. I have ever so slowly started coming out of a bad Gastroparesis flair up last week. Nausea, vomiting, etc, etc, elves, etc etc, all the usual fun stuff. However, my brain has been in go go go go go go go mode. This is NOT good when your body says (insert record scratch sound effect) nope, not going to happen (insert either the charlie brown, wah wah wah, sound effect or the Price Is Right “ba dum daaaaah” you lost sound effect). I think those Gastroparesis elves are having a blast following me around this week playing sound effects!
Well, this morning I decided to go to Kettlebell class at the gym. I went bright and early at 6 AM before my body could say…nope not happening. I thought that I could trick my body into letting me get a work out in. (This is were the Proceed with Caution sign would have been helpful!) Things were going well and then like a shot of lightening things started to fade in and out, spin, and that lovely nausea feeling was back. At least my brain was smart enough to say…put the 18 pound kettlebell down and the really great bonus was that my body listened to my brain without much of a delay. (All the GPers reading this understand how long the delay could have been!) I set the kettlebell down, turned and looked at my trainer and then realized just how dizzy I was. She immediately told me to go lay down with my feet elevated. So for the next 15-20 minutes, my workout looked something like the photo below.
And there you have it! The workout that anyone with Gastroparesis can successfully do! Only someone with Gastroparesis would realize that the act of getting to the gym, doing a 15 minute warmup, and then laying with your feet on a chair is technically a successful workout and should be celebrated. In years past, I would have been mortified by laying like this in front of everyone. Now, I could care less. I embrace it with pride because it falls under the category of “it is what it is”. Yes, I might be extremely frustrated that my body can’t keep up, but I am definitely not embarrassed.
The trainer told me to keep laying there until the nausea passed. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I could be laying there until next month! My Gastroparesis acting skills also came in handy as I swallowed some vomit, left the gym, got in my car, popped a Zofran, and came home to enjoy the rest of my day off. A day spent celebrating that I made it to the gym because last year at this time I would have never considered it!
This past week I felt like the photo above. I forced myself to keep going and eventually got to the finish line and even had a few folks help pull me across the finish line. However the week was a reminder that I will never be ‘normal’. I will never be able to just wake up and push myself to the limit and have it all be okay. I was reminded that there is only so much I can do in a week otherwise I have to go into hibernation to recharge my batteries.
Granted my Gastroparesis has been cooperating for the most part lately, but fatigue has set in to an extreme. The past week I felt constantly tired and never felt like I was fully awake. However I kept crawling along because that is what people with Gastroparesis do. The world doesn’t stop because you are tired so you put one foot in front of the other and do the best you can to get to the finish line, which in most cases is Friday afternoon. You find away to keep going, you’re not really sure how you do it but somehow you do. Somehow you manage to keep it together and take care of what needs done. Somehow you keep your eyes open. Somehow you make it another week.
This Friday was extra special, my fiance had plans to take me out to dinner for my birthday. However, I was exhausted and just wanted to put on my pjs and sleep. We decided to call an audible and go to a location closer to home. I somehow miraculously gained some spoons and we had a really nice night. I slept well into Saturday morning and was recharged enough to have some friends over for a bonfire. It was nice to see some dear friends that I haven’t seen in a few months. Today on the other hand, I have been lounging around watching tv and potentially reading a book. My batteries are slowly recharging to prepare for another week.
Gastroparesis might take its toll and make you crawl across the finish line, but there are always people around to pick you up. You just have to find the right people to surround yourself with because spending time with those people will give you more spoons than you can imagine.
The past few days have been a bit frustrating. It is feeling like my Gastroparesis is flairing back up again. I’m not sure if it is the weather, the fact that I have strayed somewhat from my eating plan (curse you ice cream!!!), or that I have been trying to stretch out my digestive enzymes/probiatics. In reality it is probably the combination of all of the above.
So the past few days, I could feel my stomach having slight spasms. Today, they were in full effect. They were the spasms that you feel as soon as you put a morsel of food in your mouth. You know that it has barely made it to your stomach and then you feel it start. It’s like there is now a washing machine in your belly complete with the sound effects. You feel it ripple down from the top of your stomach to the bottom and back up again. I swear you can even see it.
As the spasms were happening, I tried to continue to focus on the positive. I tried to focus on the fact that these spasms no longer happen every day. I tried to focus on the fact that I haven’t vomited for months. I tried to focus on the fact that I haven’t had a smoothie in a long time. I tried to focus on anything but the rippling going up and down my belly.
The spasms are now subsiding, but I am viewing them and my extreme fatigue as a huge wake up call. It is a reminder that I have to stay on a strict schedule and a strict wellness plan. It is a reminder that I will never be “normal”. It is a reminder of how bad things really were. It is a reminder that I can never fully run away from that. It is a reminder of a lot of things.
Now I just need to keep reminding myself to focus on the positive and not spiral into the sea of negative that these flair ups can create.