Friday, April 25, 2014
You might be able to click that and get a t-shirt.
The cute little tummy bug ravaging the countryside made it to my house at the height of its mutating glory, and there was no amount of yogurt eating, hand washing, and laundry burning that could stop it. I did manage to hold it off for a week and thought I outwitted it, but I may as well have let people just spit in my mouth because everyone agrees I added more spectacular to the side effects than any other sickie we knew. I'm pretty sure I lived through a plague of biblical proportions, so I don't apologize for my entire week's schedule going through a shredder.
On the other hand, this is the first big bug I've come through in ten years that didn't take me down longer than a handful of days. What changed? First off, there's this, from Yahoo Health.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 100 g of sugar (think three cans of soda) significantly hampered the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria for up to 5 hours afterward.
That's right, I had already changed my diet because I found out I'm diabetic. This is a huge deal for me because I'm a spoonie and sometimes need to take steroid meds for lupus flareups. Where most people are sick for about a week, I usually drag on for two or three weeks. One year I was still dragging around months after other people got better, so weak I could barely walk across my own house. And since I found out four years ago that I'm diabetic, I know now all it takes to knock me down even on a good day is pancakes and hash browns for breakfast, so getting that diagnosis and then cutting the carbs way down has been beyond a blessing for me.
Finding the happy medium with my immune system has been a rough road. I don't fear illness as much as I fear my body's response to it. I've been through germs that triggered so much immune reaction that I had to take medications just to hold my body down, and when meds are overdone at all the wrong times, that leaves less immune system function to react to the illness. It's a vicious circle, and hot debates still rage over whether we should let go of meds and go back to simpler living, which for spoonies can mean death inching a little closer every time we get a common cold, and most of us aren't ready to deal with that yet. The hardest part is disentangling whether it's a germ invasion, immune response, or intervening with medications that is actually causing fatigue so severe that nearly all function around the home stops for sometimes weeks. Treatment boils down to cycling through follow up labs to make sure nothing is going too wacky and simply keeping the patient comfortable when no one knows what else to do. What a surprise to find out the real cause behind all that lag was what I was eating, because untreated diabetes lurked underneath everything else.
I lived on handfuls of pills for two decades. That's a long time. I have barely been taking anything in the last four years, and over this last year actually got down to just thyroid and blood pressure pills for about six months. My quality of life is waaaaay better than it used to be, and this week I'm so surprised at how quickly I'm getting well after being ravaged with germ warfare. This would not have been possible if I hadn't changed my diet. I cannot stress enough how difficult it is for your body to function during illness if it can't function correctly every day to begin with, and if you know something you eat throws you off and you eat it anyway- BAD!!! But yeah, we all do it.
I still have a long way to go. Somewhere around day three I was able to start eating a little again, and all I could get down was carbs... So I took it slow. Small snacks spread through the day. Day four was a little better and I was able to add milk and a tiny amount of other protein back in and by bedtime I was able to eat a salad. Day five was yesterday, and by then I was starving for meat, so I had a pretty good protein day. But I'm noticing that even though I managed to keep my blood sugar down, I'm having some old issues popping up, mainly dysesthesia.
A very common side affect of living with diabetes is the development of peripheral nerve problems, notably numbness, tingling, hot spiky sensations, shooting pains, and more. Since I have been living with nerve damage from a car accident since I was 19, and the abnormal nerve sensations and pain that come with nerve damage, and then the impact that lupus flareups have had on my nervous system, I've noticed for years that every time I get ill I wind up with generalized nerve pain all over my body. It's difficult to describe your actual nervous system having pain, but I can feel my nerve trunk down my back and branching off throughout my body when I have that weird pain. The closest I can come to describing it is feeling like I'm having a migraine all over my body, complete with sparkly aura sensations and nausea and sometimes throbs. Oddly, pain medication doesn't touch this at all. Finding out that diabetes was probably making it ~worse~... wow.
You'd think I'd be relieved when all this started simply just feeling numb about a year and half ago, but I found that pretty terrifying. A few months ago during a follow up with a neurologist we had a great talk about how diabetes slows down healing, and since my body is still healing from nerve damage (nerve pathways take longer to heal than any other organ damage), the dysesthesia I'm feeling is probably indicating more healing, as the pain levels are going down since I started controlling my diabetes. He said every time I get sick I will probably notice an increase in the dysesthesia because illness also diverts resources away from old healing to overcoming the current illness. The best thing I can do for my nervous system is SLEEP WELL, good nutrition, great hydration, keep my stress low, and find things to enjoy to take my mind off worrying.
He's right, I didn't even notice when the weird numbness faded. Until now. Wow, I feel so weird today. I feel like my whole body is half cloaked in dark matter, I'm just not getting all the input into my brain from everything that's going on below my skull. At first it was pretty unnerving (ha, I love that pun so much), but then I remembered all this stuff and now I'm not worried. I've been through this before, mild numbness from my face to my feet, but I'm still walking around just fine, still breathing and thinking just fine, even feeling well enough now to get some chores going again.
I feel like it's getting pretty obvious now that I can almost trigger this weird dysesthesia with what I'm eating. I remember years of living with nerve pain, all those handfuls of pills, getting through every single day for decades was so hard but I was determined I could do it because I wasn't done yet. I never dreamed I'd make it to a place where a little bit of mild numbness would be my biggest worry. I mean, my eyelids are numb right now. It feels so weird when I blink. If you've ever had Bell's Palsy you probably have some clue what I'm saying. It's not the same as being numbed at the dentist, but it's kind of like that shot is half worn off and just stays that way.
I'm pretty thrilled that I've reached a day where I could get this all figured out and share it. I know a lot of people out there are having some wicked bad days. I know it's hard hanging on to any hope that you'll ever feel better. I know you cry. I know other people don't understand and you feel alone. And I know that sometimes your only comfort is the thing that makes you feel the worst, be it a med addiction or a sugar addiction. I know how much that blue popsicle means to you.
This post is a hug, and I hope you get your stuff figured out. And even if you do, I hope you want to feel better badly enough to make it through the hard part of turning your world upside down to change it, moment by long dark moment. The hardest part for me took about two years. Never cold turkey off meds, do your research first, keep a doctor in the loop, make a plan and clearly state your purpose, pre-apologize to all the people whose heads you're going to bite off along the way, and take that step.