Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thank You for your Prayers

This blog post is not my typical, but I have been wanting to do this post for awhile now. Mostly I am doing it for myself so I can look back and see what I have learned from being sick and how I felt about everything. But it may also be of interest to those of you who are close to me. I wrote it in question/answer form and included some pictures so it will be more interesting and hopefully you won't fall asleep (It's kinda long)!  But first of all, I want to thank all of you who prayed for me to get well.  I am doing so much better lately, and I am sincerely grateful for your thoughts and prayers.

What happened?

About 4 years ago (when Caleb was a year old), I decided I wanted to become "healthier" so I stopped eating junk-food altogether, went vegetarian overnight and started a short cleanse. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought that I did! All of a sudden I started feeling really tired, and just altogether horrible. Over time, I became quite sick and things got really bad about a year ago, when I lost a lot of weight and became really weak.  Because I kept seeming to get worse over time, myself and others worried if I would pull out of it.

What did you do about it?

I literally ran around for 3 years trying to find answers. I went to more doctors than I can remember, and had lots of blood tests, an endoscopy, injections, vitamin IV's, supplements, and medications to name a few. I even went to some interesting people that said that your negative emotions can make you sick. And I kept thinking how can my emotions be making me sick? I have been so happy in my life, especially before I got sick. Wonderful husband, beautiful baby boy...I just want to get my life back so I can enjoy what I already have to the fullest! I was willing to do almost anything to get better, and I didn't let myself do much else in my spare time except research and try to find answers!

One of the many foods I cannot eat now. :(

What diagnosis did you get?

My gastroenterologist was convinced that I had "celiac disease" and wanted me to cut all gluten out of my diet. I did, however, I continued to feel worse over time, and kept finding myself cutting more foods that caused symptoms. After a lot of searching, I was told that I have "dysbiosis", which is a digestive disorder where damage to your intestines causes you to have a hard time digesting your foods well, meaning you don't absorb all the nutrients you take in. And because the foods are not digested as they should be, your body sees many foods as "foreign", and starts having a hard time with them. I'm thinking that this is probably why I have lost weight despite the fact that I always seem to be hungry?!

Why do you think you got sick?

I think it's because I cut out meat, and started to eat too many grains for my system, which caused the damage in my digestive tract. This is because from the research I've done and my personal experience it seems that different body (or blood) types handle various types of foods differently. Blood type O's (me) for example, supposedly do much better with a high protein diet, but I didn't know or realize that at the time. Having gone vegetarian explains why I suddenly started to bruise easily and why I felt too weak to clean my house spotless and work out vigorously like used to. My system was having a hard time digesting so many grains, and I noticed I wasn't digesting my food well anymore. Not only did I feel weak and tired, I didn't feel well enough to do much or go anywhere. Like when you have a bad flu bug and you want to stay in your comfy home and your comfy clothes.

What were some of  your symptoms?

Obviously I was weak and tired/fatigued, which were the worst of all, but I also had stomach pains until I cut grains out of my diet (doctor's orders!) and body aches, likely because those muscles were so weak. Then my legs and ankles started to hurt because they had weakened so much too. My eyes hurt a lot of the time, both because of bad sleep, and digesting foods badly. That's usually the first symptom that tells me that my system had a hard time with what I ate. It feels like really dry, tired eyes. Not suprisingly,  my symptoms caused me to have some anxiety. There were also symptoms tied to bad digestion that you could see, including a bloated stomach, acne, jaundice, blah, blah, I hated it. However, when you feel terrible, you care much less about what you look like. You also care less about materialistic house and clothing that had always been important to me, suddenly were not. I was in "survival mode."

This is one of very few pic's of me while I was so sick. Justin took this picture
 before church because it was a rare occasion that I made myself up nice.

Why did you become so weak?

I started doing fun work-out videos after Caleb was born, but 6 months after I started feeling sick, it started getting harder instead of easier, and I eventually decided I felt too weak to do it at all. Looking back, I wish I would've pushed myself to do more in general. Not aerobics like I had been, but using my muscles more so they didn't become so weak. Like I've said, I feel like I had to learn how to walk again in some respects, because my muscles and joints became so weak. I went to physical therapy a few times and my therapists helped me work on my walking and my building my leg strength.  Now I am thinking about getting a membership to Gold's Gym so I can use their equipment to strengthen my muscles more.

What is helping you to get better?

I think it's several things, including figuring out which foods make me feel crummy, and also cutting back on some of the "medicines" (mostly supplements) I was taking. I realized that I was taking these to help me feel better, but they were actually making me feel worse. Another thing that has helped is getting out of the cycle of "I don't feel good enough to do anything, so I don't, which causes me to feel worse because I am so weak and tired (lungs, heart, etc.). Starting to feel better physically helped me emotionally right away. Some nights I am so excited about life and what the next day holds, that I can hardly sleep! But I also realize that I am not out of the woods yet, and if I let myself think about all I still need to improve I can get overwhelmed, so I don't let myself do that. I try to just take it a day at a time and think about how far I have come!

A few of many supplements that I will be throwing out!

How did you feel throughout all of this?

Suprisingly, I never felt depressed, just sad and frustrated about my situation. When doctors are having a hard time figuring out your health issue, they usually want to give you an antidepressant. But I knew I wasn't depressed! If I ever had a day where I felt a bit better and I had an increase of hope, I was on top of the world! And my family could tell you that given the situation, I stayed pretty positive. I am not saying that I never cried or felt hopeless, but I really tried to keep that to a minimum because I realized it only worsened the situation, or at least how I felt about it.
These are a couple of girls in my neighborhood that came and
 helped entertain Caleb last year. We took them to
ice cream to say thank you. Love them!

How did this affect your relationships?

This really affected all of my relationships, because I stopped going most places, and conserved my energy for doctors visits, etc. I felt less close to most people, but I felt close to my mom because she was so helpful when I needed her there for me. And I feel like I have a deeper bond with her now because of it. Thank you, mom. 
(I also feel closer now to several individuals who helped me in one way or another....see pic. at right).

I spent a lot of time with my husband and son, which is really what kept me going. I loved our happy moments together...watching them rough house or telling each other jokes and what happened during our day. I was heartbroken if Caleb went to a cousins house all day or if Justin left on a business trip for a few days. They are what kept me smiling when all I wanted to do is cry. And I always felt extremely grateful to have them in my life, which kept me motivated to fight for my health.

Caleb, thank you for being so adorable, for making me laugh, and for being quite easy and understanding when I really needed you to be. I love you!

My experience has also strengthened my relationship with Justin, because trials typically do this for a marriage. We learned a lot more about each other and we now have a greater respect for one another because of how difficult situations were handled. For example, Justin did most of the cooking and cleaning (and so much more!) for those months that I didn't feel strong enough to do it. I love him and am so blessed that I have had such an amazing person to help me through this. Thank you Justin.
This pic was taken on my first outing when I started feeling better.

What have you learned from your trial?

I have learned a lot of things, and although I am the same person, there are several things that I am or want to be more serious about. These include:

Health: Obviously, I will take my health seriously for the rest of my life. I think I will always try to eat healthier, make my body stronger, and take care of myself emotionally.

Sprituality: I am closer with my Savior and I have a stronger desire to do important things like reading the scriptures and going to the temple. Before, my desire to do them was mainly because I knew that I should. Now I do them also because these things (and others) help everything in my life to work out better. This is because I am living closer to the Spririt, so I can be guided in my life. We all need guidance in this challenging world.

Other: People are what matter in life. I had that thought a lot while I was sick, because I felt that I was basically stripped of everything that made me, me. And what I realized is that I'm still myself, and I wanted to feel like people still cared about me and what I was going through. I can remember almost every last phone call, card, visit, and kindness that was shown to me during this time. And the little things helped more than you would think! Because of this experience, I want to show other people that I care about them both because I do, and because I know how helpful it is to feel that.

I also had a couple of experiences where individuals didn't understand, or even try to understand what I was going through, and they were extremely unkind to me. Because of this, I lost more sleep, became somewhat anxious, and felt my health even worsened for a time. I share this only because I hope to inspire people to be more kind to one another. You never know what somebody is going through and it's likely that they can't really take anymore. I know that I have accidentally offended people before, but I would hope to never intentionally hurt somebody elses feelings. I know that my heart and mind wouldn't feel right in doing that. I am going to try to be more kind to everyone, and to show them that I am there for them if they need me.

This is a random pic that Caleb sneakily took while a
  cousin was visiting me last summer. Just thought I
    should add a picture about now.

Do you have any regrets because you got sick?

Not really. I believe that things happen for a reason, and the cliche idea that our trials make us stronger. I know that I have learned, and am still learning many things that will help me be a better person throughout my life. Even though Justin and I would like to have another child, I don't regret not being able to yet, because I feel like there is still time and that things will work out according to Gods plan.

Did you feel like God was watching over you?

Yes, and there are several things that happened that showed me that.  I have lived in my home now for almost 8 years, but when I started to get really sick, I suddenly had wonderful and diligent visiting teachers and home teachers for the first time. And it wasn't because the Bishop made any changes. These individuals are some of our best friends in the ward now.  Thank you Christie, Lani, Dave and Tim. 

It also became extremely apparent to me for the first time why buying Alison's (Justin's mom's) house, and having her live with us always seemed like the right thing to do.  She was so helpful during this time, especially with the house and with Caleb.  I feel so grateful for her understanding and help these last few years. Thank you Alison. 

Thank you again to all of you whom I haven't listed but who were there for me in one way or another.  I hope you were blessed for your kindness and prayers.

Thank you also, to my Heavenly Father who heard (and still hears) my prayers and the prayers of all those who love me.  He blessed me with hope and peace that things would turn out alright, and also answers that have led me to start feeling better.  I could not have gone through all that I did without Him.


Video to "God Gave Me You"
(for the ups and downs...)

P.S.  Please leave me a comment or ask a question you may still have that I didn't answer.  This post took a long time to write and I would love to realize that people took time to read it.  All my love!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Karaoke Baby!

On New Years Eve, we had a karaoke party at my mom's house, because Cindy got a karaoke machine for Christmas and we needed to break it in!

First, Caleb sang "Mary had a Little Lamb" with some of his cousins and they sounded so cute!

Cindy was the star of the whole night, in my opinion.  She's even got the moves!
(Really she's just posing because I'm taking a pic.)

 "We coulda had it all! Rollin' in the deep!"
I rocked this song by Adele (In my personal, biased opinion, of course.)

Alyssa and I singing some sort of Kelly Clarkson song.

Justin did sing one song, which is more than most of the guys did.
At one point, Justin and Caleb apparently got bored, because I later found the following pictures on my camera...

Caleb and cousin Ethan.

Justin sent Caleb to me and told us to make funny faces. 
My dad's is my favorite. Classic!