Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled- Cervical Cancer and Endometriosis

This photo was taken 2 weeks after I had a conization, a cone-shaped piece of tissue, removed from the cervix. Before that procedure, I had 5 biopsies on my cervix showing precancerous dysplasia CIN3.

A week before this photo was taken, I was told I had cervical cancer. I had micro invasions in the margins where my cone biopsy was taken. Sometimes this procedure removes the bad cells and you are done. However, occasionally the margins are still positive and further treatment is required.

When I walked into the office, having fevers and recovering from the procedure, I came in to follow up and get answers from the pathology. I sat down in her office, distracted by the vibrant decor… black, white and silver glam office, reminding me of a salon or just a really girly office. My nervous mind wandering. What should I do for the rest of the day? Where should I get lunch?

“You have cancer. The margins are positive and this all happened so fast, meaning that it is super aggressive. The area of the micro invasions are up closer to your uterus and blood vessels so I am also worried about it spreading. You will need to see an oncologist for a hysterectomy and possibly further treatment.”

I steered my gaze from the sparking decor and looked her in the eyes, eyes of concern and dread for giving bad news to me every time I see her. My thoughts are whirling as I think about how this can’t possibly be real. My vision blurs as tears welt up in disbelief and fear. I have three kids and an amazing husband that I adore. I have a compromised heart that can’t handle much and still struggle to get my health under control… How can I go through this?

The appointment felt like a break up as I got passed along to a male doctor I have never met, an hour away after finally trusting this doctor and an appointment a couple weeks later, which felt like eternity.

Just before this photo was taken, my husband and I got bikes to ride on the beach. I was feeling great and it was beautiful. I still was processing the news but made the decision to remain calm and patient. We were on a trip in Miami South Beach. After riding the bikes for only a few minutes, I got dizzy and clammy. “Sorry to cut this short, babe, but I don’t feel well and I want to go back to the room.”

My sweet, understanding husband got the bikes returned and we went to our room on the 10th floor with a gorgeous view. A few hours later, I started hemorrhaging. I ended up in the Miami ER for 7 hours, finally being discharged so that we could return home and see my doctor.

Now, as I write this, I am almost two weeks post op from my hysterectomy and my pathology was cleared for no further treatment and I am cancer free. Though I did have to go back to the hospital for two broad spectrum IV antibiotics for two days, I am doing well.

I would not wish this roller coaster on anyone but I am so grateful it wasn’t worse. It could have been worse. I could be still fighting. Before I came in for my one week hysterectomy post op appointment, I said to myself, “If there is more, I am done. I will live my life happy and will not do any further treatment or put my heart through anything more.” I was so lucky. I am so lucky and grateful.

I will say, as someone who suffered from severe endometriosis most of my life, close to two decades, I wish I had a hysterectomy sooner. I put it off for so long, worried about everyone’s opinions and fears. I am excited to start this new chapter of my life of no suffering. I want to buy white pants to celebrate! Two weeks of every month will be mine again, not lost in bed with migraines, severe pain, chest tightness, fevers, fatigue, nausea, IBS and depression.

If you have severe endometriosis, a hysterectomy is nothing but just one last period cramp. You’ll do fine!

Body and Beauty, Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Unveiling Invisible Illnesses – War Paint

I always try to smooth my hair and conceal my tired eyes. I always dust on a peachy pink blush and a fun lip color, regardless of how I feel. This is the mask of an invisible illness warrior. Occasionally, there are days that I struggle to even lift a limb to put on my war paint. On those days when I bare a naked face and join society, I get told over and over and over again, “You look tired.”

When someone looks exhausted or drained, instead try asking if they need anything or offer help, a compliment or anything positive. I wear makeup to hide when my face goes pale while my blood pressure drops and my body starts going numb, ringing in my ears or the sound of my pulse takes over while my vision starts to sparkle or fade. I wear lipstick to hide the loss of color while I brace myself against the wall or casually sit down and continue to smile and listen to your day.

Every day is a struggle, whether it is big or small. On the really bad days, it is a lonely world and it feels like no one understand. When you try to reach out, no one listens because they think you are young and healthy and perfectly fine. It feels dismissive and disheartening, quiet and empty as you hope for tomorrow to be a better day.

Health

Everything Is Going To Be Fine

Talking to certain friends can be very difficult or even stressful. I have learned that not all friends are cut out for every conversation. Some friends are fun and want to talk about who they have a crush on, silly poop jokes or their current laundry situation. That is always great to have but sometimes it isn’t enough.

I often have stressful news about my health and I used to get resentful and angry that when I would talk to my close friends, they would immediately change the topic and talk about something mundane or random, having nothing to do with what I just said. It made me feel completely dismissed. The following day, sometimes I would think that maybe they would check on me and see how I was doing, but they never did. It was like I never said anything.

Recently, I had a health scare and they all told me, “Everything is going to be fine.” I am a pretty positive person and I appreciate it when I have a positive conversation, but sometimes I just want to talk about real life. Sometimes, everything is not fine. Maybe it will be fine again, and damn… we are going to try, but life can be scary. I don’t think it is always okay to sugar coat, dismiss and repaint a picture. Let’s talk what is real, make a plan, support each other and bitch about the battle. Sometimes people just need to vent. The worst part is that the scare turned into reality and everything was not fine. Their response to that was pretty much the same. “It will be okay!”

I decided to not be upset with my close friends anymore, despite their inattentiveness. I realized they were not the friends I go to when shit hits the fan or if I need them for anything serious. I think I also realized that I am usually the one they go to when they need someone or maybe they just don’t want to believe there is anything wrong with me. That is what I like to tell myself anyway. What I did realize is that I did have some friends who also had health battles and that I could talk to them. I also see a therapist so she is more cut out for the job than those other friends and it helps me to depend on them less.

Joining support groups online or on Facebook has also been beneficial for learning more about your health issues and finding people who understand.

It is important to know that when you are a warrior and constantly battling your health, not everyone has been to war. Not everyone is a soldier and not everyone understands. Find your army, keep your chin up and don’t let those in the sidelines upset you for not knowing how to fight.

Health

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month – You Don’t Look Sick

May is apparently everything awareness month, so today I chose to share a little bit about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. In the medical field, doctors are trained that when they hear hooves that it is always a horse and never a zebra. The zebras in the world are standing up and wanting answers. We have been dismissed all of our lives. It is so important to me to educate everyone I meet in the medical field so that they can keep an open mind and empathy for those who suffer without answers. 🦓

Photo by Nicole Borges Photography

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Unveiling Invisible Illnesses – Endometriosis

Laura Kay Halcom from Rockledge, Florida is 1 of 10 who struggle with endometriosis, a painful disorder in which the tissue that grows on the lining of your uterus spreads to other organs like the fallopian tubes and ovaries. With no way to exit the body like normal menstruation, the tissue becomes trapped and causes pain, scaring, adhesions and fertility problems.

Endometriosis is difficult to diagnose without an invasive procedure, a laparoscopy. Often times it will be misdiagnosed with IBS or deemed psychological. Symptoms can range based on severity but can cause nausea, low grade fevers, heavy bleeding, lower back pain, pelvic pain, painful intercourse, painful bowel movements and fatigue.

Treatment usually starts with birth control hormones to try to regulate your cycle but unfortunately, some women are very sensitive to the hormones and don’t always respond to that treatment. Another option is an endometrial ablation, but it is not always suggested if you plan to have children. A hysterectomy is a final option but there are studies that it still is no cure and it is a rough surgery. If your endometrial tissue grows onto other organs, removing the uterus is not going to help. There are studies that nutrition can play a big role. An anti-inflammatory diet can help minimize symptoms.

Avoiding gluten, red meat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol can help alleviate symptoms and inflammation. Having a well-balanced diet full of nutrients, antioxidants, fatty acids and iron rich foods is important. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory compound that you can take as capsules or sprinkle on your food. Having plenty of rest, staying hydrated and support will be your best friend for this diagnosis.

Meet Laura

What is your invisible illness?

Endometriosis, Depression, Anxiety

When and how were you diagnosed?

Endo: June 2017 by laparoscopic surgery. It took 12 years and dozens of tests for me to be diagnosed. I have had anxiety & depression since I was 16.

What were your struggles and fear after diagnosis?

There is no known cause, and no cure. Now, the treatments of birth control and antidepressants are just making things worse. I also fear infertility.

What advice do you have for anyone going through a new diagnosis?

Be patient with yourself. Keep records of everything. Find your community of people struggling with what you are fighting. Talk about it. Educate yourself so that you can educate others.

What are your goals and dreams in life?

My goal is to finish my business degree. I want to be an educator and an entertainer. I dream of my own business, where I can express myself through art, music, and nature. I dream of adventure in far away places.

Three things you cannot live without: Sunshine, hugs, and my heating pad!

Favorite Quote:

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

Endo Warrior Shirt

Health

To DNA or not to DNA? 

I think everyone, early on in life, should have their DNA tested. 

1) This would allow for so much information on genetic diseases and linking DNA to specific changes in chromosomes, genes and proteins to rule out conditions and see what people are genetically predisposed to. 
2) People would not have to struggle with misdiagnosis for most of their lives and could have answers and pretreat or avoid certain conditions from worsening. 
3) This could also potentially save lives in so many ways. For example, people with the MTHFR gene will have difficulty eliminating toxins from the body and are low in important vitamins and minerals, therefore prone to developing an autoimmune disease from interfering with absorption and raising inflammation. How great would this have been to know in advance so that prevention of debilitating health issues could be possible? Also, this gene was only recently discovered over collecting a large DNA database, hence why everyone should be involved. More genes would also be discovered. 
4) If you have certain gene mutations, there are medications that could be dangerous for you. CTP2C19, for example, is a liver enzyme that is responsible for metabolizing a wide variety of drugs, including anti-seizure medications, blood thinners and anti depressants. There are patients who have had psychotic episodes or suicide attempts after starting new antidepressants and other patients who had their medications fail. All of this could have been prevented if they had genetic testing done. Doctors would not prescribe potentially fatal meds or meds that you would be resistant to if they knew, which they could know if they had your genetic testing done. 
5) It is 2017. I know there is no money to be made from healthy people but it is ridiculous how blinded everyone still is and always will be by following the government’s food pyramid, designed by a board filled with lobbyists. Even if we all had our genetic testing available, people would still eat sludge anyway because bacon is trendy and vegans are nerds and people would rather drown their veins with animal fats, sugar, preservatives, pesticides and hormones than to prevent the consequences of what shitty food does to you over time. 

Health

Banana Bag Oral Solution – Getting My Life Back


Banana Bag is an oral solution that you mix in water and drink. It is like getting a bag of IV fluids at the hospital, only without the needles and scary bill. If you are like me and can get dehydrated easily, this is going to be your saving grace! 

Summertime is the worst time for me. I absolutely hate it. Seriously, it is the definition of hell. However, I live in Florida so it is hot most of the year. Let’s face it, I have three kids and live between Cocoa Beach and Orlando which makes it is hard to avoid outdoor activities.  

My daughter is on a swim team and I had to sit in the heat for 4 hours during her swim meets and the first one landed me in the hospital. The second one, I tried Banana Bag and I made it through. This year, my mother treated my family to a day at the water park and I also made it through without getting dehydrated and sent to the ER.  I froze a liter of water with the solution and I put some cherry juice and fresh raspberries in it so that it was a frozen chunk of ice that slowly melted throughout the day for a constantly cold drink. It kept me cool, hydrated and prevented the usual health issues. It does have a vitamin taste so I like to add more water and some juice for flavor but I prefer it over hospitals and sugary sports drinks. It is such a relief to be able to spend time with my family without having to end up in the ER to get a bag of fluids. This is a game changer!



I have a rare connective tissue disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome that I just got diagnosed with this year after struggling with health problems my entire life. EDS is a collagen defect which causes joint hyper mobility (such as being double jointed) and a plethora of health issues including Dysautonomia. People with dysautonomia dehydrate faster.


For me, my dysautonomia comes in the form of low blood pressure, temperature control such as easily overheating and easily cold with full blown shivering,  pre-syncope with waves of lightheadedness, vision loss and numbness, painful kidney spasms, tachycardia, POTSNeurocardiogenic Syncope and Sinus Node Dysfunction, (pacemaker since June 2017) to name a few. 

I have cut out preservatives, limited sugar intake and eat an anti-inflammatory and autoimmune diet. I take high does of vitamin C and CBD daily. I do not digest meat well so I cut it out and only eat fish and eggs. I cut out dairy because 90% of it gives me migraines with aura and so does MSG and artificial sweeteners. It has also taken me most of my life to learn what I cannot have. If I accidentally consume any of these things, I can guarantee a 4 hour comatose nap and wake up with a migraine and flashing lights, a racing heart and disorientation. This will last all day and sometimes the following day.

 It is also CRUCIAL for me to get all of my minerals, vitamins and electrolytes because I tend to get deficient in quite a few. Vitamin deficiencies can also cause so many health issues and unfortunately get missed and mistaken for other diseases. Vitamin B deficiency, for example, is very common and can cause tingling sensations in your extremities, depression, fatigue, weakness and irritability. 

The cool thing about this product is that it was made by a pharmacist who also made the IV solutions for ERs. It is awesome for POTS, autoimmune diseases, traveling, athletes, hangovers and anyone who is just exhausted, overworked and drained. 

It’s time to start living life to the fullest, which means having the health to do so! I am so grateful to have a home remedy for preventing dehydration and trips to the ER. I feel like I am finally starting to get my life back.