Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Eosinophillic Esophagitis

Theresa Acker is a firefighter/paramedic and a bright, young woman. Women are often dismissed, especially if they are young and appear healthy. It’s more common to have an ailment blamed on stress or being emotional, regardless of how well a woman is balancing her stress, rather than being taken seriously. The cherry on the cake is when routine blood tests show a perfectly healthy, young woman. There isn’t a fighting chance when many health issues are not recognized through a basic blood panel. Once this is the case, it is time to throw on some boxing gloves and put up a fight. Theresa did just that.

Being an advocate for your health is crucial for many. Not everyone always gets a very thorough doctor and most are trained on the average cases and solely focused on their specialty, which leaves a huge grey area. Researching and getting several opinions is always going to be your best bet.

Eosinophilic Esophagitis is an inflammatory autoimmune disease of the esophagus. This can lead to difficulty swallowing, choking and food getting stuck while in a flare up.

Interview

What is your official diagnosis?

I am diagnosed with Eosinophillic Esophagitis (EOE)

How long have you been experiencing symptoms before getting answers?

I experienced symptoms for approximately 2 years before getting diagnosed.

How has this affected your relationships and work life?

Luckily, my husband is extremely supportive and has even changed his own diet for me. As for friends and co-workers, I honestly don’t think they understand 100% and I feel as if some don’t care to. I feel as if they truly believe it’s some made up “picky eater” disorder but I’m lucky to have a handful of people in my life who actually acknowledge it and care.

What advice do you have for anyone suffering with EOS

Trust your body and get the help you feel is needed. Don’t let anybody or any doctor disregard your need for health care. A food impaction can be embarrassing but it could also lead to worse things. I always recommend seeking medical attention if you have any of the signs and symptoms, because in the long run, you could be causing more issues to your esophagus if left untreated. Not a lot of people or doctors are educated or even know what EOE is.

What challenges have you dealt with in the process?

A major challenge I have had to deal with would be my diet and to actually medicate. I was always the girl to eat everything in sight and love food and with the dysphagia that has changed. I’ve had to limit the types of food I eat, unfortunately. It’s also made it uncomfortable to go out and be the person with food restrictions and being afraid of choking in front of people.

Also, I’m not huge on taking medication. I would rather try a more natural remedy so actually taking the medication is also hard for myself.

What are the scariest or most difficult moments you have gone through because of EOE?

Having impaction for hours. It is hard to breath and very painful.

Favorite Quote:

“Where ever you go, go with all your heart.”

“With brave wings she flies.”

Three things you can’t live without:

I could never live without my family, my fur babies, or laughter.

What are your health goals?

My health goals are to feel like myself again, to not be sick and to not have the awkward fear of choking. I would love to not be on any medications for my GI issues.

*Photos also by Misti Blu

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.