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, 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