Live like a Warrior

image description-you dont look sick i know i'm just so awesome i can look this way and be chronically ill
image description-“you dont look sick” I know I’m just so awesome I can look this way and be chronically ill

“Fight like a warrior” – Matisyahu

In the chronic illness community, there is some debate about whether or not being called a “warrior” is a good thing. This is because a warrior is related to fighting which could mean that one is fighting themselves constantly. And while that is a distinct possibility and there are people who struggle with fighting against themselves and even I do that sometimes…where I fight against my chronic illnesses- leaving myself feeling only worse. 

The reason I like being called a warrior is so much more than that. A warrior can do more than just fight against themselves. 

Here are some definitions:

Warrior. noun.

1. A brave or experienced or soldier or fighter.

2. Any of a number of standing poses in yoga in which the legs are held apart and the arms are stretched outwards.

3. A person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage or aggressiveness.

I am a warrior because I fight hard to get up and live the best I can each day. The past couple of months since my last post have been hard. I have been completely immersed in my health this past summer. My hypothyroidism, migraines, throat (chronic infections) respectively. 

Goings on

For my underachieving thyroid: Overall things are steady with it right now, so that’s the best news to date. score!

For my migraines: Over the summer I had quite a few different tests to look at my brain and see what is going on in there. I had an EEG (this is like an EKG but for the brain specifically), MRI, MRA, and seeing an ophthalmologist to check and make sure nothing is going wrong with my eyes. The EEG was slightly abnormal so I will be seeing another neurologist who specializes in seizures very soon. And finally, I will be starting botox (for migraines) on September 14th. It’s not botox for wrinkles, promise. Google it. My neurologist has high hopes that it will help my daily chronic migraines lessen. *fingers crossed* 

For my throat: I had a tonsillectomy about one month ago on July 26th. And it was really painful, challenging and just all around sucky to heal. Tonsil removal for adults is completely different than it is for kids. Kids heal from tonsil removal in 5-7 days, adults heal in 6-8 weeks. Youth is truly wasted on the young….they just don’t know how good they have it. Plus my healing is slowed down a bit by all my chronic illnesses and jenky immune system. 

My boyfriend, Aaron, took great care of me during the first weeks after my surgery. Getting me twice daily Slurpees. But honestly, my throat is somewhat sore and while I’m working my way up to hard foods…after I eat them my throat hurts so badly that the only thing that soothes it is a nice cold Slurpee. So he willingly makes endless Slurpee runs and its amazing. 

Too School for Cool

Here are the facts… the new semester began on Monday, August 27th, ya’ll.  Just one month after my surgery. Was I ready…well in theory…nope. I began doing some coursework a week before the semester started so as to get a headstart which never hurts for me, especially with my health, I am often falling behind or at least feeling like I am falling behind. 

Graduate school is challenging. Not just like this is college so it’s hard, but whole other level hard and I am so fortunate I have survived to make it into my last year. Don’t get me wrong…I love a challenge. School is my favorite thing ever. This is officially my last year…two semesters to go! It’s bittersweet. I want to enjoy my last year but it’s hard as a chronically ill person because can I ever really enjoy anything fully? It’s a different kind of challenge because often I am just trying to get through things as a suffer through health challenge after health challenge. 

The important thing is communication with my professors and getting accommodations when possible. Universities and colleges should have an Office for Students with Disabilities (OSWD)that provide students with accommodations. This is not just for students with visible physical disabilities or ADD/ADHD and the like. This can be invisible chronic illnesses as well, as long as they are well documented by a doctor. 

My OSWD accommodations include:

* Extension of time on homework provided the extension does not substantially impact the student’s ability to participate in class discussions and activities, threatens the academic integrity of the curriculum or impede the accomplishment of the learning objectives.  The student must discuss this accommodation with his/her professors.
* Flexibility with regard to attendance. The student shall discuss this accommodation with her instructor in order to ensure that the number of missed classes does not threaten the academic integrity of the curriculum or impede the accomplishment of the learning objectives.
* Permission to take brief breaks during class.
* Permission to use a laptop during class for the purpose of taking notes.
* Instructor to alert student before flashing lights. You might think this accommodation is odd because who flashes the lights in class?!?! But maybe you read my about me page or maybe you will in a minute. But the shortish story is I go to Gallaudet University, the only Deaf Liberal Arts University in the world. Which is just like it sounds, a deaf university where there is no voice talking and while I am not deaf, I am fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) because my grandparents were Deaf. And it just happens that my boyfriend, Aaron is Deaf as well (also convenient after having my tonsils out when I couldn’t speak!). A common practice in the Deaf community to get a group of people’s attention is to flash the lights a couple times but flashing lights triggers my migraines…now that’s unfortunate! Which is why it is in my accommodations. And now you know…and knowledge is power!) 

My accommodations are game-changing for me; they make all the difference between passing and failing. I can’t remember if I mentioned it on my blog here before so I don’t know if I have a post to link…but I am on the OSWD Student Advisory Board, going on 2 years now, because that is how much I believe in supporting OSWD and the students who need their accommodations. 

So what is a warrior? 

Am I constantly fighting something you can’t see? …maybe. I’d like to think of myself as fighting for my life…as normal as possible but also not. I’m not normal…whatever normal is.  I get exhausted after unloading and loading the dishes, I can barely carry the laundry basket down to the basement to wash a load of laundry without feeling like my body will give out… but I never stop trying…I never give up. To me…that is a warrior. 

What is a warrior to you? Are you a warrior?  

 

 

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A Trip to the Neurologist

image description- Oh I'm fine, just faking a migraine so I can get some botox in my face
[image description- Oh I’m fine, just faking a migraine so I can get some botox in my face]
Today I went to the neurologist for my migraines which have been worsening over the past year and a half.  I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices for my migraines for over a decade now. I’ve tried over a dozen migraine medications, neurologists, ENTS for vertigo and so on. 

But recently everything has been much worse. I have migraines with aura. That is flashing lights in eyes and increased light sensitivity. But now it’s even worse, I have to close my eyes when lights are turned on and off in a room because lights start flashing in my eyes otherwise. It’s frustrating. And recently, any sudden darkness has caused flashing lights in my eyes, like driving under bridges…which as you can imagine can be dangerous. 

So I finally got in to see a new neurologist. I was anxious to meet him because my primary doctor of 11 years warned me he might scare easily and I can be pretty overwhelming with all my health issues. But he immediately was friendly with me and interested in all of my health issues, not just my migraines and vertigo. 

I can’t even express how important it is for chronically ill people to be able to trust their doctors and for the doctors to be able to look at us as a whole person and not just as the one body part that is their specialty. When I was first diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, my urologist that I was seeing basically looked at me like a giant walking-talking bladder. She never looked at other parts of me and how it impacted my health. I hated that and it made me stop going to see her. 

But looking at a chronically ill person a whole being, in a medical and holistic way, is beautiful in its own way. Most chronically ill people will tell you it’s hard to find a doctor like that…but when you find someone like that, you hold on to them for as long as possible. 

So today, this neurologist, looked at each of my illnesses and medicines and how they impacted my migraines. I was impressed with his thoroughness. He seemed to really want to help me. He didn’t rush through the initial exam. I hate when doctors do that. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a second or third priority to a doctor. 

We made a plan for my migraines…a big plan. A migraine plan. 

  • Get an MRI (I did have an MRI about 10 years ago but it showed nothing)
  • Get an EEG (Which is like an EKG  but for the brain, so it detects electrical activity in the brain)
  • Go to the ophthalmologist to check for papilledema (which is when there is increased pressure in or around the brain which causes part of the optic nerve inside the eye to swell…this can cause visual disturbances and headaches)
  • Wean off of migraine abortive medications (Sumatriptan and Fioricet)
  • Start Botox for migraine prevention. 

This is a big migraine plan, to say the least, there’s a lot that is going to be happening along side of my surgery in July. But sometimes that is just how it goes…when it rains it pours. 

Botox for migraines 

Some people may not be familiar with botox for migraines. Let me assure you, I am not making this up. This is quite a real thing. https://www.botoxchronicmigraine.com/ is a great place to start getting information about it. But I can give some basic information about it here.

Fast facts about Botox

  • Botox was approved by the FDA in 2010 to be used for chronic migraines. 
  • Botox for migraines is for prevention for people who have at least 8-9 migraine days a month. I have migraines daily if you were wondering. 
  • The botox injections are done with a small needle, that feels like a pinprick, that are done all around the front, sides of the head and back of the head. 
  • Injections are given every 12 weeks by a botox specialist, who is a doctor, that is specially trained to give the botox shots. 
  • About half of Botox annual sales are from migraine and other non-cosmetic uses. 

So as you can see Botox for migraines is a big thing in the Migraine Community. It’s something I have read about often since it has been approved by the FDA and I always read stories about how great it works for people with really bad chronic migraines, such as myself. Although I did not always have daily migraines, I do now and have for quite some time. I think it will be an interesting treatment to try out and something different that will, hopefully, break me free from my chronic daily migraines. 

Where do we go from here?

Who the heck knows! I have a lot of stuff to do over the summer related to my health before the Fall semester begins at the end of August. A lot of doctors appointments, tests, and surgery. So I can only just go day by day down this chronic road I’m on and hope that with each step I take things will get better. I have heard a lot of good things about Botox for migraines so I am looking forward to trying something different. 

Having multiple chronic illnesses is difficult and it’s important to have a support system in place. Friends, family, therapists who can support you through times like this…that I am going through now where basically my full-time job is my health. I have a lot of doctors appointments coming up that I don’t feel comfortable driving home from (like the EEG, the Botox injections and obviously my surgery), so, fortunately, my friend Shelby will drive me or my Boyfriend, Aaron. But that’s why it’s important for those of us with chronic illnesses to have support systems in place as such so that we have a friend or family member to turn to when there’s an appointment coming up and we need a ride. 

But overall, my end goal here in relation to this post is to decrease the number of migraines I have monthly. And if that means sticking a bunch of needles in my head every few months… I’m willing to try it. That’s just where I’m at right now in life. Needles in my head sound better than daily migraines. Let’s do this! 

image description-The only time taking a hammer to your own skull seems like an appropriate solution.png
[image description-The only time taking a hammer to your own skull seems like an appropriate solution]

 

 

What doesn’t kill you…

that-which-doesnt-kill-you-gives-you-a-lot-of-unhealthy-coping-mechanisms-and-a-really-dark-sense-of-humor-76ca0
Image- That which doesn’t kill you gives you a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and a really dark sense of humor.

I’ve mentioned recently that I have been sick with bronchitis, which is difficult by itself. As someone who has asthma and chronic bronchitis, I can say that it sucks. It always makes me wish lungs were not required to live. I say this from experience… I’ve gotten bronchitis 1-2 times a year for as long as I can remember. 

And having bronchitis on top of IC and migraine and etc is a whole other challenge. 

But what happens when you get a new medication and you have a terrible reaction to it on top of being sick and having a chronic illness? Because that is exactly what happened to me this week. My doctor prescribed me a new inhaler called the Combivent Respimat inhaler…seemed innocent enough. It is a short-acting inhaler that helps to relax the lungs. 

On Tuesday, February 21 at approximately 4:30 pm I used the inhaler and then went to see a friend for a bit. We went to a chill place that is semi-noisy which has been known to give me migraines but I went prepared with earplugs and my sumatriptan, a prescription migraine abortive. We didn’t stay very long. I took a triptan around 5:30 because I felt a migraine coming on…but I had no idea of what was to come. 

I do have chronic migraines and I’ve had them for many years. But what came next was like nothing I have ever experienced in my entire life. I finished up with my friend and went to Aaron’s to eat but by the time I got there my migraine was hitting hard so I got my migraine hat (ice pack to wrap around the head) and laid down. It felt like there was 20 tons of pressure on my entire skull, which I’ve never had before. Not only that but my eyeballs hurt like they were ready to pop out of my head. And even my hair hurt! Yes…my hair… Like each individual strand. 

This migraine made my regular migraines look like fun little headaches…which they are not. -Rachel Bob

I’ve read stories in the migraine community about people’s hair hurting but I personally never experienced it…until now. It was excruciating…pure agony. I have a lot of hair, waist length, and it’s super thick Jew hair. There were a few points where I was just ready to chop it all off because I couldn’t take it. 

Aaron said “How is that possible? Hair has no nerves.” I said “How is anything possible? I don’t know. All I know is what I feel and my freaking hair hurts.” 

Aaron tried to get me to eat. And usually eating helps reduce my migraines but I could not eat because it physically hurt me to chew. At that point, I thought I might have to go to the hospital if this didn’t let up. So I decided if it didn’t improve by morning I would have Aaron take me to the hospital. 

One ‘good thing’, was that during this agony my body didn’t seem to register any other pain I was in… like IC or PFD. I was awake most of the night because I couldn’t sleep due to the tremendous amount of pain I was in and I was going to the bathroom frequently, but this time it wasn’t because of my IC. I think it was because my body was trying to get that medicine out of me. I went to the bathroom at least 10 times which is more than I usually go at night time. And every time I went…it didn’t hurt when I peed. Which was a miracle, but also, I’ll gladly take my IC and PFD pain over the agonizing medication migraine any day. 

Eventually, around 4 am I fell asleep. I woke up around 8 am with a lessened migraine…thank goodness. But I was beyond exhausted. I ended up canceling my day, which was therapy at noon and my class in the evening. Also sometime on Tuesday night when in the throws of that torturous migraine I realized I had a 2-3 page paper due on Wednesday and I was like well I’m not going to be able to do that now. 

I guess fortunately for me, I now have OSWD (Office for Students with Disabilities) Accommodations so that I can turn in assignments late and miss class if I’m in a lot of pain. So I emailed my professor to let him know that I will be turning in my paper late and missing class. It’s kind of “funny” because when I got those accommodations approved I said…yea but I won’t ever use them. And then the very next week here I am using the heck out of them. But with good cause. It’s not like I am making this up.

Because you can’t make this shit up. And it goes on. So then I wake up at 7 am expecting to feel better for my class at 9:30 am and guess what? I’m not better. My eyes hurt so badly I think they are going to just fall out…I can barely keep them open and they are puffy (not swollen shut but puffy). I still had a migraine as well, although nowhere near a bad as it was. But my eyes hurting came with extreme light sensitivity. Along with stomach pains and some vomiting. Okay..well guess I’m not going to this class either. I thought I really might have to go to the hospital. 

So I called my doctors office and left a message. I actually did send my doctor a message on Wednesday as well to let them know what was happening. They called me back a bit later that morning and said I should come in at 2:30. So instead of going to the hospital, I opted to go see my doctor. 

My doctor was shocked that I had a reaction this strong to this particular inhaler because it’s very similar to two of the other inhalers I already use. But I’m not surprised because that’s just me. If there is going to be someone who has a reaction to something that most people are fine with…it’s going to be me. I am so sensitive to everything. It’s a wonder that I am still alive. 

And then today I had my annual appointment at the gynocologist…yay…who doesn’t love that? meh. But I do love my gynecologist, I’ve been with her for almost a decade now. Unfortunately, today was my least favorite visit…were any of them my favorite? lol probably not. This is my first time back in for my annual with the diagnoses of interstitial cystitis (IC) and pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD). 

I had been nervous about the speculum and discussed it with my physical therapist. She told me I can tell my gynecologist that and request no speculum because of the PFD. So I talked to my gyno about it. But unfortunately, I have a history of pap smears that come up as pre-cancerous so she needs to really get in there with the use of the speculum. How can I argue with that? So she used the smallest one they had and it was very small, about the size of her pinky which is drastically smaller than I’m used to.

Unfortunately, it still hurt so freaking badly. And even more so afterward…I am now in the midst of a terrible flare. My bladder is spasming and freaking out. And my poor pelvic floor is just in agony. I know it was for a good reason…but FML. Haven’t I had enough pain for one week??? 

what-doesnt-kill-you-makes-you-wish-it-did
Image- What doesn’t kill you makes you wish it did.

For those of us with chronic illnesses, this kind of stuff isn’t uncommon. Maybe my week was a bit more unfortunate than most. But this is our lives. It doesn’t kill us.. allegedly it makes us stronger…or so I’ve heard. 

Having a week like mine or even just a day with something more minor than what I experienced, can really set back those with chronic illness in ways that are hard to predict. It can cause flare ups that last extended periods of time or weaken their already weak immune system so they get sick. 

I didn’t even mention the stress of it all. Not just the stress of having the allergic reaction to the inhaler but having to miss my classes, which I hate doing. Stressing over whether or not I should go to the hospital. The stress of not being able to open my eyes or eat. And then going to the gynecologist is stressful by itself. The speculum. The flare. And so on. 

For people with chronic illness, stress is usually one of the biggest triggers. So how do we come back down from that? We have to remember to take care of ourselves. I committed to self-care and continue to do so. And we can all just keep in mind that…

what-doesnt-kill-you-makes-you-strong-except-bears-bears-will-kill-you
Image- What doesn’t kill you make you stronger. Except for bears, bears will kill you.

New year… New you??

 

[Image description: People treat New Year’s like some sort of life-changing event. If your life sucked last year, it’s probably going to still suck tomorrow.]
It’s a new year already. 2017. Wow. How does that even happen? The whole year flew by. 

 

Almost two years ago this March I was diagnosed with IC. 

One year ago this past December I met my boyfriend, Aaron. And on January 14th will be our one year anniversary, which is crazy because it definitely feels like 6 years. 

I am almost 31 years old; on January 18th. This is not where I expected to be at this point in my life. I’m not exactly sure where I expected to be. But I promise you it did not involve me starting a blog chronicling my journey with chronic illness. But here I am. I have given up so much in the last few months to be right here in this exact moment.  These chronic illnesses have kicked me until I was down and then pounced on me some more. I’d just like to take a moment and image what that would look like. I’m picturing a little brain (representing migraines) and a little bladder just jumping up and down on top of me. 

Anyways…back to the point, I never thought this would be me. Being forced to give up the goal and passion of mine that I have been working towards for years because of my health. It is heart-wrenching. Whenever I think about it I can’t help but cry. I will get into this more later…it’s still a very raw topic for me.

The only positive is that I am still in graduate school for Social Work and I have decided I want to add public health as a specialty so that I can work with and advocate for people who have chronic illnesses. 

 

new year? more like same shit, different year
[Image description: A Cartoon image of Batman looking like he is thinking and words overlaid that says New year…? More like..Same shit, different year]

On the road…to getting lost

 

I just finished my first semester of grad school. Go me! In the Social Work program at Gallaudet University. But in the course of one semester…so much has changed.

The workload of three graduate-level MSW courses was a lot more than I anticipated. I had to stop working and doing volunteer work. I only worked part-time on a freelance schedule and same with volunteer work. But my health tanked and fast during this past semester. My pain levels for my IC and migraines were off the charts.

And just as all this was happening my insurance company decided I don’t need my IC medication, Elmiron, anymore. Elmiron is on the only FDA approved med on the market specifically for IC and because of that it is very expensive at $3 per pill and I take 3 pills per day. Elmiron coats the bladder to give it a protective lining and it takes months (3-6 months) to work; I was on it for about a year. My insurance claims that I said it doesn’t help me, which isn’t true, they are just making stuff up because they don’t want to pay for it anymore. It is now in the appeal process. So my urologist will have to convince the insurance doctor that I need this medication. Which is insanity since I don’t know this person at all.

And let me just say when I came off the Elmiron, I felt it. It hurt more than anything ever. First I was so tense I couldn’t pee and I would sit on the toilet for minutes at a time just trying to relax my pelvic floor muscles enough (that’s what physical therapy is for, will discuss later) to actually pee. And finally, when I did pee, it burst out like molten hot lava and I just felt like I had to be urinating out the protective lining of my bladder…for days.

But there is a natural alternative called Marshmallow Root; similar to Elmiron in that it coats the bladder with a gelatinous coating to protect it. Many people who can’t afford Elmiron or decide to go on a more natural path, use Marshmallow Root instead. I have been taking the MR capsules 2 capsules 2x/daily. and drinking MR tea. The pain from coming off the Elmiron has subsided, so I’m just back to my usual pain.

I don’t know if and when my insurance will decide to approve me taking Elmiron again but I’m not sure I want to. I think I might want to stay with MR for awhile and take a more holistic approach. Which leads me to my next plan of action…drastic lifestyle diet change

My health is in peril. Clearly, whatever is happening, my body is screaming at all full force for help. And I have to listen because I can’t live this way.

 

image description-if you listen to your body whisper, you wont have to hear it scream.png
[Image description-if you listen to your body whisper, you won’t have to hear it scream]

All the pain

[Image description: A 0-10 pain scale 0 with a green smiley face. 0-3 is green 1-3 is mild. 4 is yellow moderate. 4-5 yellow/orange. 6 is orange severe. 8 is sad face very severe. 7-9 is dark orange to red. 10 is the worst pain possible with a crying red face]

Here’s the real reason why I am here. Pain. I have been in pain since I was diagnosed with IC. But since September/October 2016 I have been having off the chart pain levels for both my IC and migraines.

For about a month, I had a migraine. I woke up with a migraine every day, which never had happened before. I’ve had migraines since I was 18 but never have I had a morning migraine. And now I was having them daily. I didn’t realize how long it had been going on, I was only minimizing the pain by taking Excedrin Migraine. My migraines we between a 7-9 on the pain scale for that long. I wasn’t on migraine meds because for a long time they were under control. But no longer. My sensitivity to lights, smells, and noises increased drastically. Smells that never bothered me before were coming at me like a blast of air in your face. And my visual auras, which are like headlights flashing in my eyes, were frequent as well.

I went to my doctor of 10+ years. She has seen me on every migraine med ever. We immediately got me on a preventative, Topamax (aka dopamax). And an abortive, Sumatriptan. As soon as I started taking the Topamax there was a huge decrease in my migraines. But my visual auras have increased and sometimes leave me feeling off balance. They are still continuing now. But we might be changing my migraine meds, at my next follow-up on January 4th, because of that. We shall see what happens.

I also bought migraine glasses, which are not RX, nor are they cheap. But they are made with a special tint, called FL-41, which helps to cut out certain types of light. I really like them when I am in the classroom because of the terrible fluorescent lighting. I would say that they have helped me a lot. They are worth the price of $149, if you have migraines with light sensitivity, you will understand it. I bought mine from https://www.axonoptics.com/  but there are different stores that sell them.

As for my IC, it turned into debilitating pain. The pelvic floor muscles, which everyone has, they sit at the bottom of your pelvis and cradle your bladder and uterus and whatnot. Mine decided to tense up as tight as possible. To the point where I can’t pee when I want or need to go. And because I have IC, I tend to have to go often…especially when I’m stressed. So not being able to pee really does not help the situation. I can sit on the toilet anywhere between 1-10 minutes before my muscles relax enough to allow me to pee.  Yea…it does hurt. This often ranges from a 7-10 on the pain scale.

My urologist referred me to a physical therapist for this. I have gone to physical therapy for this before, and at the time I thought that hurt really badly. Oh, how wrong I was. No this time around for physical therapy…is pure hell. Physical therapy for pelvic floor muscles involves manual internal manipulation of the muscles. This is why it can’t be just any old Joe PT Schmo off the street, it has to be a Physical Therapist who has had specialized training. But as one might imagine, internal physical therapy hurts something fierce. I had PT on my ankle and that hurt quite a bit and I didn’t like it at all. But PT for internal PFM is like no pain that can be described. So I’ll leave it at that. Afterward, I could barely walk for a week. Please understand she did minimal internal work, she didn’t push me too hard and stopped when I couldn’t take it. It was just my body’s reaction to be like OMG WTF ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!?!? I couldn’t walk or move. This was a 10-11 on the pain scale. It was bad. I expect it to happen again. Unfortunately. But I do see a difference, I have more release in my PFM. So the PT is working how it is supposed to.

Another symptom that was appearing during those months was all the muscles from my thighs to my abs were sore. This tends to be a consistent 5-7 on the pain scale. They felt like I had worked out a lot, which I don’t…because… IC. When I went to my now physical therapist, Dr. Jen. She told me that my whole body was tensing up because it was trying to protect my bladder and it was unable to release itself so it stayed tensed up all the time.  So needless to say Dr. Jen and I have a lot to work on. My main thing is: relax! lol Like it’s that easy.

On the journey…

 

I don’t know why I am doing this. Creating a blog. But I need to make some changes in my life and maybe I can hold myself accountable. But if you have found yourself here… how the heck did you get here? Well, you might be here because you are someone that knows me and cares about me and wants to check in on how I am doing regularly. Or you might be someone who knows IC (personally or through a loved one) and you’re not a fan of it or are trying to understand it. Or maybe you know someone with migraines or another chronic illness.

My name is Rachel Bob and I have had migraines since I was 18 and I have Interstitial Cystitis. I was diagnosed with IC in early 2015. And nothing has been the same since, but actually even before that life wasn’t the same. But I am getting ahead of myself.

What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial Cystitis or IC (also referred to as Painful Bladder Syndrome…a very poetic name) is a chronic condition/disease of the bladder.

www.ichelp.org describes IC as a condition that consists of recurring pelvic pain, pressure or discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, often associated with urinary frequency and urgency.

It’s all of that and so much more. It’s a comprehensive disease that impacts the body by radiating outward from the bladder. Every person who has IC experiences it in their own way and there is no one specific way to get IC. From my research, IC seems to strike for a variety of reasons and none of them seem interrelated. Although some people with IC, had many bladder infections or urinary tract issues prior so their IC might make more sense, if that’s even possible. But my IC hit seemingly out of nowhere.

My IC Story

To tell my story I have to go back to when I believe it all began.

It was Fall 2014, I was 28 years old and I had just begun my first semester at Gallaudet University in Washington DC. It was a very exciting time. But I got sick with bronchitis which was nothing new since I have had chronic bronchitis my whole life. Even on my three inhalers, antibiotics, cough syrup with codeine and steroids, I persevered and went to school (I wasn’t contagious). And then when I was finally feeling better in early October 2014, my dad died. I won’t go into great detail here, but he had been sick for many years.  It was a huge shock. And I got sick with bronchitis again. His death was incredibly stressful for my family and it took its toll on us. One month after he died, my dog died unexpectedly. She was 15 but still unexpected. In the course of one month, I lost two of the most important people in my life. And it got worse. The ‘relationship’ I was in which wasn’t that great to begin with quickly deteriorated because he couldn’t understand why I was sad and grieving all the time. He wanted me to just bounce back and be myself. So I stopped talking to him completely. And then my best friend at the time couldn’t handle my stuff so she disappeared from my life. I didn’t have time to dwell on the fact that my relationship and friendship were over because I was too busy trying to mourn my losses, all the while still in school. I came out of that semester with a 4.0 GPA.  No matter what happens ….I am determined to succeed. But it doesn’t end there.

The new year of 2015 came and went, I was in a foggy haze. Still trying to figure out what all just happened. I hadn’t been taking care of myself. In February, I thought I had a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) so I chugged some cranberry juice and kept going on with life. But it didn’t get better so finally in March I took the time to go to the doctor for a UTI test. They tested, gave me antibiotics and it was negative. I went back a week later, still in pain. Test again. Antibiotics again. Negative again. They did some exams and tests on me but couldn’t figure out why I was still in pain. They sent me to a urologist. Luckily, I went to a doctor who was familiar with IC. Many people with IC are misdiagnosed for years before they find a doctor who can correctly diagnosis them. So in that sense…I was one of the “lucky” ones because I was diagnosed early.

Here’s a picture of me pre-IC. When I first got accepted to Gallaudet… I was so excited and happy. So naive to think that that feeling could last.

[image description: Me with long red hair, standing with a big smile, behind my car which as a new window sticker on it that says Gallaudet University from when I was first accepted into Gallaudet]