Pain Management with Crohn's

Monday, April 26, 2010 | | 9 comments
I've mentioned before that I was recently diagnosed with Crohn's disease in January. Since then, I've been in the ER and admitted to the hospital three times in three months. I'm constantly struggling with pain control, figuring out which medications work and which don't, continually revisiting my on again/off again relationship with antibiotics and steroids, and trying to cope with the various side effects of the 16 pills I take daily (some of which include fatigue, depression, mood swings, and nausea.)

I find myself getting depressed over the amount of pain I'm in. I know I should feel lucky that I don't have something worse than Crohn's but being in pain this often makes me really down. I just cry sometimes because the pain and the medicine make me so exhausted that I don't want to get up in the morning or do anything throughout the day. I sleep all night and wake up feeling like I didn't sleep a wink. Graduate school is hard enough without having monthly trips to the ER and intolerable pain. Sometimes I wonder to myself "How can I live life like this?" 24-year-olds are supposed to be care free but I'm just blue all the time because I hurt. I tell myself that this just isn't fair. But, when I think that I try to remind myself how lucky I am that all I have is Crohn's and I get even more down for feeling down about something as minor as Crohn's. It is a vicious cycle.

I'm not in pain constantly, it comes and goes. There are days that I am 100% pain-free and there are days that I'm doubled over in pain almost the entire day. Doctors always ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10. I hate doing this. What if I'm over-reacting? What if I have low pain tolerance? What if my 10 is someone else's 4? I play their game anyway. The highest I've ever said is a 9 (I couldn't convince myself that the pain couldn't get worse...maybe I was holding out hope that it wasn't the worst it could get...that I hadn't hit rock bottom). I said I was having a 9 pain the last time I had to go to the emergency room, I was in so much pain I couldn't pick myself up off the bathroom floor. The pain I deal with daily is a sharp pain, I rate it at a 5 or 6 at the sharpest moment. I think I rate it lower because it isn't continuous. The pain will take my breath away when it hits but goes away almost immediately. I think if the intensity of the sharp pain were to ever stick longer than a second it would become a 10 quickly. I can usually find a position laying on my side that eases this pain. But who wants to lay on their side all day? I also deal with a cramping pain daily, this is worse than the sharp pain because it lingers longer. I call it a 7 or 8, especially when it radiates to my back and causes dull lower back pain. Imagine the worst menstrual cramp you've ever had and imagine it wraps around your side and into your back. It is truly awful. When I'm in this kind of pain I can't get comfortable in any position and it affects my sleeping.

So I've begun the search for pain management techniques. I had an appointment with my GI doctor on Tuesday the 13th and my family doctor on Thursday the 15th. My GI doctor gave me options to control the pain with medication (i.e. double the dosage of Prednisone, take the maximum dosage of Extra-Strength Tylenol...the only pain reliever that won't cause more bleeding in the GI track.) I'm not entirely convinced that doubling my steroid intake will take care of the pain...in fact I'm hoping to get off steroids ASAP because I hate the side effects...and I already know that the maximum dosage of Tylenol merely takes the edge off the pain. Rumor has it that Dilaudid (a pain medication that I get when I go to the ER in IV form) comes in pills. Yes, this is news sent directly from Heaven. I'm just trying to figure out the best way to approach getting my hands on some of that without seeming like a crazed drug-addict. What can I say? That stuff works. It actually takes away the pain! To give you an idea of the pain...morphine did nothing for the pain. NOTHING. Good thing I had an appointment set up with my family doctor. The GI doctor did set up an appointment for me with a dietitian to help regulate my diet and find a healthy way for my body to absorb the nutrients it needs. Another problem associated with Crohn's disease is that the food passes through me without my body absorbing the necessary nutrients. Hopefully this dietitian can help figure out a good diet for me. So far beverages are the only thing I've had to cut out of my diet due to pain. I can't drink anything carbonated, caffeinated, or dairy-based. Although, after talking with the GI doc, we're going to try to work dairy-based liquids back into my diet. But absolutely no carbonated or caffeinated drinks can enter my system or I'm in pain for days.

Anyway, a couple of days after my meeting with the GI doc, I had a meeting with my family doctor. Sometimes I feel the family doctor is a little more in tune with what it means to live every day in pain and may have more motivation to help you manage that pain. I get the impression from my GI doc that they are more interested in getting the disease under control than getting the patient comfortable. And you know, I'm totally okay with there being a doctor focused on the disease and a doctor focused on me. But it is time that I seek out a doctor focused on me and that is why I scheduled an appointment with my family doctor. I met with the family doctor on Thursday, April 15th. After talking with her for a while, she prescribed me a medication that should help with my mood swings (probably brought on by the prednisone and the stress of the diagnosis) and the constant pain that never seems to goes away. She also suggested that I make an appointment with someone to help me deal with the lifestyle changes associated with a chronic disease and severe pain.

I haven't been able to write about my most recent stay at the hospital, but when I'm able to, I'll be sure to post. There is certainly a lot to share.

Party in the USA

Thursday, April 22, 2010 | | 0 comments
This video was posted by my friend, Elissa. It made me smile so I'm sharing it with you. I wish we all loved our jobs as much as this guy. Maybe we could learn from him!


Stress Reduction and Crohn's Disease

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | | 4 comments
In the reading and research I've done on Crohn's at the Mayo Clinic website and the Crohn's and Colitis foundation, I've learned that stress exacerbates the problems associated with Crohn's disease. Great. I'm a doctoral student determined to finish in half a year less than the average time, I'm proposing and writing my dissertation, studying for comprehensive exams, applying for grants, submitting research papers for publication, traveling all across the country presenting research projects and conducting research for my dissertation, applying for jobs, creating a badass Curriculum Vitae, oh yeah...did I mention I'm a wife too? Those of you who are married know all the responsibilities associated with being a wife. AND I'm a Crohn's patient who can't seem to stay out of the hospital for more than a month. STRESSED? ME? Okay, so maybe I brought the majority of this stress upon myself but I don't think that some stupid disease should keep me from pursuing the goals I had set in place.

So...what am I doing about the stress? I've started taking Yoga Nidra.What is Yoga Nidra? Good question. I hadn't a clue myself until I started doing research on relaxation and stress-reduction. It loosely translates to "Yoga Sleep" or something like that. I had my first session on Tuesday, April 13th with AlleyCat Yoga here in Columbia. I heard from someone that thirty minutes of Yoga Nidra gave you the relaxation of three hours of sleep. I'm not sure how that could be true, but I like the idea of it. Anyway, my first session of Yoga Nidra was interesting. For one full hour you lay down in corpse pose, with your neck and knees supported in a way that is comfortable for you. Let me tell you, maybe it is just me, but no single position is comfortable for a whole hour. Maybe I'm just not good at Yoga Nidra yet.Anyway, I'm laying on my back on a sticky mat with a pillow under my head and the top of my shoulders supporting my neck and a large roll under my knees. I have an eye pillow on my eyes per the suggestion of the owner of AlleyCat and a blanket over me just to keep me warm. The yoga instructor said a relaxed body tends to get chilled. So anyway, for most of the hour the room is silent except for the spoken "suggestions" or "meditations" or "poetry" (not sure what to call them) that the yoga instructor recited almost constantly while we lay there and listened.Most of the "suggestions" would tell us to focus on the sensations in certain parts of our body...this class seemed to focus on the tongue. Of course, with my psychology background I was immediately thinking about Freud. But I did my best to keep my mind clear and focus on the words of the yoga instructor. I hope I get better at that as I continue my sessions. haha. Toward the end of the hour, the instructor put on music. I liked this part, it was a little less intimidating. I found the music kept my mind from wandering as often as when the yoga instructor was just talking. Again, I think the mind wandering thing will get better as I attend more sessions. I'll let you know. When the session ended it took me a few minutes to bring my body and mind back to reality. Even with the lights dimmed my eyes had a hard time adjusting. Finally being able to move my body felt freeing and awkward at the same time. The other students in the class seemed to be having similar difficulties because they didn't get up right away either. After the class I felt more tired than relaxed. But not exhausted tired like I had just finished a long day at work...I'm not entirely sure how to explain it. When I got home Eric and I ate dinner as usual, watched a television show, did some homework. Our evening progressed as most of our evenings do. We went to bed at our normal time, both feeling tired as usual.

It wasn't until I woke up the next morning that I really began to believe in the power of Yoga Nidra. For the first time in a very long time, probably the first time since I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, I was ready to get out of bed when my first alarm went off at 6am. When I am my normal self I often wake up before my 6am alarm ready to get the day started. For as long as I can remember I've been a morning person but ever since the disease has taken over my life I've been a "mid-day" person with mornings and nights being all but useless. So when I woke up the next morning to my 6am alarm and I felt ready to get up and take a shower I was ecstatic! I love not having to push the snooze button. I was so excited about not sleeping in that Eric and I were even able to go out for breakfast that morning! Now, I'm not totally convinced that one session of Yoga Nidra cured me of my fatigue but I'm saying it must have helped in some way!

I have 8 classes of Yoga Nidra scheduled within the next 8 weeks. I'll update my stress-level progress. I'm looking into summer options for stress-reduction but nothing has come up yet. I'm also looking into Mindfullness-Based Stress Reduction, a class offered in the Fall through Mizzou.

Chic Chair

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | | 2 comments
I think this chair is pretty fabulous. I imagine it would look beautiful in my office as a professor of fashion at a major university.

Click here to buy it for me ;)

Defying Gravity

Monday, April 19, 2010 | | 4 comments
I started my Master's program in the Fall of 2008 and graduated in December of 2009, it took me about a year and a half to complete the program (about 40 hours and writing a thesis). But the most difficult part was convincing my department that I could do it. The requirements of the PhD program are 72 credit hours past your Bachelors degree and a completed dissertation. There are also some minor requirements such as at least 15 hours of those credits have to be above the 8000 level (but I completed all the minor requirements during my Master's degree) I came to my advisor with a "Plan of Study" which outlines the courses I want to take until I graduate and the credit hours added up exactly to 72 hours. She wasn't pleased because they add up to the minimum. I think if the minimum isn't sufficient then it shouldn't be the minimum! Anyway, I tweaked my plan and I now have a few hours more than the minimum...about 78 hours or so.

The majority of those I encounter think I'm going through my program too fast, that I need to slow down and not stress myself out. None of them can give me a good reason to slow down. It is true that I am stressed out about getting things done on my time schedule, but I would also be stressed out if I just took my time, relaxed, and wasn't working my butt off during grad school. I can't just take things easy and put off graduation when I could work hard and get out of school! I want to have a job! I want to teach full-time! I don't want to be in school longer than I possibly have to! But the professors wonder why I want to fly through the program, they keep telling me to get my feet grounded.

So I heard this song the other day- I think God is talking to me through music these days.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!

So...right! Why should I play by the arbitrary rules of these opinionated people when I'm adequately playing by the rules of the graduate program? I've already made up my mind about when I want to graduate, so it is too late for second-guessing. I'm on a roll so it is too late to go back to sleep (i.e. slow down my program).

It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I am defying gravity
And you wont bring me down!

Yep, I'm going to defy gravity and fly through this graduate program!

I'm through accepting limits
''cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!

I can't change the 72 hour credit limit, but the other limits are not mandated and I refuse to accept them. I refuse to accept that it takes more than a year and a half to complete a Master's degree, I proved that to be true! Now I refuse to accept that a PhD should take longer just because someone else says it is so!

I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you wont bring me down!

Yep, I'm going to defy gravity and fly through this graduate program!

I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you won't bring me down!
bring me down!
ohh ohhh ohhhh!

So in May 2011, you'll see I was able to defy gravity and graduate in a year and a half. No grumpy person will bring me down.

It's a Love Story

Friday, April 16, 2010 | | 4 comments
A good love story will get me every time. Luckily for me, my family is full of good love stories.

My Grandma Shirley was attending high school while my Grandpa Jerry was serving in the Korean War. While walking through the halls between classes a friend of hers told her Jerry was home, in fact he was there at the school. Shirley didn't believe her friend, she had just gotten a letter from Jerry and he wasn't due home for a few days. As she rounded a corner to drop off her books, she saw him standing there, leaning against her locker with a smile you wouldn't believe unless you saw his picture.

My Grandma Irene stayed in Wien, MO while my Grandpa Giles served in World War II. They exchanged numerous letters while he was away, but she always kept one letter by her nightstand. One day I got up the courage to ask her what the letter said, and she let me read it. I sat there with the faded letter in my hands, very aware of the fragile condition, and careful not to cause any damage. No sooner had I begun reading did I realize that this was how my Grandpa proposed- he asked my Grandma to marry him in a letter from overseas.

But some love stories aren't happily ever after stories. Have you heard much about Whitney Houston or Rihanna? Despite the tragic nature, their love stories still capture me...



Click here to read about Oprah's interview with Whitney Houston about her tragic love for Bobby Brown.

We all know people who are in those on-again/off-again relationships. The love affairs that are doomed from the beginning but each individual craves, or is even addicted to, the other. Rihanna describes her love for Chris Brown like an addiction to a drug. He emotionally abused her to gain control of her. Rihanna, this amazingly talented and powerful woman was being controlled by a man who claimed to love her but didn't treat her the way women should be treated. I am really captivated by this story. Whitney Houston was in a similar situation, she craved and loved Bobby Brown despite the way he treated her. What these women teach us is that sometimes love isn't enough. I've had my own bad relationships, some lasted longer than I care to admit. I can definitely see what happened to these women to make them remain in their bad relationships. But my heart aches for them because they weren't able to get out before it was too late.

I recently read a book by one of my professors, Elaine Lawless, called Women Escaping Violence. The books tells the stories of several women and the physical and emotional abuse they suffered from their significant others. Their stories are scary. They are heart-wrenching. They are incredibly difficult to read. I would find myself getting really down and absorbed in the battered women’s world. I would have to look up, take in all the people around me, step outside, anything to remind myself that there is some good in the world. I also found the book incredibly educational. The system often fails these women. As women in the outside world, it is difficult for us to imagine having no options for escape. No way out. But this book really puts their world into perspective. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

I am lucky enough to be married to a man who has never said one hateful thing to me. He chooses his words wisely, thinks about his actions carefully before doing anything, and knows how to love and respect the women around him. I know he learned this from his father. I see how my father-in-law and mother-in-law are together. Eric treats me just as his father treats his mother. The only direct love advice I was given was from my Grandma Irene, she told me to find someone who treated me like my Grandpa Giles treated her. I was in highschool at the time I remember thinking that men like my Grandpa don't exist anymore, he was truly an amazing man. But Eric comes so darn close that I think I followed through on my Grandma's advice.

There is a girl in my life who has been engaging in an on-again/off-again relationship with a man who doesn't treat her like a man in-love should treat a woman. I see in this relationship qualities that illustrate the relationships discussed above with Whitney Houston and Rihanna. Her love for this man is an addiction, a craving, not love in the eyes of God. They hurt each other intentionally, cheat on each other, say hateful things to each other. This isn't what love is like, not true love, not love that will last a lifetime. I pray that she recognizes herself in these stories and thinks about what it is she wants in her life.

Permanent Makeup- I did it!

Thursday, April 15, 2010 | | 1 comments
I got permanent eyeliner "tattooed" around my eyes. So all of the pictures you've been seeing of me lately, I haven't had any eyeliner on. Crazy, huh?! I'm sort of in love with not having to put on eyeliner everyday....and take it off at night (which I hate to admit, I often skipped.) I also love that it never smears, or fades, or comes off as the day goes on. If I go out and want to make it darker, I can always add eye liner for a more dramatic effect. But for everyday, I'm pretty much good to go! So I highly recommend it...if you've been debated. Oh! And it really didn't hurt that much!

Started Planting!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | | 6 comments
The 7th item on my list of things to do this Spring (click here to view that post) was to plant an herb garden. On Monday I showed you my completed planters...I'm still in awe of how cute they turned out! AND we had friends over Saturday night and I got showered with compliments on how creative and fun they were! (After the initial comment, "whats with the chairs with buckets in them?") haha. Anyway, on Sunday I finished the planting after discovering and shopping around at Strawberry Hill Farms and spending way more money than I probably should have on pretty flowers and tasty herbs! If you live in the mid-Missouri area you should definitely check out Strawberry Hill Farms. It is a hidden treasure with so many flowers, herbs, and plants! I hope to go back soon with our good camera, but this is the photo I took with my nifty iPhone:


A picture my mom took of us picking out our plants...

So Eric and I did most of our planting on Sunday...we still have a few containers to fill...a project for another weekend! But I'm super satisfied with the way our mini-garden is turning out!

Dorsie Wilson, WWII Veteran

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | | 3 comments
I interviewed Eric's grandpa, Dorsie, for the Veterans Oral History Project I'm working on for the Library of Congress. He was such a delight to interview, although he insisted that he couldn't remember anything right after each story he told. He told stories for about an hour and still insisted that he couldn't remember much. Silly guy. Ethel, Eric's grandma, also sat next to him to jog his memory about stories he told her in the past. They are such a cute couple and I had a great time asking about their experiences during World War II. Afterward, Eric and Dorsie played a game of checkers. Dorsie is the checkers king, he really beat Eric by a long shot.



Planting Herbs

Monday, April 12, 2010 | | 2 comments
I want to plant some herbs this spring, but I had a terrible time deciding which type of planter I like best!




I love these, but they are over $150!! Yikes!


And I just found this one and thought it was great...Eric would never go for it.
But...I ended up going with these adorable yellow ice cream parlor chairs I found at an antique shop in Moberly. Eric busted out the rotting wooden seats and I changed the bolts around the chair. Then I nestled a tin pail into the rim of the seat (after drilling holes in the bottom for draining.) Add some herbs and... Presto! Perfect herb containers. I think they look perfectly shabby chic!

Easter Basket

Friday, April 9, 2010 | | 2 comments
My parents still get Eric and me an Easter Basket every year and fill it with goodies. This year, by far, was the best Easter Basket I've ever gotten...and that is saying a lot because my parents make the best Easter Baskets in the world.

This year, our Easter Basket included the following:
1. Candy (all Easter Baskets must include some candy. We got Swedish Fish, Pop Rocks, and Peeps. All oldies but definitely goodies!)

2. Crocheted and felted easter eggs for me to decorate with next year! YES! I've been needing Easter Decorations!

3. Soap that smells so delicious I could take a bite out of it (from World Market...one of the best stores to ever exist) and a pretty crystal dish to put it in.

4. Old fashioned soda for me (because I'm still on medication that I can't have alcohol with) and gourmet beer for Eric (what makes beer gourmet?).

5. A simple kite (story to follow in a few weeks)

6. Tiffany-blue nail polish

7. An I-Tunes gift card

8. And the mother of all Easter Basket fillings....Burberry perfume and cologne. From Burberry. Neatly packaged in a Burberry bag wrapped in Burberry tissue paper and sealed with a Burberry sticker. Lovely.

I love Easter.

Easter with the Steffes'

Thursday, April 8, 2010 | | 3 comments
Easter with the Steffes' was packed with family time. On Saturday evening we drove to Marceline to visit with my Mom's family. My mom's sister, Tammi, and her two children Chris and Ben, and Chris' wife and children were all waiting for our arrival. We quickly hid eggs for Kassie and Tristan to find and they had a blast! We scarfed down some sandwiches before scurrying off to an Easter play at the local Baptist church. After the play we went back to my Grandma's house and visited with family and ate Easter candy.

We stayed in Wien Saturday night eventhough my Grandma was in Moberly with my Uncle's family. We attended church Sunday morning in Wien, it was a packed house! Fr. Doyle (formerly the priest in Marceline) presided. He was a riot! He cracked jokes and encouraged vocal responses- I would love for him to become the permanent priest in Wien....though not likely. After church, my parents presented Eric and me with our Easter Basket (more information on that in a few days!)

After opening our Easter goodies, we left for Moberly to have lunch with my Dad's family. Karen and Susan and their families were there along with my Aunt Joy and Uncle Gary and of course my Grandma. We had a delicious meal and some great debate over who should win American Idol. Hahaha We also discussed our upcoming vacation to....DISNEY WORLD!
When we were taking our family picture outside, the dogs were posing in the window. Too cute!

Easter with the Hasty's

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | | 0 comments
Eric and I were invited to his parent's home on Saturday afternoon to visit with the extended Hasty Family. Bob's two brothers, Gordon and Greg, and his sister, Nancy, were all in town. In addition, Nancy's daughter, Nicole, Greg's wife, Lynn, and Greg's daughter, Valerie were all there! Valerie even brought her boyfriend, the first time we've all met him. He seemed pretty nice! Eric's brother, Evan made a brief appearance before running off to his tennis match. It was a really great group, we had a ton of fun talking and hearing stories from the past. As always, the gathering was full of fantastic food prepared by Bob and Renee.



The Cree Mee

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 | | 1 comments
Eric, Renee, and Renee's mom Ethel took me to the Cree Mee in Eldon, MO for lunch on our way to visit Eric's Grandpa, Dorsie. I had often heard of the Cree Mee but I'd never had the opportunity to go there. Supposedly, they have the best chili dogs, and I have to admit they were REALLY good. But I'm not sure that they beat Mugs Up in Columbia. The Cree Mee is located in the heart of Eldon and looks like a large red barn. There is no seating inside, it is all outdoors. I got a chili cheese dog and a banana shake...they make really good shakes, too! I just adore going to local joints and the Cree Mee did not disappoint! If you ever find yourself in the Eldon area, I highly suggest you check it out!





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