Tag Archives: autoimmune disease

Flare I go again … 

Or, should I say still. I’m ready for whatever is going on with my body to be over with. My hands and fingers have been ridiculously swollen over the last few days, and I have had absolutely no energy to do anything. My fingers legit look like sausages. That makes typing challenging.

Of course, flares happen at the most inconvenient of times. My hubby is leaving tomorrow to go to Texas for several weeks. That means we had to make a trip to Walmart. On a Saturday afternoon. I think that must be a “thing” to do on Saturdays in my town. I swear, everyone was in that store. Surely several fire codes were violated with the number of people there.

For those who don’t have chronic illnesses, it’s hard to imagine why that might be difficult. Well, aside from the fact that it was two hours in Walmart. That, in and of itself is tough haha The best way I can describe it is to imagine your legs are filled with wet concrete. They get heavier and heavier with each step you take. Then, imagine someone set sandbags on your shoulders. And they add sandbags every few minutes until you are totally hunched over from the weight. Now, imagine someone has put your ankles in a vice. With every step, the vise gets tighter and tighter until you are sure the next step will shatter your ankles beyond repair. I honestly don’t know what I would do without shopping carts. They are my lifeline in those situations, truly.

I am so thankful for a caring and understanding spouse. So many of us who deal with chronic health issues do not have caring and supportive partners. I can’t even tell you the sadness I have experienced, reading the stories from women whose families actually think they are faking it. Who would choose to fake something like this?? Who would want a life like this? No one needs attention that badly.

My husband has been beyond incredible. He knows when I’m having a hard day, just by looking at me. I try my best to hide it, but he sees through me. He has been to countless doctor’s appointments, cooked, cleaned, dealt with the laundry, made our daughter’s breakfasts and packed her lunches (when she was still in school). He’s not the most patient of men haha, and he was raised in a family where all of the above was “women’s work”.  When it comes to me, though, he is the kindest, most patient, most helpful and considerate man in the universe. He is truly my rock. He has the biggest shoulders, I swear. They carry so much weight. I don’t know how he does it.

I hope I don’t sound whiney. That’s not my intention, because I am not a whiney person. I don’t dwell on the negatives of this disease. There’s no point. It won’t go away and it would be a never ending downward spiral. I just wanted to offer a glimpse into what many chronic illness sufferers go through with a simple Saturday afternoon trip to the store.

Okay, now that all that is out of the way, I have some really cool items up for review over the coming weeks. Here’s a sneak peak of just a few things:

With my entire family gone for a least the next week, I should have plenty of time to pamper myself and work through this nasty flare. What are some things you do to help yourself feel better? Any tips and tricks you’d like to share?

 

Carrie♥

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Yucky Weekend

I hate flares. I really do. Not only is my pain much greater, but they really mess up my plans. I started flaring late Thursday, with some increased pain. Friday afternoon, the pain in my hips was so intense that I was near tears. My pain meds weren’t helping. I even tried a prescription muscle relaxer, thinking that maybe the way I was sitting caused the problem. Those didn’t help, either. On top of that, I started running a fever Friday, which is what clued me in that it was a flare. It only lasted a few hours, but returned Saturday evening. Because I was in such a state, Skin Care Saturday didn’t happen. I was also going to do an unboxing of the Wal-Mart Beauty boxes that came in Saturday’s mail, as well as my prize for winning an Instagram contest with SOO AE Beauty.

Honestly, I didn’t even feel like blogging this little bit today, but I decided that I should let you all know what happened. My blog plan for the next few weeks is shifting back a few days. Something to look forward to (at some point) is an interview with a local spa owner, massage therapist and aesthetician. We will talk about the benefits of massage therapy for chronic illness sufferers, as well as the effects chronic conditions can have on the skin. The goal was to already have the interview done and posted. At this point, I cannot say when the interview will happen, just that it IS happening.

This is our reality. These are but a few of the non-physical and non-emotional ways that chronic conditions affect our lives. I’ve learned to roll with the punches, so to speak. Unfortunately, a lot of “healthy” people don’t understand. They look at me and see a healthy 40-something woman. When I have to cancel plans or adjust my schedule (more than once) they think I’m lazy and not doing what I can do. I WISH I was just lounging on my couch, being lazy, instead of fighting back tears with every movement. It’s all good, though. Really. These days are few and far between, for now, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I do what I can, when I can, and I don’t sweat the rest. Hope everyone had a restful and peaceful weekend. Let’s show life who’s the boss this week!

Carrie ♥

Working for the weekend

Whoohooo … the weekend is here! I don’t work outside of my home, so the “weekend” is a bit irrelevant to me. Every day is a “work” day on a homestead. For many of my fellow chronic illness warriors, however, working outside of the home is a necessity. Relaxation for my pals out there is a MUST, and the weekend is the most obvious time to do that. When I am feeling stressed out, run down, exhausted (take your pick), I have several methods I use to recharge my batteries.

The first thing is to demand (yes, I said demand haha) some “you” time from your family. Alone time can be incredibly rejuvenating, even if it’s 30 minutes in your room, with the door closed. Read a book, watch a show, take a quick nap, or just sit quietly and reflect on the week. Another method I use to relax is a hot, hot bath. I am the queen of bath products haha! I have bubble baths, bath salts, bath bombs, bath fizzies, bath oils … you name it and I probably have it. I incorporate baths into my “me” time. I get the water as hot as I can stand it and soak for 20 minutes or so. It can be even more relaxing by using candlelight, rather than harsh bathroom lighting. I use scents that are known to be relaxing (see yesterday’s blog post about aromatherapy). For me, that’s lavender, rose, gardenia and just anything from Bath and Body Works. They have a specific aromatherapy line that is really nice.

Something else I really enjoy using to relax is hot tea, or tea to my European friends. I really like hot tea, no matter the season. A few of my favorites are Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, peppermint, chamomile and a chamomile, lavender blend. There is nothing better to me, after a rough day, than getting out of a hot bath, lounging on my bed with a good book and a cup of hot tea. It is manna for the soul, I swear.

Some of us with more extroverted personalities find they recharge by being around people, which is totally fine! I don’t get it haha, but if that’s you, plan an evening out with some friends, catch a movie or have dinner and drinks, if your meds allow for alcohol consumption. However you are able to best recharge yourself, do that.

Studies show that most of us afflicted with chronic diseases are women, and despite our illnesses or conditions, we are still the backbone of our families. Our lives (and the lives of those around us) can be impacted in a negative way if we aren’t operating at our peak, whatever that might be. Those of us with chronic diseases/illnesses/conditions tend to operate with a disadvantage as it is, so anything we can do to keep our emotional system running smoothly will help every other aspect of our lives.

Your peace of mind is so important on this journey. It can be almost impossible to not fall into a depression when we are faced with our unique challenges. Keeping our heads above water has to be a priority, and finding time to really relax can help. I hope you can find some quiet time (or fun time, for you extroverts) and recharge this weekend.

Carrie ♥

 

Our first mid-week mask together

**This post contains affiliate links**

Happy Wednesday, readers! This is the first in a series I call mid-week mask. Basically, on Wednesdays I choose some type of facial mask and review it. First, though, I thought I would talk a little bit about my skin issues.

Now, the chronic illness gods thought it would be funny to, not only throw RA and fibromyalgia my way, but rosacea, as well. I’ve actually dealt with this one the longest. It showed up shortly after my daughter was born, nineteen years ago. I thought it was just a hormonal shift. Nope. I went to my family physician and he prescribed a gel of some sort. I honestly don’t remember the name because it was so long ago. What I DO remember was the sting and burn. Needless to say, I didn’t continue to use it, and I tried to ignore the redness.

Years pass and I get more self-conscious about my face. Every time I go out, people remark on my “sunburn” and I have to explain my situation. Repeatedly. I sought out color correctors. If you aren’t aware, green is opposite of red on the color wheel, so they cancel each other out. My first experience was with a green-tinted moisturizer. I hated it! It was greasy and weird. Not only did it remove the redness, but it took every last bit of color out of my face! All of it!! Ghosts would have been jealous by how pale I was. I used it, but only on certain occasions, and I wasn’t happy about it.

I finally got fed up and was talking to my aunt about my face. She mentioned a product she had seen infomercials about. I pulled up the Ulta website and low and behold … there it was. IT Cosmetics’ Bye Bye Redness. To call this a miracle product is an understatement. It’s a beige-tinted cream (it is supposed to accommodate a wide range of skin tones), and I don’t know how it works, but WOW! A little goes a long way, and I buff it in with a Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. I find I don’t really need foundation when I use it, which is really nice in the summer, especially in the South.

I also decided it was high time to see a dermatologist, which was yesterday. He was really impressed with my skin care routine, except for the lack of sunscreen (I know, I know). He wrote me a prescription for Metrogel and we talked about adding retinols, since I am at that age, and the rosacea has created some unwanted texture to my cheekbone area (plus, I do have some fine lines, around my eye and mouth areas). I applied the Metrogel this morning and was pleasantly surprised … no burning and no stinging! YAY!!

Now, on to the mask! Tonight I chose Freeman Feeling Beautiful Facial Revealing Peel-off Mask, Pomegranate, 6 Ounce. I don’t know about y’all, but there is something so darned satisfying about peeling a mask off. And if it comes off in one piece, my day has been made hahaha

Don’t you just love how your skin looks with a peel-off mask  on there? Sooo shiny and yes, mine came off in one piece hahaha! I don’t know that my skin looked any more revitalized or clarified after using, but my face does feel nice. After removing, follow up with your normal skin care routine. I will talk about my entire skin care routine in upcoming posts. I hope everyone has a wonderful evening. I’ll be back tomorrow!

~Carrie♥

Hair, there, everywhere

My parents blessed me with wild hair. It was difficult to tame as a kid, thick and curly, and my mom always gave me the dumbest haircuts. I think a lot of us can relate to that last one, amiright? It was the seventies … it’s just the way things were. As I got older, in my tween/teen years, my hair developed a natural frizz. Thanks a lot, genetics. I spent the majority of my teens with very, very crunchy hair because of the gallons of gel I dumped on it.

Fast forward a few … ahem … years and finding a product that actually works to eliminate frizz is a challenge. Add to that a product to define my curls and it can be downright laughable/tear-inducing. That’s not to say it’s been an impossible feat. Just challenging and expensive.

There are a few products that I don’t think I could live without. The first is Shea Moisture Coconut Hibiscus Curling Shampoo-13 oz. I am IN LOVE with this shampoo!! The texture is a little different from what I am used to. It’s a little thin, so that does take some getting used to. I combine that with L’Oreal Paris Hair Expert Extraordinary Oil Curls Re-Nourish Mask, 8.5 fl. oz. (Packaging May Vary). I try not to use the mask every day because 1 – it might be overkill lol and 2 – that would get expensive. On days I don’t use the L’Oreal mask, I use Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Strong Treatment 8 Ounce (236ml). I have been dealing with hair loss from various medications and crazy high inflammation levels, so anything I can do to strengthen my luscious locks I try to do.

Post shower is pretty normal, I think. Except, I don’t use a terry cloth towel on my head. I use a Turbie Twist Microfiber Super Absorbent Hair Towel (2 Pack) Aqua-White. Another curly goddess told me there was some data that showed using a terry cloth towel actually pulled out the natural oils while your hair is wrapped up, which helps create frizz. I may have immediately hung up on her to get my hands on some Turbie Twists. No … seriously. Of course, I only use a wide toothed comb to get my tangles out and I NEVER brush my hair dry. Never. Ever. I also don’t own a blow dryer. I’ve never been very good at figuring out how to work a diffuser and using a dryer without one is a really bad idea. I wish you could hear me giggling at the very thought of that train wreck. While damp, I spritz with some John Frieda Frizz Ease Daily Nourishment Leave-in Conditioner, 8 Ounce (Pack of 2). What happens next depends entirely on whether I am leaving my house. If I’m not leaving, my hair routine is complete. If I am leaving though (which is as little as humanly possible) I will run a dollop of Marc Anthony True Professional Strictly Curls Curl Defining Lotion 8.3 fl oz (245 ml) though while scrunching everything up.

This sounds like a lot. I am not high maintenance. I swear. Can y’all hear me shushing my husband? No? Okay, good … on to my sheets! Well, pillowcases, to be specific. For tangle-free, frizz-free, still-curly curls, you’ve got to try satin pillowcases. Were these a gift from the heavens as a consolation prize for the frizz? Very likely, and I’ll take it! Tangles don’t stand a chance because hair just slides all over the place hahaha The down side is the pillows kinda slide all over the place, too. I put a blanket under mine to create a little bit of friction … problem solved!

So, that’s my hair routine, in a large nutshell. Any ones else out there facing the same hair woes? What is your routine for taming your mane?

Recovering from the weekend

**This post contains affiliate links**

If you guys are like me, when there’s a day (or two) that I feel good, I try to accomplish all of the things. It works out great for my to-do list, not so great for my body. Spending an hour working in my garden, not even a straight hour, can lead to three days on my couch. You’d think I would learn. But nope, when I have a good day I go ALL OUT haha

There are a few things you can do to head off the worst before it happens. They don’t always work, but I do them every time, regardless. The main thing I am going to talk about today is Epsom salt. Who came up with this stuff??? Kidding … it’s a naturally occurring mineral. This stuff is a gift from the heavens!!

Epsom salt is a truly amazing thing. It works to help relieve pain from arthritis, bruising, fibromyalgia, overworked muscles, and achy feet. It can help soften the skin around ingrown toenails, aids in reducing swelling from inflammation or injury, and there is even a claim for helping with insomnia and sunburn! The theory behind it is the salt breaks down into magnesium and sulfate when dissolved in water. These products make their way into the body through the skin. Magnesium is a critical metal in our bodies and many people are deficient. I am not a doctor, so if you have concerns, I suggest talking with your physician. For more information, I also recommend this site: http://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/

After a day of working on my to-do list, or puttering in my garden, I religiously take hot Epsom salt baths. I would recommend showering first, to wash of the grunge of the day, if you’ve worked up a sweat. I am in LOVE with Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint, 48 Ounce, Pack of 2 (<<affiliate link) I don’t know what it is about this particular scent, but it relaxes me far more than the other scents, of which there are a few. Honestly, I use these Epsom salts, even if I haven’t overworked myself, because the scent is just so relaxing for me. A few other companies are figuring out how great this combo is and are incorporating it into their beauty product lines.

Next time you find yourself achy from trying to get it all done while you can, or just because you need a little “me” time, try a scented Epsom salt bath. Your muscles, joints, and peace of mind will thank you.

Welcome!

Thank you so much for finding your way to me!  I have had a lot to say for a while now, but the timing never seemed quite right to start a blog, until today! I am a chronic illness warrior and honestly, I have felt like garbage for the past several years. I guess I was waiting for that to change, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be so lucky. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the summer of 2014. I’d been having crazy intense body pains for several months and, once I had a diagnosis, my doctor started me on Lyrica. Within a few weeks, I noticed a marked difference in how I felt. It was great, for about a month and a half. Then the joint pains started, and would not go away, no matter what I did. I went back to my doctor and he ran some more blood-work. My worst fears were officially confirmed. I had rheumatoid arthritis. My mom had RA, and my baby sister was diagnosed with lupus about a year earlier.

I was scheduled to see the only rheumatologist in our area. He immediately started me on methotrexate, a chemotherapy pill, once a week. After a few months of no improvement, I was switched to Arava. My hair fell out in clumps and my blood pressure was pretty high, so I came off of that. I had to take a cholesterol medication to pull it out of my system. Otherwise, it can stay in the body for up to two years, wreaking havoc the whole time. My next medication adventure was Humira. Now, I am pretty terrified of needles and this is a self-injectible pen. Much easier than a syringe lol, but still very daunting. Eventually, I screwed up enough courage to give myself  the shot, but it took A LOT. I mean, A LOT. After another few months, it was clear that this medication wasn’t doing a thing … again. This time, I was put on the infusion Rituxan, another chemotherapy drug. It’s a six-hour infusion, so it was an all day adventure. Benadryl is added to the IV, to help stave off any side effects. After several months, it was determined that this medication was having no effect. In the span of two years, I was on four medications and they all failed. Not very encouraging, to be honest.

Also not encouraging were my lab results. There’s an RA specific blood panel called Vectra DA. It measures the biomarkers unique to RA, to give the doctor an idea of how the disease is progressing, or if you are in remission. (You can find out more about this test here: https://vectrada.com/ ) It is scored 0-100, with 100 being the worst. 1-29 is low disease activity, 30-44 is moderate and 45-100 is severe. My first test result was 63. A few months after the test, my rheumy told me he keeps my file on his desk at all times, so he can constantly monitor what’s going on. He said my Vectra score was one of the highest he’s ever seen. My second score was even higher, at 66. I’ve had to be evaluated for leukemia, because my white count was high enough to make my family doctor very nervous. I’ve had liver biopsies for random masses in my liver (more on that in another blog). Both biopsies were negative for cancer, but my liver panel continues to be weird. Weird lab results are my normal lol

It’s been almost three years now, since my diagnosis. I’m not on any meds for my RA, currently, and I think I’m okay with that right now. My pain is well managed, most days. Low dose prednisone gives me enough energy to do what I need to do, most days. My fibromyalgia is well controlled, most days. Haha, see the pattern? Everything is “most days”. If I work in my garden, I will be down for at least two days. Even working in ten minute spurts, with 20-30 minute breaks. It makes for a long,drawn out day in the garden, but that’s how it has to be. Otherwise, I may be down for a week or more.

Through all of this, I have learned something important. When I look good, I feel good. Getting up in the morning, washing my face, moisturizing, and putting on some makeup (even though I will be couch surfing all day lol) has made an enormous impact on my emotional well-being. I can actually trick my brain into thinking that I feel good, and it really works! Fake it ’til you make it has become a daily mantra for me. All of that long-winded backstory was to let you know that I do understand. I have been there. Heck, I am STILL there. I REFUSE to allow these diseases and illnesses to rob me of my life, my joy, my dreams. That being said, I want to help you all look good and feel good, too! I will be talking about various diet, beauty and makeup topics, with hauls, unboxings and reviews of different products. I hope you will join me on this journey. I think we all need a partner sometimes, and I will gladly be yours!

Carrie ♥