25th Birthday–New Goals

I share two important goals as I celebrate my 25th birthday!

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Welp. I’m officially in my mid-twenties now. Yesterday, July 2, was my 25th birthday which is hard for me to believe—It’s crazy looking back and seeing where I’ve been, and just how much I’ve progressed. Ten years ago, I had rampant, undiagnosed Crohn’s Disease which has changed my life forever. I’m eternally grateful I’ve been able to heal and recover and get to the point of health that I have today. Looking forward to the next ten years I have multitude of goals that I want to accomplish, but specifically two really stick out to me:

  1. Maintain My Current Level of Health and Continue to Heal- Ask anyone with a chronic disease, every day is a battle to maintain your health. There are so many things that could trigger a flare up or a setback. It’s so important to take care of your body and listen to it’s needs. I also want to make significant improvement the condition of my ankles. As many of you know, I have severe avascular necrosis combined with arthritis in my ankles which prevents me from running, jumping, and lifting heavy weights. I’d love to prove the doctors and everyone else wrong and make progress in my fight against avascular necrosis. One day I’d love to be able to run!

 

  1. Help Others With Their Chronic Disease Battles- I feel extraordinarily blessed in my fight against chronic disease that I’ve had the best of the best doctors and resources to help me get better. I’m aware that not everyone has had the same resources and opportunity to get better like I have. I’m working on mediswarm.com to help others dealing with chronic disease to find a support group that can actually help them get better along with finding answers to their questions, sharing ideas, and being able to see top-rated solutions. I’m always available to talk about ways of living with chronic disease and serious life hacks to make things better. If you ever want to talk, chat, IM, whatever, just let me know 😊

 

I know I only shared two goals, but I feel like they are so very important. If I can continue to take care of myself, then I will be able to help others in their journey even more. Here’s to the best yet to come!

Dealing With Failures

Look, no one likes to focus on negative things, especially when it has to do with failure. Here’s the harsh reality of life–we all fail! Sooner or later it’s going to happen! Everyone fails at some point in their life, but how they react to failure tends to define who are they are.

Whether you fail trying out for sports, asking out your crush, or even for work, failing is nothing to be embarrassed and quit over. Look at Michael Jordan, who was cut from his sophomore, and then went on to be one of, if not the greatest NBA player in history. Okay, so what that’s an example regarding sports. What about real-life? Heard of Steve Jobs? He was fired from his own company after having a disagreement with the board about plans for future growth. I’m pretty sure some of you right now are reading this from an Apple device.

What sets apart amazing people like Michael Jordan and Steve Jobs was how they responded to failure. Instead of being too humiliated to try again, they learned what they did wrong and came back stronger than ever! Every last one of us can learn from our mistakes and failures and become better people!

If you fail, don’t give up. Keep pushing and trying and learn from your mistakes so you don’t make them again. You are smarter and better than you realize.

A Beach A Day, Keeps The Doctor Away

Sometimes a day at the beach is just what the doctor ordered. Seriously. Multiple studies in both the US and Europe have linked exposure to sunshine to lessen your chance of developing IBD. For those already with IBD, exposure to sunshine can help relieve your symptoms. Study #1 Study #2

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Eagle Beach, Aruba. Enjoying some unbelievable beaches and waverunning!

With that in mind, I had the pleasure of spending last week in the Caribbean aboard the beautiful Carnival Vista visiting Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, Curacao, and Aruba. Long days loaded with sand and the sun is exactly what the doctor ordered for me! It’s surprising to notice multiple health benefits ranging from not noticing my arthritic ankles to enjoying more energy.

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Carnival Vista docked next Holland America Eurodam in Grand Turk

The combination of the stress free week, thanks to the wonderful crew and staff of the Carnival Vista, and plenty of sunshine in the warm Southern Caribbean is exactly what my body needed during a very cold and snowy winter in Utah. If you read the studies linked above, you should now know that sunshine is the best form of Vitamin D, and if you are lacking Vitamin D it can cause IBD or make your symptoms worse if you already have it.

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South Beach, Miami Beach

Always talk to your doctor about the best way you can increase your Vitamin D levels and make sure your skin is protected! It’s very, very important to remember to always protect your body while enjoying the sunshine. Make sure to use sunscreen and wear protective clothing. Skin damage just isn’t worth it!

If you’re feeling the winter blues and need an escape, a sunny vacation may be just what you need! Let me know your favorite vacations to catch some sunshine!

Moving Forward—Life with Chronic Disease

Moving Forward–Reflecting on life with Crohn’s for eight years.

The devastation, shock, and confusion of being told you have an incurable, potentially life-threatening disease is hard to describe. It’s easy to feel as the world you once knew has collapsed around you. Multiply that feeling by 3x or 4x for each time you are diagnosed with another chronic disease and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless.

It’s been eight years since my initial diagnoses with Crohn’s Disease and Arthritis. Unfortunately, I had symptoms for many years before I was diagnosed, which lead to extensive damage to my digestive tract and body. Left untreated the disease in my body created a toxic-megacolon, a severe complication of IBD which causes the intestines to rapidly expand, while I was away on vacation. I had to be rescued by the Coast Guard off of a cruise ship, and spend three weeks in the Miami Children’s Hospital before being stable enough to fly home and spend three months recovering at Primary Children’s Hospital before being released. (More on this story in another blog post coming soon J)

During this time my life changed forever—I lost an extreme amount of weight, I developed severe avascular necrosis in my ankles due to heavy steroid usage, but more importantly I learned the road to remission is an ever-going battle and that positivity can make all of the difference in the world. Leaving the hospital, I looked and felt less than ideal, but I knew things could get better—and things did get better!

It’s been eight long years, but I’m so grateful to say that I live an almost ‘normal’ (no one has a normal life) life now. I’ve achieved remission in both Crohn’s Disease and Arthritis with the help of my amazing doctors and nurses. I’m able to work and contribute to society, I can travel wherever I want to, I can try new foods, and most important of all I can enjoy life.

I’m not saying it’s easy to live with chronic disease, but it is definitely worth it to keep a positive attitude and outlook on life. I know there will be some days where everything will just seem to go wrong. However, just keep on pushing and staying positive and hopefully before you know it, things will start improving slowly but surely.

It’s hard to believe how much your body can change in just a couple of years. Looking back it seems impossible that my body could be in the condition it is today. Don’t get discouraged in your fight against chronic disease. Keep believing and stay optimistic—you might be surprised by just how much it can really help! I hope everyone can keep moving forward in their fight against chronic disease and live as healthy and happy as possible!

What You Don’t Know About Me – Life With Invisible Illness

Life With Invisible Illness–What You Don’t Know

What you probably see when you look at me is a normal, healthy 24 year-old. What you probably don’t see is someone living with multiple chronic diseases. When I was 16 years old I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and Arthritis, and shortly after diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis. These conditions can be life-threatening and have a severe impact on quality of life.

While I’m lucky to currently be in remission from Crohn’s Disease and Arthritis (for the most part) and be able to manage my Avascular Necrosis symptoms, I used to be very, very ill. During this time I realized the majority of people could only see me from the outside, and couldn’t see the battle raging inside my body. Here’s what you didn’t know about life with multiple chronic diseases:

Every single day is a constant battle—even the smallest of tasks like getting out of bed become monumental obstacles! During a flare-up, your body is literally at war with itself, and your body pays the price. Getting ready, going to school, going to work, cooking dinner, etc., — normal tasks become impossible missions for people like me living with severe invisible illnesses.

Once you are somewhere like school or work, you’re beholden to the bathroom at your body’s will—you have no choice. The flare up causes severe pain that ravage your insides which makes it hard to focus on school and at work. It’s almost impossible to focus on any task which translates into poor performances. In addition, many medications can cause mental fogginess which makes it that much tougher to focus. Unless you have experienced it, you have no idea how hard it is to concentrate when your body is at war with itself. The next time someone at school or work tells you they have an invisible illness; you better give them some major props!

Your social life becomes almost non-existent. Going out and having fun with friends seems impossible. Not only does being sick make you tired and cranky, but many medications make you even more fatigued, grouchy, and even a little crazy. It’s common for people with invisible illnesses to be anemic which literally saps the life out of you, and that makes the energy and effort required to go out seem impossible to gather. Even if you do make it out with friends, you’ll spend most of the time in the bathroom wishing you were at the comforts of home. To make things even worse, spending all that energy and effort going out with friends will exacerbate your flare up—it’s a lose-lose situation.

People can be very judgmental. Luckily, the vast majority of people are very accommodating and supportive. However, the few people that decide to make mean remarks like, “You’re faking it”, or that, “You’re being a wimp” really hurt. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s hard being a young adult and having to use a handicap pass for parking so that you can even make it inside a store without dying, but then getting heckled and yelled at by people who think you are faking and abusing the system makes it exponentially worse. To have a professor in school think you don’t really have to use the restroom and that it’s not an emergency is very hurtful and painful—maybe if they could see what was happening on the inside it’d be a different story.

Your body gets beat up on the inside and it starts to show on the outside. It’s very common with many invisible illnesses to get symptoms that appear on the outside of your body, some symptoms include: Acne, cysts, hair loss, moon face, water retention, weight gain/loss, and etc., just to name a few. These unwanted symptoms will lower anyone’s self-esteem and make life that much more difficult.

You become very thankful for all the love and support you get from your friends, family, neighbors, and even random strangers. The smallest acts of kindness like someone just asking how your day is going or even someone telling you that you are looking good can make all the difference in your day. You become thankful for everyday and for the possibility of one day getting better. You realize how lucky you are to have doctors and nurses working around the clock to help you get healthier and back to normal. As you get better, you have the desire to help others who are struggling as you once were. You realize that even though living with invisible illnesses is excruciatingly hard, it has made you a stronger and better person.

Daily Motivational Quotes

“Whether it’s ten minutes or ten miles, it’s worth it!” -Quote on the wall from my local gym

I can’t tell you how much I like this quote! It’s applicable to not only working out, but pretty much everything in life.

If you want to become better at something, whether it’s doing well in school, your career, learning a new language, improving relationships, etc. you have to put work into it!

Obviously, the more time you can commit to something the better the results will be, but success isn’t built in one day! It takes time to get there! If you can only spend ten minutes working and improving something, that’s a lot better than not spending any time on it at all.

Set a goal and gradually work up to it. You can do it!

Comment and let me know what goals you are working on 🙂

When Life Changed–Life With Chronic Disease

First Diagnoses–When I was first diagnosed with multiple chronic diseases.

They say the only two things for sure in life are death and taxes. While that is true, over 50% of us will be diagnosed with some sort of chronic health condition.

I was 16 years old when I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Even though I was officially diagnosed with IBD when I was 16, I had experienced minor symptoms of this horrible condition the majority of my life. It wasn’t until my symptoms became so severe that they almost killed me that I received the medical attention I needed to get a proper diagnoses and treatment plan.

I was still in the hospital recovering from my first life threatening IBD flare up when I started to feel an intense pain shooting through my ankles–a multitude of factors including high doses of prednisone and being extremely sick had caused Avascular Necrosis (AVN, dead bone) to develop throughout my ankles. To make matters worse, my ankles and other joints started to swell up so much that it looked like I was half elephant. This was due to the enteropathic arthritis (Arthritis correlated with IBD) my body decided to bless me with.

In a matter of months, a healthy, normal 16 year old had gone from poster book healthy, to chronically ill with 3 chronic health conditions. My life forever changed. I didn’t know anybody else with IBD, I didn’t know what to expect from my health in the future, and I didn’t the best way to manage my new health conditions. I feel like anybody that has a chronic condition or has gone through something similar can relate to these feelings that I felt.

While I struggled at the time to cope with the realities of having 3 chronic health conditions, I can now realize how my adversity with a lot of hard work has transformed into one of my greatest opportunities. I hope you join me in this journey as I share what it’s like to live with chronic health conditions, and share with you helpful tips I wish I knew when I was first diagnosed. Please feel free to share any questions or comments; I’ll always try to answer everything.