The push down

I am a very busy person. I sometimes don’t realize how busy I am. I work full time. I study. I write and research for MastAttack. I contribute to care plans and work with patients. I am an involved auntie. I spend a lot of time with my family. And of course, I am sick, and being sick accounts for the majority of my life.

I like making plans. I have always liked making lists and checking things off. These days, I have so much to do that I have to be really organized to get anything done. Everything goes into my planner. I read it every day as soon as I wake up to ground myself and focus. Every task has an assigned completion date and time allotment. If I have ever agreed to answer a question for you at a later time, or to research something, or to do something for you, you are in that planner.

My planner keeps track of everything I do and, often, everything I plan to do, but which I do not complete by the anticipated time. As time goes on, I accumulate more and more outstanding tasks. For the most part, they get completed eventually, but it is sometimes several days or weeks later than intended. Like everything else in my life, my ability to stay on task is fully dependent upon my health. Because my health is unpredictable, everything else in my life becomes unpredictable, too.

For the last several months, I have been trying to buy a home. I have been trying to find a two family home so that my parents could live in one while I live in the other. Initially, it looked like the easiest option would be to level my parents’ house and build a two family on that property. Then we looked at existing two family homes. Then we looked into modifying a single family home to make it two separate apartments. The last eight months has been consumed by this.

Yesterday, we looked at a house that largely met all of our needs. We discussed making an offer and ultimately decided against it. For the most part, the experience of looking for a place to buy has not been particularly upsetting me, but yesterday, it upset me. I’m not sure why. I suddenly felt overcome by the weight of all the emotional things I have tied up in this house hunt.

For a disabled woman, I am in a pretty plum position right now. I work full time for an employer that accommodates and respects me. I can afford to pay my living and medical expenses and have some left over to travel and do fun things. I have excellent insurance. I have tried hard to set myself up as much as I possibly can for the eventuality of becoming unable to work and dependent upon disability benefits. With the exception of traveling, I live pretty frugally. I live in a very small rented apartment. I don’t eat much. I don’t really shop unless I need something specific. Aside from having two dogs who both need healthcare and medication, my health is my only major expense. This has afforded me an enviable financial position for someone as sick as I am.

I am recently coming to grips with the fact that while I am in a good position now, it could all be gone in an instinct. Any instant. Maybe this one right now. Maybe one tomorrow. I could become unable to work immediately. And while I have been able to save some money, it is impossible for me to put aside enough money fast enough for me to not have to worry about it. There’s just not enough time. No matter what I do or how well I plan, my financial situation will inevitably become unstable. This disease has robbed me of the ability to plan for my future.

My fear of instability is largely what has driven my search for a new home this year. I have lived in my current apartment for years. I don’t have any reason to think I’ll need to leave soon. There are things I don’t like about the apartment but it is cheap and meets my needs. But I don’t own this place and that means that the stability of my housing situation is fully dependent upon other people. I don’t have family in a position to take me in. I can’t live in my parents’ house. That means that if I suddenly had to move and couldn’t work, I have no idea where I would even go.

I have this life now with a safe, clean place to live near my support system, good healthcare, and a stable job that allows me to support myself well. But this could all be gone in an instant. I could do everything right, make every decision right, and still end up with nothing. That is almost certainly what will happen.

There are moments when my fear consumes everything. It is my omnipresent companion, the harbinger of a coming plague. It threatens to devour every good thing in my life, to just eat and eat and eat until there’s nothing left.

So what do you do when this life you love will be gone soon? You enjoy it. You use all your strength and you push down this fear and you enjoy it.

I will never be able to save enough money to keep me financially stable and independent. If I spent nothing on anything except my absolute life essentials, it wouldn’t matter. I try to remember this on the days when I book airfare or buy myself a new dress. I do not have to feel guilty that I am not saving every single cent I can when it wouldn’t matter anyway. It is okay to relish being alive. It is okay to have as much fun as I can. It is okay to spend money to be comfortable and happy.

Last night, as I was making notes about projects I plan to complete in 2018, I was inexplicably overcome with this sense of calm. As I looked over my upcoming trips noted in my planner calendar, for the first time in a long time, I felt perfectly at peace. It is okay to spend money to go to Utah and California and Australia. It is okay to use this body for everything it is good for until the time when it is no longer good for anything.

I’m heading to Florida for a week after Christmas to visit my Masto Little Sister, Nicole, and my dear Kristina Brightbill (who is making AMAZING gains). I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

The MastAttack 107: The Layperson’s Guide to Understanding Mast Cell Diseases, Part 77

90. What causes pain in mast cell disease?

  • Most mast cell patients experience some kind of pain. Because mast cells are involved in pain sensation and inflammation, mast cell patients are at risk of pain by different mechanisms throughout their body.
  • Mast cells are involved in nerve pain. Mast cells often live very close to nerves, sometimes so close they are touching. When nerve cells feel pain, they release mediators to activate mast cells. The mast cells then activate other nearby nerve cells. The result of this is that the brain gets a pain signal from lots of nerves, not just the nerves that initially felt the pain, so the pain you feel is worse.
  • Mast cells participate in inflammation. One of the big things they do is send signals to other immune cells to come to the site of inflammation. These cells release mediators that can cause pain or make it worse. Nerve cells nearby will send a stronger pain signal again in response to these immune cells causing inflammation.
  • Mast cells are involved in hyperalgesia, when your nerves are very sensitive and send a stronger than normal pain response to things that shouldn’t normally be very painful. For this reason, many mast cell patients have a heightened pain response, even to things that aren’t normally very painful.
  • Mast cells are associated with a number of chronic pain conditions.
  • Visceral pain is when you feel pain in your internal organs, like your GI tract or your liver. Visceral pain is often not localized so it can be hard to tell what is actually hurting. Mast cell patients often report visceral pain.
  • Pelvic pain is linked to mast cell activation and can cause serious symptoms, including painful sex. Pelvic floor dysfunction is sometimes seen in mast cell patients. Interstitial cystitis, chronic inflammation of the bladder, is also driven by mast cells, although it’s not exactly clear how.
  • Mast cells are major players in GI pain. Mast cell degranulation activates the nerves inside the GI tract, which can cause abdominal pain. This causes pain in a number of GI diseases aside from mast cell disease.
  • Many mast cell patients have connective tissue disease like Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This can cause the organs to not be supported properly, causing them to move around, activating a pain response.
  • Mast cells can cause bone pain in multiple ways. In systemic mastocytosis, production of so many mast cells in the bone marrow can cause pressure inside the bone that causes pain. Mast cell mediators can cause dysregulation of the system that degrades old parts of the bone and replaces it with new, stronger bone. This can cause the bones to be too thick or too thin. Mast cell patients may have bone disorders as a result and should be especially watchful for Mast cell mediators like histamine can also irritate the cells on the outside of the bone, causing pain.
  • Mast cell activation can cause headaches and migraines. Mast cell mediators can affect how much blood is getting to the head and brain, which can cause pain. Many mast cell patients have POTS, which can also cause the same problem.
  • Systemic mastocytosis patients can have dense infiltration of their organs by mast cells. This infiltration punches holes in the tissue, leading to inflammation and pain.
  • Cutaneous mastocytosis patients have similar issues with infiltration of the skin.
  • Infiltration is NOT necessary for mast cell activation to cause pain.
  • Mast cell patients have to be cautious in how they treat their pain as many medications for pain management can cause mast cell degranulation.
  • NSAIDs can be used in patients that tolerate them.
  • Acetaminophen and tramadol are considered mast cell friendly.
  • Gabapentin and pregabalin are sometimes used for neurologic pain in mast cell patients.
  • If opiates are needed, fentanyl and hydromorphone are preferred. Morphine is a massive mast cell degranulator and should be avoided.
  • Certain numbing medications can trigger mast cells, like ester caine anesthetics.
  • Cyclobenzamide is a muscle relaxer commonly used in mast cell patients.

 

For more information, please visit the following posts:

Mast cells in nerve pain

The Provider Primer Series: Medications that impact mast cell degranulation and anaphylaxis

Premedication and surgical concerns in mast cell patients

The Sex Series – Part Six: Male pelvic floor and mast cells

The Sex Series – Part Eight: Female pelvic floor dysfunction

The Sex Series – Part Nine: Female pelvic floor dysfunction

 

Colorado heartbeat

I am alive. I haven’t been feeling well. The adrenal crisis really kicked my ass and, if I’m honest, scared the shit out of me. It has taken me longer to recover than I anticipated and have had to focus my meager available energy on work. I didn’t realize how long it had been since I posted. Sorry if I scared anyone.

In the midst of these busy and exhausting last few weeks, I decided to run away from my life for a long weekend in Colorado. Colorado is my happy place. It is so beautiful that words don’t seem worthy to describe it. It is quiet and clean. It represents every amazing thing the earth is capable of. I have visited twelve times and I am always just as awed as I was the first time.

Since 2007, a series of people in my life who don’t know each other have moved to Colorado. It started when my best friend at the time moved to Broomfield from New Hampshire. I visited her several times. Then my uncle and his wife moved to Denver and then Golden. In 2014, one of my best friends, Priscilla, discovered that her masto daughter, who had such frequent severe reactions that she literally could not go outside during the day, didn’t have reactions in Colorado. Pris went back to Texas, packed up her family’s life, and moved to Summit County. It has been three years and her daughter no longer has severe reactions.

Priscilla had not spent much time in Colorado before moving there so there are still a lot of places that I have been in Colorado that she hasn’t. Last time I visited, I took her to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. This time, we went to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, high in the mountains above Boulder. The Stanley is beautiful and interesting in its own right but it is most famous because the Overlook Hotel in the Shining is based upon the Stanley Hotel.

I am a huge horror movie fan and like the connection to the Shining. But that’s not the reason I go to Estes Park again and again. I go because Estes Park is the edge of my personal universe. I feel very much that if I don’t watch my step there that I could just fall into oblivion. I don’t know what it is about Estes Park that affects me so much. I don’t know if it’s because it is nestled in tightly among the peaks of formidable mountains or the remoteness or the quiet. Something about standing on the porch of the Stanley Hotel and looking down at the sparse twinkling lights below makes me feel tiny against the awesomeness of the universe. The whistling of emptiness is palpable as it runs down these peaks and into the valleys below. It is both lonely and heartbreakingly beautiful at once, both somewhere I enjoying being and somewhere I fear being abandoned.

The last several weeks have been difficult for me. Fall is always hard and the adrenal crisis really exacerbated things. I have almost no energy and am so tired that it takes a huge amount of effort to make my brain work. I find myself needing more sleep and I have always needed a lot. I am having a lot of pain and am so sore that I haven’t done yoga in a couple of weeks. I am limiting my activity and keeping my stress level down. Fall and early winter are always hard for me and I know I will feel better in January. I’m biding my time and listening to my body to give it what it needs in the meantime.

If I’m honest, I was not in great shape for travelling when I went to Colorado. Traveling has been mentally taxing for a while because getting on a plane with luggage full of IV fluids and meds and syringes is not easy. This is different. I am not recovering well from the physical strain on top of feeling generally poorly when I left. Travel is hard on my body and I can’t deny that as time it goes, it is getting harder. Each trip takes longer to recover from. I spend most of my time in bed when I arrive.

I had to stop traveling for years because of my health. Every trip I take now feels like a gift. It is frightening to imagine that the physical strain of travel may eventually become insurmountable. I won’t lose travel. I can’t lose travel.

I don’t know long I will be able to travel. Hopefully I have years left. But just now it feels like my body might not allow that. It feels like I’m walking along the edge and if I fall, I will never get myself back.