Fatigue

HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 3

Let’s go back to 2004. 

At age 34, while nursing my second child (3 month old infant), I started experiencing my first hot/cold flushes. (Also known as “flash” —however, flush is a more realistic definition).

Hot flushes can be defined as a feeling of intense heat in the upper body, usually accompanied by an increased heart rate and flushing of the face, neck, and chest. As the body begins to cool down, women often experience chills, have cold feet, and begin shivering. Nearly 75% of women experience hot flushes and cold chills as they transition through peri-menopause and may continue long after menopause.

 Asking my doctor: “Do you think I could be peri-menopausal?” Reply: “No, you’re too young.”

Much to my dismay, I dismissed it to the fact that I was just working harder, managing an infant, toddler and two large Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. It was mid-September, the weather was changing to autumn with mixed cool/warm climate fluctuations. My very supportive, physically fit husband managed himself (of course) and we’d divide and conquer chores and duties, so I was not doing it all!

But that which I WAS doing felt so taxing. 

My mother had died from cancer six months earlier, when I was pregnant with baby number two. Her voice echoed in my mind from her peri-menopausal years, when pushing herself through her usual non-stop chores, she’d breathlessly whisper, “I’m just so tired.” It was more of a question than a statement…she was normally capable of so much. It wouldn’t be long before I’d parallel my mother’s gasping sentiment.

Within a few years, I’d often say that I was barely surviving. But was reminded to buck up — living in a first world country hardly qualified as ‘barely surviving’.

True.

But feeling this way woke me up to consider what was causing so many people to suffer along with me, with their declining physical and mental health, though financially secure and able to access all the best doctors and or remedies beyond Health Care? Is this really what ageing was all about? Did a person’s health really, in the end, come down to LUCK?

9 months later (or so), my right knee became inflamed. I expected that it had to do with running along the forest trails pushing a double stroller. I’d read about forefoot running and thought to give it a try, even though for years I’d been adamant about heel strike first, unless one was sprinting. So maybe I torqued my knee, the trail was uneven after all, not to mention that my hands were fixed onto the stroller. Also, I wasn’t running in reality, more like jogging, so maybe the theory of forefoot running was best left for high-speeds after all? I never ran like that thereafter. 

Within a few months my knee felt OK. Out of nowhere, the metatarsals of my right foot became excruciatingly painful. For a month or two, I suffered with the pain, my foot felt fractured. Since it was mostly debilitating in the morning upon my first steps out of bed and would subsequently subside, I started to wonder if I had Gout? But how could I have Gout? My diet, as it was, gave no indication that that could be a reasonable diagnosis. Maybe Morton’s Neuroma? And quite possibly I’d done something to my foot while favouring my knee? Once I couldn’t endure the morning pain anymore or the inconvenience of random bouts of pain causing me to hobble around, periodically crippling me, I went to the doctor.

Over the years, at my husbands urging, I’d visit the doctor for minor but chronic bizarre symptoms, to which the ‘idiopathic’ cause was offered. As a result, I was beginning to feel like a hypochondriac and shied away from further complaining.

My GP, prescribed an over the counter orthotic/metatarsal support. I knew that that wasn’t what was going on but I had nothing up my sleeve to table. So, grudgingly I obliged and wore it for a while. And of course, in due time the pain subsided…

…to show up at my elbow! Like a slow moving hacked game of Tetris. The pain, being the ball, stuck in the same spot, banging in its corner until a player materialized to knock it to another corner and then forget about the game once again.

This went on long enough that finally, with enough examples, (knee, foot, elbow, other foot, shoulder, hands) to present to my doctor, I pleaded for help. 

LONG story short, I visited the Arthritis Society (I wrote about that visit here) and was diagnosed with Palindromic Rheumatism.

Palindromic Rheumatism = (PR) is a rare episodic form of inflammatory arthritis – meaning the joint pain and swelling come and go. Between attacks, the symptoms disappear and the affected joints go back to normal, with no lasting damage.

I never believed that that is what was going on with me. They prescribed (NSAIDS) pharmaceuticals, which I never took. I’ve always been more curious about what causes disease. However, there is a twisted comfort in giving a name or diagnosis to a mystery illness.

It’s safe to conclude, by that point I was pretty frazzled. Sometimes my hands would become incredibly sore that they felt broken at the metacarpals (much like the foot pain I previously experienced), but additionally, my knuckles swelled reminiscent of the evil Queen’s transformation in Snow White (not visibly as bad but they FELT like hers looked). There were times when I couldn’t tie my toddlers shoe laces, or twisting the handle for the faucet (a seemingly innocuous task) and worst of all was changing bedding: pulling the fitted sheet over mattress corners was just unbearable. 

Below is a list of symptoms over the course of these thirteen years. Here you can better understand why the analogy (mentioned in Part 1) of the frog in pot of boiling water is relevant. These symptoms would often present themselves in a mild and stealth fashion and then overlap one another and then some or all would disappear until the next month when my hormones would fluctuate again, triggering game on. My chronic pain would crescendo and then decrescendo to the point I would forget I ever had the pain only to have the pain return ever so slowly, not unlike the tepid water in the pot gradually increasing to boiling point.

-chronic slow wound healing

-one episode of Bell’s Palsy

-vision worsening

-chronic Raynauds (fingers and toes)

-palindromic rheumatism

-thinning of eyelashes

-Hydrocystoma, I pushed to have it biopsied to find out what the heck these bumps under my skin were! (I had multiple on underside of forearms, one at throat area, some have shrunk away, there are some tiny ones left).

-peri-menopausal symptoms 

-one episode of Menstrual Flooding age 36

-chronic hot/cold flushes

-Umbilical Hernia

-skin crawling (freaky! Sensations of invisible insects crawling on the body, so much so,  that you are compelled to brush it away — and I LIKE insects and don’t normally mind them crawling on me, but this is so freaky!).

-brain fog

-leg cramping in bed

Update: I forgot to mention Urine Leakage, called “stress urinary incontinence”. Often associated with a weak or damaged pelvic floor. There has been a lot written about the subject over the years. My friend reminded me about the time I visited and was jumping on their trampoline and how I commented that I’d have to be careful because I tend to leak. I must have been 40-41 at the time. She recalls being surprised, because of all people, I was very in tune with my body and particularly the pelvic floor.

Speaking-up about pelvic floor health was always something that I included in my personal training sessions — specifically to ensure that people weren’t overtraining (trying too hard to contract) the pelvic floor muscles and working towards better understanding o  body alignment . There is a “just right” amount of muscular tension that is helpful, beyond which are negative returns. Of course when this leakage started happening to me I wondered if I’d been “doing it wrong” myself all these years? Long story short, I noticed that my urine leakage was directly related to the fluctuations in my hormones. Almost like one week or two out of every month I’d have occasional leakage from sudden sneezing, laughing, coughing or jumping and other times no problem at all.

-Urine leakage, laughing, coughing, jumping, sneezing.

-irregular menses age 36 – 41 (10 days of bleeding every 15 -18 days), eventually able to get cycles to 22 – 25 days (ages 41 – 44). Then menses became irregular again until present, 60 – 105 day cycles, with only light spotting for 2 – 5 days.

-recurring benign cervical polyps. (Ob/Gyn suggested D&C; I declined, due to my tendency to heal slowly, I was concerned I’d open myself up to more problems.

-fibromyalgia type fatigue and chronic pain

-unable to get out of bed without stretching in bed 

-2011, mildly fatigued, my solution was to stretch in bed in the mornings. Started sharing this on my blog. But with each passing year the benefits from stretching didn’t seem to hold in my tissues. It seemed like the more I stretched the more I needed to stretch AND on many occasions, in the last couple years, I would injure myself from stretching! My fascia was feeling so tight and brittle like the posture we see in a 70+ person suffering from osteoporosis.

-chronic excruciating shoulder pain, nearly impossible to take shirt off over head type of movement. When hand pain was at its peak, even pulling up my underwear and stretchy Lululemon-type leggings was laborious due to searing pain — not a swift movement like it should be!

-chronic elbow pain, felt swollen but appeared normal. Any pressure from a jacket or propping myself up on a forearm would cause me to wince, and when propped, I’d have to collapse to escape the sharp pain.

Note: Just about daily, the need to bend the elbow would present itself or to prop myself up on my forearm, you’d think a soft mattress would be a safe place. Most of the time, there’d be no issue and so when the searing pain hit, it would always catch me by surprise.

-after completing Orthodontics (2014 – 2016), one tooth became grey. Dentist & Endodontist (second opinion) both suggested root canal. I said that I would look up alternative because of my slow to heal problem, concerned that I’d cause more problems for myself.

-snoring: turbinate enlargement

-tongue and gums developed lichen planus

-teeth: dentin (below the enamel) looks cut through (top front four teeth – can only notice it in certain light), a dark shadow approximately at the same level where Ortho wires went across the teeth. (It’s NOT from staining).

Within the last year:

-tongue swelling but Lichen Planus went away

-vision continuing to deteriorate

-Facial ageing: lips wrinkling, shrinking and loss of colour. Bronze discolouration and swelling at medial point of eyelids (upper lid sulcus –not sure if this is the correct anatomical term for the area I’m describing, but I noticed this same problem on a relative who had Emphysema and Addison’s Disease.

-while driving, hunched forward like a little old lady, nervous/overly cautious to change lanes. Normally, I’m like Leilani Münter 🙂

-zero libido 😦

-depression, weepiness, quick to cry or feel put down, anxiety, avoiding social situations, eventually a loss of zest for living.

NEXT week on HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 4…Learn about the prescribed treatments I used, and WHY and HOW they spiralled me further down into a rapid declining health AND finally, I’ll share what brought me back. #KatCameBack

Hello! I’M BACK! Part 2

My experience as case study: 

My kids, now teens, were born at home in 2002 and 2004; I had (still have?) a high pain threshold. Gradually, I became more fatigued after the second child. I was 34, with two young kids, naturally, I presumed a reasonable amount of exhaustion was to be expected. 

When feeling well, I’ve got a lot of physical energy, and some. Even during these fatigue years I was still able to get a lot done, despite chronic pain. This year I’ve read 48 books since January —primarily because I was listless. I like to do things and so if the least I could do was check off ‘book read’ from my TBR stack, then I was accomplishing something.

Example: in the past, on this blog I’ve shared a breakdown of A Day in the Life of movement/activity and meals from my early 40’s (under Food Log), so you can see I was getting it done.

Example: In my early 20’s, 1990’s Toronto, a buddy introduced me to the new In-Line-Skating craze. On a scorching summer day, swimming in oversized borrowed skates and two pair of wool winter socks (to make the skates fit), he and I would barrel down University Avenue (having started out at Lawrence and Bayview), weaving through and around moving objects, jumping this and that all the way down to the Lakeshore, eventually coming across places to practice our jumps. I’d follow behind with no particular grace or skill but sheer excitement for the thrill (completely risky in hindsight). One particular spot, had piles of rotting timber and the occasional rusted nail jutted out; we’d build up speed and fly overtop. Then we’d skate all the way back home—up hill all the way.

In those days, I was into Body Building and Fitness Competitions. I’d spend two to three hours a day at the gym. Take a 20 minute recovery nap mid-day, work with my Personal Training clients and teach Cycle Reebok “Spinning” classes and sometimes take clients for a run. Often commuting across the city on my mountain bike, eventually, securing slick tires to make the ride more functional, meanwhile studying and eventually becoming certified in Pilates and Yoga.

Having learned that I’d won a Ms. Fitness Canada pageant in ’94, a new friend at the time named me: “Super-Power-Babe-of-the-Universe”. HAHAHAHA! 

Essentially, the picture I’m painting is to illustrate that by my nature, I move. And when I wasn’t on the go, I was eating food or reading anatomy books. Side note: I believe in moving the body for health…the body as a machine which requires maintenance and proper fuel vs. to actually be a machine. Difference.

I’m sharing all this to emphasize that I consider myself in a unique position to talk about what being healthy and active is, and likewise, to detail the shocking, contrasting decline to the rock bottom of torpidity…and back again. 

How #KatCameBack And what all my health providers missed.

Reminiscing on what I used to do back then surprises me now, I almost can’t wrap my head around it. And yet it was so natural. Even to conceive the amount of activity I was capable of only four years ago is startling to my present self, since mustering up the energy or inspiration to go for a simple stroll a few times per week was a huge accomplishment these last few months. I’d pretty much stopped preparing any food for my family. If I did supply anything it would be mostly store bought (Ma & Pop shops in my community were my lifeline where I’d bring in my reusable containers for soups, salads etc.). Creativity gone. Motivation gone. Zest for living…gone 😦

I stopped preparing food for my family. If I had enough energy to do a grocery shop, I then would be completely zapped of energy or desire to prepare any meals upon returning home.

If I could muster up the energy to make something, I’d plead for my husband to tell me what I should make. Most days I ate very minimally. I was no longer exercising (the most I could do was stretch in bed in the morning, a requirement to get out of bed, usually way after 9am) and on a good day I’d go for a twenty minute walk in the woods, often overtaken with emotion and weepy throughout the day.

Basically, I stopped being able to make decisions for myself. Rote memory was what got me through daily activities. I had become mechanical 😦

I needed to bring my husband with me to my doctor appointments to speak on my behalf and to make sense of the conversation FOR me.

WTF!?! What happened to me?

Takeaway: This is NOT about being nostalgic about my ‘glory days’, but rather, to clarify that there was a time when I had the drive to commit to showing up. Remember, I coined the term: Self-Discipline Is Born From Being Consistent. As a result of this downward spiral and rebirth, I now understand that no matter how much a person wants to be healthy there is much more going on here than positive self-talk and ‘showing up’ to achieve self-discipline. There’s a whole group of people who are unable to show up, and I don’t believe that it’s necessarily ‘mental illness’ or laziness/ lack of self-discipline. Within three days of figuring out what was causing my decline my energy stores started to fill up. Like a plant, restricted from water, after receiving a deep watering we actually see the plant, before our eyes, straighten up expressing its life-force. That’s exactly how I felt. My body was vibrating. I even went for a bike ride for the first time in years, down a steep hill and rode back up, with no delayed muscle soreness the next day! Prior to this, vertigo-like feelings, declining vision and spacial awareness type of sensations kept me from playing…I just didn’t feel right or safe to make judgements. But now my mood has lifted and the brain fog is not as bad (it’s still taken me four days to write this tho).

Even last year from April to August 2017, I was a regular at a hot Yoga studio. My shoulder pain was at an all time high. I was hopeful that the heat of the yoga studio would allow me to move without pain or at least be able to move enough to correct whatever was going on, besides my Naturopath wanted me to sweat…but I’ll get to that later and explain why the heat may have been a contributing factor to my rapid decline.

Next up, I’ll share a list of all the symptoms and treatments I went through during these last thirteen years.

To be continued…

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