Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Life Limited

My relationship with food has evolved this year. I have spent much of the last year living in a love hate relationship with food. Learning what can I eat, what should I avoid, and what I can absolutely not have [Buffalo Wild Wings for instance is a really bad idea, but oh so yummy]. 



I can still remember when I took my first trip after being diagnosed with ECD that I had a hard time finding the foods I wanted. I had settled into a pattern of foods I was able to eat (with no negative consequences) and I wanted to exactly reproduce that pattern while on vacation. After visiting 3 grocery stores I came to realize that I was going to have to be more flexible with my eating. Not flexible in the sense that I was going to need to eat foods that were "bad" for me, but flexible in the brands and breadth of foods I considered.

I moved into the dorms at RPTS at the beginning of August (for my D.Min. classes) and then I had the opportunity to explore the area. The facilities are good, food is available (COOP and Trader Joe's), and there are others around who are also dealing with dietary restrictions.

This all helps. What helps more though is that I am learning to accept and live with my new normal.

Accepting our own limitations is rough. No one wants to admit to, let alone restructure their life around, things they can no longer do. Here's the thing, I think my limitations can be either good or bad based on how I perceive them.

So I'm going to do myself a favor and live life as if my limitations are the best thing that ever happened to me.





Monday, August 4, 2014

Big Day

Can't Sleep.

I start my Doctor of Ministry program at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary tomorrow. It is a small class and I am worried that someone is going to ask me a simple question and I will not be able to answer.



My memory has been getting worse. Simple things like remembering where I put my passport (lost it for 2 months), whether or not I paid the mortgage (I did), and why I went into the kitchen have become more difficult.

This morning I couldn't remember who the Apostle Paul was (I couldn't remember his lineage or which epistles were credited to him). How does a pastor forget details about the most important figure in the Apostolic Age? So I'm a little worried that I will go blank and embarrass myself.

I'm also not sure how much I really want to reveal about my story to this new group of people. Were here to learn about Christ, not about me, so perhaps I will keep my health issues to myself (at least for a while).

Sharing is a lot of work and I'm thinking more and more that it might be easier for me and everyone else if they knew as little as possible.

Privacy vs. Advocacy...the struggle!

Super Random Update

The field of medicine for all its advances sure hasn’t made it any easier for us patients to understand what doctors and the labs they use are talking about.

For example I have started to get some test results back from a series of labs I did while at Winthrop Hospital's Hematology and Immunology practice. I don't understand them...but I've gotten them back. We are looking at how my body responds to attacks on the immune system. It clear that I will need to schedule an appointment with the doctor to get the results explained. Sure they send me the results but it’s all written as high and lows with no explanation to what those highs and lows mean.

One advantage to having a rare disease is that until now I could always count one getting quick access to medical professionals. I used to be able to call up and pop in the next day. Unfortunately, the novelty seems to be wearing off and I am going to have to spend some more time waiting in doctor’s offices in the future.

Oh. I had my appointment with Dr. Diamond at MSKCC last week and Dr. Diamond told me I was probably the healthiest ECD patient he had ever seen! I feel like there should be a prize for this fleeting distinction. We did some tests and special stains that I will get the results from as they come in.

After the appointment I had to get blood drawn and I had to wait a long time....almost had a yelling melt down. Luckily DawnMarie was there...she calms me.

Dr. Diamond sent me this email today.
Brad, I meant to write you about your PET scan, this is important. It’s much improved from your prior one. Your initial PET from 2013 showed avid lesions in the abdomen (pancreas and around the aorta), as well as the right tibia. These are all essentially resolved on the current PET.
Now I think this means that what were once active histocyte cells (caused by Erdheim Chester Disease) are now just dead "scar tissue" which is why they showed no uptake on the PET Scan. This is good news. I think.

I continue to work on my nerves/anger/emotional outbursts. I'm not sure what causes me to flip out but I suspect it’s related to the disease process, or perhaps I'm just being a petulant child.



I am in Pittsburgh for the next two weeks by myself (I am starting graduate classes). I haven't been alone for more then a few hours since I first started to get sick....so wish me the best. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Am Alive!

I haven't been posting recently about my ECD journey because I am looking for a new teaching job (don't worry I still have my current position I'm just looking for a new challenge). I have been worried that a prospective employer will read my Blog and decide I have way to many issues to take a risk on.

The thing is...I miss talking to you all and the truth is that I don't want to work for someone who would refuse to hire an excellent (though often grammatically challenged) math teacher because they have a rare disease.




So here is my health update. I have been prescribed a drug called Creon (a pancreatic enzyme) to help address my weight loss. I am not taking it! I know. I know. What do I think I am a doctor? The thing is I don't really want to be on a bunch of different medications because who knows what the long-term consequences of taking them for the rest of my life will be. I am hoping that with the right balance of diet and herbal supplements I will be able to hold my current weight. [My weight been stable for 6 weeks.]

I am still taking my daily shot of Kineret. It is annoying to have to tote the shots around with me on vacation and even more annoying to speak with express scripts every 30 days to reorder my prescription, but other then that the shots have become a regular part of my life. One weird side effect is excessive bleeding from the injection site; this seems to occur more often if I leave the shot out at room temperature for more then thirty minutes. I would ask if anyone else was experiencing this but the fact is there are probably only a few dozen of us on the drug…so what’s the point.

When I was at The National Institute of Health Dr. Estrada-Veras suggested I see a hematologist and an immunologist. I got that done yesterday. They suggested I get a blood test to look at my T cells (T cells or T lymphocytes are a type of lymphocyte (itself a type of white blood cell) that play a central role in cell-mediated immunity). Thank God for Wikipedia right! This blood sample is taken and then flown to California for testing, apparently it has to arrive within 24 hours or the test cannot be preformed. So…it is actually my fault that health care costs will be increasing next year.

One last thing. I am going to see Dr. Diamond at Memorial Sloan Kettering next week (He is reviewing all my records and testing to see if I qualify for a drug trial he is running). I’m nervous. You see…I desperately desire to find peace with my diagnosis. Yet so much about my future with ECD feels unresolved and if Dr. Diamond doesn’t figure it out next week it will stay that way.

Not feeling very brave right now.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Teaching and Stress

I rarely write about my work as a teacher in much detail because I know that many of my co-workers and perhaps my boss read this Blog. My dad (a expert on old sayings) once told me you don't s**t where you eat and so with that in mind I have generally avoided the subject of teaching. However, as the year comes to an end I want to recap a few things and share some stress with the Blog so that I can let it go.

In June of last year I went to NYU for surgery, my boss and co-workers were incredibly supportive. I came back to teaching in September with my own room (my mobility was very limited at the time) and teaching a new subject (Geometry).

I would say it took me a good four months to really get going again. I have found the stress related to teaching this year to be incredibly high. First, I was teaching a new subject. Second, the adjustments needed to meet Danielson requirements took lots of time. Third, I found my self caught up in a cycle of negativity among the staff that really quashed my normally happy spirits.

As the year comes to an end I am still trying to figure out how to deal with the moodiness caused by my low testosterone levels. The thing is it has never been a problem in my classroom but the energy needed to keep it at bay all day has left me with little reserves to deal with workplace drama. This is an issue I haven't really brought up at work but nonetheless they have experienced it.

The funny thing is I feel bad that I have let my boss down and that I haven't been the leader I wanted to be this year, but I'm not sure (given the circumstances) I was capable of anything more this year.


Healing from an injury takes time. Healing from a broken life takes longer. My life was broken in 2013 and its only now that I'm beginning to see what the new Brad will look like.
 


 

Friday, May 30, 2014

So Much

I have been feeling stuck recently when it comes to my health. You see for all intents and purposes I have arrived at a stalemate in my battle with Erdheim Chester Disease.

The thing is it may not really be a permanent stalemate so I have to go get a mri or ct scan or fb scan once every 6 months.  And so now I survive from one 6th month period to the next each time praying that I'll be granted another 6 months until my next exam. 

Meanwhile I am still trying to finish seeing all the doctors that the NIH suggested. 
1. I saw the gastroenterologist who grave me a drug called Creon that was supposed to cure my Pancreatic problems but instead has just caused unnecessary side effects. It was like 8 pills a day (for the rest of my life ) and I just decided I wasn't willing to go down that road. So I am trying to maintain my weight more naturally but I just don't have the appetite except for when it comes to frozen yogurt. 
2. I have an appointment to see an immunologist in June, but I don't trust he'll see my health issues as anything more then a long term consequence of ECD that I am just gong to have to learn to accept. 
3. After that I just have to schedule an appointment with a hematologist.
4. I have an appointment at MSKCC in July (testing me for the B-raf mutation while reviewing my biopsy slides and then having a whole set of scans done) for tests that if confirmed negative will mean I am not eligible to participate in a study at MSKCC that is "curing" people with ECD and the B-raf mutation. Thus ending my hope for a cure (at least currently).

I feel Guilty.
I feel like I should be happy with how well I'm doing but I feel like I'm really just pretending like everything is okay while we all wait for my next health disaster to occur.

This along with all the elements of my real life (as it existed prior to ECD) that draw my time, attention, and energy have left me unable to express my thoughts clearly about how I feel. Tired, Energetic, Blessed, Scared, Tense, Angry, Gracious, and Burnt Out.

My future seems great, it just doesn't feel that way yet. 


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Name


A baby Alpaca is called a Cria, A baby Badger is called a Kit, A baby Grasshopper is a Nymph, and a Baby Ox is called a Stot. What does one call these ridiculously cute guys? Platypus. Yup, that’s is. There is no name for the baby version of the Platypus.

 
They do exist though. They certainly are capable of causing one to feel happy (heck I want to adopt one). If we saw one being abused or killed we would respond with alarm and disgust. Just because something doesn’t have an officially designated name does not mean it is not important, that it does not exist, or that you are crazy for thinking about it.

Every day people all over this world are diagnosed with diseases that have no category in which they can be placed. Erdheim Chester Disease for instance is not defined as cancer or as an autoimmune disorder (even though it carries characteristics of both). So when people ask us what we have we say ECD…but its hard to describe after that.

Names help us categorize things. Names help us group things. Names help us figure out where we belong. I pray every day that soon ECD and all other un slated rare diseases will be given the power of a name. Not just the name of the disease but the name of the family in which their disease belongs, because when one has a family one has understanding, direction, and support.