Heatwave, it’s not me, it’s Lupus.

My body is no longer designed to cope in high temperatures. I’m basically a real life vampire. I know what you’re thinking “you coped Turkey”, which is semi true, because some days I didn’t. The difference is, in Turkey I spent 90% of my time submerged in cold water.

At first, like everyone, I was overjoyed to see the sun. We have a roofed decking area with comfortable garden furniture, besides my bed, it’s my favourite place to sit. I grabbed my book and sat there for 20 minutes before retreating back inside declaring “it burns”. I told you, I’m a real life vampire. Except when I got up, my vision went blurry and I was dizzy. Which, in fairness, is a regular symptom of mine, it’s just happens more in the sun.

Because I have a stubborn streak, everyday I’ve been giving sitting outside ‘another’ go. Each day ends the same: I notice rashes, it burns and itches my skin, I get dizzy and blurry vision and try to get to the sofa without falling. The only time I can sit outside in the heatwave somewhat comfortably is after 5pm or if I’m somewhere in the shade.

I would be lucky if rashes, dizziness and blurry vision were my only symptoms to show during the heatwave. My fatigue levels have shot up, I’m getting regular headaches, I ache from head to toe and have joint pain. The joint pain is particularly vile in my elbows and knees, my most commonly affected joints. My hands are starting to feel stiff.

Yesterday I went shopping. A big mistake even though I was in shops for the majority of the time. I walked around with legs that felt weak, like they were struggling to hold me up. My joint pain was bad in my knees and my headache was bad, it felt as if I had been hit in the back of the head with a pan.

Since the heatwave started, every morning has been rough. I wake up feeling like a lead weight and I have to lay in bed until I feel a little stronger. It feels like I’m walking on sand and my brain can’t function properly. It takes me hours to come around and even then, I don’t fully come around.

Today, I woke up after a bad nights sleep and I struggled to stand up for longer than a minute. I felt faint, my legs felt like they were going to give way. My brain feels cloudy, my head and eyes hurt. My elbows and knees have pain shooting through them. I have pain in my lower back and sides, and so far, the dizziness and blurry vision is happening every time I stand up.

I’m beyond over the lovely weather because I’m struggling immensely to cope in it. Not everyone who complains about the weather is being a ‘Debbie Downer’, not everyone can cope in hot weather. And having limited resources to cool yourself down makes it harder. I honestly feel worse in England with the heat than I did abroad in Turkey.

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Rheumatology Appointment: 14-06-18.

I’m sat writing this post and wondering if I should even write it at all. It was a mundane appointment, I’m not saying that past appointments have been a joyous afternoon outing. But, so much had happened between my last appointment and this one. To recap: Azathioprine temporarily stopped due to low white cells, steroids, crippling anxiety due to steroids…you can see why I thought it would be at least a little bit interesting.

I sat in the little waiting room, an elderly lady looked at me in confusion. Then another lady entered and she also started looking at me. It happens a lot, they aren’t used to seeing a 23-year-old in a department typically used by older people. I can see them studying me, trying to figure out why I’m there. I could tell them why I’m there but seeing the confusion humours me whilst I wait.

The regular checks of weight and blood pressure were fine. However, my urine flagged up again, it did at my previous appointment. My consultant remembered this and asked if my water works were okay, I told him they were fine and he wrote something in my file (I can’t read his writing so I couldn’t tell you what). But, as he wrote he said “we need to keep an eye on you”. It was just a urine infection for which I have antibiotics for. I know urine infections are common in Lupus but it made me wonder (with him asking if my water works were the same) if frequent infections are an early symptom of kidney involvement. Just for the record: my kidneys are fine and performing perfectly well.

On this particular appointment, I felt awful. I was exhausted and sore in most of my joints, I told him but he didn’t say much but then again there isn’t much he could say. He’s very matter of fact that I have an illness that causes fatigue and pain. I also informed him that I recently had a butterfly rash, which he put down to the warmer weather we’ve recently had.

I asked “did my white cells drop because my body couldn’t handle the higher dose of Azathioprine?”. Interestingly, he nodded but also revealed that someone of my age should be able to handle 200mg of Azathioprine (my dose was 150mg). He also told me that when Lupus is active white blood cells tend to drop, so he believes it’s a mixture of the two. I’ve been curious if he would eventually try and increase the dose again but when I asked he said no and reminded me that we have to test different doses out to find the best one for me.

If everything remains stable for 6 weeks, my fortnightly blood tests can be moved to monthly. I next see my consultant in August, a little bit early but he’s going to Canada for a conference. He said he didn’t want to wait until he’s back because it would be too long in between appointments.

Anxiety: the side affects of steroids they don’t tell you about.

Steroids are a miracle medication but 3 weeks into taking them, I now realise why people despise being on them. They come with unwanted and unpleasant side affects, and side affects can appear at random times – even if you have been taking them for weeks to months. Over the weekend, I was plunged into the side affect nobody talks or warns you about: anxiety.

Before I go on, because this is important to note – a couple of years before being diagnosed with Lupus, I was diagnosed with anxiety. This is usually controlled by slow release medication (propranolol).

I lowered my dose from 15mg to 10mg on Friday 18th May. I thought of this as a happy occasion. To me, it meant my time on steroids was decreasing. The weekend was quickly passing but my anxiety levels were quickly heightening. At this point, I could handle it by distracting myself with various activities.

However, Monday ran an entirely different course than the weekend. My heart was racing, I had butterflies in my stomach and a feeling of impending doom. My breathing would become heavy at random points throughout the day. During these attacks, I couldn’t sit still, I paced the living room with my racing heart and I began to get hot and clammy. I guess you could say these were panic attacks and they happened regularly throughout the day. When I wasn’t in a panic attack, I sat with the churning feeling and thoughts that something terrible was going to happen. At night, these feelings and attacks increased. I would lay in bed to fall asleep and it would start again, I’d sit up like it was an involuntary action. I started to feel mentally tormented and at some point in an attack, I bit the inside of my cheek and drew blood.

Realising this wasn’t normal for me, I put 2+2 together. I grabbed my phone and asked on Twitter if anyone had experiences of anxiety whilst taking steroids. 14 people replied to me and each person had experienced it, some saying they can’t take steroids anymore because of it. Someone told me if you have a history of anxiety, you’re more than likely to experience this side affect. I laid back down and I could hear the faint mumbling of my brothers TV. I turned my fan off so I could hear it better, hearing and knowing my brother was in the next room made me feel safe enough to sleep.

Tuesday went the same as the previous day. But by now, I was almost hugging myself. Hearing the cars outside put me on edge and I jumped at the door being knocked on. I looked at my steroids and walked away, I couldn’t bare the thought of taking them, knowing they were the cause of intense anxiety. Mum came home from work and I finally told her how I felt, she remarked how I looked on edge and anxious. I hadn’t eaten a thing all day but I knew in a few hours I’ll be taking my usual meds so I needed food. I had to force the meal down. As my bath was running, I held my hand out and it was trembling. Whilst in the bath I decided it was best that I saw the doctor the next day. I went to bed, this time bringing my dog for comfort. He must of sensed something was amiss because he slowly crept up to me, gave me a shower of kisses and slept by my side all night. I don’t care what anyone says, dogs bring a level of comfort and calm that’s hard to replicate. Knowing I had to take the steroids at some point, I took them right before I fell asleep.

I went to the doctor and told him everything. He said, because of the timing of reducing the dose and the anxiety starting, it’s most likely the steroids. He explained that steroids can cause mental disturbances. I asked, because the dose being only 10mg, if I could just stop them that day. He said if I stopped them without weaning, I’d end up in hospital. He emailed my consultant for advice on what to do, listing everything I had said and also stating I have a history of anxiety. I had to leave and wait for the GP to call me with what my consultant replied. I came home and tried to distract myself with various activities but not a lot worked.

I received the call today with what my consultant suggests. The weaning process has been sped up, I have to continue taking 10mg for the rest of the week. I will then reduce down to 5mg for a further week and then I’ll be free of the wretched things. My consultant is positive I’ll return to my normal self after the weaning process.

Everyone knows how steroids can physically affect you, weight gain and puffy face etc. But, it’s almost like you have to discover these hidden side affects for yourself. Nobody talks or warns you about this side of steroids, which is what prompted this post. If someone is on steroids and going through this, I hope they stumble across this post and realise it’s common but hardly spoken about.

In previous posts, I remarked how I didn’t think steroids were bad. However, I would now describe them as mental poison. I have felt nothing but dread and fear. This experience has restored my fear in steroids, there’s not a chance in hell that I would take them again.

The Daith Piercing: has it worked?

My conclusion regarding the effectiveness of the daith piercing is long over due, it’s been pierced for nearly 2 months. During that time, I haven’t encountered any major issues, in the last week it has felt a bit sore but nothing excruciating, more of a bruised sensation. I bought a bottle of TCP to clean it and it’s been fine since.

Since we’re on the subject of cleaning, I’ll state now that it has been a truly awful piercing to clean. You cannot see where you’re putting the cotton bud, which resulted in me getting annoyed with myself and having someone else clean it for the first week. I was told to use cooled kettle water and salt to clean it, I opted to use Epsom Salts rather than normal salt. I had to use the salt water for two weeks and cooled water alone for a further two weeks.

Healing wise, it’s doing well, a week after it being pierced, I totally forgot it was there which resulted in “oh shit, I need to clean my ear” moments. The piercer told me I wouldn’t be able to sleep on it for a while, but 2 nights into it being pierced, I was sleeping on it fine. It caused no pain or discomfort and in the first week, it bled once but it hasn’t since. Cleaning aside, it has been one of the easiest and pain-free piercings I’ve had. And for those wondering, you can still use in-ear headphones with the piercing.

But, has it worked? I’m pulling an ‘erm’ face whilst writing this bit and as you read on you’ll see why. In the first 2-3 weeks, I still had headaches but oddly enough, only on the right side and nothing on the left side (it’s the left side that is pierced). However, I then suffered a bout of insomnia which snowballed me into a long flare. The flare was so prolonged from my usual flares that I asked the question of “am I even in a flare or has my lupus just got worse? Can that even happen?”. The headaches started back up on the left side during the insomnia period, but I gave the piercing a pass because the headaches were the result of exhaustion. However, after being prescribed sleeping tablets and sleeping a decent amount, the headaches didn’t disappear and I’m still suffering some degree of a headache daily.

BUT, and this is why I’m sat on the fence, since getting the piercing, I haven’t had one migraine. I usually have at least 1-2 a month that can last days but it’s been nearly 2 months without one. Sure, I’ve had bad headaches but nothing that requires me to stay horizontal for days or makes me feel like I’m looking directly at the sun when there’s a light on. But, this could just be a lovely coincidence because if it’s stopping migraines, why isn’t it stopping headaches?

My conclusion is that it might be affective if you suffer from migraines alone. But, let’s be real, I have several auto-immune diseases, a piercing was a long shot if medications weren’t working. If you were debating the piercing, I’d still try it because what doesn’t work for me, might work for you.

For the sake of £20 I gave it a go. I have a nice piercing though, so it isn’t a loss or waste of time…every cloud has it’s silver lining and all that!

The Daith piercing: it’s pierced!

I finally got around to it, better late than never! In the last week I have suffered two migraines, one of which was last night and it spurred me on to get it done today. I have the lingering remains of yesterdays migraine, which I took nothing for this morning so I could test out the ‘instant relief’ feeling a lot of people have spoke about. However, on the way to the piercer I started to wonder if this works in a subconscious way? I’m still very sceptical if this will work or not, at the end of the day, it is a controversial subject. But, for £20 it’s worth a try.

As I was filling the disclaimer form out, I was certain they were going to tell me I couldn’t have it pierced. There was a box I had to tick if I had an immune system issue and another box asking if I had taken aspirin in the last 24hrs. Of course, both answers were yes but still, they let me proceed. I asked the piercer if the pain would be like my Tragus piercing (the most painful piercing I’ve had done and I’ve got my tongue pierced!) to which she said yes. I asked that after she told me to lay down on the bed, I have never laid down for a piercing so naturally I thought “this is obviously going to be a horrific experience”. But, to my relief it was fine and she asked me to lay down because she was short and needed to be able to see properly. I heard stuff going on, and I thought it was her marking my ear or something. But, what I actually was hearing was a needle going through cartilage. Lovely.

As for the instant relief, nothing. There was no instant relief, which is making me believe this might just be a subconscious thing after all. Although, I can confirm my headache hasn’t worsened throughout the day and for that reason – I haven’t written it off just yet. I still need to see if the amount of headaches I get decreases or remains the same, I guess that’s the real test.

I mentioned in my last post about the piercing that I didn’t like how it looked and how I thought it looked oddly placed. But, now that it’s in I quite like it, so regardless of it working or not I’ll more than likely keep it in. It quite hidden, it’s not obvious that it’s there and I like that. Here is a picture of it:

The piercer told me it can take up to 18 months to fully heal, which is near enough the same time as my Tragus piercing. Although my Tragus piercing took maybe 3-4 months to heal, so I’m hoping the Daith piercing will follow suit and heal quicker than expected. I’ve had it pierced on my left ear due to my Tragus piercing being on the right and since the areas are close together I didn’t want it to look too busy. The only issue with this is, I sleep on my left side!

So overall, getting it pierced does not hurt. I felt no instant relief but I remain optimistic. And actually, after all my moaning – it’s actually quite pretty!

I will write an update post in a month or two. That way, I’ll know for sure if it’s a myth or a miracle!

Lupus and being abroad: diary entry 4.

This post is going to be a mixture of how I’ve been the last few days. Like I said in a previous post, I’ve had fairly equal days in terms of being good and bad. However, I have noticed in the recent few days my days have almost been split, I’m fairly good in the morning and I quickly decline by afternoon. The temperature is rising as the days go on and the breeze is slowly withering away to nothing. There usually is a breeze in the morning hours but it seems as it gets to 1pm it suddenly stops, and returns at late afternoon/sunset. This means by afternoon I’m typically under the parasol or cooling off in the water. 

I have noticed I’m affected more when my head is directly in the sun. Which is where a sun hat comes in handy, the downside is the hat makes my head sweat and can make me feel worse, it almost gives a sense of over heating. 

I thought I was doing well on the rash side but on a morning walk earlier this week I developed one. I was in Turkey in 2015, I was in limbo with getting a diagnosis and I developed a rash on my chest, just next to my shoulder. The rash I developed this earlier this week was in the exact same place. At first it didn’t bother me, in fact I hadn’t spotted it, my mother did whilst we were in the sea. But, as the day wore on, it started to itch and it became hot. The heat from it could of just been my skin in general as my shoulders were slightly red but my Lupus rashes are generally hot to touch. The rash was slightly raised, it lasted longer than I anticipated, a day and a half. I kept applying factor 50 and Nivea Soft cream. I always find Nivea Soft soothes Lupus rashes, I didn’t think ahead to pack it but luckily the little shop in the hotel sells it. 

The rash on my left shoulder/chest.

I thought my sleep issues would have settled during the holiday, with being in the sun and around the sea but they haven’t. I usually sleep on my right side but last night I couldn’t lay on it. I had pain in my right hip, like stated, I sleep on my right side so I kept reverting back to it and being awoken by pain. It wasn’t just last night that brought poor sleep, most nights have been restless, just like at home. I woke up feeling very achy and a bit out of sorts so I had a late start, I just sat in bed munching on biscuits (Milka biscuits are delightful, they’d be even nicer with a brew though) and strolling through the internet.  

As the holiday goes on I am starting to struggle more. I’m becoming increasingly fatigued and starting to have an ‘unwell’ feeling, again, it’s a feeling I can’t perfectly describe. But after all, I’m no longer designed to be in the sun, I’m not meant to be sat in it, people must honestly think I’m mad for being here and in a way I totally am mad but you can’t say I haven’t tried it. Mum overheard a woman on the beach yesterday saying she declared Lupus on her travel insurance – so it’s not just me putting myself through blazing heat and putting myself at risk of dire symptoms. Maybe madness is a trait we develop when diagnosed? If I flare massively when I return to British soil then so be it. I’d rather flare with decent wifi, my dogs and Netflix than here, when I’m meant to be enjoying myself…if I do flare as soon as I land at least Lupus has the decency to hold fire until the holiday was over. 

I’ve reached the second week, all in all I think I’ve done well. Yes, there’s been bad days but there’s also been fairly good days. I’m still enjoying myself, which is the whole point of the holiday. But, I must go because I’m bloody red hot and need to get into the sea. 

The wifi is co-operating with me today so here is some pictures! 

Breakfast yesterday: a waffle with Nutella, fresh strawberries and ice cream. At least there was fruit, right?
A little feline friend I made on the beach last week.
Mum and I one evening last week.
The view I had writing my previous post.