Archive for ‘Candida’

April 6, 2014

Playing a Long Game (or, Finally, A Post That Isn’t about Books)

History, literature, and sports. are full of stories that extol the virtue of expending oneself completely for a great and noble cause. The best example of this is, of course, a Greek story. The first guy to ever run a marathon ran from a battle to report his army’s loss to Athens 26.2 miles away. Upon the delivery of his message, the poor fellow died. (Incidentally, this is a decent argument for not running marathons.) But then there’s Kerri Strug – y’all remember her? – who secured the gold medal for the Magnificent 7 by successfully completing a vault on a screwed up ankle, after which she collapsed. From stories like this, I grew up with the impression that “doing my best” meant doing everything physically possible, completely exhausting all my resources if necessary, in order to accomplish something.

My body and my heart and my mind and my spirit and all that stuff are very mushed together. I like to explain it this way: I am really really really all one thing. And while there are definite perks to being built that way, there are some downsides. I don’t handle stress well, and because of how incredibly corporeal I am, my body bears the brunt of my stress. Ever since I first got a glimpse of how this connection works in me, I’ve been trying to sever, or at least diminish, it. Instead, the effects of my stress change. It’s like stress is charging my body a toll, and when I figure out that I’ve (unbeknownst to myself) been paying in rubles, I yell, “Cut that out!” and the sneaky toll payer in me starts paying in euros instead. Case in point: I was so stressed my senior year of high school I started throwing up every Wednesday, like clockwork. It stopped when I went to college, but recurred periodically. I was thinking surely I had some sort of stomach problem, but my doctor eventually convinced me it was stress. And just like that, I stopped stress-vomiting… and started storing my stress more profoundly in my shoulders. This sort of shifting seems to occur regularly – and means that I am not dealing with my stress problem, just burying it under a different rug until it again becomes undeniable and overwhelming.

So I’ve been rethinking a lot of things. While it might be a bad idea for someone else to take on a stressful job, for me it can mean becoming completely debilitated. The stakes are really high. And I am a driven person, who really enjoys high-energy situations – but I am also a person with a body that is broken in such a way that high-energy situations can be really dangerous for my health. Thinking “Yeah, I’m not doing so well, but I can keep this up for the next 3 weeks before it completely lays me out flat” does not lead to a healthy lifestyle.

This whole idea that we are supposed to constantly be giving 100% does have some merit. The one thing we are commanded to do at 100% is love God – with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, as His sons and daughters, we ought to be loving God this way in everything we do. But as we love Him, as we serve Him, part of our job is to be good stewards. Sometimes we have a calling or person for which/whom we are to, like Paul, pour ourselves out like drink offerings (2 Tim 4:6) – like this woman. But notice Paul’s context – he is dying. I’m starting to think that kind of push-yourself-to-the-last-inch-and-then-a-little-more might belong in contexts with a definite finish line. Like death.

My Greek professor in seminary tried to help us come to terms with this phenomenon, telling us that we’re incapable of doing it all, and that we had to prioritize our goals and responsibilities – and allocate our efforts in a way appropriate to those priorities. For the next three weeks, he told us, our full attention was to be on Greek I. “So,” he told my married classmates, “tell your wives you love them and kiss them goodbye for the next three weeks. Because to do this well, to lay the foundation you’ll need for Greek II, you need to immerse yourselves as much as possible in studying the language.” But he went on to explain that we could not expect to give A-effort to everything in seminary – or in life. “You may need to decide that you’re going to be satisfied with a B in a class because you need to be spending more time with your wife and kids. You may need to give one class C effort so you can work harder in a class that’s harder for you to bring up your grade.” Rocket science, this is not… so why does it seem so hard to do?

The aftermath of my most recent bout with endometriosis (and the coinciding fungal disaster) has meant piecing together what it means to have a body with these limitations and this pain, what it means to play a long game instead of pushing myself to the breaking point time and again. And I think I’m starting to get an idea of what the puzzle’s going to look like put together.

Freedom in Christ means a lot of things. One of them is that I am free to say no. For a driven person like me, this has been a hard thing. I’ve been keeping the Sabbath for the last 18 years or so has helped tremendously, because I am used to practicing the fact that it is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, not my own, that makes me holy. That has been a huge encouragement and help to my faith. God is using the disciplined living out of the truth to change my heart and life – and to equip me to handle bigger, more uncomfortable truths I need to learn.

January 5, 2013

A Tale of, Oh, Eight Doctors or So (Pt. 5)

Refresher/update on the doctor list:

  • Dr. One – reproductive endocrinologist who I’ve worked with occasionally over the last 3.5 years
  • Dr. Two –old obgyn, buddy of Dr. One who did my first laparoscopy and found endometriosis
  • Dr. Three – new obgyn who actually had new ideas and gave me some options besides
  • Dr. Four – spinal pain doctor
  • Dr. Five – new internist
  • Dr. Six – gastroenterologist/allergy specialist
  • the new
  • Dr. Seven – brilliant, genius obgyn/pelvic pain specialist in California who I want to do my upcoming surgery
  • Dr. Eight – this guy should have been on the list ages ago: he’s a chiropractor/kinesiologist who has been treating me periodically since I had that parasite in 2008, which he got rid of

I’ve waited a while to update y’all to include the appointment I had today with Dr. Six. See, whenever I get blood drawn to test for the fungus antibodies, it takes weeks to get it back, and so I’m usually operating with month-old information. Anyway, here’s the situation as we think it is now.

1. The pain from the fungus has significantly lessened, almost to zero. Though apparently it will take a while for my immune system to recognize that the the fungus has been beaten back, it has apparently been beaten back. In December  So I am able to get out of bed more days than not now, and I have issues with nausea way less often. I started to suspect that the fungus was gone maybe 4 weeks ago, and Dr. Eight, who isn’t really that kind of doctor, tested me with his fancy tests and said the fungus was gone and the endometriosis is devastating me. Today, Dr. Six basically confirmed this as very possible, and said that the anti-Candida antibodies will take awhile to diminish in numbers (which explains why I’m still testing high). He told me to stop taking the bomb (Diflucan) now, and in a month to drop my Nystatin pills from 3 down to 2 a day. (Nystatin is an anti-fungal medication that keeps the fungus from growing.) We’ll see how it goes.

2. My endometriosis is back. We always thought it might be an underlying factor in this whole drama. It is the worst it has ever been. I am in pain every day, and it’s usually pretty strong pain. So while I’m not bed-bound anymore, I’m still significantly incapacitated.

I found a doctor out in California named Andrew Cook, who is a leading expert on endometriosis and pelvic pain. He uses a different method that almost all doctors to eradicate endometriosis – excision rather than burning with lasers. Excision is much more precise because you can actually see what you have done; burning leaves, well, burned looking stuff. It’s hard to tell if you got it all, especially since endometriosis has depth as well as breadth. And of course, since mine is located mainly on a nerve over my left leg, nobody wants to risk going too deep. This is why it keeps coming back there. But Dr. Cook, aka Dr. Eight, looks and excises on a microscopic, cellular level. Oh, and the stats on this doc are fantastic, especially for endometriosis patients – we are hard to treat.

SO, needless to say, I am hoping to go to California sometime in the next month-ish for surgery with Dr. Seven. It’s my best shot at beating the endo, plus it has the benefit of NOT BEING A HYSTERECTOMY. Which I really, really am glad about. (Of course, if you get a hysterectomy but don’t have an effective laparoscopy, the pain and problems can persist. Endometriosis likes to colonize.)

3. Dr. Six did some allergy testing, which I’ve never had done before. Apparently, though I don’t have celiac disease (which I was tested for several years ago), I’m allergic to gluten. I’m also allergic to, shocker, wheat. And yogurt. And bran.  And rye and casein, sort of. This is very very sad – I love cheese and milk and pizza and flour tortillas and pasta. I know there are substitutes and stuff, but there’s no denying this is going to make my life way more complicated. 😦 But I’m sure I’ll figure it out with a bit of help from Mom and the internet.

The hardest part is that right now, I can’t have much sugar. Some fruits, like pears, apples, and citrus fruits, are fine, but honey, corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, etc. are all off limits. Which stinks, because I have found tons of great recipes that involve all kinds of great recipes that have sugar in them. And it will be awhile, apparently, before I can eat them with any kind of regularity.

So there’s your update. Progress = good. Surgery = good. Gluten = bad.

November 10, 2012

Methyl B-12

There is this teeny-tiny little pill I am supposed to take each day. It’s one of those “dissolve in your mouth” things, and it’s supposed to taste like cherry.

It is vile. It’s not that it tastes bad so much as it constantly tastes! It probably doesn’t help that the pill, tiny as it is, takes forever to dissolve. There’s this phantom taste and graininess that haunts my sleeping and my waking. You think I’m kidding – I have dreams about not taking this pill. I try to mask it or eradicate it by eating other things, by brushing my teeth, etc. – nothing is reliable. It’s disgusting.

And I thought I’d share.

November 5, 2012

Since I Last Wrote…

Spaz thou not, gentle reader. I am still alive. But let me tell you about all the stuff I didn’t tell you about in media res. For quite a lot has happened.

  • After Dr. Six was quite disappointed in how much progress I’d made after 4 weeks, I went back to see the doctor (chiropractor/kinesiologist, not MD) who figured out I had a parasite several years ago, and he deduced that I had TWO strains of Candida, and only one was being treated. He gave me some OTC herbal meds (the same stuff we used to get the parasite out in 2008), and when I saw him two weeks later, he said it was gone. Now I’m just taking the meds for maintenance (to keep them gone).
  • Watching the Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates. Great, great fun. Truly.
  • I went on a road trip with my parents (and, for a stretch, with my sister and her adorable baby, who you can coo at here) to a friend’s wedding in NC and to see family in VA. I missed the wedding itself, but it was my sister and parents whose presence was really needed. I hate the timing of some of these bad days. Traveling was very hard on me, but that was expected.
  • My brain has turned back on. Now, it doesn’t work very consistently, and sometimes it’s just flat-out stupid about things, and it still splices and makes up words, but it feels different all the time. And I’m not worried about accidentally making irrational decisions so much anymore.
  • I have started having about 3 – sometimes even 4 – good days a week. That is HUGE. And a good day is not a pain-free day, because those don’t exist, but they are days when the pain and any other debilitating symptoms are minor enough that I can get out of bed and go do things – things like buying this nice ottoman, or tearing out the summer garden, or attending bridal luncheons in Nebo, North Carolina. Unfortunately, the bad days are typically just as bad as ever – quite insufferable, if you ask me.
  • Many of my close friends have been quite busy lately. My cousin had a baby on Saturday; my dear friend Missy and her family got a referral to finally go get their daughter from Ethiopia; another pair of dear friends found out their baby is terminally ill. Friends have gotten engaged. Friends have announced pregnancies. Friends are anticipating babies. And because I’m me, all those things are, to an extent at least, things that warrant a place in my summary.
  • I finished the biggest needlepoint project I have attempted, a rooster with some fancy borders. (A needlepoint-focused post is forthcoming, which, by the way will have lots of pictures and probably some theology in it.)
  • In the past week or so, I have watched an insane amount of period and British dramas – rewatched Downton Abbey Season 2, the 5 hour Pride & Prejudice, and Harry Potter 1-6. Suffice it to say, I am saying things like “insufferable” and “take a proper Sabbath.”

Today I am 28. In my mind, 28 has been a magical age, the age by which I hoped to have accomplished certain goals and been in a certain place in life. To say those hopes have not been realized is certainly true, but this whole health-thing has thrown me off considerably from the trajectory I was on to accomplish a number of my “30 by 30” goals. I aim to use those sorts of things as helps, not hard and fast plans. But I confess I am disappointed, and that maybe I am not so good at refraining from clinging to the things I want. My tendency is to overreact, to not have goals. I am, frankly, scared to think more than very, very hypothetically about what happens after I am well, because I am afraid of being disappointed.

Not that I am all mopey and sad today. Not at all. Just, you know, pensive.

Not a bad thing to be when you’re turning 28.

September 19, 2012

Well this feels weird…

Like I said in my last post, the anti-Candida war has a lot to do with diet. So mine has been in massive upheaval since last Friday. I’m keeping a food journal to try to track what I’m eating when, since I have to spread foods out, especially vegetables. Apparently a person with my condition is very likely to develop new allergies if foods are eaten too frequently. (Of course, that means my trend of eating the same thing for breakfast every day has to go out the window. Also, said breakfast has been a handful of nuts for the past few years, and that has to end too, because nuts you get in the store most often are growing mold already.)

ANYWAY, right now I am drinking a new thing – an enormous smoothie that tastes strongly of parsley and pineapple with a hint of pear and banana. If you like that sort of thing (I happen to LOVE parsley), borrow away.

Pear, Parsley, and Pineapple Smoothie (modified from original here)

  • 4 ripe pears, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1/2 banana
  • 3/4 cup pineapple.
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup ice

Dump it all into a big ole food processor and process away.

So, without hardly any carbs (besides the carbs in, like, oranges and stuff), no caffeine, no Dr Pepper, no sugar, no products with wheat in them (including soy sauce – did you know that has wheat in it?), no vinegar, nothing “aged” like wine or cheese, no dairy but butter (which for some reason is ok), etc., I’ve been a little grouchy. That’s been frustrating for me, and I’m sure for my caretakers/parental units. Thank goodness for carrots.

Thankfully, my parents are the most supportive, helpful human beings on the planet. The latest example: my mother has bent over backward to make food I can eat, even trying some of it with me – like the quinoa chicken soup she made a couple of days ago. It was really good, with a bit of soup. She modified it from a recipe with orzo, but since I can’t have pasta… let’s just say she’s getting good at this.

We’re planning a garden so we can grow some of the vegetables that are particularly in high demand in my diet (like brussel sprouts) or that are particularly prone to being moldy at the grocery store (like lettuce). We’ve already bought a bunch of herb plants, since I can’t eat the herbs you pick up in the grocery store cooking section. (Guess why: mold!)

So if you happen to have any great recipes that have easily modifiable or very simple ingredients, to recommend, leave ’em in the comments!

September 14, 2012

A Tale of, Oh Nine or So Doctors (Pt. 4, The One with the Diagnosis)

Today it was time for a follow up appointment with Dr. Six. He’d run a ton of bloodwork, so we went over the results.

All of my normal blood test results were normal (kinda convenient, eh?); what came back weird was the test that he ordered for Candida Albicans anti-bodies. Basically, he explained it this way – the more of something bad you have in you posing a threat (like Candida-gone-rogue), the more antibodies your body makes to fight them. Makes sense, right? But unfortunately, with this fungus (maybe all fungi, who knows, I’m not a doctor), those antibodies manage only to tear down the fungal cell walls, releasing all the toxins out into, say, my bloodstream.

There are 7 classes of infection. Basically, the least is Class 0, and there would be a <1 result for that. I think Class 2 is 3-5, and I know Class 5 is 50-100. I tested in Class 6, >100. Which means basically my body is fighting tooth and nail against this stuff, and it’s everywhere, and there isn’t currently a category for a worse infection than mine. The toxins are causing all my inflammation.

Now apparently this is a very controversial diagnosis, and has been since the 70s, but a lot of people have been helped by the treatments. And the book sounds an awful lot like me. And, come on, those test results are freaky. And Dr. Six is, as we know, awesome.

Dr. Six has put me on a four-pronged treatment plan. He drew this cool diagram and explained it all and I am not going to do that for you, so here’s my weak explanation of all the stuff he said.

  1. Prescription anti-fungal medications. I’ll actually be taking 2 – one that arrests growth and the other that does heavy damage. Apparently, it might cause a lot of pain (compared to now, even!) to attack hard, so we are going to be a bit gentler on my system.
  2. Diet change. Oh my stars, people, my diet is going to have to change SO MUCH. Because basically, this stuff feeds on mold and sugar. And guess what has sugar in it: EVERYTHING. And guess what has mold in it: ALMOST EVERYTHING ELSE. Just to give you a sampling, here are some things I cannot eat, probably ever again: wine, beer, almost all cheese, anything made from wheat flour, melons, pickles (yes, including pickled okra), white rice, most dried herbs from the grocery store, soy sauce, and peanut butter. This diet change is supposed to facilitate the starvation of the fungus.
  3. Probiotics. As we kill all this bad stuff, we don’t want a vacuum to form – or we’ll likely just get more Candida growth. So instead, we are trying to fill in that “space” so to speak with good stuff. Probiotics = good bacteria introduced. I think this makes sense.
  4. Exercise. For me right now, this can mean walking around the pool a couple of times on some days and walking downstairs and then back up on others. I am very limited by my pain. But every little bit will help the good guys win and the bad guys lose, so I guess I’ll be trying to do more laps around the pool.

There is a secret 5th prong: DRINK A WHOLE LOT OF WATER. But that I’ve gathered from the books and websites I’ve been reading.

So when will I be better? That’s definitely still an unknown. Dr. Six has treated patients with the the whole 9 yards for anywhere from 6 months – 2 years for this condition. He does think I should feel a definite change within the next four weeks, which is good, because while I was waiting in the lobby, I had to run to the bathroom to throw up because of the pain. So a definite change will be welcome.

Y’all, ever since this started I have had scads of folks tell me what they thought was wrong with me, and suggest I go see their favorite doctor because s/he figured it out. Sometimes, the connections were incredibly tenuous, or people were like, “I knew someone once whose cousin had this thing on her toe and a sore on her mouth, and it turned out she had brain cancer. Maybe you should get checked for that.” Amidst all the hubbub and the help (cause people were really trying to help, and some of them succeeded), my dear friend Missy correctly guessed what was wrong, and pushed me to push doctors to look into that.

Since I’d rather reward Missy’s sheer brilliance than do the typical blogger “giveaway to random integer generator commenter luckier than you person,” I’ll be giving her a little something soon (I’ll keep you posted). I’d do something similar for the friend who recommended Dr. Six, but she’d be mortified, so instead I think I will get her a book and keep it on the down-low.

(Obviously you’ll want to know how this diet is going to go. And whether killing the fungus will kill my brain, which perhaps has been itself a giant mushroom for years. And if I adopt a parrot that can only say “Occupy Wall Street!” So stay tuned.)

(Unless you’re totally grossed out. In which case, by the time I’m actually back in heels and doing theology, you will miss it.)