Troubled by my choices

What’s is troubling you today? Is it your Hidradenitis Suppurativa?

Well, if it is you are not alone. I have been managing my HS through diet for the past 11 months. It has been going really well. There have been ups and downs and even some remission.

Mostly I have avoided having any foods or drinks that I know kick my HS off – not too much fruit, no gluten, only raw dairy – no milk, limited night shades and so it goes on. 

Remember how I told you I was just about resisting temptation? Well, along came Christmas.

I fell off the wagon. I ate three or four homemade mince pies. I ate some homemade tiramisu. I ate some homemade Eton mess. I ate some homemade Panna cotta. I know, I know, you get it. Lots of puddings. That’s not all. I drank some Baileys. I had some Cadbury’s chocolate. Do you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed all of it! 

So now I am suffering. I have had recurring sores and old tracts have opened up, causing me to have pain when I walk. Along came the familiar pattern of having to change dressings whenever I had to use the bathroom. Not only that, but I have had two more spots come up – both in completely new sites, where I have never had HS before. Ever wondered what you would do if it suddenly sprouted in your armpit? Well, here it is! There is nothing I can do, except be a little sad. I have tried to be positive; however, being grateful for the amazing technology of the dressings I use and the fact I get them all free can only carry me so far. I am grateful, but I also want to cry. Is it fair that I can’t enjoy a few desserts over Christmas? It wasn’t even like I had too much! 

I know I have the option to go back to the antibiotics. It gives me comfort that if I really cannot get it back under control using my diet (studies show that willpower is finite!), I have a Plan B. Part of me feels like it is selfish to try to manage the disease using diet, as it takes so much longer to heal. I feel sad that my pain and grumpiness affects my family, when it could so easily be rectified if I just took the drugs. We could all be happy. Temporarily.

That said, the results I have seen from eating a balanced, but carefully tailored way of eating have allowed me to live a pain-free life for nearly a year, with no side-effects, no risk of immunity to antibiotics, no need to constantly balance the good bacteria in my body with probiotics. Now, if I can just get there again….

So, what is next? Well, we will see.

I give my body, my mind and my willpower another week. If the pain starts to subside and the wounds begin to heal, I will hold off on the antibiotics. If the pain continues and my quality of life continues to diminish, there will be a (reluctant) call to the Dermatologist and I will take the medication that gave me life back in 2012. 

I feel I am able to make choices about how to manage my disease and just for today, that gives me the power to say no to a croissant! 

Whatever your choices are today, remember, you are trying your best – be kind to yourself.

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A dramatic mini flare.

Life has been rosy lately. No Hidradenitis Suppurativa means I am a new woman. I can sit down like a young person again – no awkward movements whilst I ease myself into a chair like an arthritic 90-year-old sucking on a lemon. I can walk for miles without developing a John Wayne swagger. I can let Baby Bodros jump up and down on my lap without wanting to cry out like a wounded dog. I go to work. Actual work and I physically work my ass off. To a normal person, these little delights are commonplace and now I am also guilty of taking it all for granted, as it has been so long with no pain.

Then – uh, oh…complacency came and bit me on my healed, pain-free, little ass! We had a take-out and the next day – mini flare!

It was an asian shrimp and ginger dish. No extras, no rice, no noodles, but no doubt cooked with sugar, soy and God only knows what other unhelpful foods this HS sufferer should probably avoid. And it wasn’t even that good!

I developed a tiny spot in one of the unmentionable zones. It was small and leaked straight away. I nearly cried. Not from the pain, but reaching for all my little potions to clean it brought back the horrible memories of constant cleaning, wound dressing, confinement to the house during a flare and all the emotions I went through at these times. Yes. I was feeling very sorry for myself.

Two days later and it is all fine. It has nearly healed and after much placation by Mr B, my Inner Drama Queen has headed back up to her tower, back on look out for the next inevitable, looming crisis. He gently explained that it took the HS two years to get as bad as it was, so a little hiccup is unlikely to induce over 30 open sores overnight. I had been so used to any little flare aggravating the whole area, it is hard to believe that with no open sores, a little flare will remain just that. Little.

So the moral of the story? Be kind to yourself and don’t freak out. Our HS is always going to be a part of us – a part of us that we have limited control over – so we will always have to find ways to adapt around it.

Bonne journée 🙂

The truth about remission.

Once again…I’m back! Losing internet connection is a little bit like being on a desert island, isn’t it? Especially if you live abroad and don’t watch local TV. It doesn’t look like I missed much and despite the frustration at not being able to Google-up everything, I survived.

So much has happened in the past few weeks:

We moved house (the second time in under two months).

We had two lots of visitors.

I underwent a three-step interview/recruitment process. In French.

I got a job.

Bubba Bodros went into childcare.

However, despite all of those highly stressful little challenges, stopping my antibiotics last Monday was the change I feared the most. Especially as I was starting work the very same day I stopped my tablets. I wasn’t sure if it was work suicide to stop the tablets, but I crossed my fingers and stopped them anyway.

The result? I’m still in remission. It’s early stages though and I am being a little bit more careful with my diet. I have no medical knowledge, but I am assuming the effects of the antibiotics will hang around for a little longer before I experience any flares. From the Rifampicin and Clindamycin combo research that I looked at, it appeared that many people remained in remission for a while after their treatment, so it could just be temporary. But lets not get down about that! Lets evaluate the absolutely fantastic situation that I currently find myself in. Remission.

I read many comments of people asking what is remission. What does it look like? Is it when your lesions heal, but tracts remain? Is it when you just have one or two spots, but the general area has improved? Is it just improvement generally? Is it possible to achieve remission at all or are these people just exaggerating??

The online Oxford dictionary states that remission is a:

“temporary diminution of the severity of disease or pain”.

I didn’t like that one. I don’t want to hear that remission is only a ‘diminution of the severity’. I had a diminution of severity the week I started eating Paleo, but it sure as heck wasn’t remission! I carried on my search down a different vein. As I have always heard of remission in the context of cancer patients, I looked up a cancer definition of remission. It states:

“A decrease in or disappearance of signs and symptoms of cancer. In partial remission, some, but not all, signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared. In complete remission, all signs and symptoms of cancer have disappeared, although cancer still may be in the body.”

I prefer that one. It was a much better description of what I thought full remission was, and what I wished for when I was in the full throes of a Hidradenitis Suppurativa flare. It was what I dreamed my diet would bring about, but a state I was unable to reach. It wasn’t the diet’s fault, I just think there were too many open sores to heal and I was still working out which foods caused me to flare.

Remission for my case is no open sores, no swelling and no pain. I can still feel tracts under my skin (perhaps just the scars from them) and have small bulges of scar tissue all around my groin. It is amazing! I hope to stay in remission by keeping away from trigger foods. it is all gravy so far!

To summarise, it would appear that when people say they are in remission , but still have some HS activity, they are right to state their case. However, for those of you seeking remission in the way that I understand it – no current symptoms at all, it really is possible, too.

Go see your derm, keep working at the diet, be positive and above all be kind to yourself 🙂

 

Holiday and travel. Part deux.

I am heading back to the UK for a surprise visit for a close friend’s hen weekend. I am so excited about the holiday and seeing friends and family, but extremely apprehensive. I guess travelling alone with a 22 month old baby would be a scary enough prospect for anyone, but for me that is not the biggest issue. I have different concerns.

I will not have my own food and limited access to kitchens for the first couple of days. After a day of travelling on Tuesday, we will be staying at a friend’s house in Hassock’s for one night and will be visiting in London the following day. I won’t be at Mum’s until Wednesday evening. I’m still struggling to come to terms with the limited foods that I can eat. As I so often fall off the wagon, I feel it’s a little hypocritical of me to start demanding that people make allowances for my diet. On the other hand, I should have the right to choose when I want to fall off my wagon – shouldn’t I? Even 3 months on, I’m still not sure how to deal with my dietary changes in new situations. In any case, I’ve packed a whole loads of fruit for the trip and plan on buying bags of washed salad for my lunch on Wednesday. My lovely, accommodating friend has reassured me that my food needs are not too tricky, so Tuesday evening should be fine, too.

My other issues are a bit more icky. Dressings and washable pads. I’ll strap on some Mepilex, gauze and Micropore before I leave, and at my first loo break, I’ll just ditch them. If I don’t strap up and I have to walk for some distance, I get sore much quicker. However, with a suitcase, baby and baby-carrier, I don’t think I’ll quite manage to replace the dressings on my journey. What will I do with my washable pads (yes, I have made my own home-made sanitary pads and they are much more comfortable than the plasticky disposables)? I think I have a waterproof zip bag that I can use – but who wants to be carrying dirty pads around with them?! After weighing it up, I figure it is just another thing I should get over. I just need to be prepared when I go change the pads, and have my little bag ready.

I’m disappointed that I’m already flaring from my last holiday. I so wanted to be flare-free and hoped to indulge a little more this time. With a camping trip planned for the weekend, with camping food and cocktails, I really wanted some leeway. On the other hand, I’m also disappointed that I’m completely off track. I so wanted to be disciplined with this. I wanted to heal my leaky gut, be flare-free, head into remission and live a pain-free life. Instead I am on a different path, but one that means I am living and enjoying life. I am not ensconced in my diet and I am not monitoring every little change in my skin. I am socialising, laughing, having fun and eating fun foods. I am, for much of the time, pretending I haven’t got this disease. My flares are much worse, but I know that after these holidays, I will back to reality. HS doesn’t let you forget for long.