In Sickness & In Health

A few months ago, I changed things up a bit and shared my daughter Chanel’s thoughts on living with a parent who suffers from a chronic illness.  Now I want to allow my husband Carl the opportunity to share his experience.  Carl has stuck by me and has been my rock through this journey and I think it might be helpful for others to hear things from his perspective.  I’m sure when we were married, neither one of us could have ever imagined walking through this journey called Lyme Disease! #insicknessandinhealth

So here’s Carl in his own words, I pray you find this helpful.

Q: Carl, what has been your experience living with someone who has a chronic illness?

A: My experience has been challenging and overwhelming, at times. This may sound crazy, but I’m so glad God chose me for the task. In my eyes, it has made me a better person and definitely allowed me to have a better relationship with Him.

Q: What has been the most challenging?

A: I say this in the most kind and forward way I know how to. Please hear my heart and not read this answer as me complaining. One of the most challenging things I tend to navigate through is not knowing who or what I’m waking up or coming home to. Some days I may come home to a wife that is full of energy and ready to conquer the world and other days is one where she needs to be nursed/taken care of, because she is having an episode of excruciating pain that will not allow her to move.

Q: What would you say to other spouses or family members living with someone who has a chronic illness to encourage them?

A: Not just learn, but become as close as possible to an expert about the illness (the more you learn, the more you will be able to understand and help your spouse/family/partner to navigate through it). Join some type of support group, if not a group then a person that you are able to vent to (or talk you off the ledge). Finally don’t give up! For every reason you can think about leaving, I can give you ten for staying.

Q: How do you stay positive?

A:First and foremost  GOD. Staying in the word of God is key to overcome all obstacles life presents. I have lived long enough to know today is Windy that is ill, but tomorrow that could be me. I try to live everyday (to be transparent some days I fail) loving and caring for Windy, the way I would like to be cared for, if it was me suffering from an illness. I know there will be times that I must wear a shield not just to protect and guard my feelings, but also to protect others from my flesh. 

Q: Is there anything else you want others to know?

A: This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Be mindful that depending on the illness it might take years to overcome it (if it has a cure). Extend lots of grace and empathy to your spouse/partner. Pace yourself and don’t walk this out alone!

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My favorite picture of us!

Thanks for your support!

XO, Windy

Gluten Anyone?

So for those of you who know me really well, you know how much I love good food! I guess you could say I’m a self proclaimed “foodie”.  My husband Carl and I like to try new places to eat. Carl has created a list that he keeps in his phone of places he wants us to try.  Our friends often call on us when they are planning a date night and want a yummy place to eat.

Now, let me tell y’all what happened to me about 2 years ago!  I still can’t believe it myself…

I guess it was Summer of 2018.  I’m starting to get used to the daily IV infusions, when I began to experience some issues with my digestive system.  Right after I would eat, I would begin to experience some discomfort, however it was inconsistent so I didn’t really pay too much attention to it.  As the days and weeks went on, I began to notice pain in my stomach that at times hurt so bad that I would double over in agony.  My joints would begin to hurt, first in my left shoulder, then it would progress all over my body.  It was so strange, and I could not understand what was causing the pain.  A few times I would become nauseous and begin to vomit until whatever I ate was out of my system.  This went on for months until I mentioned it to my doctor who would run a series of tests to try to figure out what was going on.  A few days went by and the phone rang.  The doctor asks me if I had ever heard of Gluten.  I said yes, and asked what that had to do with me.  He said, “Well your test results are back and you cannot have Gluten”.  Say what????  He started talking to me about Celiac Disease and then asked if I’d always had issues with food causing me pain.  In that moment I couldn’t think of anything, I was still in shock by what I was hearing.  Honestly, the only thing on my mind was bread and how this news was going to impact my love for it.  I mean bread is one of my favorite things and now that was gone…at least that’s what I was thinking in this moment.

Fast forward one day when talking with one of my college friends, she reminded me how I would get so tired and not feel well after a meal.  I would always complain of my shoulder joints hurting, feeling sick and needing to lay down.  Then I spoke with my dad who shared that he and my mom had a hard time finding formula for me because I had a hard time with it. In 1972, my parents didn’t know what Gluten was (I guess my pediatrician didn’t either-Ha!).  So, it was concluded that I’ve had this issue with Gluten my entire life, but the Lyme Disease triggered it in such a way that I could no longer tolerate it, even in small amounts.

Nowadays, whenever I eat even a very small amount of Gluten, I begin to feel extremely sick and my small intestine tightens up and my body is flooded with intense pain and inflammation.  The only thing that helps is for me to bring up whatever I’ve eaten and even then I still feel the side effects for about a week.  I hate dining out now because I feel like I am interrogating the server to make sure there is no Gluten or cross-contamination.  You might be wondering what cross-contamination is.  To put it as simply as I can, it’s when you have food that does not contain Gluten and cook it (or use the same utensils ) on the same surface, skillet etc as you would food that does contain Gluten, that creates cross-contamination.  For me, I am so sensitive to Gluten that even the slightest error will cause a huge issue for me so I have to be careful.  Many restaurants will tell you their food is Gluten-Free, but there’s so much cross-contamination going on in the kitchen that the Gluten Free food is no longer Gluten Free.  It’s hard to explain…

I would love to see a lot more education about Gluten/Celiac Disease in the restaurant industry. More needs to be done for restaurant owners, chefs, and their staff , to better understand the risks.  Additionally, to understand how to properly prepare Gluten Free options and more importantly, how to eliminate cross-contamination.  I do see some progress, and there are quite a few places to eat here in the Austin, TX area that understand and do it right.  I feel safe at the places that know what I mean when I mention cross-contamination or have a protocol in place when someone requests GF options.  Here are a few of my favorite places (in no particular order) that have many options and/or have a protocol in place to avoid cross-contamination:

These days, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are cooking most of our meals at home, but one day I hope to enjoy a few of these places again.  Until then, off to the kitchen we go!

Until next time,

XO,

Windy

P/S

If you know of a great place to get Gluten Free options in the Austin, TX area, please comment on this post or shoot me an email to windy@windyjcumberbatch.org

Windy Eating Dee's Cupcakes

Me eating a GF Red Velvet & Chocolate Chip Cupcake made by our daughter, Dee, owner of Dee’s Sweets & Treats!

Good Day-Bad Day-New Day!

I recently celebrated my 48th birthday and spent some time reflecting on the past few years.  All the challenges I have faced and the impact chronic illness has had on my life. Fast forward to 2020, I realize with everything going on with COVID-19/Coronavirus, that my emotions have fluctuated from good to bad in a matter of a few minutes.  It’s easy to become fearful of the unknown as we all try our best to get used to our new normal. To navigate the reality of the changes in our daily routine and to wonder what each new day will bring. I must admit that I try to limit the amount of news I take in each day as it can be quite overwhelming.  I put my hope and trust in God, knowing he is in control.

When thinking about my journey, what do my Good Days look like?  These are the days when my symptoms seem to be in check and I am able to navigate through the day with minimal issues.  Some days I feel so good, I forget I’m sick.  I am able to do a little more than the previous day.  I am able to be present in family interactions, chat a little longer on the phone without losing my train of thought (short term memory loss) and do more around the house without feeling like I’m about to pass out.  I look forward to these days, where I feel a little more like myself.  While it may not look the way I want it to look, I am still very grateful.

Then there those days when I am reminded of how my symptoms continue to ebb and flow with new treatment and medications. Insert Bad Day: At times it is easy for me to get caught up in my emotions and feel sorry for myself and become bitter about being sick, really sick and for a long time. The flare ups, the brain fog and fatigue can feel like a lot to handle at times.  Some might think it’s ok for me to feel frustrated given all I deal with on a daily basis, but it’s important for me to stay the course and stay focused on the promises of God.  To remember that in this life there will be challenges, but joy WILL come in the morning.

Lastly, I look forward to each New Day and all that it has to offer.  Each day is a fresh start, a new opportunity to experience God’s love, to encourage others and to get one step closer to living out God’s purpose for my life.  I know this illness is my testimony to others about the goodness of God.  Throughout my entire journey He has been with me, provided for me and my family and protected me.  “I know the plans I have for you” Jeremiah 29:11 reminds me and I believe this too shall pass.  My hope is that by sharing my journey with chronic illness, others are Empowered | Encouraged | Inspired to never give up no matter what you are facing.  I continue to pray for others who are facing challenges knowing that we will get through this together!  

XO & Be Safe,

Windy

Be thankful for where you are now and keep fighting and working for what you want to be tomorrow

 

 

 

 

You’re Tougher Than You Think

Walking through this chronic illness journey has really caused me to reflect on all the things that have transpired, especially the past 2 years which have been really rough for me physically and emotionally.  It would be easy for me to get upset and become bitter for the loss of my former self.  To wallow in self pity, feeling like the world is against me.  I’m sure many of you would say I have every right to feel betrayed somehow, but you know what…I’m learning that I’m a lot tougher than I thought.

I have been living with Chronic Lyme, Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia since 2003 (maybe a little longer for the Fibromyalgia) and it has not been easy.  Each day brings with new symptoms, lots of pain and fatigue.  I wake up each day not really knowing how I’m going to feel or what I may or may not be able to do that day.  The hardest thing for me so far is not being able to work.  I deal with a lot of cognitive issues, short term memory loss and brain fog.  I can’t control the things I can remember and it’s very frustrating.  I try to write things down so I don’t forget, but that sometimes poses a challenge when I can’t remember where I put the note.  Some things that have I have been doing for years are easier for me to accomplish, but even those things start to become challenging for me.  I thank God that those who love me and those I do life with extend lots of grace and are very patient with me, which is a huge relief.  I will admit at times it does cause a disagreement with my husband or family member when they tell me something I said or did and I can’t remember.  In my mind, if I can’t remember it, it didn’t happen.  Slowly, I’m learning to say, “You might be right, but I don’t remember that”.  That helps keep the arguments to a minimum, but at times I have stood my ground and that’s no fun!!!!  As hard as it is, I am learning that it’s ok to forget and it’s ok to say “I’m sorry”.  (My husband will love that I said that).  Ha!

When I was growing up, my mother would always say “To whom much is given, much is required” and I truly believe that with all my heart.  God has been so good to me and my family over the years.  He’s given me “much” therefore, “much” is required of me.  Yeah, being sick sucks at times but guess what…this too shall pass and I’m learning with each passing day that I’m tougher than I thought!

Until next time,

WJC

What Those Of Us Who Suffer From A Chronic Illness Want You To Know

Since being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, I have been blessed to have the support of a loving family (a special shout out to my hubby Carl) and some pretty amazing friends.  Whatever I need, they are always there to encourage me and do whatever they can to make things easier for me.  That being said, there are some things that you may not realize about me and others who suffer in silence out of love and care for those near and dear to us.

Most days, on the outside to most people I look completely normal.  If only you could see what’s really going on inside. There’s a lot going on.  I work hard to hide my symptoms because I don’t want others to feel sorry for me, more importantly, I don’t want people to worry about me.  I’ve always been one that is independent and self-sufficient, but with this illness, at times I need the help and support of others which is at times hard for me to accept.  You see, on the outside, you don’t see the anxiety I deal with (thanks to brain fog and short term memory loss), hoping I don’t forget something important, like how to get home (which has happened) or the intense pain that consumes every ounce of my being or the hand tremors that makes my writing impossible to interpret or the days that my legs just decide they just don’t want to cooperate and last but not least when out of the blue I lose my voice for no apparent reason.  What a way to live right?  That’s just scratching the surface.  Because I care so much for my family and friends (each of you), I go to great lengths to disguise what I’m going through.  If there’s too much attention on my symptoms, I become insecure and stressed about what others might think of me which is obviously no way to live.

I share all of this with you to say, 1- thank you for your support, it really means a lot to me, more than words could ever say and 2- most days there’s a lot going on with me so if I seem a bit off, especially in social settings it’s not you, it’s me.  I am hopeful that one day I will be able to report that I am in remission or that I am completely healed.  Until then, keep me in your thoughts and prayers and I will be sure to do the same for you and your family.

Thank you for reading!

XO,

Windy

You Are What You Eat!

Since being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, I’ve come across people who have suggested that what I eat might be having a negative affect on my body.  This is not something I wanted to hear because, well if you know me, you know how much I love to eat.  I must admit that my husband and I are known for going on date night and finding a new restaurant to try in downtown Austin.  We have a running list that we work from and are always adding to it!

During the month of January, I decided to give healthier eating a try to see if would help with some of the symptoms.  I gave up meat, coffee (boy was that hard), sugar, bread, and dairy!  Did I mention how much I love a good steak?  I started eating more fruits and vegetables and much to my surprise I slowly started to notice a difference in the way I felt each day.

The first week was the toughest as I started having caffeine withdrawals in the form of some pretty intense headaches. Once I got past that, things started to get better for me.  Right away, I noticed less inflammation, especially in my stomach area.  I think that is a direct result of me giving up bread and pasta, which I love almost as much as I love a great prime rib.  I also noticed the brain fog decreased a bit as I felt a greater clarity at times.  Not all the time, but it was a little better.  I didn’t feel as sluggish or drained as I normally did and less pain in my joints.  One new thing that I tried that I plan to continue is at least once per week having a carrot/turmeric shot with black pepper.  Since I started taking those shots, I have noticed less pain in my joints and less inflammation.  The black pepper helps with absorption.

To make a long story short, I like the way I feel when I’m making better food choices and will try to keep it as much as possible.  I have re-introduced some of the foods I had avoided, slowly and will only eat many of them in moderation if at all.  I’m still not back to my having my daily Americano from Starbucks, but’s that probably not a bad thing!

Still fighting,

Windy

 

 

 

 

Help Is On The Way

As you likely imagine, by this point I am feeling very disappointed and hopeless.  Not knowing if I would ever find out what’s wrong with me is very disturbing to say the least.  At night while my family sleeps, I pray to God to guide me in the right direction to get the answers I sought.  He did just that!

In a previous post I mentioned that I met someone who also had Chronic Lyme Disease.  I reached out to her to gain more information about her treatment and the doctor she that was treating her.  After many hours of discussion and research, my husband and I decided it was worth a shot.  You see the doctor that I would begin seeing is located in Louisiana!  6 hours away from where I live in the Austin, Texas area.  The costs of travel and the unknown costs for copays, labs and potential medicine was worth me getting the answers I needed and longed for.  You may be asking why I need to drive all the way to Louisiana.  What I am learning is that in Texas there are not many doctors who are Lyme literate (more to come on that) and I have heard of people with Chronic Lyme Disease traveling as far as Chicago and California to seek treatment.  I know, it sounds crazy but it’s true.

So off we go to Louisiana.  As you can imagine I am feeling a wide range of emotions at this point.  Excited about getting some answers to scared of what I might find out to anger that I had to drive all this way because my own doctor brushed me off.  My wonderful husband is doing a great job at keeping me calm and focused.  He’s great at that…that’s one of the reasons I love him so.

We arrive.  We walk in an there are several patients in the waiting room.  My husband checks me in while I get situated in the lobby.  I am comforted by the many scriptures posted around the office.  God knew I needed to see that.  When I finally get called back to see the doctor, I provided him with all my medical records and he asked me a series of questions and such.  He did an exam, drew blood for lab work and some x-rays of my head.  Based on what he saw in my file, my symptoms and his examination he determined that there was a strong likelihood that I did in fact have Lyme Disease as well as a Co-Infection of Lyme Disease called Bartonella.  To be completely certain of a positive result, he wanted to wait to get the blood tests back.  

At this point, you may be wondering just what kind of symptoms I am having so I thought I’d share some with you (this is not all my any means):

Hand tremors, Brain Fog, Short Term Memory Loss, Unable to Focus or concentrate, pain, tingling and numbness in my feet/legs/arms, shooting pain in legs, insomnia, loss of balance, involuntary muscle movement, involuntary movement of limbs, weakness in hands/legs/arms, dizziness, abdominal pain, vertigo, extreme exhaustion (all the time), low-grade fever, loss of voice, eye infection, tenderness in the crown of my head, swelling and tender joints (fibromyalgia),blurred vision and back pain.  In total, I have a combination of 140+ symptoms.  Not all at the same time and not every day.  Each day is different, so I never know how I am going to feel when I wake up each day.

Finally after about 4 weeks, I go back to Louisiana for my second visit and got my test results.  I tested positive for “Chronic” Lyme Disease and during this appointment he also determined that I have Fibromyalgia and of course the Co-Infection Bartonella.  He started me on a treatment plan which consisted of a combination of various antibiotics and other medicine that would get me started.  He could mot make a determination how long this treatment would last though it has been said that for every year a person with Lyme Disease goes misdiagnosed, you need about 4-6 months worth of treatment.  I have been misdiagnosed since 2003…

On the way home and I am feeling relieved that I finally got some answers.  I am happy and a little nervous about what lies ahead, but with God on my side I know that I am up for the challenge!

Thanks for reading,

WJC