Come up with a mathematical formula to express something you know/believe. (Example: Long Saturday run + Frappucino = Happiness)
But I haven't had that in a long time. In probably well over a year. See, around this time last year, I was being diagnosed with Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. Already having a laundry list of diagnoses, most rare and some life-threatening, you wouldn't think that would have been the one to change my life. It did, though.
IIH is linked to an increase in frequency in women who are child-bearing age. Check. And overweight. Check, check. Having a metabolic and thyroid condition certainly makes it very complicated for me to lose weight. We know for a fact from my resting metabolic rate test that I reach my peak O2 and heart rate too soon. I have decreased exercise capacity. That's a fact. Not something I'm making up as an excuse to be lazy.
I would love to be able to run marathons, but the thought alone exhausts me. Not just make me want to take a nap exhausts me, but sends me back to the day of that RMR test where I blacked out on the bike, where I could barely keep my eyes open for the rest of the day, and slept through most of it.
Oh, and add asthma on top of all those things. And now I feel like my head is going to explode most days from the pressure. Yeah, it's hard to even imagine moving more than I have to.
But back to IIH. This was considered a bit of a medical emergency at first for me. It's a serious condition. We're talking too much fluid on the brain, putting pressure on optic nerves and other areas. It causes tumor like symptoms, which I had been experiencing. My MRI showed swelling of my optic nerves, which was the most concerning. Well, that and along with some venous stenosis, which meant I was at high risk for stroke. I had my MRI at about 10am, and by 1:30, I had been called back to the doctor's office to go over my results in person. I cried the whole way there. I cried while I was waiting. The entire time, I tried to wrap my head around how I'd get through a brain tumor on top of everything else. I contemplated leaving my children at such young ages.
All the life threatening conditions I'd dealt with never seemed quite as real as this experience.
After hearing I didn't have a real tumor or cancer, I was immediately sent to the eye doctor that afternoon. Then, I was sent to the neurologist Tuesday because it was Friday of Memorial Day weekend.
The neurologist was very frank with me. He ordered an MRV to make sure I wasn't about to stroke out for the next day. Then, he told me aside from about two medications, the only treatment options were losing weight (at least 10% of your body weight) and as a last resort, a shunt. Oh, and I would be getting my first of many spinal taps the next week to take some of the fluid off my brain and confirm diagnosis.
I tried counting calories for that next month. It wasn't working. I actually gained weight. When I went back, he wasn't happy with me. I felt terrible because I was trying, but apparently not hard enough. He was very stern. He told me he expected when I came back in a couple of months that I would have lost a considerable amount of weight. Then, he handed me a card for a weight loss surgeon.
Desperate to avoid that, as I carry three genes that put me at high anesthesia risks, I started researching clean eating. Several of my friends were doing it, having a lot of luck, and even though I'd been lucky to hear that I didn't have a real brain tumor or cancer, the scare was enough to make me really re-evaluate the crap I was putting in my body and calling nutrition.
July 7th, I made the decision to change not only my diet, but the diet of my entire family. And when I say diet, I mean what we eat, not a short term change. This was a lifestyle change I was determined to maintain. For the first time in my life, I didn't have a choice. Losing weight was the only option I could see as a good one for me. Brain surgery? Bariatric surgery? A medication that makes me feel like I'm being shocked all day in my arms and feet, makes my potassium bottom out, and dehydrates me thus making my mito and dysautonomia worse? None of those were options for me.
A couple of months later, when I went back to the doctor, I'd lost about thirty pounds. I'd not even weighed at home. My judgement for my progress was on how none of my old clothes fit me anymore. It was easy to look at my face and skin to see the difference. Not to mention, I felt so much better. My IBS was better controlled, I didn't feel like I was having blood sugar spikes and drops, and I had zero cravings. Zero.
Up until that point, I had no idea how much of a hold sugar had on me, how much of a prisoner I was to that crack. That's what it is. It does the same thing as other drugs to your mind. And I was proud to have broken free.
By November, I was in remission from the IIH. But then in January, I relapsed. I've maintained my weight loss, but kind of stalled. I've failed therapy on one of the drugs. I'm currently taking the one that makes me feel like I'm being shocked. It's helping some, enough to where I feel like I don't need a shunt.
But my point is my equation, the one I would have chosen for most of my entire life, has changed over the last year because of all this. It's made me re-evaluate my priorities too. It's been a scary time - for me, for my husband who has had to watch me struggle, for my kids who had to visit their mom in the hospital for about a week (my birthday week on top of that). And the last part is what gets me the most. My kids have enough stress from their own illness. It killed me for them to be worried about me - about how my head feels, for them to sit in with the appointments to the neurologist and hear what I was being told, to wait for me to finish spinal taps, and to see me in pain. They know more than most kids about medical stuff, they understand more. This is our life.
Through all this, you'd think I would have given up on everything else. I'd been suffering from the worst writer's block for two years. During that time, I relied on my graphic design skills to help bring in extra income for our family, to keep me busy during the day.
But in October, the block lifted. Maybe it was as simple as treating the IIH. Maybe it was sucking up all the doubts, all the fears, and finally finding my voice - my true voice. Life is short, and I didn't want to spend another minute not reaching my goals. Or at least trying. Giving up wasn't an option.
It didn't take long to realize I couldn't do it all. Writing full time left little time for anything else, so I hung up my graphic design coat. It was a hard decision, but one I'm happy with. This is where I'm happy, where my passion is (for now, at least).
So, my equation is quite simple. It's all the things IIH has taught me over the last year.
My Family + My Faith + My Health + Chasing Dreams = Everything