I am Rare: 2021

If you had asked me six years ago what I was going to write in 2021 on rare disease day, I’d have told you I wouldn’t be here to share.

I’d have told you what they told me, I maybe have a year left.

I’m writing this to explain specifically the importance of rare disease awareness, not just a day, but every day of my life. I’ve dedicated every ounce of energy I have into sharing my journey, the ups, the downs, the discoveries. In hopes that someone would learn something from my experience.

I’ve always been a dreamer, but this was much bigger. Before I even really understood the impact of awareness, I truly believed that if I shared enough… I could make a difference. The type of difference that could prevent someone from hearing the words “it’s too late, it’s now terminal”. Like we did.

I believed deep in my soul that if I shared enough, I would finally be heard. Someone who needed it would hear me, fate would allow them to gain the knowledge they needed to push for a diagnosis.

I wasn’t even considering the fact that my experience could potentially better inform healthcare workers, and trickle down… creating a knowledge that would never be heard unless experienced by people like me living with the disease.

My first pheochromocytoma was missed because of a lack of knowledge about the disease, it wasn’t the fact that it was too rare to be considered, it just simply wasn’t thought of at all.

My second was different, the knowledge was there, but it was considered too rare to come back. It was overlooked because of the odds. The literature didn’t support what I was experiencing, so it couldn’t possibly be that.

Four years after my first one, I was finally diagnosed with a recurrence. It was misdiagnosed for too long, it spread all over. It’s terminal. I was told I’d have 1-5 years to live max, ‘based on the literature available’. The literature, the incredibly vague and unreliable literature. So little to reference and gain the knowledge needed to empower the patient or even the doctor.

This is when we realized it would become vital to my outcome for us to learn for ourselves. We had to take control of my situation, we had to look for the most knowledgeable doctor to treat me.

We didn’t want to accept my odds. So we started down a new path of self advocacy, learning, and sharing.

I started my blog, documented every treatment, feeling, reaction, change, anything.

I figured, if I’m going to die, I want to leave behind the gift of information. I wanted to re-write the literature. There was such a gap of information at that time, I wanted to help fill a small part of it.

As I shared, I started to connect with more and more people. I was learning more every day. So I kept sharing what I learned.

This new wealth of information would impact my treatment decisions, my ability to strongly advocate for myself, and be part of all decisions regarding my health.

That’s the thing with awareness for rare disease, it’s not just a cute buzz word. It’s life changing. The information we received from others was what kept me alive. It’s what allowed me to bring up my own suggestions, and avoid doing things I knew wouldn’t work for my situation.

Each new step of my journey, I would share with others, and the cycle would continue. The wealth of information and knowledge keeps growing, and we keep changing outcomes. We keep improving quality of life, and we help healthcare professionals better understand us. Leading to proper care and diagnosis.

Of course I can dream so big that if we become less rare… it can lead to a cure. And yes, it can. One day.

But for right now, I’m focusing on preventing it from getting to my stage in the first place. Where it’s incurable. If we can share enough, if we can continue to become less rare, it will be diagnosed earlier and able to be treated.

For those of us who are past that stage, like me, becoming less rare means proper treatment protocols, better treatment options, symptom management, improved quality of life, and the knowledge to be treated effectively in emergency situations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked…

“well what do YOU normally do when this happens?”

The knowledge we share will continue to educate all parties involved, making situations like this happen far less often.

I actually never dreamed of a day where I’d hear “because of your blog”…..

That’s the power of sharing, the impact of awareness.

It shouldn’t fall entirely on the patient, but our experiences are how we all continue to learn.

I am still here today because of knowledge, because of awareness. Plain and simple.

Each new mind that hears the word “pheochromocytoma”, has the ability to share that with someone else, and so on. You can never know how this will impact the person hearing it.

So keep sharing while you can.

I know I will.

The most suffering I ever experienced was not being able to use my voice. Not having the ability to share.

I hope you will help me continue to share my message, my story, my journey, my experience, and my dream.

Pheo VS Fabulous 🤍🦓

Sending you unicorn kisses, love, and pixie dust✨

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Your Questions…

A few weeks ago I asked you guys to ask me anything, I’m so happy to share with you the answers to your questions!

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10 things I’ve learned about fading relationships

Support comes in all forms when you receive a diagnosis, but as you become sicker and the “old you” starts fading away, so do your relationships.

So many people want to be there for you when you first receive your diagnosis, but as you become sicker, when it all becomes real, it seems you start losing people one by one. There’s nothing worse than having to grieve your old self, plus have to mourn each relationship lost as you go.

One day you wake up, and all of a sudden you feel like you have no one left.

‘Hanging out’ and visits turn into text messages, the text messages turn into the occasional Facebook chat, and then even those just stop abruptly. Until there’s no more communication. Everyone just went away...

You can’t help but blame yourself,

if I wasn’t this sick, I’d still have friends.

If I was healthy and could have a normal conversation about monotonous things, I wouldn’t push people away.

If only I could be healthy and not intimidate people who are unsure how to approach this new “sick” me.

If only I wasn’t intimidated by them thinking about me being sick, and could fill in the awkward silences.

…If only I could erase all the sad eyes, the weakened expressions, and not have people who once respected me feel sorry for me.

This is the worst part, the pity.

If only these people knew that I’m the exact same person, the same person who was their friend for all those years. The same family member, the very same.

People change regardless of being ill, but it seems being ill puts a wedge in between the healthy and the sick. The unknown is often just too much. If I changed because I became an asshole I’d understand, but I’m the very same person.

This is the first time I’ve ever expressed how much it hurts.

How at my sickest I’ve never been so alone.

When someone says, “you must have a lot of people around you!” And you just don’t know how to respond.

How I don’t want to come off as ungrateful or selfish because there are some amazing people who have come into my life despite me being sick.

But those relationships lost still weigh heavily on my heart, and I wish I could have every single one back. Back to normal.

But I’ll never be normal.

So it shall remain…

What I will say is I’ve learned a few things while these relationships have come and gone.

  1. It’s not your fault, even though it may feel like it is, stop blaming yourself.
  2. Often people want to be there, they just don’t know how.
  3. It’s exhausting trying to make others feel comfortable around you, focus on yourself being comfortable and the rest will follow.
  4. It’s not your job to put everyone else at ease, if they are your friend, they will try to find a way to understand your new situation.
  5. People who are truly your friend, WANT to know how you are. They don’t want the sugar coated answer, be honest with your friends.
  6. Your best friends don’t mind changing plans, or understand when you can’t make it because you’re not feeling up to it suddenly.
  7. Your best friends will make an effort to make YOU comfortable in this new changing circumstance, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you have a place to lay down in their home if you get tired, or have a fan handy for when you get too warm etc.
  8. The people you lost were probably not meant to be close to you in the first place.
  9. Don’t feel bad for making the decision to cut out toxic relationships, even though you might feel like you can’t afford to lose anyone else, it’s not worth putting yourself through hell to have “friends”.
  10. Don’t take for granted the people who did stay around, know that they love you so much, and cherish them every day.

Pheo VS Fabulous 💖

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Zebra or Unicorn 🦄

If you have been in the “rare disease” world with us, you may wonder what the reference is to the zebra.

When you hear hoofbeats, we are trained to think horses, not zebras … 🦓

This means that in a world full of thinkers where the first answer is always to rule out the “obvious” answers first, us “rare” zebras often get misdiagnosed because it’s just too bizarre or too complex to possibly be real. Right? Wrong. We are real, we are rare, but we’re there.

NOW, imagine living in a world where you’ve only JUST started to find ways of settling in becoming a zebra, but now….. you’ve become even more confusing that even that doesn’t fit – Shall we say….. exhausted? Now you must be a unicorn 🦄

As much as I LOVE unicorns, it’s not something I wish to be health wise. However, we don’t always get what we wish for…

Or else I wouldn’t be a continuous medical mystery. A zebra, a unicorn, stomping my hooves as loudly as I can to no avail… A very complicated, extremely complex little unicorn. So desperate to be figured out but constantly misheard, misunderstood, and continuously misdiagnosed.

I was able to begin discussing this journey when I began to regain my mental stamina a few days ago here, thanks to my amazing specialists who are working towards figuring out what I am now referring to as my puzzle 🧩

With so many pieces (symptoms), and crisis’ happening – it’s proved difficult to sort out another compounding diagnosis when already living with such a rare disease.

Does that excuse make it okay for our hooves to be ignored? No. It clouds what is potentially a more potent and dangerous lurking enemy. So, what does one do? Well I’m not going to lie. It’s been a hell of a ride, it’s been isolating, I’ve felt ways I can’t begin or want to describe right now, but what I’m here to say right NOW is that we are still fighting. 

I’ve said it now and I’ll say it again, if you don’t fight for yourself… who’s going to fight for you?

It’s the unfortunate truth.

This is your life. It’s yours to save.

We have come to realize this through a series of challenges I’d prefer to have not had to endure, but change is the only constant so we are now looking ahead to the journey we are choosing to see as a positive one. Because that’s how you get through this, often we talk about ‘fighting it’ but we don’t talk about how to beat it. 

We have to, because to us we see it as an opportunity FOR change, for answers. We just want answers. No matter what they are. Going back to basics and feeling helpless is certainly not the answer.

Going backwards when you have already been robbed of the ability to move forwards is one of the most helpless feelings to have in the world.

We are coming on 3 weeks in the hospital, with the help of my incredible team I am functioning at a much more tolerable level so far – so that I can actually do plenty of testing in order to get these answers. This journey is tough, but we are fighting our hearts out. I hope you will be alongside with us, because I have a feeling we might just need that little extra bit of prayer and pixie dust

🌎✨🌈

Remember that gold standard Gallium-68 super amazing impossible-to-get fancy scan I got in order to get accepted to this clinical trial a while back? Well…

My amazing husband Doctor cupcakes was able to get me in AGAIN directly from the hospital on a day pass to get that super amazing scan today. What would normally take 4-6 weeks, took 48 hours, so a huge huge huge thank you to everyone in Sherbrooke, QC. You guys truly were my angels and we are so grateful for everything you did for my situation. Thank you for understanding and extreme considerations 😭😷

My heart is so full of gratitude, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share that.

Here’s a little glimpse of our radioactive day pass mission, a day in the life of a hospitalized unicorn 🦄 😂

https://youtu.be/AHerMoNa9AY

Pheo VS Fabulous

XOX

I will try & update as much as I can, (on my good days) 😘

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