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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I am rare – Rare Disease Day

Although I would like to think that I use every day as an opportunity to make this disease a little more exposed, february 29th 2016 is rare disease day.

A day to remind the world that although rare… diseases like mine do in fact exist, and because they are rare, they don’t get any attention, and as a result – we suffer.

We suffer through misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and lack of information when dealing with our rare conditions. We suffer through painful surgeries, lack of treatment options, and invasive trials, with no cure in the end. We suffer in silence.

February 29th is our day to make our voices heard, help me get a little bit louder.

I have pheochromocytoma cancer, adrenal insufficiency, I’m 25 years old, and I am rare.

Rare disease day, 2016

#mirandastrong #pheochromocytoma #netcancer #ai #zebra #rarediseaseday #pheovsfabulous

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Remedy for the Rare – MIBG

Well this is awkward… I think it’s been 12.. days, I don’t even know quite honestly, I’m completely disconnected from the world right now.

I kind of left all of you hanging, I apologize for my absence. I was just having MIBG radiotherapy, no big deal, my tumours haven’t been very happy with me that I turned on them again, and my body doesn’t like that I injected it with a radioactive foreign substance that seems to be making it feel all sorts of nonsense. Basically we’re in a fight, or rather a war, my body and I, and my tumours, I think they may have even joined forces and are ganging up on me it seems… because their wrath, WELL, excuse me… it’s not something I was quite prepared for, even in my best attempt: MIBG you can read here how prepared I thought I was (ha!)

You’re never quite prepared for the level of rare you experience when having a treatment administered into your body that could have so many different outcomes. It’s not as if it’s done every day, you are unique to to the medical field, and it’s you who will keep everyone on edge for the next two hours. You are no longer rare, you are literally a spectacle, a performance of medical fascination that is mixed with a nervous anticipation, and an uncertainty that can only be eased with time… and patience.

It’s a good thing I like to be centre stage 😉

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It may be intimidating for some to have 10-15 physicians watch as the radioactive solution enters into your blood stream, watching from behind a special radioactive barrier. (As shown above) in the room with me was… my radioactive solution dripping into my blood stream, my IV, my blood pressure machine timed perfectly to measure my vitals every 15 minutes, my  second IV for fluids, maybe some other gadgets… like my laptop, where I tried to watch saved by the bell and ignore the commotion of what was happening to me, but other than that I was completely isolated of course. If I didn’t have 10-15 of the best and caring physicians in the entire world watching over me through my radioactive shield, maybe I would have had a little more concern… but throughout the administration, I felt rather peaceful. I was okay with everything happening, and I love my nuclear medicine team, that kind of helps. I knew that if something were to suddenly go wrong, they’d come running, and I’d be in expert hands… so there’s that. The administration of the liquid was pretty uneventful, we all kind of thought I was going to implode or something, I was in pain and had to urinate REALLY quite badly… but other than that, it went rather well. I showed up at the hospital for 8:30 – treatment was late being administered around 3:30 and finished around 5:30pm on the 20th of January.

Part 1 – Success ! 

Easy – what were we worried about? This is nothin’. Can I go home now? Since all the fun is over, everyone is leaving, bye bye doctors! I’m fine, I feel great, that was fun, maybe we can do it again sometime soon.

Okay, perhaps I spoke too soon. It only took half an hour and I was starting to feel unwell,  I had felt worse pheochromocytoma adrenaline attacks in my day… so I said to myself, okay, if this is the worst of it… it’s not THAT bad! I can deal with chest pain, tightness, heart palpitations, and uncontrollable shaking… this isn’t TOO bad. Suck it up Miranda. It means the tumours are getting the treatment, they don’t like it, but that’s a good sign…

10:00pm – fairly certain I’m not being over dramatic when I say this is going to be farewell, everything is happening, I can’t do this, I’ve never had this many symptoms hit me at once, my body can’t sustain this type of attack… for this long… this can’t be happening, someone help me …

Isolation…

That first night of radiation … was one of the worst nights of my life.

I’ve had to endure a lot of pain, uncertainty, and physical trauma with this disease… but that night… it really had to be in the top three. I won’t give it a definitive placing because my surgeries for this disease, well, they were PRETTY brutal, so I’ll leave it as a ‘top’ placement. When you go from feeling a certain type of ‘normal’, going into treatment I didn’t feel perfect, but it was my norm, so I went from feeling ‘normal’ to all of a sudden being hit with EVERY single symptom I’ve ever felt in my life associated with this disease… all at ONE TIME. By 10 o’clock I was full blown being physically assassinated, and it was NOT pretty.

My blood pressure jumped up making me feel super unwell, my chest was tight and physically hurt, my heart hurt, it was pounding in my ears and I could feel my still fresh jugular wound pounding out of my neck from my heart rate, my neck glands were swollen and creating more pressure in my head, my headache felt as if my skull was actually growing inside of my head… my eyes felt like they were going to pop out of their sockets, all I could taste was metal, and blood, from my gums bleeding suddenly, (yes, when things start bleeding out of no where on your body, it’s incredibly alarming) then the nausea… oh dear the nausea, game over. Just kidding, who just kicked me in the back? No one, that’s just my bones, oh, all of them feel like that now, amazing. And…. now I am completely drenched in sweat, and can’t stop sweating, and won’t stop sweating, it’ll never stop. I also can’t stop peeing.

I know this seems like an insignificant detail, but when you’re in this much distress, and your bed is high, and your hooked up to EVERYTHING, and you must unhook yourself from said machines EACH time you have to go to the bathroom, and then re-hook yourself up to EACH machine properly once you make it back into your giant bed by yourself… it’s literally a process, and a debacle, and it makes you want to cry with frustration each time. Now not only do you have to do all of this when you’re not thinking straight, not walking well, you’re dizzy, and confused, and you’re fairly certain your body is going to explode at any second, every time you unplug your IV, it beeps at you constantly, and won’t stop, and your poor night nurse has to come in and expose herself to your radioactive room and self to come fix it, and this happens over ten times… and each time takes time to fix, so the beeping alone is enough to drive you out of your mind. These details, I swear… they are everything when you are completely alone, when you have nothing else to focus on – when you have nothing but a silent room, your pain and suffering, and a loud beeping assaulting you and your already unfortunate circumstances.

Night one, you know exactly where you can go.

In the meantime, would you like to see my beautiful isolation suite I had? It really was quite nice, minus the tumours imploding part and feeling the worst ever.

Over the course of the next few days in my lead isolation room behind my special radiation screen I showed you above, everything I described to you above repeated every day, just not with the same severity as it did that first night. Nothing could ever hit me as hard as it did that first night, but it was close. Every day was awful, and is still is as I am writing this. However, since I am incredibly obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping everyone up to date and also sharing my journey for the sake of awareness, I don’t like falling behind too far. So with my little burst of insomnia energy, I am laying my soul out for the world to read once again.

I thought waking up each day I would feel a little better, but it was just an exact replica of the day before, sometimes worse than the day before, which I had not anticipated… I thought things got better as time went on, but it seemed the opposite for this treatment. I guess it takes a bit of time to settle into your cells, and once it does, the more havoc it causes in your system. Having radioactive isotopes injected directly into your body is completely different then any other ways, it becomes apart of you. YOU are completely radioactive, which is why I had to be in such an isolation setup, in fact I still am… even though I am at home I still am following strict protocol to be sleeping alone, not within a certain amount of feet of people, I still cannot kiss or touch Serge, there’s so many restrictions still, and will be for a little while. It’s crazy how potent it is.

I am grateful that my incredibly persuasive husband found a way to see me in my isolation suite, even if it was through the special protective glass. Had it not been for him… I don’t know what I would have done. He was able to come in and stay a certain amount of feet away from me after a certain amount of days, and bring me foods that I could actually not want to vomit looking at, so that was a welcome change. Just seeing him was enough to make me want to get better enough to go home, I wanted to be better, to look better, to feel better, for his sake. I am grateful that we have so many people incredibly supportive people behind us throughout the hardest times of our lives, we can’t thank each and every one of you enough times for the outpouring of love and prayer and support we receive when we need it most. I am grateful that although I am fighting this disease with all I have, and it is rare and awful and relentless… I have a medical team who doesn’t give up on me and is matches my effort and is unique to the medical world, they are superior and I am so thankful.

I do not feel it is appropriate at this stage to have any ‘expectations’ so far, as it is a complicated disease and even with positive results… it is impossible to know how long that can last, and with negative results, we can try again. So I will reserve my opinion on my expectations for now, and just wait for once. I will be going for an MIBG scan soon, to have my whole body scanned and see how the treatment did. I will reserve hope and pray that I can find some relief eventually, so that I can enjoy some precious moments… because that’s what life is all about.

I really base everything off of how I feel, right now I feel awful. I am told I will feel this way for a number of months because of my pheochromocytoma cancer and adrenal insufficiency combination, and of course my pain level that just… is part of me. There’s elements that can’t go away no matter what we do, but there’s hope that we can make me a lot more comfortable, and that’s really the main goal, that’s my expectation, is that I can just be a little more comfortable, and perhaps enjoy a little relief here and there… a vacation perhaps? 🙂 OMG, a girl can dream… this girl needs some serious R&R

We are completely exhausted. I am depleted, hurt, scared, I have zero energy, nauseous, I am still radioactive, I can hardly have the energy to shower, I still have daily adrenaline attacks, I sleep all the time.  We are having to keep an eye out for infections and horrible things that will make me have to go back into the hospital, I am overwhelmed with the amount of new symptoms on top of the old, and I am being honest when I say there is nothing fabulous to report this time around just yet.

The only Fab around here is all of the love I have received… and I am giving it back in the form of honesty, and updating you all so that you can know what’s happening to me and know you are in my heart, and what’s keeping me going.

Follow me to find out what happens next

Pheo VS Fabulous ❤

instagram: @mirandasimard

#pheovsfabulous

Soooooo tired, goodnight loves.

Perfect days…

It seemed as though I was having a rough time for a little while, getting all of my recent results, putting a date to my radiation, having issues with my adrenal insufficiency, and meanwhile I was just praying for some special moments of time before radiation.. I wanted to do some Christmas baking, see my best friends for a day, decorate my Christmas tree with my husband, wrap gifts, and of course eventually spend Christmas with my family.

These tasks were honestly beginning to seem impossible, especially since all of my energy was being spent in the hospital, and what little was left was recuperating at home. Until one magical day when my new medication started working, and my prayers and hopes and fairy dust seemed to have been answered. My being tired of tomorrow finally turned into “I can do it today!!!”

So not only did I bake cookies, I BAKED COOKIES. I had my mother over, and God bless her, she did most of the work, because let’s be honest… I can’t possibly be mixing hard dough with the condition of my poor massacred abdomen, but still, we made so many cookies and treats!!! It was the most amazing day. I may have slept until 4:30 in the afternoon the following day, and felt like I was run over by a vehicle, but I didn’t care, it was so worth it! 😁🎄🎅🏻

Second on my list of must dos, was seeing my best friends before Christmas. What do best friends do? Eat, laugh, talk about old times, laugh more, eat more, take photos and laugh while taking photos. It was fabulous, as you can imagine. So I had my husband, my two best friends, the fresh air of one of my favorite parks, and my absolute favorite restaurant to follow, like….. Heaven!

These things may have taken months to do, literally, we’ve been trying to set this day up for months, but as I always say – quality over quantity. We had the perfect day, and that’s what counts. I may not get to have a great day every week, but when I do have one, it’s perfect. That’s what best friends do, they patiently wait until you’re ready, and when you are they are at your side – making every second with you count.

I still have some things to achieve on my perfect day list, but understandably I’m exhausted 😂 – so I’ll highlight you on the two big activities I’ve done so far, in photos, because photos are just so beautiful… I feel like you can see every bit of happiness I experienced those days with me, and since I make you go through every emotion with me here, I will give you a break this time and let you have a moment of pure joy 😄

Christmas Baking Day:

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 And… Our perfect day in the park:

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You find your people, you find your person, and you lean on them. (Literally)

Pheo VS Fabulous ❤️

It’s too much.. and that’s okay

Somewhere along this path I created, pheo VS fabulous, I must have convinced myself that I had a responsibility to maintain this “fabulous” persona at all times.

I said at the very beginning, I would never lose my fabulous, this disease would never take that away from me. Well, it hasn’t, and it never will, but I also find myself incredibly reluctant to write when I need it most… when I’m tired of being strong, when I’m literally barely holding on.

I find myself grateful for a dear friend who reminded me of the most important fact I seem to have forgotten; I am sharing with the world one of the most personal, dark, painful, vulnerable, and trying times of my life. It would be insincere of me to say that I am this painfully positive robot at all times, and a slap in the face to every person who is struggling in private, but reading my very public journey.
This is not to say I have not shared my true feelings, struggled to find the words to express my unimaginable pain, and attempted to share on an emotional level what a toll this has taken on me in the last year.. I have been one hundred percent authentic, as I promised I would be when I started.
I just know that these past few weeks have been insurmountable, I have deliberately avoided sharing anything specifically because I knew I would not have the same “uplifting” message as normal. Well, that IS the point. Positivity is part of my heart, my soul, it is me, nothing changes that. I’ve realized it takes a lot more strength to share your weakness… 

I continue to posses this attitude…thinking, “this is what will get me through, we’re going to get through this, I just have to continue on like this”, and then you read the scientific facts like how pheochromocytoma cancer only impacts 1 in 4.3million people, and how if it’s gone to the liver like mine has those people have the worst chances of survival even though they only give five years in the first place, and despite my attitude, every time I go to the doctor, I’m told something else is wrong with me, this isn’t working properly, this body part has failed, this tumor around your heart is suspicious (wait what?! I have a tumor around my heart?!?!) this may be something more, but we will do more tests and come back to it (what does that mean?!) meanwhile my pain level yo-yos and tortures me and feels like a cruel joke on-top of everything else, and my hair is falling out, and my life is falling apart, or what little I have left. 

My mind does this lately, not to mention the worry I have for regular every day people things. I worry for my friends, my family, and other people’s problems. The moment I lose my compassion for others, well… let’s just say I don’t want to ever meet that person, because surely that’s not me. It’s exhausting, I’m tired.

My mind is tired, I recently said to myself that I really wanted to go on a vacation, I wanted to go to the happiest place on earth, Disney World. I had it all planned, how I would be able to go in a wheelchair and no one would be able to say I can’t go because I had all of their objections handled in advance, and I had the best trip planned and I was so excited. I’m still wishing, and dreaming, and hoping. The more news I get, and the way everything is progressing, I don’t think it will happen in the time line I wanted it to , maybe one day… but not in December for Christmas. No one is too old for Disney World, and I’ve never been, so christmas time would have been magical, and less busy (lol) I wanted to be able to go before radiation, as a way of resetting my mind and body before it goes through another trauma, because that’s what this is, a trauma. Every experience your body has to endure, it’s traumatic, and you need to prepare mentally and physically. I’m at a point where I need something to just be on my side, as much as I can find something great in everyday, I can pick and choose every little moment and find a special something, I really would just like something to come to me and show its-self at face value and reward me for being so patient and positive.

So there it is, I’ve given a basic summary of all of the horrible things that have been floating around in my mind in the past few days. I wouldn’t be fabulous if I left it at that though…you didn’t think I would let you have this one, did you pheo? 😉

Today I said to myself, “No matter how hard it is, I don’t care how nauseous I am, how much I hurt, and how weak I feel, I am getting up, and getting ready, I am going to have a fabulous day… and do something I’ve wanted to do and also been dreading for days now!” 

Hours later, many breaks, help from Serge, encouragement from both my puppies (lol), I was ready to go for my favorite lunch, and go shop for…..wigs!!! 

I didn’t want this shopping trip to be a depressing, poor me, crying experiencing. I am happy to report that I was successful in finding many beautiful styles, I overindulged as usual, true to form I shopped as I normally would.. exhausted myself and got way too excited, and couldn’t be happier. 

I suppose all of my stories DO still have a happy ending ❤ 🙂

Pheo VS Fabulous

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Continuing to find beauty in every day… Smiling through every bit of pain!

#mirandastrong

I turned twenty five

A day to celebrate magic

A night to let go of all fear

Your birthday has come, and you’re still here 

You’re so full of love, your sparkle is bright, how can we forever encapture this night?

With every obstacle faced, we now can revel in the win of this fight

Never over, never far, but not out of reach… when your Fabulous is on guard 

I turned twenty five, and it was just as sweet as I imagined it would be. Getting older is an indescribable gift, it is recognition for all of the hard work that goes into treating me.

My birthday gifts were filled with adorable home decor items, unbelievably soft robes, the pinkest of pink pillows to help me travel to and from my appointments, sexy ‘houndstooth’ gloves to keep my little hands warm and fashionable, Ralph Lauren towels to wrap myself in after a nice hot bath, an apple TV so I can watch all my favorite shows from the comfort of my bed, you see the trend? Fabulous pink, purple, and soft comforting items.. anything that brings warm and comfort to my life.

The gift that I was most grateful for? The unusual amount of energy, stamina, and excitement I could carry through all evening.. to enjoy this beyond amazing evening my family prepared for me.

Being around more than a couple people at a time when you’re ill is extremely difficult, but my family knows how to keep things comfortable, even my seven year old nephew became the ‘miranda police’ and would deliver citations when people were speaking too loud, or too close to me, it was the most adorable thing I have ever seen.

My mother made my favorite feast, homemade chinese food, which my bestfriend and I ate twice (no judgement on your birthday) and that’s what a birthday should be. Eating too much, laughing uncontrollably, making memories with family that I will hold so dear in my heart forever.

Happy Birthday, to everyone who is living moment to moment, keep sharing your fabulous, I know I will!

My Memories – 25!

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My 'lucky elephant' from my 7 year old nephew, he is a heart breaker

My ‘lucky elephant’ from my 7 year old nephew, he is a heart breaker

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Half of the fam who braved the cold

Half of the fam who braved the cold

I can't take a picture with my sister without making her laugh uncontrollably, and I wouldn't have it any other way

I can’t take a picture with my sister without making her laugh uncontrollably, and I wouldn’t have it any other way

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FEAST! Mother's homemade chinese food <3

FEAST! Mother’s homemade chinese food ❤

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Squad goals

Squad goals

My amazing mother, who will do anything for her daughter to get me through this time, she is mama soldier

My amazing mother, who will do anything for her daughter to get me through this time, she is mama soldier

My bestfriend, and my dad, we always need one picture that isn't 'pretty'

My bestfriend, and my dad, we always need one picture that isn’t ‘pretty’

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The cake that exceeded perfection... <3

The cake that exceeded perfection… ❤

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My bestfriend

My best friend in the whole world

My strength

My strength, my love, my fabulous! ❤

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Remember, there is something good in EVERY day. You just need to open your heart and find what that good is, and share it with the world!

“Fabulous is your light, your smile, your energy, your posivitity, your willfulmess, your vitality, passion, excitement, stubbornness, beauty, laugh, and how you share it!” – Pheo VS Fabulous