Saturday, 21 February 2015

What it is like as a teen to suffer from a chronic illness?

This is a different blog from my usual format. I think it is important to share with you how my daughters lives have been altered by the debilitating disease they both suffer from which is the chronic "invisible" illness Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (otherwise known as ME), Some doctors prefer to call it CFS and then there is now the new name that's being proposed which is the not so easy to trip off the tongue “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease" or SEID for short (ironically spells DIES backwards!).

To be fair, it makes no difference what you call it, the fact remains that they are sick, their lives are restricted and they are not able to live their life the way they would like to. Instead they have to choose each day how to spend their limited energy resources and work within those confines. Also, as with most sufferers, they have other health issues to contend with too. 

So, in a bid to try and help raise awareness about chronic illnesses both girls have completed this "Chronic Illness Challenge".  Originally it was designed as a instagram or facebook challenge and the idea was to answer a question a day for a month. However, for someone who suffers from cognitive issues this isn't always possible and there may be days go by when typing or texting isn't possible. Which is why the girls decided to take their time and compose a blog post to have it posted altogether as a comprehensive post about their specific journey with this illness.

They have both provided their answers beneath each question to explain how it affects them...

Day 1.   Introduce yourself. What illnesses do you have? How long have you had them? 

I have been diagnosed with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), Hypermobility, Orthastatic Intolerance, Arthralgia, Lacto-Intolerance, Asthma, Depression, Anxiety, Dissociative Disorder, Trichotillomania and Dermatillomania, Skin sensitivity and allergies along with Intermittent paralysis of my legs and pretty bad cognitive issues (have days when can't read or write, find it hard to remember words or say the wrong words when I don't mean to).
I have had these illnesses ranging from childhood to the most recent diagnosis which was 5 years ago.

I have ME/CFS, along with a number of things, such as; Hypermobility, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Orthostatic Intolerance, Chronic Back Pain, Restless Leg Syndrome and Social Anxiety/Avoidance Issues.
I've had ME for about 5 years.

Day 2.  
How have these illnesses affected your life?

I can't even begin to describe how they have changed my life. I have missed out on the most important teenage years and my education, lost so many friends and become unable to cope in social situations as well as being in pain 24/7.

They've affected my life in a number of ways, I used to enjoy dance a lot and I had to stop altogether, I've fully missed my opportunity to experience secondary school and I've missed out on major topics via virtual school because we don't have the money to fund my education in more than two subjects (Maths and English) privately ourselves and we haven't been given any funding from anywhere else.

Day 3.  
How did you get a diagnosis?

After having viral meningitis I never got better and had a severe case of Scarlet Fever and any and every illness going around. I had two CT scans and after many tests they finally diagnosed me as having ME/CFS.

Originally we assumed it to be glandular fever because of my glands being so swollen and my initial symptoms were text book glandular fever, I had had 10 cases of tonsillitis already running up to it and had spent almost all of 2010 off school sick. When I didn't get better and after lots of tests coming back negative it was obviously thought to be ME by the GP.  I got a proper diagnosis in January 2011 from the hospital.

Day 4.  
How have your friends and family reacted to it?

My family have been extremely supportive along with a handful of friends who have stood by me. I couldn't ask for better people in my life - my mum especially has been absolutely amazing, she is my rock and best friend and I love her.
Obviously it was sad to see me become so ill after being so well, I could barely see my friends for any longer than half an hour. Also, we had next to no knowledge of the illness so everyone was trying to push me and get me back to normal more than anything.

Day 5.  
How does being chronically ill make you feel?

Like shit haha

It's upsetting that I have this illness because people misjudge me with what I can and can't do. Recently my good and bad days are very sudden but people tend to judge me on 'what I did yesterday'. I hate that I'll never have the experience of school and that I've missed out on so many events (including Prom) and haven't had the opportunity to learn the same amount or have the life opportunities as other people.

Day 6.  
If you could have told yourself something when you first remember these symptoms arising  what would you have said?

Be kind to yourself.

If I could, I would've told myself to not push myself into doing things too soon. Trying to go into school and doing exercise just prolonged recovery and messed up my back.

Day 7.
What was the biggest realisation you have had?

There is a difference between living and being alive.

The biggest realisation isn't for myself, but so many people take things for granted. They complain about school, dance, and a simple headache when they could have things so much worse, if people come to me saying they have a sore throat, I really won't have any sympathy, they should try living with ME.

Day 8.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I can't say because I just don't know and don't want to set my expectations too high and then be horribly disappointed.

In 5 years I see myself in college doing a media course, I love editing and the media is a huge interest that I have.

Day 9.
Have you ever tried any alternative therapies? If so, what? Did they work?

I get stuck into my art, it is a form of therapy to me since I use it to distract me from my pain and I get lost in it. Also, if you consider an osteopath to be an alternative therapy I regularly have treatment with my local osteopath who does lymph drainage massage. I can't live without it now, it helps relieve the pain a little.

I've tried loads of different things like QI-Gong (whatever it's called), going to homeopathy, dieticians, osteopathy, occupational therapy, Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, pain therapy etc. The only thing that really has worked is osteo and the dietician, I've been given a supplement to help me gain weight and the osteo helps with my lymph glands and back.

Day 10.
What little things make your life easier?

World of Warcraft, ipad instead of laptop because it's lighter, beanbag trays and bed table, dairy free chocolate, my ugly little granny shower stool.

Little things like drinking Aloe Vera in the morning and having my own personal space helps. Going downstairs even tires me out so I need a place to have to myself.

Day 11.
Why do you believe you have this illness? Bad luck, a higher power or something else?

It's just bad luck.. If it is a 'higher power' whatever it is can fuck off.

I definitely got this from bad luck.

Day 12.
Briefly explain to a healthy person what it is like to live with this illness.

There is no brief way to explain this. it is so complicated and affects absolutely everything in my life that it just is too much to explain.
You always feel fatigued and ill no matter what you're doing, you always feel sleep deprived and in pain, basically like a zombie that 'doesn't look like a zombie'.

Day 13.
Has your physical illness had any effect on your mental health? Explain.

Is that a joke? Of course it has, how can you be in constant pain and not become angry/depressed? 
Yes, my ME caused me to come out of school at the age of 10 which had given me social anxiety, I've been recently going to CBT to help this but was on the waiting list for years.

Day 14.
Give 5 things you are grateful for.
  1. My bed
  2. My PC
  3. My ipad
  4. My boyfriend
  5. My family & friends.
  1. My family, 
  2. My dogs, 
  3. The health care we receive, 
  4. My osteopath (I always email her whenever I have a new symptom because she has ME herself and knows how to help usually).
  5. My bedroom. Weird thing to be grateful for, but we decorated it specifically to be a calm environment for me to rest.

Day 15.
What would you say to people newly diagnosed with this illness?

Fuck off physiotherapy, don't do GET, look after yourself, focus on getting yourself better and nothing else, education can wait, medical professionals don't always know best. If you feel poorly rest, please don't try to push through it.
I'd tell newly diagnosed people to NOT go into anything too quickly, to rest and to pace.

Day 16.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?

The three I love aren't exactly inspirational but hey ho

"Not all those who wander are lost"

Cobain once wrote "Art that has long lasting value cannot be appreciated by majorities , only the same small percent will value arts patience as they have always have. This is good."

"I have met many minds able to store and translate a pregnantly large amount of information, yet they haven't an ounce of talent for wisdom or the appreciation of passion."
I don't have a favourite inspirational quotes..

Day 17.
How would things be different if you weren't ill?

That's impossible to answer, how am I suppose know or even be able to guess?
I'd be doing dance, I'd be very smart, most likely, since I learn very quickly and I'd probably be focusing on school more than anything and not on my illness.

Day 18.
Do you think you have become a better person through being ill? Explain.

I couldn't answer this so I asked my mama and she said "You have grown wise beyond your years, show empathy towards others, are nurturing, caring and compassionate. You appreciate the smallest gestures of kindness towards you and give so much love back in return. This illness has taken so much away from you but it has made you a wiser, more appreciative person who makes the most of what you can do when you can do it."
I think I have, I have become wiser and more mature. Sometimes I feel as if this makes me a bit displaced in my friend group but they're all lovely and don't treat me like someone with am illness.

Day 19.
How do you feel about the future?

The future scares the shit out of me.

I'm excited about the future, I know exactly what I want to do and hopefully will be loads better by then.
Day 20.
Have you met anyone with the same illness? Did it help?

Not really met anyone else as such with M.E. as it affects everyone differently and it may or may not come with other illness associated with it. I had OT group with other people with ME but they were all affected differently and we didn't speak to each other.
My sister has M.E. and became ill 2 years before me, which does help me to have her around to talk to.

Other than my sister - I've met a few but the only people who have helped are people my mums age because they're more experienced and are willing to share what helps them. They're all very sweet and go out of their way to help someone.

Day 21.
What networks or websites have you used for support or information about your illness?

I have looked at information forwarded from Invest in ME website and The Young ME Sufferers Trust, my mum is active on many support websites and is focused on fund raising towards biomedical research & raising awareness , especially with the Let's Do It For ME campaign group - so I get information indirectly from her.

Only really Facebook. I've tried AYME and other forums but have never really been able to use them daily or even weekly, I don't have the energy to keep in touch on them and so they just don't drag me in.

Day 22.
How do you feel you have been treated by the medical system? Explain.

I feel very let down as I had to go to a private doctor to get any help and we pay for the osteopath since the hospital doesn't understand what we need. Everything that helps we seem to have to pay for. The hospital only seems interested in GET and what can save them money. I don't feel listened to, cared for or supported by the medical system. If I was listened to and given treatment to help my symptoms I don't think I would be ill anymore, or at least in less pain. 

I think by certain people, like some Physiotherapists, some OT's and some doctors have been really stuck up, rude and pushy about my illness but others have been lovely. I now am working with a really lovely OT on how to gradually, slowly and safely build up my muscle strength and core.

Day 23.
What do you say to yourself when you need a pep talk?

I don't say anything to myself, I go to my boyfriend or my mum because I'm a depressing fuck.

I don't give myself pep talks or really talk to people about my illness or my personal problems, I don't like people in my business.

Day 24.
How have you managed to juggle your social life through your illness?

Is this question also a joke? My social life depends on my health, but I do go out once in a blue moon.

It's hard because I go weeks without seeing some people, but mainly it's alright. I tend to stick to seeing people who I'm really close to alone and then the rest in big groups.

Day 25.
Name 5 activities you have managed to pursue while being ill and 5 activities you have done that you wouldn't have pursued if you hadn't become ill.

I can't specifically answer this question but since being ill I have focused on the arts and use art as a therapy.

Editing, I'm not a good singer really but singing, I used to love painting and I still do occasionally, doing make up (special FX) and I can't think of a fifth. Mostly just editing but that's an important one.

Day 26.
What impact has this had on your friends, family, partner, parents etc?

How am I supposed to answer that? I don't know, they haven't told me.

It's just made it a bit annoying and difficult, especially when it comes to making plans for a few weeks time because I never know if I'll be well enough by then.

Day 27.
What's the most helpful advice you have had?

"Listen to your body, stop before you get tired and rest."

Mostly just the pacing that has helped me, pacing is hard to get the hang of but once you have and know your limits it really helps. Also, forcing yourself to only sleep at night, if you can, helps.

Day 28.
Name 5 things you have achieved despite your illness.
  1. Discovered love of art and using different mediums.
  2. Managing to maintain a successful relationship with my boyfriend despite the many challenges.
  3. Managed to reach max level on World of Warcraft.
  4. My hair always looks uber brilliant hashtag swag
  5. Eyebrows on fleeeeeeek
  1. Doing editing, 
  2. Doing well in English and maths,
  3. Going back to school via Nisai Academy Virtual School (so can go to lesson when still in bed)
  4. Maintaining friendships, 
  5. I can't come up with a fifth.

Day 29.
What has helped you cope with the stress of this lifestyle?

Medication ;)

Having my own space has helped, when I'm stressed and unwell, seeing people just makes it all 10x worse so it's nice to be able to go and have some alone time.

Day 30.
And finally - starting at your toes and working up to your head, name each part of your body and how your illness has affected it, followed by something you like about that part of your body.

This is such a hard question for someone with a chronic illness, most of the time every single little part of you is affected but basically every part of my body hurts, every part of my body is affected, my joints, my muscles, my gut, my skin, my eyes, sensitivity to touch, smell, sounds, taste and sensitivity to light. Also, there is the numbingly terrible fatigue.

This question is too long to answer, so I'm going to summarise and say which parts of my body have been affected. It's mostly my back, shoulders, joints and thighs, but the rest of my body can feel very achy and tired at times too.

I am finding that even though I am living with the girls reading their answers makes me incredibly sad for what they are missing out on but also immensely proud of them and how they keep fighting on to try and gain control over their bodies and make the absolute best of the situation they are in. They grasp every opportunity they are able to take and utilise it the best they can.

Bear with me hear if you suddenly think why is she going off topic ~ March heralds the first ever British Heart Foundation DECHOX Challenge. Dave (hubby) scared us rigid in December 2014 by having 3 heart attacks within a fortnight, it was thanks to the excellent care by paramedics, emergency staff and cardiac unit that he is now safely recovering and currently going through the intense cardiac rehab sessions in outpatients twice weekly at the local hospital. In gratitude to them I am taking part in their DECHOX challenge during March but have also decided to split the fundraising between The British Heart Foundation and Invest In ME Research because many ME sufferers also have resulting heart issues due to the illness. Research from whichever corner into both the heart and ME is vitally important in ensuring more lives are saved and treatments, along with new diagnostic methods found.

If you would like to donate to or share our fundraising pages we, as a family, would be enormously grateful. The links are below;

Donations towards British Heart Foundation can be given here;

Donations towards Invest in ME Research can be given here;

Finally, I leave you with this last word from the girls...

Friday, 20 February 2015

DECHOX Challenge

Today marks the beginning of a very long month a whole 31 days without any of the brown stuff!

Like a fool I have decided to take part in the first ever DECHOX challenge! That's right, you read it correctly DECHOX, as in NO chocolate or chocolate products throughout the entire month of March!!

The DECHOX Challenge is the brain child of The British Heart Foundation and I am wanting to do this in order to give something back after the incredible care Dave had after his 3 cardiac events (which you can read about here) from the Derby Royal Hospital Cardiac Team ~ who are just simply amazing and have done and still do provide great ongoing support, which I wrote about here.

However, I am being a little bit cheeky by splitting the fundraising challenge proceeds between two charities as there is another worthy cause very dear to my heart and that's Invest in ME Research which is our hope for finding treatments for my two youngest daughters who have already had their lives limited by this illness for far too long. You can read their ME journey here, and how they feel about living with such an awful illness in their own words here.

The rules regarding chocolate are very clear and stated via the BHF website as: ~

"Any sort of cocoa is a no-no, which means chocolate sweets, treats, biscuits, ice cream, cake – and even the chocolate sprinkles on your cappuccino – are off limits during March."

Those of you who know me will realise what a gargantuan challenge this will be for me as I am such a devout chocoholic. However, looking on the bright side I will then be kind to myself and allow myself to gorge fully on chocolate for Easter, which conveniently falls at the beginning of April this year. So that is the carrot I shall be dangling at the end of my stick throughout this challenge in order to keep me on the straight and narrow!

If you wish to support me you can either donate via text or online ~ the information with the text code and number is given below if you prefer to do it that way or you can click on either of the links, also provided below to be taken directly to your chosen Justgiving page...

Donations towards British Heart Foundation can be given here;

Donations towards Invest in ME Research can be given here;


Friday, 13 February 2015

50 Facts About Me Challenge

Okay, so my firstborn child, Keisha, has tagged me to share 50 facts about me, to be fair I wasn't going to accept the challenge but then she persuaded me to. You can read Keisha's blog post containing her 50 facts here.
So, since the challenge has been accepted and after much wracking of my brain, scratching of head and dishevelment of hair I give you my 50 facts *insert drum roll here*
  1. I am a Taurus and yes, I can be very stubborn!
  2. I'm a worry wart, I worry all of the time, about everything and anything ~ I can't seem to turn down the worry button in my brain.
  3. I am one sixteenth Burmese although you wouldn't know to look at me which is a shame.
  4. I was logged in my medical records as being 5ft 10" tall, yet in latter years have been told I am only 5ft 8" tall (where did those two inches go?)
  5. I spent 3 years trying to learn the violin and after much gnashing of my tutors teeth I only managed to very badly screech out a version of "Scarborough Fair" by the end of my time with her.
  6. I used to play piano but stopped taking lessons after gaining my grade 4.
  7. I had ballet lessons until my mid-teens which I loved but stopped after my teacher told me I was too tall and my knees overlapped - rude!
  8. I am tone deaf although would dearly love to be able to sing I truly can't hit a single note.
  9. My hair once snapped off due to over bleaching it and I had to have it cut so short that my nursing paper hat was held on my head via friction as there wasn't enough hair to even put a grip in it. I also had a large number of perms during the 80's and back-combed it for added volume then hair sprayed it within an inch of it's life so that there was literally no movement in it.
  10. I attended a week long residential cookery course in France, I have the certificate to prove I was there and completed it yet strangely have absolutely no memory of it whatsoever.
  11. Since I have been with Dave we have moved house a total of 8 times, the home we are in at the moment is the one we have lived in the longest.
  12. I had a severe case of mumps during the long summer holiday before I started secondary school and spent the entire time in bed, miserable, with my entire face and neck swollen - I looked like Moonface from the Faraway Tree! My mum used to mash up melon for me to drink/eat in a slushy format as my mouth could barely open - I have a huge fondness for the sweetness and juiciness of melons ever since.
  13. I love eating salt 'n' vinegar crisps together with milk chocolate - I think it's a combo that really works. Talking of food; my favourite sandwich is exceptionally unhealthy -  get two slices of granary bread, spread thickly with mayo, cover liberally with slabs of garlic sausage and then thick slices of pickled onions, then smash on top salt and vinegar crisps. Squash the slices of bread together (as all best sandwiches HAVE to be squashed together) cut into squares and eat.
  14. Even though I am well into my adult years I still cut my sandwiches into quarters. I also can't bite into apples for fear of biting into a maggot so will only eat apples if can cut and slice them first
  15. I have broken both my little toes on numerous occasions, so much so that they are both rather gnarled and bent but have never broken any other bones in my body.
  16. I went to boarding school in Abingdon for 5 years from Y1 to Y5 - but got "asked to leave and never come back" so went to the local 6th form in Horncastle, Lincolnshire.
  17. I have an older sister and younger brother.
  18. I have known my husband for 42 of my 46 years on this planet.
  19. I am a HUGE Terry Pratchett fan and am in the process of buying and collecting everything he has ever written.
  20. I don't like Marmite or Peanut Butter - yuck!!
  21. I have been many sizes in my life but am finding with age comes acceptance and slowly but surely am beginning to accept myself "just as I am" (although I do still have the odd BIG wobble every now and then).
  22. I am stupidly excited with the emergence of each and every new silver grey/white hair and have stopped dying my hair so that I can keep track of the birth of each new one.
  23. I have had 5 miscarriages, all boys, at 12 weeks gestation.
  24. I have 3 daughters very close together - 15 months between my first and second born and 18 months between my second and third born. I am so happy they were born so close together as they are great friends and extremely close.
  25. I have an addiction to "lounge wear" which drives my husband nuts.
  26. I also adore man jumpers and always seek out new bargains - again driving said husband nuts.
  27. I feel odd and uncomfortable in dresses, I also dislike formal well attended occasions preferring more casual intimate gatherings with just a few people.
  28. I am less likely to suffer fools with each advancing year.
  29. I am a qualified RGN, Typist and Masseuse ~ although only practice massage on my hubby and girls.
  30. Once upon a time before age sought to stiffen my joints I could put my legs behind my head.
  31. I am the only person in my family who can't curl my tongue.
  32. My tongue is also incidentally exceptionally short and makes people laugh when I try to stick it out as far as I can, truly it is a sad and pathetic sight!
  33. I use ! far too often.
  34. I get verbal diarrhoea when nervous and end up revealing information which should never be shared.
  35. I blush scarlet whenever I pass a policeman looking horribly guilty, I have no idea why.
  36. I can't stand up and speak out in public through crippling shyness, I become a gibbering wreck, and my voice literally disappears.
  37. Everyone I know who has seen my feet think they are strange and that my toes look like jelly babies (again ~ rude!).
  38. I am butt clenchingly, palm sweatingly, nausea inducingly TERRIFIED of those 8-legged critters otherwise known as spiders *shudders violently*
  39. I love Tom Jones and Barry Manilow and have been to see them live with my poor hubby (he must really love me) ~ they are exceptional live.
  40. I love nothing more than to sing My Chemical Romance songs at the top of my voice and am a HUGE fan of Muse.
  41. I love a song called "Cock Robin" the version I have the girls says is just plain weird and spooky and they seriously dislike it (that is being polite) but Dave loves it and we enjoy singing it together.
  42. During my first holiday with Dave we went to a place called "Clun" and we got rather merry one night and drove the locals insane by repeatedly playing "Stand By Your Man" on the jukebox and dancing to it.
  43. I have a huge love for trees, I have paintings of them and just love being around them because I find them immensely soothing. I would like to be buried beneath a sapling when my time comes.
  44. I adore animals, especially our three loopy dogs who bark far more than any other dogs in the neighbourhood and often sets the other dogs off in a round robin of barking.
  45. My body is all lopsided, my eyebrows are different shapes, my nostrils are different sizes, my ears are not level so my glasses don't sit straight, one foot is bigger than the other as is one boob.
  46. I can't ride a bike without having to fall off to stop ~ coordination isn't something I have been blessed with.
  47. I would love to write a book one day, I am a closet, frustrated writer but have no skill or plot!
  48. My favourite TV shows are Greys Anatomy, Silent Witness, Breaking Bad and 24.
  49. My secret crush is David Suchet, I find him especially weirdly attractive as Poirot!
  50. I have one tattoo on the inside of my right wrist which I had on my 41st birthday after the death of my mum ~ it is a St Cuthbert's cross surrounded by 5 stars, the cross is significant for me and represents my mum and the five stars for each of the babies I lost. I am so happy I had it done I find myself gently stroking it when I am sad which weirdly provides me with some comfort.
So there you have it ~ my 50 facts about me. You may find that you have learnt something new about me or you may already know all of the above.
So, if you are a reader of my blog and a blogger yourself I hereby challenge you to write a "50 facts about me" yourself because I am hugely nosey and finds these challenges fascinating. I am going to tag Tasha, Alex, Kirsty and Stacy to do this challenge :)
Thank you for reading and see you again next time.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Life in the Rehab Zone

Those who follow my blog will already be aware that we're not your average household. My eldest daughter suffers from autistic and mental health issues, my two youngest daughters with ME, along with anxiety and mental health issues. So I am a stay at home mum and chief carer of the household.

Then, just to spice life up a little more, before Christmas my husband has not one, not two, but three heart attacks! The first heart attack happened at the end of November and was misdiagnosed by the paramedic and then GP at the time as an oesophageal spasm (which can mimic all the signs of a heart attack). It wasn't until 10 days later when he had his second heart attack in front of me in our home that he was diagnosed by the paramedic who came to us and confirmed later in hospital by the Cardiac Consultant via two different types of blood tests that it was definitely a heart attack and in retrospect looking at the paramedic ECG from the first episode that that was one too.  Later, whilst on the operating table having his stent fitted he had his third attack, giving all involved a bit of a scare! Thankfully now his stent is safely in place (his artery was 85% furred up) and all his other vessels, although a little furred, require no stenting and there is only a small amount of heart disease.

We are now in the rehab zone post heart attack. I have to say first and foremost that the medical team at Derby Royal Hospital and associated ambulance men and paramedics were excellent, friendly and efficient in treatment and information provided. The cardiac team couldn't have been more supportive and reassuring which made our time there much easier. Dave is now going through the twice weekly rehab sessions in outpatients with the specialist cardiac rehab team. Every session they check through medications and any issues the patients have encountered since the last visit. Followed by a talk of the day either by a member of the team or a guest speaker. Talks are related to health, relaxation, exercise and diet. The last talk was by a guy from Trent PTS, talking about anxiety, stress and insomnia ~ which can be an issue for some patients.  This talk focused on specific relaxation and breathing exercises to help aid relaxation and sleep (so I'll be trying that!). They are provided as free audio downloads which you can access (if you scroll down to the bottom of the page) here. Finally, they finish each session with a gym work out, individually tailored to each patient to work within their limits.

It has to be said, once you have suffered from a heart attack your life has to change, it was a massive shock and scare but we are grateful that we still have Dave with us, so the changes we are making seem paltry really.

The first change was adjusting to taking so many medications on discharge from hospital ~ there are quite a few, each day Dave has to take...

Aspirin ~ this works by reducing stickiness of platelets in the blood and therefore reduces clotting, and the risk of a blood clot within the heart and a heart attack.

Bisoprolol Fumarate ~ this beauty is used to treat heart failure and works by blocking certain chemicals in the body. It also can help reduce the heart rate and the heart to beat more regularly.

Clopidogrel ~ Like aspirin, clopidogrel is also an anti-platelet medication and is given for a year after the heart attack in conjunction with aspirin to ensure the heart is protected from any further heart attacks. (So when we reach Dave's official heart attack diagnosis anniversary we will discontinue this drug and the aspirin will carry on this job alone)

Lansoprazole ~ this is a proton pump inhibitor (reduces the amount of stomach acid), this is prescribed to prevent ulcers occurring due to long term use of aspirin.

Ramipril ~ this is a Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, it's specific job is to improve survival after a heart attack and is also used to lower blood pressure and treat congestive heart failure.

Atorvastatin ~ commonly known as "statins" is used to reduce the levels of "bad" and increase the levels of the "good" cholesterol. This in turn helps reduce the risk of further heart damage or heart attacks.

GTN Spray (when required under the tongue) ~ this has to be kept with Dave at all times, it is used to treat episodes of angina, however, we have been told that if the GTN spray doesn't ease any heart pain after three sprays (taken at ten minute intervals) then to ring for an ambulance straight away as could be a heart attack.

So, they are Dave's new medications. We also have to ensure that we change our lifestyle now too - since the heart attack Dave is less physically able to do the work he used to do and becomes exhausted very quickly. He is having to learn the art of delegation, something he is finding difficult after being such a hands on guy. We also have to try and reduce stress as much as possible ~ although there are no medical findings into how or why stress is an indicator with heart attacks, it is a definite common factor with all patients and so a lot of work is done in helping patients to relax and try to avoid anxiety and stress wherever possible. This is far easier said than done ~ especially when my husband is self-employed! The British Heart Foundation have produced this booklet to help patients deal with stress.

Then there is the diet, this is just a basic sensible eating plan to follow for life. Now Dave loses weight if I lose weight, gains it if I gain it because we are both foodies and so one does what the other does. With this in mind, after Dave's' heart attack I was invited into the surgery for a full MOT so to speak because our surgery know of our family situation and the high stress levels and as chief carer thought it would be a good idea.

I had reams of blood tests and a physical exam by the doctor. Thankfully my blood tests have come back all normal, with the exception of my cholesterol which was 5.5 so very slightly up (they like it to be below 5). However, talking about risks and diet I was given a firm telling off for trying so many different diet plans in the past, from Lighterlife, Slimming World, Rosemary Connelly, Cabbage Soup, Fasting diets etc. Now I'm not having a pop at any of you who follow these diets but for me personally this led to the yo-yo effect of weight loss and then gain, which in turn was having a negative impact on my health and mental well-being. The problem is I go full pelt into these diets and follow them by the letter, and this doesn't work for me as I can't sustain it. So, I have been firmly advised to stop seeking fast weight loss and "diets" as such and to just follow the healthy eating advice as given by the British Heart Foundation, which you can find out more about and download from here, as nothing is forbidden, there is no weighing or measuring, it is just common sense and portion control I find I can sustain it and it has become the way myself and Dave plan our food and menus. We don't feel deprived of anything or limited in our choices, we still have the odd slice of cake or chocolate bar and allow ourselves a tipple or two ~ the difference is now we stay within the weekly unit guidelines (something we went WAY over before) and don't binge drink (so bonus is no hangovers either). Another great tip that works in helping to reduce portion size without and kerfuffle is to use a smaller dinner plate but ensure you fill it (not pile it high though). This works well in ensuring you have a smaller portions but also somehow (whether it is psychological who knows but it works) leaves you feeling just as satisfied and full by the end of the meal as you would have done with the bigger portion.

With this new regime both myself and Dave are very slowly losing weight, I have been told that we should aim just for the slow progress of 1lb a week (anything else is a bonus really). This way we should be able to lose the weight and keep it off for good whilst maintaining an easy, sustainable, life-long eating plan where neither of us feel deprived or limited in our food choices (apart from Dave can't have grapefruit as it reacts with his medications).

The girls follow it with us too but with their individual dietary tweaks because of their health issues, Keisha is vegetarian, Tasha has reduced meat (mostly veggie) and lactose free and Tara has low sugar, high fibre, high protein.

So far life in the rehab zone is taking some adjusting to. Reducing stress is something we are working hard at combating, although as I said easier much easier said than done. Trying to find a way to earn a living within the new guidelines is going to be interesting but I know we will find a way. Dave is doing well, he is currently suffering from some side effects from the medications but the rehab team are working at ways to resolve this ~ so more blood tests are being carried out to see if dosages can be tweaked or whether alternatives are going to have to be sought out. This is all normal though and everyone responds differently to this situation. We have been told to be aware that depression may set in due to the changes needing to be made and limitations currently being felt. We acknowledge we are still in the early stages of rehab and being anxious and fearful is a normal response. I hope to blog later in the year to share with you our progress and hope that Dave will be feeling fitter and healthier without too many medication induced side effects.

On the bonus side though the Hairy Trio have been enjoying walks in an evening with both myself and Dave and hope to be resumed very soon. Currently these are on hold whilst the side effect issues are being addressed as exhaustion and dizziness are preventing our walks right now as I don't think I can scoop up Dave over my shoulder whilst holding three darting dogs on leads to get home!

Life is a gift, we take the good with the bad and I am grateful that Dave is still with us and so everything else is easy in comparison to what could have been.