Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The stuff that dreams are made of

Just after promising more regular posts, I once again disappeared without trace but this time I make no apologies, as I have the best reason in the world ...

I am delighted to announce that 'Flint Leonard Seale' our beautiful baby boy was born safely on 11th Feb at 05.35. To say we are 'over-the-moon' is understatement of the year and even two weeks later we still have to pinch ourselves to believe it is true!

I was incredibly lucky as, as I explained before, many of the symptoms that make pregnancy a particularly challenging time for 'loopies' are not ones that affect me; but I am pleased to say that the problems that did arrive were managed carefully by the excellent team of doctors and midwives looking after us, so both Flint and I emerged from the whole experience in good shape.

With hindsight and experience I have gathered some thoughts on things I believe help me get through pregnancy and birth that I will post next time in case they are of help or interest to other 'loopies'.

With our little 'bundle of joy,' who has already established himself as 'king of the castle' in our house, time has become incredibly limited (I am still working out how to find time to brush my teeth and get dressed each day, let alone anything else!) posts may be few and far between for a while, but I will be around so keep your eyes open and keep in touch. I may also see if I could enlist some guest Living Well with Lupus bloggers to offer their contributions.

In the meantime I need to find a Living Well with Lupus 'moral' to this post.

I guess it has to be: however bad things can be sometimes with lupus, never allow it to make you doubt or give up your dreams and hopes. After all ... "you've got to have a dream because if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?!" - mine certainly did with the arrival of Flint, my little 'spark of light'.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

‘Hats Off’ to the Dr Hajela’s of this World!

Finding a doctor ‘packed’ with the right qualities makes a world of difference to Living Well with Lupus ...

Last week I went for my routine appointment with Dr Hajela, the Rheumatology Consultant whose care I have been under for some years now. At the end of a positive consultation which confirmed the continuation of the recent improvement in my health lupus-wise, Dr Hajela informed me that he and his family are moving away from London so he will no longer be working at Lewisham Hospital. In other words: he will no longer be my consultant.

When I heard this news, whilst I was very pleased for him and his family, from a personal perspective, I was very sad and to be honest, somewhat unnerved. The reason is that I can honestly say that Dr Hajela has played a vital role in enabling me to obtain a good quality of life and to achieve a degree of stability that once seemed may never be possible; not to mention that we (me, my husband and my family) are acutely aware that it was his brave professional decisions at critical times that saved my life (in the most literal sense) on more than one occasion.

Talking to other ‘loopies’ reveals that the period before lupus is formally diagnosed is very often one of the hardest because an array of seemingly unrelated symptoms plague you on and off, some of which you dismiss yourself or put down to other things and within the medical profession, you are passed from ‘pillar to post’ often feeling disbelieved or as if you are ‘making a fuss’ or that you are being dismissed as a ‘hypochondriac’. With a condition that is as complex and difficult to diagnose as lupus, it is often not until you are lucky enough to come across a highly competent doctor who takes you seriously that you can get a handle on what is happening and do something about it. For me, Dr Hajela was the man who did this. By simply believing me and working continuously to help throughout the ups and downs, he has been a rock for me during the most difficult times of my life.

Ultimately it is excellent doctors like this that play a huge part in enabling people with lupus to ‘live well’, so I thought it might be helpful to try and identify the qualities that make the difference. I found that for a doctor that is going to move you forward, what you are looking for is one like Dr Hajela that combines the whole ‘PACK’ of skills. These are:

Caring and Compassionate

Although having read this list you may think it sounds a bit simple or even excruciatingly obvious, in reality finding doctors that actually embody all these qualities can be difficult. They can sometimes seem like a rare breed but Dr Hajela taught me that they do exist and over the years, where necessary, he has also referred me to other specialists who I find similarly equipped with the same particular ‘PACK’ of skills. Such doctors are a credit to their profession.

As sad as it is to be losing Dr Hajela when we concluded our final consultation last week, we both agreed that in many ways it couldn’t be a better time for a ‘farewell’. He leaves knowing that for this patient at least in many ways his work is done. I am no longer ignorant about having lupus and have been taught to watch out and respond to the signs myself so it never need escalate out of control as it once did. He has identified the best set of medications to control my symptoms and I am now able to lead a life that is not completely dominated by lupus and I am at the end of the final trimester of what has amazingly been described as an ‘unremarkable pregnancy' (!) so in a few weeks, all being well, we will be embarking on a new family life. Without Dr Hajela’s help and support it is highly probable that Tony and I would never have had the chance to fulfil this dream.

Many thanks and good luck Dr Hajela!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Changes and Voyages of Discovery

To anyone who has been checking in and wondering why Living Well with Lupus ground rather rudely to a halt in November last year, I can only apologise and explain that the final trimester of pregnancy has been rather more eventful than I would have liked ...

Shockingly, my usually ‘picture of health’ strapping husband Tony suddenly became very ill himself at the end of November and it has lasted rather longer than we would have hoped, coinciding with the chaos of the festive season and beyond. All of a sudden we found ourselves in a weird ‘role reversal’, where I experienced how it feels to be ‘carer’ (a full on job, hence the absence of any Living Well with Lupus posts) and he got to experience what it’s like to be an energy drained ‘patient’. If nothing else it’s been an insightful time and given us a much deeper empathy of each other’s position. Suffice to say both of us discovered that both roles are far from fun. Thankfully, he is gradually recovering now and is back at work (although working from home which means he is using the laptop during the day and by the time he has finished ... well put it this way, when it comes to bedtime I beat my Granny’s early nights, so please forgive me if I am a little remiss for the next few weeks!)

As for the lupus throughout all this, it’s had its usual ‘ebbs and flows’ which have been carefully monitored by my doctors and my medications have been adjusted accordingly and although I am exhausted, I seem to have survived these turbulent times, and miraculously this pregnancy fairly unscathed so far.

When I say ‘miraculously’ that is exactly how I feel because not long after my wedding in 2006 on my 31st birthday when I sat in hospital being infused with cyclophosphamide the prospect of ever being able to start a family seemed remote to say the least. It is with this in mind that I say to any 'loopy' in this position now (although I acknowledge it may feel hard to believe): I am not talking about 'miracles', but I do believe that with due patience and care and it does take time, it is usually still possible to find ways to get what you want from life regardless of lupus as it's a condition where things are rarely set in stone.

Anyway, with all this behind us it is only now that we are all just beginning to accept that 'if we have a baby’ might possibly be becoming 'when we have a baby’, and the whole thing is looming on us - fast. Just four weeks to go! The ‘grandmums’ have both even dared allowed themselves to buy their first baby purchases.

So, how does it feel? Mostly we are just very excited, but in terms of Living Well with Lupus being parent raises a host of new questions (and thanks to you for some of the advice you have already passed on - it's good to feel there is a 'loopy mum' network out there!). How we will manage? Sleep deprivation is a massive problem for any new parent, but when you throw ‘lupus haze’ into the mix and I wonder how ‘loopy’ Mum’s survive?

The other question is how to explain the illness and its consequences to a child?

As if in direct answer to this particular question, I was delighted to hear of a new children’s book ‘Mama, Won’t You Play with Me?’. It’s written by a ‘loopy’ Mum called Meg Walsh who herself had to grapple with the problems of lupus whilst raising her family. Meg Walsh explains on her website that the story helped her children understand the importance of love and family as they could strongly identify with the central character 'Dudley the Duck'.

So, if all goes well, I am certainly going to order a copy and make sure it is on the bookshelf ready for our little one as it grows. Not only will it be a good way to help start explaining, but Meg Walsh will be donating a portion of the proceeds of book sales in May to the Lupus Foundation of America – all good stuff.