A Midsummers Night Blog

This is just going to be kind of a random blog about Gabe’s progress and life in general.

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Lindt chocolate ball,  mmm

Gabe is now 5 months into topical steroid withdrawal.  I know I left off with sharing what rough shape he was in a couple weeks ago (with what may or may not have been measles…) without any real update.  He did get better.  Now he is back to his usual TSW self.

His skin looks much better than in the early days (or even two weeks ago with mystery illness!) but his energy levels are still very low.  I imagine long term topical steroid use caused major adrenal gland suppression and it is just taking a long time for them to “re-boot”.

At this point he is still sitting in his favorite spot, the recliner, for most of the day.  He doesn’t want to go anywhere.  I can’t blame him.  Minnesota summers are hot and very humid and it aggravates his condition horribly.  Just 5-10 minutes outside will lead to a 20 minutes “itchfest” where he’ll scratch till he is bleeding and in pain.

One of the hardest things is feeling guilty because so much of my time goes to taking care of Gabe.  My other two children just aren’t getting as much attention.  We could have picked a better time to start!  I feel like we are all missing out on summer fun, seeing as how we spend most of our time indoors.

I know next summer will be different, will be better.

In the mean time I can’t wait for school to start.  I know moms aren’t supposed to say that, but it’s true.  I am truly an introvert, and I need a good deal of peace and quiet every day for a sense of emotional well-being.  Being mostly stuck inside all day with three loud children is very draining!  That plus the fact that many nights Gabe is literally up till midnight and then up again at 7 am, needing care.

As someone who is naturally prone to depression, I feel like I have been handling this all really well.  My husband is my support system for sure.  Plus my sweet dog (the subject of my last blog post) he is always there with his comforting presence.  And of course, God (!!!).

There has been quite a lot of pain along the way.  In that this condition is very alienating and I haven’t gotten as much support from other people in my life as I would hope for.  I have felt judgement (real or imagined) at our decision to take Gabe off of his potent steroid creams.

I know that ultimately it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  My husband and I are 100% on the same page.  We feel like God led us to this point.  I know that Gabe will heal and that will be vindication in itself, along with being our greatest hope realized.

In closing I think that so often we feel like if God is with us, the journey would be easier.  We feel like if we are hurting and exhausted, God can’t possibly be involved.  But that just isn’t the case.  Just like how he met with the Patriarchs in the desert, he meets with us in our “desert”.

“I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” Isaiah 41:81

“Lord, help us to find your streams of life-giving waters in whatever barren wilderness we find ourselves in.  Help us to rise above our circumstances as we keep our eyes on you.  Do a work in our hearts as we submit the brokenness of our situations to you.  Help us to know that you are the prize we seek and that we have eternal value as your workmanship in Christ Jesus.  Amen”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update and TSW Treatment

Gabe started topical steroid withdrawal in mid-February of this year so he is 4 months in. 19113521_10158905728715074_8900016741876609406_n

The bright red skin of the first two months has faded and now it just looks like he has horrible eczema/was in a car crash.  The areas that still look really awful are where we applied steroids the most and longest- wrists, feet, ankles and legs.  His face is flaring though we never really applied steroids and he never had eczema there.

His energy levels are still maybe 35% of what they used to be.  He still spends a lot of time sitting in his favorite spot, the recliner.  He is able to be active and enjoy some quality of life thanks to some supplements we do everyday.

Right now what is really helping him is astaxanthin.  It’s a super potent antioxidant that is reportedly 6,000 times more powerful than vitamin C!!  I carry him out of bed in the morning and after breakfast he chomps up a 12 mg capsule of astaxanthin and within 10 minutes he is feeling 80% better and is able to get up and run around and be a normal kid.  His mouth is perpetually stained orange but it works!!  Astaxanthin is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in red algae (and sea food).  It’s what makes flamingoes pink!

We still give him CBD oil (yes, from marijuana) when his pain and anxiety levels are very high.  We give him 3-4 drops and he holds it in his mouth for 30 seconds before swallowing.  It really helps him and the benefits go behind pain relief.

We also give him detox baths every other day.  Epsom salts, dead sea salts, lavender oil and sometimes a bit of bentonite clay.  He likes the water very hot and even though it usually stings at first, he never wants to get out.  It’s the only place he doesn’t feel pain or itchiness.

Gabe also take probiotics and drinks a lot of kombucha.  He is constantly asking for fruit so we try to stay stocked up.

His sleep is still a nightly struggle.  So 1-2 times a week we give him 10 mg of hydroxinine to help him get some uninterrupted sleep.  We get a break and he gets to sleep through the night without shredding up his skin.

I just ordered liviaone topical probiotic spray and I am pretty excited to try it out.  I really think it will help Gabe heal because of so much of what he’s been through (similar to most people with eczema/TSW) destroy good bacteria on the skin- the steroids, the antibiotics, and bleach baths…. that I really feel he will be able to heal much more quickly with the introduction of healthy bacteria to his skin.

What I’ve tried that hasn’t been successful-

A high grade sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).  There is a lot of buzz about safe soda helping people heal very quickly on the TSW pages.  Problem is, this stuff is super expensive and hard to get.  I tried what seemed to be a similar alternative but without success.  I haven’t ruled out safe soda but it’d be painful to spend $60+ on a small contained of baking soda.

Essential oils.  I’m a huge user of them.  I’ve used them near daily for the past four years.  I just can’t put them on Gabe because his skin is so sensitive that they make him worse.  A couple drops in the tub is ok, applied topically just seems to be too much.

Homeopathy.  Granted we went right in the beginning and we were exhausted and overwhelmed.  We left with like 20 supplements all with complex directions.  Half of them were pills that he couldn’t even swallow.  It was basically a waste of $500.  It probably would have worked better later on in his treatment and if it was more simplistic and doable.

 

Suffering and Heaven

18920650_10158894564500074_8516742202078951748_nYesterday I took just Gabe out shopping.  I don’t often get to spend alone time with him and I was reminded what an amazing kid he is.  He has such a tender soul.  He wants to run an orphanage when he grows up… but he also wants to drive a Ferrari, so… 😉

We had a fun time, just the two of us.  On the way home he kept asking me about Heaven and what it’ll be like when Jesus comes back.

I explained to him that Jesus will appear in the sky with great glory, riding the clouds.  That every eye will see him, even those that pierced him.  That we will rise to meet him and be changed, to be like him.  That there will be no more sickness, death, pain…

I got choked up and so did he.  He said, “Mom, I can see him coming.”  I said, “honey that’s the Holy Spirit showing you that it’s true.”

You see, just the day before he had been in a lot of pain.  In between tears and sobs he had asked, “if God loves me, why am I suffering so much?”

The conversation, and the sweet presence of God, was something we both desperately needed.  Something that I need more of.

In my own suffering I tend to turn away.  I feel like I can’t take anymore disappointment at times, without losing hold of my faith.  But yesterday, it was like He peeled back the curtain obscuring eternity and gave us both a glimpse of our future and the end of suffering.  I felt a glimpse of the eternity and wonder awaiting us, and looking over at Gabe’s tear-filled eyes, I know he did too.

I know that Gabriel is being molded in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend.  I know he has a huge call on his life.  Even at the age of 8, there is a level of tenderness, empathy and hunger for knowledge of God that is amazing…. probably as the result of all the suffering he’s had to endure.

We can got lost in the hardships we face but we need to remember that life here is short and eternity is long.  We can’t choose the trials but we can choose how we face them.  Our God loves us.

 

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Grunge and Depression

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “there’s demons in the rock music” type of post… just some random reflections and what’s been rolling around in my head lately.

Just within this past week or so I have been coming to grips with the fact that I have depression.  I think I’ve always put my depression in the context of “overcoming” just because that’s how I’m wired.  I’m an INFJ and part of that I am always aggressively looking for ways to improve myself, including my mental health.

“Feeling sad?  Feeling down?  Nothing a good workout and chocolate protein shake can’t fix!!”

Recent events have brought it more clearly into focus.  I have depression.  I’ve probably had it since I was 13.  I usually manage it well enough through healthy coping mechanisms (and let’s face it, sometimes unhealthy ones).  I’m a sensitive person, I think and feel very deeply.  I naturally tend towards melancholy.  Out of all 4 of my siblings and I, I think it is safe to say we all struggle with some degree of depression and anxiety every single day.

There is certainly a genetic component as well as a very real spiritual one.  I do struggle with depression however I do still hear from God, I do still feel a great deal of happiness in my life- because of my relationship with Him and all the gifts he has showered down onto my life.

I can honestly say I don’t think I would have survived my depression without God breaking through into my life.  “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

With the passing of Chris Cornell I can’t help but reflect on my past and the impact depression has had.  I was only a kid when the grunge movement was big but my older siblings were really into it.  When I got into my teenage years the angst and authenticity of the music really spoke to me.  My favorite band was Soundgarden…and then of course, Audioslave.

Chris Cornell was, like many artists, a sensitive soul that battled his own demons and dealt with depression.  We don’t know for sure if his death was a suicide, but it seems likely.  He likely fought the depression and the darkness the best he could, until he couldn’t.

I’ve gone through major crisis’ in my faith.  When I came to God I knew I had major issues, deep pain in my heart.  I knew I needed healing.  I knew I carried a shame around in my soul that tainted every part of my life.   I sought God with everything, I sought healing.  I prayed, I fasted, I wept…. for years.  Yet I still feel such angst in my soul.  I still wake up everyday and feel the need to prove my worth.  I still fight to keep the depression at bay.

I really don’t like offering up “untidy” blog posts.  I really like to post when I’m pumped up on a spiritual high with God and feel like I can offer inspiration.  Those times are true and genuine but they certainly don’t capture the whole story.

I feel like I want to be a little more real in my writing.  Because, well…there are no “successful Christian makeover!” stories, at least not in the sense that we get so healed and delivered that we live in a sort of spiritual reverie, immune to the flesh nature, with a perfect grin and perfect family until Kingdom come.

It just isn’t reality.

In being thrust into a caretaker care for my son, a lot of the self-medicating (or coping, tomato-tomato!) tactics I’ve used have been really messed with.  The things I use to prop myself up (don’t we all have them?) where suddenly taken or just not enough.  I’ve realized my motivation for serving God is actually very little when I am really hurting and my prayers seem to go nowhere.  “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Just today I was feeling down about something when I heard God speak to my heart about how He loves me.  He loves the “hot mess” me.  I remembered a time, when I was in my early 20’s and seriously depressed.  I couldn’t love myself and couldn’t imagine God could either.  I stopped praying.  I remember sitting on the dusty carpet in my bedroom near tears when this song came on the radio… https://youtu.be/Ek4I6BeMQIs

I just knew that song, at that moment, was for Me- from God.  I bawled and bawled.  It was a real moment in my life where his light burst forth into the deep darkness I found myself lost in.

I struggle with wanting to wrap everything up into a neat little Christian bow but I really can’t.  As my 8 year old was asking me why God has allowed him to go through these years of suffering, there really aren’t any easy answers.

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Copper the dog looks sad for Gabe too~

I think in this life the pain is real.  The hurts are real.  Especially the hurt we all carry around in our hearts.  So much of life seems random, chaotic even- but for the moments that the light of God breaks in.  Somehow we survive and come out a little softer, a little stronger.

It’s ok to be hurting.  It’s ok to have questions.  As long as those pangs and hurts ultimately lead us to our Healer, into a deeper relationship with Him, as he slowly unravels the hurts and shines his light into our deep darkness.   And if we take a detour, He will come and rescue us when we are ready.

Rebirth

It’s a bit gloomy here (spring is always dicey in Minnesota!) but there are undeniable signs of spring.  I can hear birds chirping right now and the sun is trying to peek out.  I have been so happy because I love spring so much.  The winter here is long, cold and dark.  It isn’t even just the weather though, it’s that spring is such a symbol of new life and rebirth.

Spring always brings fresh life spiritually as well.  I love Easter and all that it represents.  Ten years ago it was spring when I finally let God in and had the most joyful season of jubilee that I will forever be marked by.

My life is a bit crazier than usual at the moment.  I am in a full-time caregiver role to my son who is navigating red skin syndrome.  He is mostly bedridden.  His hands, wrists and legs are the hardest hit.  So much so that walking or even writing with a pencil is difficult, and at times impossible.   He is also struggling with insomnia so he is often very tired and cranky.

I know it is so imperative that I stay positive and joyful as his caregiver.  Positivity is HUGE in healing.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/owning-pink/201112/can-positive-thinking-help-you-heal  I need to create an atmosphere of positivity to help Gabe cope with his pain and frustration.  Also, I need to stay positive to cope with being thrust into a very intensive caregiver role.

I had been really struggling.  Big time.  I was just succumbing to the negativity in my circumstances.  It wasn’t just everything Gabe was going through.  We all got sick for a ridiculous amount of time, two rounds of back to back flu.  Plus my youngest acting out to get more attention (can’t blame her).  Plus family drama.  It was just a lot to deal with.  And when I feel like that I inevitably start getting angry with God.

God is good and loving and generous and all that.  But there are seasons where he really wants to mature us.  He wants us to seek his face, seek HIM, and not all the wonderful blessings he bestows.  We all get our “Job” moments.

I feel like I’ve gotten more than my fair share….but then I realize God had also bestowed such underserved favor and blessing on me as well.  I have SO much to be thankful for.  SO much.

I decided to really embrace joy and walk in trust and joy has been bubbling over.  I have been ecstatic.  I’ve been really happy.  Really.  It’s proof that we can be joyful and thrive in our faith even when circumstances are beyond difficult.

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Phil 4:4

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Gabe is doing pretty good at the moment.  I discovered a new very promising therapy for him, cannabinoid oil.  I had been applying it to his skin without much improvement but then I decided to give him a drop internally.  Wowza!  He showed a huge improvement.  He was happy and walking around and playing, which is kind of a miracle at this point.

Unfortunately I had already used most of the bottle on his skin so I ordered some more this morning.  If this process has taught me anything it is that we should look to natural cures and therapies that work with the body instead of against it.  Many people take steroids (which shut down the bodies inflammatory response) then when that stops working they get immunosuppressant drugs which shut down their immune system.  We were perscribed such immune-destroying drugs but I’m so glad we didn’t use them.

In closing, please know that there is a God in Heaven who loves you.  He created you.  He uses both the good and the hard things to get your attention, to make you look upward.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

 

 

Getting through this Season

I wanted to write another update on Gabe, because I haven’t for awhile and people ask how he is doing frequently.

It’s 6 weeks in and he is still in the hardest stage.  People keep asking, “is he better yet?!”  No, he isn’t.  It’s a long, painful process and it just takes time.  No, it isn’t an allergy.  No, it isn’t eczema.  There is no magic bullet.  His body has to withdraw from the powerful steroid creams.  That is a painful and difficult and long process. 20170322_133757

The withdrawal started on his torso and neck but has worked it’s way down to his legs and arms.  His neck and torso do look a lot better at this point.  His legs look awful.  They are by far the worst hit, because they received most of the steroids over the years.  They are so dark they are almost purple.  Every night we have to wrap his legs in bandages so he doesn’t shred them.  Every night those bandages are soaked in blood and ooze. 20170322_134059

Because of the rough shape his legs are in, and the toil the withdrawal is taking on his overall health, he can’t walk at this point.  Well, not more than a few steps here or there.  We carry him around the house.  We are almost housebound.

We’ve been dealing with not only this but two rounds of the flu.  Plus, a certain neglected 4 year old decided to stop going #2 on the toilet for a week.  It was a week of negotiating and cleaning poo out of her clothes and off of carpet, walls, the ceiling (JK)… and on top of that I’ve been dealing with hurt over a lack of support through this, from the people I’ve supported in the past.

Plus most days we are exhausted because Gabe isn’t sleeping super great and needs treatment or just support through the night.

They say when it rains it pours.  It can get hard to stay positive and I’ve done my fair share of crying alone in my closet.

Hurt and disappointment seep in and have a way of hardening the heart towards God.  I woke up a couple days ago with the thought resounding in my mind, “you have an enemy and it isn’t God.”

God doesn’t cause the pain or hardship however he allows it.  Pain can be a powerful impetus for change.  I know I have quite a few “weeds” in my life that God wants to prune away.

 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:7-9  joy-comes-in-the-morning

Yes it hurts, and it’s hard.  But we know that we will get through this.  We know that God is for us.  We know that there will be a rainbow after this storm.

 

 

One Day at a Time

This has rapidly become a “TSW” (topical steroid withdrawal) blog.  I know, I know.  Just shy of three weeks ago we were thrust into this world we weren’t aware of.

Now I look back and I can see that at least 90% of Gabe’s “eczema” we’ve been treating for ages was, in fact, actually symptoms of damage and addiction from the creams we were using.  How horrible is that?

It is vindicating to me, in a way; as a more natural-minded type of person.  I never wanted to use steroids anyways.  I did when I felt like it was the only option.  Now I know there are so many natural ways to treat eczema.

It’s a difficult process to go through any sort of withdrawal.  Though topical steroid withdrawal is particularly brutal.  Many adults going through this have gotten to lows where they are suicidal.  Because the pain is that bad.  The itch is bone deep.  You can go days without more than a few hours of sleep. Your skin looks absolutely horrific to the point where you don’t want to leave your house.

I feel like we have been extremely fortunate in that Gabe is still sleeping relatively well.  He is doing very well emotionally.  He seemed ok to me but I wanted to make sure and I was asking him questions about how he was doing “on the inside” with all of this.  He didn’t know what I meant so I said, “does going through all of this make you feel sad?”  He looked at me like I had asked him an inane question, “of course not, why would it?”  He has had a good deal of pain and discomfort but he has taken it in a stride.  He is handling everything so well.

We’ve been doing everything we can to help his body heal.  He was on antibiotics because his skin had gotten “staphy” at one point early on.  He’s been drinking a lot of kombucha to help build up his good bacteria.  I’ve also made a couple pots of super healing soup.  The combo of bone broth, veggies, and spices is so good for him…and it tastes good too!

We did get great news from the dermatologist we saw last week.  She has swabbed Gabe to check for pathogenic bacteria.  I was actually shocked when it came back negative.  She said Gabe had normal skin flora and that the Doctor said she thought our regime is working well, and to keep it up.  That is huge because the main risk now would be from a serious secondary infection (from staph or step) until his skin is in better shape.

We were doing two baths a day when he was in really rough shape.  Now we just do one, at night, with warm water, sea salt, ACV, and lavender oil (we avoid soap cause it dries him out).  After his bath I put on coconut oil, Egyptian magic, clove oil (just two drops, heavily diluted) and silver gel as needed.  Our magic potion ingredients- 20170307_221256.jpg

I’ve read that there isn’t much you can do to speed up the process of withdrawal.  But I don’t think that’s true.  I’ve scoured so many blogs and articles and I really think that you can aid the process of healing along in many ways.

A huge way to hasten recovery is with positivity.  I’m a faith person so I believe 100% in the power of prayer.  I know Gabe has so many people praying for him and that has carried us through to this point.  I also believe that our faith has kept us positive and joyful, even during our worst moments.  We are looking for and celebrating every sign of improvement.  We are looking on the bright side.  We are practicing thankfulness.

He is showing improvement.  I don’t want to jump the gun, because I know that recovery is cyclical, but we are happy, nonetheless.

This was his back about ten days ago- 20170227_171250

This was him today- 20170307_134034.jpg

His neck and torso were initially the worst spots.  Now they are looking much less red and inflamed.  Though it seems to be working it’s way out, down to his legs and up to his face and his hands.  His legs are almost purplish as the blood vessels are very dilated.

“One day at a time” has been my mantra and that is how we will continue to handle this.  We will do everything we can but ultimately trust that we are doing the right thing and that God is sovereignly guiding this process.

The good that has come has been that we have drawn closer together as a family.  We now finally know the cause of Gabe’s ever-worsening “eczema” and more importantly, we know what to do.