Well I haven’t blogged for a long time. I have had a bad patch and not only have been feeling too poorly and exhausted to think about blogging, but also I don’t think many people would be interested in reading about nothing but my woes! So what do I have to bring to the table that makes it worth me blogging now? I want to say something that might be useful to others now, and so this blog will be in two parts. Part one is what has happened and what I have learned from it (the bit that might be useful to others). Part two will be the positive things that have resulted.
So, to start with, many major things broke on the home front (I have had no central heating all winter as I couldn’t afford to get it fixed, then had a major greenhouse collapse, then more household, caravan and van problems followed). I won’t dwell on too many details, but in addition I have not felt well for quite some time now. During June I suffered a serious kidney infection, and for a few weeks while the infection took hold of me, I was overcome with fever, chills and pain, and was unable to do anything but sleep. Worryingly my local doctors surgery were so booked up I couldn’t get to see a doctor immediately, and by the time I was seen, I was told I should probably be in hospital. Luckily for me my wonderful sister took the dogs and I in to look after us all. Because there is another, as yet unidentified, health problem or problems underlying that infection, I have been in and out of the surgery and hospital for tests ever since that time. Again, worrying that it is so difficult to find out about all my test results. I keep chasing, but they just seem to go missing. If you cannot get an expert opinion it is too easy to google in order to look for answers. I think I am fairly pragmatic in my self diagnosis and treatment, and have chosen to believe that eating healthily, getting enough sleep, exercise and looking after myself is the front line approach to a return to health (although I have decided to take multi-vitamins and some immune system stimulating herbs as well). Because coeliac disease was implicated http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeliac_disease I have been eating a gluten free diet (harder than expected, especially considering that there seem to be such a lot of people avoiding gluten). Most of my symptoms have lessoned or gone, although I still feel absolutely exhausted.
So the result of all this as far as agility is concerned is that I have missed the majority of the competition season this year, and now find myself at the end of the season unfit, exhausted, and with my dogs untrained and not as fit as they could be as well. I have managed to go to those shows where I had a commitment, ie I judged at Easter Celebration, Thames and the KC International Agility Festival, and ring managed both days of the Agility Club show. I apologise for not being able to judge the whole day at KCIAF last weekend, I did not feel well enough to do the whole day. Thanks so much to Clive Hildersley for taking over the judging in the afternoon. Apologies also if I have looked surly, I know one person did comment that he thought that I was blanking him, I assure everyone that is not the case, I just have not been feeling very well (I must have a grumpy ‘ill face’). I will also say that I have never been sure how much of chronic fatigue syndrome is in the mind, but now I can tell you, although I cannot find sufficient words to express it well, how being exhausted all the time is devastating, and it has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Neither my mind nor body are working very well. What I want to say to everyone is that generally speaking we just don’t appreciate our health enough, until it is compromised. When I think how often women think that being thin is more important than being healthy! How could we get it so wrong! Health is so important, because nothing is terribly important any more if you have no energy. So I want to say to everyone please, please eat for your health and look after yourselves!
I will try to be brief but want to give a demonstration about the escalation of problems once your health is compromised. Let us consider the case of coeliac disease as it is topical to this blog, and according to some research may affect up to 1% of the population (in the USA). Wikipedia tells us that Coeliac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a prolamin (gluten protein) found in wheat, and similar proteins found in the crops of the tribe Triticeae (which includes other common grains such as barley and rye). Upon exposure to gliadin, and specifically to three peptides found in prolamins, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase modifies the protein, and the immune system cross-reacts with the small-bowel tissue, causing an inflammatory reaction. That leads to a truncating of the villi lining the small intestine (called villous atrophy). This interferes with the absorption of nutrients because the intestinal villi are responsible for absorption, effectively leading to malnutrition. The only known treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. While the disease is caused by a reaction to wheat proteins, it is not the same as wheat allergy. Once malabsorbtion is occuring, Anaemia may develop in several ways: iron malabsorption may cause iron deficiency anaemia, and folic acid and vitamin B12 malabsorption may give rise to megaloblastic anaemia. Calcium and vitamin D malabsorption (and compensatory secondary hyperparathyroidism) may cause osteopenia (decreased mineral content of the bone) or osteoporosis (bone weakening and risk of fragility fractures). Vitamin D malabsorption may cause problems with your immune system working effectively, and Coeliac disease is also associated with bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine, which can worsen malabsorption or cause malabsorption despite adherence to treatment. I could postulate that a kidney infection (usually caused by E. coli, a bacteria present in the intestines), would not be surprising. A small proportion of cases have abnormal coagulation due to vitamin K deficiency and are slightly at risk for abnormal bleeding. Coeliac disease has been linked with a number of other conditions including: IgA deficiency is present in 2.3% of people with coeliac disease, and in turn this condition features a tenfold increased risk of coeliac disease. Other features of this condition are an increased risk of infections and autoimmune disease. Hyposplenism (a small and underactive spleen) occurs in about a third of cases and may predispose people to infection, given the role of the spleen in protecting against bacteria. Abnormal liver function tests are randomly detected on blood tests. Coeliac disease is associated with a number of other medical conditions, many of which are autoimmune disorders: diabetes mellitus type 1, autoimmune thyroiditis, primary biliary cirrhosis, and microscopic colitis.
Although I don’t want to be overly dramatic, being very ill does make you think about your own mortality, especially while you are awaiting diagnosis and are aware that you could be facing something that you might not recover from (the doctor did test for cancer; coeliac disease if left untreated can lead to cancer). In addition, while I don’t want to disclose the details of the lives of my friends, knowing that some of those who are dear to me are facing some serious challenges is also quite sobering. We are all equal in that we are born, we live a while, we die. I will leave you to ponder more on that if you want to, aware that I could easily digress from the positive outcome I am intending to write about. One of the most comforting things someone said to me during a particularly low point when I was mourning the loss of Becky, was that it was less important how long she lived than how well she lived. This low point was earlier this year, leading up to the second anniversary of her death. Those words brought comfort because she was indeed very much loved, and we really did have a wonderful time together. My attitude began to improve from melancholy when I thought more on the reason that losing her left such a big hole was because of how much she brought in to my life, and I felt with more and more certainty that I would rather feel that sadness and mourn her loss, than never have had her here. All these factors also keep reminding me of how important it is to live now and not put things off, make the most of any opportunity that comes your way. Around the same time I remember joking with a good friend that I would be very annoyed if, having scrimped and saved for the next 20 years so that I can pay off all my debts, I died in 10. Although I didn’t know it at the time, all these changes to my outlook occurred on the day a special little puppy was born.
I have loved Pyrenean Sheep Dogs for a few years now, but have not been able to find the right puppy here in the UK. Encouraged by friends I have been searching on the continent, and thought I would have to drive over to France (or Sweden) to get my puppy. Then a freak series of events led me to discover a little merle puppy born not very far from me. He was everything I was looking for, except he is not a PSD! He is Mini American Shepherd http://www.basileas-minis.com/ A rather quick decision had to be made as he had been booked but then had become unexpectedly available, however there was quite a list of people who wanted him had I decided not to have him. Getting him feels absolutely the right thing to have done. He is full of joy. I expect he will be featuring on this blog in the future, he is a little dog with a big character, and has already made a huge impression on my heart.