Monthly NFP Update: Lessons in Drug Reactions

PSALM 73 (1)

August- a month of opposites. The Creighton Method and Naprotechnology treatment requires a huge helping of patience and humility with a hefty sprinkling of courage and trust. In these moments of increased suffering and confusion, my relationship with God shifts into a more pristine focus- better aligned and less muddled by my pride and control.

For a moment, I thought my body and reproductive track considered cooperating. Somewhere between the travel adventures and joyous occasions my body found enough time and energy to protest my Napro treatment for PMDD. About 6 months ago my PMS diagnosis was revised to a PMDD diagnosis. For those who may not be familiar with PMDD or Post-Dysphoric Menstrual Disorder in the most simplistic definition PMDD is a more severe and volatile version of PMS. After I passed with flying colors the screening for PMDD, my local napro doctor prescribed a medication which used in minute dosages can help your body reset the bio-chemical endocrine processes surrounding the transition from one cycle into the next. But it’s a medication to be respected.

Medical need finally tipped the scale outweighing my reservations, and I successfully took the medication for 5 months before the final hurrah. Looking back at my chart, a few positive affects can be noted. ***And I should disclaim this medication has been beneficial for many women undergoing Napro treatment without or with minimal side-effects.***

This month I only made it through 3 days of my 10 day course before having cardiac and neurological symptoms. I ignored the fluttering heart rate and palpitations the first 3 nights before the neurological symptoms hit which were harder to ignore. On night three, I felt a sudden decline in my mental acuity and a heavy mental fog descend, my rate of exhaustion skyrocket, followed by slowed speech and thought, catapulting into decreased balance and increased dizziness. This led to falls, topples, and bashed knees (and a rather scared and confused Hannah.) Two weeks later I regained my mental acuity and the fog dissipated. It took one week to regain my balance in full. My darkened mood hasn’t rebounded yet. I discontinued my med, consulted with my doctor, and spent time recovering. My doctor and I will need to re-evaluate and discern the next steps.

In many ways, I know I am blessed that nothing more severe or life-threatening happened. In other ways, I recognize my medical de-sensitivity played into my ignorance of the severity of my drug reaction. A hard lessen to learn but an important lessen to know when and what your limitations are and when you should seek professional medical help.

I am frustrated by this set-back in my treatment. I am concerned what the next step will be or if there is a next step. I am worried what the ripple affect will be. Already my cycle has changed without the drug treatment. The brokenness is coming back more recognizable and distinct in my charting. The weakness if pouring into where the healing was. I offer up my cup of brokenness and weakness to God. He makes all things good. Everyday He keeps repeating, “Hannah, you are good.” And to that light of love I cling.

“Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.” – Psalm 73: 26

 

 

 

 

On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

Mists4
Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

BE NOT AFRAID. I decided to return once more to the 1984 Apostolic Letter written by St. JP II titled Salvifici Doloris: On the Christian Meaning of Suffering that addressed the ever present question of suffering: why, what, and how? God transformed even something not part of His original design for humanity (suffering, pain, death, dying, etc.) into a means for transcendence: faith, hope, and charity.

We fear suffering. I can emphatically state in my greatest moments of suffering and the  suffering of my loved ones, I felt closest to heaven- the veil was lifted. Our suffering, united with Christ, can become salvific. “Suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is deep as man himself, precisely because in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself (3).”

We fear weakness. Weakness means vulnerability & lack of control. Christ chooses weakness as the vehicle for salvation. “To Suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God . . . In [Christ], God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering . . . and wishes to have his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self (74).”

We fear the acquisition of virtue. Striving is the key word when acquiring virtue. Virtue acquisition takes hard work and doesn’t always “pay-off” in this life. “Suffering contains a special call to virtue . . . and this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintain him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity liked to the awareness of the meaning of life (75).”

We fear purgation. Purgation leads to heaven. God calls you and I to redeem ourselves and the world in our little way. “The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. . . The more a person is threatened by sin, the heavier the structure of sin in which today’s world brings with it, the greater the eloquence which human suffering possesses in itself (89).”

We fear true compassion. Our culture & society throws around the term compassion. What is compassion? Compassion comes from the Latin root com (with) and pati (suffer). Together compatior means “to suffer with.” Compassion means “to suffer with” another person. “We could say that suffering, which is present under so many different forms in our human world, is also present in order to unleash love in the human person, that unselfish gift of one “I” on behalf of other people, especially to those who suffer (92).”

In the Gospels, Jesus repeats dozens of times, “BE NOT AFRAID.” It’s time to let go of the fear associated with suffering, death, & dying. And focus on living. Life is beautiful in all its forms & functions. It’s time to relearn how to suffer with each other. In the words of a man who understood and lived suffering: “In the messianic programme of Christ, which is at the same time the programme of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a “civilization of love (96).” Let us go forth and build a civilization of love . . .

Come What May- The Tears Behind My NFP Story

Compline 2

“I stretch out my arms to you, I stretch out my soul, like a land without water.” Psalm 142-143 is recited during Compline or Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours every few rotations. This verse always sticks with me. Sometimes this verse lingers for days. I figured after rejecting writing this post for years, the holy Spirit finally granted me enough courage and wisdom to proceed.

I hope when people read my blog posts involving my personal journey of seeking reproductive health and wellness through Natural Family Planning’s Creighton Method and Naptrotechnology they feel encouraged or dare I say empowered to seek their own health, wellness, and healing too. In my experience, health comes after a journey. A journey which mostly consists of striving, seeking, failing, falling, and struggle with brilliant moments of awe, splendor, joy, healing, and beauty.

On occasion I make fleeting references to “deep spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical pain.” My disposition and cultural upbringing upholds privacy in high regards followed by sucking it up maybe even higher. Before I continue. I disclaim that Creighton NFP and Naprotechnolgy is 100% worthwhile and 100% character and virtue building.

Over the past three years I have practiced Creighton NFP and undergone Naprotechnology treatment, I’ve suffered in ways I never thought imaginable. Even with all my years of chronic illness, pain, and struggles there were moments I didn’t know you could feel so poorly and still be alive. During the height of my precipitous hormonal spikes and plummets coupled with mind-boggling pain, I felt myself slowly slipping into emotional and mental decline fraying at the seams. There were moments I felt out-of-control and one worse moment away from the shreds of sanity I clung onto slipping through my fingers. It was the first time in my life I prayed to God, “even if I loose my mind, you will take care of me and love me.” To this day, those darker moments of my NFP journey taught me a richer humility and gratitude.

The first Valentine’s Day I spent with the dear man I’m courting involved watching the movie “La Vita E Bella” or “Life Is Beautiful” and ended with me crippled over sobbing and shaking in severe pain which would eventually be diagnosed a year and half later as endometriosis. My life became moments between varying degrees of pain, discomfort, bloating, and swelling. I approached my family, work, social, and spiritual life as a calculated measure of energy and health with the possibility of rapid changes. I remember a specific incident at a Diocesan Young Adult Adoration when I laid curled up in the pew wheezing between painful stabs. I have countless similar memories.

Somehow only a being like Our Heavenly Father could have brought so much good into so much pain, suffering, confusion, and hopelessness. Yes, I cooperated with His grace and offered up my suffering gladly. Only a current of grace kept me from drowning. There was a wind beneath my faltering wings that shouldn’t have existed but did. Somewhere in the bleakness I discovered my God-given worth and dignity. There were moments I faltered. Somehow I found God in the darkness shining out His soft, warm, and merciful glow. A light that not only saved me but permeated my being and illuminated how God saw me- BEAUTIFULLY and WONDERFULLY Made. This rocked me to my core. Creighton NFP didn’t just give me a chance at health, wellness, healing, and fertility but saved my view of womanhood and femininity. NFP taught me my dignity as a woman come what may.

The whole learning, practicing, and utilizing Creighton NFP is NOT easy. There rarely is a quick fix, a magic pill or device, or a happy phrase or witty expression to make it all go away. Your vision will eventually blur from trying to decide how to categorize your cervical mucous. Your chart might look like a Christmas display with colors and corrections. You may feel scared, frustrated, angry, concerned, confused, exasperated, exhausted, isolated, etc.  You may even “give up” or “take a break.” You may forget when to start your hormone therapy or pull out your hair trying to decide when to have your P+7 labs drawn. It’s okay to mess up and fail. It’s not about practicing to perfection. It’s simply about practicing, learning, and growing. Take it all one day at a time. Learn how to brush yourself off when you fall down and learn how to move forward in a healthier and kinder manner. Practicing NFP is about trying and not giving up on the method, yourself, God, or you loved ones.

Don’t give up on yourself even when you’re broken- beautifully broken- and feel unlovable and lost. God sees you whole, beautiful, and worthy of love- ALWAYS.

Holy Person of the Month: Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, Patron of Chronically Catholic Blog

Photo Credit: cassiepeasedesign.com
Photo Credit: cassiepeasedesign.com

After 11 years of hoping and praying for a child, Ruggero and Maria Theresa Badano welcomed their daughter, Chiara Lucu, on October 29th, 1971. Born in the small Italian village of Sassello, she was considered a beautiful and simple child; Chiara exhibited an acute awareness and compassion for the poor and suffering, especially drug addicts and persons with mental illness. The simple, beautiful child grew into a vivacious and active youth filled with zest and love for life. She enjoyed swimming, outdoor actives, and socializing with friends. In 1980, Chiara became involved in the Focalare Movement and an active member in her local youth group. Chiara, though virtuous and unique, enjoyed being a modern teenager.

In 1988, while playing tennis, Chiara experienced excruciating pain in her shoulder, and soon received the diagnosed of osteogenic sarcoma- bone cancer. During her final two years, Chaira fulfilled her name’s mean “Clear Light” becoming a illuminating presence of joy in the midst of immense suffering. After an excruciating night, she stated, “I suffered a lot, but my soul was singing.” Even in her weakened state, Chiara’s presence touched many lives. One of her doctors remarked, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” Intrigued by stories of this heroic teenager, Cardinal Saldarini visited her in the hospital and asked, “The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?” Chiara replied: “I try to love Jesus as much as I can.”

Chiara in the Hospital
Chiara in the Hospital

Even after she received her terminal diagnosis and during treatment, Chiara keenly understood the value of redemptive suffering. She often repeated the phrase, “If this is what you want, Jesus, so do I.” As Chiara’s beautiful locks fell out due to chemotherapy, she prayed as each strand fell, “For you, Jesus.”  She even refused pain management wanting to remain lucid. She explained, “I want to share as much as possible in His suffering on the cross.” Chiara befriended another adolescent struggling with depression and drug-dependency. Despite how painful walking was because of a large growth on her spine, Chiara walked with this girl; “I’ll have time to rest later.”

As her impending death approached, Chiara encouraged her mother, “When you’re getting me ready, Mum, you have to keep saying to yourself, ‘Chiara Luce is now seeing Jesus.’” With her friends and family present, Chiara Luce died October 7, 1990. Her last words were: “Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.” Her family buried her in a wedding dress as requested.

bl. Chiara Luce Badano When Chiara died, I was one year old. Her first confirmed miracle involved a young Italian boy dying from meningitis induced organ failure. His parent’s asked for Chiara’s intercession. A panel of doctors ruled that there was no medical explanation for the boy’s full recovery. On September 25, 2010, Pope Emeritus Benedict VXI beatified Chiara Luce Badano- the first blessed from Generation X.

In the words of Chiara: “Previously I felt … the most I could do was to let go. Instead, now I feel enfolded in a marvelous plan of God, which is slowly being unveiled to me.”

Bl. Chiara Luce Badano, pray for us!

Why did I choose Bl. Chiara for my blog patron? I stumbled into her story and witness during a period of intense medical fragility and complexity in my life. I became dehabilitated. I was lost. More doors and windows were shut than opened. Then the Holy Spirit guided me to this young woman who died around the time I was born. I felt an instant connection. I felt hope. When I decided to chose a patroness for my blog, I chose her. I believe in the Communion of Saints. She helped me ad continues to intercede for me. And I want to share her heroic virtue and story with the world- even just a small corner. 

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae: An Encyclical of Hope

 

cropped-i-am-fearfully-and-wonderfully-made2.png

July 25, 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the prophetic and controversial Encyclical of Pope Paul VI Humanae Vitae or “On Human Life.”  Most people refer to his beautiful encyclical as the “contraception” encyclical. During a period of social, cultural, and religious turmoil surrounding the purpose and place of family, relationships, and procreation, Pope Paul VI released an reaffirmation of the truth: the Catholic Church would not support the use of artificial birth control or other reproductive technologies that could undermine family life and human dignity. But this was radical for the many influences adamant the Catholic Church would join their Protestant Christian brethren in accepting and normalizing artificial birth control.

What people miss by generalizing this prophetic document are the tenants of what eventually would be known as St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” or “Love and Responsibility.” This document expresses the profound nature of marriage between a man and woman, the marital embrace, and fruits of marital love. Love that is FREE, TOTAL, FAITHFUL, and FRUITFUL. After an exploration into love and marital love, Pope Paul VI warns of the dangers of artificial birth control and the consequences society would reap by accepting it. Towards the end of this document lies a call to action for medical practitioners and researches pleading for medical advancement regarding reproductive medicine, health, wellness. That is where my story with Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae most intimately begins.

Because of Humanae Vitae, we have the Pope Paul VI Institute and Creighton Natural Family Planning Method. We also benefit from NFP spin-offs like the Marquette Method. Because Pope Paul VI had divine inspiration and the guts to swim against the cultural tide, almost fifty years later, I had a fighting chance of health and wellness as a young woman in my mid-twenties. My friends have a fighting chance of healing from infertility. Or my mom from developing reproductive cancer. Or loved ones maintaining a pregnancy after miscarriages. One of the more hidden messages of Humanae Vitae is hope- hope in what seems like impossible odds.

Yes, this encyclical is an encyclical of love, but from that lesson in sometimes a very challenging and difficult school of love bears the fruit of other virtues such as faith and hope. Thinking about the past three years of my Naprotechnology treatment, though riddled with severe physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain, tears flow while I write this in gratitude and joy. I am beautifully broken and my journey of reproductive health and wellness is far from over. Amid the pain, suffering, and uncertainty, I found my dignity instead of loosing it.

Through the lens of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, I’ve experienced a glimpse into the profound nature of my womanhood and femininity and even a deeper insight into masculinity and manhood. My medical treatment is filtered through the lens of Christ viewing me as a good and godly creation. Beautiful in His sight. All because one little man in a white cassock (and a few others) inspired by the Holy Spirit swam against the tide and upheld authentic love instead.

Pope Paul VI, please, pray for us! Amen.

 

 

 

Breakfast the Most Challenging Meal of the Day. SOLUTION: My Morning Shakes

Whether your seeking health and wellness and/or you have a tumultuous relationship with food, breakfast begins your nourishment for the day. For years, I skipped breakfast or limited my food intake due to varying levels of nausea and the sensation my digestive system didn’t wake up until 10-11 am. I also don’t enjoy most breakfast foods.

Once you’re an adult, skipping breakfast becomes more difficult as your body changes with age and your responsibilities/ schedule change. With my development of chronic and complicated migraines, skipping morning sustenance increased my headaches and propensity for migraines.

The solution: My Dad participated in a corporate wellness research program as a data analyst. A local manufacturing plant’s human resource department wanted to increase the health and wellness of their employees. Part of the experimental program involved morning “health shakes” that replaced breakfast but provided essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals through raw food. The stats proved significant increase in health indicators and markers in the bloodstream plus weight loss or maintenance.

My Dad brought his work project home and introduced it to my mom and I. Now these shakes are a staple in our morning routines. Instead of feeling grossed out by food in the morning, not only do I tolerate but enjoy the shakes most morning (not always but the alternative is worse.) I blend the shake 5-6 days of the week, and take a break once at least once a week.

My Morning Shakes:

  • Organic Unsweetened Cherries
  • Organic Berry Blend- Blackberries/Strawberries/Blueberries
  • Organic Power Greens- Kale/Spinach/Salad Greens
  • 1/2 Banana
  • Filtered Water

Other Options:

  • More or Less of any of the above
  • Slices of Avocado- protein

Process:

I use a Magic Bullet Blender or a Ninja Blender with the tall glass attachment. I’m guessing my shake is around 16 oz. The process is simple stuff it all in and blend with water until the desires consistency. My blend includes 4-5 cherries,  1/4 water berries, 1/3-1/2 power greens, 1/2 banana, and filtered water.

Enjoy-Nourish your body & your soul! Happy New Year!

 

 

St. Therese of Lisieux Novena

st-theresePlease, join me and over 200,000 other members of the Pray More Novenas community in praying this powerful novena to the Little Flower. St. Therese is known as the Little Flower. This is because those who receive miracles by her intercession are often given roses or flowers as a sign. She is sometimes called St. Therese of the Child Jesus as well. Though this beautiful, young woman, who died from TB at the age of 24, lived in a cloistered Discalced Carmelite convent, St. Therese is the patron saint of missions and missionaries for her “Little Way” spirituality and the many lives this saint has touched.

In the Words of my confirmation saint:

“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily
do not rob the little violet of it’s scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.
If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”

Below is an excerpt from Day 9 of the St. Therese Novena:

I love your people, Lord. Help me to love them more!
I reflect you to the world, Lord. Help me to reflect you more clearly!
I rely on you, Lord. Help me to rely on you more!
I accept your will, Lord. Help me to accept your will every day!
I try to forgive, Lord. Help me to forgive 70 times 7 times!
I am humble, Lord. Give me more humility!
I see you, Lord. Help me to see you more!
I trust you, Lord. Help me to trust you more!
I love you, Lord. Help me to love you more!

Please, join me tomorrow (Thursday) in invoking St. Therese, The Little Flower.

International Travel & Packing with Chronic Health Conditions

“Leaving on a Jet plane! . . .” Cue the excitement and the thrill of international travel. Regardless, of the reasons behind travel, whether domestic or international, the drive comes from an innate, human curiosity and capacity for learning and experiencing the “other. ”

What does travel look like for a person with chronic health conditions? Depends on the condition and circumstances. Certain conditions may even limit a person’s ability to travel. But I know my packing list and priorities differ from your typical travel blog.

travel

Points to Ponder:

1. Understand the region of the world you are interested in travelling to. Be realistic about your condition(s) and understand the potential risks of visiting an area where you will not have access to certain types or quality of medical care. God be with those that don’t have access to good medical care.

2.  Check with your health insurance company to see if your policy follows you to your travel destination. My past two policies did, but only certain facilities in the UK were covered. If not, weigh your need for a temporary, international health insurance policy.

3. For ease of mind, research how to access healthcare services in your destination country(ies). Most of the world operates on a different healthcare system then the US. The local Embassy website will outline how US Citizens can access different healthcare services within that specific country.

READY TO PACK?

1. Medications The General Rule of Thumb: Carry on your prescription medicine in the original package(s) with a Letter from your prescribing doctor outlining the medical necessity of your medications. Research medication travel guidelines by country you plan to visit. Most Embassy websites within your travel country will have info regarding travelling with prescription medication. If you have less than 3 months of medications, you typically don’t have to disclose to Customs  (varies by country). If you have over 3 months of medications, medications administered by injection or liquids, or medications that are “controlled substances,” assume you will need to disclose to Customs.

2. A Doctor’s Letter. Make sure to request a Letter outlining the medical necessity of your prescription medicine needs, list of prescription meds, and contact info for your prescribing physician at least a 1- 2 weeks before travel. Most doctors are responsive to patient requests, but your doctor could be out of the office. This way you aren’t stressed and scrambling at last moment. Having this letter will help with any Customs inquiries or if you needed any medical attention while travelling.

3. Daily Dosage. Depending on the quantity and shape of your medications, bring a pill case or Ziploc bags filled with your non-prescription medications. Once through Customs, you can easily transfer your daily dosage from the prescription packaging to a convenient and portable on-the-go system. For example, I take more non-prescription and prescription meds daily than can fit in any pill case. I use sandwich size Ziploc bags. Once through Customs, I add my prescription meds to my supplements and grab one bag per day. Do not discard the original medication packaging.

20170919_135816

4. Pack Extra. Pack more prescription medications than days you are actually traveling.  Don’t save space by packing fewer meds. Take another 1-2 weeks of meds for “just in case.”

5. Prone to Nausea. If you’re susceptible to stomach sickness, skip the airline barf bags and pack a couple quart to gallon Ziploc bags. Discreet and practical, these plastic bags allow for better control and ease of disposal. I have complicated migraines and sometimes struggle with nausea.

6. Research Handicap accessibility and guidelines at your intended travel destination. Check with your modes of transportation and lodging about handicap accessibility and accommodations. I do not need special accommodations for accessibility, but please, research for your particular needs.

Most importantly, HAVE FUN and ENJOY the experience of international travel! May God be with you on your next adventure.

St. Christopher, pray for us!

 

 

Catholic 365 Article: NaProTECHNOLOGY for the Unmarried Woman

NFPA couple months ago, I submitted an article to Catholic 365 which was published. This article is a follow-up to an article I wrote a couple years ago. The article is a personal witness and testimony to health and healing beyond hope.

http://www.catholic365.com/article/6864/naprotechnology-for-the-unmarried-woman.html

Stroked

I am a Pediatric Stroke Survivor. Today marks the 13th Anniversary of my left pontine ischemic stroke (I.e., brain stem stroke) which resulted in right side paralysis. Science and medicine can’t explain why it happened nor my 99% recovery, but the Grace of God and His mysterious plan for my life explains the rest.

Survivor

Life has thrown me curveballs that irreversibly changed the course of my life. Having a stroke at 15 years old during my first two weeks of high school certainly caused the ebb and flow of my life to alter.

Some of My Stroked Lessons:

1. Life is beautiful in all its forms and functions.

2. A person’s utility doesn’t make them lovable or not. A person is lovable because they are human.

3. When you loose control of your utilitarian purpose in life and become completely dependent on the goodwill and charity of others, develop a deep sense of purpose not based on external factors.

4. Develop a good, clean sense of humor. Learn to laugh at yourself and life situations. Not only is humor therapeutic but an invaluable coping mechanism.

5. You can either fight your mortality or not. Either way you’re still mortal.

6. Medicine = people helping people to help people. Not perfect people perfecting people to perfect people.

7. Be kind to yourself and others. Suffering a traumatic brain injury will close doors but even if a window doesn’t open look for a transom window. A little light is better than no light.

An Anniversary Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of life and the gift of healing. Grant increased healing of body, mind, and soul to those that suffer. Grant them peace. Grant their caregivers’ wisdom, quiet strenght, and compassion. Allow them to experience a transcendent hope. Help me to always be grateful, to cultivate joy, to suffer with purpose, to persevere through adversity, to know my limits, and rely more fully on your love and grace. May my life reflect your light to others.

Amen.