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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

WEGO Health Awards

Remember a million years ago when I won the WEGO Health TMI Award?  Well, I am super happy to announce that I was nominated for two different awards this year - Hilarious Patient Leader and Best In Show: Blog.  Learn more about the WEGO Health Awards HERE.


The whole month of July is when you get to endorse the nominees.  Click THIS LINK to endorse your favorite! There are so many great Health Activists to choose from this year, but I really wouldn't hate it if you endorsed me.


THANK YOU!!!

Sunday, June 9, 2019

My Trip to the Medical Marijuana DIspensary

Finally, after six months of having my medical marijuana card, my local area opened it's first medical marijuana dispensary.  There are other dispensaries open in Ohio, however I really can't see driving two or more hours to get to one so I waited, very impatiently, for one to open closer to me.  Earlier this week my cousin, Jennie (her blog can be found HERE) and I visited the brand new local dispensary and I have to say, I was really impressed. Here's what happened...

When we arrived at the parking lot we were surprised to see how un-busy the place seemed to be.  There was ample parking and not a line of people out the door and around the building.  This might have had something to do with the fact that the dispensary wasn't technically open yet.  They had what they referred to as a "soft opening" but they have yet to have their big grand opening.  So probably not that many people even know they are open.  Thanks to Jennie's vigilant research and monitoring of when new dispensaries are opening, we knew.

When we walked in we were greeted by a couple of the employees.


Just kidding!  This is NOT what we found.  We actually found very professional individuals who were quite respectful and helpful.  The first thing they wanted to know was if we had our medical marijuana cards.  I have mine, however Jennie does not have her card just yet.  She was approved but hadn't actually gotten the card.  For this reason, she had to take a seat and wait.  I was asked for further information.  In addition to my MMC, I needed to show them my ID and provide them with the name of my referring doctor.  Of course I didn't remember the name of the doctor but they were very patient with me while I looked up the information on my phone.  After they checked my ID and saw that everything was legit, I was given a form to fill out and asked to wait until someone came out to get me.  

As we waited in the waiting area I couldn't help but notice how clean the place was.  It was very well lit, windows all across the front, the walls and even the ceiling were stylishly decorated but not with marijuana paraphernalia or pictures.  It was just like any other modern doctor's office or business office that that you would go to.  There was no smell or dank smoke hanging in the air.  I was really surprised actually.  You would never know you were sitting in a marijuana dispensary just by the waiting room.  

I filled out the form which asked me about my specific diagnosis (es) and what exactly I needed treatment for.  It was just like filling out an intake form for any other doctor's office.  There were two other people waiting along with me.  They looked like this:


I'm totally kidding.  They were normal people.  Some older guy in a nice button down shirt and pants and the other guy was just some normal looking dude.  Not strung out.  Not shady.  Just normal people needing medicine, waiting like at any other pharmacy.  I have actually seen shadier people at my therapist's office - or Walmart for that matter! 

Anyway, the actual area where you purchased the marijuana was behind a door that was locked and could only be opened by one of the employees.  I believe it was a fingerprint scanner as opposed to just a card swipe or regular lock situation.  There was also no armed guard or police officer which I half expected to be there.  As we waited we saw the employees come in and out escorting people back and forth, however it wasn't really that busy.  Maybe two or three patients were in the place behind the door while the three of us waited in the waiting area.  Not terrible.

What was behind the door when it opened was something I will never forget.  Each time the door was opened you could hear a choir of angels singing and billowy clouds of smoke rolled out into the waiting area.  I'm fairly certain I caught a glimpse of Snoop Dogg riding a unicorn.  It was majestic.  The door clearly held back the gates to Heaven.


Okay, so none of that actually happened, however I think it should have because it only seemed appropriate.  Honestly,  I really didn't know what to expect when I was granted access to the actual dispensary, but I kind of thought it was going to be a little more seedy than what it was.  They called my name and I was greeted by a young woman who opened the door and allowed me to enter the sacred dispensing area.  The first thing I noticed was the fact that I was not knocked over by the smell of weed.  I could smell it faintly but it wasn't overpowering like I expected.  The second thing I noticed was that it was really clean and the actual marijuana was not super visible.  I have seen dispensaries on television where there are just jars and jars of different kinds of weed just everywhere.  This place was nothing like that.  

The very nice lady asked me if I wanted a consultation so I said sure.  She took me into one of the small rooms that were off to the side.  There was a round table with some chairs and minimal decorations.  It was a peaceful little room.  Nothing overwhelming.  No big pro medical marijuana posters on the wall or anything like that.  We sat down and she looked over the form that I had filled out in the waiting room.  She asked if the doctor had made particular recommendations to me and I said yes so we talked about that for a little while.  Then she made some suggestions of her own and proceeded to tell me pretty much the exact information I would look up on Leafly if I were to research strains of medical marijuana myself.  She was incredibly knowledgeable.  I liked that.

After the consultation she took me back out to the main area where there was a large wooden cabinet with a glass top and locked drawers that slid out.  She opened one of the drawers and inside were three locked plastic containers.  Each container housed a large bud of a specific strain of medical marijuana.  She allowed me to hold the container though it was locked so you couldn't actually open it to get to what was inside.  There was however, an area with little holes on the top where you could smell the marijuana inside.  Now I am not really one to exam my weed before I use it.  I don't really understand, nor do I necessarily care about all the dynamics of what different strains of marijuana are supposed to look or smell like.  I know enough to see crystals on it or smell the slightly varied scents, but I wouldn't really know one kind from another just by looking at it or smelling it. Especially when you are dealing with the higher quality like what they had.  It was definitely not a bunch of stems and seeds.  That's about the only thing I know to look for. 

Seeds and stems = BAD
Frosty crystals and color = GOOD

She showed me about six different kinds and allowed me to look at and smell each one.  Other than noting that they were a very high quality I really couldn't tell you much more than that.  Honestly, they just smelled like weed.  Maybe I'm just untrained.  Anyway, the lady helping me was very informed and continued to explain to me the different levels of THC and CBD in each one.  We also discussed pricing.  This is where it gets a little confusing for me.  The price of 1/8 of an ounce of marijuana on the street in Ohio sells for roughly $40 give or take.  The dispensaries in Ohio sell their marijuana as 1/10 of an ounce for some reason and the cost is roughly $50 give or take.  Now this 1/10 of an ounce is considered to be one daily dose of medical marijuana.  If you were to actually purchase enough to use 1/10 of an ounce every day for one month you're looking at $1,500.  I think that is totally ridiculous.  I'm not even sure how you could use 1/10 of an ounce of marijuana in one day anyway, but that's neither here nor there.
Just kidding!  There is no way I could do that.

Anyway... she also showed me some of the edible things they have. One of which was eleven gummies for $80 - yes, just the eleven.  I asked her how you were supposed to take them and she said that you start with a half of one gummy and then wait about an hour to see if it helps and then go from there.  I found that to be quite expensive.  She also told me they had various oils and tinctures, however at this time they are unflavored and taste quite horrible.  After considering all the information I was presented with, I opted to purchase 1/10 of an ounce of dry herb that I can legally use by vaping.  FYI:  It is unlawful to smoke the plant in Ohio even if it is for medical use.  

Once I placed my order I had to go to the bathroom - of course.  It was nice and clean and private and all of that so that was also a plus.  Once I was finished I went up to the counter and paid for my purchase.  I was handed a cute little brown paper bag and was walked to the door to meet my cousin in the waiting room.  The whole thing, barring my bathroom break, took about twenty minutes. 

Once we got to the car we checked out the purchase. Here is actual footage.


Okay, again, I'm only joking with these memes.  Actually, the marijuana comes in a sealed plastic bottle with labels of what exactly is inside, warnings, and various other information.  Much like you would get at a pharmacy.  What I did find interesting was that even though there were two fairly decent size buds of marijuana in the bottle, there was not a large stem running through them.  It seems as if they were kind enough to remove any stems that would account for unnecessary weight.  So if you were to get 1/8 of an ounce on the street from the friendly neighborhood dealer, chances are you would get some stems in there that would account for some weight.  Maybe not much, but a little bit adds up.  I was pleased to see that I got exactly what I paid for - dry plant and nothing more.  And I also was pleased because I don't have to worry about what I purchased being laced with something else or made with shady processing practices.  That peace of mind goes a long way when you are specifically using marijuana for pain, nausea, appetite stimulation, insomnia, anxiety, and depression like I am.  I'm honestly not looking to get high, I'm looking for relief.  

So there you have it folks.  My trip to the medical marijuana dispensary. It was really a decent experience.  I'm curious to see how things may change once they have their actual grand opening. Stay tuned because you know I'll keep posting.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

World IBD Day 2019

Nearly 25 years ago when I was just 18 years old, I woke up from an exploratory abdominal surgery and overheard nurses talking about some girl who had Crohn's Disease.  These nurses discussed how terrible it was to have a lifelong illness with no cure.  How the girl was so young and had her whole life ahead of her, that a long battle between her and her body had already begun, and that battle would now last a lifetime.  I had heard of Crohn's Disease, but nothing more than knowing someone who knew someone who had it and you had to take steroids for it and maybe end up with a colostomy bag because of it.  Honestly, to me, taking steroids meant you bulked up with muscles and flew into 'roid rages like the boys on our high school football team did when they all got into taking steroids.  I was totally unware of the difference between that type of steroid and the type you take for actual medical purposes. The only thing about colostomy bags that knew was my grandmother had one and no one ever talked about it. Regardless, I felt bad for that girl.  

As it turned out, those nurses were talking about me.  For the first few hours, if not days, I was in total denial about having Crohn's.  I didn't want to talk about it and I refused to listen when the nurses and doctor tried to explain to me about what I was going to have to do to take care of myself, and I was more pissed off than I had ever remembered being.  I didn't want to be sick for the rest of my life.  I didn't want to have to take tons of medications with terrible side effects.  I certainly didn't want to have a disease, much less one that revolved around a bathroom and poop.  And I didn't want to be in pain anymore.  

At that time there was virtually no information out there about Crohn's Disease and very little means to find it.  There was no social media, the internet was very, very new, and the most widely used and basically the only medication to treat it was good old Prednisone - the steroids I would come to have a very long and volatile relationship with.  I felt very alone.

About a year or so after my diagnosis, my Mom was able to locate a support group that met at a local hospital once a month.  It was full of people who struggled with Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.  I was the youngest one there.  I didn't really like going because everyone had story after story of the things they had been through because of Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  I remember the man who had at least 20 different surgeries, the super thin and frail people who looked so malnourished because they couldn't eat anything, the ones that were bloated and swollen because of the steroids, and the woman who was pregnant with twins and was eventually hospitalized for the last half of her pregnancy because it was so high risk - not because of the twins, but because she had Crohn's. It scared me to think that this was going to be my life. I wondered if I was going to ever be able to find love, get married, have my own children, hold a job and live any kind of normal life.  It terrified me to think of how many surgeries and medications were in my future and I often wondered how I was going to endure all the pain - so much pain. 

The ups and downs that have come from almost 25 years of living with Crohn's Disease have not been easy.  So much has happened along the way - good and bad.  But the most important thing that has happened is I was able to start this blog and reach so many others who live with IBD.  I've made friends across the globe and heard countless others share their personal IBD stories.  My heart goes out to every single one of them.  I'm so grateful because having Crohn's Disease has allowed me the opportunity to meet people that I otherwise would never have been able to meet.  We've formed lasting bonds that make us stronger and I know I will never feel as alone as I felt when I was first diagnosed.

Today is World IBD Day.  As I reflect, I hope I have been able to bring a little bit of awareness to you about what it's like to live with Crohn's Disease and all the other nonsense that goes along with it.  I hope that I have been able to provide you with one part knowledge and two parts laughter.  To all my fellow IBD'ers, I hope you know how much I love you and that I will always be here fighting right beside you.  You are never alone. Thank you all for reading and joining me in my "shitty" journey. 


Be well and keep fighting!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Jenni's Gut Biome Test


Earlier this year I was contacted by Onegevity, a company that provides cutting-edge microbiome sequencing and artificial intelligence to decode the mysteries in your gut.  Yeah, I totally pulled that from their website. :)  Anyway, they asked if I would be interested in obtaining an analysis of my gut's microbiome.  I was intrigued as to what this might actually show about what's happening inside me since I seem to be somewhat of a medical mystery. They said they would send me one of their new at-home test kits called Gutbio and that this test would examine 7 trillion bacteria using AI to provide me with targeted and comprehensive solutions for managing my gut health issues. Sounds good right? I thought so.

Now before I get into this further, let's have a little lesson on what exactly your gut's microbiome is anyway. Because honestly, I didn't really know. I waded through a lot of medically heavy information and found a great article that you can read in it's entirety HERE.  If you don't want to read the whole article, here is the relatively simple definition of what your gut microbiome is:

Your ‘gut microbiome’ is made up of the trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in your intestinal tract. These microorganisms, mainly comprising bacteria, are involved in functions critical to your health and wellbeing. These bacteria live in your digestive system and they play a key role in digesting food you eat, and they help with absorbing and synthesizing nutrients too. Gut bugs are involved in many other important processes that extend beyond your gut, including your metabolism, body weight, and immune regulation, as well as your brain
functions and mood.  There are many factors that influence the type and amount of bacteria we host and although most of us belong to a certain ‘enterotype’ – similar to having a certain blood type – each person has a unique bacterial footprint.

The Gutbio test was going to analyze all these little bacteria and "gut bugs" inside my intestines and provide me with some answers about what's really going on in there.  It's highly technical and way above my capacity to totally understand or explain, but I was really excited to see what this different kind of testing had to say about my health. Especially considering most of my lab tests come back normal - or at least not bad enough to warrant alarm or treatment of any kind.  So I said yes, please, send me your test. 

In just a few days, I received this in the mail:




All of this was inside:




It looks complicated but it was actually super easy. You basically just take the little tube and put a very small amount of poop in the top of it, screw on the lid and shake it up. Then you place the tube back in the enclosed envelope, seal it, and mail it back. Super easy. Not messy at all. Way cleaner than any other stool tests I have ever done. It was so easy and simple, in fact, that I actually wondered if I did it wrong.  It seemed like something so technical should be harder. But it was really just that easy.

About three weeks later, I received a telephone call from the doctor at Onegevity telling me they found something strange in my results. Something they had only seen in a very small percentage of the people that had done the test. Well shit! I figured I really did do the test wrong.  But he explained what they found and this meant that I had apparently done the test correctly.  I'll get to what they found in a minute.

About a month after I mailed them my poop, I received an email telling me I could log in to the Onegevity site and view my results. The first page said "Onegevity's metagenomic sequencing has examined the abundance, type, and balance of more than 39 trillion microbial cells in your body, resulting in the generation of 6 GB of unique data and insights on you and your microbiome."   Okay, sure. Honestly, I thought I was going to have to channel my inner Amy Farrah Fowler to comprehend everything, but as I read on, the information was actually explained very well and I was able to decipher some really cool things from the results.  It was all broken down fairly simply into various categories.



💩  The first category showed I currently have a minimal inflammation score.  This confirms my Crohn's disease is in remission right now. Good news. This section went into further detail with a neat little graph and chart detailing high and low levels of various bacteria in my gut so I know which ones I need to increase and which ones I need to decrease.

💩  Next, I showed a very low risk for constipation. I mean, seriously now, did we doubt this??

💩  In contrast to my constipation risk, I showed a very high risk for diarrhea.  Umm, duh!!  This actually has a scale of 0-33 with 33 being the highest risk. I scored a 33. I feel like such an overachiever!

💩  The next category was particularly interesting to me. It was my diversity score and I actually scored very low. So low in fact, that only 3% of those tested scored lower than me.  So much for being an overachiever.  So what does this mean?  Well, "studies show that individuals with low gut microbial diversity are at greater risk for certain adverse conditions. Healthy individuals tend to have high gut microbial diversity, while less healthy individuals tend to show reduced microbial diversity." I guess they are saying I'm technically not very healthy.  But I kind of knew that already.   Good new though, this score can be altered and improved by varying your diet.  Bad news, I am very limited in what I can eat. So many foods cause me trouble, including nausea, increased diarrhea, and all different types of pain, so I tend to choose my meals from a very limited selection.  The fact that this test actually showed proof of my restricted diet, eliminated some of the doubt I was having as the legitimacy of these results. Seriously, how could a fingernail sized amount of poop allow them to know that I don't eat a very wide variety of foods?  That's science right there, my friends!

💩  Moving on, I found out I am very low in Niacin or Vitamin B3. After looking at the symptoms of Niacin deficiency, it stands to reason that it would be more than beneficial for me to increase my intake of this vitamin immediately because I do experience some of these deficiency symptoms already.  So good to know.

💩  The results went on to list all the probiotics that I am either in the optimal or low range on.  This result makes it super easy to know exactly what you need. So instead of just picking up a generic "one size fits all" type of probiotic at the store, I can get the exact probiotics my body is lacking.  Super neat.  I've never had much luck taking probiotics in the past, so I am wondering if that was because I was taking the wrong ones.  Maybe over doing it on ones I didn't need and not getting enough of the ones I actually do need.

💩  The next result was what the doctor had called me about before I even received my results.  It was my pathogen screening.  This is the information you have been waiting for right here!  This is the part of the test that shows gross things like E-coli, Giardia, H. Pylori, etc. I tested negative for everything except one thing. I tested positive for Salmonella. What this means is somewhere along the line I contracted Salmonella from something I ate. I always make a joke when eating something potentially shady and risk getting food poisoning by saying, "What's it going to do, give me diarrhea? How would I even know if I got sick?"  Well, apparently that exact thing happened and I did get food poisoning and didn't even know it.  The doctor who called me wanted to know if I was experiencing diarrhea or had been recently ill. I told him my history with Crohn's disease and explained to him that I always have diarrhea - all the time, every time.  He said that I should probably discuss these findings with my primary doctor or GI and possibly be specifically tested for Salmonella again just to be sure that I didn't currently have a problem.  He said that what this test was picking up was the DNA showing that I had contracted Salmonella at some point, but they couldn't narrow down exactly when.  Hmmm.  I have yet to discuss this with Dr. GI because I don't have an appointment until later this month.  I didn't feel it necessary to rush right over there and freak out about it because I don't feel any different than my normal, but I will be mentioning this to him when I go see him.

💩  The final category was the community breakdown of my poop. Over 87% was bacteria of sorts, good and bad - all those gut bugs that are supposed to be there, or not. Various other minute percentages of DNA from animals, plants, viruses, fungi and human DNA were also listed. This is the normal poop make up, I would imagine.  Then, it showed nearly 11% of my poop was from an unknown source "uncharacterized by scientists".  So there is that.

All of this information was compiled into neat little graphs and charts with explanations that were fairly easy to understand. Everything was followed up with suggestions about different probiotics and vitamins that would help to increase in the specific areas I was lacking. There was also a specific diet suggestion, which I have yet to look further into this as of this posting, and the standard disclaimer about getting adequate exercise and rest.  (Right - I am literally writing this at 1:47 AM!)

All in all this process was really interesting and informative.  It required very minimal effort on my part which I loved.  Getting the results simply by logging into the website was very convenient.  The graphs, charts and explanations helped me figure out exactly what the results meant and the suggestions for diet and supplements at the end wrapped everything up nicely.  The only bad part about the whole thing was that a lot of the information is somewhat technical.  The breakdown of each specific bacteria and probiotic was a little overwhelming, but if you take the time to read the explanations provided it does help.

I will be taking these results to my doctor and hope to go over them a little more in detail with him.  Even though he didn't order this test, and when I originally had asked him about doing it he didn't seem to know what kind of information a gut biome test would even be able to provide, I think it will be interesting to hear his opinion about the results.  I'm sure, like me, he won't be surprised by much of the results - except maybe the salmonella thing.

So that's it. That's what happened when I did my Onegevity Gut Bio test. I would be interested in doing this test again in a year to see if the results are similar or if anything has changed. This test was definitely way better and more interesting than your average stool test.  Maybe you should try it too.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Big Response To A Little Article

Earlier this month I had another article published by The Mighty.  I didn't publicize it on my Facebook because I felt the content might upset those close to me who may not know, or may not want to relive the topic I discussed.  However, after the article was reposted on three separate The Mighty Facebook profiles, it received nearly 700 "likes" and over 400 "shares".  Needless to say, I was really shocked at the response the article received. The numerous comments have completely surprised me also.  I was unaware so many people felt exactly how I felt.  I'm glad so many people were able to relate to this article, but I'm also so sorry that so many people relate to this article.  You can find it HERE.  Thank you, The Mighty, for publishing me yet again!


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Please don't ask me THAT question!

I'm not a super social person.  I don't like crowds, I have difficulty being around new people and making small talk destroys a little part of my soul every time it's necessary.  I can usually get through it though, right up until someone asks me one specific questions - where do you work?  Well, shit.

I could say something about being a writer, a blogger, or a chronic illness advocate, but that still warrants more conversation and explanation, of which I don't want to give.  And in the back of my mind, I know I'm not receiving lucrative pay for my efforts as a writer, a blogger or a chronic illness activist so I don't think of it as a "real" job.  Besides, I love doing it so it's not like real work.  I used to be able to say "I'm an administrator for the AFLAC Regional Office" or "I'm a hospice nurse".  I wasn't usually met with follow up questions after that.  I can't say that now though because the truth is, I don't work anymore because I'm on disability. That just invites more questions and let's be honest here...

It should be easy to say, "I'm on disability because of Crohn's disease."  That should be enough and technically it's simple enough to say.  Except it brings about more questions I don't want to deal with.  Being asked what I do for work makes me feel embarrassed that I don't have a more impressive response.  So I answer with the only thing I can thing of, "I'm not working right now."  I sometimes still get the looks and the questions, but it's easier to change the subject and side step at that point.

If I do say something about being on disability, I don't like the look I get that forces me to try and explain exactly why.  You know, the two part look - one part pity and one part disbelief both begging for more information because I don't look sick.  I don't look like a disabled person.  I don't look "unwell".  Well, at least when I'm in a situation where someone asks me what I do for a living I don't look unwell.  Those people will never see me when I've had to run to the bathroom with screaming diarrhea for the 24th time that day.  They won't see me doubled over with severe pain in my gut.  They won't see me sick.  They get to see me on the rare occasion that I feel well enough to socially interact.  I don't want to bring up how bad it gets in small talk conversation because frankly, I don't want to have to justify to anyone why I'm on disability.  It was an incredibly painful process that nearly destroyed me and even though I am grateful for the menial income I do get from my disability, I will always regret having to go through the process.  Just admitting I'm on disability brings up all those terrible feelings and the only thing I walk away with is feeling ashamed.  Ashamed I'm not well enough to work and not sick enough to look the part of what people think of when they hear the word 'disabled'.


I can't avoid the question I guess.  I realize it's just normal conversation and people are just trying to get to know me.  It's just what you do when you socially interact with people. **SIGH**  But it's painful and difficult and it's a question I would just rather avoid.  It opens up a can of worms that would take forever to get through and I just don't seem to have the energy to do it.  I hate having to explain how Crohn's disease (and all the rest of the inflictions I suffer) affect me to random people I may never see again. There has to be better questions to ask - or at least a more creative response. How about these five classy responses:

1.  I secretly won the lottery so I don't have to work ever again - but don't tell anyone.
2.  I run an illegal underground child adoption ring - have you met my daughter?
3.  Are you writing a book? Because I am, what do you do?
4.  I manually masturbate caged animals for artificial insemination purposes.
5.  I harvest human organs and sell them on the dark net.

Maybe I should just rethink explaining the writer/blogger/advocate thing. :)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Quick Follow Up

In light of the two recent posts I made about my anxieties and fears about traveling, I would like to share with you what actually happened when I went on the trip.  I shared a sample of how my mind raced and thoughts ran wild with off the wall scenarios of human trafficking and though it was kind of funny, I was really concerned.  I was also concerned about being in a situation where I couldn't get to a bathroom if I needed one.  I didn't want to poop my pants or end up in a situation where I made a scene on an airplane.  I was worried about traveling with other people and being in a hotel room or other situation where I would have to get to a bathroom and maybe not make it and all the embarrassing things that happen while I'm in there.  Honestly, I think I worried way too much.  Big surprise, I know.

Somehow I was able to negotiate my way through three separate airports, three airplane rides, four very long taxi rides, one short bus ride, one overnight hotel stay, three meals with people I just met, one meet and greet social situation and a six hour meeting all with absolutely no restroom issues.  Not that I didn't have to go, because I did, but when I did the bathroom was readily available and I had no issues at all with accidents or embarrassment.  I'm also very pleased to announce I didn't fall victim to a human trafficking ring either.  


I have never felt more proud of myself.  I'm not sure how I managed this but it was actually very empowering.  It wasn't until I was safely back home that my intestine and body decided to rebel.  My stomach has decided to prove to me just how unpredictable it can be and my body still aches from lugging my bag through the airports.  My brain and body are so fatigued I can barely form thoughts to write this post, but I'm okay with that. I can take the time I need to recoup and I will.  I accomplished something huge and proved to myself that even thought I have all these terrible anxieties about so many things, it is still possible for me to accomplish great things.  The meeting was a success and I now have new friends from all over the world.  More on that later. Now, I need a nap.