Candice Mes: Living well with chronic illness

This week I’d like to introduce Candice Mes. Candice lives in South Africa  and currently works as an Occupational Therapist (OT). She’s walked a long and, at times, very trying road with her health and tells us how she lives well with chronic illness here.

Living with Hypothyroidism and Myasthenia Gravis

Candice was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when she was 12 years old and Myasthenia Gravis (MG) when she was 22 years old.  Coupled together, it means she has low metabolism, high fatigue and low endurance. When the MG symptoms flare up they cause her to struggle to chew, eat and swallow. She struggles to perform basic tasks as her muscles don’t receive the messages they need. At times, she needs someone to assist her in standing up and getting dressed to more intimate tasks like showering. Her eyes also droop and she has to tilt her head to see. Thankfully she has been very healthy for a few years now and so leads a mostly normal life.

Her symptoms started to appear over the course of a year. It started with the inability to smile and led up to her not being able to swallow properly or independently climb a flight of steps. She was in her final year of studies when this occurred and got the common answer when she reported her fatigue that ‘all final year students are tired’. After reaching a breaking point, her lecturers recommended that she was suffering from anxiety. Frustrated, she went to a local GP who saw her true symptoms and referred her on to a neurologist. Flash forward, she has been hospitalized for plasmapheris three times, IVIG four times and she has gone through a full thymectomy. She has been on several different types of immunosuppressants and symptomatic medication that have caused havoc with her gut. Seven years of cortisone treatment has unfortunately left her with thin skin, brittle bones and numerous infections.

Achieving medical remission

Through her health rollercoaster, she kept working. She currently only works half a day, but she still loves it and finds it helps inspire her to keep going. She also does dog agility with her miniature schnauzers and blogs too.

When she finally got onto the right medication, healed her gut with the help of a healthy diet and advice of a homeopath and decreased her stress levels, she went into what her neurologist termed medical remission. She still needed her medication, but she was functionally normal and healthy. As MG is not hereditary, her and husband decided after 8 years of marriage to try and fall pregnant. They have just welcomed the arrival of their little boy (congrats Candice!).

Become your own advocate

One lesson Candice learnt early on was to keep searching for her own answers. MG is often classified as the snowflake disease as it affects each MG warrior somewhat differently and each warrior reacts differently to treatment. She has found a great medical team including a Neurologist, Homeopath, Chiropractor, and Physiotherapist. She finds that the healthier she eats, the easier it is to limit her flares and keep her gut healthy. Her Chiro and Physio help her with pain management as well as building muscle when she is strong enough. Her husband and family have been a great support through the tears, laughter and search for answers.

Keep searching for answers to live better with #chronicillness Click To Tweet

Energy conservation is key

As an OT, she was already empowered with the knowledge of energy conservation techniques, but has since learnt many more ways to apply these. Living with MG has taught Candice to pace herself and give herself time to rest. She was always busy – whether it was doing something practical or just being internally busy processing things and ideas. She needed to take more time to be mindful as to nurture her physical, mental and spiritual self. This in turn has made her a stronger person with more empathy and a greater understanding of how to assist others.

Live #mindfully to nurture your physical, mental and spiritual self. Click To Tweet

Advice for others

Candice says ‘Learn how to pace yourself and give yourself permission to rest. Keep asking questions and searching for your own answers. Make sure you have a good support system, whether it’s your partner, family or an online support group. Don’t neglect your own mental health. Chronic illness often impacts more than just your physical health’.

Candice is excited about becoming a mum – knowing it will not be short of its own challenges! She wants to continue working, blogging and helping others by sharing her knowledge. 

You can read more about Candice’s story on her blog Snowflakes and Spoons and you can find her on the following social media channels too: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

For more stories on living well with chronic illness, click here.