A general update

I know I can be terribly annoying talking about the various new things happening medically but then never going back and updating you all. Unfortunately I have the memory of a goldfish, my husband will attest to that. I forget things, I continually ask the same questions  etc. It must drive him nuts some days but he patiently answers those repeated questions.

Octreotide:
In April 2014 I was admitted into hospital for a medication trial. Luckily I escaped on the second day, the hospital setting drove me to the brink of hysteria. This was triggered by awful experiences of hospitals in the past.
I was started on 0.25mls Octreotide three times a day before meals. Whilst in hospital I suffered no side effects but with in a few days I was suffering from diarrhoea (neon yellow in colour!) and stomach pain. On the advice of my consultant I stopped the injections for a few days and then restarted them but just once a day. All went really well – it stopped my postprandial episodes, until June which was when I started getting repeated bouts of cellulitis. I decided that I would stop the injections whilst I waited to get rid of the cellulitis. I had four bouts of it in total, by the end of July I had simply got out of the habit of injecting and it fell by the wayside. My postprandial episodes had lessened so I just didn’t use it.

Last week as the episodes had come back with a bang I decided to bite the bullet and start using the octreotide again. I started off on a 0.2ml dose and that has gone really well. As there were no side effects I have increased this week back to 0.25ml, I had got up to 0.3ml before stopping it so I hope to slowly increase it back to that amount. So far so good, the weird thing is I can really feel it wear off with tachycardia coming out of nowhere once I get to the 90 minute mark after the injection. I see my consultant at the hospital in the next few weeks so I will update him them.

Fludrocortisone / Florinef:

I started taking fludrocortisone again back in February 2014 after the tilt table test sent my autonomic nervous system into free fall. Since then its been on and off until January this year when again I have taken another downturn health wise. I am currently taking two tablets a day which I find helps with the tachycardia and palpitations. It does zero for my blood pressure but if it stops the banging heart every time I move I am happy to take it. If I am having a very rough day I will increase to three or even four tablets.

Home Oxygen:

I still have my oxygen concentrator which is an enormous help to me….when I remember to use it. It is very reassuring to have the oxygen concentrator at home so that I don’t have to take a trip to hospital. There are several reasons why I use it, the first one is quite obvious I use it when I feel like I can’t breathe. This tends to happen if I am having tachycardia that wont settle even when resting. It is exhausting when your heart decides to run at a million miles an hour when you aren’t. It feels like you can’t catch your breath, so the oxygen just makes it a lot easier. On occasion it will slow my heart down as well so a double bonus. I also use it when I have a bad migraine, the oxygen seems to reduce the length of the attack and ease the severity of the pain. Since being on the fludrocortisone again I have had a lot more headaches an unfortunate side effect so I find I am using the oxygen more and more.

Back Pain:

Overall my back pain is 100 times better than it was back in August when I could barely get out of bed. I still have bad days and semi bad days usually when I overdo things however some days I can just wake up in agony. I am not brilliant at doing the Pilate’s I seem to have fallen out of the habit. I really need to get back on the case.

My back pain has also moved from being predominantly my lower back and now can be anywhere from the base of my skull down to my tail bone. For the moment I have stopped going to physio therapy as I really don’t believe that my back will get much better than it is now. I completed Pilate’s from the September to the December at a cost of £70 a month. We don’t really have the £70 a month to spend. If I can’t keep my back pain at the level it is now I will go back.

Bladder Problems:

My bladder has been doing much better since I have retrained it to wait for longer until I empty it. So far no infections which was my main concern as my going frequently was a habit I had got into due to recurrent infections. 

I have not cut out caffeine, fizzy drink, artificial sweeteners or the devils juice. This was my decision and just because I have done it does not mean that this decision would be right for you should a medical professional advise you to do the same. I knew that my problems were not related to my consumption of these items but down to a neurological problem. The bladder nurse was trying to treat me for an over active bladder due to me urinating over 26 times in a day. What she couldn’t quite get her head around was that if you drink between 6-7 litres a day you are going to pee more than the national average.

I am being taught how to self catheterise at the end of this week…..I am so looking forward to it. At least this is happening in my home and not in a hospital ward. Knowing how to do this will be an enormous help as my bladder is still refusing to empty properly or completely stop working. I am hoping that by being able to empty my bladder in this way will mean I will not need the district nurses coming around and fitting a catheter with a bag in future. Time will tell. I am sure there will be a blog post following this hilarious fun-filled episode.

B12:

I was diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency at the end of the summer. I had the standard 6 injections and then was supposed to be given the injections every 8-12 weeks. After 6 injections it was clear that I needed far more B12 than was being offered on the NHS (despite the NICE guidelines informing doctors of the correct practice). As soon as the B12 injections wore off my neurological symptoms came back. So since then I have been initially injecting every other day. I then spaced that out until every 3 days then every 4 days and now I am down to once a week. Any longer than that and the burning sensation in my left leg and foot comes back. I was obviously a lot more deficient than my B12 test accounted for.

Overall Health:

As I have a hospital appointment coming up in the next few weeks to see the consultant who looks after me for PoTs I have been thinking long and hard about how I am doing. I haven’t seen my Dr since April due to a massive balls up within the hospitals admin department. Hand on heart I can honestly say my health is slowly getting worse each year, which is upsetting and a little depressing. I don’t know where this decline will end and that is scary. No one seems to know or discuss it. 

I am now starting to suffer from random drops in blood pressure when sitting. I am used to my blood pressure dropping like a stone on standing and have coping mechanisms in place for this. What alarms me about this new symptom is it is happening when I sitting with my legs raised. I will be reading or using my Chromebook and all of a sudden the screen will seem to scroll up or down. This is actually my eyes rolling in my head, within a few seconds my heart will feel funny. The only way I can describe it is that I get the sensation you have when you are falling in a dream, only I am awake. The attacks can last for just a few seconds or several minutes. I may get one in isolation or repeated attacks throughout the day. I know that whatever it is that is happening is causing my blood pressure to drop as I have been lucky enough to capture an episode on my BP monitor. This is just crazy and when I put some feelers out within the PoTs community only one person replied and said their son suffers from them.

I worry about these attacks as I have no warning that they will happen. For the moment I have placed myself on a driving ban until they have stopped for a few weeks. I feel like I am hanging onto my independence by a thread. Losing my driving licence – even though I only drive a few times a year would devastate me. Obviously having an accident and hurting other people would devastate me more. It is just that I feel that this illness has taken so much away from me I would hate to lose yet another thing.

Weight loss:

I am still sticking to my diet and I will admit it has been very hard at times. I have lost 21lbs since starting and I am just 3lbs away from what I weighed on my birthday in November which is what my first target was. I still have a long way to go, I am not even half way yet. I have found that reading my cards that I have made up with positive affirmations on them reminding me of the reasons why I want to lose weight etc have been really helpful especially on the days when I am finding it a hard slog.

One last quick update:

 This one is regarding my mum. Those of you who are regular readers may remember I wrote about the length of the waiting list for my mums spinal surgery. She still hasn’t had the operation and has deteriorated further. She saw her surgeon last week after her gp wrote to the surgeon explaining how badly my mum was now doing. Her case has now been marked as urgent and she has completed all her pre-operative tests. She is now just waiting to hear when the operation will take place. Fingers crossed it takes place soon as she really needs it.

Dear 2015

This post was nearly ready to be published last week when we had the devastating news that Willow had a tumour in her breast, should the X-rays showed that it had spread, we would have to make the hard decision to let her go. Due to the intense emotional distress this caused both hubby and I, we decided together that I would skip a week of the blog until we knew what the future held, life with or without Willow.

 I am happy to report the tumour hadn’t spread and it was successfully removed. The tumour was a mixture of benign and malignant cells so from now on we will keep a close eye on her. So here it is the post I prepared before even knowing that 2015 was going to be a roller coaster.

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Dear 2015,

I know that you are just a few days old but I wanted to give you a heads up, 2014 was a bit shit health wise if I am honest and I would sincerely like it if you would give me an easier 12 months. Although with awful PoTs symptoms starting on New Years Eve, I think its clear what your evil intentions are.
2014 was going swimmingly until I had a glucose loading tilt table test to confirm the diagnosis of postprandial hypotension in February. However it also changed my diagnosis from PoTs to severe Autonomic Dysfunction making my diagnosis even harder to explain to the myriad of medical professionals I would encounter during the remainder of the year.
Following the TTT my health took a massive decline. Just five days after the tilt table test (TTT – for short) I was bed bound and hooked up to my oxygen concentrator 24 hours a day for a week. I was inducing stress levels in my husband that I didn’t think were possible to survive without provoking a heart attack. No one had any answers, all my gp could suggest was going back onto fludrocortisone (florinef for you in the USA) and increasing my fluids. My hospital consultant was on holiday, so my gp and I were winging it. As always my main aim is to stay out of hospital because dealing with idiots when I am unwell drives me nuts, even well-meaning idiots. When I say idiots I mean the ones that although well-meaning presume they are experts in my condition after 5 minutes on google.
Thankfully that time I avoided a hospital stay, the next admission in April 2014 was planned. This was for a trial of the drug Octreotide to see if I could tolerate it and if it prevented my postprandial episodes as I refer to them as. The drug worked but the whole trial was farcical, with me being discharged after only injecting the drug once myself and arguing continually with the nursing staff who kept trying to give me the drug hours before meal times which as I later found out due to my own mistakes would have produced horrendous hypoglycemic attacks. I was also discharged with very little information and with my gp having no way of ordering the syringes or needles I needed to inject the drug because they weren’t available on the pharmacy list which gp’s can order from. This took several months to rectify, oh and I have failed to mention that I had no information regarding the disposal of the sharps bin either. As I said farcical.
May and June 2014 saw repeated bouts of cellulitis and I was very lucky not to need I.V antibiotics to sort it out. I had blood tests and antibiotics coming out of my ears but no cause for these repeated infections was ever found. I am just lucky I guess. I had no appreciation before hand how ill cellulitis can make you feel. The first bout started with what we presume was a spider bite on my knee, the second bout started after I had a manicure and the third and fourth bouts happened after I was bitten repeatedly by mosquito’s. I was very poorly but as always I chose to ignore it as I have found burying my head in the sand always works well. Spot the lie.
The end of June was equally dramatic with Acute Urinary Retention occurring on the 20th June resulting in me being admitted to hospital on the 21st June with a blocked catheter. If I thought I had lost my dignity when having a smear test (PAP test in the USA) in the past I was in for a rude awakening when having catheters fitted and subsequently removed. By the time a catheter becomes necessary you no longer care what it will take to relieve the agony of an overly full bladder. I have very little recollection of these events and I kind of understand women who say they forget the indignity and pain of childbirth. I think I have blocked the memories from my mind. Only to be remembered when I read the blog posts these incidents are contained within.
So six months in and 2014 had been one of the most eventful years of my professional sick persons career. So 2015 I would be grateful if you could keep the drama to a minimum. I don’t mind drama as in I have a winning lottery ticket or a National Newspaper wants me to write a regular column for them, that’s fine. I just don’t want the health drama for me or any of my loved ones. There is too much drama in the world already without adding a whole new level of shitty health problems.
The following six months weren’t remotely better, they just presented different challenges. From March onwards the back pain I had been suffering with since 1999 decided to ramp up a gear. I found out in September I have arthritis in my spine and a flattening of one of my discs. My palpitations, feeling faint etc have been worse for the last six months which has meant me staying on the dose of 3 fludrocortisone tablets a day. The steroids help but the bring other issues such as sleep problems and constant hunger. My weight has gone up and down like a yo-yo in the last 12 months. An outsider may think “weight should be the least of your problems” and I agree it should but I am so unhappy when I can’t fit into my clothes. I can cope with my health being awful as long as I don’t put on lots of weight. My weight seems to be the final straw. With my back pain being as bad as it was I spent much of the summer in bed in vast amounts of pain. With further reduced mobility I ended up putting on weight.
One good part of 2014 was finding out the answer to why my back was painful and discovering that gentle Pilate’s could strengthen more core muscles enough to alleviate that pain. I found joy in completing the exercises and used my Pilate’s time as me time. I could relax and found myself feeling calmer…..until my knees really started to hurt. I think the strengthened core muscles changed my gait which then altered the pressure on my knees or maybe the pain in my back was masking the pain in my knees. It doesn’t matter because in December 2014 I could add early onset arthritis in my right knee and  possibly all of my fingers.
December 2014 was eventful due to another bout of Acute Urinary Retention and a urinary tract infection to boot. So again 2015 I beg of you don’t meddle on the health front please. The last 12 months was hard to deal with and I am no longer bouncing back like I used to. My husband really can not continually cope with this level of stress. As a result of my declining health he has now put on several stone in weight as he is a stress eater. I want him with me for a long time, so please lay off me for a while so that he feels he has some kind of control in his life.
Last year I made a huge list of New Years Resolutions, it was the first time I had done so for many years. Looking back at the list I realise I didn’t accomplish any of them due to the health issues. That was a bitter pill to swallow.
One of my resolutions wasn’t affected by my health, I wanted to get back into creative writing…..I didn’t, I got back into blogging after an 18 month break. It has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. I have made a very special friend who I would never have met without my blog. I was nominated for a Wego Health Activist Blog award and I more than doubled my readership in the space of ten months. Something I am extremely proud of.
So if I maybe so bold 2015, I have provided you with my personal wish list for the next 12 months. I know you can’t cure my numerous medical conditions but you can be kind.
– I feel its time you gave me a break on the health front, just keep me ticking along with the conditions / symptoms I am used to. Don’t go throwing me any curve balls because I really don’t think I have the energy to cope with them.
– Please limit my exposure to idiots in the medical field. I have been worn down by the constant exposure to them last year. Let someone else have them for a change or just educate them a bit better before you release them on the general public. I can’t be the one to educate them all the time.
– Before one of my well-meaning acquaintances sends me the link to a blog where someone cured their PoTs through adopting a sugar-free, Vegan diet may you give them a change of heart or make their Internet connection go down until they decide I have probably already seen it several times.
– If they do send it let me receive it far more graciously than I did in 2014 but then again maybe not a little sarcasm never hurt anyone.
– If I do go into Acute Urinary Retention again can you make it on a day when I have shaved my legs and waxed my bikini line? It just makes me feel better to know that these are done if someone is going to be rummaging around in my lady parts.
– Please don’t let it be this year that my smear is due for the reasons above plus it is painful due to my retrograde cervix and dislocating my right hip when I adopted the “position” last time.
– If any insects or arachnids bite me this summer please let me avoid cellulitis and high dose antibiotics. By attack number 4 it got quite boring and the medication made me feel really nauseous.
– Please get my gp to admit fully that I have arthritis in my fingers. Seemingly them swelling up, being stiff and painful just isn’t enough proof when I already have arthritis in my spine and knee. Please stop him holding onto the belief that its my stretchy ligaments causing the problem and admit it is EDS causing early onset arthritis.
There are lots of things I could ask of you 2015 but I really don’t want to appear greedy. If you could just make it a smoother ride this year for me and my loved ones it would be greatly appreciated. I know there will always be bumps in the road so let me face them as I faced the ones in 2014, with humour and wit.