Saturday, April 17, 2010

On the See-Saw Again

Two weeks on and two more blood tests and my platelets are “behaving like the stock exchange” as my doctor put it. Up and down like a yo-yo.

Last time I posted, a fortnight ago, they had crept up to 34 from a scary low of 22. The following week they bounced to a magnificent 55, lifting my spirits almost as high.

Alas, this week’s blood test shows them back down at 35. However, thanks to my doctor’s meticulous tweaking of the Chinese herbs each week in response to my blood chemistry results, everything else in my system is behaving well, with all indicators sitting where they should be.

My neutrophils (white cells) might be a touch high, and busily munching on my platelets. But I’m not panicking, and neither is my doctor. We’ll wait and see what next week’s blood chemistry shows.

Emotional Highs and Lows

Despite that lovely number of 55, this fortnight has been a real emotional see-saw, with lows outnumbering highs two or three to one, and frequent mood swings every day. At times it has seemed like every hour. As soon as I pick myself up, some loss of control over my life – usually resulting from dealing with a health or welfare bureaucrat or real estate agent – sends me tumbling down again.

Some of this depression is directly from the steroids (depression is a known side-effect from long term corticosteroid use), but a lot is from the uncertainty of my financial situation and the frustrations of trying to find somewhere cheaper to live to match my reduced income.

The past two weeks have been laden with delays, frustrations and intense anxieties, and I have to say ‘emotional lability’ (a tendency to burst into tears with little warning) is quite exhausting. And in itself, quite frustrating!

This Week’s Bright Side

The big plus this week is that my energy and brain power are FINALLY coming back, thanks to the wonderful herbs which I’ve been taking religiously, twice a day, and the restricted diet, which I’ve been sticking to. I feel almost normal again and managed to do the 25 minute walk to my doctor’s surgery (it’s gently downhill), tho’ I had to catch a bus home again.

Another plus is that, with the help of my adult children, I’ve found a cheaper place to live in the same neighbourhood, and my friends and family will help me make the move in a couple of weeks.

And my lovely doctor took pity on me over the expense and utter lack of flavour and texture in commercial gluten-free bread and has allowed me to have a small bowl of porridge for breakfast again!

Autumn in the parkIt’s a glorious Indian Summer Autumn here in Sydney. I can walk through my favourite park or just sit there in the sun, and for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling OK!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Hard Couple of Weeks

This past two weeks or so has been pretty miserable, with my platelet count a week ago down to the frightening figure of 22. My ITP doctor & I had agreed that if it went below 20, she would put me in hospital. So we upped the steroids to 7.5mg and she tweaked the Chinese herbs some more and ordered me to REST.

Just resting would have been lovely, but I also had to spend time visiting the State public housing authority to apply for subsidised housing, an appointment with a bureaucrat from the Federal government welfare agency to be assessed for the disability support pension, and a humiliating session with a church-based community welfare group to ask for short term accommodation or financial assistance. The elderly man interviewing me told me they didn’t provide housing, read me a lecture on being in an untenable position, & gave me a $50 plastic card for grocery money.

Being Pampered is Great!

For the last few days before the Easter break I had the joy of being pampered by my son, who came up from Melbourne specially to look after me. As it was school holidays, he had a few days he could spare while his partner & daughters visited her family, also interstate. J helped me buy groceries, cooked me healthy meals (I’m supposed to eat lots of meat), washed up, cleaned, made me cups of tea & pots of coffee, and sat and talked. It was wonderful! Three whole days of being pampered! He also helped me look at cheap private rental places online, although none were open for inspection while he was here.

Up and Down Again

J left the morning I had my latest blood test, and rang me the next day to hear the results. Thank goodness, the platelets had crept back up to 34. But my cortisol levels (from the adrenal gland) are horribly low – partly from ongoing stress and partly blocked by the steroids. This accounts for the dreadful slowness from early in the morning through almost to lunchtime, and the inability at times to think clearly, if at all!

My urate levels – by-products of breaking down the steroids – are very high, and the pathologist has warned they could be associated with alcoholism or metabolic syndrome. Since I’ve had no alcohol since Christmas, metabolic syndrome is the one to be a little concerned about. But not yet, as my marvellous doctor is on top of it all, and has tweaked my herbs yet again, both to support the adrenal gland and to help the body cope better with the steroid by-products.

Feeling Down

Not surprisingly, after my son left, and with the warning from my doctor that getting this condition out of the acute phase and into a more stable stage where the medications and herbs and diet keep the platelets at an acceptable level, could take another six months, I’ve been feeling pretty low - depressed and frustrated. I am supposedly eligible via one of the welfare levels (Federal, State, community) for some inexpensive counselling, but have not been told who’s paying and how I access it.

Adding to my depression is the attempt to find affordable private rental while I wait for public housing, a wait that could be up to a year or more. It’s hard to go house hunting when you have little energy and depend on friends to take you. Real estate agents aren’t particularly helpful towards renters, especially at the cheap end of the market, as they know there are far more would-be tenants than there are available properties. That said, my friends have all been marvellous, & it certainly helps to have another person when looking at a possible home.

On the Bright Side

On the day before Good Friday, I was notified that I’d been approved for the disability pension, and that payment would start in another two weeks. It was remarkably quick, as I’d been informed I wouldn’t know either way until May. This pension brings a little more money per week than the unemployment benefits I’ve been on, & there maybe other benefits, as yet unclear. At least I no longer keep having to prove to the welfare agency that I’m not fit to be working, so fewer forms to fill out & no more queuing up to lodge them in person.

The other bright point is that the strict gluten-free and sugar-free diet is working to reduce my weight. I’ve dropped another kilo down to 69. Only 5 more and I’ll be back to my normal weight!