Monday, November 15, 2010

It’s good news week!

This month saw me reach my anniversary – 12 months since that strange and frightening day when I was diagnosed with ITP and bundled off to the emergency department of Sydney’s wonderful Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. By coincidence, I had my regular fortnightly check-up booked for the very day. And I was NOT looking forward to my anniversary!

Turns out this was good news day, not the doomsday I’d been dreading.

No, I haven’t suddenly been cured. No, neither my doctor nor the researchers studying ITP are any closer to discovering what causes it. And yes, my pituitary gland is still “screwed up” (to quote my doctor), and likely to stay that way, to a lessening degree, for the foreseeable future. Yes, the steroids are still threatening to tip me over into Type 2 diabetes if I don’t watch my diet very carefully, and they’re thinning my bones and my skin.

BUT, the good things definitely outweigh the bad.

On the bright side

I'm feeling remarkably well and most days have reasonable levels of energy. My platelets are sitting in their usual position around 50, but they're not causing any obvious problems. My blood pressure and haemoglobin level are fine, and the horrible gluggy cholestyramine is doing an excellent job of keeping my cholesterol down and fixing my kidney function, so my kidneys are no longer struggling.

Best of all, because I have been sticking to the no carbs diet, I am no longer insulin resistant. So, as long as I keep on keeping off carbohydrates and sugar, and get enough regular exercise, I should be able to keep the dreaded T2 diabetes at bay.

Regular exercise important for people with chronic illness.

I know regular exercise is important for good health, but the problem for people with chronic illnesses is if you have a bad spell (like my recent gastric flu episode), you very quickly lose condition. It becomes hard to do the things you could do when you were healthy, like walk up hills, climb stairs, carry grocery bags, or wash the floors.

Once again I have my local health service to thank for the opportunities to build up my fitness during this period of comparatively good health. I’ve been accepted into the RPA’s rehab gym, which is mainly for patients with lung and cardiac conditions. I started there this week, doing a little bit of gentle cardio on the treadmill and exercise bike, and some even gentler resistance training for my arms and upper body.

When, in a few months’ time, I get too fit to qualify for this gym, there is another section of the health service that offers continuing gym membership, supervised by physiotherapists, for people with chronic conditions. This service is not free, but is well worth the small monthly fee to continue to maintain and improve physical fitness in managing chronic illnesses.

Reasons to be cheerful

Apart from all the good news from my doctor and the pleasure of doing a little targeted exercise, I have learned to love my diet. Why? Because, not only am I losing lots of weight, but I now have to eat foods that will maintain my weight, and prevent me getting too thin.

Because I must avoid carbohydrates as much as possible, within reason, to defeat the steroid tendency towards insulin resistance, I need to replace the energy I would have got from eating bread, rice, pasta, porridge, cake, etc. And that means eating more fat.

My doctor has virtually ordered me to eat more cream, cheese, butter, bacon, even chocolate, alongside the serves of protein, vegetables and fruit. As she said: “You can have a lot of fun on a no-carb diet!”

It won’t be forever. When I finally get off the steroids, I will be allowed a more ‘normal’ level of carbs in my diet, and once more I’ll have to think very carefully about eating cream, butter, bacon or chocolate. But until then, boy, am I gonna enjoy my no carb regime!