Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Up and down – life on a see-saw

Well, it’s been 2 months since I last reported in this blog, and I have to say it’s been a very confusing (and somewhat depressing) period.

My last post was full of energy and optimism, even though I admitted I knew I wasn’t cured. Since then I’ve been on a see-saw, with my platelets up one week and down the next. After the magnificent 233 I had following the horrendous gastric flu back in October, they settled back down to a normal (for me) 50-60 range for a few weeks.

But once we dropped the steroids down to the borderline 5mg/day, early in December, the platelets grew skittish. Down to 25 just before Christmas, so that was Christmas and New Year wiped out, back up to 46, and then just as I was about to go interstate for a week to see my son and family in Melbourne, and my sister and friends in Tasmania, they plunged to 31. So that was the end of that little holiday!

Because of course, it isn’t just that my platelets are low. Because my pituitary is still not working properly, my cortisol readings are also way down at 50 (when they should be at 150+). Low cortisol means low energy (some days none at all), and little or no brain power. It’s back to the couch, and there isn’t even any Test cricket to watch!

As well as the platelets and the cortisol deficits, all the B cells and T cells and other components of my immune system are way out of whack too, so I have little resistance to any nasty viruses or bacteria floating around. Both Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from epidemics of whooping cough, and having had it as a child many years ago doesn’t confer the immunity I thought it would. Whooping cough immunity only lasts about 10 years, and teenagers are now given booster shots, and adults when they start families. Some medical practitioners, including my doctor, also re-immunise grandparents. Of course, I’m not well enough to risk having a ‘grandma booster shot’, so I just have to be careful – especially in doctors’ waiting rooms where there are small children!

Cordyceps – will it make a difference?

I’m very fortunate that my doctor is both a western medicine-trained GP and a fully trained Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. In the past, she has prescribed mixtures of Chinese herbs to help my body cope with the effects on various organs and systems of high levels of prednisolone. Once we got down to 6mg/day, we were able to discontinue these herbs, and just supplement with daily folinic acid and vitamin B12.

However, since my adrenal glands are not recovering as fast as they should to the lower steroid dose, as shown by my poor cortisol levels, we are trying the Chinese fungal treatment cordyceps along side my other supplements. Although there are no large scale, double blind studies to show whether cordyceps works to assist the adrenals, there have been small scale trials that showed good results, and the fungus has a long association in TCM with improved chi (energy). Like all herbal treatments, it will take some time to show any results, but we should have some idea after I complete a month on it.

On the bright side

On the days when I have energy and brain power, I have the urge to write. I’ve started working on a couple of new short stories, as well as researching and writing little bits of my next novel/short story collection. My doctor is encouraging me in this effort, as opposed to looking for more income-earning writing which I might not be able to complete, as my energy drops off. When I’m working creatively, the emotional energy I get feeds back into my body, with physiological and psychological benefits, where chasing income opportunities depresses me.

The other good thing about this whole period of readjustment is trying out new recipes for my very low carb diet. On the days that I have any mental and physical energy, it’s fun looking up new ways to cook otherwise bland and boring tofu, or ways to create low-carb AND gluten-free desserts and cookies.