Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'm Still Here!

Earlier this week I received an email from John in Los Angeles. He had been recently diagnosed with ITP, and searching the web for information on his condition, found this blog. He told me he was grateful to have a patient’s view of the illness and how it has affected me. John, if you’re reading this, thank you for spurring me to write another update. Just remember, though, we are all individuals, metabolically as well in our personalities, so what works or doesn’t work for me, may or may not affect you the same way. But at least you’ll get some idea of the dimensions of this ‘orphan condition’ that so few people know about.

Quick Look Back

Four months ago when I last posted in, I was feeling a little sorry for myself thanks to a slight recurrence of adrenal fatigue, and the diagnosis of mild hypothyroidism. As if I didn’t have enough, what with arthritis, osteopenia (thanks to small bones and the weakening effect of prednisone on them), and eczema, aggravated by, but not merely caused by gluten-containing foods. So, I was having to remember to be strict about what I eat and drink, remember to take my iodine, Vitamin B12, folinic acid cordyceps, slow release Vitamin C, magnesium (to counter muscle cramps), plus my normal ‘seniors’ medication to manage my high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and strengthen my bones No wonder I was feeling a bit sorry for myself!

Since then, I’ve had an operation on one eye to remove a growth on the back of the retina, and tomorrow I see the optometrist to see how much my vision has improved, and hopefully, to choose new glasses. I thought the eye op, which involved a stay in hospital overnight, would bump up my platelet count. Anything that occupies my immune system usually gives my platelets a rest from being munched, but no! For three months I cruised between 60 and 50, as we cautiously dropped the steroid dose by 0.25mg. Then last month – bump – down to 44. Not really alarm bells (my ‘rush to hospital’ figure is 20), but enough to scare me.

Thankfully, I caught one of the nasty winter colds going round (even more thankfully, it wasn’t the flu), so last week my platelets were a magnificent 92, my PB for this year! How long they’ll stay up there is anybody’s guess, but it felt like I won gold!

Thin bones getting thinner

Dem bones, dem bones, dem thin bones: I had a two year bone density last week, and only today did I have the courage to read the report before I take it to my doctor. As I feared, two years on from my last test, and two and a half years of taking steroids, my bones are getting more fragile. I have a marked risk of spinal fracture and a moderate risk of fracturing the left femur. Not fun!

On the other hand, I’ve only been taking the Fosamax (alendronate sodium monohydrate) for six months, and I understand it takes a few months before there’s enough in my system to have an effect. And, on the plus side, I’m still going to the gym regularly doing resistance training, which builds up bone strength as well as muscles, and last week my trainer graduated me from the small gentle hydraulic leg press to the big one with real weights.

Feeling pretty good

Despite all this and the messy cold, I’ve been feeling pretty good for the past month or so. I have enough energy, most days anyhow. I walk, I spend time with friends, go to art galleries, concerts with them. I joined a creative writing class which has been real stimulus for my brain, socialising with other writers and learning from a great poet. Some of my writing has been recognised, with a short story being published in an anthology, Between the Sheets and a poem accepted for a university literary magazine, to be launched at a writer’s festival next month.

I think too, that I’m finally learning something about acceptance and gratitude. Certainly gratitude. I’m far more conscious of feeling that for simple things, even for having a good day, in a way that I didn’t before this illness struck. And most days I accept that on a good day I’m 80/80 (80 percent well, 80 percent of the time), but that I will have days when I’m only 50/50.

Reasons to be grateful

All of the above, plus

· glorious sunny winter days in beautiful Sydney (top pic)

· the port wine magnolia flowering outside my balcony (left)

Let's hear your story!

I’d really like it if other people reading this blog would comment on how ITP has affected them, what works, what doesn’t work, how they manage, and above all, how they keep cheerful. Let’s hear from others in our special little group!