Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another setback

Last week's blood test result - 46. This week's blood test result,
which I got yesterday was - not 60 or even 50, as I'd modestly
hoped, but - 12. 46 was certainly not as great as I'd hoped, but it
was pretty OK, and definitely out of the danger zone. 12 is back in
scary territory!

In other words, although the steroid pulse my doctor and I did 10
days ago had definitely worked - a jump of 34 - it hadn't held once
I was on 5mg for a week. I'd lost everything I'd gained, while
putting up with all the usual unpleasant side-effects of a relatively
high steroid dose. 

So we're trying the pulse again - this time over  a longer period.  I started on 25mg last night and will take that for three nights, then on to 15 mg until I see my doctor again after next week's blood test. If the results are encouraging, we'll drop down to 10 mg for some days. It will beabout three weeks before we get back to 5mg, and  only if my platelets are much higher than 46.

As well as being under 'house arrest' again for at least until next
week's blood test, I can look forward to three weeks of increasing
discomfort from the horrible steroid side-effects.

Steroid side-effects

If you've never been on high steroid doses this is what I and many
others experience: sudden drops in energy, shakiness, palpitations,
indigestion and belching, pain in the oesophagus that feels like a
knife stuck through me, disrupted sleep - waking up and being
unable to get back to sleep because your mind is spinning with
thoughts. Not exactly fun!

Brain fog

Both my doctor and I hope I won't be on the higher doses for so
long that they affect my adrenals and produce the dreaded brain

Brain fog is similar to what many people receiving chemo for cancer develop.  Your brain feels full of cottonwool or thick fog; your neural synapses seem sluggish or unwilling to fire. It is debilitating and depressing to be unable to think clearly; often it affects your ability to make sense of what you're reading.

Damage to the adrenals also leads to fatigue. So it's no wonder I'm
feeling a wee bit down this week!

At the moment, my adrenals are coping and thank goodness my
brain is only a tiny bit slower, so I can still work effectively.

Always look on the bright side of life

I've been through all this before, but thankfully not for quite a
while. And each time, I've bounced back and my brain has returned
to action. So far this year I've been remarkably well, and for much
of last year, apart from debilitating migraines in summer. In fact,
the problem seems to be that I'm just too healthy! Even spending
three weeks in Boston in the spring sunshine and coming back to
winter in May didn't cause any health problems, if I ignore my
immune system munching up my platelets faster than my bone
marrow can make them.

And although my doctor telling me the bad news threw me a few
minutes of teary anger, I walked out of her surgery laughing. I said
I was heading to the nearest café for a restorative coffee and how
glad I was that coffee protects the liver against  steroid by-products. Shetold me about a patient going for a coffee enema to  detox,
who was surprised she was buzzing for 48 hours after. Yikes!! I'll
take my coffee orally, thanks!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wake up call - part 2

Well, the cold was a fizzer - it wasn't a cold but a seasonal allergy,
as I suspected when despite frequent explosive sneezes, my 'cold'
didn't get any worse.  So, the next blood test showed a truly horrific
12.   Luckily for me, despite horribly wet and at times windy
weather, I hadn't fallen over or been knocked down, although I had
a couple of small bruises which I couldn't remember getting, and
my gums weren't bleeding. Time for the big guns, to arrest the slide
before I did get into danger.

We decided on a steroid pulse, a quick in and out to hit the immune
system without upsetting my adrenals. First night it was 50mg -
100 times the dose I'd been on for the past four months. The
second night it was 25 mg. By then I was starting to feel side-
effects: palpitations, indigestion, discomfort in the hiatus hernia in
my oesophagus, inability to get back to sleep after going to the
toilet.  In the morning, before my next blood test, I felt some
shakiness and was a little slower than usual.

That blood test was encouraging. My platelets went up two and a
half times to 30. I saw my doctor the next morning - a day of
flooding rain and very slow traffic - and we dropped the steroids to
15mg, with a maintenance of 10 mg/night until my blood test next
week. By then there's a good chance the platelets will be up north
of 50, and we can breathe easy again.

Back on the Chinese herbs

Although the platelet number was encouraging, my haemoglobin
levels are still low, and so are my sodium levels. I had low sodium
back in January 2010, & I was encouraged to put salt on my food.  I
invested in a salt grinder and some lovely sea salt crystals, while
keeping the iodised powdered salt for cooking, as I need to
maintain good iodine levels. This time, we noticed my sodium levels were down at the same time as the haemoglobin. There might not be a connection, but it's worth looking up. Back then, my
antihypertensive medication was implicated, and since then I've
been put on a daily paracetamol dose to relieve arthritis pain. I
thought that might have contributed to the sodium loss, but the
reverse is the case. There are warnings against too much sodium in paracetamol preparations

To boost the haemoglobin, protect me from the worst of the higher
steroid doses and generally assist my nutritional profile, I'm back
on the Chinese herbs, twice a day for two weeks. I have no idea
what they are - a list of 10 Chinese herb names that meant nothing
to me, as I only know European and Australian herbs.  But they
taste like the ones I had back in March 2010  and are actually quite drinkable, so I think they're the same mix.

On the bright side

The drenching rains of the past two weeks have stopped, and we
have sunshine,blue skies and mild temperatures (18C in the middle
of winter). The snow peas and rocket I sowed a month ago are well
advanced, the everlasting spinach is still going and my geraniums
are still flowering. Being mostly housebound means I have been
reading more and I've finished knitting the cardigan I started three
months ago.  In spite of the ups and downs, life is good!