Thursday, 22 September 2011

A Brief History of Whine: Symptoms

So, as this blog is basically a self-contained whinge festival, I thought - what better way to spend my third post than in lengthy enumeration of my various aches and pains? It's important to remember that we're all essentially old people in training, and it's good to get a bit of practice in while you can.

People do ask about my symptoms, perhaps because of the slightly confusing fact that, whilst I technically have a brain tumour, I have thus far (very disobligingly) not gone obviously mental. Hospital drama scriptwriters would be very disappointed in me. I do get headaches - a classic sign! - but for the most part my symptoms have been to do with the hormonal side of the condition.

Contrary to popular opinion, hormone imbalance does not manifest itself solely as PMS/raving menopausal women rushing outside to cool down, despite the many undoubtedly hilarious jokes on the subject. In my case, I had a whole range of pituitary tumor symptoms which built up gradually over a number of years: my hair started falling out when I was in the sixth form at school; I was getting really hungry all the time; I felt the cold particularly badly (that one really baffled the doctors, as people with too much thyroid hormone are supposed to get too hot); I bruised incredibly easily;* my heartrate would go up for no reason; I kept getting ill with various coughs and colds.

That last point really managed to muddy the (already murky) waters of diagnosis. After starting university I was constantly in-and-out of the doctors; in my first year I had bronchitis, and in my second, glandular fever. If they gave out badges for GP visits, I'd have a full display case; in-between actual illnesses, I kept going back and complaining at them. Regular barrages of blood tests - including checking my thyroid - were carried out, and they all came back fine. If they gave out badges for hypochondria, I'd probably have been given one of those, too.

I only really managed to get my GP's attention in January 2010, when I developed tachycardia - i.e. my heartrate suddenly jumped up to about 140 bpm for no apparent reason.** That, for those of you who haven't experienced it, is a rubbish heartrate to have, given that your resting heartrate is supposed to be about 70-100 bpm. It's like constantly feeling that you've just sprinted several hundred metres. To evade a mountain lion. While wearing a dress designed by Lady Gaga Couture.

As well as a high heartrate, I had the shakes, and any loud noises suddenly became surprisingly stressful - plus, I kept twitching worse than Nick Clegg trying to throw off Cameron's Imperius Curse. Fortunately the doctors stuck me on beta blockers, the medication of the aged, and as long as I remembered to take them it wasn't too bad. I couldn't really do any strenuous exercise - but on the plus side, for the first month or two the pills gave me some excitingly vivid dreams.

The high heartrate eventually got a cardiologist involved, who ordered the right kind of thyroid function tests, which flagged up my very high levels of thyroid homornes, eventually led to diagnosis when they realised I was overproducing Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, blah blah. Since my pituitary surgery in April, some of my symptoms have improved; I've halved my dose of beta blockers and found that I can actually go running without collapsing like a pansy,*** which is definitely appreciated. I've had more headaches, though, so I guess it's swings and roundabouts.

So those are my crazy TSH-oma pituitary tumour symptoms! Or at least a quick run-down of the more important ones. I imagine that's more than enough for one post. Hopefully we can all agree that my old-lady bitching skills are being finely honed.

UPDATE: Click here to read my post about my first trip to hospital.
* Current record: 22 bruises over three days, with no idea how they got there.

** Interestingly, but not relevantly, that's about the same heartrate as a domestic cat.

*** I tried jogging to catch a train in the summer of 2010 and even though I ran for less than a minute, I was hyperventilating for about half an hour afterwards. Caught the train, though. Slick.

Friday, 16 September 2011

So what the hell is actually wrong with you, anyway?

I have long since realised that different people have different levels of interest in what the hell is actually wrong with me anyway, but unfortunately everyone is forced to ask the question in the same way, because Victorian standards of etiquette insist that adding the phrase "Seriously, though, I don't want some really long explanation" after the phrase "So what is your illness?" is rude. Those crazy Victorians! It's political correctness gone mad.

But I am totally fine with that and equally well aware that, whilst phrases such as "cystic degeneration" and "scooping the tumour out through your nose like in Ancient Egypt" undoubtedly have their place, they may result in queasiness among the populace. Especially when sprung on people unexpectedly.

To this end, I have decided to create a variety of possible explanations for what's wrong with me, and you can select the one that appears most suited to your needs.

The Short Explanation:
There's a gland in your head called the pituitary gland. Mine has a tumour on it.

The Long Explanation:
There's a gland just under your brain called the pituitary gland (see above for a quick explanation) which makes a whole bunch of hormones. My pituitary has developed a tumour known as a pituitary adenoma (see the About section for more details). Fortunately the tumour is benign, but it makes a hormone called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), which results in me having too much thyroid hormone; that creates all kinds of exciting symptoms like a superfast heartrate and the shakes.*

The Explanation In German:
Die Hypophyse ist eine endokrine Drüse, die unter dem Hirn liegt. Ich habe einen hypophysären Tumor, der Schilddrüsenhormon macht; also habe ich Symptome von Hyperthyreoidismus.

Leider ist mein Deutsch sehr schlecht, also vielleicht ergibt die vorhergehenden Absätze keinen Sinn...

The Explanation In Rhyme:
The pituitary gland
is like a small grain of sand
(except it's the size of a pea).
It sits in your head,
well-behaved (or, instead,
it might swell up exponentially).

My pituitary gland
is a meanie; he's banned
from attending well-thought-of events.
So now he just chooses
to sulk, and he oozes
hormones, with the worst of intents.

I am happy to create further explanations to suit your explanatory needs, although they may not all be entirely explicatory or, indeed, explicable.

* Incidentally, if I've ever been mean/stupid/lazy/exhibited any other undesirable character traits in your presence, it's probably also because of the tumour. I'm actually a really great person.**

** This may or may not be entirely or indeed at all true >.>

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Why, God, Why?

Good morning world! Welcome to my new blog. I intend to use it to further the cause of all extreme right-wing politics, and particularly that modern-day angel Michelle Bachmann, who (I've been reliably informed) is probably sane.

I kid, I kid. It's actually about the tumour in my head (much more palatable now, huh?). There are five main reasons why I started this blog, and I quickly realised that an easy way to get out of writing a proper first post is to list them in full:

1. The pun in the title was too good to pass up.

2. I like talking too much.

3. I may have recently developed some kind of horrible blogging addiction.*

4. People often want to ask me questions about how I'm doing/what actually is wrong with me and I tend to confuse them with the answers.

5. To be a vaguely useful repository of information about pituitary adenomas.

So there you have it. I guess the best thing to do would be to give a chronological account of the various things that have happened; diagnosis, initial treatment, surgery etc. etc. But I seriously doubt I have the attention span for it. I shall strain every sinew to give a fairly detailed account of my experience of surgery (well, not the actual gross pass-me-the-chainsaw-nurse part, but certainly the bits I was awake for) because before I had my surgery I wanted to know what to expect, and wished that other bloggers with pituitary adenomas had gone into more detail about it. But other than that, who knows? If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

* I also have a blog dedicated largely to nice photographs which I've taken and a blog of vaguely amusing cupcake pictures I've drawn. Oh, and in my capacity as volunteer marketing lady I am developing a secret blog in secret, like some kind of sinister top-grade weapons manufacturer. Possibly at some point I may need to stop in order to sleep.