Now, as you may or may not have noticed, I am of the female persuasion. And one of the irritating things about this is that, when you get annoyed, no matter how legitimate your grievance, there are a few gentlemen dotted about the place who will always respond with "LOL IT MUST BE HER TIME OF THE MONTH HAHA WOMEN EH AND THEIR MYSTERIOUS HORMONAL PROBLEMS CAN'T LIVE WITH EM CAN'T KEEP EM ON A CONTINUOUS DIAZEPAM IV TO CORRECT THEIR CRAZY LADY ISSUES".
The trouble with this reaction is not just that it is stupid, but also that there is no way of responding to it that does not justify the accusation in the minds of the accusers. If you remain silent, it implies that you agree. If you punch them in the face, this is taken as further evidence of "hormonal imbalance", when in fact it is self-evidently the correct course of action.
But anyway, my experiences over the last year or so of undergoing treatment for my pituitary macroadenoma have certainly made me appreciate The Power of Hormones. And that's what we're going to learn about today.
So what are hormones? Obviously, as we all kind of slightly know, they're like chemically things that sort of slosh around your body, and if they get imbalanced then you go mental and start shouting at people and probably have a hot flush.
On closer examination, this sounds suspiciously like the theory of the four humours, so I turned to Wikipedia for a delightfully un-technical definition: "A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or gland in one part of the body that send out messages which affect cells in other parts of the organism… In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another."
The pituitary gland is a little gland at the base of the brain, and it sits around all day secreting nine different types of hormone which help to regulate growth, metabolism, water balance, lactation, aspects of preganancy and childbirth, body temperature, blood pressure and more. Given the complex feedback mechanisms required to keep all these hormones in balance, it's easy to see that when you develop a pituitary adenoma which secretes hormone(s), it throws everything completely out of whack.
Pituitary adenomas may secrete growth hormone (acromegaly), adrenocorticotropic hormone (Cushing's disease), prolactin (prolactinoma), or as in my case thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH-oma). But then it gets complicated, because each hormone may interact with and affect the levels of other hormones as well. So, for example, in my case my body was producing too much thyroid-stimulating hormone, which caused my body to produce too much thyroid hormone, which had a knock-on effect on other hormones including prolactin and SHBG (technically not a hormone itself but a glycoprotein which affects the levels of other hormones in the body). It's basically like your body has spent ages laying out a complex pattern of dominoes on the floor, in which one starter domino needs to be flicked for them all to neatly fall over, and then some buffon comes tramping in wearing giant boots and stomps right in the middle of them. Lots of the dominoes fall over, some don't, and it's a bloody nightmare trying to set it all up again.
So, this time last year, my hormones were completely messed up and I was experiencing all kinds of crazy symptoms; rapid heartrate, hair falling out, massive appetite etc etc. And then I started treatment with lanreotide injections - the same injections that I'm having at the moment - and started to see an improvement in my TSH levels, which continued for several months and has only just got worse again (damnit!).
I already knew about The Power of Hormones. When your heart's going at 140bpm it's hard to ignore. But I hadn't really been prepared for the fact that when I began treatment, my changing hormone levels would affect me in more ways than simply improving my symptoms. The same thing has happened again in the past week or so since having my first injection. The first thing to arrive, just like last year, was the Crazy Appetite Swings. On Sunday, I had no appetite. I could happily have eaten nothing all day; just having a coffee in the morning made me feel really full. On Monday, I was back to normal; by Tuesday, I was completely ravenous.* There will probably be weeks of me alternately spending days completely uninterested in food, and then making like the Very Hungry Caterpillar and eating my way through anything placed in front of me, up to and including my own desk.
But the Crazy Hunger Swings are not so crazy as the Crazy Cat Lady Mood Swings. I guess I am fortunate in that my mood swings haven't tended too much towards the angry thus far,** but rather to the excessively emotional. For example, yesterday I was walking home from work, listening to my ipod as per usual, when all of a sudden and to my intense embarassment I burst into tears at a Beyonce song. I'm not going to say which song, out of shame, but the fact that I had this sudden surge of emotion struck me as rather hilarious and I then started giggling, so I was walking home laughing and weeping like a complete maniac and generally very glad I didn't see anyone I knew en route. I'm going to try my best not to adopt hundreds of cats and live in a bin liner, but at the rate I'm going the position of local madwoman may well be within my reach very shortly.
After a few more weeks of treatment, hopefully my hormones should be more in balance, but until that happy day every time my eyes well up with tears at the sight of a cute piglet in a teacup, I shall remember The Power Of Hormones.
*Admittedly not ravenous enough to eat the horrific curried parsnip soup I had for lunch at work, though.
**Although last year I would occasionally find myself becoming suddenly and irrationally furious if someone, say, dared to walk in front of me on the pavement. Happily, as soon as I recognised I was being silly the feeling would go away.***
***And if that didn't work, I used to just push them into the path of oncoming traffic.