Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Have a very healthy Christmas!

Happy Christmas everyone! Thanks for reading my blog over the past year. No doubt there'll be much more to tell in the new year. I hope your holidays are both happy and healthy! xxx

Monday, 24 December 2012

How Not To Get A Date

So there's quite a lot of catching-up to do, given that I have been a bad pituitary blogger for the past month and a half and yet quite a few highly relevant things have happened, including meeting with the neurosurgeon and Ear Nose and Throat people (who are apparently more properly called Otolaryngologists - who knew?) and finally getting a date for surgery. I shall start at the very beginning...

At the beginning of November, my next injection was due. You probably know by now that I need monthly injections of lanreotide, a somatostatin analogue, to suppress the overproduction of thyroid stimulating hormone by my pituitary tumour. These injections are delivered into my hip via the medium of a really big needle. It's so big I'm pretty sure a camel actually could pass through it.*

One of the nurses greeted me when I arrived, took my bloods and then went to get the injection. Then something happened which had never happened before.

"Would you like any freezing spray?" she asked me.

I was nonplussed. Previously, I had always associated freezing spray with childhood trips to the Irish seaside, not hospitals. I had to ask what it was.

"Oh, it's just a spray which freezes the skin before an injection," the nurse explained.

Those who know me well will know that one of the few things I like less than injections is being cold. "Sounds unpleasant," I said.

"Yes, it's quite painful," the nurse said breezily. "But some patients still prefer it."

Now at this point, I admit perhaps I should have smelled a rat. No other nurse had ever offered me freezing spray prior to one of these injections. But I wasn't worried.

Like a fool.

Most nurses, when they do this injection, hold the needle (did I mention it's massive?) against your skin and then gently press it in. Not this nurse. Instead, she opted to hold the needle some distance away from the injection site, then take a great swing and stab me with it. It was considerably more painful than usual, and I bled a lot more than normal as well.

I can see why her patients usually ask for freeze spray.

So, I promptly became the proud owner of an excitingly multi-coloured hip bruise, which lasted for three weeks before finally fading just before I was due the next injection. I actually did try to take a photo to show you all but it just came out as a blurry smoosh. For a couple of days I couldn't even lie in bed on that side without wincing.

Anyway, that anecdote was by way of being an aperitif to the main cock-up that I encountered on that trip to the hospital. While my hip was bleeding gently, one of the endocrine nurses asked if I'd heard
anything from the Neurosurgery or Ear Nose & Throat departments, who were supposed to be getting in touch with me about my impending surgery. I explained that I'd still heard nothing and that despite my attempts to call them I'd never got through to speak to an actual human being, and they'd never returned any of my messages. The nurse went off, had a look at her computer, and returned to tell me that I'd had an appointment with ENT. On the 26th October. Which was four days previously.

I also had an appointment booked in on the 5th November with Neurosurgery which I knew nothing about, and ENT had written to me to rearrange my missed appointment for the 6th November.

They'd been writing to my old address.

I still don't have the faintest idea how it happened. As soon as I moved house, I duly phoned the hospital and updated them with my new address. Not long afterwards, I received an appointment from the MRI Department at my new house. I sighed a deep sigh of relief in the happy knowledge
that my details had been successfully updated... and it never occurred to me that they might be sending appointments to my old address.

Obviously I am also slightly put out at my former housemates, who knew I was going to have surgery and who I'd asked to forward on any hospital-looking letters, or even just let me know if they arrived so that I could drop by to pick them up. But how the hospital could get it right... and then revert to getting it wrong, I have no idea. It's not the first time it's happened, either - avid readers will recall that information about a ream of tests I had to have in July was sent to my old address despite the fact that I'd not lived there in four months and all my other letters had gone through correctly.

So obviously, I was very upset about this. I had been doing everything I could to find out
about my appointments, and no-one ever got back to me. You have to wonder how many appointments I would have had to miss before anyone bothered to do so.


* Hell yeah, I'm cultured.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sprouts: A Festive Warning

Regular readers - and anyone who's ever had a roast dinner with me - will be aware of my aversion to Brussels sprouts. I might go so far as to call it a hatred of them.

And finally I have conclusive proof that eating sprouts is bad to for you (albeit only under highly specific conditions): a man was hospitalised last Christmas after eating too many Brussels sprouts. Sprouts contain a very high level of vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting and as a result of the sheer amount of sprouts the poor man had eaten, the high levels of vitamin K served to counteract the effect of the anticoagulants he was taking due to heart failure.

Docftors were baffled as to why the medication wasn't working until, presumably, one of them smelled him.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Pituitary Awareness Quiz: The Results

I was so impressed by how many of you took part in my little quiz - apologies for the long delay in coming out and praising you for it! Some people dipped in and out for the odd question, while others were with us for the long haul.

Bearing in mind that double points were awarded for witty answers rather than merely correct ones, I present... The Results!


The winner is... Clare! With the close runner-up Davey D. Congratulations guys, you may officially brag wildly about your knowledge of the pituitary gland and its inhabitants.

And as I did promise a praise poem for the winner:

There was a young lady named Clare
As wise (and fierce) as an owlbear.
She was a quiz queen
 - quite the answer machine -
she made other contestants despair!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Pituitary Awareness Quiz: The Answers

Hola! Well, I'm just back from a spot of festive carol singing at the local pub with my whole family in tow, and I thought: what better time to finally put up the answers to October's National Pituitary Month quiz?


Q.1: Acromegaly is a rare disease caused by a growth-hormone-secreting pituitary tumour, which can lead to gigantism and excessive growth of the body's tissues. But what language is the word "acromegaly" derived from, and what does it literally mean?

Correct answer: c) from the Greek akros "highest; extremity" and megalos "large".


Q.2: Approximately how many (normal-sized) human pituitary glands could you fit in an Olympic-sized swimming pool?

Correct answer: Wildly debateable! Although I did have a correct answer, calculated by my lovely boyfriend on the basis of the human pituitary gland being roughly the size of a pea and assuming that the glands on the bottom retained their shape instead of being pulverized by the weight of the ones on top, I decided to award a point to anyone who showed their working; because it's the effort that counts!


Q.3: Which of these is an alternative name for the pituitary stalk?

Correct answer: c) The infundibular stem


Q.4: The human pituitary gland will vary in size over a person's life. What physiological event (other than untoward tumourousness) causes the pituitary gland to reach its largest natural size... and why?

Correct answer: Pregnancy, although the gland tends to be at its largest shortly after giving birth. This is due to lactotroph hyperplasia; basically that means an increase in the number of cells which secrete the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production for breastfeeding.


Q.5: Beta-endorphin is used by the body to numb pain, and is found in the anterior pituitary gland, as well as the hypothalamus. From the extracts of which species' pituitary gland was beta-endorphin first discovered?

Correct answer: d) Camel (apparently!)

Q.6: Only one of the following pituitary-related conditions was first identified by a woman named Cindy. But which one was it?

Correct answer: a) Sheehan Syndrome


Q.7: A five point bonus was awarded for writing a poem about the pituitary: there are no wrong answers!


Q.8: I'm currently receiving monthly lanreotide injections. These are somatostatin analogues - hormone injections - which counteract the effect of my pituitary adenoma producing too much thyroid hormone. Assuming this is the only medication I'm taking, and assuming I live in England... am I allowed to donate blood?

Correct answer: a) Yes


Q.9: Which of the below is the correct spelling of the full name of the pituitary hormone ACTH? (no cheating!)

Correct answer: d) adrenocorticotropic hormone

Q.10: What hormone does my pituitary tumour overproduce?

Correct answer: a) Thyroid stimulating hormone


Q.11: Who is this man, and what does he have to do with the pituitary gland?

Correct answer: Harvey Cushing, pioneering neurosurgeon and the man who discovered Cushing's Syndrome.


So now you know!

The results will be out tomorrow...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Back to the Blog!

It has been a horrendously long time since I wrote on here! So much has happened in the intervening month-and-a-bit, so I apologise. I'm afraid my November-based absence is down to a vague attempt to complete National Novel Writing Month, combined with a set of professional exams at the end of November. As it happens, I failed to complete my 50,000 word novel and I think probably managed to fail an exam as well, so my abandonment was entirely pointless; I might as well have just kept blogging! Additionally I am not assisted by changed to blogger which mean that it no longer works at all with faintly elderly versions of Internet Explorer, which means that I can no longer post updates during my lunch hour at work.

Anyway, many and greater updates must wait for another day, alas - however, I can share the exciting news that I am currently scheduled to have another bout of transsphenoidal pituitary surgery on the 15th January.

Yes, that is only just over a month away! But more on that some other time...