Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Happy National Recovering From Brain Surgery Day!

It's a tricky in-between sort of day today, sandwiched between Pancake Day (yay!) and Valentines Day (yay!). Technically it's Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, but that just means you can't do anything fun. And I can't do anything fun anyway (that is actually a lie, I have watched a lot of TV and read a lot of awesome books while recovering). So, I decided: I have co-opted February 13th to be National Recovering From Brain Surgery Day! Hurrah!

Are you recovering from brain surgery? No? Then you should find someone who is and shower them in affection and expensive gifts. Then you should probably leave them for a couple of hours so they can have a nap. But then you can come back and give them more gifts! Because that is the meaning of National Recovering From Brain Surgery Day. Hurrah!

This adorable hedgehog is wearing a hat to celebrate February 13th, as science has proven that people recovering from brain surgery enjoy pictures of cute animals wearing hats.

If you are recovering from brain surgery, then celebrate National Recovering From Brain Surgery Day by demanding attention and love from all those around you. But don't strain yourself. Hey, maybe you should take a nap. Hurrah!

Now for the awareness part: Brain tumours are more common than you might think, especially amongst younger people. Brain and central nervous system tumours are the second most common group of cancers in children in the UK, and they kill more children  and people under the age of 40 than any other type of cancer. Yet brain tumour research receives comparatively little funding; just 1.4% of government spend on cancer research related to brain tumour research in 2011, although the proportion spent on brain tumour research has been rising since 2002.

So! Today be nice to someone who's had brain surgery (whether it was for a tumour or epilepsy or head trauma, or just out of sheer curiosity). If you're feeling generous you could even make a donation to a charity like The Brain Tumour Charity, or get involved with fundraising. But one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family is just to be aware of the possible symptoms of brain tumours.

Have a lovely February 13th!

'Flu Jab!

Well, I also heard back from endocrinology yesterday; turns out that they too managed to bugger up my appointments. So the pituitary clinic appointment I was given for the 21st February was cancelled; instead, I'm going in to see the nurses for blood tests on the 28th and am being sent an appointment for early March by post. The lady at the end of the telephone thanked me for calling and alerting them to the fact I hadn't received a "clinical investigations" (what they insist on calling blood tests) appointment, as otherwise they would have booked me in for the 28th anyway and I'd have turned up on the 21st to meet a confused endocrinologist wondering why no blood test results were on the system for me.


So of the three disciplines who are chiefly in charge of my post pituitary surgery aftercare (endocrinology, ENT and neurosurgery), only neurosurgery managed to arrange my appointments without messing it up - although given that they epically messed up my pre-surgery appointments, they don't exactly get any gloating rights as a result.


I went to the GPs yesterday to get a new hydrocortisone prescription and get all my info up to date and get my letter signing me off work. The GP was new to me - since joining the new GP's practice last year, I've been pick'n'mixing which doctors I see, I don't really have a regular GP there - and he was very nice. He even suggested I have a 'flu jab - it's kind of late in the season now but it would definitely not be fun to have the 'flu at present. So I did! He warned that I might feel a few 'flu-y symptoms for the next day or two, but actually last night I felt really good. My boyfriend and I made pancakes for pancake day (first course: ham cheese & chive pancakes; second course: oak smoked bacon and maple syrup pancakes; third course: lemon and sugar pancakes), which were delicious. I had more energy than I have had most evenings since my surgery, which was greatly appreciated. Fingers crossed my energy levels start going up from now on!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Phone Calls Galore

Yesterday I went into the hospital to have some blood tests done - sodium levels and thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. I got the results this morning in a phone call from my endocrinologist - speedy service! - and the good news is that they're both normal and, indeed middle-of-the-normal-range. Hurrah!

My endocrinologist suggested that one of the reasons I might still be getting so tired is that my body could be effectively "crashing"; having been used to fairly high levels of thyroid hormone coursing through its veins, suddenly having lower (if more normal levels) might come as a bit of a shock. Having too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) gives symptoms similar to an excess of adrenaline, all the body's systems speed up - heartbeat, metabolism etc - while having too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) is characterised by more of a "slowing down", with symptoms like fatigue being common. Happily it seems that I'm not hypothyroid, but after having been hyperthyroid for a fair while, my body may still be struggling slightly to adjust to the lower thyroid hormone levels.

I also have been back to my old tricks of chasing the bloody hospital up for appointments. I was expecting an appointment with ENT four weeks post surgery - as today is my four-week anniversary and I'd not heard anything, I called them. Apparently they were "never notified of my discharge" and consequently no appointment was booked. So I won't be seeing them until the 7th March. Endocrinology have booked me in for a clinic appointment to see the doctors, but appear to have neglected to book me in for the various blood tests I'm supposed to have before then; unfortunately they don't like having humans answer their phone, so I've finally had to leave them a message asking what's going on.

Opthalmology have gotten involved now and want to check my eyesight is ok, as pituitary surgery is carried out very close to the optic nerve and there is a risk of damage to the vision, but I've yet to arrange a date with them because, having made all these other phone calls, I am tired. And it's almost lunchtime.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The World's Most Imaginative Title: An Update

Well, I attempted to get to the hospital on Friday for the blood tests I needed, but unfortunately my endocrinologist was in meetings all morning and I couldn't get through to her. She got back to me around half two, but by then I'd walked into town and back, and I was in need of a break; there was no way I'd get to the hospital then. So, I'll try again tomorrow.

I had a nice time with my mum, who came to visit, anyway. Then yesterday a couple of friends came over for tea and cake, which was lovely! At present I can generally manage about 2 - 3 hours of being sociable before I really need a rest (the time is increased if I'm curled up on a sofa for the duration; decreased if I have to do lots of walking or consider complex philosophical problems). I don't generally nap during the day - I think the hydrocortisone I'm on keeps me awake mostly - I just need to sit down somewhere quietly and read or watch TV for an hour or so.

Also: Happy Chinese New Year! I'm off to have a delicious Chinese meal courtesy of my excellent local takeaway :D

Thursday, 7 February 2013

More Blood Tests

Had a phone call from my endocrinologist today. On the 22nd January, I had blood tests done to check out my serum osmolality, which basically looked at the sodium levels in my blood. Getting the results was not so simple; I was registered as a temporary resident at my old GP's where my parents live, and the GP was not confident about interpreting the results of the test, as he does so few of them, so he faxed the results for my endocrinologist to interpret.

I never heard back from my endocrinologist, and although I thought about calling frankly I couldn't be bothered because trying to get a hold of them is always such a ridiculous faff. So I assumed no news was good news. Then they called today, to say that when the blood tests were taken, my sodium levels were a bit low. So I need to get that checked out with another blood test. It's fairly common for sodium levels to drop a bit right after this kind of surgery and then self-correct, and I don't really have any symptoms of low sodium levels, so I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The endocrinologist asked how I was feeling and whether I was "back to normal", which kind of surprised me as it's only been three weeks and two days since the surgery. I said no, which seemed to surprise her - she asked in what way, so I explained that I get tired, I'm still kind of slow and I get worn out quite easily (I occassionally get a little headache and my nose is definitely not back to normal but the tiredness is definitely the key point!). All of which seemed perfectly normal to me shortly after a major operation, and in fact I'm considerably less tired and slow than I was after my last surgery (although that is mainly because I was super pathetic last time). But she wants to check out my thyroid levels as well, in case my tiredness is a symptom of hypothyroidism; there's always a risk that, having removed the pituitary tumour producing thyroid-stimulating hormone, they've removed some of the healthy pituitary tissue as well and that therefore I've gone in the other direction and now have low, rather than high, thyroid levels.

I was a bit worried about that immediately after the phonecall, but then my boyfriend pointed out that she could well have been mixed up as to how long ago my surgery was, or that they could just be being very cautious. Because I had an injection of lanreotide (which lowers your TSH levels) just a week and a bit before the surgery, there's also the possibility that the drug is still in my system and is now lowering them too much.

So the long and short of it is: more blood tests, wait and see!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Sad News about Tanya Angus, Acromegaly Sufferer

I've been out of the world for a little while thanks to my surgery, so I was saddened to find out only today that Tanya Angus, an acromegaly sufferer, passed away on the 14th January. She was aged just 34, and died from heart failure and transient ischaemic attack (a "mini-stroke").

Tanya Angus had one of the most severe cases of acromegaly (a.k.a. gigantism) ever seen; it was not until her pituitary adenoma (tumour) grew to the size of a grapefruit that she was finally diagnosed. By this time, the tumour wrapped around her pituitary gland proved extremely resistant to surgical and radiotherapy treatment. Her condition caused her to grow from 5'8" at the age of 21 to 7ft tall by the time of her death, and to go from 130 to 400lbs. Just last August it seemed that injections to inhibit her growth hormone production had been successful, but by October sadly her levels of growth hormone were rising once again.

She was a well-known figure in the acromegaly community for her efforts to raise awareness of the condition, and to encourage education about and early detection of gigantism among the medical profession. Anyone reading her website, or the comments sections of the various news websites which reported her death, can't fail to notice how many of her fellow acromegaly sufferers viewed her as an inspiration.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Back Home

I moved back to my house on Sunday! I'd been staying with my parents after being discharged from hospital post-surgery, because I was basically super pathetic and really needed someone to be around all the time at first. Now I'm able to make myself a cup of tea and some lunch, and walk a reasonable distance, I judged myself able to head home. One of my housemates works from home and is therefore in most of the time, so there'll still usually be someone around to keep an eye on me, which is nice (for me; she may have her own views on the matter...)

Moving back was quite a busy day - my parents live over an hour's drive away and I had to pack everything up ready to head home. I'm definitely not allowed to do any heavy lifting, so the actual fetch-and-carry part of the process had to be left to other people, chiefly my mum and dad (sorry!). We got back, I had a little rest and unpacked my clothes (some of the other stuff is still in bags - I'm progressing, just slowly), and then walked to a nearby pub for a drink. My walking is quite entertaining - I can walk for half an hour or so at a time quite happily now, but what happens is that I start off at something approaching a normal pace and then get slower and slower over time, like a clockwork girl who's losing power. Consequently half an hour's worth of walking does not cover what I would normally consider to be half an hour's worth of ground.

So I'm doing pretty good really - made it into town and back yesterday, although I had to stop for a lengthy coffee break once I got there, and when I got home I curled up in my room and just read for a couple of hours, I definitely felt tired.

I've only had one appointment through from the hospital so far, so I suspect I'm going to have to chase the rest up, joy of joys! I was told I would see the ENT surgeon at four weeks after the surgery (for another camera-up-nose session, alas), have blood tests done at six weeks, see the pituitary clinic at eight weeks, have an MRI at eight weeks and then see the neurosurgeon a couple of weeks after that. So my schedule will shortly be full of treats!