Thursday, 4 July 2013

Six Months post surgery

It's been over six months now since my last bout of brain surgery. Time has certainly flown! The first two months after surgery are pretty weird really - on the one hand, at the time everything seems to go very slowly because a) doing minor things like making a cup of tea are a huge effort, and b) you get pretty bored sitting around but don't have the energy to actually do anything. But in retrospect, time seems to have sped by, because the days of recovery just turn into a vague blur of teacups and low-quality daytime TV.

So how am I doing? I haven't actually really taken the time to sit down and address that question in a blog post for quite a while. This is, happily, probably because the answer is: pretty good! Everyone who knows me is now bored of me going on and on about how much muscle I have put on in the last six months - not least because, as far as outward appearances are concerned, I have not visibly morphed into Arnold(ina) Schwartzenegger. For which I am rightly grateful.

But for years, the high levels of thyroid hormone rushing around my system have been subtly damaging my muscles and impairing my body's ability to produce new muscle. When I had a body density scan last July, the results freaked me out a little - I had a high percentage of body fat - but my endocrinologist explained this was probably due to unusually low muscle rather than high levels of fat. Since recovering from surgery, though, I have gone back to doing the same level of exercise I had been doing previously - several hours of dancing, lots of walking, and I've now started swimming and the odd cycle ride - but the difference is remarkable, because I'm finally actually seeing results from it. Things are becoming noticeably easier than they were even before I was diagnosed. I bought a new bicycle a few weeks ago and then went on a bike ride with my boyfriend, and actually got a bit teary-eyed by the end, because we'd cycled for around an hour and finished with an uphill stretch and I felt.... Totally fine. Even back in my first year of university, three years before I was actually diagnosed, I would have found that quite a push. I always blamed myself and assumed I was just really unfit but it did seem unfair that even when I played badminton regularly, walked lots and cycled, I always seemed to find exercise much harder than everyone else. Now, looking back, I finally know why.

Other positive things include an improvement with my hair - if you've read my blog before, you might remember that my hair has been falling out on and off since I was about 17 - the first symptom of my pituitary tumour. It has definitely improved since surgery. It's quite normal for your hair to fall out a bit for a couple of weeks about three months after surgery, which did happen, but overall I have noticed an improvement. It's falling out less when I wash my hair, and I have lots of short new hairs growing around my hairline (which actually just looks like a hilarious fluffy mess, but I do not care). It's not entirely linear progress - about a week ago I had quite a lot of hair come out in the shower - but it is progress. Of course, the trouble with hair is that it grows slowly, so even if the good progress continues it would still be quite a long time before I see my hair back to normal - and I guess it's probably unlikely it will ever get back to how it was before. I haven't been to a hairdressers in years because I just hate having the focus on my hair, and I've worn a hairband every day since midway through my third year at university (now three years ago - wow!) to hide just how thin and patchy it is. It would be really nice if I could feel confident to go out with my hair down again.

In other news, my heart still goes a little fast now and then but an ECG scan I had a month or two back didn't show anything strange. I'm supposed to have been referred for a 24 hour heart tape, but nothing seems to have come of it - I need to contact my GP's again I guess.

I'm resigned to the fact that my nose and sinuses are never going to be the same after two pituitary surgeries via the nasal cavities, but there you go! I take a fluticasone steroid nose spray every day which helps to minimise the irritation. Having started swimming, I've noticed that my nose and sinuses become hugely irritated by the chlorine and if I don't use my sinus rinse after swimming, I wake up the next morning sounding incredibly nasal. I love singing and occasionally if my nose is really irritated it does affect my voice, but for the most part the fluticasone spray seems to work.

So there you go! Six months down the line, overall I'm probably feeling the best I have in a very long time, albeit with some minor niggles. Fingers crossed the good progress continues.

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