Saturday, November 12, 2011

Health Update & Miscellaneous Musings

Thanks for the outpouring of support after my last post, I really appreciated all of the emails and texts. It turns out my cortisol level is actually a little bit high, so that is most definitely not the cause of my fatigue. I am now spending an even unhealthier amount of time on webMD diagnosing myself with all sorts of mysterious diseases. I’m trying not to make myself completely crazy, but I will have plenty of ideas to discuss with my hematologist when I see him again early next month. If nothing comes out of that, I will likely see if I can get a full evaluation at the Mayo Clinic. I hear it’s a great time of year to visit Minnesota.


• I was totally wiped out after 15 minutes of playing fetch this morning. And I wasn’t even the one doing the fetching.

• Marguerite walked into my office the other day and said, “You look exhausted.” Uh, what’s your point?

• Amanda saw that I elected to put the maximum amount of money in my pre-tax health fund and said, “You put THAT much in your health account?” Um, have we met? I tend to have a few medical bills from time to time…

• Someone is clearly trying to sabotage my new diet plan by bringing leftover Halloween candy into the office every day. I successfully abstained from [amazingly mouth-watering delicious-looking] cupcakes TWICE last week, but those itty bitty teeny tiny candies can’t hurt me, right?

• I never thought taking pills four times a day would feel anything but cumbersome, but after a couple of months of taking meds six times a day, four feels like nothing. It’s all about perspective, I guess.

• I was going to write a post called “Beating the Odds – Part Deux” a few weeks ago but lost steam. Here’s the punchline: I got bed bugs in a hotel on a recent business trip. This was my SECOND encounter with these tiny creatures. Are you &%#@ing kidding me??!

Switching gears, a friend wrote me a note this morning and said, “I hope you find something in each day to be grateful for, whether big or small.” What a great charge for all of us, especially as Thanksgiving draws near.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My November Resolution

As grateful as I am to have survived two years with heart disease and to have a healthy heart that allows me to be here today, I continue to struggle with debilitating fatigue. As I recently told a friend, surviving isn’t enough anymore – I want to actually live again. It becomes pretty depressing to spend each day looking forward to an early bedtime, to sleep away most weekends and to see no light at the end of the tunnel. My energy level has been low for two years now, and I’m sick of it!

Everyone has been blaming my fatigue on anemia even though I have continued to feel bad during times with pretty normal hemoglobin levels. When I went to see my hematologist last week, I was delighted to find that he believes there is something causing this exhaustion beyond anemia. I felt like I was on the show ‘House’ as I watched him and his fellow brainstorm about what might be wrong. Finally, after muttering in terms I didn’t understand, his eyes lit up. He thinks I may have a cortisol deficiency that would have been caused by my adrenal glands being damaged when my organs failed two years ago.

I’ll find out early this week whether or not my cortisol level is abnormal. I really hope it is because it would apparently be a relatively simple fix. However, I’m recommitting to being hopeful and optimistic about finding a solution to this exhaustion – whatever it is.

Most people make New Year’s Resolutions, but after feeling a glimmer of hope and reflecting on my recent mental state, I don’t want to wait another two months. So here’s my November Resolution:

Anemia Be Gone
My hematologist still believes some of my fatigue is being driven by anemia, and we have a plan. Every Friday morning at 7:30 I will have my blood drawn for a hemoglobin level. If it's below a certain point, I'll get a shot of Procrit, which helps stimulate red blood cell production, which treats anemia. My commitment to feeling better is stronger than the physiological inertia that shivers at the sound of a 7:30 appointment in New Brunswick. So far so good – I got my first shot this past Friday.

Battle On
I really hope cortisol is the answer to my nagging exhaustion, but I am committed to finding and fixing whatever else is wrong with me. I do not accept feeling this way. There is a solution.

Choose Happiness
Having an upbeat attitude and optimistic outlook served me well for a year and a half, but I have allowed myself to sink into a spiral of negativity for the last few months. Feeling sad and sorry for myself will only make me feel worse, so I choose instead to be happy. I’m going to believe in a better future – knowing that the occasional pity party is inevitable and normal.

Diet For Good
The less I have believed I can feel good again, the more I have ignored my diet. But I know I can be better. I stuck to a painstaking diet of very low sodium for eight months before my transplant. I effectively stopped eating sweets for the first couple of months after my diabetes diagnosis. But in the last six or eight months, I have almost completely ignored my diet. It started with cheating occasionally but has developed into bad eating habits that I justify with an “I’m not going to live forever so I want to enjoy myself” mentality. While I still wholeheartedly embrace the mentality in general, I know that small improvements in my diet can contribute to a healthier – and happier – lifestyle.