Tag Archives: Alemtuzumab

A Grave Decision

yayIf you choose to have Alemtuzumab treatment as I did, you’ve got a one in three chance of developing Grave’s disease, a thyroid disorder.

I got the illness and yet another insert in my medical file.

It’s fine – when I was rapidly losing weight and feeling like I could take on the world with the excess energy I had, it was sublime.

The severe cartoon-like heart palpitations were another matter however, and were sadly followed with beta-blockers to bring me back to earth with a thud.

Since then, I’ve been on varying doses of thyroid meds to calibrate me back to normal. Up a little, down a little.

I had a consultation with an empathic and lovely endocrinologist today who fortunately has a great insight into Alemtuzumab-induced Grave’s Disease.

I’m to stay on the meds for another six months, but the likelihood is I will have to choose between losing my thyroid or becoming radioactive (for a week).

Hmm. I googled, and wish I hadn’t. One post started, ‘so, you’ve elected to have your throat cut – are you aware of the risks?’

I met The Boss for Emergency Talks tonight (long, sorry work saga) and explained my dilemma.

I took a sip of wine and said, ‘and I’ve looked in to it, you know, if I get the thyroid taken out, I could, like, lose my ability to … shout.’

‘Can you go private? I’ll pay.’

Charming.

I asked him how he was, what with his broken arm, dodgy knee and headaches.

That obviously reminded him and I waited as he popped out a few pills from their blister packs.

‘Well ..’

‘Yes?’

‘You know my dodgy knee?’

‘How can I forget, Boss?’

‘Erm, well, the doctor thinks its, well, um …’

What?’

‘Gout’.

Ah.

‘Isn’t that what older people get?’

If looks could kill …

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Mind The Gap

get well soonSeven weeks post-third course of Campath (Alemtuzumab) and things were looking up.

If you discounted the cold sores, the bonkers fatigue and the two-week long head cold I just couldn’t shift, things were absolutely fine.

I’m back in work (although naturally The Boss would disagree), and I’m back in Uni for my second year of the Master’s.

Mind you, I’m still wrestling with the experimental writing module – my mind whirls off into weird and wonderful stories ( … this is a dot. A lovely dot. A dot that wanted to be a comma, blah blah) rather than concentrating on Virginia Woolf and her pals.

Then disaster struck.

First, The Boss was fiddling with his ladders on the roof of his van last week, slipped on some rain and fell over, breaking his right arm pretty spectacularly. Cue a plaster cast, a very, very sad face and the realisation that, as a building company, we had to come up with a plan and fast.

Second, just as I was holding a drainage pipe in place, I was whacked over the head by the most overwhelming MS super-charged cricket bat that I felt physically sick. I staggered to a pile of insulation sheets and collapsed in a heap.

I panicked. It couldn’t be a relapse but my speech was wonky, my balance was shot and my head was floating somewhere around in the stratosphere.

I left work early, holding back the vertigo and nausea and somehow got home, wondering how best to prepare for the Uni lecture that evening. Answer: not much. Just getting there would be an achievement.

The minute I got out the shower and had wrapped my dressing gown around myself, The Teenager pounced, holding out his laptop;

‘Mum, mum, mum, mum. Have you heard of The Ramones? Have you? Like, listen to this.’

‘Oh, very nice. Lovely dear.’

‘Yeah, great, innit? And this, there’s a weird guy dancing, look.’

‘Oh right. Yes, that is a bit, um, odd.’

‘Hang on, listen to this song, really funny and can I have some money for the cinema and can you drop me off a bit later? I drank all the milk, sorry.’

I have no idea what’s going on.

But I do know one thing – The Teenager wants a ‘Ramones’ t-shirt for Christmas.

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Sick. And Tired.

workWell, this convalescing malarky isn’t much fun.

An interminable routine of waking up and falling asleep, interspersed with hideous headaches and increased foot-drop, so much so that I had to dig out my craft glue-gun and stick the soles back on my favourite boots after tripping over one too many pavements.

University started back last week which was a welcome reprieve. I packed my file, pencil case, water bottle and emergency Pro-Plus and toddled off, careful to watch my step as the glue has been in a drawer for a couple of years.

A whole module of New and Experimental Writing. Exciting. Or so I thought. I pondered ruminated mused, ‘I can be avant-garde, I can be Left Bank and enthuse about counter-culture and the like’. I pictured myself in six months time, graciously accepting a literary prize for my ground-breaking, innovative novella in which the main character was an MRI scanner. Brilliant. Undeniably genius.

Anyway, back in the real world, I have one more week off work and plan to sleep through most of it in the desperate hope that I can bank some energy. I dipped my toe in the water yesterday and worked with The Boss just to see how I’d manage. All went well; I was on top form, as I’m pretty good in the mornings. We started off with a debrief over coffee and toast in the local cafe. My eyes glazed over after a while and he dragged me to work, bribing me with a flapjack from the bakery next door.

It was fine. Until about noon, when the foot-drop reared its ugly head. There’s a lot to trip over on a building site. There’s a lot of holes in the floor, and after my spectacular fall through a kitchen ceiling a couple of years ago (which I’m reminded of on a weekly basis), I’m pretty careful.

I yawned more and more until the boss took the hint and wrapped it up by 1pm. Bliss. I fell into my house, threw myself on the sofa and didn’t move for three hours. I’m not so sure my Back To Work Plan is, um, going to plan.

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How Not To Convalesce

illnessTime off to recover after Campath is a tricky thing.

Viewed in a certain light, it’s an excellent chance to slow down, take stock and make the most of the enforced sofa-rest, cushioned by a pile of books, a stash of chocolate and box sets.

In normal life however, without my very own Mr Darcy, the washing piles up, The Teenager has started his A Levels, the cat insists on bringing home an endless parade of headless mice and Ocado have emailed, imploring me to book my Christmas Delivery Slot, NOW.

In between bouts of complete and utter exhaustion, I’m battling to keep the show on the road. Plus I’m trying to think laterally and use the time off not only to rest but also to get ahead, i.e. work my way through the entire University reading list for next term.

I had all the books delivered, settled down, unwrapped a bar of Green & Black’s and prepared to be inspired and transported to wondrous new worlds.

Bad idea. I checked the syllabus. I checked the books. I emailed the tutor. ‘New and Experimental Writing’. Let’s just say, I have no idea what Gertrude Stein was taking when she wrote ‘Blood on the Dining-Room Floor’.

However, I ploughed through, ticked her off my list and moved on to the next one. Excellent. Somehow, I have moved into a Poorly Routine. I get up early when I have most energy, do something outside the house, get back by lunch then snooze through the entire afternoon. Then, I wake up, cook dinner, snuggle under my blanket again and wait for bedtime. It’s been working. For a while.

Two days ago, same routine. I got up early. Then fell on the floor.

Oh. Painful doesn’t begin to describe it. I was in agony. I could barely walk and somehow made it downstairs through a combination of swearing, clinging on to the handrail and thumping. By some bizarre coincidence, I had booked in to see the chiropractor, more for The Teenager than for me (scrums, head-locks, dodgy balls).

Long story short, my psoas muscle is in spasm. The pain goes through my pelvis and groin and out through my lower back. Walking is excruciating. According to the chiropractor, it’s all due to my sudden inactivity. Lol.

When I told my MS nurse I planned to return to work ten days after Campath, she laughed, then said, ‘no you’re not’. Ok then. Quick call to The Boss to explain the situation. His reply? ‘Didn’t notice you were off, Half-Shift. Or should that be Sick-Note?’

Charming.

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Ding Dong – Campath, Round Three …

campathMy third course of Campath (Alemtuzumab) is over and I am now back home from hospital. Yay!

The last three days have been a humbling, bonkers, strange experience. Third time around, you kind of know what to expect. And yet, I didn’t. Not really.

When I checked in on Monday morning, I felt like an Experienced Patient as I was shown to my bed. I unpacked my two pillows (essential), my blankie (a must-have), a selection of healthy snacks (mostly left uneaten once the steroids kicked in), a pile of paperbacks (overly ambitious), two towels, an array of miniature toiletries and a pen and notepad. Sorted.

The first surprise was being sent for an MRI before the first infusion. Ah. Right. Didn’t see that one coming. No time to go through my deep-breathing-yogic-anti-claustrophobia exercises, so I happily accepted half a Diazepam.

I therefore floated down in the lift, through the MRI waiting room and gently bobbed towards the hard plastic tray, humming to myself. Then afterwards, floated back up again, ready to be hooked up for the first lot of steroids and then, after being flushed through (really), the Campath.

So far, so good. Then, the same thing happened as before; that all-consuming, incredibly painful, every nerve ending on fire sensation, when the Campath first hits your system. I crawled into a ball and held my hand out for anti-nausea tablets and painkillers, whimpering ‘this too shall pass‘ to myself.

It passed. I ate a lot, read not a lot and dozed on and off. Luckily I had a steady stream of visitors who kept my chin up and brought me even more carb-laden snacks to feast upon. At the end of the first day, I was flushed out once more with saline and unhooked. It was 7.30 pm. Gah.

The second day was pretty much the same, although without the painful Campath-Hit thank goodness, but then the steroids did their job and kicked in. So I spent the second night wandering the corridors, eating toast with a nurse at 4am and offering to help clean some tables. I had a crazy amount of energy and had already packed and unpacked my bag twice.

This morning, after two hours sleep, I went bleary-eyed to the hospital Starbucks before my infusion and started hallucinating. I could have sworn I saw The Boss moving determinedly towards Starbucks at exactly the same pace as me. I stopped and stared. The vision stopped and stared. I waved. It waved. Gah. It really was my boss. He’d done a pit-stop to buy me a coffee and muffin before heading to Screwfix. As you do. It was lovely and we had a good old catch up, slurping away on our lattes, just as if I was back in work.

Third infusion and I realised, not just how lucky I am to have access to such an incredible treatment, but that I no longer have that same level of fear. If that makes sense. The first two rounds, I was fearful of the future, of everything. Now, I feel much more in control. Which is odd as it is my re-activated MS which sent me back here.

Anyway, now I am home and I have used up the rest of the steroid energy by sorting the house out, ready for the inevitable crash.

Tomorrow is another day. But at least the fridge is stocked, the bins are emptied and I have a huge pile of paperbacks to get through. Result.

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