New Beginnings

Happy 1st May / Beltane Blessings!

beltanealtar2017

I thought I’d better brush aside some of the tumbleweed blowing through this place, after only posting once in the entire month of April.  In my defence I’ve been very busy, but I look set to get even busier in the coming weeks so I thought I’d better at least say hello and give a brief update for anyone who’s interested, before disappearing again for a few weeks!

This time last year I was on the verge of some big changes, and had some major decisions to make, so on the 30th April, aka Beltane, I lit some candles, got myself a cold beer and sat cross legged on my bed and dug deep to figure out what it was I wanted and needed to do in the coming months.  Looking back now, I can see how important those decisions were, and appreciate how brutally honest I was with myself that evening.

So again last night I did the same thing, (except, switch beer for wine, and add some dubious-smelling incense into the mix), and this morning I’m feeling good about the challenges that lie ahead.

This summer I’ll be starting a new job (probably within the next couple of weeks), starting therapy (this Wednesday) and starting a brand-new writing project  The job is back at my old hospital, although in a very different role, the therapy is high-intensity CBT, and the writing project is a young-adult fairytale with a twist.  All of which I’m pretty excited about (well, I don’t know that I’d say ‘excited’ for the therapy actually, but…’positive’, maybe?!)

Between those three things I’m not sure how I’m going to have time for much else to be honest, but I will try to share as much as I can about my experiences, in case it helps anyone else.

I’m still posting my YA contemporary over on Wattpad, and I have a loyal fan base of about ten readers (most of whom are friends/family) who are consistently reading every chapter update and telling me they’re enjoying it, which I think is all most of us really want when we share our work, so I’m calling it a success so far.  I’ve also been pushing myself outside my comfort zone in other ways, like entering writing contests, submitting short stories for anthologies, and taking up burlesque dancing!

My CIDP continues to be well-managed and I’m hoping to reduce my dose of immunoglobulins over the summer months, and my PCOS is also behaving, so for once I don’t feel like I’m using up half my energy in a battle of wills with my own body.

Generally, aside from crippling anxiety, (which the therapy will hopefully help with), and a distinct lack of money (which the job should surely help with), life is good.  (Although obviously I hate typing that for fear of jinxing myself in some way, damn anxiety.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Year On SCIg

As my one year anniversary on SCIg approaches, I thought it would be appropriate for me to do a post about what life has been like these past 12 months, and how doing my own subcutaneous immunoglobulin infusions (which is what SCIg stands for) at home has impacted my life.

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You may remember that prior to SCIg I was on regular IVIg, which I had in hospital once every four weeks, and was truly amazing and improved my life in so many ways.  But you may also remember some of the pitfalls- having to spend one day every month in hospital, having nurses and doctors digging around for a decent vein, bruised arms, headaches afterwards unless I’d managed to drink the required 2 litres of water during the infusion, and of course the inevitable dip in my mobility and increase in symptoms in the last few days of each month before my next infusion was due.

Well…with SCIg, there is none of that!  It’s been fantastic.  I used to have 80g of Privigen every four weeks, so initially I was started on 80g of Hizentra (the subcut version of Privigen) across the month which I have been doing as two infusions a week (i.e. 10g twice a week over a month= 80g).  However in December I had a massive increase in symptoms, and although it could have been coincidence (fostering-related stress, being run down and having a cold virus etc) I was really worried that I was relapsing.  So my lovely neuro specialist nurse increased my dose to 12g twice a week, which I know doesn’t sound like much of an increase but that equals 96g of immunoglobulins across the month, which is an extra 16g on top of what I was getting before, and already just two months in to the new prescription I am seeing results from that- with an increase in energy and a reduction in nerve pain, tremors and jerks (all good things!)

There are downsides of course, like there are with everything.  Instead of someone else jabbing a needle in my arm or hand once a month, I am stabbing  four tiny needles into my belly with every infusion- so stabbing myself 32 times a month.  But there are people on insulin and other medications jabbing needles into themselves every day, so I try to keep it in perspective.  Also, being the one in control of when the needle hits, and having an abundance of flesh to choose from (haha…boohoo) is preferable to someone else rooting around in the crook of my elbow for a viable vein.

We’ve had to find ways to store my medication and all the associated STUFF that comes with it (and there’s quite a lot).

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I get a delivery once every 12 weeks and it takes me maybe an hour to unpack and check that and put it all away, making sure to rotate the remaining stock so that I don’t end up with out of date human immunoglobulins stuffed at the back of a drawer.  I had some issues in the summer with not being able to keep the room cool enough (Hizentra needs to be stored at room temperature) but a fridge thermometer and a fan have helped, along with moving the drawers that my medication is house in, into a shadier area (as in out of the sun, not further along the A6).

Some nights when I realise I need to do my infusion, which takes about two hours from start to finish, I just feel like I would rather do anything else on earth.  That proper petulant child part of myself that I rarely allow to the surface comes stomping out, and I just want to fling myself on the sofa and say I CAN’T BE BOTHERED and possibly even whine WHY ME?  But I always shake myself mentally and remind myself that back in the early days of my diagnosis, this is what I dreamed of.  Seriously, to be almost symptom-free most days and doing my own treatment in my own home at a time that suits me (usually in the evening, watching TV in bed) that seemed like a FANTASY.  Now it’s my reality, and it’s easy to slip into taking that for granted and seeing only the negatives (it stings, it’s time consuming, I would rather be doing x, y, z etc) rather than the positives (it works, it has almost no negative side effects and it’s goddam FREE on the NHS).

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So overall- my first year on SCIg?  It has been life-changing, and I say that without hyperbole (for a change).  I feel so lucky.  And no, I don’t always manage to hold that feeling, when one of my infusion sites blows and I have what is essentially a mix of thousands of other people’s sticky immunoglobulins seeping out of my belly and all over my clothes and/or bed sheets then yes I think “FML” because I’m only human.  But the majority of the time, I feel incredibly blessed and grateful because I know how fortunate I am to have this treatment freely available and that it works so well.  So well that there will probably even be people reading this who had no idea I even need it 😉

So here’s to a year of FREEDOM, and if not good health then at least well-managed illness, and may there be many more!*

(*Providing the tories don’t dismantle the NHS that is…but that is a separate blog post ENTIRELY)

The Trial

Back in August when I wrote “One Year On”– a blog post marking the 12 months since my first hospital admission for (what we now know to be) CIDP, I mentioned a clinical trial I was possibly going on.

Back then, it was just a pie-in-the-sky “this maybe might happen at some point” kinda thing, but last week I finally got The Call from a research nurse, to let me know that they were now recruiting patients and to ask if I was still interested (the answer to that being a definite YES!)

See, the trial is to see if CIDP can be successfully treated with subcutaneous immunoglobulins (SCIG) at home, rather than intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG) at hospital.  The idea of being able to administer my own medication in my own home sounds so good that ever since my consultant mentioned the possibility last summer I’ve been dreaming of the day when it could be a reality.  So when the research nurse asked if she could send me some more information about the trial itself, I was delighted.

Unfortunately, that was where my elation ended.  As when the information itself arrived, my happy-feelings quickly went away.  The trial itself is lengthly, in fact it’s really of an undetermined length as there are three phases and the first two are entirely dependant on you as a participant, or rather- your body/condition.  The final stage being a set 3 months.

There’s a lot to it (obviously, as it’s a clinical trial!) but I’ll try breaking it down very simply.  Basically first up, they need to be sure you are actually reliant on immunoglobulins as a form of treatment, so they take you off them (eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!) and then when it turns out that you really do need it, they re-stabilise you, but rather than with your usual product/dose/infusion, it’s with the SCIG, and then, when you’re stabilised (however long that takes) they assign you to one of three groups, either low dose SCIG, high dose SCIG, or a placebo (eeeeeeeeeeeek!) and then after three months it’s game over and you’re back on your usual IVIG in the hospital.

Now some of that, I already knew.  My consultant had pre-warned me that they would need to be certain the participants actually NEEDED the immunoglobulins, so I figured there’d be a period where I’d be required to go without, and I also knew that I’d need to have some of my investigations repeated, like the electric shock torture, I mean, err…Nerve Conduction Testing…so some of it wasn’t a surprise, but a lot of it was, and not in a good way.  There was a lot to read through, and it laid it all out bare how many extra hospital visits it would require and how much upheaval and disruption it would potentially cause, and by the end of my first read through I was already thinking:

NOPE.

I feel so guilty in a way as I think it’s a fantastic study, and the results could have amazing implications for the future treatment of others with my condition, but I just can’t justify turning my life (and the lives of Chris, and the boys, and potentially a foster child!) upside down to take part in something with so much uncertainty when it’s going to have such a big impact.

So I went to see my neuro specialist nurse yesterday as I had a routine review appointment with her anyway, and the research nurse was with her, and I was just very honest with both of them about how despite my initial enthusiasm, I’d changed my mind, and they were both very understanding and generally lovely and made sure I knew that I was under absolutely no pressure whatsoever to take part.

My actual review went well- my scores are higher than they were in the summer, which is apparently unusual as generally us CIDP sufferers are worse in the winter (I do find I have more nerve pain and tremors, at the minute but I’m nowhere near as lethargic as I was in the hot weather, so…?) and then the topic turned to my treatment and what to do moving forward.  I still get a dip at the end of each month, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but there are still those last few days before my next infusion where I’m a bit shaky, a bit weak, generally lethargic, and well…a bit naff all round.  So the question was- can my dose be increased?  The answer being yeeees, but a tentative yes, because I’m already on 80g of privigen, so the next logical step would be 90g or even 100g, but those kinds of doses can’t be given over one day, so I’d be back to where I was at the start of last year when I had to spend two consecutive days each month at the hospital (not ideal, obviously).

In the end, my lovely specialist nurse called in my equally lovely consultant who’s answer was: “SCIG”

Which, I’ve got to say, confused us all, as the three of us all assumed he was talking about the trial.

“No, I mean, just SCIG”  he said.

Turns out, aside from the trial, a small number of patients are being started on SCIG at home already, as the small amount of research there is (mainly from other countries at this stage) is showing- it works, and is better for everyone involved.  So he wanted to know- did I still fancy it?  Without all the hoops of the trial to jump through, just- get trained up, and get going with it, doing it myself at home?  Errr….YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So that’s what’s going to happen.  I don’t know when yet, but I do know it will likely be quite soon, which is super exciting.

I know I’ve said this before, both here on the blog, and over on facebook, and probably on twitter, and definitely in real life too, but I’ve got to say it again: I really am SO lucky, to have been diagnosed so quickly, to have found a treatment that works so well for me, and to have such a fantastic team of professionals taking care of me.  It’s days like yesterday that really hammer that home for me- I go into an appointment feeling anxious, and come out feeling reassured and really positive about the future.

 

JanuaryIVIG

(That’s me having my infusion 2 weeks ago, it was about 3 hours late due to the ward being busy- something that won’t be a problem when I’m doing it myself- yay!!)