Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No 4% Solution (A Sequel Of Sorts)

So today was my visit to the GI docs regarding my ever-dwindling blood iron, which has fallen from a saturation percentage last October of 18% (which was almost normal) to today's 4% (which is more in the neighborhood of, oh, say, a corpse.)

There was no answer based on my blood work that satisfied the numbers.  It does not appear to be related to my bone marrow; those numbers show that my bone marrow is in overdrive trying to keep up with the anemia.  My hemoglobin is 11.7, which is about as good as it gets, i.e., half normal.  So it's not related to that.  My wife and my by-God docs are convinced that I am, to put it bluntly, leaking blood somewhere.  The problem is, where?  It sure isn't coming out of me, or showing up any place obvious.  (Now if my feet were turning purple, that would be something we could use.)

So more blood drawn today to check other nutrient values (because I have so much to spare) and an endoscopy scheduled for April 30th so I can beat my change to lousier insurance on May 1st.  (An endoscopy is sort of the oral version of a colonoscopy -- the camera goes down the throat to look for problems down to about the duodenum, just below the stomach.)

If that shows where I'm bleeding, great.  If not, the next step is to swallow a mini-camera capsule and have it take pictures of the whole system, from lips to, well, you know.  Amazing stuff.  In the old days they'd have to do exploratory surgery.  This little sucker will take the fantastic voyage through me and beam pictures to a mainframe while it's doing it.  If that shows nothing, then it's off to the hematologist/oncologist because it means something very, very nasty is going on with my blood.  Luckily we have a good one here in Harrisburg.  Even luckier, she is covered by my soon-to-be-lousier insurance.

At least we have a plan, of sorts.  Will keep you posted as I know more!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 4% Solution?

There may not be one.

If I believed in a god, I would have been praying to it this past week to simply let me die.  In addition to the viral sinus infection, which is only now beginning to loosen its hold on me (although I can still barely speak and have strained muscles all through my torso just from coughing, for crying out loud) I got some pretty awful news from my gastroenterologist.

Last October, my regular blood tests came back showing an iron saturation level of 18%.  20% is normal.  I had been complaining of fatigue, so my doc brought me in for a series of iron infusions, pouring what looked for all the world like rusty water directly into my veins.  I stopped my oral intake of iron supplements so as not to risk overloading my liver with too much iron.  After the infusions were over -- about twelve weeks -- I repeated the testing.

Iron had fallen to 9%,

Went back on the oral iron supplements, which add up to just over 1,000% of the daily recommended amount, and repeated the iron infusions over another twelve weeks.  I went back for more blood work last Friday.

Iron is now at 4%.

I do not appear to be bleeding anywhere that I can see or test or determine, but my iron is dropping like one of Wile E. Coyote's anvils and nobody seems to know why.  Do I have leukemia?  Some other sort of blood disorder?  Do I need a hematologist?  An endocrinologist?  Dr. M'bogo from The Addams Family?  Nobody knows, or if they do, they ain't talkin'.  And that includes my lovely wife, a family physician of some few decades' experience.

All I do know is that I'm exhausted, and I can't shake even the simplest of colds without weeks and weeks of misery.

As they say in Avenue Q, it sucks to be me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Goin' Viral

So it turns out that it's not all allergies plaguing me after all.  I have some sort of viral crud, going on about nine days now.  My wife has it as well, and there are times when we literally are too ill to care for one another.  And, as you can imagine, walking the dog is quite the treat.

Antibiotics haven't touched this sucker, so it's got to be viral.  I took enough Gorillacillin to knock out a legion's worth of Legionnaire's Disease and ... nothing.  Still can't breathe, still aching all over, still coughing up little pieces of lung tissue and nickels I swallowed when I was five.

This bronchities whatever-it-is is worse than the flu.

We don't seem to be getting better; each day is as bad as or worse than the previous one.  And there's no freaking FEVER, so my body is not doing all it can to show the little viral bastards the door.  At least with a fever, you're miserable ... but then it breaks, the high body temperature having done its job of killing off the little microbe s.o.b.'s without quite taking you with them.  This illness, on the other hand, just goes on and on and on.  Can't rest because I can't lie down.  Can't lie down because when I do, I can't breathe.  And if I do manage to fall asleep, a coughing fit from either me or my beloved wakes me right up, pronto.

Whatever this is, I hope all of you manage to steer clear of it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Double Whammy

If you've been here before, you know that on a daily basis I deal with a "package" of autoimmune diseases that would give even House a run for his money.  The suite of illnesses includes, but is not limited to, Crohn's Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, persistent migraine headaches, and asthma.  Basically, the immune system is in permanent overdrive and my body is in a state of constant battle...with itself.

When you give my body an actual threat, all hell breaks loose.

This happens every spring and autumn.  Although I am not truly allergic to tree pollen in the classic sense, with streaming eyes and constant sneezing, it is enough of an irritant to, well, kick the overdrive into overdrive.

Everything right now is worse than it usually is.  Not just for me, but also for anyone who suffers from any form of autoimmune illness.  Whether you suffer from something serious like Lupus or from something relatively mild like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, spring and fall can be tough, tough seasons.  Symptoms are worse, side effects are worse, aches and pains are MUCH worse, and medications that are normally effective enough to let you live a normal life seem to lose their efficacy overnight.

Take today.  Today was a perfect spring day.  Light breeze, 68 degrees F., sunny and clear.  A perfect day to go outside and enjoy the last of the cherry blossoms on our three trees.  Unfortunately, today I simply couldn't be that far from our powder room because of a Crohn's flareup.  Which was compounded by a rheumatoid arthritis flareup.  The Crohn's was sending me running, but the RA was preventing me from moving at anything remotely like a run.  Today was more like a slow hobble.  I did try to work some in the basement, because I promised my wife that this year I was going to go through all the old comics and toys and books down there and either pitch them sell them, or donate them...but we don't have a bathroom in our basement and I was forced to give that project up, for today at least, after repeatedly having to get upstairs as quickly as possible.  Even walking the dog was a nightmare, with no fewer than four -- four! -- abortive attempts this afternoon before I was able to get the little guy up and down the street.  Readers of this blog know that I am no fan of our dog, but it's not his fault for being confused by my turning around to go back to the house after getting no further than the neighbor's driveway.  All he wanted to do was whiz on the fireplug.

I don't know what the answer is.  My rheumatologist, bless him, is always game to try the latest thing to try and help me, but that can be dangerous.  I fully blame one of the treatments I tried for either giving me peripheral neuropathy or for making it much worse...but I don't blame my doctor for trying to help me.  I'll be limping in to see him tomorrow, and if he has any hope for me, you all will be the first to know.