Monday morning, and off to the place I seem to reside the most…Hospital. My Neurology appointment with my Neurologist Simon Shields, who has been through this journey with me, he diagnosed me with IIH back in July 2015.
Without giving off an air of negativity, when I have appointments with him it’s as if he expects me to tell him what we are going to do next, rather than vice versa, each appointment I explain how the last 3 months have been, generally they are pretty much the same!!, pressure pain, lumbar puncture, eyes tests, repeat lol, we discuss the dosage of Acetazolamide (also known as Diamox) that I am taking, this drug is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor used for glaucoma, some types of epilepsy and fluid retention. It reduces CSF production in most patients. However the side effects of taking Diamox , include tingling of the fingers and toes are the most common, on high doses I find that my side effects are horrendous I literally cannot function, I feel like I am walking everywhere in thick mud, I have palpitations, sheer exhaustion just walking around the corner, and extreme tiredness like you can’t imagine, this seems to be the only drug on offer for sufferers of IIH, I read that we all pretty much have the same side effects which day to day can be debilitating. I take a dose now that means I can manage each day and most importantly manage my family life, a higher dose may help me more, but I have no quality of life whilst doing this, so it’s a catch 22, either spend each day in bed comatose or be on less and suffer the threat of Lumbar Punctures.
My progress on Diamox is monitored closely and I have regular blood tests to monitor the levels of electrolytes (eg sodium and potassium) and the levels of blood cells in your blood.
Back to the appointment, we discussed the eye appointment if last week, he said he thought the visual field test was only a small negative change, and he would discuss with the ophthalmologist what she thought,(case of déjà vu as she said I should discuss with him!!)
He also brought up maybe we should go down the shunt route, now I can never understand why he does this, it’s as if he doesn’t remember I have already been to an appointment at Southmead, an appointment that I went to with my husband, both of us full of optimism, I was scared but happy that this may be the answer to my problems obviously no one is excited at the prospect of brain surgery but nonetheless if it helped I would do it.
That day marked probably my lowest point of having this condition, both of our hopes, positivity and almost excitement that I might get better, shot down in a millisecond. After waiting what seemed like an eternity for the Surgeon to appear and take me in to discuss surgery in the future, we sat there almost in shock as he explained there was no way they would operate on my brain to put a shunt in, as my ventricles are to narrow for a shunt, I don’t think either of us could believe what we were hearing, he explained that they would only do this if my sight was literally going, as it would be to save my sight, but they couldn’t do it now as it would mean I would be really unwell with infection where the shunt would rub, he was really dismissive and almost shocked we had been sent to him, I can remember bluntly saying ‘so what I’m stuck like this forever’ to which he replied ‘I can’t answer that’.
I came out of that room and my heart broke, for any of you that have visited Southmead you will know its a very large space, a space where my crying echoed around the building, Kev hugging me tightly his face etched with disappointment. I cried all the way home, being selfish in someways I guess, thinking that I was stuck with this crappy condition, why did I get stuck with it, what did I do so wrong to end up with it, I remember being even more selfish thinking for a split second that I’d rather not carry on like this.. a thought I’d never repeat, the bollocking I got from Kev for saying that even though it was just words will stay with me. You have to think of the positives I have two amazing children, I have an amazing family, friends who would do anything for me, and actually a caring happy community to live in, as mentioned before all of these contribute to making my life a much happier one.
So after reminding him of this, he still said maybe we need a second opinion, so I said in 6 months I would agree to this, but first let me lose some weight, (by the way I have lost more and now 8lbs down) then I would consider it, he agreed that would be a sensible idea, we scheduled another Lumbar Puncture for the end of Feb/beginning of March which he will do, I actually feel ok when he does them, so that didn’t fill me with too much dread!!
So though it feels like we never move any further, it’s all steps in the right direction, I am really lucky that my neurologist is usally a phone call away, and I can if I’m really unwell get an appointment generally quite quickly I know other sufferers have to wait for months, a LP will help, and the only person who can help with other things is me, I’m the one who can help myself, by taking my meds, follow a healthy eating programme and remember that though I hate the pain, I’m not dying, I am actually blessed with my life!
Have a lovely day wherever you are
Lots of love ASIBTAF 😄