Before I go too far today I will be discussing a health issue but I must stress from the start it is not Cancer.
I have talked about how Womble and I gave up smoking in 2022 but I omitted a small part of the story, ok a fairly large part. When I went to my GP to get nicotine replacement patches I thought I would also get my reflux (which I have had for years untreated) investigated. I agreed to a routine blood test which revealed I had elevated calcium levels in my blood. Repeat bloods showed it wasn’t a one off result and I had hypercalcemia.
I had medical imaging scans and further tests to identify the issue including a 24 hour urine test. If you have never had to do a 24 hour urine test it is exactly that. You collect all your urine for an entire 24 hour period. I was given a takeaway container to pee in and pour into a large container. I would suggest getting an old plastic water bottle and cutting off the top to make a funnel to pour the urine into the large container, trust me it makes it easier. Finally an adenoma (benign tumor) was found on one of the parathyroid glands in my neck. You have 4 parathyroid glands in your neck, normally they are small but one of mine was 8mm which is about twice as large it should have been. When they are enlarge they produce too much of the parathyroid hormone which regulates the calcium levels your blood. There is no known reason for these adenomas or abnormalities to occur. They aren’t caused by smoking which naturally was my first automatic assumption.
We always hear that calcium is meant to be good for the body. In Australia the message is pushed to women in particular, make sure you have enough calcium. As you age you need calcium to keep your bones strong. For 15 years I had regularly consumed diary in my diet to keep my bones strong. What I wasn’t aware of is that too much calcium can have the opposite effect and degrade your bones. After the adenoma was found I was sent for a bone density scan and that was when osteoporosis was diagnosed. They scan your ankles, wrists, lower back and hips. It was only in my hip area that osteoporosis was present. I’m not surprised it was in that area. Due to this issues I have had since birth, which you can read about here, my hips already have arthritis so I think may been more susceptible to osteoporosis. At 42 I’m considered young to have osteoporosis. The treatment for me is different to an older person. I didn’t have to change my diet or lifestyle as I am already pretty active and regularly go to the gym. I started a once a week medication which does have some restrictions on how you take it, you can’t do certain activities or consume certain foods within a time frame around it. I get up between 5 – 6 am on a Saturday just to take it within the restrictions. In February I started to focus on my fitness again and concentrate on losing the “Covid” kilos. Like many I have gained weight over the last 3 years. I brought a fitness tracker and started to monitor my daily steps. I surprised myself at how many steps I actually do in a day without trying. I’m not getting obsessed with the fitness tracker (which is why I had never got one in the past) but use it as reminder to move. Food wise I started to eat more healthier again (except for the Easter hot cross buns, but I didn’t eat chocolate)
In January I saw a surgeon and was booked into have a Parathyroidectomy to remove the adenoma two weeks later in February. Womble and I put ourselves in a mini lockdown ahead of the surgery. One day we decided to walk to the shops for a day out and to return my library books. We wore masks and ate outside away from others. A week later Womble started to get sick but as he hadn’t left the house in a week we didn’t think anything of it. Two days later we did a RAT test on him which was Covid positive. He has underlying medical issues so we knew if he got Covid he would be very sick from it. He went to hospital that afternoon and I was able to visit with him everyday. I was feeling ok and I had no symptoms. The day before my surgery I did a PCR test anyway just as a precaution. That evening my result came back positive. Womble felt bad as I caught Covid from him but it couldn’t be helped, we did everything we could. I was with him the 48 hours prior to him getting tested when he was really sick so I don’t think the time I spent with him when he was in hospital is when I caught it. I had Covid in May last year so it was second time round for me. I wasn’t as bad as the first time. I had very little symptoms, just really a headache but I think that was more dehydration. My surgery was delay by 2 months which is standard policy for elective surgery following Covid. Emergency surgery can be done with Covid but elective surgeries they put off.
Last week the surgery finally went ahead. It was a fairly quick surgery. I spent one night in the hospital. Working in the industry I happen to know a few surgeons so I picked one whom I’ve known for over 15 years, he was thyroid and parathyroid issues expert. We live in a large health precinct area. It was also really handy that the surgeons consulting rooms and the hospitals he operated at were all within walking distance from our apartment. I knew that I undergoing surgery was going to be a very stressful time for Womble, I wanted it to be somewhere close so that he could be on the hospital grounds for my surgery and come and visit the next day. I also by chance knew my anaesthetist as I use to work with him. I have said it in previous posts when I’m on the “other side” of the operating table it can be a bit stressful as I kind of know too much. Knowing and trusting both my surgeon and anaesthetist was a big weight off my shoulders, I was in safe hands.
As I use the crutch to walk with I have a rule that done I don’t have needles, blood tests or cannulas on my left arm. As you can see in the picture from earlier on in this post I can’t afford for a bruise to happen on the one arm I rely on so heavily. It was good knowing my anaesthetist as I didn’t have explain in depth why my left arm was off limits. In recovery I needed a post op blood test, as I had drip running they couldn’t use my right arm so they did it from my foot instead.
I didn’t Google Parathyroid Adenomas until my surgery was booked for February and I started doing research for this blog post. I titled todays post “But I don’t Feel Sick” and that was the truth. I didn’t have any symptoms to indicate anything was wrong. I was a little tired but everyone had been through a rough few years with the pandemic so we were all tired. I have always had issues with reflux and I have had issues with sleeping for years. I was getting headaches but I thought it was dehydration as I never really feel thirsty and therefor forget to drink. My memory was a little off and I had to watch my concertation levels at times but I just thought that was because I was tired. Looking at the above the list the biggest standout was “Lack of interest activities that you previously enjoyed” That rang bells in my head. I mentioned in my review post that in 2022 I lost my craft spark. I couldn’t pin point why but the love and enthusiasm I once had for crafting wasn’t there. My love of blogging had decreased, even my love for to the gym wasn’t there anymore. It was a relief to discover that it may have all been due to the adenoma. I mentioned this to my surgeon after the surgery and he said it is common for adenomas to cause depression and lack of interest. My surgeon and I are hoping now with the adenoma gone and I can get back to normal.
After the surgery I was told no lifting more than 5kgs for two weeks which means I get of some of the housework. Recovery takes a few weeks. I didn’t know but the parathyroid hormone levels return back to normal within 20 minutes. The blood test I had in recovery showed my levels had already returned to normal. I knew I would have a blood test the following morning to check the levels but it blew my mind that they could see a difference almost immediately.
It has been a big 5 – 6 months from when from when we first found out about elevated calcium until now. What I’m most proud of particularly in the early weeks was we didn’t use this issue as an excuse to stop our plan to quit smoking. I had one day where I had to wait hours between imaging scans on my own, old me would kill the time smoking but I didn’t. I didn’t give into the stress. Womble took a little longer than me to quit but he still did it. With the increased stress going on he still did it. It isn’t easy to quit smoking but we did it during one of the most stressful times of our lives. I’m really proud of that.
Now to start moving forward with our smoke free life.