Renal Cell Live!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ewe's Not Fat ...

I readily admit to coming from sturdy German peasant stock (hard to deny anyway). I'm short and muscular and tend to be a bit stocky. My body mass has always been high but it's also in line with the family history.

After my second surgery in 2004, I started losing some weight, in part because of the abscesses I didn't know I had. My weight stabilized after the abscesses cleared up. Then I really started losing weight in 2005 when I started high-dose IL2 treatments, and I just wasn't able to gain anything back (how much did I lose? I went from 160 to 105). After starting Nexavar in January 2006, things stabilized again and I gradually gained back a few pounds.

Suddenly this summer I started gaining weight - yeah, doctors are always thrilled with that, but I wasn't, especially since most of the weight seemed to be settling at my ever-annoying bustline. When I figured out that I was gaining about a pound a week, I started to get worried; fortunately I was heading for Cleveland on the 17th.

Dr. G basically took one look at me, said, "Your face is puffy and you've gained a lot of weight; I want your thyroid panel results to confirm but I'd bet your hypothyroidism has gotten worse." The results weren't in before we came home, but I did some reading. The symptoms? Sudden weight gain, joint pain and stiffness, joint swelling, backaches, puffy face and extremities, lethargy and fatigue. Well, those certainly matched how I felt.

TSH levels came back; and I guess the rest of that line is "Ewe's not fat, ewe's got hypothyroidism." I'm on an increased dose of synthetic thyroid hormone, I've cut my iron supplements, and my face is starting to look normal again.

Oh yes - my disease state continues stable on the quarter dose of Nexavar. Woo-hoo!! As one friend said recently, "You're a tribute to modern chemistry, girl!"

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Straight Skinny

Let me see if I can conjure an image for you: Five gorgeous, muscularly athletic men stand laughing, holding strategically placed boxes in front of their naked bodies. The tagline below reads: "Protect your largest organ."

Naturally you thought of your skin, didn't you? I knew you would!

An average person's skin weighs about 9 pounds and covers about 20 square feet, overwhelming all other organs in size (this recent New York Times article has a good discussion on skin). Yet most of us don't think of our skin as an organ, or in fact hardly think of our skin at all. Despite best efforts by dermatologists and physicians, there seem to be so many intent in their youth on getting that perfect tan, that "healthy glow," that sadly deteriorates into an old age resembling an alligator handbag.

I spent my share of time in the sun when I was growing up; I tanned easily and was fortunate to have inherited my mother's complexion - smooth, elastic skin with a slightly olive cast. As work interfered with life I spent less and less time outdoors, thereby likely saving myself from the "aged suitcase" look.

I find now that my skin has aged prematurely - it's fragile and I'm likely to bleed profusely from the slightest little bump. My hands are a curious mix; plump flesh underneath, with the "soap bubble" wrinkles of the elderly on the surface. I'll gladly acknowledge that being 55 carries some aging with it, but my skin texture has definitely changed since I started on Nexavar. I'm curious to know if other patients see the same results; am I just getting old and blaming my medication?

I will definitely be watching things even more closely now. Last week I had a small bump removed from my right cheek. I got the pathology report this morning when I had the stitches out: keratoacanthoma, a generally benign form of skin cancer caused by sun exposure. Oh boy, another thing to look out for!!

[P.S. If your imagination really isn't very good, here's the image referred to above. Thank you, Ella Bache cosmetics, for the wonderful ad!]


Monday, September 03, 2007

The Shining

I haven't seen the film but of course know the memorable snippet of Jack Nicholson peering through the axe-chopped door and leering, "I'm ba-a-ack!" If hand/foot had a face and voice, that would be it in a nutshell for me.

I noticed Saturday that the usual trouble spot at the joint of my left thumb was roughening and getting what Saint H calls "frostbite" - a waxy yellowish appearance. Last night my left big toe was throbbing, and this morning my usual blister had popped up. I've taken myself off Nexavar through the end of the week and notified Dr G. I'll resume the quarter dose on Saturday or Sunday.

All told I managed the three-eighths dose for a little over 2 weeks before the blistering resumed. I wish I could say that I knew, positively, that the slight increase in dose is worth the discomfort and reduced mobility. To my mind, right now, I don't think so. My dosage has been all over the map for the last 6 weeks, so who knows what will show up in the scans on the 17th? If there's shrinkage, what dosage do we try to stick to?

We went today to West Liberty, Ohio, for the annual Lions Labor Day Festival. Antique tractors (two local Ferguson collectors always exhibit), Bellefontaine Lions Club steak sandwiches, West Liberty Lions Club chicken barbeque, and a chance to see friend MMH's parents always make for a good time. Fortunately it's a small fairgrounds so I managed to gimp around pretty well for the short time we were there. For now, shoes off, feet up. Happy Labor Day.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

That'll Larn 'Im

Early in August Saint H casually remarked that he'd had part of a bag of fertilizer laying around, so he'd sprinkled it on the "lawn." Keep in mind that we don't really have a lawn; we've sown a mix of pasture and grass around the house. There's a lot of area to cover and we're not really groomed-grass types. I thought to myself, "Hmmm," but put it out of mind.

Then the rains came. The "lawn" grew, dark and luxuriant, almost overnight. It grew through the heat wave. It grew when it cooled. It grew so fast that it was quickly beyond capacity of our electric lawn mower. So today we swapped the rotary mower onto Emma in place of the flail mower, and I set out to knock the "lawn" down.

Emma's hydraulics are hinky and she's been rolled at some point so one of the 3-point linkarms is bent. The rotary mower in response levitates out of setting on uneven ground (that's all we have here) and the cut is crooked, since one point is higher than the other. I cut the "lawn" from about 8" high to what we hoped might be about 4" high. Then Saint H cleaned up with the electric mower for a good 2" level cut all around.

Yesterday we mowed rough stuff out of about 2/3 of the pasture - I took a couple of rounds on Emma to get used to the flail mower. Then I man-handled the electric mower for 3 passes across the back "lawn" before I conceded that it was too much for the mower to handle (tripping a circuit breaker in the process as proof). I pulled weeds, watered and picked some of the never-ending yellow pear tomatoes in the garden. I washed one of my wool kitchen throw rugs outside with broom and pail. Today I raked thatch out of part of the "lawn", helped swap out the mowers, and mowed.

For two years I was two fatigued and too run-down to do much physical work around here. I exult in being able, finally, to get out and do things again. But next year, I plan on having sheep to mow the "lawn"!