Part 1 of 2 The Pituitary Foundations Awareness Month – Live Well With Pituitary Conditions
Patient Stories Submission – The Pituitary Magazine – 1177 Words
Although my Pituitary journey officially began in 2008 I’m convinced it began long ago as a child. I can recognise the signs and symptoms. Especially when faced with stressful situations. Times when exercising at high levels of intensity in sporting activities.
My ‘actual’ diagnosis came through an unconventional route, as it does for many. A tremor developed in my hand. Headaches, dizziness, sickness and being run down were daily features. Due to the tremors, I was referred to a neurologist. He gave me the choice between living with it and not knowing if there was anything serious, or having a brain scan. Stating there was a 25% chance of something showing. Am I glad I had that scan? YES! However, my follow-up was very brief and was pushed out of the door rather quickly, only being told a lesion had been found.
Left waiting and wondering for 2 weeks was not helped by a letter that hit the doormat talking about Pituitary Surgery. Before being connected with an Endocrinologist. Pituitary Adenoma with Apoplexy was the diagnosis I got and needed. For someone who had just battled through training for and running in a London Marathon (completing it somehow) leading an active social life and working at an amazing job, this was a real shock.
Numerous tests and scans were now a part of everyday living. The terms LH, FHS, progesterone, prolactin, and cortisol formed part of everyday language. At one point my prolactin levels rocketed from a secure 150-7500 in a matter of 3 months. A battle with medications and side effects ensued. Including three long years with no periods at all. Infertility also surfaced and my consultant urged me to grieve. I don’t think I will ever fully accept that. For me, that’s been the hardest part of the process.
A few turbulent years were to follow. With the battle to find a treatment, I could tolerate. Needed to suppress the prolactin. The impact of a decline in neurological health, and the return of chronic fatigue/pain, I had suffered with at varying levels since a teenager. Largely down to Ehlers-Danlos.
Another twist came as I tumbled down the road into pituitary insufficiency and then further into Addison’s. The diagnosis hit me hard. Fear set in and everyday normalities became mental battles. Shock packs and careful monitoring. Now having to manage both pituitary insufficiency and hyperprolactinemia. By this time I had lost not only my health but my career, sporting activities, hobbies and purpose in life.
Added stress and struggles of my brother’s illness and subsequent death sent my mental health tumbling. Later that year a Psychotic Episode occurred to make matters more complex. Careful medication monitoring is key for me. Balancing hydrocortisone with antipsychotic medication is difficult. The withdrawal of Cabergoline (for prolactin) was essential.
Some luck was to lead me down a different path. I fell into two things that kept me going. A Para-Swimming career ensued. Looking for a sporting hobby I joined a local swimming club. It supported my mental health and general well-being. After classification, things progressed fast: achieving National titles, swimming in International events, and breaking British Records. Even travelling to Nice to participate in the European Masters Games. Working with top coaches and training with elite athletes. All amazing experiences and unexpected.
The Pituitary Foundation filled the other part of that void. I became an Official Campaigner. Initially supporting on social media, taking leaflets everywhere – hospitals, swimming pools, doctors! Telling anyone I could about the perils and challenges of all things Pituitary. The understanding of the hours put in made it easier to feel like I’d contributed. I could help when I felt well but pull back when not.
Creating Time To Heal was a way I thought I could help others face the same battles as I did. Proud of my website and the message it aims to promote. At the centre of the website is my quirky and creative blog. The spelling and grammar may not be perfect but they all come from the heart. Being added to The Pituitary Foundations’ list of patient blogs gave me great satisfaction.
In addition, I was asked to become an Active Essex Disability Ambassador for the Essex All Together programme. It aims to inspire, support, promote and deliver accessible exercise and sports provision for a broad range of LTHCs and Disabilities. My work has been celebrated with a page of my own on the Active Essex Website, through the Active Essex Sports Awards and within Ambassador Team Meetings.
Both volunteer roles have