Thursday, January 30, 2014

Life is good

Yesterday was the worst day i had in years. Did the MRI and the tech would not say absolutely anything not even under bribery. They do however give you a CD with all the images. The report is sent to your doctor within 24 hours. And my doctor on wednesday is open only in the morning.
So of course what do I do? But torturing myself by "reading" the images of course!
In fairness things are so crystal clear you could try and see if you can make an educated guess. And so I did. Most of the sequences looked totally normal, certainly I could not identify any mass anywhere, or areas that looked odd. Till I got to a couple of scans in which I could clearly see a little white spot which measured about 0.5cm x 0.2cm and it was definitely there, I could see it both in the axial and sagittal views. But only on one set of images with a particular contrast. I worked myself up into a state of pure anxiety, seriously, I was almost paralysed. I contacted all my doctor friends and asked for an opinion, non of them is a neuroradiologist unfortunately and of course I could see the images on my laptop with the programme embedded in the CD, but I could not save and email them (couldn't remember for the life of me how to take a screenshot). So it was all trough the phone, skype and whatsapp. They were all great, I found out today they had a mini session talking about me (and concluding it was probably nothing to worry about). But I did worry, a lot. I was thinking it could have been a small aneurysm or an area of demyelination. Somehow it sounded even worse than a brain tumour.
Mike looked after the children as I was in no state to do so, on the verge of tears and "deaf" to Oliver talking to me, I I just went to lie down a bit as I didn't want to scare them. Mike as always hadn't a worry in the world, you know those people that don't worry unless there is actually something to worry about? Until some tells them "now you worry", they are just eternal optimist. That's him. And just as well or we would have had to call a sitter to mind the children.

Anyway this morning I called the doctor first thing. The secretary told me she'll chase the results straight away and the GP would call me in minutes. Minutes turned into a couple of hours and I had a lecture in the meantime. When she did call the first thing she said was that the MRI was fine and why was I worrying so much. I told her what I found in the scan and she did say it was mentioned in the report as an aspecific area of higher contrast but nothing to be worried about at all, they didn't even think it needed a follow up, just one of those thing I may have had all along. Such a relief.

Suddenly I was so so tired I could have gone to bed on the spot. But I did go to see my psychotherapist and it felt good. We are exploring more what may have started all thins now that the crisis is averted. I truly hope I can get better, because I think I really hit rock bottom this time.

Thank you all for the support and love in the last few days, you were a life saver.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Progress on all fronts.
Thank you so much for your love and support in my last post. I do feel a bit better, blood tests came back and after an initial bout of anxiety (a couple of hormones are below normal) I remembered among my friends who are doctors I have an endocrinologist and so I called in a favour for his opinion. He was great and very reassuring, he believes there is nothing wrong with my sight and/or hypophysis and that really the GP was just being extra careful. As you know some part of me still thinks something will shop up in the scan on wednesday but I'm taming that thought. Also after a few more days of headaches and the like I got my period, 21 days long. And then the headache is gone and the eye is back to normal. Go figure.

I did stick to my plan though and contacted the psychotherapist I did the mindfulness course with and she saw my on thursday. I was already a bit better but seeing her really helped. She gave me some tools to use, one for example is to give the state of anxiety a name, so when I feel those thoughts appearing I can tell myself straight away "oh there's my darkness lurking" or whatever I felt like calling it. I called it Johnny. Because you know, it'll sound like "Heeeere's Johnny!" a la Jack Nicholson in The Shining when out of his mind was axing through the bathroom door! I thought I could do with a bit of a laugh. And it's working. Seriously. Another very important tip is to be aware this anxiety is not my full self, but just one part of me, that I have to acknowledge but not allow to take over, the key is to stop the feeding mechanism that fuels the anxiety which triggers the physical response (say tight chest) which then goes back to the amigdala which fires the alarm signals of imminent danger, anxiety and back to the beginning. Hopefully it'll get me through the next few days.

Martina was nine month old on thursday and on friday she slept for the first time through the night. Not a peep from her for 12 hours. Unbelievable. Tonight she has cried already so I won't be counting my chickens yet. But it's major progress, even if it's one night occasionally, we are totally regenerated. And her first tooth cut through just yesterday!

Oliver definitely seems to favour speaking Italian with me even if we are outside, at the creche or in a generally English speaking environment, and he is very good, fluent really, and very funny. He is still super cuddly and love hugs and kisses, does that to Martina more often than not and she is in awe, he can do no wrong to her eyes, it's really sweet to watch! Have a look at one of his funny faces (before the haircut last night!).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

In the black hole

Well, you may be wondering how I have been so long without talking about being's not that long really, but I'm in that place again...It all started with a "glare" in my left eye. I first noticed this odd sensation (as if my left eye was seeing too well, like too much light coming in) a couple of years ago. It came and went after a few days. I went to my ophthalmologist once I was in Italy and checked out perfectly, he said I had to use artificial tears as my eyes were very dry. Gave me a bunch of samples, I still have them. Then it happened again sometime in September, same thing it came and went after a few days, perhaps associated with some headache like the first time, I did put the drops in and seemed to help. I thought I better get my eyes checked again, but then didn't. And now I have it again. To see an ophthalmologist here for the first time, you have to go to a GP to get a referral no matter whether you are a private patient or on a medical card (in Italy you can simply look up someone on the yellow pages, call and get an appointment, you only go to the GP if you want to go with the NHS). So off I go to the GP and there was a new doctor in the centre I had not met before but she was really thorough. Couldn't see anything really wrong with my eyes herself, and while getting my history I happened to say that I was still lactating though I stopped breastfeeding in the middle of December. I did suffer of hyperprolactinemia when I was a teenager so I wondered myself if breastfeeding put my hypophysis under stress more than normal. Alarm bells must have gone off as she said we better check the hypophysis so, I'll write you a referral for an MRI as well as blood work to check your hormones. Now, rationally I know she recommended the MRI just to be completely sure there is NOT a problem, and even if there was such a lesion, it would be benign (I know as I had been checked by MRI for the same thing when I was 17), but you can imagine, my "what ifs" went in overdrive. I got in with a fab ophthalmologist the day after the GP visit, got fully checked, including visual field, facial nerves reactivity on top of the usual things, and I was stellar. She said the glare can easily be due to dry eye, (and explained very well the principles of incidental light on a rough surface) which like anything can be worse at times and better other times. But of course said to do the MRI and she would add to the hypophysis scan also the orbits and the optic nerves. Just in case. Just to be completely certain is nothing else than a dry eye. I've done the bloodtest on friday, will get results probably already tomorrow and I have the MRI on the 29th of January, I know it's not long to wait by any means, but I want it over and done with. Will call every day in case there is a cancellation. They will give me a CD with the scans on the day (in case I want to watch them by myself and see things for sure) and will write a report within 24 hours, if I don't die with anxiety I'll be doing well. Now I think there'll be nothing in the hypophysis, but there will be something much worse discovered by pure coincidence... of course I suddenly developed a range of new (phanta?)symptoms too. And I am running movies in my head of the children growing without me, the sadness, the many moments I won't be there...Martina won't even remember me and perhaps not even Oliver. I'm torturing myself.
I swore that if it turns out to be as simple as a dry eye I will have to start serious therapy. I'm ruining my life worrying about the worst possible scenarios, that is not living at all, it's like being in Hell already, so what's the point?

Bear with me till I get my results...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Settling into a new routine

We are back since last tuesday night. I realised I didn't mention that Oliver is no longer going to his old creche, we took him out for the whole month of December as we were going to Italy, initially thinking he would go back in January and Martina would join him in February, but then a few things happened over the last few months (change in management, massive staff turnover, lots of confusions about moving rooms, a bully in his room, and finally the last of the carers we knew from the beginning also decided to quit) that made us decide it was time for a change. When we had the original induction in the creche, things didn't really go smoothly and on that occasion I had contacted the sister of one of my PhD students who owned a creche very near our home, she was great but had no space available and then things just improved in the place and we left it at that. Anyway, I contacted her again in October given our cooling feelings for the hold place and incidentally she had two places starting in January, one for Martina and one for Oliver! I went to see the creche straight away and oh my God what a difference! It is a much smaller place of course, but the outdoor space is massive, very well cared for and the children rooms are in little individual wooden houses. The best thing is that the carers have been there for many many years (the two in the baby room they have been there for 15 and 17 years!) and the place feels extremely settled. Another nice thing is that this place is up on the hills, about 2.5km from our home, not really on the way to work but at this stage that doesn't matter. The views from the gardens over the city are stunning, the road to get to the creche is a country side lane, I don't think I ever crossed another car, very very quiet, and fairy tale style really. To add to this, the rates are cheaper and would you believe it, they offer a service of school pick ups when the children go to school!! They collect them, bring them back to the creche, feed them and have their homework done by the time you go and take them home. Phenomenal service.
So I brought both children in for a couple of hours on Wednesday, they both loved it, and by the time it was friday they were in full time. Martina slept easily there and Oliver loves the fact that he can go and see her if he wants. We couldn't be happier, they are safe, they have a great time and lots of love from very experienced (mother-type) carers. So that is one thing sorted for good.

Another update is that both Mike and I feel we have to get back in shape, we are not overweight by any means, but we are not fit at all anymore. I will join the college gym in February and Mike deiced to start training for an adventure race which will take place in April. We can do it. By the time I'm 40 in September, I want to be happy about myself again. This is my new year resolution.

MIL is doing better, it was touch and go for a while and I was worried sick about her, but after a bit of a confrontational conversation with her doctors (I was NOT impressed with the level of care), things started improving a bit. On friday we had a family meeting and I was shocked to hear that the survival rate after a double leg amputation at 12 month is only 30%....let's hope she is in that 30%.

Martina has just today started crawling a little bit, but she much prefers standing which meant we had to lower the mattress in her cot. Her sleep is a bit better, some nights we only have to get up once for a feed. We hope to move her into her room by the end of the month.

Better go now, I'll try and post a bit more often, hope you are all well.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy third birthday!

Oliver is sound asleep, oblivious of the new year celebration going on outside. Martina was awake for the...third (or was it fourth?) time since she went down at 8.30 but did sleep at midnight so we celebrated with a glass of fruit juice like three years ago when I had just been induced. I'd like to make it our tradition. We are at my parents' place, my sister thought herself and Clarissa could come over and we could have dinner and wait for midnight together. However, with small children it's impossible to make plans like this, we had the three of them asleep by 9 (the girls were down for 8.30 and Oliver took that bit longer) and then the two girls woke up in rotation to the point that at 10 we decided to just eat when we could! Ah well, maybe next year.

And today my boy is three. He will wake up in the morning and we have his favourite cake ready and a couple of little presents, I can't wait to see his face and take some pics!

Of course Happy New Year to you all my friends, may this be a good one for everyone.