Saturday, April 28, 2012

Experience with Neupogen

Sorry for my delayed entry- I know I said that I would talk about my experience with using Neupogen. I used it last weekend on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I left the Neupogen vial on the table for about 10 minutes before I drew the medicine from the vial on each of those three days. Drawing the medicine out of the vial as well as injecting the medication subcutaneously was no problem for me. My issue was with the terrible side effects I suffered from!

The number 1 issue was terrible, throbbing back pain! It started on the evening of the first dose. I had terrible throbbing back pain that repeatedly pulsed in my lower back. It hurt very much to walk, so I had to grip walls and railings whenever possible.  The pain was only tolerable when I was lying down on my back with a hot water bottle or a heating pad on my lower back.  I knew that this had to be a side effect.

The second issue- a weird issue, was itchy feet! Why am I experiencing itchy feet after using Neupogen?? My feet and lower legs from about mid-shin down was extremely itchy.  My lower legs were mildly to moderately itchy, while my feet-the soles, the top, and all around my ties, were terribly itchy. Am I allergic to this medication somehow? Did I somehow develop athlete's foot sometime between my first dose of neupogen and now? Not likely.

I ran out to the drug store and bought some Gold Bond Cream as well as Benadryl.  The Benadryl aided only by making me sluggishly sleepy, while the Gold Bond seemed to provide some relief about 10 minutes after use...but about 30-45 minutes later, the itchiness resumed.  I have to say that I'm glad that I had the Benadryl, as it at least made me drowsy enough to fall asleep when I could manage to not scratch my feet for 10 minutes straight...though I did wake up and spend at least an hour and a half staring at the ceiling, hot water bottle on my back and fingers scratching and rubbing my feet and legs.

I won't lie...I was tempted to say forget it and stop using the injections, especially after day 2.  But I decided that since it was only 3 doses, I'd just tough it out.  On Sunday morning, I sent a message to a friend of mine who's a nurse that has experience administering Neupogen to her patients.  She did explain to me that bone pain was in fact a side effect of neupogen.  As for itchy so much. I called my nurse coordinator and left a message for her on easy call. She also said that bone pain was an expected side effect, but she thought that perhaps the itchy feet was a coincidence.  How could this be??

I went to the lab on Monday morning to get my blood drawn, praying that the Neupogen had worked and I wouldn't be forced to do another round.  On Monday night, about 24 hours after my last dose, the itching went way down, and the back pain stopped.

On Tuesday morning, my transplant coordinator called me and let me know that my white count had went from 1.8 to 16.-something. Wow, that's quite a jump! I hope it's not too high...?

I did my routine repeat blood work on Thursday morning, and found out on Friday afternoon that my white count was now 8.0, a much more acceptable number. I have been told to continue holding the mycophenolate sodium, but to resume taking my valcyte and my sulfamethoxazole.  Let's hope that the neupogen gave my white count the kick in the butt it need to go up to an acceptable level and STAY there.  Here's to hoping..

Current WBC Count: 8.0

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blah! My WBC count is down!

Currently, I'm pretty much in hibernation. My white blood cell count is low right now. From what I understand, it is a side effect from the new medications that I have been on since the transplant.

These are the new meds that I am on:

(transplant) Mycophenolate sodium
(transplant) Tacrolimus
(antiviral) Valcyte
(antibiotic) Sulfamethoxazole

The medications that are highlighted are the medications that I have been told to hold for the time being while more tests are done in relation to my white count. I will repeat all of my blood work on Thursday, then I will go back to the hospital on Friday and get an injection called Neupogen. I will need to get it for 3 days straight, so I will go in on Friday to get the first injection, then get a prescription for the other two doses and administer them myself on Saturday and Sunday.  That is only if, however, my white count does not come up by the time I do my blood work on Thursday morning.

It kind of sucks because I was going to go to my friend's house last Saturday for her husband's birthday party. When I found out about my low blood count on the Friday afternoon prior to that, I had to cancel those plans as I did not want to put myself in a situation with unnecessary risk.  If I develop any cold/flu-like symptoms or a sore throat, I have to call my transplant coordinator asap. Some people may have a cold or sore throat or something and not even think twice about it..and go out to, say, a birthday party.  While it may not affect them..surely it would affect me! :(

More details in my next post about my Neupogen experience.

Current WBC count: 1.8

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Making a Green Smoothie (video) /Ninja Review

I've made green smoothies near everyday for the last little while, so I finally decided to record a video about it as well as discuss my blender/smoothie maker, the Ninja Professional Blender.

There are a lot of blenders out there specifically made for making smoothies.  I looked at a lot of them before finally deciding on going with the Ninja Professional Blender.  I didn't want to buy the absolute cheapest blender out there, but at the same time, I also didn't want to spend $600+ dollars on a smoothie either.  After weighing my options, I finally decided on getting the Ninja Professional Blender.  It chops/blends ice, it has triple blades, it's straightforward, and it does what I need it to do.

When I'm done blending my smoothies, they do still have a bit of texture to them, meaning that they are not butter smooth or anything.  But they are definitely smooth enough for my liking. I don't blend my smoothies for long, mainly because I don't want to absolutely pulverize the ice that's in there.  For the price that I paid for it, I am very happy with it.

I do recommend the Ninja Professional Blender for making smoothies.  If you are a die-hard smoothie maker, perhaps you'll want to spend hundreds of dollars on a specialty blender that makes smoothies that are 100% homogeneous. My smoothies are definitely smooth and drinkable enough without breaking the bank.  I am getting all of the benefits of the greens that I am blending and that is a-ok with me :)

Below is the video I made of me making the smoothie I described in a previous post. I really need to get to the grocery store so I can buy some more fruits and veggies...I'm out of the fixin's for my usual smoothie, and I'd love to get some new stuff to experiment with.

Happy smoothie-ing!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lupus and Irregular Periods: Revisited

Time sure does fly!

Four years ago, I blogged about Lupus and irregular periods. Click here to read that post (will open in a new window). Some things have changed since then, so I wanted to blog about it.

As I mentioned in my first post about irregular periods, I discussed how amazing the human body is. It has the ability to stop or halt functions of the body that are not essential when the body goes through some sort of trauma or stress.  This is what happened to me.

I got my period when I was in grade 8, a few months before summer break.  I remember this because I was trying out for the baseball team in middle school around that time.  Luckily, I got it at home and not while on the baseball diamond or anything!

This was around April or May.  I wasn't diagnosed with Lupus until November of that same year.  Up until that time, my period was "normal" for me. It came when it was supposed to come, and I could pretty well calculate when it would come.  I did get cramps, but nothing too major or debilitating.  Basically, nothing that would stop me from doing what I wanted to do. It was heavy and lasted what I felt was a long time (sometimes a full week, sometimes longer). Other than that, it was pretty normal.

When I was diagnosed with Lupus later that year, my period would sometimes skip a month or two, but it would still "show up" eventually. My major problems occurred back when I ended up with a perforated bowel/colon. This was the "major trauma or stress" that my body went through when it decided to stop having periods altogether. (See "Colostomy Surgery-The Beginning" & "Colostomy Surgery-The Middle". There was no "The End" as I said I'd write "The End" after I had plastic surgery to fix the scar...that never happened).

I saw my gynecologist (who, by the way, is a wonderful lady) many times.  I was put on medroxy, then I was put on progesterone. Neither seemed to work. I had ultrasounds, including the "regular" ones and a transvaginal one (the latter is as unpleasant as it sounds, by the way). I grew tired of going back to see her in order to try this and try that, so I just left it alone.

I am osteoporotic.  When one does not have their period for a long time, their estrogen levels drops, and this is not a good thing for the bones. This was one of the reasons I kept going back and trying to get my period back...but it did not happen.

Then in 2008,, I switched from conventional dialysis to home hemo. I told me dialysis nurse about my struggles related to my periods (or lack thereof). She was convinced that they would come back after being on home dialysis for a few months. She told me about the testimonials of a few other women who went from in-centre hemodialysis to home hemo, and how things started to normalize for them.  Makes sense.

It never happened for me. I waited and I expected and I waited...but it never happened.  I had convinced myself that I was somehow "broken" down there and I would maybe never have a period again.

Fast forward to last month- my kidney transplant. I had my transplant, and at the end of March, I had my stent removed. I was told to look out for bleeding and stuff in the 48 hours following the removal.  I didn't experience that, so I was home free.

Then..I started spotting a bit. Oh man! Why oh why is this stent removal causing me to bleed NOW? went away...*phew*!

Oh it didn't.

A few days later, I started to bleed a little more.  Could it be..that after receiving the kidney transplant, my body finally feels "normal" and is starting to do "normal" things? The answer to that is "yes". What started off as random spotting turned into a full out mensuration by this past Friday. I knew that my new kidney was working well and I was feeling "normal", but I never imagined that my body would heal and respond like this so quickly.

The bad news usual symptoms from years back haven't missed a beat: cramps, very heavy flow, and just feeling "blah".  The happiness I felt from being happy that things were going back to normal very quickly subsided as I sauntered down to the kitchen to boil water in the kettle to put into a water bottle to put on my aching back and upset/crampy stomach.

That said, I am still happy.  As much as the symptoms that go along with menstruation are...well..let's say "far from fun", let's face it.  I'm a woman, and most women of my age are supposed to go through this.  It's normal...and an indication that my body is happy and functioning well. Over the months I'll have to be diligent about monitoring everything where my "mensies" are concerned to make sure they are coming regularly, how long they last, symptoms, etc.

Nice to see you again, old friend.

..oh, not really...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Green Smoothie Deliciousness

In a previous post, I discussed my excitement to try green smoothies. Well, I finally got all my ingredients together and made my first smoothie on the weekend! I gotta say...I was pleasantly surprised!

First of all, I'm not the biggest fan of bananas. Next, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about almond milk. I've seen mixed reviews online.  Also...let's be honest here. The idea of me drinking kale and spinach...err? But I gotta say..I'm an impulsive person. When I was online and came across that hair website that discussed the health benefits of green smoothies, I thought that it was just a great idea. Not only would it be great for my skin and hair, but for my health overall.  And, if I did not like the green smoothies...I figured I could throw some frozen fruit in there and make a fruit smoothie! Nothing wrong with that!

So I went out, got my ingredients, and made the smoothie on Saturday.  I followed the recipe given, and I have to say, especially for a green smoothie newbie, it was a little bit too much for me volume wise.  The recipe is as follows:

1 cup of almond milk (Provides Protein, Potassium & Zinc minerals)
1 Organic Banana (Provides Vitamin A, B, C, E & Iron minerals)
1 Handful of Spinach (Provides Fiber, Protein and Cancer-fighting Antioxidants)
1 Handful of Kale (Provides Vitamin A, C, K, & Sulfur for Detoxification)
1 Tablespoon of Flax Seeds or Chia Seeds (Provides Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
1 Organic Pear (Provides Calcium & Fiber)
½ Cup of Ice

The above recipe, of course, did not include flax seeds, since as I mentioned previously, I hadn't received the flax seeds that I had ordered online yet.

Anyhow, after I made and drank the majority of my smoothie, I remembered that I should have taken photos, so I did that this time around.  Even still...I forgot to take pictures of me actually making the smoothie. Maybe I'll do that another time.

So this time when I made my smoothie, I followed this recipe (flax seeds will be included in my NEXT smoothie):

½ cup of almond milk 
½ organic Banana 
1 Handful of Spinach 
1 Handful of Kale
1 Tablespoon of Flax Seeds 
½ Organic Pear
½ Cup of Ice

This size worked out much better for me as a single serving, and perhaps I'll slowly increase the amount of ingredients I put into my Ninja until I've reached the amounts specified in the first recipe.

It is really tasty.  To be honest, I can't even taste the spinach or kale much.  All I can really taste is the pear and the banana.  That works out well for I don't know how appetizing it is to taste/drink kale & spinach!  I plan to try this with raspberries instead of pear sometime in the future.  I think it's important to mix things up so that I don't get bored.


Something else that makes this smoothie very satisfying is the ice in it.  I like the "crunchiness" that I get when I bite down into it.  After being in the Ninja for about a minute, the ice took on a snow-like texture.  Very well blended, but still with a little bit of "crunch".

The smoothie is pretty "smooth", but it still has a little bit of texture to it, so I do "chew" when I drink it.  I think that's a good thing.  Chewing helps activate digestion, does it not?  :)

20 minutes later...
I did finish my smoothie and enjoyed every minute of it.  I did not feel like I was strictly drinking "for the health of it" or that I was forcing myself to finish drinking.  I actually liked it.

There was still a bit of pulp and stuff left over in my cup.  When I put my pear in there, I simply washed it, but I did not peel it. There is plenty of good fiber in the skin of the pear, so don't peel your pear and throw that goodness away!

Overall, operation smoothie was a great success.  I really like my Ninja blender as well!

Here's to your health! :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kidney Transplant Battle Scars!

Just some of the battle wounds from my kidney transplant that happened back on March 1st.  These pics were taken just a few days ago :)

This scar was from a line put into my wrist that was used to take my blood pressure during the surgery and the days that followed.  An anesthesiologist's assistant put it in. It freaked me out because of the location..and also because there was blood gushing out of it like a geyser as the assistant was putting it in. Yes, it hurt..but I've had worse :)

This is the scar from the line that was put into my neck which controlled my "patient controlled" pain meds. Blood techs also drew blood from the line while it was still there.

This is a small dot on my wrist from my second IV. I had been poked many times before this one was placed successfully with much precision and professionalism :) (thank you, Matthew!)

This is the top of my right hand. This is a scar from my first IV put in by one of my nurses. 

And, of course, my kidney transplant scar as well as the scaring from the staples around the scar. Man was it ever itchy. I wonder how my surgeon managed to cram my brother's kidney into my stomach because he is so much bigger than I am. My stomach sticks out a bit where the kidney is :)

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