Went to get an HRT prescription last week, and thought it worth mentioning to the Doc that I was feeling exhausted, and a bit dizzy plus I am losing weight (a kg fell off since I returned from China, now 53 kgs). She took some blood tests to rule out a number of things including under-active thyroid, mycoplasma (a form of pneumonia prevalent in Singapore) and Vitamin B 12 deficiency.
It’s not great news: I have a severe case of the latter, and low blood pressure, which on a quick read up means I am producing abnormally large red blood cells which are not functioning properly, and can be an early sign of dementia/memory loss (got that already!), visual impairment and inability to walk/balance, among other things. Apart from feeling listless it also causes depression, and I have to admit to feeling a bit low over the past couple of weeks. Doesn’t fit well with cancer either, as autoimmunity depends on those blood cells working well; don’t want those pesky cancer cells getting away with murder…
It can be caused by a number of things; first thought: is it diet? Has my ‘no red meat no dairy’ played a role? But I still eat chicken, fish and eggs and do occasionally sin with pork, and it seems it must have been around for more than three months to be so low (139 FYI). My diet PC (pre-cancer) has been ultra healthy – no junk food, and at least 10 portions of fresh fruit and veg a day! And loads of lentils…
Could the cancer or radiotherapy be linked in any way? All questions that need to be answered…
The treatment involves a course of injections and, depending on what the cause is, probably a jab every three months for the rest of my life.
So now to call the London GP and see what can be arranged.
The call proves one of those NHS horror stories you often hear about but I never believe: an incredibly unhelpful receptionist who would not listen:
I explain the situation, and that I am resident in London as well as Singapore and am about to come back for my scans.
‘If you’re in Singapore I suggest you get treated there.’
‘No, as I said I’m flying back tomorrow and Dr G has always said she would see me because of my history [unspoken code: bereavements]. I have CANCER. Please can you ask her if she will at least talk to me to discuss options…’
Long wait ensues.
‘I have spoken to her; she suggests you get treatment in Singapore.’
‘I’m flying back tomorrow! I would like to see or speak to her on Monday, as I said before’
‘Well, you can ring in on Monday to try and get an emergency appointment, but there are no appointments left next week, so we can triage you, but we’re so busy I suggest you don’t ring until Wednesday. We can’t allow people like you to jump the queue.’
So Monday sees me at the private surgery of Dr Evadney (makes me think of Hinge & Bracket, and my mum, who loved them) Keith at the St John and Elizabeth Hospital, St Johns Wood. She is charm personified and gives me a really good check up before recommending me to see a haematologist, and she rings up herself to make the appointment!
I have lost another kg, down to 52.
I postpone my flight to Switzerland by a day – at huge cost but, hey, because I’m worth it – and on Friday I am at the Royal Free seeing Professor Mehta. We swap stories of our African childhoods, and he says that he doesn’t think its diet related as my diet is so healthy, despite the no dairy, no red meat; rather it might be an absorption problem, so he takes more blood tests. Whatever the cause, need some Vit B12 jabs pronto as he agrees the level is exceedingly low, and for someone in my position, not great.
The jabs are booked with the lovely Dr Keith on my return form the mountains, where I am now sitting in intermittent sunshine and thundery showers, writing this. I’ve even managed to get some B12 phials here in Switzerland as an interim measure – feel like a right junkie!
In other news, I have been beavering away at my mum’s war letters and, inspired by D-Day (her boss Admiral Ramsay actually masterminded the landings), am working on the final submission draft with advice from various friends and a literary consultant (thanks Jo!). This week will see me polish this off in the peace and quiet, while I prepare for the big date with the MRI scanner on Monday 23rd June; results on 25th. Fingers crossed. Next post will have the update.