Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Tentative progress

Three weeks ago today, I began the changed hypertension prescription. It’s still early days, but so far, so good. Coincidentally, today is also an important anniversary: The day this journey truly began.

Six years ago today, I received the stent in my coronary artery that made it possible for me to be here today to note the anniversary, and to talk about where my health journey is at. As I’ve talked about many times, what got me through all that, including the events of that day, was Nigel, who was with me every step of the way. It makes me really sad that in what turned out to be his last years, I was far from my best, and I simply wasn’t able to be 100% present. It wasn’t my fault, of course, and—again thanks to Nigel—I kept pushing doctors to change medications, and that meant that the last year (roughly) I had with Nigel was better than the one before it, which is—something? I guess. But that also helped me to push for change yet again.

This has been on my mind a lot over the past few weeks in particular, and it’s part of what was both my motivation for making the change, as well as the source of my shame and disappointment over not doing something sooner. I talked about that last month.

I was, of course, nervous about the new drug because I knew there were no guarantees: How we react to prescriptions is often unique to us. That first day, my head felt much clearer, as if the brain fog I’d complained about had eased. I neither accepted nor disputed this was an actual change, nor that it was related to the drug change—I just noted there was a difference.

While the first day or two went well, the next couple weeks made me deeply sceptical that the new drug was any better than the old one. I was still tired, but I couldn’t tell if it was better, as bad, or worse than the other because a different feeling overwhelmed me: Sleepiness. I felt as if I could drift off at any moment—even standing up. In fact, I ended up having several naps, and on at least one day I had two naps.

During that time, I also went to the vampires for my annual blood tests. I told my doctor I wanted to get that done, and that I was particularly interested in getting a CBC (because my blood thinner can, rarely, negatively affect platelet levels), PSA (because it’s a good idea), and the usuals (cholesterol and urate levels). I jokingly told my doctor, “and you can order whatever you want, too.” It turned out that he checked my levels for blood iron, Vitamin B12, and testosterone, all of which can affect energy levels. All my results were in the normal range (my cholesterol and liver function results were slightly elevated from what they had been, but were still normal; I think this may be due to my having gained weight over the past year).

A little while later—only a few days—things suddenly changed. I began to feel better—not great, not like it was a return to the allegedly halcyon days between my stent and the start of beta blockers, but better. There was something else I noticed: I was inwardly feeling, for lack of a better word, brighter

During this time, my sister-in-law and some of her family arrived from Australia for a visit. I saw them the evening they arrived in the country, and the following Saturday, but that was before I noticed any change. By the end of last week, though, I was suddenly feeling more engaged, more upbeat, more present. By Sunday, I realised it seemed to be a definite change, and not just a fluke.

In the days since then, my energy levels and mood have varied, so whatever’s going on seems to still be settling down. This makes sense, of course, because it can take anywhere from a month, to six weeks, to several months before adjustment to a new drug is complete. That means I still have no way of knowing where all this will settle (today, for example, I was extremely sleepy in the morning, and had a nap before noon).

Today, my next batch of pills arrived, though I won’t need them until next week (I don’t think they’ve ever arrived this early before). As recently as maybe 10 days ago, I was thinking I was going to have to contact my doctor and ask for another pill change, even though I know it takes time to adjust and I hadn’t yet given it much time.

And then this morning there was the most extraordinary thing of all.

I woke up a bit early, after a little more than 7 hours of sleep, and I wasn’t quite ready to get up (and neither was Leo, who was asleep against my side). I was laying on my back just thinking about nothing, really. and I suddenly realised I felt nothing in my chest. For months I’ve often been aware of the feeling of my heart beating, especially whenever I laid on my back. At it’s worst, I felt like I’d had a bit too much coffee, or even like I was having a panic attack. But not today. It was an awesome feeling.

I’d forgotten until that moment how after I started the drug I just switched from, I often felt that anxiousness sort of feeling, and I was becoming concerned enough to take it up with my doctor—but then it mostly left my awareness. Maybe it was all the Covid dramas going on, or maybe I merely got used to it. Whatever the situation, I was often unaware of those sensations, or forgot them immediately afterward, and today it was their absence that I finally noticed.

All of which makes me think that maybe this new drug really will be better for me than the previous one was. Maybe. At any rate, it’s hopeful enough that I now think about waiting and seeing how things are going in another three weeks, rather than how I should contact my doctor about making another change. The way things have been going over the past few months in particular, that’s a pretty dramatic development.

This whole rollercoaster health journey started in earnest six years ago today. On that day in 2016, no one could have known that Nigel had a little bit more than three years left—of course: We almost never know precisely when our days will run out, and we tend to act as if they never will. On that same 2016 day, the health path I was on changed from one leading to my own final day rapidly approaching, to pushing that day years into the future. The main reason that could happen is that I had Nigel in my life—in fact, he’s the main reason I’m still here even now, even after his death, including that I’m learning to be my own advocate, as I (finally…) have been lately. I learned so much from our life together, and survival itself is the biggest lesson of all. And that’s why this particular anniversary, and the gratitude it fills me with, will always be important to me. So, too, is holding onto hope and positivity. Nigel taught me that, too.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.


Roger Owen Green said...

Very exciting.

Here's something I haven't talked about recently. I was getting a heart exam every six months. But my cardiologist retired, and I... FORGOT. Maybe it was COVID brain; yeah, that's it. Since I'm seeing my primary next month, I will get this situation remedied.

Arthur Schenck said...

Unless I have some issues, it's up to my GP to seek tests or consultations. I mean, I could schedule (and pay for) an appointment with a cardiologist if I thought it was necessary, but unless I was hospitalised again, I probably wouldn't think it was necessary (unless my GP thought so, of course).