Archives

Helping a child fighting ALL Leukemia- the power of prayer

Learning to cope with a child (grandchild) who is fighting Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), has not been an easy task. Andrew Joseph Bay who is now three years old was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2013. His little body has too many lymphoblasts in the white blood cells. Malignant, underdeveloped white blood cells constantly reproduce causing overproduction of these bad cells in the bone marrow. A.L.L. causes damage crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow. It often spreads to other organs and can cause death. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is most common in childhood with a peak incidence at 2–5 years of age, and another peak in old age. In A.J.’s cause he began having severe stomach pain and unexplained anemia at the age of almost three.

It took the doctors several week and many trips to the urgent care to get a diagnosis. AJ kept complaining his stomach hurt. First, the doctor told mom it was just a virus and to take him home and it would pass, Next, visit they decided to draw some blood. This time they decided that AJ was anemic. They told his parents again to take him home and begin to give him iron.

After another, week passed AJ began to become very pale and did not want to eat nor play. His parents decided to take him back to urgent care. This time mom told them they needed to do more tests as this behavior was not normal and there was something really wrong. The doctors appeased mom and drew more labs. They sent the family home and told them to continue to give the little guy iron and watch him. AJ was not improving.

A few days later on a Tuesday in mid-July his mother received a call at work. They told her she needed to go home and get AJ and bring him to the Children’s Hospital at Loma Linda University Medical Center immediately because they needed to admit him as they believed he had Leukemia. By 6 pm that evening it was confirmed little AJ had ALL leukemia.

AJ spent the next two weeks in the hospital having tests run and beginning to receive chemo therapy. They had to draw blood every few hours for testing. The took his vitals every two hours so sleeping well was out of the question. AN adult had to be present with his at all times so mom, dad, and grandparents had to all take time off work to help.

Watching this little boy go from a rambunctious two-year old to being lethargic and lifeless was heart wrenching. He did not want to do much of anything except be held and watch movies. The little moments of a smile or “I want to play with my truck,” were cherished and still are cherished. During the first two weeks AJ had to often had be restrained by the medical staff as well as family so that his blood could be drawn, IV’s could be placed and changed, or to give him his oral medications.Trying explain to a 2-year-old child that he has to take all this medicine is almost impossible.

He was placed in isolation. He could not have any child visitors nor could he leave his room. We were told his ANC was zero. Another new term. So what did this mean? To us it meant we had to wear masks, gowns, and had to make sure his environment was as clean as possible, but it also meant is that we all had educate ourselves and understand what was really happening.

The term ANC is short for Absolute neutrophil count. This is a measurement of the number of neutrophil granulocytes. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell that fights against infection. This became a new way the medical staff and family judged how AJ’s immune levels were doing. Chemo therapy causes the ANC to drop over-night sometimes. A normal ANC is above 1,500 cells per microliter. An ANC less than 500 cells per microliter is considered as a high risk of infection. Neutropenia, which is the condition of a low ANC, is the most common measurement used in the setting of chemotherapy for cancer. So, now the family and doctors talk in terms of AJ’s ANC as to whether or not AJ can join if family functions.

Everything has happened so fast and continues to happen fast. Our family continues to band together and help. We have put AJ on several prayer chains. We also pray for him ourselves. It is so easy to question God as to why any of this is happening or why such a young life is having to deal with so much pain. None of us can say those thoughts have not cross are minds, but we continue to be trusting and faithful. It has been almost 4 months and AJ is still with us and fighting.

Cymbalta witdraw is miserable-

After realizing there was no easy answer I have stopped taking Cymbalta all together.  Since the capsules cannot be pulled apart and  put back together to reduce the dose the answer is to just stop.

I woke up twice screaming from nightmares. Not something that I ever had to deal with until now.  I am very over-sensitive to sound…Become easily annoyed with things like dogs barking. Hopefully this will get better as the medication gets out of my system. I still have the nagging headache, stomach pain which feels like I have been kicked, the brain zaps that are slowly getting better, the over-sensitive skin with period of feeling like I am on fire, and the increased over-all body pain. HAving to deal with these symptoms makes dealing with daily life more difficult.

During this process I am continuing to take the vitamins and mineral supplements.  It may be a lot of pills but I have noticed that about 15 to mins. After I take them the over-all pain and fatigue become slightly better.  I am currently taking:

  • CFS/Fibro formula Multi vitamin- These contain a higher dose of A , B, E, Folic Acid, Magnesium, and Calcium)
  • Natural Triglyceride (EPA and DHA)
  • Malic Acid- Shown to reduce the musculoskeletal symptoms
  • Amino Acid (Arginine, Ornithine, Glutamic Acid, Aspartic Acid, Lysine, Glycine,Leucine, Valine, Threonine, Tyrosine, Histidine, Phenylakanine, and Omega 3)
  • Digestive Enzymes ( Lipase, Protease, and Amylase)
  • P5P

After some research and learning about what other patients have done to reduce the withdraw symptoms of Cymbalta I decided to try taking Benadryl.  I will say it has helped reduce the over-sensitivity of my skin as well as decreased the itching which felt like I had a million spiders crawling on me.

I am forcing myself to excersise to help deminish the symptoms as well. Even if I am tired I am going for at least a mile walk.

I will continue to share the symptoms and the process.  It is my hope that through my sharing of this experience others will strongly consider other avenues before taking medications like Cymbalta. Also, by sharing what works and what doesn’t may in the long run help others find the right regime.

Things to never say to a Fibromyalgia Patient…

As someone who deals with Fibromyalgia daily there are just some things I wish people would stop saying to me and others that have the illness.
1) Fibromyalgia isn’t a real disease. Well, let me say for all of us who suffer from it, IT IS REAL! The pain and fatigue are real. The sleepless nights are real. Also, the FDA has approved medications to treat Fibromyalgia and they generally don’t approve medications for imaginary illnesses.
2) We all get aches and pains as we get older. Yes, we all to get more aches and pains, but the pains most of us with Fibromyalgia feel are intensified. And for a great many of us we begin to experience pain at an age when we shouldn’t hurt.
3) If you sleep more you will feel better. Well, sleep is important, but unfortunately the ability stay asleep is a challenge. Often even after a full night of sleep people with Fibromyalgia still do not awake refreshed because the body does not get into the deepest stage of sleep. Therefore, even if you manage to stay asleep for several hours, you’re most likely not going to awaken feeling refreshed. This is the reason that sleep aids are often prescribed.
4) You need to get more exercise. Most fibromyalgia treatment plans include exercise, but it must be approached slowly and carefully to avoid triggering a flare.
5) You don’t look sick. If I we let ourselves go and really showed how bad we feel then people would not want to be around us. Yet, when we try to focus on feeling better and but on a “brave face” then we do not look sick. I know that for me personally when I do my hair and make-up I tend to feel better even if I have to rest afterwards.
Our families and friends mean well. This is a note for them. Please be considerate and think before you speak. It is not easy for those of us with the illness. It can also prevent a very negative response for the person with the illness. People tend to be a bit grumpy when they do not feel at their best.

Chiari Malformation Awareness

I am sharing the below information with others to help raise awareness of Chiari Malformation. Although it is a rare condition more people are being diagnosed as a result of better technology. I was diagnosed several years ago, but as of late the condition has progressed and I am in the process of seeking a second opinion before proceeding with surgery.  Learning to live with this condition along with a spinal cord injury has made daily life a challenge.

What are Chiari Malformations

Chiari malformation is a condition in which the cerebellum and part of the brain stem push through the lower part of the skull. Normally the cerebellum, part of the brain that controls balance, and parts of the brain stem sit in a designated space at the base of the skull above the foramen magnum.

Chiari malformations may occur when the space where the cerebellum and part of the brain stem is smaller than normal, thus causing them to protrude downward into the upper spinal canal. As a result the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may become blocked. Cerebrospinal fluid is the clear liquid that surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. When the pathways are blocked is can cause a buildup of fluid on the brain called hydrocephalus or in the spinal cord called syringomyelia.

These malformations are uncommon, yet with improved modern imaging techniques and comprehensive exams physicians are beginning to make more accurate diagnoses.
Chiari Malformation type 1 is the most common type of the four possible types of the condition. Type 1 is also the only type that can be acquired. All other types are congenital.

Patients with type 1 normally do not have symptoms until late childhood or adulthood. This is because the malformation does not develop until the skull and brain have developed. On the other hand, patients with types 2-4 are often diagnosed in utero (during pregnancy), during birth, or during the first stages of infancy.

Symptoms

Patients that have Chiari malformation type I may complain of neck pain, headaches, balance problems, muscle weakness, vision problems, numbness or abnormal feelings in the legs and/or arms, ringing of the ears (tinnitus),hearing loss, dizziness, nausea, difficulty swallowing, facial pain, insomnia, and depression. Fine motor skills and hand coordination may also be affected.
Symptoms may vary from person to person and some may have no symptoms at all. The difference in symptoms depends on the buildup of CSF and the change in pressure on the tissues and nerves. For example, adolescent and adults may have no symptoms initially then later in life may develop signs of the disorder. Infants may show symptoms of any type of malformations. Their symptoms maybe difficulty swallowing, irritability during feedings, gagging or vomiting, excessive drooling, arm weakness, breathing problems, developmental delay and inability to gain weight.

If Chiari malformation type 1 if untreated may also result in the development of fluid filled cavities in the brain (hydrocephalus) or spinal cord (syrinx) which may eventually lead to syringomyelia. This can lead to irreversible damage to the brain or spinal cord.

How common are Chiari malformations?

In the past it has been estimated the condition happens one in every 1,000 to 2,00 births. However, the development of better technology and the increase use of diagnostic imaging has shown that the malformations may be more common. The estimates of actual cases is difficult as people born with the condition do not display symptoms at all or may not display them until they are in adolescence or adulthood.

Diagnosis

The most common method of diagnosis is the use of an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in conjunction with the patient history, and a neurological examination. Sometimes a special MRI scan called CINE studies are needed to make the diagnosis. Additional imaging techniques may be used. Early diagnosis of Chiari malformation type 1 can lead to treatment before the formation of syrinx.

Treatment

The treatment of Chiari type 1 varies on several factors such as the severity of symptoms, whether or not syrinx (CSF fluid filled areas on the spinal cord) exists. For example, if a patient has no symptoms or neurological findings, the doctor ill often just observe the patient and schedule periodic visits to manage the condition. If the patient displays mild symptoms that are manageable, the physician may prescribe medications to help reduce the pain.

If the patient has symptoms that progress in severity, such as a decline in neurological function and/or they develop an enlarging syrinx, surgery may become necessary.

If surgery is recommended, it typically begins by making an incision is the middle of the back of the skull , and extends to about midway down the back of the neck. All the muscles are separated from the base of the skull to the fist cervical vertebra.

Next, a surgical removal of a portion of the cranium called a craniectomy is performed. This is done to enlarge the opening at the base of the skull and create additional space next to the brain to allow better flow of CSF. The neurosurgeon uses a specialized surgical instrument to carefully shave a small piece of bone about the size of a silver dollar. Next, the first cervical vertebra is removed. This called a laminectomy. At times, removal of additional cervical vertebra may be necessary.

Conclusion

Most patients with Chiari malformation type 1 often have no symptoms. The patient only finds out they have the condition after it is found during an evaluation for other non-related conditions.

Once a Chiari malformation is diagnosed, it is important to get an evaluation by a neurologist who then can refer you to a neurosurgeon if further treatment is needed. Early diagnosis and treatment of this condition is critical as surgical intervention for symptomatic Chiari malformation type 1 is most often successful when done early on. Many patients experience significant reduction of their symptoms after surgery and are able to return to daily life without activity restrictions.

Preparing for the Flu season 2013

Preparing for Flu Season 2013

People often wonder who should get the flu vaccine. It is recommended that anyone who is 6 months of age and older.  It may be more crucial for some due to other health issue. Those who have the following conditions should not wait but instead be vaccinated as soon as possible:

  • Anyone who is considered a high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get sick with the flu like:
      • Those that have medical  conditions including asthma, diabetes, fibromyalgia and chronic lung disease.
      • Woman that are pregnant
      • The elder population (65  years and older).
  • Everyone who care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications (This includes people who live in the same      household, caregivers of those that have medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, and diabetes).

When should I get vaccinated?

  • CDC recommends that people receive their vaccination as soon as it is available in their community. Flu seasons vary from year to year but can start as early as October.
  • It takes approximately two weeks after you receive the vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.
  • Doctors and nurses are encouraged to begin vaccinating their patients as soon as flu vaccine is available to them.

 Do I need a flu vaccine every year?

  • Yes, a Flu vaccine is needed every year due to the fact that the flu viruses are constantly changing. It’s not uncommon for new flu viruses to appear each year. The influenza vaccine is prepared each year to sustain  the changing flu viruses.
  • Getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against influenza throughout flu season.

Where can I get a flu vaccine?

  • Influenza vaccines are offered by various locations which include doctor’s offices, public health departments, and pharmacies. Some college health centers, employers, and schools may also offer the vaccine.
  • People who do not have a regular doctor can receive the vaccine by going to places such as the local public health clinic, a pharmacy, an urgent care clinic, and your college health center, or work.

 

The good news is that are medications that can be given to treat the flu.  They are called antiviral drugs. These medications can shorten the length of the illness and reduce your symptoms.  The medications can also prevent serious flu-related illnesses such as pneumonia