It’s been five weeks and three Opdivo treatments down since coming off all meds to mend my liver. On the whole, the fortnightly treatments have been going well except for the past two weeks. I have noticed a big change in my energy levels and appetite since coming off the steroids.
After a visit to my oncologist Dr A on Thursday to explain how I was feeling, she explained that the cancer treatment can cause problems with the pituitary gland.
Now, this little pea-sized ball at the back of the brain has an important role in the production of a range of hormones that each work their magic in the body for growth, development and daily functioning. According to Dr A, my lethargy, lack of appetite and general feelings of malaise are a result of an issue with the production of a particular adrenal gland hormone – cortisol.
Cortisol is one of the most vital hormones essential for life. It helps the body to regulate stress and contributes to the healthy functioning of the immune system, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and responses to inflammation. From the symptoms I was exhibiting, Dr A wanted to check my ACTH levels so off to S&N for yet another blood test the next morning.
We weren’t expecting the results for a few days, however, on Friday afternoon I received a call from Dr A explaining that S&N had got in touch with her as soon as they found out my results.
We discovered that my cortisol levels we’re actually undetectable, which completely supports and explains the way I’d been feeling. I don’t want to underplay this at all, but when the body has a cortisol deficiency, it can be life-threatening if not detected early. Treatment, in the form of synthetic cortisol replacement, needs to begin as soon as possible.
So, another drug has now entered my body. A daily does of hydrocortisone since Friday has had an instant effect and my energy levels have almost returned to normal and my appetite is slowly improving.
Thanks to my beautiful wife for doing a bit of extra work around the house when I haven’t been up to it. Xx
Now that I’m feeling better, I’ve decided to challenge myself and compete in the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest on December 10 this year. I am going by myself to compete in a 50 obstacle 10km urban fitness challenge in Sydney. Call me crazy but it was just something that I wanted to do. Stage IV melanoma is not going to stop me from living life.
The ups and downs of the cancer journey are challenging but I’m determined to overcome this disease. I look forward to treatment, my next one is this Tuesday, and my upcoming scan in a few weeks time.
Love, Pirate. xx
PS. Ensure you live a healthy and happy life and do something that challenges your mind and body.
The Pituitary Foundation. (2015). Retrieved 5 November 2016 from https://www.pituitary.org.uk/information/what-is-the-pituitary-gland/
Endocrine Society. (2016). Retrieved 5 November 2016 from http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/pituitary/overview
Merck Sharp & Dome Corp. (2106). Retrieved 5 November 2016 from http://www.msdmanuals.com/en-au/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/pituitary-gland-disorders/overview-of-the-pituitary-gland
Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia. (2016). Retrieved 5 November 2016 from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/hormones-cortisol
Pituitary Network Association. (2013). Retrieved 5 November 2016 from http://pituitary.org/knowledge-base/disorders/hypopituitarism