I sat up in bed one morning in January and suddenly realised it is 25 years since I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumour and having it removed later in that year. Perhaps now is the time to reflect on the events of the last quarter of a century on my life.
In the late 1980s I began to feel extremely tired and unwell and despite several visits to my GP we failed to get to the bottom of it. I was sent to see a liver consultant who did some extensive tests and I ended up being sent home with some tablets and the thought it could be the dreaded ME (very much in fashion at that time).
We move on a year and major company restructuring following a takeover, resulted in our move to Oxford and while making Bristol staff redundant I suffered a heavy nose bleed and was taken to Frenchay hospital by my MD. By the time I got there the bleeding had stopped and after a cursory look was sent home.
In mid-1990 I was working in Oxford late one evening when I began to experience severe pains in my left arm so decided to drive to the John Radcliffe Hospital where I was admitted for a couple of days hooked up to a monitor and parted with a fair amount of blood plus a twenty four hour urine collection.
The registrar came to see me and said no heart attack but hormones detected in my urine. I was sent home and referred to Dr Burke, an Endocrinologist, who saw me in August and by then I was experiencing very severe hot flushes every few hours.
While I was meeting Dr Burke I had a real supersonic flush and he immediately sent me off for an x-ray of my head and a pituitary tumour was discovered.
After more tests and scans, I was operated on by Mr Richard Kerr at the Oxford Radcliffe Infirmary (no longer exists – now a college). He is now President of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons and at the time gave me one piece of advice. Be prepared not to be taken seriously when you return to work as you have no scar. How true!
Well, here I am 48 years old, with a very stressful job asking ‘where do I go from here?’ (No Pituitary Foundation at this time – you lucky people today in the same situation, have wonderful support at no cost).
As I recovered (back at work early at the insistence of my FD) tests continued to establish replacement hormone needs and I threw myself back into my job and returned to my active lifestyle (mainly walking).
I am a very positive person but I suddenly realised, after about three months, this approach was not working so I talked to my wife Anne and my daughters about what to do next. I decided the best way forward was not to try and beat or ignore the condition but to work with it and this I have done successfully to the present day, although old age is having an effect as well!!
What do I mean by that? Well, I discovered mornings are good, afternoons bad; so I started work as early as I could i.e. this is being written in the early morning, as after 2pm I am usually pretty useless. This has worked for me and since then life has been a bit easier.
Close family and friends have been very supportive, apart from one close family member who told me I needed anger management. I can tell you that showed a complete lack of understanding and it hurt very much.
In the next ten years I walked up several mountains in Wales, including Snowdon and also completed several National Trails, the West Highland Way, Great Glen Way and St Cuthbert’s Way among others.
In about 1994, Dr Burke retired and was replaced by Prof John Wass (co-founder of The Pituitary Foundation) and I realised what good hands my wellbeing had been placed in. In 1997, following a five year scan, it was discovered my tumour was growing again and the decision was made to have 28 sessions of radiotherapy over four weeks at the Churchill Hospital and despite being knocked for six, I continued to work all through the treatment (every weekday at 8am). I recovered from this setback and was made redundant in another reorganisation in June 2000. We decide to move back west to be near our children but I continued to see Prof Wass at the OCDEM centre at the Churchill Hospital. John Wass retired from the NHS and I discovered that one of his young registrars at Oxford, Dr Karin Bradley, was now a consultant operating at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. I asked her if she would take my case on and to date I have an annual appointment to see her. A successful transfer for lucky me; from that comment you can gather I am looked after very well.
I joined The Pituitary Foundation in 2000 through the Bristol Support Group. They are a tremendous crowd of people and our ethos of helping watch each other has worked wonders. I am still an active member of the Group and also volunteer at the National Support Office – think I must hold some sort of record for folding raffle tickets!
In my 70th year I walked Hadrian’s Wall with Anne’s cousin, Ian. No other word than ‘wow’ would describe the scenery and I was sponsored to raise funds for The Foundation.
I would still love to walk another trail but think age is catching up on me and I have picked up other health problems on the way i.e. Type 2 Diabetes, hardened arteries and kidney stones to name a few. I am still walking around three miles a day mostly along the sea front here in Weston Super Mare. I am now 73 and hope to go on for a good few more years with the support of my family, The Pituitary Foundation and my consultant, Dr Karin Bradley, and her team.
Bearing in mind the danger of repeating myself, my great belief is this condition cannot be beaten but if you work with it, the quality of life you should achieve is good.