August 4, 2010
What is Polyclonal Hypergammaglobulinemia? Good question. Little is known about this rare blood condition that affects women over 50 who have other medical issues and are smokers.
In my personal case, I am a smoker, have high cholesterol, COPD exacerbated with allergies and asthma and any number of other things we haven't discovered yet. I have/had a very enlarged spleen. I was anemic, which was corrected with iron supplements and B-complex vitamins.
Originally, the rare blood issue was discovered during a stay in the hospital with breathing issues. Many months have passed and many possible diagnoses have been thrown at me, including Waldenstrom's Macroglobulinemia.
Waldenstrom's is also rare, but not as rare as the condition I have been diagnosed with. The thing with Waldenstrom's is you will die with it, although it will not kill you. The complications exacerbating Waldenstrom's will ultimately do you in. The suggested life span after diagnosis is 5-12 years.
I have digressed here. This article is not about Waldenstrom's. It's about me and Polyclonal Hypergammaglobulinemia. I've gone through months and months of testing to reach this diagnosis. Testing including, but not limited to lots of lab testing of blood, CT scans, sonograms, endoscopy and colonoscopy, two bone marrow biopsy's, etc. During all this testing, my spleen was growing larger and larger and there was some enlargement of my liver as well, but that (the liver) apparently was little to be concerned about.
I gained weight. I went from 160 pounds to 185 pounds in about three months after the initial visit in the hospital. My belly was hard and distended. I felt tired, slow and sluggish most of the time. I slept a lot, too. Still no answers or recommended treatments.
Finally, the doctor suggested removing my spleen. He and his colleagues made the suggestion about the time I started asking if I could go back to work at my regular profession as a commercial truck driver. I was cautioned that my spleen could rupture if bumped the wrong way, so they recommended waiting until after the proposed surgery. I was cautioned at that time, also, the removal of my spleen probably would not be the cure all for the condition.
I did have the spleen removed and an umbilical hernia repaired. I spent six days in the hospital after the fact. I had a rough couple of days not being able to breathe properly right after the surgery, but for the most part I was on my feet after the third day. Lord, was I sore. The food left much to be desired as well. But that's not uncommon for institutional food either. I was kept on a 'clear diet' until the last day, then I was allowed 'soft foods'. I thought I was going to go nuts. Since then I can't look at jello or clear broth of any kind, laugh.
I agreed to have the surgery so I could go back to work at my regular profession without worry that my spleen would rupture. I'd deal with the associated issues of not having a spleen as they arose. It isn't uncommon for people without spleens to be more susceptible to seasonal illnesses (viral and bacterial), pneumonia, and influenza. I'll have care when the time comes and have the recommended inoculation's. Fortunately, I'm not in contact with school age children often, so the likelihood of contracting something serious it limited.
I've healed well. The post-operative visit with the surgeon went well. I can return to work without restrictions. I can ride my horse again without fear of having my spleen rupture if I'm tossed off. Hey, anyone who rides always takes the chance of having their animal toss them, it's not an uncommon thing.
I've lost weight since the surgery. My belly is back to nearly normal and I feel 100% better. pretty good news, considering a few months ago, I wasn't sure if I'd get through all this or not. There will be more blood testing to watch blood counts. I've been forewarned. To be forewarned is to be armed and ready.
I don't know what the long term effects of this condition are. I'm told the doctors will adopt a wait and see attitude treating as needed. It's been suggested I quit smoking. I knew that was coming. I've been trying to quit for more than ten years without much success and still not having a great deal of success.
In all this medical hoopla, I've moved. I'm staying with a friend in another area of the city. It's not as quiet here as it was where I used to stay. I have to admit, it's a great deal healthier than the place I was in before. I haven't had to run for my inhaler, the nose drops, or see the doctor for antibiotics for help with an infection since I left the hospital. This is a positive thing.
Having high cholesterol, I've made changes to my diet. I think we can beat the high cholesterol with these changes and exercise. I'd started this process long before I was tested for the cholesterol issue, so I had a head start.
The good news is, I can and will live a healthy active lifestyle for many years to come. I'm on the mend and I'll recover completely. We'll deal with the blood issues as they present. I'm reasonably assured Polyclonal Hypergammaglobulinemia won't kill me.