Keeping Up Appearances At The J. O. B. When on Hep C Treatment

Keeping up appearances where you get your paycheck

Look forward and busy so they won’t notice your missing brain.

Always carry your computer in a back pack to keep from falling sideways and jamming the rotating doors.

Don’t forget your lipstick

Try to avoid one-on-one conversations.  You are only bringing part of a person to the table.

Wear a lot of pockets.  If you lose something you probably still have it.

Wear dirty clothes if need be because you are pretty sure they match.

Check to see if your shoes match.  Are they at least the same heel height?

Carry only one bag or spend all your time looking for the other bag.

On airplanes, don’t put anything in the front pocket. You will forget it.   Just look at the pretty magazine pictures.  You aren’t gonna get anything done anyway.

If you must sit in a meeting all day:

  • Answer the easy stuff so maybe they wont notice the space where you formerly housed your brain.
  • Shut off that ringer now.  Your voice saying “Answer the phone!” sticks in their minds.
  • If you cannot avoid giving a presentation, you will look like a fool.  Just go with it.
  • When the non-sequitors are upon you, sew your mouth shut.  No exceptions.
  • Sit between two people who won’t benefit from your out-of-body experiences. The sharks can smell your crazy.  They will cut you and swim away.
  • At lunch talk with those who are less familiar with the previous you and stick to subjects like their kids.  That way words can just fall out of your mouth.
  • Avoid those who get under your skin.  Your skin is thin to non-existent

Don’t look for your brain in public places unless it is in the bathroom stall.

Look for a lack of urinals to confirm that your are in the correct public toilet.

Don’t volunteer for anything at work.  You are functioning at about 40%.  It isn’t fair for project mates.  And they might cut you and swim away.

Try not to cry in front of your boss.  Nothing good comes from that.

Try not to cry with the boss on the phone.  He may offer to pray with you.  Too weird.

Six weeks after you can no longer pretend to keep up appearances, start the medical leave process so you will have a job to which you can return.  The medical people at work will not understand your disease or treatment.  Be prepared to provide information.

Seek out a therapist who knows something about hepatitis C and treatment.  Ask your Dr. to recommend one. The medical leave people will want documentation of your coo-coo ness.  Hopefully your insurance covers this therapist.  Mine did not.

Keep a calendar so you will know when to renew the medical leave.  Let medical records and Dr.’s reports speak for you.  You will not represent yourself well.  This should work in your favor but doesn’t.

Before returning to work, catch up on the rumor mill with those in the know.  Don’t forget,  they are trying to get the scoop on you too, and your business shield is down.

When you do have to return to work, take on the minimum load.  You left under a dark performance shadow and your uptake will be slow.

Your boss will ask if you are at 100% now.  They always like percentages.  Be as honest as you can.  But don’t be stupid about it.

Memorize a script for those who ask where you’ve been and how you’re doing.  Stick to the script.   They are curious, but are mostly thinking about themselves.  Take advantage of this and ask about them.

As poor performance reviews roll in, pray for a retirement package. Between your medical leave and age,  Human Resources will hesitate to fire you.  But, they can make it uncomfortable.  To them you are a resource, not a person.  That is their J.O.B.

It is tough when you have been a strong performer. It’s okay.  It’s only your ego.

Look at LinkedIn.  Can you put the armor on to go back into the crusades?

Start a blog on hepatitis C treatment recovery.  Think about what is next.

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Hepatitis C Lingo: What is a Log?

Okay, you are going into treatment.  You must understand the language of treatment progress. No one values your health more than you.

Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.   Mitchell Kapor

 Treatment response is a topic of great importance to me, you, and doctors.  They need  to see if the treatment is working enough to keep poisoning you.

Viral load is how to measure response. It’s done  by looking at the amount of virus in your blood. Viral load is checked before treatment,  at week 4, 12, and either 24 or 48, depending on duration of therapy, then 24 weeks (6 months) after therapy.   The response is measured in log reduction.    In fact log stands for logarithmic.  So what?  Each log corresponds to a factor of 10.  So what?  A 1-log reduction means virus decreases by 10 times; a 2-log = 100, a 3-log = 1,000, a    6-log reduction = 1,000,000 = 1 million.  Log is a way of not writing down all the zeros.  Just count the zeros gone and you get the number of viruses that died per ml of blood and went away.  Sort of.  There, in one paragraph we discussed a concept that took me some time to learn.  And you thought you would never use that math junk.

When I was in middle and high school, I had it in my head that my brain wasn’t “smart enough” for math and chemistry, even though I skipped kindergarten and the 2nd half of my senior year.   So I avoided the hard sciences.  Remember I was still GOD, grown up on duty, at my house. Then in my 20s, I went to college and I decided I didn’t want to fear math and chemistry any more. I took inorganic chemistry with algebra on the side to understand the language of thermodynamics.  This is an example of how my childhood perceptions always played down my abilities even though my family said I was smart (which I loved but didn’t believe) . I graduated from pharmacy school at 30,  then went back for a Dr. of Pharmacy in my 50s (while traveling around the country for work and, unaware that Hep C was dragging me down).

Why am I interjecting these little stories in the middle of scientific drama?  Because there is no scientific drama!

All measures must have units:  pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI), miles per gallon (MPG), ears of corn per stalk (one).  Notice the word per in each. The  Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is number of copies of the virus per ml of blood. The hepatitis C virus, like all viruses, cannot reproduce by itself. It must first infect a living cell, such as the hepatocyte, and take over the cell’s “machinery.” Using the genetic information in your cell, the hepatitis C virus is able to make copies of itself which can go on to make more copies.  The virus is measured in copies per ml of blood.  I know, weird.

Lindenbach B, Rice C (2005). “Unravelling hepatitis C virus replication from genome to function”. Nature 436

BTW, kids in Middle School know this stuff.  Amazing.    We will talk about RNA another time.  I know you can hardly wait.

Source:  Vertex website, Wikipedia

http://www.vrtx.com/assets/pdfs/VRTXHCVTreatmentResponse.pdf

www.wikipedia.com

and my brain: no link

I Pooped Today, Things to Track with Hepatitis C Treatment

“I Pooped Today”  Important information to track while on Hepatitis C treatment

If you choose to participate in a drug study while being treated for Hepatitis C, be prepared to keep a diary.  Most of these examples are from round one.  You know what they say about experience:  There are those that got it and those that are going to get it.  I’ve been both.  During round two, I knew a lot of holes were out there and walked around them.  Or paved them in advanced.  I did find new ones.

Dear Diary:

How many bowel movements have you had since your last visit? What color is it? I think this is a test to see if I am fixated on poop.  BTW Your family doesn’t want to know about your poop even if they pretend to.  Most people on treatment have frequent stools but not me.  See, don’t you wish you didn’t know?

Get comfortable discussing your bodily functions with everyone in a white coat. You haven’t had dignity for a while. How dark is your urine? I don’t know, it’s diluted when it hits the toilet bowl. Does it smell? I really want to make a nose joke here.

How’s your eating? Food smells and tastes like pennies and my stomach burns. Have you tried not eating spicy foods? I am only eating buttered noodles and Little Debbie Oatmeal Cakes.  Oh.

Brain fog “Loss of ability to concentrate. Memory loss”   How has your memory been?Huh?    Non-participative.  Try to write everything down in one place.  I can’t seem to find my notebook, so I start another. Kinda makes it worse.Try to hold a job let alone a career with that side effect.

Did I take my medicine? When did I take my medicine? Did I take it in lemon duck? Did I take it with a eunuch?  Did I take it on my death-bed?  Did it make me see a dragon’s head?  Write it all down, you won’t remember.  (ref Brain Fog)

Try to get as much sleep as you can. Brilliant. Now I lay me down to sleep, to lie awake with Lil Bo Peep.  Okay, a bit too much rhyming.  But today my brain wants to rhyme. 

Avoid undue excitement. You mean like my brain running The Fifth Element  Flossing Paradise 24/7? We can prescribe sleep medications. Why didn’t you tell me that 6 months ago?

We recommend aerobic exercise 15-20 minutes/day. Are you shitting me? Do I keep track if you are shitting me?

How many times did you have a blinding H/A this week? How many not so blinding?  Let me see, I cry a couple of times a day.  Crying results in a blinding headache.  So I hold in the crying.  The result, “not blinding” headache.  I’m not sure if I am crying on the inside or outside.

Rashes and skin changes. Is that because of medications or just old spots?  What about the ones that are 3-D?

My skin itches. Take an antihistamine. I did. Take Benadryl 50 mg. Spit will fall out of my mouth if I have any secretions Can I see a dermatologist about this?  Sure but it will be weeks before we can get you in.  WTF is a dermatologist so busy doing?

How has your mental health been since your last visit? Can you draw a line on this form to show the change? I can’t give you any more instructions, even if you don’t understand this (silly) form.  The -Y axis is not long enough to document  the rate of my decline.

Do you think we should put you on antidepressants? I don’t know who I am much less what I need. Have you had suicidal or homicidal thoughts? I can’t remember. With or without headaches?

It is Tuesday, time for my weekly injection. Just when I was feeling up line dancing in a circle (props go Dos XX commercial). Where was your injection site last week? In my forehead with a silver bullet.

Because my Hemoglobin (HgB) is so low, I can’t walk  from the parking structure to my work appointments. Can I get a Handicap Placard? No one has ever asked for one before. So can I get one? Bring us the form. The Dr. will have to sign it.

License branch information booth: Do I have to stand in the long line with the masses? If I could stand that long I wouldn’t need a Handicap placard. Then bring someone to stand in line for you. Next

Adverse Events in Treatment: If it’s you, it’s minor. If it’s me, it’s major

Adverse Events and Reactions

There are conflicting definitions here because there are conflicting definitions in science and medicine.

A Side Effect (SE) is when a drug does something besides what you are treating. Rogaine was initially a drug for hypertension that had a side effect (SE) causing hair to grow on your head.  It was predictable.  Talk about a marketing turn-around. That  pharmaceutical guy is probably still hailed as a hero. What? Me judge? 

Minoxidil is an antihypertensive vasodilator medication which also slows or stops hair loss and promotes hair regrowth.

Ooh ah, chemistry structure. 

Why is it that I can understand how this crosses the epidermis but I cannot understand how house plans will look as a house?

An Adverse Drug Event (ADE) is something that is dose independent and causes harm.  Wow, the definitions are wide open.

I went to the Veterans Administration (VA) website:   No clear definition  from their panel of experts

I went to the NIH:  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Blah Blah Blah ”  WTF? I stopped there.  These people had no intention of helping me get  a clear definition. 

 Wikipedia, that bastion of scientific rigor says:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_drug_reactions

An adverse drug reaction (abbreviated ADR) is an expression that describes harm associated with the use of given medications at a normal dosage during normal use. ADRs may occur following a single dose or prolonged administration of a drug or result from the combination of two or more drugs. The meaning of this expression differs from the meaning of “side effect“, as this last expression might also imply that the effects can be beneficial.[1] The study of ADRs is the concern of the field known as pharmacovigilanceNo shit.  Just what we need, splitting more ill-defined hairs.

An adverse drug event (abbreviated ADE) refers to any injury caused by the drug (at normal dosage and/or due to overdose) and any harm associated with the use of drug (e.g. discontinuation of drug therapy).[2] ADRs are a special type of ADEs.

  • Type A: Augmented pharmacologic effects – dose dependent and predictable
    • Intolerance: Severe decrease in red blood cells (RBCs) with ribavirin.  Decrease dose of ribavirin.
    • Side Effects. Immobilizing depression .  Anti-depression agents can help.

     My question to you and your doctor is “Why not start antidepressants in advance of hepatitis C therapy?”  I did the 2nd time around and I wasn’t on another planet every day.  Only sometimes.

  • Type B: Bizarre effects (or idiosyncratic) – dose independent and unpredictable.

Congratulations!  You are 1 in 100,000 whose teeth fall out.  It is a rare occurrence, 1 in 100,000.  But if you are the one, it is 1 in 1 (100%).  I apologize, I do not remember where I got this mask rendering.  Please don’t sue me.

  • Type C: Chronic effects: You keep taking that boy ,and you will go blind.
  • Type D: Delayed effects:  We didn’t realize that three weeks into treatment your butt hole would fail to shut.  Awkward!
  • Type E: End-of-treatment effects: Seriously, , Ribavirin stays in red blood cells (RBCs) for 6 months after treatment causing teratogenic effects (birth defects)  in non mammals.  Even if only the sire is taking the drug.
  • Type F: Failure of therapy The operation was a success but the patient died.
  • Type G: Genetic reactions OOPs,  you went deaf because you don’t have the enzyme to pee out that drug. Are your parents from Lapland?

My two favorite terms are Bizarre and Idiosyncratic. Bizarre we recognize. Sort of. Idiosyncratic means we have no effing clue. Idiosyncratic is more palatable than ” no effing clue”. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA to their friends) says An ADR should not be labeled as ‘certain’ unless the ADR abates with a challenge-dechallenge-rechallenge protocol (stopping and starting the drug). Now, I don’t know about you, but I am probably not going to volunteer to restart a drug that I had to stop because of  a bad experience.  At least not any more.

Both Interferon and Ribavirin warn about severe depression, suicide, homicide, and  crazy thinking.  I got the D and CT.  These are predictable SEs

  From the Interferon (Pegasys) package Insert

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2002/pegihof101602LB.htm#cont

BOXED WARNING 

 Alpha interferons, including PEGASYS, may cause or aggravate fatal or life-threatening neuropsychiatric, autoimmune, ischemic, and infectious disorders. Patients should be monitored closely with periodic clinical and laboratory evaluations. Patients with persistently severe or worsening signs or symptoms of these conditions should be withdrawn from therapy. In many, but not all cases, these disorders resolve after stopping PEGASYS therapy (see WARNINGS and ADVERSE REACTIONS).

Neuropsychiatric

Life-threatening neuropsychiatric reactions may manifest in patients receiving therapy with PEGASYS. Depression, suicidal ideation, and suicidal attempt may occur in patients with and without previous psychiatric illness.

PEGASYS should be used with extreme caution in patients who report a history of depression. Neuropsychiatric adverse events observed with alpha interferon treatment include relapse of drug addiction, drug overdose, aggressive behavior, psychoses, hallucinations, bipolar disorders and mania.   Almost all patients with hepatitis c have a history of depression.  It goes with the territory. 

ADVERSE REACTIONS

Nearly all patients in clinical trials experienced one or more adverse events. The most commonly reported adverse reactions were psychiatric reactions, including depression, irritability, anxiety, and flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, pyrexia, myalgia, headache and rigors. The most common reason for dose modification or withdrawal from studies was hematologic abnormalities.

Ribavirin  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribavirin  It is more difficult to get a straight package insert regarding Ribavirin as there are multiple manufacturers.  Of note, Ribavirin has shown teratogenicity in non mammals.  You will have to sign many forms to document that you grasp this.

 I am not the suicide type.  As a kid, I stumbled on my mom trying to kill herself.  Pills, cut wrists, head in gaseous oven.  I would call an ambulance then my Aunt Sudie.   Aunt Sudie kept  my brother and me during hospital stays.  I packed our school stuff in a  cardboard box and waited for her.  We stayed there till Mom promised the psych doctors that she’s better and wouldn’t try suicide again.  Back then you would whisper “She’s had a nervous breakdown”.  You don’t hear that anymore.

It was weird at Aunt Sudie’s house.  It was quiet , clean and ran on a schedule.  They had ice cream all the time  and a freezer that kept it frozen.   My cousins  Gary and Randy would have to room together so my brother  and I could have a bed.  I put every effort into making sure Tim and I were no trouble. Little Orphan Annie has come to our house to stay.  To wash the cups and saucers up and brush the crumbs away…  J W Riley.  This thinking came from me.  Aunt Sudie didn’t expect me to work for my keep.

 When my period  started, Randy’s dog , Lady, shredded my Kotex all over the dining room floor and they saw it.   I died quietly.  At home no one shredded my Kotex stuff.   No matter how bad it is at home, there are some plusses.

Back then there was no Valium or Prozac.  Only Thorazine.  Which Mom used to for suicide attempts. See a pattern?    Mom later found an alternative.  She began drinking with my dad.  I became grown up on duty (GOD) when I was about eleven.

Prometheus Shows The Liver Grows

Prometheus Bound demonstrates what we have known about liver regeneration since fire was first stolen

Peter Rubens, artist

As punishment for stealing fire, Prometheus was chained to a rock and every day a vulture/eagle came and ate his liver.  The liver grew back and was eaten again and again.  Prometheus was the son of Iapetus who was one of the Titans.  He stole the sacred fire from Zeus and the gods. In punishment, Zeus commanded that Prometheus be chained for eternity in the Caucasus. There, an eagle (or, according to other sources, a vulture) would eat his liver, and each day the liver would be renewed. So the punishment was endless, until Heracles finally killed the bird.   by Jonathan Vadakethu

The left lobe of the human liver grows rapidly.  That is why we can take part of one person’s liver and transplant it into person.  Both grow a liver.  So if that is true, why can’t a liver regenerate on its own after injury from hepatitis or cirrhosis?  Try to picture you skin healing after injury.  Now picture skin growth over the scar.  Scar tissue doesn’t grow because it is, well, scarred.  So injured livers do not regenerate.

If I regenerate my liver, do I regenerate my crazies? Not studied, but these guys from the University of Minnesota say volume of liver regeneration is ideal at 3 months for recipient and donor.  Left lobe may be best. 

I just summarized the below study for you in 2 sentences.  I can’t imagine the difficulty a patient without some medical knowledge has trying to make informed decisions about his/her own life. 

Liver Regeneration After Adult Living Donor and Deceased Donor Split-Liver TransplantsAbhinav Humar,1 Kambiz Kosari,1 Timothy D. Sielaff,1 Brooke Glessing,1Maria Gomes,2 Charles Dietz,2 Galia Rosen,2 John Lake,1 and William D. Payne1

As the number of living donor (LD) and deceased donor (DD) split-liver transplants (SLTs) have increased over the last 5 years, so too has the interest in liver regeneration after such partial-liver transplants. We looked at liver regeneration, as measured by computed tomography (CT) volumetrics, to see if there were significant differences among LDs, right-lobe LD recipients, and SLT recipients. We measured liver volume at 3 months postoperatively by using CT, and we compared the result to the patient’s ideal liver volume (ILV), which was calculated using a standard equation. The study group consisted of 70 adult patients who either had donated their right lobe for LD transplants (n _ 24) or had undergone a partial-liver transplant (right-lobe LD transplants, n _ 24; right-lobe SLTs, n _ 11; left-lobe SLTs, n _ 11). DD (vs. LDs) were younger (P < 0.01), were heavier (P _ 0.06), and had longer ischemic times (P < 0.01). At 3 months postoperatively, LDs had attained 78.6% of their ILV, less than the percentage for right-lobe LD recipients (103.9%; P _0.0002), right-lobe SLT recipients (113.6%; P _ 0.01), and left-lobe SLT recipients (119.7%; P_0.0006). When liver size at the third postoperative month was compared with the liver size immediately postoperatively, LDs had a 1.85-fold increase. This was smaller than the increase seen in right-lobe LD recipients (2.08-fold), right-lobe SLT recipients (2.17-fold), and left-lobe SLT recipients (2.52-fold). In conclusion, liver regeneration, as measured by CT volume, seems to be greatest in SLT recipients. LD recipients seem to have greater liver growth than their donors. The reason for this remains unclear. (LiverTranspl 2004;10:374 –378.And this is just the abstract.

The problem with following the literature and medical education is that you know how not good it is.