Feature image from TAMMYFARROW
Welcome to Tammy's Story
My name is Tammy Farrow. I am 32 and live in a small village near Bath, England. I married John, my partner of 10 years in July 2012 and we have 3 children, Johnnie, Marylou and Blossom. I am a stay at home mum, spending my days looking after the children and keeping the house organised (sort of).
I am a self-taught hand lettering artist and illustrator, and have just opened an ONLINE STORE to sell my creations – this is something I really enjoy and spend as much time doing as I can – I have found it especially therapeutic since I have been ill.
My ITP story starts in January 2015. I had been feeling a little under the weather since Christmas, all three children had had a cold/flu virus over Christmas and New Year but I hadn’t properly come down with it, I just felt a bit ‘off’. I remember praising my immune system for battling it off, little did I know…
By mid January I started to notice that I had bruises I couldn’t explain, two or three on my arms, and four or five good sized ones on my legs, then I had some huge mouth ulcers (which wasn’t that unusual for me if I had a virus) but accompanied by lots of dark red dots all over the inside of my mouth – this I had never had before. I assumed I had some kind of nasty mouth infection and made a doctors appointment.
The day before my doctors appointment I plucked up the energy to go for a run, I hadn’t run much since Christmas because I hadn’t felt 100% and I was feeling guilty. I’m not the world’s greatest runner, but I could make a 5k with relative ease, however on this day, I had to pause 3 times before reaching 1.5k. I knew something wasn’t right, I tried again to power on, then I started getting red flashes in front of my eyes as I was running. I decided to turn around and go home, I still managed to do walk/run intervals home though – I was determined not to give up entirely! I spent the rest of the day completely drained. I googled unexplained bruises for the first time. Big mistake.
At my doctors appointment the next day, I told him about my bruises and showed him my arms – he didn’t even ask to see my legs, he said we would need a blood test straight away. Alarm bells rang. I asked him if I needed to make an appointment with a nurse for this (standard practice at my surgery normally) but he said he would do it himself there and then and he would have the results back my late afternoon. Gigantic alarm bells rang. I spent the rest of the day in a minor panic, trying to resist further Googling of my symptoms.
My doctor called late afternoon as promised, this is when the real panic began. He explained that my platelet count was abnormal at a count of 23,000 and that I would need to go to the hospital as soon as I could. As I had no ‘wet bleeding’ it could wait until first thing in the morning. My doctor hand delivered a letter to me later that evening, to take with me to the hospital in the morning. We organised childcare for the next day and spent the night very worried and shocked, with no real idea what was going to happen next.
We went to the hospital the next day, I had lots of blood tests and answered what felt like a million questions. We spent most of the next week or so completely terrified, trying desperately to be optimistic and keep some kind of normality at home in between all the appointments and phone calls. One by one over the next few days and weeks we ruled out the more scary things we’d found during our google investigations – Leukemia, Lymphoma, Hepatitis, TTP, etc.
Then came my official diagnosis, Immune Thrombocytopenia.
We were relieved that it wasn’t something terminal, or something that required immediate emergency treatment. By this point, it was February and my platelets had crept up to 63,000 and dropped back down to 24,000. My doctors were happy to let me stay unmedicated as long as I didn’t drop below 20,000.
And so the weekly blood tests and constant monitoring began. Not for long though – within a few weeks a routine blood test showed that my platelets had dropped to 4,000.
I had brought the blood test forward a few days as I had been ill with a cold virus and had noticed bruising and petechiae. An on-call doctor called at 10pm that night to tell me how low my platelets were and that I needed urgent medical attention. Again, as I had no wet bleeding it could wait until the morning.
I went to my local hospital the next day and was given a high dosage of PREDNISOLONE – the thing I had been fearing since diagnosis. I had spent the previous 8 months losing over 2 stone in weight – the last thing I wanted was steroids. But in this instance, it was a case of health above vanity, and as the doctor reminded me, this was a medical emergency.
So, I have been living with learning how to accept this chronic illness into my life, trying not to hate it, watching for symptoms, reducing the steroids, deciding on second line treatment, trying to live a normal life when everything seems to be different now somehow.
We constantly analyse any change in my platelet count, but never seem to find any pattern – it is wise to expect the unexpected we have found, and yet we continue to analyse.
Stress and fatigue plague me. I can’t work out if that is the ITP itself or the reducing steroid therapy – time will tell I guess. I seem to use all of my energy trying not to be angry with everything and continuing to function as a useful human. By the evening, I am exhausted. I worry that my family suffer as I know I am not the wife and mother I was before all this began.
John is my constant support and reassurance that I am not completely unbearable. I think he is an excellent and endearing liar.
I try to exercise often, I don’t run as often as I used to – my joints ache from the steroids. I have taken to trail running more now the summer is here as it is softer under foot and less impact on my joints. I watch what I eat as much as I can, lots of nutrient rich foods and no alcohol. I gave up smoking years ago.
I sleep okay (as well as my children allow) I am still a light sleeper, but I find mornings hard. I wake up very tired and grumpy most of the time which is not a nice way for any of us to start the day. I do feel now I have recognised it, I can snap out of it quicker.
My mood can change from one minute to the next, which is hard to live with. I have always been very level headed, so being moody and overly emotional is alien to me. I am forgetful and scatterbrained which is also new to me – I’m learning to live with it.
I wear a MEDICAL ALERT bracelet. It makes me feel safer, especially as I am responsible for children. I feel it is my responsibility to be as safe as I can be.
I am still new to ITP and still learning how to live with it. I haven’t fully accepted it into my life yet. I’m not sure I ever will. I am slowly accepting that it affects everything and won’t be ignored. I’m not sure how I will ever get used to that.
Socialising is hard, I don’t drink anymore which is one factor, but especially at the moment as I reduce the steroids and cortisol is lacking, I find social situations difficult, I’d like to hide under the duvet most days.
But life goes on, my children and my family keep me going – my family and friends are amazing support and I am very lucky to live in a country with a fantastic national health service who are looking after me excellently.
I am hopeful for the future, I hope that this illness will take a back seat once we have learned how to cope with it properly. I hope that my children grow up understanding that Mummy has ‘silly blood’ but don’t grow up remembering Mummy being ill. I hope that ITP helps me to continue looking at the world through the eyes of someone who doesn’t take anything for granted.
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