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Young Australian of the Year state finalist!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted but I have some exciting news – I’m a state finalist for the Young Australian of the Year Awards!

I’m excited and honoured to be nominated amongst so many inspiring people. And looking forward to the presentation wed night.

It is great to see the YesToKalydeco campaign acknowledged after hours, months, and years of campaigning to see Kalydeco listed on the PBS. Special mention needs to go to Faye as well.

Thanks to the people that nominated me and thanks everyone for all the comments on my facebook recently. My facebook went absolutely crazy! It’s been a difficult year health wise and it’s been hard to keep in touch with friends, so it’s been great to hear from so many people. I really appreciate the support, all of the nice comments mean so much more to me than the award itself.

I am gradually getting better (from my blocked blood vessel above my heart) and I’m extremely lucky that I was on Kalydeco over the last year or so. As exercise and physio have been very difficult, Kalydeco is the only thing that has kept my lungs well and out of hospital. Without Kalydeco I feel like I would have been very close to needing a transplant by now.

I haven’t had the energy to post on my research blog (sorry if you are a subscriber!), although I’ve still been posting on facebook (and I’ve been busy starting WeNeedOrkambi), but I’m hoping to get back to blogging soon. I’ll keep posting updates here as well, although since January I haven’t had lung function numbers or much to post about! The only new thing has been my sweat test results this year – 47 and 46 – exciting to see Kalydeco continue to keep me below the CF diagnosis point for 3 years now!

Australian of the Year Website Biography

The Australian News Article

Advertiser Article 27 Oct 2015

Messenger Article 4 Nov 2015

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Amazingly stable after 2.5 years of Kalydeco!!

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I am having another procedure for my obstructed blood vessel tomorrow, but thought I would write about how everything is going with kalydeco in the meantime.

In december kalydeco was finally listed on the PBS in Australia!!! This means I suddenly had much more free time, I didn’t know what to do with myself!! I’m joking, but it is nice to have the 10-15 hours per week back, and with the way my health has been it would have been hard to do much anyway.

As a result of the PBS listing I had another sweat test, which was 44 ­čÖé
Before kalydeco it was 102, at 1 month it was 54 and at 7 months it was 40.

Despite my other recent health issues my lungs have been amazingly stable, with an FEV1 of 68% at my last appointment. It really is my magic blue pill!!

My bone density is normal and has actually increased slightly over the last few years, my liver and kidneys are normal and my diabetes is diet controlled as my sugar levels have improved over the last year (healthier carbs, smaller meals, alpha lipoic acid with large meals). One of my vitamin levels is high (vit E – 49 umol/L) and the other two vitamin levels are normal (vit D – 90nmol/L, vit A – 2.1 umol/L). My doctor decided to halve my vitabdeck dose and it is possible that my levels may be ok with no vitamins.

My current CF treatments include pulmozyme, occasional ventolin, creon forte, a reflux medication, azithromycin, a vitamin & kalydeco. I have taken cipro occasionally and had IVs twice in the last 2.5 years, one time for my sinuses (which turned out to be the blocked blood vessel) and the other time was after south america / to maximise my health on kalydeco. This means I have not needed any IVs due to being unwell since being on kalydeco, compared to needing 3-4 admissions per year for the last 20 years. I have also not needed other nebulisers or chest physio since being on kalydeco, saving hours of time each day. I cough occasionally but seem to be clearing my lungs on my own without treatments.

This is my very exciting lung function graph showing how stable I have been for the first time in my life:

FEV1 Feb 2015

The small drop in 2013 was from my south america trip and the slightly lower numbers in 2014 were most likely affected by my inability to exercise and also to blow lung function tests properly. The peak in June 2014 was following IVs.

My weight dropped with the vein issue but I have plateaued now:

Weight Feb 2015

I will update soon hopefully with good news following the procedure.

16 December Update

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I meant to update much sooner but the headaches made this difficult. Thanks to everyone who has sent me messages over the last month or so, sorry if I have not replied, I do appreciate all the supportive comments ­čÖé

Following my last update I had a CT and MRI of my head which showed that there wasn’t something else causing my headaches. I was discharged from emergency with pain relief and a plan to continue Warfarin (blood thinner) for 3 months.

I also found out that there was a clotting disorder in the family, and I was tested for these, and it turns out I have a Factor V Leiden mutation (5% of people have this). This means I am 8 times more likely than normal to have a clot. In combination with the pill (which increases the chance of a clot by 3-4 times) this means I am 35 times more likely to have a clot. I have now stopped the pill as the risk is too high, especially with things like picc lines or port tubing in my veins.

I have now been on blood thinners for 7 weeks and I think the headaches are about the same. There are good days and bad days so it is hard to say exactly but I still need panadeine forte daily. Some days I need endone when the headaches are particularly bad. The other neurological symptoms have improved (difficulty thinking/focussing, difficulty with short term memory) but I still notice these daily. I still feel a very strong pressure/discomfort with bending over, this has not improved if anything I think it is worse now.

Overall this means I have basically been lying in bed or sitting in bed most of the day, with brief activity but I have not been able to do anything useful like uni work.

It was hoped that I would have improved more by now (just over 1/2 way through the 3 months of planned Warfarin), so I am having balloon dilatation of my superior vena cava tomorrow. It is thought that there may be a clot in a stenotic/narrowed area of my SVC. The balloon dilatation will hopefully widen this so blood can flow through again to my heart. Several of these procedures may be needed and I may still need blood thinners. I am currently in hospital waiting for the procedure tomorrow so I will try harder to update sooner than last time!

I have added some photos below showing my puffy face since April:

July      September

The swelling varies a little, sometimes it has been mostly my eyes, sometimes my whole face, sometimes my neck.

January

This is what I normally look like, taken January this year.

4 November Update

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Sorry to those who have sent messages that I haven’t answered, I’ve been on strong pain relief over the last week.

The infusaport removal went well, following this the angiogram showed nothing had changed and that the vein (superior vena cava or SVC) is still completely blocked.

I have had problems with severe dizziness, headaches, difficulty focussing/thinking and difficulty with my short term memory over the last week, which I believe is related to an increase in intracranial pressure (from the vein blockage). I have mentioned these symptoms to my doctor and they are hopeful that the warfarin will soon help if there is a clot in the narrow SVC. Overall my symptoms have not improved since before I had the infusaport removed.

I have been very reliant on pain relief and frustratingly have now run out of the stronger meds (confusion since last week with faxing scripts to my pharmacy that appear to have gone missing). Wasn’t able to get an appointment with my GP and tried to organise seeing another GP but the wait was over an hour and I didn’t have the ability to wait in a chair that long.

Whilst I am expressing my frustration I’ll also add that it is frustrating that I’ve had this blockage since April but it was missed, with doctors not thinking about other options, and I believe not taking what I was saying seriously (in terms of the significant effect on daily activities/worsening symptoms and me questioning whether it was dental/sinuses). I am very grateful that it was finally picked up.

My parents were quite concerned so am now in emergency waiting to see someone, to try to get stronger pain relief and also to get a head CT and neurological consult.

Will update soon.

 

Below is the angiogram from last week, the blockage is just below the black area. It should flow straight down and into my heart, and instead is going around via the vein behind.

Angiogram

Just a few minor health issues…

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I’ve been trying to do this blog post for a few days but my health has been making it hard. The last post took me even longer, even though I was mostly copying ­čÖé

Since March I have been having ongoing health issues. It started with needing many teeth fillings, and then a root canal. I had cheek swelling near that tooth. At the end of April I started feeling a pressure behind my eyes/cheeks, along with swelling around my eyes, which the doctors thought was sinusitis related to the tooth infection. I had various oral antibiotics, and then steroids, and then IVs, everything helped a little but nothing fixed the problem.

From June I noticed that this swelling and pressure was worse with exercise like tennis or skiing or movements like bending over. I would have good days and then without realising it would do something that meant the swelling and pressure became worse. From late August I started getting headaches as well and there were less good days.

By the end of September I had seen 7 medical professionals – CF doctors, ENT doctors, an endodontist and a dentist. Both the dentist and endodontist did not think my teeth were contributing to the current situation. At clinic they still thought it was related to my teeth and sinuses though, despite what the dentists thought & my emphasis on the severe impact this was having on my ability to do anything and how it was getting worse.

By October I had swelling (worse in AM), head pressure and headaches daily, with codeine needed on most days. I was not able to attend university or really do that much at all. I often felt like I had a concussion – hard to think/focus, headache, head pressure and tired.

I spoke to another CF doctor who suggested it may not be sinuses and it was worth doing tests to see if there was a blockage at the end of my infusaport. I googled this – Superior Vena Cava Syndrome – and found that I had pretty much every symptom listed there, and no symptoms that weren’t listed. I was booked in for an angiogram, to see if there was any narrowing of my SVC.

The angiogram was very conclusive – my SVC is completely blocked. This is how blood from the upper half of the body, including the arms and head, drains into the heart. This blood is instead travelling by a different vein (azygos) down to my abdomen, and then back up through the inferior vena cava to the heart. Basically doing a loop via my stomach bypassing the blockage. It is why I have a back up of fluid in my face (swelling around eyes, neck, face), head pressure/headaches/difficulty thinking (cerebral edema) and fatigue. It is also why lying flat, bending over and any exercise has a sudden increase in head pressure often leading to an increase in headache.

The fatigue is different to what I have experienced with CF & lung infections. I often feel suddenly tired, and I can’t push through it, the only option is to lie down and rest. It makes sense to me now, I am used to being able to push through being tired, but it just hasn’t been possible. There is only so much the cardiovascular system can do if there is back up of fluid in the top half of the body.

I am shocked and amazed to see that such a major vein is completely blocked, and yet the body has found a way around this. The doctors think that my infusaport tubing became tethered to the side of the vein, potentially due to it moving up and down slightly, leading to my SVC becoming narrow / collapsing, possibly with a clot. The infusaport still flushes normally, but has always been temperamental in terms of taking blood.

It seems likely that the dental issues did cause some swelling in March/April, and then around the same time swelling from my narrow SVC also started. Having two issues at the same time meant that the second one wasn’t picked up for a while, and means I have had this issue since at least April. I have had the infusaport since June 2012, so it is possible it has been developing for a while.

I am having the infusaport out today, and will be on blood thinners for 3 months. If there is a clot it is hoped this will allow the vein to return to normal, otherwise surgical options may be needed. I am hopeful that removing the infusaport as well as the blood thinners will help my symptoms soon, but aware it may take a while.

I will post again soon, hopefully with good news ­čÖé

 

The picture on the right is what I have:

SVC Syndrome

More information, if anyone wants to read about SVC syndrome: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001097.htm

1000 magic blue pills

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Decided to update my blog after 6 months of neglect!

Since I last blogged I have been skiing, 4wdriving, finished uni placements and exams, visited Kangaroo Island, went to the Australian Open tennis & have been quite involved with the Kalydeco campaign in Australia. I was also interviewed by a TV program about the current delay regarding Kalydeco availability in Australia: 730 Report Story

Last September I also had my first IVs on Kalydeco. We decided that after 1 year of Kalydeco, given that I used to have IVs every 3-4 months, that it made sense to use IVs to get my lungs in the best shape possible. I had also dropped very slightly to 66% after visiting South America.

After two weeks I was at 69% and my cough had decreased significantly (less sputum, lighter green, thinner). I didn’t feel that different, but my varying energy levels are more related to CF diabetes.

In September I also started taking insulin (fast acting with meals high in carbohydrate), however I have had numerous issues with what may be an allergy to the insulin. It has been quite painful to inject, we are still working on this, and potentially may try tablets (although generally tablets are not the preferred CF treatment option). When I have injected insulin it has worked well; my energy levels improve significantly and I feel less tired after eating. 

I have also had ongoing issues with reflux and possibly gastritis recently. Always fun waking up at 4am with a stabbing pain in your stomach!

So overall the lungs are going amazingy well, still stable after almost 1.5 years of Kalydeco. I find it hard to believe (as it is just so different to before) how little my lung function varies, mostly staying betwen 69-70. I have never been this stable, especially with no physiotherapy and minimal medications. However, I am having reasonable issues with the diabetes in particular, but it is not surprising given that I am 28. Hopefully this will improve soon.

Photos from my ski trip last September at Perisher:

Perisher Skiing

Keith and I on the chairlift

Perisher Chairlift

Updated graphs:

FEV1 Feb 2014

Weight Kalydeco Feb 2014

Updated Information about Kalydeco and Future Medications

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I’ve been updating the information on the pages Kalydeco with Other Mutations and Future Medications as new information/trials have been announced.

Latest News: A company called N30 has just started a phase 1b/2a trial with CFs who have 2 copies of F508del. They are trialling a compound called N6022, which is anti-inflammatory and a CFTR corrector.