I’ve been monitoring my whole house power consumption for some time using a currentcost meter, connected up to my home server. However, I’ve been meaning for a while now to pick up a meter for measuring the power consumption of individual devices to help me fine tune my power consumption. This week my local Aldi were running a special offer of a (fairly sophisticated) meter for £8. Turns out that it can measure voltage, current, mains frequency, power consumption, and power correction factor, which indicates how efficient a device is. Since then I’ve been wandering around the house measuring things, trying to work out what we leave running all the time that we actually need to turn off.

So far I have been unable to find a single “wall wart” adaptor that uses *any* measurable power when idle, despite the media talking about how we should all go around and disconnect them all. Things like my powered speakers for my laptop however, draw 10w all the time. Ooops.

And while I was in Aldi I also picked up one of these blood pressure monitors too. I wasn’t sure how accurate it would be, but on trying it out, it seems to give approximately the same readings that I’ve seen the nurses record during my hospital visits. So it may well be surprisingly accurate.

However, my view is that I’m less interested in the actual readings, and more interested in any marked changes in the readings; because if I see any significant increase or decrease then I’ll be needing to go visit my GP anyway.

Initial impressions of cycle five

Since I had my blood tests done on Monday (all very good, according to my oncologist) I was able to start the IV almost as soon as I arrived at the hospital. I had a cannula fitted in the back of my left hand by the same doctor who fitted the cannula last time – Martin, from South Africa.

One interesting piece of information obtained from the nurse who did my observations; my blood pressure was 105/58, resting heart rate of 70bpm, and oxygenation of 98%. Which although still in the “normal” range, is right at the very bottom of that range, and fairly low for someone of my age. I do wonder if it might be time to consider talking to my GP’s about my blood pressure medications again, and whether or not I still actually need them, as I’d rather not be taking medicines unnecessarily. My temperature was also a touch high – 37.3C, when my norm is around 36.4C. Given that I’ve been snuffling into tissues for the last couple of days this is probably to be expected. In any case, it wasn’t enough to cause them to delay my treatment – which was good.

The infusion went very well, taking a little over 3 hours, though we didn’t get the flow-rate quite right on the glucose “piggy-back” bag, so the chemotherapy medicines were more concentrated than the last time. The ward was also very busy, so I wasn’t able to keep the heat packs on my arm as much as normal. The combined result of this is that the sensitivity and pain in the arm is much worse than the last few cycles, though nowhere near as bad as the first cycle. Hopefully it will fade over the next couple of days.

I do wonder why they can’t just make up a more dilute solution for me. The solution is always 260mg of oxaliplatin in 500ml of glucose solution, which is then piggy-backed with another 500ml of glucose solution. So why not simply make up 260mg of oxaliplatin in 1000ml of glucose, and avoid all the messing around with secondary lines, matching flow rates by guesswork etc etc? Most strange, and probably one to mention to my oncologist next time I meet him.

Side effects are as per the previous cycles, with the tiredness significantly worse than cycle 4. I had to go straight to bed when I got home as I could barely stay on my feet. Apparently I looked as white as a sheet. A couple of hours sleep had me back on my feet again, though still feeling very weak and tired.

Otherwise, I’m still seeing all the main cumulative side-effects. The hiccoughs are relatively minor so far, with no major attacks so far. The peripheral neuropathy is definitely present, but so far doesn’t seem as bad as cycle 4 – which is positive if it stays that way.

Pressure? What pressure?

Before my latest set of health issues, I was diagnosed with hypertension, or high blood pressure. Click on the Tag List to the right to see earlier posts relating to that. The bottom line was that it was due to my lack of exercise, excess body weight, and rather stressful work life.

My efforts to increase my exercise and reduce my weight met with limited success. The stressful work life was (and probably always will be) largely out of my control, especially given the ever-increasing pace of business. And so I was put on a regime of drugs known as ACE inhibitors, which relax the blood vessels, allowing my blood pressure to fall, reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems.

However, since I went into hospital for my cancer surgery, I’ve lost some 15Kgs. I’m certainly not doing any more exercise (less if I’m brutally honest) and my stress levels are definitely no lower. And yet my blood pressure (as measured the last couple of times I’ve been into hospital) is pretty stable at 115/75, despite the fact that on each occasion I’ve been about to go through another round of chemotherapy, and hence been fairly stressed. Given the situation, that looks pretty low to me.

So, the question is, if I can increase my exercise levels and maintain or even further reduce my weight, can I get to the point where I can either reduce or remove the need for drugs to keep my blood pressure down? For me, that would be a real win; I’d probably still need to regularly monitor my blood pressure and take prophylactic Aspirin, but removing the perindopril erbumine and it’s associated side effects is rather attractive.

Probably worth discussing with my oncologist at our next meeting, and then my GP at my next regular check-up, which I was amusingly told to arrange for sometime around the Wimbledon fortnight – ie pretty much now!

New toy!

After several weeks waiting, my new toy finally arrived today. I’m now the proud owner of a Marin Bobcat Trail mountain bike. It’s really comfortable, and fabulously engineered. Now all I need is for it to stop raining long enough to let me get out on it (I know – I’m a mere fair-weather cyclist!)

Oh, and I broke a tooth today. Darn it.

Life the universe and everything …

Well, another 6 weeks seem to have flown by in a haze of work and personal commitments, and I’ve been struggling to regularly get down to the gym. This is something that really ought to be a lot more important to me. I must try harder to actually leave work early on the two nights during the working week when I need to get down the gym.

And the passing of 6 weeks means another doctors appointment. Though this time they decided that they didn’t need to draw yet more blood, which at least spared me the embarrassment of fainting again! So, in to see the doctor, and we do the usual pre-blood-pressure-check pleasantries, and ask after families, and joke about the weather. And then she gets the cuff and stethoscope out. And I am now officially 120/80 … which is exactly what they wanted me to be. The only problem is that I’m still experiencing a series of side-effects, which between them are not much fun. However, the doctor is so pleased with the BP reduction that she wants me to put up with those for the next 6 months to see if my body adapts to them. If I don’t then it will be a new regime of drugs, and start again from square one, which neither of us are very keen on.

So, I’m now on a stabilization programme, and don’t need to go back for 6 months; though to compensate for that, they’ll want another armful of blood when I do …

And the title? Well, it was my birthday this weekend. You can work out the details yourselves 🙂

Health check

Since my last post about my treatment for hypertension I’ve been through another round of progress checks.

The week before Easter I had another blood test, and an appointment with the doctor to discuss the results, and see how my BP was doing. I took my wife with me again, but this time she stayed outside while I had the blood drawn. This nurse was excellent, so much so that I barely noticed as she drew the blood. I came out feeling a million dollars, having managed to not even feel slightly queasy. At last, it looked like I was over the problems with the blood and needles.

The doctors appointment was good news too; my BP has dropped to around 140/70, which is much better, with no signs of any adverse reaction in my liver or kidneys. However, it turns out that this is not good enough, so my doctor has doubled the dose of the ACE inhibitors, which ought to bring my BP down even lower. The only issue seems to be that on the original dose I wasn’t experiencing any side effects from the ACE inhibitors. Now (unfortunately) I’m back into the problems of dealing with a raft of side-effects again. I’m starting to appreciate why there are people who choose not to take the medication, and put up with the risks of having high BP instead.

And this week I had my next blood test, in readiness for my next meeting with my doctor. After my last success I decided to go on my own, rather that waste my wifes time. Which was BIG mistake. Massive. I got there, handed over my forms, and was ushered straight through to the nurses. They drew the blood, and the last thing I remember after that was that the room seemed to be overly hot. Then I found the world going very bright and sparkly, and then I remember nothing more until I came around (horizontally) on one of the treatment chairs. “Oooops”. Still, the nurses were very kind about it, and kept telling me how commonplace it is for people to faint at the sight of blood or needles. Which was nice of them, but didn’t make me feel any better about it.

If at first you don’t succeed … try some new drugs!

Well, bad news, and more bad news.

I went back to the doctors to see how I was doing.  This was 4 months of exercise, a major change of diet, some weight loss, and 6 weeks of medication.  And the result is … nothing.  My blood pressure is exactly where it was before.  Absolutely no change.  Still far too high.  Worse, I’ve been putting up with a medley of unpleasant drug-induced side-effects for the last 6 weeks too. All for nothing.

So now we (!) apparently switch to another set of drugs to see if they work better.  Oh good – trial and error.  Marvellous.  And these ones require that the dose be increased incrementally, until either they work, or my liver and kidneys start to suffer. To make sure that doesn’t happen they need me to take regular blood tests every couple of weeks.  It just gets better and better!

I’m starting to realise that medicine involves a lot less science than I ever imagined …

2 weeks progress

Still suffering from side-effects from the medicines I’m on. Some of them are fading, which is good, though sadly, some are not – which is less good. Unless I get a dramatic improvement on a couple of fronts within the next week or two I’ll be needing a change of prescription, as a couple of them are just not compatible with my lifestyle in the long term.

However, I have at least managed to force myself to get down the gym again, which was good. Didn’t manage to do my full workout, but I did burn my way though about 600 kcals in the 90mins I was there, which wasn’t too bad. Interestingly, my knees were aching at the end, which probably indicates that I was nearing my limit anyway.

I also came to my self-imposed fortnightly weigh-in, which I do down the gym on their professional scales. The good news is that despite doing almost no exercise, I’ve still managed to lose 4Kg (9lbs) in the last 2 weeks. So the new healthier eating regime (I hesitate to call it a diet) seems to be helping … which has to be good. Only 40lbs to go … which is not so good (or at least, its pretty daunting).  Still, I put it all on, only I can take it off again!

You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland …

I’ve been meaning to write an update on my blood pressure for the last week, but life has been conspiring against me.  Anyway, better late than never.  Not that there’s much to tell really. I went to see the doctor, who basically went through my results with me, and prescribed 20mg Simvastatin (which is a generic statin, to reduce my cholesterol levels) and 5mg Amlodipine besilate (which is a calcium channel blocker, to reduce my blood pressure).

Interestingly the doctor did hold out some hope that I’ll be able to come off the Amlodipine besilate in the future, though this will depend on me being able to lose a lot of weight, do more exercise, and start eating a lot more healthily (less salt and saturated fats).  There is also a question over how much my work-related stress is contributing to this – so earning money by doing something less stressful might be a wise (if impractical) move.  I basically need to think a lot more about what I’m doing, and what the consequences are.  

Its apparently a lot less likely that I’ll be able to come off the statins – I’m probably on them for life now.  Interesting comment from the doctor was that high cholesterol is now so endemic in the western world that its reaching the stage where a majority of adults would benefit from statins.  Turns out that you can even buy Simvastatin over the counter now, without a prescription.

Apparently there will be some side effects while I adapt to the medicines, and some that may be with me longer term.  There is a list of the possible side-effects on the instructions that are as long as my arm (including some very scary ones). So far I’ve had muscle aches and sleepiness (the Amlodipine besilate), insomnia (Simvastatin) and fatigue (both of them). Which is manageable, but not much fun.  Needless to say, with those side-effects my routine of trying to get down the gym 3 times a week has suffered … I made it once, and didn’t even manage to finish my normal routine.  The effects do seem to be slowly fading away, so hopefully things will settle down in another week or so.


Well, yesterday I was hooked up for my 24 hour (ambulatory) blood pressure monitoring.  What they use looks like a standard blood pressure cuff, with a small box attached to it by a long stretch of rubber tubing. The box houses a small pump and some electronics to do the data logging. It’s powered by 3xAA batteries. The nurse strapped the cuff around my left bicep, and routed the tubing up to the back of my neck, holding it in place with some adhesive tape. The box then went in a pouch on a belt, with the tubing being routed from my neck to the box.

The system is designed to take your blood pressure automatically every 30 minutes through the day, and every hour during the night (midnight to 7am).  In my case this turned out to be a fairly painful process, because the box clearly doesn’t seem to appreciate its own strength. And this thing has a grip like a vice — a big engineering vice. After the first hour or two I was starting to watch the clock, and bracing myself in readiness for the next instalment … which of course doesn’t help, because when you’re tense, it has to constrict the cuff more to overcome the tensed muscles. This went on through the evening without too many problems, but trying to sleep with this thing was no fun – for me or my wife. Every hour it would burst into life, and start noisily pumping air into the cuff. Which would wake my wife. Then, a few seconds later, as the cuff started to bite, I would wake up too. 

We didn’t sleep much last night.

Somehow I made it through work today with this thing biting me every 30 minutes or so, though by lunchtime I was in a pretty bad mood. Apologies to anyone from work who might happen to ever read this. So it was with considerable relief that at 5pm this evening I went back to the doctors, and had it removed and the data extracted from it. I’ve an appointment with the doctor to discuss the results in about a week, so all I have at the moment is the summary from the practice nurse, who was good enough to let me see the data, and showed me my blood test results (and helped interpret them!) too. Although I’m no expert its clear that there are some mixed messages in there.

The blood work was generally pretty good. My liver and kidney function is fine, and I’m not diabetic. My cholesterol balance is good in terms of the proportions (plenty of good cholesterol, not too much bad cholesterol) but the overall amount is elevated, at 6.84. Apparently the figure they aim for is 5.00, though they’ll give you a bit more leeway if you’re otherwise healthy.  My high blood pressure means I don’t get any leeway, so I can see my diet becoming more restricted by the minute. 

The blood pressure monitoring was less good. My average waking BP was 163/113, which is well up on previous measurements. But my sleeping BP is actually very good, and almost normal at 129/82.  The nurse hadn’t seen such a wide variance between waking and sleeping measurements before. My 24 hour average is 151/94 … which is possibly a little better than my previous measurements. So, I guess I’ll have to wait to see how the doctor interprets it, but at the moment I figure I need to lose some weight, lower my cholesterol, and (I suspect) see what I can do to lower my stress levels at work.

So that’s going to be easy then …