Friday, February 24, 2012

Prolactinoma

For those of you who don't know (and I'm guessing that would be...most of you), I have a small benign tumor on my pituitary gland.  The pituitary gland is located in the brain, just behind the eyes, so if I want to be sensational I could say I have a brain tumor.  It's not a huge hairy deal, though: it's not going to kill me and is easily treatable. 

It is unclear whether the tumor itself produces prolactin or if the tumor causes the pituitary gland to produce prolactin, but the result is more prolactin running around in my bloodstream.  Just like it sounds, prolactin is a hormone that aids in milk production, and since I won't have any more babies to feed, I really don't need extra prolactin.  If you'd like a little more information about my type of tumor, University of Michigan has a good overview.

Since its discovery in August of 2006, I have been on medication to shrink the tumor, or at least inhibit its growth, for a total of about a year and a half.  When I was on a lower dose, I felt terrific--the best I had in years--all that dopamine bouncing around in my head.  When I was on a higher dose, which really wasn't all that high in the grand scheme of things, I felt like I was going to die.

Regardless of side effects, I hated being on a daily medication.  Every day, when I put that pill into my mouth, I was reminded that there was something wrong with me.  Something that I couldn't see or feel; something no one could tell by looking at me.  The rest of the time, especially when I was on a lower dose and felt great, I could almost forget about the tumor, but every time I opened our medicine cabinet, there was the prescription bottle, front and center, testifying to the foreign invader in my body. 

It's unsettling, to feel fine, but know that something is wrong with you.  It makes you wonder what else might be lurking in your body, ready, at any moment, to pounce, stealing your health away with no warning.  It is a harsh reminder of our human fragility and the random cruelty of this mortal life. 

I've been off the medication now for almost 3 years, but lately there have been signs that the tumor has been growing again.  A recent blood test showed an elevated prolactin level, which means it's time to take its picture again, see what it's been up to.  I hate this.  I hate this thing that has taken up residence in my brain, over which I have absolutely no control.

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