Doug M.

Doug M.

Doug’s Story

My life began in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1942. Our family moved around New Brunswick quite often since my father worked in heavy construction. We eventually moved to Amherst, Nova Scotia, in the latter part of 1957 where our family finally settled down. I spent much of my career in police work as a Forensic Specialist. As a result of my career, the moving on my part continued; first to basic training in Regina, Saskatchewan, then back to New Brunswick, followed a few years later with a move to Ottawa, Ontario. From Ottawa, my family moved to Sydney, Nova Scotia, then to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Two years later, we moved to Bathurst, New Brunswick, and finally to Truro, Nova Scotia, where I eventually retired.

I have three adult children from my first marriage along with three wonderful grandchildren. I am married to my second wife. At present, I live in the rural farming community of Masstown, Nova Scotia, which is about 10 miles west of the Town of Truro and about an hour drive north of Halifax.

My “journey” towards the eventual acromegaly diagnosis was long and discouraging at times. Trying to come to terms with any health issues I encountered was always trying for me. I was constantly conscious of my health, and in that light, I took care of my body as best I could by being involved in active sports, as well as frequent running. I have never been a “junk” food eater, always being conscious of my weight. I am 6’2″ weighing in at around 210 lbs. Problems with my health began when I was 21 years old. For no apparent reason, and without warning, while doing such a minor move as reaching for a car door, I experienced the most severe pain in the lumbar region of my back. So severe I fell to the ground on my knees, barely being able to get up. This problem has followed me throughout my life. However, while living in Ottawa, as a result of constant debilitating pain, I was hospitalized. As a result, after many blood tests, X-rays, etc. I was diagnosed with having ankylosing spondylitis, also known as spinal arthritis. So I became very familiar with hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc. I continued to run, be very active, and treated this health problem as an adversary that I was determined to conquer and win. So the “journey” over the years was not easy.

During the latter years of police work, I noticed that there were days when I was quite fatigued but didn’t give much consideration to it, believing I was just tired. In the years following retirement, a number of health problems plagued me. Problems such as hypertension, sleep issues, vision problems, excessive sweating, and oily skin—all the classic symptoms of acromegaly. As a result, I was referred to many clinics, specialists, tests, etc., etc. One symptom that really “got to me” was the fact that regardless of the time of the year and temperature, I was forever cold. It was impossible for me to get warm. As I described it to my doctors—it was like a “core” cold and it was extremely uncomfortable. Many times I would be out in the hot sun wearing a jacket and sweatshirt and still not being warm. So for many years, as I mentioned, I was constantly in and out of doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, etc., etc. and here’s the “crunch,” not one of these folks, including dentists, recognized the symptoms of acromegaly. A number of years before I was actually diagnosed with acromegaly, the visible symptoms began to appear: swelling of my hands, feet and ankles, and the enlargement of my facial features, (i.e., nose, lips, and protruding chin). Other symptoms included thickening of the tongue to the point where it was difficult for me to talk or even to “think straight.” At one point, I lost considerable vision and as result, was again referred to an ophthalmologist who did not recognize the symptoms of acromegaly. I was beginning to have difficulty breathing, and as such, any sort of quality sleep was not there. As time passed and my health problems increased to the point where I felt there was no hope of returning to a healthy life, I found that I was becoming depressed and wanted to give up. It got to the point where I was not able to look at myself in the mirror. I was so distraught with what I saw, I was better off not looking at all. Strangely enough, for whatever reason, my family and friends did not say a thing about the changes in my appearance. Of course not being able to get quality sleep just compounded my problems.

I visited my family doctor on many occasions, and without him, I’m not so sure where I might be today. During one of my visits to him, at a time when I was very distraught, he referred me to “The Sleep MD”; an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Upon entering the specialist’s office, he immediately made a remark about the size of my hands, which I thought a bit odd. I had no idea what was about to take place. After a brief talk and a quick examination by the doctor, he advised me that he was going to refer me to an endocrinologist. He did not tell me what he suspected was the problem. Very shortly thereafter, I met with the endocrinologist who, after he did his examination, advised me that, although he was not a betting man, he was quite sure I had acromegaly. It was the first time I had ever heard that word, and I had no idea what it was all about. After a brief talk with the endocrinologist, I was well aware of the situation. I met with the clinic nurse who gave me an appointment to have some blood work done. She explained the whole procedure and process to me, and what they were looking for. No time passed before I was back in the clinic having the blood work done, which took slightly more than two hours. After having to drink an orange coloured, extremely sweet drink, the blood work began. Every half an hour the nurse would draw a vial of blood. Following the first drawn vial, she told me she had good news—”you don’t have diabetes.” Well THAT was good news since individuals with acromegaly often have diabetes as well. When we were finished, she advised me that she would be in touch with me in the next day or so to give me the results. As it turned out, I was diagnosed with acromegaly.

My initial reaction was mixed. I was relieved that we finally got to the bottom of my health problems, yet on the other hand, I was nervous and apprehensive of the road ahead of me. Shortly thereafter, I had MRIs of the brain area around my pituitary gland to locate and determine the size of the tumour. There was very little waiting once the diagnosis was made. After the results of the blood work and the MRIs, I met with an endocrinologist, neurosurgeon, along with nurses from both disciplines. At this point, I not only felt, but also knew that I was most fortunate to have such a wonderful, competent and conscientious team looking after me. I felt so blessed. Within a short time later, I was in the operating room, again with a wonderful group of people who made me feel special. Following recovery, I was transferred to a “step down” unit for close observation, which as I understand is routine. The day after my surgery, the surgeon came in to visit me and remove the “packing” that was inserted in both nasal passages immediately after the surgery. There was some drainage afterwards, but nothing significant. After being in the hospital for about four days, I received permission to go home. I was advised not to bend, not to strain myself, and not to lift anything heavy. My recovery went extremely well. Annually, since my surgery, I go to the endocrinology clinic for blood work and to have an MRI. The tumour was completely removed and with the most recent MRI, there is no sign of a tumour. I feel that I am one of the fortunate ones who have been diagnosed with acromegaly and that the only medication I take is a testosterone replacement therapy. Of course there are pluses connected to all this, one being that, except for the pain I experience from arthritis, I no longer have major medical problems. Plus, what I enjoy the most is the fact that family and friends keep telling me that I have lost weight, when in fact I haven’t, my body has just returned to its normal state. I can now look at myself in the mirror without disdain or “cringing.” I can now buy footwear that fits—again. I can wear a ring, and since I am left-handed, I wear a watch on my right wrist. Since surgery, I’ve had to get at least two links removed from the watch strap so it will fit again!

To conclude, I just want to say that when I was advised that I was diagnosed with acromegaly, I felt obliged to tell my family, friends, and most importantly, my family doctor who is a great and wonderful friend. Not really knowing anything about acromegaly, I turned to the internet and the endocrinology clinic staff to educate myself. What can I say about the clinic staff except that they are all “gems” and so compassionate and helpful. Family and friends keep telling me that I look so much younger—that inflates my ego! However, just recently, my 15-year-old grandson got hit on the nose while playing hockey, afterwards his nose was swollen and he made the comment that his nose now looks “like Grampy’s nose”—KIDS! The tumour is gone, I’m back to a regular lifestyle, and my physical appearance is back to normal, so I don’t dwell on the fact that I was diagnosed with acromegaly. We are fortunate, here in Nova Scotia, in that there is support for those of us who have been diagnosed with acromegaly, thanks to those who work at the endocrinology clinic. Although it could be a stressful experience to go through, as I look back, it has been a WONDERFUL “journey” for me.

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Check out the true-2-me guest editorial on treatment Considerations for Acromegaly

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