Paula’s Story – Pursuing treatment and your dreams
On December 22, 2005 I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumour, causing acromegaly. This diagnosis actually came as a huge relief to me because I had been struggling for a number of years with health problems that no doctor wanted to take too seriously.
I was constantly tired, all of my joints hurt, my menstrual cycle was all over the place, I had skin issues and a ferocious appetite. In my case it was a shooting pain right between my eyes that sent me to the hospital, where finally a doctor took my pain seriously and performed a CT scan. That pain was caused by my tumour hemorrhaging. My “hunger” turned out to be diabetes, my fatigue, a result of sleep apnea and the joint pain- arthritis.
Despite this daunting diagnosis, my story is a really good one. I had surgery early 2006 and have been getting better ever since. It took a while for the diabetes to resolve completely, but the sleep apnea is gone, I have energy and feel altogether much better.
Long before acromegaly affected me, as a young adult I was a self-proclaimed “couch potato”. Weighing 240lbs in 1999 aged 33 I changed my life with exercise and healthier eating. I was an athlete before my diagnosis. By 2005 I had competed in 3 Ironman triathlon races (4km swim, 180km bike ride and a 42 km run all in one day!) and dozens of shorter triathlons and running races. Two weeks after my surgery I was feeling better than I’d felt for years, I was back on my bike soon and competed in a race about 6 weeks later. A year later I competed in another Ironman, something that I feared I would not be able to do after surgery! I was wrong… I didn’t just finish the race… it was my fastest race up until then. Since then I have raced and completed a total of 12 Ironman races and a multitude of other types of races. In October of 2014, I’m so proud to report that I will be fulfilling my ultimate dream of competing in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
My only residual problem is the arthritis, particularly causing issues with my ankles and feet. I can’t run anymore but am thrilled to tell you that I can power walk, and can actually power walk faster than I could ever run!! My life is good and I feel so grateful for the support, surgery and medical care that have brought me to my ultimate cure.
As a Registered Nurse working in diabetes research, I’m in a very unique position to be able to now reach out to fellow patients to support them but also to spread the word about acromegaly, telling as many people (especially health care professionals) about the disease and the slow and insidious progression of the disease that often goes un-noticed for many years.