This morning, I have been to see the Doctor to receive the diagnosis of something that has been bothering me for a while. It's one of those things that has been creeping up for a long time and slowly the symptoms have been getting more serious. Being a proper man, I have of course, been in complete denial.
Back in April, I was hauled in for the usual health check that happens every time your age ends in a zero. Lots of blood taken for testing, height, weight, lung function, heart function, blood pressure. Usual advice to loose some weight (OK, lets be honest, lots of weight!) and improve diet. Since I already eat a healthy diet with plenty of fish, fruit and fresh fruit and veggies and don't really like red meat other than game, improving the diet is difficult.
The blood tests came back with some concerns and was called back for further testing. The nurse explained that my white cell count was high and needed to be "monitored". Was I feeling unwell in any other respects? As it happened, I've had this niggling ache in my major joints (shoulders, elbows, hips, knees) and what can only be described as "sore bones" for a while and could it be related? At which point everything got a little more intense. A third test just before we went on holiday to the US and a further test when we returned.
Then a phone consultation where I was told that it was still high, but it specifically was not any of the "dread" diseases - high white cell count, sore bones and painful joints if you check it out on Google hinted it could be Leukaemia, which will explain why I was wandering around all summer looking worried!
Eventually, I give in to the inevitable and visit the Doctor, who based on the symptoms, suggests something called "Polymyalgia Rheumatica". Or PMR for short. More blood tests.
The blood tests were inconclusive, so the next test is a week's treatment with a massive dose of steroids to see if it makes a difference. Which it did! Followed by a week off the treatment to see if the symptoms returned. And they did...
So that's it. Proof conclusive, resulting now on a long term course of treatment with steroids for about 18 months, plus additional drugs to deal with the side effects.
So what is it? It's one of those auto-immune "syndromes" where the immune system decides to set about destroying the large muscle groups that control the shoulders, arms, hips and legs. It also causes extreme tiredness and insomnia at the same time, mood changes (what, me?) along with a general feeling of being "unwell" and loss of strength in the muscles.
The steroids have some seriously unpleasant side effects as well, but I can put up with those to sort the main problem. Obviously, I can no longer partake in competitive sport as I will fail any doping test. So just as well I've never taken part in any organised sports, isn't it? There's a risk of increasing weight, although I shall deal with that, and (quite frightening) severe mood changes and the risk of suicidal thoughts.
And probably the most significant, suppression of the immune system so I need to keep clear of anyone with colds, flu, sniffles and other minor ailments. So if you should sneeze and I run a mile, you will know why!