Chemo and My Kidneys

 As most of you know, I am extremely protective of my kidneys. When I was first diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease 11 years ago, my eGFR was only 39. Here’s a quick reminder of what the eGFR is from my first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“GFR: Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case ‘e’ before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well the kidneys are functioning.”

39. That’s stage 3B, the lower part of stage 3B. During the intervening 11 years, I’ve been able to raise it to 50 (and sometimes higher for short periods) via vigorously following the renal diet, exercising, avoiding stress as much as possible, maintaining adequate sleep, and paying strict attention to the medications prescribed for me. While the medications were the ones I had been taking for high blood pressure prior to being diagnosed with CKD, they worked in my favor.

This excerpt from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) part of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK492989/ will explain why:

“The decision of whether to reduce blood pressure levels in someone who has chronic kidney disease will depend on

  • how high their blood pressure is (when untreated),
  • whether they have diabetes, and
  • how much protein is in their urine (albumin level).

A person with normal blood pressure who doesn’t have diabetes and hardly has any albumin in their urine will be able to get by without using any blood-pressure-lowering medication. But people who have high blood pressure, diabetes or high levels of albumin in their urine are advised to have treatment with ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) or sartans (angiotensin receptor blockers). In people who have diabetes, blood-sugar-lowering medication is also important.”

When I was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early last month, it changed my medical priorities. With my nephrologist’s blessing, my primary focus was the cancer… not my kidneys. It took constant reminders to myself not to be so quick to say no to anything that I thought would harm my kidneys. In other words, to those things I’d been saying no to for the last 11 years.

For example, once diagnosed with CKD, I ate very little protein keeping to my five ounce daily limitation. Not anymore. Protein is needed to avoid muscle wasting during chemotherapy with a minimum requirement of eight ounces a day. I even tried roast beef and other red meats. After 11 years, they no longer agreed with me so I eat ground turkey, chicken, cheese, and am considering soy.

Another change: I preferred not to eat carbohydrates, but was warned not to lose weight if I could help it. All of a sudden I’m eating Goldfish, bread, and pasta. I can’t say that I’m enjoying them, but I am keeping my weight loss to a minimum. Other limitations like those on potassium and phosphorous have also gone by the wayside. I’ve eaten every childhood favorite, foods that I’ve avoided for the last 11 years, and anything that might look tempting in the last month, but none of them really taste that good. I like the foods on the renal diet now.

Oh, the only thing I have not increased is salt. My daughter takes me to my chemotherapy sessions. There’s a Jewish style restaurant across the street and we showed up early one day. I wanted to try a toasted bagel with butter, the way I ate it before CKD. The damned thing was salty! I hadn’t expected that.

Back to chemo and my kidneys. I admit it. I was nervous. What was this combination of poisons going to do to my kidneys? If it was so caustic that I had to have a port in place so that it wouldn’t be injected directly into my veins for fear of obliterating them, what about my kidneys?

I anxiously awaited my first Comprehensive Blood Panel, the blood test that includes your GFR. Oh, oh, oh! My kidney function had risen to 55 and my creatinine had lowered to 1.0. Let me explain just how good this was.

A GFR of 55 is the higher part of stage 3A. 60 is where stage 2 of CKD begins. My kidneys were functioning better on chemo. And the creatinine? Let’s get a quick definition of that first. According to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/tests-diagnosis:

“Creatinine. Creatinine is a waste product from the normal breakdown of muscles in your body. Your kidneys remove creatinine from your blood. Providers use the amount of creatinine in your blood to estimate your GFR. As kidney disease gets worse, the level of creatinine goes up.”

Yet, mine went down. How? I asked and it was explained that all the hydration used to clear my veins of the caustic chemotherapy had worked this magic. I had two hours of hydration before the chemo-therapy  itself, two hours afterward, and another two hours the next day. My kidneys had never been this hydrated!

But wait, there’s more. I have diabetes. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. Could my diabetes be from the tumor blocking the production of insulin by my pancreas? I truly don’t know, but my glucose level is within the standard range for the first time since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes.

Would I recommend chemotherapy to raise your GFR, and lower your creatinine and your glucose level? Of course not. But I am feeling so very lucky that my kidneys are not coming to any harm during the chemotherapy necessary to save my life. I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’ll be Glowing!

Not really, but that was my first thought when a nuclear medicine (NM) test was ordered for me. It required radioactive material to be injected into my veins. The test is called NM Hepatobiliary Scan with Pharmacologic Intervention.

Let’s get a definition of hepatobiliary before we do anything else. Thank you MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=19515 for this one:

“Hepatobiliary: Having to do with the liver plus the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile. For example, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can be applied to the hepatobiliary system. Hepatobiliary makes sense since “hepato-” refers to the liver and “-biliary” refers to the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile.”

That’s my kind of definition. Clear and easy for those of us who are not doctors to understand. It makes sense, too, since we were exploring what I called discomfort and my PCP called pain just under the lowest rib on my right side… very close to the gall bladder. The more than occasional nausea helped her to decide this test was necessary.

According to the test report, this is how it works:

“TECHNIQUE:

Frontal standing images of the abdomen and pelvis were obtained immediately and 30 minutes following the intravenous administration of Tc99m IDA. Pharmacologic intervention with CCK (or equivalent) and/or morphine with additional dynamic imaging was also performed.”

I didn’t know what Tc99mIDA or CCK was, so I’m guessing you don’t either.  Wikipedia at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technetium_(99mTc)_mebrofenin  tells us,

“Technetium (99mTc) mebrofenin is a diagnostic radiopharmaceutical used for imaging of the liver and the gallbladder.”

Hmmm, we could have figured that out from the way the term is used in the context of the technique.

Let’s try CCK. This is also from Wikipedia but this time at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholecystokinin.

“Cholecystokinin (CCK or CCK-PZ; from Greek chole, “bile”; cysto, “sac”; kinin, “move”; hence, move the bile-sac (gallbladder)) is a peptide hormone of the gastrointestinal system responsible for stimulating the digestion of fat and protein. Cholecystokinin, officially called pancreozymin, is synthesized and secreted by enteroendocrine cells in the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine.” 

Well, that’s fairly explanatory, but keep in mind that Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone.

I know, now you want to know the results. Back to the test report:

“HIDA scan:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Gallbladder ejection fraction calculated at 37% at 30 minutes. Greater than 35% is normal.

Study Result Impression:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Borderline abnormal gallbladder response to cholecystokinin challenge.”

Here’s where I got lost. If my gall bladder ejection fraction is normal, how can I have a borderline abnormal gall bladder response to cholecystokinin challenge? Yep, it’s time to make an appointment with my family doctor since she ordered these tests and, being who she is, can probably explain that in terms I can understand.  More on that after next week’s liver MRI and an appointment with her to discuss the findings of both tests.

While this is all interesting, what does it have to do with the kidneys? I went back to SlowItDownCKD 2013 to find out what I’d written about that after my New York daughter’s gall bladder was removed.

“After speaking with my daughter, I still wondered what gallstones have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease.  Searching the web only garnered this one article from January, 2009 … and the study only covered Taiwan. Of course, I found it at the National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19352299.

‘The prevalence of gallbladder stones in patients with Chronic Kidney Disease is significantly higher than in those without Chronic Kidney Disease. Our findings suggest that increasing age, Chronic Kidney Disease, body mass index > or =27 kg/m {greater than 59 pounds}, metabolic syndrome, and cirrhosis are the related factors for gallbladder stone formation.’

Now think about it another way: you already have a compromised immune system because you have CKD.  Gallstones can cause infection of the gallbladder. As in Nima’s experience, infection causes white blood cell elevation. So you know you have an infection, you might even realize it could be in the bile ducts, too.  But did you check to see if there’s infection in other areas of your body? That would mean you can read your own test results or have the kind of relationship with your doctors – especially your nephrologist – to freely ask questions.

As for what this organ does, this is what MedlinePlus at https://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&v%3Asources=medlineplus-bundle&query=gall+bladder&_ga=2.56082859.126205281.1548540376-1108406265.1544652518 had to say.

‘Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.’

Keep in mind that your liver, the largest organ in your body {The skin is actually the largest organ, but it’s external.} is the other organ that filters your blood.  Since your CKD has been diagnosed, your liver is already working harder. Add losing your gallbladder and you’ve got one very hard working – possibly overworked – liver.”

Needless to say, while I was taking this in stride, especially since my kidney function is the best it’s been in the over a decade since I’ve been diagnosed with CKD, I am now eager to have the liver MRI and get back to my primary care doctor (PCP) so she can explain what a lay person can’t understand from reading the results-  even with further researching.

A few announcements, if you please:

Our friends at @antidote_me are hosting the first of their new free monthly patient focused webinars. This one is about how medical research really works and is this Wednesday, January 30th. It’s a 15 minute webinar.  Register now: https://hubs.ly/H0gc_KV0.

Also, I write the blogs from a U.S. angle since that’s where I live. There is a new Facebook CKD support group which is from the British angle. It’s Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group for UK! Another is CKD Support UK. These are only two of several from across the sea. If you’d like to find the others, go to Facebook and in the search bar on top, enter CKD Support in UK. That little word “in” is what makes it searchable.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Sorry Spiderman, That was Webinars not Webshooters

So much has been going on in my world lately that it was hard to choose what to write about today. In addition to my family, there’s the experience of my first American Association of Kidney Patients Conference, PKD, KidneyX and the list goes on. It was hard to choose, that is, until the American Kidney Fund sent me the following information. They explain who they are, what they do, and why they hold their free monthly educational seminars. Good timing here since the next webinar is this Friday. I’ll let them take over for a while and write some more once they’re done.

Oh, wait. First we need to know what a webinar is. My favorite online dictionary, Merriam-Webster, at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/webinar defines this in the following way:

“a live online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments”

That means it’s real time; you have to be online to participate. Don’t worry if the time doesn’t work for you because AKF has former webinars on their websites. You just won’t be able to ask your own questions, although you will be able to hear the questions others have asked during the webinar and the answers they received. Okay, now we turn this section of the blog over to The American Kidney Fund.

“The American Kidney Fund (AKF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people fight kidney disease and lead healthier lives.  Living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) or kidney failure is incredibly taxing, and can put strain on all elements of a person’s life. And although doctors are available for patients to ask questions about their disease, many kidney patients do not know what they should ask, and are left needing answers even after leaving a doctor’s appointment.

AKF believes every patient and caregiver has the right to understand what is going on with their health, or the health of their loved one, and how to best manage it. That is where we come in.

The American Kidney Fund hosts free, monthly, educational webinars meant for patients and caregivers. Each webinar explores a different topic relevant to living well with kidney disease. Since the webinar program’s launch in 2016, AKF has hosted over 27 webinars on many topics including nutrition, employment, insurance, transplant, exercise, heart disease, advocacy, pregnancy, mental health, and more.

Webinar speakers are carefully chosen based on their knowledge, and ability to connect with a patient audience. This ensures we deliver the highest quality of information in the best way. Some speakers are kidney patients or kidney donors themselves.  The webinars are delivered from a variety of perspectives so that the advice given is both relatable and reliable.

AKF aims to take complex topics and simplify the content without taking away from the quality of information.  In an effort to be inclusive of non-English speakers, AKF has hosted a webinar entirely in Spanish on preventing and treating kidney disease, and is in the process of translating even more webinars into Spanish.

One of the highlights of the American Kidney Fund webinars is the live Q&A session held during the last 15-20 minutes of each presentation, when the audience can ask their questions in real time and receive an immediate answer from our speaker. This creates a unique space for our attendees to interact anonymously with an expert in a judgement-free zone. We understand the time-demands of being a kidney patient or caregiver, which is why all our webinars, along with the PowerPoint slides, are also uploaded to the AKF website for on-demand viewing.

Our next webinar is on Friday, June 22 from 1-2pm (EST) and will discuss why phosphorus is an important nutrient for kidney patients to consider, and the best ways to manage phosphorus through diet and medicine.  Carolyn Feibig, the dietitian and speaker for this webinar is exceptionally knowledgeable and enthusiastic about her field. If you have questions about how to manage a CKD-friendly diet, this is your opportunity to learn more and to ask your questions.

After each webinar we ask for feedback and suggestions from our audience about future webinars.  We invite you to register now, and then share which topics you would like to hear about next. We hope you will use our webinars as a tool to live the healthiest life possible with kidney disease.

American Kidney Fund www.kidneyfund.org/webinars

I looked at some of their past webinar topics and was impressed with the variety.

My office is abuzz. SlowItDownCKD 2013, both digital and print, is available on Amazon. Give it a few weeks before it appears on B&N.com. I’m excited because I vowed to separate the unwieldy, small print, indexless The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 into two separate books with a SlowItDownCKD title, index, and larger print just as I’d done with The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 (which is no longer available since it is now SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012). That’s half way done now, boys and girls… I mean readers.

Here’s something a bit unusual: I have a request from a reader who has the rare kidney disease Calyceal Diverticulum. Rather than asking me to write about it, she’s looking for others with the same disease. Do we have any readers here with this disease? If so, we could make the blog a safe place to connect. Or you could email me and I’d pass on your information to her. Alternately, with her permission, I could pass her information to you. I can understand her need to communicate with others with the same disease, so please do let me know if you’d like to communicate with her.

And last, but not least, and I have to admit brain fog has me here, so bear with me if you’ve read this before. In digging through the morass of my desk, (I have been traveling a lot lately.) I uncovered a beta copy of SlowItDownCKD 2017. That means it has all the content, but I didn’t like the formatting so I re-did it. Would you like it? If so, just be the first one to contact me to let me know. Oh, one restriction: only those who haven’t received a free book from me before, please. I’d like to share the CKD information with as many people as possible.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

PKD: That’s News to Me

For the last eight years, I’ve pretty much stuck to writing about Chronic Kidney Disease with an exception here or there. When I was at a pharmaceutical think tank to help the company understand how they could be more helpful to kidney patients, I met a woman with polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

I’d heard of it and knew it had to do with multiple cysts on the kidneys, but that’s all I knew. That got me to thinking. Why didn’t I know more and what more should I know about it? So I did what I do best: decided to write about it.

Right now, the former English teacher in me is begging to come out. Indulge me, please. Poly is a prefix meaning many. Cyst means an abnormal sac in the body which contains air, fluid, or a semi-solid substance. Thank you What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for the definition of cyst. Ic is simply a suffix meaning of or about. Aren’t you glad I studied English at Hunter College of the City University of New York all those years ago?

Seriously now, I turned to PKD Info at https://www.pkdinfo.com/ only to discover there are two different kinds of polycystic kidney disease. Let’s start with a simple definition of the term PKD.

“PKD describes a group of genetic diseases that cause cysts to form and grow in the kidney. Genetic diseases are the result of changes, or mutations, in a person’s DNA, and can be passed from parent to child. In PKD, cysts are filled with fluid. Over time, they expand, making the kidneys grow larger. This makes it hard for the kidneys to function normally and can lead to kidney failure.”

As for the two different kinds, the PKD Foundation at https://pkdcure.org/what-is-pkd/ tells us:

“There are two types of PKD: autosomal dominant (ADPKD) and autosomal recessive (ARPKD). ADPKD is the more common type and affects more than 600,000 Americans and 12.4 million people worldwide. ARPKD is a rare form of the disease that occurs in 1 in 20,000 children worldwide.

A typical kidney is the size of a human fist and weighs about a third of a pound. PKD kidneys can be much larger, some growing as large as a football, and weighing up to 30 pounds each. The number of cysts can range from just a few to many. The size of the cysts can range from a pinhead to as large as a grapefruit. Although the primary sign of PKD is cysts in the kidneys, there are other symptoms that can occur in various areas of the body.”

I needed more information, especially about how the two types of PKD differ so I turned to my old standby The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/polycystic-kidney-disease/autosomal-dominant-pkd  and found the following information:

“’Autosomal dominant’ means you can get the PKD gene mutation, or defect, from only one parent. Researchers have found two different gene mutations that cause ADPKD. Most people with ADPKD have defects in the PKD1 gene, and 1 out of 6 or 1 out of 7 people with ADPKD have a defective PKD2 gene….

Health care providers can diagnose people with PKD1 sooner because their symptoms appear sooner. People with PKD1 also usually progress more quickly to kidney failure than people with PKD2. How quickly ADPKD progresses also differs from person to person.”

Symptoms? What symptoms? The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/polycystic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352820 answered that question:

“Polycystic kidney disease symptoms may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Back or side pain
  • Headache
  • Increase in the size of your abdomen
  • Blood in your urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney failure
  • Urinary tract or kidney infections”

Whoa! I’ve got at least four of those symptoms, so how do I know I don’t have PKD? Remember those wonderful people who elected SlowItDownCKD as one of the six best kidney blogs two years in a row? You’re right, it’s Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/polycystic-kidney-disease#diagnosis. As they explained:

“Because ADPKD and ARPKD are inherited, your doctor will review your family history. They may initially order a complete blood count to look for anemia or signs of infection and a urinalysis to look for blood, bacteria, or protein in your urine.

To diagnose all three types of PKD, your doctor may use imaging tests to look for cysts of the kidney, liver, and other organs. Imaging tests used to diagnose PKD include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound. This noninvasive test uses sound waves to look at your kidneys for cysts.
  • Abdominal CT scan. This test can detect smaller cysts in the kidneys.
  • Abdominal MRI scan. This MRI uses strong magnets to image your body to visualize kidney structure and look for cysts.
  • Intravenous pyelogram. This test uses a dye to make your blood vessels show up more clearly on an X-ray.

Did I just read THREE types of PKD? I did. Maybe I’d better find out what the third one is. To do so, I turned to News Medical at https://www.news-medical.net/health/Polycystic-Kidney-Disease-vs-Acquired-Cystic-Kidney-Disease.aspx.

“The cause of ACKD is not fully known, and contrary to PKD, it tends to develop after a patient has had chronic kidney disease for some time – most commonly when they are undergoing renal dialysis to clean the blood (for example, in end stage renal disease). The cysts are created by the build-up of waste products and the deteriorating filtration in the kidneys.”

ACKD is Acquired Cystic Kidney Disease. It seems I have nothing to worry about at this point in my CKD, but I’m wondering how many of you know if there is PKD in your family history. Maybe it’s time to find out. Notice none of the tests are invasive. You know, of course, that we’ve just scratched the surface of PKD information today, right?

I did have cysts show up in both of my kidneys and my liver, but they were very small despite some growth being noticed and there were very few of them. I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.

How are you beating the heat this summer? I’m hiding in my air conditioned office separating The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 into two less unwieldy books each with larger print and an index. I’ll let you know when SlowItDownCKD 2013 and SlowItDownCKD 2014 are available. Surely you’ve noticed that The Books of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 is no longer for sale. That’s because it has now been separated into SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!