Adult Toys

In keeping with my promise to myself that August would be answer-readers’-questions month, this week I’ll be writing about the occupational therapy toys a reader asked about. Did you think I meant the other kind of adult toys? Hmmm, maybe it would make sense to know why toys are used in dealing with neuropathy in the first place.

As my occupational therapist explained it, the therapy toys are used to stimulate the nerve endings to bud so that new pathways may be created. I don’t fully understand it, but this is what I wrote in my July 29th blog:

“I have a bag of toys. Each has a different sensory delivery on my hands and feet. For example, there’s a woven metal ring that I run up and down my fingers and toes, then up my arms and legs. I do the same with most of the other toys: a ball with netting over it, another with rubber strings hanging from it. I also have a box of uncooked rice to rub my feet and hands in… and lots of other toys. The idea is to desensitize my hands and feet.”

Ah, but now we know these therapy toys are used for more. Desensitization? Good. Building new pathways for sensations? Better. Yes, I want my hands and feet to stop feeling so tingly all the time, but I also want to be able to feel whatever it is I’m holding or touching. Remember, for me, this was an unexpected side effect of chemotherapy, although it could have just as easily been diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Aha! Now you see why I’ve included this in the blog posts in the first place: Diabetes is the number one cause of Chronic Kidney Disease.

Ready to explore some therapy toys? Well, all rightee. Let’s start with my favorite, the one I call the smoosh ball. Oh, since I bought a bag full of these different therapy toys on Amazon, none were labeled so I made up my own names for them. Hey, I’m a writer. I can get away with that.

This one is soft and rubbery. It’s the “another with rubber strings hanging from it,” mentioned above that I rub on my toes and up my legs, then my fingers and up my arms as I do with most of these therapy toys. It causes the loveliest goose bumps. I’m surprised that Shiloh, our 80 pound dog, doesn’t go after it just for the way it seems to shimmer. I also squeeze the smoosh ball with each hand.

The opposite of the smoosh ball is the steel ring. This one is almost painful if I’m not careful. In addition to using it on my hands, arms, fingers, and toes as I did the smoosh ball, I also use it as a ring on each toe and finger moving it up and down. Notice I’m not mentioning how many repetitions I do for each of the therapy toys. That’s because everyone is different. Your neuropathy may be worse than mine, or – hopefully – not as bad as mine.

The pea pod is the hardest therapy toy for me to use. The idea is to squeeze the pod to cause the peas to pop up one by one. Sounds easy, right? Nope. You need to isolate these fingers you can’t even feel until you get the right ones pressing on the right places to make that little fellow pop out.

The brush is a comforting therapy toy. I wonder if this is why horses like being curried (brushed). It’s a soft, rubber brush which feels almost luxuriant as I rub it up my fingers, arms, toes, and legs. It was also the first therapy toy I was introduced to since the occupational therapist used it during my first treatment.

Then there’s the ball with the netting around it. I do the usual rub the fingers, arms, toes, and legs with it. I also squeeze it like a stress ball. It feels completely different than the smoosh ball and even makes a sort of flatulence sound when I squeeze it. Well, that was unexpected.

I have a small ball that looks like a globe. Maybe that’s because children use these therapy toys, too? All I can figure out to do with this is to squeeze it like a stress ball. I’ll have to remember to ask the occupational therapist if that’s what it’s meant for.

The little beads can defeat me. The idea is to place them in a bowl and then pick them up using your thumb and the different fingers one at a time. At first, I was using my long nails to pick them up. Once I realized what I was doing, I cut my nails. It is surprising to me to realize how weak some of my fingers are as compared to how strong others are.

The mesh has a bead in it. You move it back and forth from one end of the mesh to the other, using each finger plus your thumb individually. Of course, this one feels really good on the toes, legs, fingers, and arms because it’s a soft mesh (but not as soft as the mesh on the net ball).

The snake is a long piece of soft rubber. Before I execute the usual rubbing on the toes, legs, fingers, and arms, I use it the way you use an elastic band for stretching across your chest. It is more flexible than you’d think.

Not part of my bag of tricks – I mean therapy toys – is the foot roller. This is another therapy toy I bought on Amazon after trying one out at an occupational therapy treatment.  Have you ever heard the expression ‘hurts so good?’ That’s what this feels like while you roll it back and forth under your feet. Lest you get me wrong, it does not hurt enough to make you want to stop, just enough to make those tingly feet tingle even more.

I also do stretching exercises for my hands, place my feet in rice, and try to pick up a wash cloth with my toes. It takes a long time to exercise, but I think it’s worth it.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

That Looks Swollen       

Remember I mentioned that several readers have asked questions that would become blogs? For example, one reader’s question became last week’s blog concerning creatinine and PTH. Another reader’s question became this week’s blog about lymphedema. She was diagnosed with it and wondered if it had anything to do with her protein buildup.

She’s a long time reader and online friend, so she already knows I remind those that ask questions that I am not a doctor and, no matter what I discover, she must speak with her nephrologist before taking any action based on what I wrote. That is always true. I’m a CKD patient just like you. The only difference is that I know how to research (Teaching college level Research Writing taught me a lot.) and happen to have been a writer for decades before I was diagnosed. Just take a look at my Amazon Author Page at amazon.com/author/gailraegarwood . But enough about me.

Anyone know what lymphedema is? I didn’t when I first heard the word, although my Hunter College of C.U.N.Y education as an English teacher gave me some clues. Edema had something to do with swelling under the skin. Actually, we can get more specific with The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/-edema :

“suffix meaning swelling resulting from an excessive accumulation of serous fluid in the tissues of the body in (specified) locations”

I took a guess that lymph had to do with the lymph nodes. Using the same dictionary, but this time at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/lymph, I found this:

“The almost colourless fluid that bathes body tissues and is found in the lymphatic vessels that drain the tissues of the fluid that filters across the blood vessel walls from blood. Lymph carries antibodies and lymphocytes (white blood cells that help fight infection) that have entered the lymph nodes from the blood.”

Time to attach the suffix (group of letters added at the end of a word that changes its meaning) to the root (most basic meaning of the word) to come up with a definition of lymphedema. No, not my definition, the same dictionary’s.

“Swelling, especially in subcutaneous tissues, as a result of obstruction of lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes, with accumulation of lymph in the affected region.”

I found this definition at https://www.thefreedictionary.com/lymphedema, but if you switch the search options at the top of the page from dictionary to medical dictionary, you’ll find quite a bit of information about lymphedema.

Okay, we know what lymphedema is now but what – if anything – does that have to do with protein buildup? This is the closest I could come to an answer that

  1. Wasn’t too medical for me to understand and
  2. Had anything to do with the kidneys.

“A thorough medical history and physical examination are done to rule out other causes of limb swelling, such as edema due to congestive heart failure, kidney failure, blood clots, or other conditions.”

It’s from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/lymphedema/article.htm#how_is_lymphedema_diagnosed

My friend, while a Chronic Kidney Disease patient, is not in renal failure. Was there something I missed?

Johns Hopkins Medicine at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/treating-lymphedema gives us our first clue. It seems that lymphedema is a buildup of a specific fluid: protein-rich:

“Lymphedema is an abnormal buildup of protein-rich fluid in any part of the body as a result of malfunction in the lymphatic system.”

Malfunction in the lymphatic system? What could cause that? According to Lymphatic Education & Research at https://lymphaticnetwork.org/living-with-lymphedema/lymphatic-disease:

Secondary Lymphedema (acquired regional lymphatic insufficiency) is a disease that is common among adults and children in the United States. It can occur following any trauma, infection or surgery that disrupts the lymphatic channels or results in the loss of lymph nodes. Among the more than 3 million breast cancer survivors alone, acquired or secondary lymphedema is believed to be present in approximately 30% of these individuals, predisposing them to the same long-term problems as described above. Lymphedema also results from prostate, uterine, cervical, abdominal, orthopedic cosmetic (liposuction) and other surgeries, malignant melanoma, and treatments used for both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Radiation, sports injuries, tattooing, and any physical insult to the lymphatic pathways can also cause lymphedema. Even though lymphatic insufficiency may not immediately present at the time any of the events occur, these individuals are at life-long risk for the onset of lymphedema.”

I know the reader who has asked the question has a complex medical history that may include one or more of the conditions listed above. As for the protein buildup, we already know that kidneys which are

not working well don’t filter the protein from your blood as well as they could. So, is there a connection between this reader’s protein buildup and her lymphedema? Sure looks like it.

While the following is from BreastCancer.org at https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/lymphedema/how/start, it is a simple explanation that may apply to other causes of lymphedema, too:

“… lymph nodes and vessels can’t keep up with the tissues’ need to get rid of extra fluid, proteins (Gail here: my bolding), and waste.… the proteins and wastes do not get filtered out of the lymph as efficiently as they once did. Very gradually, waste and fluid build up…. “

Ready for a topic change? The World Health Organization offers this pictograph for our information. Notice diabetes, one of the main causes of Chronic Kidney Disease.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Which Comes First?

Periodically, a blog will actually be the response to a reader’s question. I’ve received several questions lately. The first thing I do when I receive a question is to be sure the reader understands that I am not a doctor and that no matter what I research for them, they must clear the information with their nephrologist before taking any action. Today’s question was asked by a long time reader who already understands my terms for researching for her.

That’s a pretty big build up for a common sense question. But, at least now you understand how I handle reader questions and may want to ask one (or more) of your own.

Back to the question at hand: What is the connection between PTH and creatinine and which causes a problem with the other?

What’s PTH, you ask. Let’s find out. You and your Hormones: an educational source from the Society of Endocrinology at https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/parathyroid-hormone/ was a great deal of help here:

“Alternative names for parathyroid hormone

PTH; parathormone; parathyrin

What is parathyroid hormone?

The parathyroid glands are located in the neck, just behind the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland.

Parathyroid hormone is secreted from four parathyroid glands, which are small glands in the neck, located behind the thyroid gland. Parathyroid hormone regulates calcium levels in the blood, largely by increasing the levels when they are too low. It does this through its actions on the kidneys, bones and intestine:

  1. Bones – parathyroid hormone stimulates the release of calcium from large calcium stores in the bones into the bloodstream. This increases bone destruction and decreases the formation of new bone.
  2. Kidneys – parathyroid hormone reduces loss of calcium in urine. Parathyroid hormone also stimulates the production of active vitamin D in the kidneys.
  3. Intestine – parathyroid hormone indirectly increases calcium absorption from food in the intestine, via its effects on vitamin D metabolism

Got it? Okay then let’s remind ourselves what creatinine is. I wrote the following in last December 24th’s blog:

“A good place to start is always at the beginning. By this, I wonder if I mean the beginning of my Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy as the author of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and the blog or if I mean the basics about creatinine. Let’s combine them all. The following definition is from the book which became the earliest blogs:

Creatinine clearance: Compares the creatinine level in your urine with that in your blood to provide information about your kidney function’

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly work. Let’s try again. Bingo! It was in SlowItDownCKD 2014,

Creatinine: chemical waste product that’s produced by our muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. {MayoClinic.org}”

That was nine years ago, but the information remains the same today.

So now, we know what both PTH and creatinine are, but what’s the connection? According to VIVO Pathophysiology, Colorado State University at http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/thyroid/pth.html :

Suppression of calcium loss in urine: In addition to stimulating fluxes of calcium into blood from bone and intestine, parathyroid hormone puts a brake on excretion of calcium in urine, thus conserving calcium in blood. This effect is mediated by stimulating tubular reabsorption of calcium. Another effect of parathyroid hormone on the kidney is to stimulate loss of phosphate ions in urine.”

To recap so far, we know what both PTH and creatinine are and what the connection between the two is. Now we need to know if one causes the other and, if so, which.

Chronic kidney failure. Your kidneys convert vitamin D into a form that your body can use. If your kidneys function poorly, usable vitamin D may decline and calcium levels drop. Chronic kidney failure is the most common cause of secondary hyperparathyroidism.”

Thank you to the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperparathyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20356194 for this information.

 

Whoops! You may need a few reminders to understand the Mayo Clinic’s information, so here they are. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium properly. Calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Many people don’t know it’s also necessary for blood clotting, nerves and heart. “Hyper” means over or, in this case, high as in above the necessary. Remember that when calcium or vitamin D is low, PTH rises. In my mind’s eye, I see a scale balancing the two out.

I did not find any information about PTH causing high creatinine. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It just means there isn’t any I could access. I found a journal site that looked promising, but it turned out to be for endocrinologists only. Too bad for us.

I do hope I’ve answered my reader’s question to her satisfaction. I know I enjoyed learning all this new information. You’re right: that’s my signal for a topic change.

“The Kidney Project is a national research initiative with a goal to create a small, surgically implanted, and free-standing bioartificial kidney to treat renal failure. RSN Founder and President Lori Hartwell catches up with Dr. Shuvo Roy who is a bioengineer professor at the University of California San Francisco to learn what is next for the Kidney Project and when clinical trials might begin. Dr. Shuvo Roy is passionate about this device that will mimic the kidneys and take the place of dialysis. Listen in to this exciting and hopeful show.

Listen in to the first conversation about the Kidney Project with Dr. Shuvo Roy.

 Learn more about the Kidney Project and Dr. Shuvo Roy

It’s an exciting time in the world of Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness right now. Even the government has acknowledged it’s time to deal with CKD patients. Keep on the lookout for more and more updates.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

But Why?

As Chronic Kidney Disease patients, we all know that proteinuria is one indication of our disease. Would you like a reminder about what proteinuria is? Here’s one from The American Kidney Fund at http://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/kidney-problems/protein-in-urine.html:

“Healthy kidneys remove extra fluid and waste from your blood, but let proteins and other important nutrients pass through and return to your blood stream. When your kidneys are not working as well as they should, they can let some protein (albumin) escape through their filters, into your urine. When you have protein in your urine, it is called proteinuria (or albuminuria). Having protein in your urine can be a sign of nephrotic syndrome, or an early sign of kidney disease.”

I used to think that’s all it was: an indicator of CKD. That is until my occupational therapist and I got to talking about the edema caused by neuropathy.

Ah! Flash! We did also talk about Havimat which I wrote about last week and I checked on a number of sites to see if it were safe for an active tumor. The consensus of the sites agreed it was safe to use on someone with an active tumor that was being treated as long as it was not used on the location of the tumor itself. I feel better now about having had three sessions with Havimat since the occupational therapist was careful not to use it anywhere near my pancreas – the site of the tumor.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand: proteinuria. It seems that protein is needed in the body, rather than being excreted in the urine. You guessed it. My question became the topic of today’s blog: But Why?

According to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/men/features/benefits-protein#1:

“Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.”

Okay, got it that protein is very necessary but what does that have to do with the chemotherapy I had that seemed to cause the proteinuria problem?  After looking at bunches of different sites (Today’s blog is taking a very long time to write.), I gleaned a little hint here and a little hint there until I figured out that certain types of chemotherapy may make proteinuria worse if you already have it, or cause it. Boo for me; I lost on that one since I already had proteinuria.

Well, what about the edema from the neuropathy? Was proteinuria affecting that in some way? Or did I have it backwards and it was the neuropathy that was causing the edema. I went to eMedicineHealth at https://www.emedicinehealth.com/neuropathy/article_em.htm#what_is_neuropathy for some help with this.

“Certain drugs and medications can cause nerve damage. Examples include cancer therapy drugs such as vincristine(Oncovin, Vincasar), and antibiotics such as metronidazole (Flagyl), and isoniazid (Nydrazid, Laniazid).”

This little tidbit is from MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323481.php :

“Chemotherapy can damage nerves that affect feeling and movement in the hands and feet. Doctors call this condition chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Symptoms can be severe and may affect a person’s quality of life.”

By the way, diabetic neuropathy is another form of peripheral neuropathy.

Uh-oh, now what do I do? The HonorHealth Research Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I’m being treated offered both the gabapentin for the pain (which I skipped since I want to try non-drug treatment first) and occupational therapy. Let’s see what that might do for me. Please note that occupational therapy works at reducing the pain of the neuropathy.

I have a bag of toys. Each has a different sensory delivery on my hands and feet. For example, there’s a woven metal ring that I run up and down my fingers and toes, then up my arms and legs. I do the same with most of the other toys: a ball with netting over it, another with rubber strings hanging from it. I also have a box of uncooked rice to rub my feet and hands in… and lots of other toys. The idea is to desensitize my hands and feet.

I was also given physical exercises to do, like raising my fisted hands above my head and straightening out my fist several times.  This is one of many exercises. Do you remember the old TV show, E.R? It takes me slightly longer than one 43 minute episode to complete the exercises.

When I go to see the therapist, she uses the Havimat (electrical stimulation), another machine that sucks the chemo out (no kidding… and it doesn’t hurt either.), and a third that pulses. I am amazed at how the edema disappears when she uses these. But, unfortunately, the effect doesn’t stay very long. Compression socks have helped and, despite their not-so-pleasing appearance are quite comfortable.

Wow! Proteinuria is so much more than just an indication that you may have Chronic Kidney Disease.

Ready for a topic change? The following is part of an email I received from KDIGO (Kidney Disease – Improving Global Outcomes).

“We … invite your comments at any time.  Suggest topics, look for opportunities for KDIGO to implement its work in your area, bring new ideas to us, and help us become more relevant to the lives of patients like you. As a global organization, we seek to continue to develop communication channels to patients throughout the world.  This is difficult to do from one perspective, but if we work together we can build a robust base of individuals and ideas that will help us plan and carry out our mission.

KDIGO doesn’t have any members or local entities to whom we are accountable.  We only are accountable to you, our patients.  Outcomes of your care are our mission.  We can do it better if you work with us and give us your constructive input.

Again, thanks for letting us know you’d like to be a part of this global effort.  Your ideas are welcome and will be taken into account. “

Keep those comments coming, folks. Their email is kdigocommunications@kdigo.org.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

What’s That Got to Do with My Occupation?

I’ve written about neuropathy, but what is this occupational therapy that may treat it? I know about physical therapy and have made use of it when necessary. Remember a few years ago when knee surgery was indicated? Physical therapy helped me avoid the surgery.

This time I was offered gabapentin for the neuropathy. That’s a drug usually used for epilepsy which can also help with neuropathy. I would explain how it works, but no one seems to know. I had two problems with this drug:

  1. Gabapentin became a controlled substance in England as of April of this year. England always seem to be one step ahead of the U.S. re medications.
  2. It is not suggested if you have kidney disease.

My other option was occupational therapy. That’s the one I chose. Let’s backtrack a bit for a definition of occupational therapy. Thank you to my old buddy (since college over 50 years ago) the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupational%20therapy for the following definition.

“therapy based on engagement in meaningful activities of daily life (such as self-care skills, education, work, or social interaction) especially to enable or encourage participation in such activities despite impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning”

That got me to wondering just how occupational therapy differed from physical therapy, the kind of therapy with which I was already familiar. I went to my old buddy again, but this time at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/physical%20therapy for any hints I could pick up from the definition for physical therapy.

“therapy for the preservation, enhancement, or restoration of movement and physical function impaired or threatened by disease, injury, or disability that utilizes therapeutic exercise, physical modalities (such as massage and electrotherapy), assistive devices, and patient education and training”

Made sense to me. Physical therapy was for the movement of the body, while occupational therapy was to help you carry out the tasks of your daily life. For example, it takes me longer to write a blog because my tingling, yet numb, fingers often slip into the spaces between the keys on the keyboard. Another example is that I now use a cane since I can’t tell if my tingling, yet numb, feet are flat on the floor as I walk.

Something I found interesting about occupational therapy is that it uses many forms of therapy that were once considered alternative medicine… like electrical energy. What’s that you say? You’d like an example?

Well, here you go. My therapist uses a machine called a Havimat. The following is from the National Stem Cell Institute at https://nsistemcell.com/hivamat-how-it-relieves-edema/  and explains what the Havimat can do and how.

“….The therapist connects an electronic lead to his/her wrist while the patient grasps a small cylinder grip. The vinyl gloves that the therapist wears prevents the circuit of electric current from closing, thus creating the ‘push-pull’ effect that penetrates deeply into tissues. Meanwhile, the patient’s experience is one of a pleasant, deep massage maintained by the therapist’s gentle pressure as he/she directs the deep oscillation.

…. The therapy “un-dams” trapped fluid. Tissues are decongested and edema is significantly reduced. This shrinks swelling in the area being treated. Hivamat has been shown to be exceptionally effective in relieving lymphedema when used by therapists to enhance manual lymphatic drainage.

…. Besides the reduction of edema, therapists use Hivamat for ridding tissues of toxins [Gail here: like chemotherapy.]  When used by a certified therapist during a manipulation technique known as manual lymphatic drainage, the therapy improves lymph fluid movement. This encourages better flow through the lymphatic system, which then carries away metabolic waste and toxins more quickly. Hivamat also promotes the production of lymphocytes, which improve the function of the immune system. [Gail here again: as CKD patients, our immune systems are compromised.]”

There is one thing, though. Apparently, the Havimat is NOT suggested if there is an active tumor. Uh-oh, I had three treatments with the Havimat before I uncovered that fact. I’ll have to speak with my therapist today and find out why she didn’t know that. But it is clear that using electrical energy as treatment is another case of what was formerly considered alternative medicine becoming mainstream medicine.

Topic switch. I’ve written about the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), precision care, and clinical trials many times before. You’re probably already aware of the new initiative for patient care. AAKP wants your help in doing their part as far as patient experience with this survey.

“As part of AAKP’s National Strategy, we have expanded our

capacities to involve a far larger, and more representative, number

of patients in research opportunities and clinical trials. The

results of these research opportunities and clinical trials will help

create a clearer understanding of the patient experience and help

shape the future of kidney disease treatment and care. AAKP is

fully committed to changing the status quo of kidney care

and to better aligning treatment to personal aspirations.

To achieve this goal, the AAKP Center for Patient Research &

Education is working with top researchers to ensure that the

patient voice, patient preferences and patient perceptions are

heard.

AAKP is very pleased to partner with Northwestern University

and University of Pennsylvania on an important research

project organ donation.

Please consider taking part in this online survey and help

shape the future of kidney care for you and those yet to

be diagnosed.

Volunteers Needed for Research Study!

Researchers at Northwestern University and University of Penn-

sylvania invite kidney transplant candidates to participate

in a survey about your opinions of research done on donor

organs. Such research aims to help organs work better and

make more organs available for transplantation.

Your responses will help to improve the informed consent

process for transplant candidates.

You are eligible to participate if you:

•  Are 18+ years old

•  Speak English

•  Are currently a transplant candidate on the waitlist for only

    one organ

This anonymous survey is voluntary, and will take about 45

minutes of your time.

Your decision about participating will not affect your place on

the waiting list. Your participation may help improve the informed

consent process for transplant candidates.

Find out more information and take the survey by clicking

the link below [Gail here yet again: Don’t forget to click

control at the same time.]:

https://redcap.nubic.northwestern.edu/redcap/surveys/index.php?s=TEMXLDLF8A

Thank you to those taking part in the survey for helping

AAKP help those awaiting a transplant.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not Nuked

Friday, I saw my oncology radiologist after having had a week of radiation treatments. As he was explaining what the radiation was meant to do to the remaining third of the tumor and how it was being done, one sentence he uttered stood out to me: “This doesn’t work like your microwave.”

Since radiation is also used in treating kidney cancer… and any other kind of cancer, to the best of my knowledge… I decided to take a look at that statement. First we need to know how a microwave works, so we know how radiation treatment for cancer doesn’t work. I went to the Health Sciences Academy at https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/microwave-radiation/ for an explanation.

“How do microwaves work?

Before we talk about how microwaves heat your food, let’s make a distinction between two very different kinds of radiation:

  1. ionising radiation, and
  2. non-ionising radiation.

Ionising radiation, which can remove tightly-bound electrons from atoms, causing them to become charged, is less risky in very tiny amounts (such as x-rays) but can cause problems when exposure is high (think burns and even DNA damage). However, microwaves emit non-ionising radiation; a type of radiation that has enough energy to move atoms around within a molecule but not enough to remove electrons.

What does this mean? Because the radiation from microwaves is non-ionising, it can only cause molecules in the food to move. …. In other words, microwave radiation cannot alter the chemical structure of food components. More precisely, when heating food in a microwave, the radiation that the microwave produces is actually absorbed by the water molecules in the food. This energy causes the water molecules to vibrate, generating heat through this (harmless) friction, which cooks the food. This mechanism is what makes microwaves much faster at heating food than other methods. Its energy immediately reaches molecules that are about an inch below the outer surface of the food, whereas heat from other cooking methods moves into food gradually via conduction….”

Phew, I’m glad to know I’m not being cooked from the inside. But what is happening to me and everyone else who has radiation as a cancer treatment? I went straight to the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/radiation/basics.html  for the answer.

“Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves, such as x-rays, [Gail here: this is ionising radiation.] gamma rays, electron beams, or protons, to destroy or damage cancer cells.

Your cells normally grow and divide to form new cells. But cancer cells grow and divide faster than most normal cells. Radiation works by making small breaks in the DNA inside cells. These breaks keep cancer cells from growing and dividing and cause them to die. Nearby normal cells can also be affected by radiation, but most recover and go back to working the way they should.

Unlike chemotherapy, which usually exposes the whole body to cancer-fighting drugs, radiation therapy is usually a local treatment. In most cases, it’s aimed at and affects only the part of the body being treated. Radiation treatment is planned to damage cancer cells, with as little harm as possible to nearby healthy cells.

Some radiation treatments (systemic radiation therapy) use radioactive substances that are given in a vein or by mouth. Even though this type of radiation does travel throughout the body, the radioactive substance mostly collects in the area of the tumor, so there’s little effect on the rest of the body.”

I don’t know how many times this was explained to me, but seeing it now in black and white (and blue for the click through) suddenly makes it clear. So this means I’ve had four months of my entire body being attacked – in a lifesaving way, of course – now only the cancer cells are being attacked.

Yet, I am experiencing some side effects even after only one week of radiation. I wondered if that’s usual. Cancer.net at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/radiation-therapy/side-effects-radiation-therapy   answered that question for me.

“Why does radiation therapy cause side effects?

High doses of radiation therapy are used to destroy cancer cells. Side effects come from damage to healthy cells and tissues near the treatment area. Major advances in radiation therapy have made it more precise. This reduces the side effects.

Some people experience few side effects from radiation therapy. Or even none. Other people experience more severe side effects.

Reactions to the radiation therapy often start during the second or third week of treatment. They may last for several weeks after the final treatment.

Are there options to prevent or treat these side effects?

Yes. Your health care team can help you prevent or treat many side effects. Preventing and treating side effects is an important part of cancer treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care.

Potential side effects

Radiation therapy is a local treatment. This means that it only affects the area of the body where the tumor is located. For example, people do not usually lose their hair from having radiation therapy. But radiation therapy to the scalp may cause hair loss.

Common side effects of radiation therapy include:

Skin problems. Some people who receive radiation therapy experience dryness, itching, blistering, or peeling. These side effects depend on which part of the body received radiation therapy. Skin problems usually go away a few weeks after treatment ends. If skin damage becomes a serious problem, your doctor may change your treatment plan.

Fatigue. Fatigue describes feeling tired or exhausted almost all the time. Your level of fatigue often depends on your treatment plan. For example, radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy may result in more fatigue. Learn more about how to cope with fatigue.

Long-term side effects. Most side effects go away after treatment. But some continue, come back, or develop later. These are called late effects. One example is the development of a second cancer. This is a new type of cancer that develops because of the original cancer treatment. The risk of this late effect is low. And the risk is often smaller than the benefit of treating the primary, existing cancer.”

Funny how I managed to forget about late effects, even though my oncology team made it clear this could happen. I think having the radiation to rid myself of this cancer is worth the risk.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Platelets, Blood, and RSNHope or a Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

A reader from India asked me why I kept writing about chemotherapy. I explained that I have pancreatic cancer and that was part of my treatment. Chronic Kidney Disease patients may develop kidney cancer, although this type of cancer is not restricted to CKD patients. They also may develop another type of cancer that has nothing to do with the kidneys. Everyone’s experience with chemotherapy is different, but I thought one person’s experience was better than none. Here’s hoping you never have to deal with any kind of cancer or chemotherapy, however.

While we’re on explanations, I have a correction to make. The nurses at the Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute here in Arizona are a fount of knowledge. One of them heard me talking to my daughter about a platelet infusion and corrected me. It seems it’s a platelet transfusion, just as it’s a blood transfusion.

According to The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/infusion

“in·fu·sion

(in-fyū’zhŭn),

  1. The process of steeping a substance in water, either cold or hot (below the boiling point), to extract its soluble principles.
  2. A medicinal preparation obtained by steeping the crude drug in water.
  3. The introduction of fluid other than blood, for example, saline solution, into a vein.”

The same dictionary, but at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/transfusion , tells us:

“Transfusion is the process of transferring whole blood or blood components from one person (donor) to another (recipient).”

Therein lays the difference. Platelets are part of the blood, so it’s a platelet transfusion. I’m glad that’s straightened out.

While we’re on this topic, here’s a chart of compatible blood types for transfusions… always a handy thing to have.

Blood Type of Recipient Preferred Blood Type of Donor If Preferred Blood Type Unavailable, Permissible Blood Type of Donor
A A O
B B O
AB AB A, B, O
O O No alternate types

O is the universal blood type and, as you’ve probably noticed, is compatible with all blood types. The plus or minus sign after your blood type refers to being RH negative or positive. For example, my blood type is B+. That means I have type B blood and am RH positive.

I’ve had platelet transfusions several times since I was leaking blood here and there. Nothing like eating lunch and having nasal blood drip into your salad. Ugh! You also become weak and your hemoglobin goes down. Not a good situation at all. You know I’m hoping you never need one, but who knows what can happen in the future. Just in case you’ve forgotten what platelets are, Macmillan Cancer Support at https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/treating/supportive-and-other-treatments/supportive-therapies/platelet-transfusions.html#18772 is here to help us out.

“Platelets are tiny cells in your blood which form clots to help stop bleeding. They develop from stem cells in the bone marrow (the spongy material inside the bones). They are then released from your bone marrow into your blood and travel around your body in your bloodstream. Platelets usually survive for 7–10 days before being destroyed naturally in your body or being used to clot the blood.”

You’ll probably notice the term “RH Positive” (unless you’re RH Negative, of course) written on the platelet transfusion bag. You know I had to find out why.  Memorial Sloan Cancer Center at https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/frequently-asked-questions-about-blood-transfusion offers this information about your blood that will help us understand:

“Your blood type is either A, B, AB, or O. It’s either Rh positive (+) or Rh negative (-).

Your blood type is checked with a test called a type and crossmatch. The results of this test are used to match your blood type with the blood in our blood bank. Your healthcare provider will check to make sure that the blood is the correct match for you before they give you the transfusion.”

The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/rh-factor/about/pac-20394960 clarifies just what Rh Positive means:

“Rhesus (Rh) factor is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood has the protein, you’re Rh positive. If your blood lacks the protein, you’re Rh negative.

Rh positive is the most common blood type. Having an Rh negative blood type is not an illness and usually does not affect your health. However, it can affect your pregnancy. “

What I found especially interesting is that,

“If you have Rh-positive blood, you can get Rh-positive or Rh-negative blood. But if you have Rh-negative blood, you should only get Rh-negative blood. Rh-negative blood is used for emergencies when there’s no time to test a person’s Rh type.”

Thank you to Health Jade at https://healthjade.net/blood-transfusion/#Rh_Rhesus_factor for this information. This is a new site for me. You might want to take a look since their illustrations make so much clear.

Switching topics now. Are you aware of RSNHope.org? Lori Hartwell is one of the most active CKD and dialysis people I’ve met in the entire nine years I’ve been writing about CKD. For example, she has this wonderful salad bar help for the renal diet:

“Choose:  lettuce escarole, endive, alfalfa sprouts, celery sticks, cole slaw, cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, green peas, green peppers, radishes, zucchini, better, eggs (chopped), tuna in spring water, parmesan cheese, Chinese noodles, gelatin salads, Italian low calorie dressing, vinaigrette, low fat dressing.

Avoid:  avocado, olives, raisins, tomatoes, pickles, bacon bits, chickpeas, kidney beans nuts, shredded cheddar cheese, three bean salads, sunflower seeds, Chow Mein noodles, fried bread croutons, potato salad, thick salad dressing, relishes”

What could be easier than printing this out and sticking it in your wallet? But Lori is not just about the renal diet. She also posts CKD & dialysis podcasts at KidneyTalk 24/7 Podcast Radio Show. All this and more are on the website. I must admit I look forward to the RSNHope magazine each quarter.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Diabetic Neuropathy or Not: I WILL Dance Again

I come from a family of dancers. My parents and their siblings were all light on their feet and danced from the time they were teens right up until just before their deaths. It was a delight to watch them. The tradition continued with me… and my youngest who actually taught blues dancing for several years.

Ah, but then my neuropathy appeared. This was years before the diabetes diagnosis. Hmmm, there’s still a question as to whether or not the diabetes was caused by the pancreatic cancer. After all, the pancreas does produce insulin.

I just reread the above two paragraphs and see so much that needs some basic explanation. Let’s start with those explanations this week. How many of you know what neuropathy is? I didn’t either until I was diagnosed with it. According to my favorite dictionary since college a million years ago, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neuropathy defines neuropathy as:

“damage, disease, or dysfunction of one or more nerves especially of the peripheral nervous system that is typically marked by burning or shooting pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness or atrophy, is often degenerative, and is usually caused by injury, infection, disease, drugs, toxins, or vitamin deficiency “

If you clicked though on ‘peripheral nervous system’ in the dictionary definition, you know it means,

“the part of the nervous system that is outside the central nervous system and comprises the cranial nerves excepting the optic nerve, the spinal nerves, and the autonomic nervous system”

Since the neuropathy was so minor before the pancreatic cancer, I wasn’t even aware of it until my neurologist did some testing. I knew my feet were tingly sometimes, but I thought they had fallen asleep. It did sort of feel like that.

Then, I started chemotherapy in March. The tingling became so bad that I couldn’t feel my feet under me and had to rely on a cane to keep my balance. We thought it was the chemo drugs causing the neuropathy. Uh-oh, that was just about when my hands became affected, too, and my A1C (Remember that one? It’s the blood test for the average of your blood glucose over a three month period.) rose all the way to 7.1.

Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/ac1-test#understanding-the-results tells us,

“Someone without diabetes will have about 5 percent of their hemoglobin glycated [Gail here: that means glucose bonded to hemoglobin]. A normal A1C level is 5.6 percent or below, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A level of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. People with diabetes have an A1C level of 6.5 percent or above.”

Mind you, during chemotherapy I’d been ordered to eat whatever I could. Getting in the calories would cut down on the expected weight loss. In all honesty, I’m the only person I know what gained weight while on chemotherapy.

Now, what is this about the pancreas producing insulin? Might as well get a definition of insulin while we’re at it. MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3989 offered the simplest explanation:

“A natural hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of the sugar glucose in the blood. Insulin permits cells to use glucose for energy. Cells cannot utilize glucose without insulin.”

That would explain why my energy is practically nil, but it also seems to indicate that I won’t be able to do anything about it until after the surgery to remove the tumor. Although, when I start radiation next week, I may be able to go back to the diabetic diet. By the way, after following the Chronic Kidney Disease diet for 11 years, none of the new – off the CKD diet – foods I tried are appealing to me.

But I digress. So, what now? I need to dance; it’s part of who I am. My oncologist referred me to Occupational Therapy. Now I have exercises and tactile surfaces to explore that may be helpful. But what about those who are not going through chemotherapy, but do have diabetic neuropathy? Remember diabetes is the number cause of CKD.

Oh, my goodness. It looks like there are as many ways to treat neuropathy as there are different kinds of neuropathy. I hadn’t expected that. EverydayHealth at https://www.everydayhealth.com/neuropathy/guide/treatment/ gives us an idea of just how complicated choosing the proper treatment for your neuropathy can be:

What Are the Main Ways That Neuropathy Is Treated?

Treating neuropathy in general focuses first on identifying and then addressing the underlying condition to help prevent further damage and give nerves the time they need to heal to the extent that they can.

“The treatment for the neuropathy is to reverse whatever it is that is causing the neuropathy,” says Clifford Segil, DO, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “We try to reverse the insult to the nerves first and then do symptomatic control.”

For people with diabetic neuropathy, the first step physicians take is getting the person’s blood glucose level under control, says Matthew Villani, DPM, a podiatrist at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida.

This treatment approach aims to remove the “insult” created by the excess sugar to peripheral nerves throughout the body — but especially the extremities, Dr. Segil explains.

Here are some other ways diabetic neuropathy may be treated:

  • Numbness or complete loss of sensation can lead to complications such as ulcers, sores, and limb amputations. It is addressed by monitoring the affected areas — often the feet — for injuries and addressing wounds before they become more serious, as well as prescribing protective footwear and braces.
  • Orthostatic hypotension (a drop in blood pressure upon standing up), which is an autonomic symptom, can be treated with increased sodium intake, a vasopressor such as ProAmatine (midodrine) to constrict blood vessels, a synthetic mineralocorticoid such as fludrocortisone to help maintain the balance of salt in the body, or a cholinesterase inhibitor such as pyridostigmine, which affects neurotransmitters.
  • Gastroparesis, a delayed emptying of the stomach, is another autonomic symptom, which can be treated with medication to control nausea and vomiting, such as Reglan (metoclopramide), Ery-Tab (erythromycin), antiemetics, and antidepressants, as well as pain medication for abdominal discomfort.
  • Motor neuropathy symptoms can include weakness and muscle wasting, particularly in the lower extremities, as well as deformities of the feet and loss of the Achilles’ heel tendon reflex. Treatments can include physical therapy to regain strength, as well as braces and orthotics.

I’ve got to think about this. Any questions? Well, then,

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Platelets Keep It Together

During my chemo journey, I’ve needed an infusion of platelets several times. Chronic Kidney Disease patients sometimes need them, too, but I’ll write about that later on in this blog. First question from the audience?

Oh, that’s a good one: What are platelets? This is from my very first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and will help to explain.

“1. The white blood cells makeup your immune system. There are usually from 7,000 to 25,000 WBC in a drop of blood, but if you have an infection, that number rises since these are the infection fighting blood cells.

2. The red blood cells, also called erythrocytes, carry oxygen to the other cells in your body – so the higher the number here the better – and waste such as carbon dioxide from them. There are approximately five billion red blood cells – the midsized cells – in a single drop of your blood.

3. The platelets deal with the blood’s clotting ability by repairing leaks in your blood vessels. Normally, there are 150,000 to 350,000 platelets in one drop of blood.”

I’ve included all three types of blood cells as we just might need that information later on.

Okay, how about another question? What’s that? You want to know how you know if your platelets are decreased? When you have blood tests, one of them is usually the CBC or Complete Blood Count. Let’s see if we can find more information from The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/complete-blood-count/about/pac-20384919.

“A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test used to evaluate your overall health and detect a wide range of disorders, including anemia, infection and leukemia.

A complete blood count test measures several components and features of your blood, including:

Red blood cells, which carry oxygen

White blood cells, which fight infection

Hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells

Hematocrit, the proportion of red blood cells to the fluid component, or plasma, in your blood

Platelets, which help with blood clotting”

If your doctors are anything like mine, I have one every three months for my primary care doctor, an annual CBC for my nephrologist, and weekly for my oncologist.

Now, remember the normal range of platelets is 150,000 to 350,000 platelets in one drop of blood. Mine were 16,000. Sure, it was the chemotherapy that was killing my platelets, but it was also the chemotherapy that was shrinking the tumor and lowering the tumor markers in my CA19-9 (blood test for tumor markers in pancreatic cancer). I couldn’t stop the chemotherapy, but my doctors could raise my platelets via infusion.

Young man in the back? Nice! He wants to know what the difference between infusion and transfusion is.  According to The Free Dictionary’s Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/infusion, infusion means

1. the steeping of a substance in water to obtain its soluble principles.

2. the product obtained by this process.

3. the slow therapeutic introduction of fluid other than blood into a vein.

That’s right. The third definition is the one we need.

Using the same source, this time at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/transfusion, we learn that transfusion means

“Transfusion is the process of transferring whole blood or blood components from one person (donor) to another (recipient).”

By the way, there’s quite a bit of other information about transfusions on this page.

Let’s talk about platelet infusions and CKD patients now. UpToDate at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/platelet-dysfunction-in-uremia  offers the following, but we may need a bit of hand holding to understand it:

“The association between renal dysfunction and bleeding was recognized more than 200 years ago…. However, there remains an incomplete understanding of the underlying pathophysiology. Impaired platelet function is one of the main determinants of uremic bleeding. This impairment is due largely to incompletely defined inhibitors of platelet function in the plasma of patients with markedly reduced kidney function. Abnormal platelet-endothelial interaction and anemia also play a role.”

Do you remember what uremic means? No problem … come along with me to visit my old buddy, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uremia

“1accumulation in the blood of constituents normally eliminated in the urine that produces a severe toxic condition and usually occurs in severe kidney disease

2: the toxic bodily condition associated with uremia”

Let’s use the same dictionary, this time at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endothelial, for the definition of endothelial, which is the adjective or describing word for endothelium.

“1: an epithelium of mesodermal origin composed of a single layer of thin flattened cells that lines internal body cavities and the lumens of vessels

2: the inner layer of the seed coat of some plants”

You guessed it: the first definition is the one we need. I think all the pieces are in place for you to understand the need for the right number of platelets and that platelet infusions are sometimes necessary. Too bad I didn’t before my white blouses and nightgowns were stained by the blood leaking from my nose (and other places too delicate to mention). Oh well, I can always buy more clothes.

New topic. I’ve written about All of Us Research several times and received this email from them this week.

“In case you missed it, we introduced our new Data Browser at the All of Us Research Program symposium on May 6th. The Data Browser is an interactive tool that lets you learn more about the health data that you and all the other participants have contributed so far. Currently in beta testing, it lets you search by topics like health conditions, survey questions, and physical measurements, and will include more data over time.

 We invite you to take a look at the Data Browser and let us know what you think. If you have feedback, you can email support@ResearchAllofUs.org.”

The URL for the Data Browser is https://databrowser.researchallofus.org.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Like Life?

A word I hear every few weeks at chemotherapy is Neulasta. I looked it up since I was being given an injection each time I heard the word. I went directly to the manufacturer’s website at https://www.neulasta.com/learn-about-neulasta/ to find out just what it was:

“Neulasta® is a prescription medicine used to help reduce the chance of infection due to a low white blood cell count, in people with certain types of cancer (non-myeloid), who receive anti-cancer medicines (chemotherapy) that can cause fever and low blood cell count.”

But then I needed to define ‘non-myeloid’ for myself. No problem. I called up my old standby The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/nonmyeloid:

“not being, involving, or affecting bone marrow”

Okay, got it. Neulasta reduces low white blood cell count infection in cancer that doesn’t affect the bone marrow. By the way, this is accomplished by forcing white blood cells – the infection fighting blood cells – to mature quickly.

No sooner did I get that straight in my mind than I started hearing a different word: Udenyca. It turned out that Udenya is a biosimilar for Neulasta. Now we get to the meat of the matter.

Just what is a biosimilar? I took a former English teacher’s stab at the definition and decided it meant ‘like life.’ But does it? The Free Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/biosimilarity helped us out here:

“biosimilar

(bī′ō-sĭm′ə-lər)

adj.

Highly similar in function and effect to an existing biological product,

especially to a biologic that has al-ready been clinically tested and approved for use.

n.

A biological product that is biosimilar to an existing product,

especially to a biologic”

Keep in mind that an adjective (adj.) describes a noun, while a noun (n.) is a person, place, thing, or idea.

Frankly, I didn’t find this very helpful. So I did what I considered the logical thing and looked to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website at https://www.fda.gov/media/108905/download for more explanation:

“A biosimilar is a biological product

FDA-approved biosimilars have been compared to an FDA-approved biologic, known as the reference product. Reference and biosimilar products are:

Large and generally complex molecules

Produced from living organisms

Carefully monitored to ensure consistent quality

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety

A biosimilar is highly similar to a reference product

For approval, the structure and function of an approved biosimilar were compared to a reference product, looking at key characteristics such as:

Purity

Molecular structure

Bioactivity

The data from these comparisons must show that the biosimilar is highly similar to the reference product.

A biosimilar has no clinically meaningful differences from a reference product

Studies were performed to show that biosimilars have no clinically meaningful differences in safety, purity or potency (safety and effectiveness) compared to the reference product:

Pharmacokinetic and, if needed, armacodynamic studies

Immunogenicity assessment

Additional clinical studies as needed

Studies may be done independently or combined.

A biosimilar is approved by FDA after rigorous evaluation and testing by the applicant

Prescribers and patients should have no concerns about using these medications instead of reference products because biosimilars:

Meet FDA’s rigorous standards for approval

Are manufactured in FDA-licensed facilities

Are tracked as part of post-market surveillance to ensure continued safety”

Okay! Now we’re talking. Pretty simple to understand, isn’t it? Well, maybe there’s a word or three we might need defined. Let’s take another look. These two definitions are from Dictionary.com.

“Pharmacokinetic – the branch of pharmacology that studies the fate of pharmacological substances in thebody, as their absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination.

Immunogenicity – causing or capable of producing an immune response.”

Wikipedia offered this interesting difference between Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamics.

“Pharmacodynamics is the study of how a drug affects an organism, whereas pharmacokinetics is the study of how the organism affects the drug. Both together influence dosing, benefit, and adverse effects.”

The point here is that the synthetic drug and biosimilars are not the same. Maybe my guess at their definition is far off the mark.  And lest you’re beginning to think this is a cancer blog rather than a Chronic Kidney Disease blog, biosimilars are used in CKD, too.

This snippet from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2018/08/03/CJN.01980218 will give you the idea:

“Most recognizable to nephrologists is the biologic recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). Considerably more expensive to develop and produce, biologics are more structurally complex than small-molecule drugs. By 2020, biologics will constitute an estimated 27% of spending on worldwide pharmacologics.”

Remember erythropoietin, more commonly known among CKD patients as epo? Not to worry; MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/erythropoietin/article.htm will remind us:

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone produced by the kidney that promotes the formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow. The kidney cells that make erythropoietin are sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood that travels through the kidney.”

Un-oh, I almost forgot to explain the difference between biosimilars and biologics. According to the Congressional Research Service at https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44620.pdf:

“A biological product, or biologic, is a preparation, such as a drug or a vaccine, that is made from living organisms. Compared with conventional chemical drugs, biologics are relatively large and complex molecules. They may be composed of proteins (and/or their constituent amino acids), carbohydrates (such as sugars), nucleic acids (such as DNA), or combinations of these substances.

Biologics may also be cells or tissues used in transplantation. A biosimilar, sometimes referred to as a follow-on biologic, is a therapeutic drug that is highly similar but not structurally identical, to a brand-name biologic (i.e., the reference product). This is in contrast to a generic chemical drug, which is an exact copy of a brand-name chemical drug (i.e., the reference listed drug). Because biologics are more complex than chemical drugs, both in composition and method of manufacture, biosimilars will not be exact replicas of the brand-name product, but may instead be shown to be highly similar. However, for many years, the drug industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have coped with the inherent variability in biological products from natural sources. FDA maintains that the batch-to-batch and lot-to-lot variability that occurs for both brand-name biologics and biosimilars can be assessed and managed effectively.”

Hmmm, looks like I’ve made a fairly simple concept terribly complex.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

More Time to Learn

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. Cancer does that… and it leaves me a lot of time in bed to explore whatever I’d like to on the internet. So now I’m discovering all these – what’s the word? – possibly peripheral? diseases that affect the kidneys. For example, while I don’t have the energy to post a new Chronic Kidney Disease picture on Instagram every day, I do check the site daily and like what appeals to me and learn from what’s new to me.

That’s where I noticed posts about Bartter syndrome. If you’re like me, you want to know about something you’ve never heard of before. Let’s explore this together.

I went directly to my old friend, MedlinePlus, which is part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000308.htm for a definition and the causes:

“Bartter syndrome is a group of rare conditions that affect the kidneys.

Causes

There are five gene defects known to be associated with Bartter syndrome. The condition is present at birth (congenital). The condition is caused by a defect in the kidneys’ ability to reabsorb sodium. People affected by Bartter syndrome lose too much sodium through the urine. This causes a rise in the level of the hormone aldosterone, and makes the kidneys remove too much potassium from the body. This is known as potassium wasting. The condition also results in an abnormal acid balance in the blood called hypokalemic alkalosis, which causes too much calcium in the urine.”

It looks like there are a few terms here we may now be familiar with. Let’s take a look at aldosterone. The Hormone Health Network from the Endocrine Society at https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/aldosterone tells us:

“Aldosterone is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys…. Aldosterone affects the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure. It sends the signal to organs, like the kidney and colon, that can increase the amount of sodium the body sends into the bloodstream or the amount of potassium released in the urine. The hormone also causes the bloodstream to re-absorb water with the sodium to increase blood volume. All of these actions are integral to increasing and lowering blood vessels. Indirectly, the hormone also helps maintain the blood’s pH and electrolyte levels.”

And hypokalemic alkalosis? What is that? Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/alkalosis#types  gave me the answer: “Hypokalemic alkalosis Hypokalemic alkalosis occurs when your body lacks the normal amount of the mineral potassium. You normally get potassium from your food, but not eating enough of it is rarely the cause of a potassium deficiency. Kidney disease, excessive sweating, and diarrhea are just a few ways you can lose too much potassium. Potassium is essential to the proper functioning of the:

  • heart
  • kidneys
  • muscles
  • nervous system
  • digestive system”

Hmmm, so kidney disease can cause you to lose too much potassium, which can then interfere with the proper functioning of your kidneys. Doesn’t sound good to me. But, remember that the condition is congenital and will show up at birth.

Let’s say it does. Then what? According to Verywellhealth at https://www.verywellhealth.com/bartter-syndrome-2860757:

“Treatment of Bartter syndrome focuses on keeping the blood potassium at a normal level. This is done by having a diet rich in potassium and taking potassium supplements if needed. There are also drugs that reduce the loss of potassium in the urine, such as spironolactone, triamterene, or amiloride. Other medications used to treat Bartter syndrome may include indomethacin, captopril, and in children, growth hormone.”

Food rich in potassium? I’m sure bananas came directly into your mind but there are others. I chose to use the National Kidney Foundation’s list of high potassium foods at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium since this is a blog about CKD.What foods are high in potassium (greater than 200 milligrams per portion)? The following table lists foods that are high in potassium. The portion size is ½ cup unless otherwise stated. Please be sure to check portion sizes. While all the foods on this list are high in potassium, some are higher than others.

High-Potassium Foods
Fruits Vegetables Other Foods
Apricot, raw (2 medium) dried (5 halves) Acorn Squash Bran/Bran products
Avocado (¼ whole) Artichoke Chocolate (1.5-2 ounces)
Banana (½ whole) Bamboo Shoots Granola
Cantaloupe Baked Beans Milk, all types (1 cup)
Dates (5 whole) Butternut Squash Molasses (1 Tablespoon)
Dried fruits Refried Beans Nutritional Supplements: Use only under the direction of your doctor or dietitian.
Figs, dried Beets, fresh then boiled
Grapefruit Juice Black Beans
Honeydew Broccoli, cooked Nuts and Seeds (1 ounce)
Kiwi (1 medium) Brussels Sprouts Peanut Butter (2 tbs.)
Mango(1 medium) Chinese Cabbage Salt Substitutes/Lite Salt
Nectarine(1 medium) Carrots, raw Salt Free Broth
Orange(1 medium) Dried Beans and Peas Yogurt
Orange Juice Greens, except Kale Snuff/Chewing Tobacco
Papaya (½ whole) Hubbard Squash
Pomegranate (1 whole) Kohlrabi
Pomegranate Juice Lentils
Prunes Legumes
Prune Juice White Mushrooms, cooked (½ cup)
Raisins Okra
Parsnips
Potatoes, white and sweet
Pumpkin
Rutabagas
Spinach, cooked
Tomatoes/Tomato products
Vegetable Juices”

I also have a list of food sensitivities, so I avoid those foods. If you do, too, you might want to cross those foods off your high potassium foods list if you just happen to have Bartter syndrome.

Time for a few personal notes here. Thank you all for your well wishes and good cheer. Via a clinical trial, I have been able to shrink the pancreatic cancer tumor by two thirds and bring my blood tumor marker down to BELOW normal. This raises my chances for a successful Whipple surgery from 50% to 70% and that’s before another round of chemotherapy with radiation added. Hopeful? You bet! I also wanted to remind you that the SlowItDownCKD series makes a wonderful graduation, wedding, and Father’s Day gift for those new to Chronic Kidney Disease, those not new to Chronic Kidney Disease, and those who would like to share CKD with others in their lives.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

No Longer a Transfusion Virgin

I’ve been thinking about the similarities between Chronic Kidney Disease treatment and Pancreatic Cancer treatment… or, at least, my Pancreatic Cancer treatment. Some are superficial, like going to the Research Institute several days a week for chemotherapy and those on dialysis going to the dialysis center several days a week for dialysis.

Some are not. A current topic of similarity was an eye opener for me. I am 72 years old and have never had a transfusion before last Monday. I’d gone to the Research Institute where I’m part of a clinical trial for a simple non-chemotherapy day checkup. This supposedly two hour appointment turned into almost eight hours. Why?

If you can understand these labs, you’ll know. If not, no problem. You know I’ll explain.

Component Your Value Standard Range
  RBC 2.23 10ˆ6/uL 3.50 – 5.40 10ˆ6/uL
Hemoglobin 6.8 g/dL 12.0 – 16.0 g/dL
Hematocrit 19.7 % 36.0 – 48.0 %
RDW 16.0 % 11.5 – 14.5 %
Platelets 15 K/uL 130 – 450 K/uL

Let’s start at the top of the list. RBC stands for red blood cells. MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5260 tells us:

“Red blood cells: The blood cells that carry oxygen. Red cells contain hemoglobin and it is the hemoglobin which permits them to transport oxygen (and carbon dioxide). Hemoglobin, aside from being a transport molecule, is a pigment. It gives the cells their red color (and their name).

The abbreviation for red blood cells is RBCs. Red blood cells are sometime simply called red cells. They are also called erythrocytes or, rarely today, red blood corpuscles.”

So it makes sense that if RBC is below the standard range (column on the right), the hemoglobin will also be. And where are RBCs produced? Let’s trot on over to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Disease (NIKKD) at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/anemia for the answer to that one:

“Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO). A hormone is a chemical produced by the body and released into the blood to help trigger or regulate particular body functions. EPO prompts the bone marrow to make red blood cells, which then carry oxygen throughout the body.

What causes anemia in chronic kidney disease?

When kidneys are diseased or damaged, they do not make enough EPO. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, causing anemia. When blood has fewer red blood cells, it deprives the body of the oxygen it needs.”

Now, this is not saying all CKD patients will have anemia, although it is common is the later stages of the disease. Chemotherapy had a lot to do with this, too.

What about this hematocrit? What is that? I went to the University of Rochester’s Health Encyclopedia at https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=hematocrit for help here:

“This test measures how much of your blood is made up of red blood cells.

Normal blood contains white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, and the fluid portion called plasma. The word hematocrit means to separate. In this test, your red blood cells are separated from the rest of your blood so they can be measured.

Your hematocrit (HCT) shows whether you have a normal amount of red blood cells, too many, or too few. To measure your HCT, your blood sample is spun at a high speed to separate the red blood cells.”

MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321568.php helps us understand the RDW or red cell distribution width:

“If the results of a CBC [Gail here: that’s the complete blood count.] show low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin, this usually suggests anemia. Doctors will then try to determine the cause of the condition using the RDW and other tests.”

So, we’re back to anemia. By the way, cancer is one of the diseases that can cause high numbers on your RDW. CKD is not, but diabetes – one of the primary causes of CKD – is.

I added platelets to the list since they are such an integral part of your blood. MedLinePlus at https://medlineplus.gov/plateletdisorders.html explains succinctly just what they are and what they do:

“Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are small pieces of blood cells. They form in your bone marrow, a sponge-like tissue in your bones. Platelets play a major role in blood clotting. Normally, when one of your blood vessels is injured, you start to bleed. Your platelets will clot (clump together) to plug the hole in the blood vessel and stop the bleeding. You can have different problems with your platelets:

If your blood has a low number of platelets, it is called thrombocytopenia. This can put you at risk for mild to serious bleeding. The bleeding could be external or internal. There can be various causes. If the problem is mild, you may not need treatment. For more serious cases, you may need medicines or blood or platelet transfusions….”

I had my second infusion of platelets along with my first transfusion last week.

I’ve offered a multitude of definitions today. The point here is that both CKD patients and chemotherapy patients (and others suffering from a host of maladies) may need transfusions.

Right. I haven’t discussed what a transfusion is yet. Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/transfusion defines it a little simplistically for us:

“the direct transferring of blood, plasma, or the like into a blood vessel.”

The MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/blood-transfusion/about/pac-20385168 adds:

“Your blood will be tested before a transfusion to determine whether your blood type is A, B, AB or O and whether your blood is Rh positive or Rh negative. The donated blood used for your transfusion must be compatible with your blood type.”

That’s when we discovered my son-in-law and I have the same blood type. Nice to know… just in case, you understand.

Before I leave you today, I want to remind my USA readers that this is Memorial Day. Having married a veteran, I now understand that we are honoring those who gave their saves to preserve ours no matter how long ago or how recent. Please give them a moment of your thoughts.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Clinical Trials Day

By now, you probably all know that I chose a clinical trial to treat my pancreatic cancer. But did you know that today, May 20th, is Clinical Trials Day? What’s that, you ask? Let’s find out together. According to The Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) at http://www.clinicaltrialsday.org/:

“WHY MAY 20?

Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world in May to recognize the day that James Lind started what is often considered the first randomized clinical trial aboard a ship on May 20, 1747.

HERE’S THE STORY

May, 1747.

The HMS Salisbury of Britain’s Royal Navy fleet patrols the English Channel at a time when scurvy is thought to have killed more British seamen than French and Spanish arms.

Aboard this ship, surgeon mate James Lind, a pioneer of naval hygiene, conducts what many refer to as the first clinical trial.

Acting on a hunch that scurvy was caused by putrefaction of the body that could be cured through the introduction of acids, Lind recruited 12 men for his ‘fair test.’…


From The James Lind Library:

Without stating what method of allocation he used, Lind allocated two men to each of six different daily treatments for a period of fourteen days. The six treatments were: 1.1 litres of cider; twenty-five millilitres of elixir vitriol (dilute sulphuric acid); 18 millilitres of vinegar three times throughout the day before meals; half a pint of sea water; two oranges and one lemon continued for six days only (when the supply was exhausted); and a medicinal paste made up of garlic, mustard seed, dried radish root and gum myrrh.

Those allocated citrus fruits experienced ‘the most sudden and good visible effects,’ according to Lind’s report on the trial.

Though Lind, according to The James Lind Library, might have left his readers ‘confused about his recommendations’ regarding the use of citrus in curing scurvy, he is ‘rightly recognized for having taken care to “‘compare like with like’’, and the design of his trial may have inspired ‘and informed future clinical trial design.'”

I’ve written about James Lind before, so you may want to re-read the 8/20/18 blog to read more about him and his experiments.

Time travel to 2019 with me, if you will, to read what Antidote.Me has to offer in the way of Chronic Kidney Disease Clinical Trials.

****

Headline: Chronic Kidney Disease Research: How to Get Involved

By Nancy Ryerson

May 20 is Clinical Trials Day. Every year, patient advocates and research groups participate to raise awareness of how clinical trial participation drives research progress. You may know that new treatments for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) can’t move forward without clinical trial volunteers, but you may not know how to find active, relevant trials in your area.

Below, you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions about finding CKD clinical trials, including who can join, how to find trials, and the kinds of questions CKD research aims to answer.

How can I find Chronic Kidney Disease clinical trials near me?

There are currently 171 research studies for CKD looking for volunteers in the United States. All clinical trials are listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, but because the website was developed with researchers in mind rather than patients, it can be difficult for patients to navigate. Antidote is a clinical trial matching company that provides a patient-friendly clinical trial search tool to health nonprofits and bloggers, including this blog. With the Antidote tool, you can answer a few questions about your medical history and where you’d like to find a trial to receive a list of trials you may qualify for in your area. You can also sign up to receive alerts when new trials are added near you.

Who can join CKD clinical trials?

 It’s a common misconception that clinical trials only need volunteers who have been recently diagnosed to take part. It’s also untrue that clinical trials are only a “last resort” for patients who have exhausted other options. In reality, clinical trials can be a care option for patients at any point after diagnosis. CKD trials need volunteers with mild, moderate, and severe kidney disease to participate in different trials. Some trials also look for patients with specific comorbidities, such as hypertension. 

What does CKD research typically focus on? 

Clinical trials for Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) research potential new treatments to slow or stop CKD, as well as treat common conditions associated with CKD, such as anemia or hypertension.

CKD clinical trials aren’t limited to research into new drugs, either. For example, a kidney-friendly diet can make a significant difference in reducing kidney damage, and more research is needed into specific interventions that can help. Research studies are also looking into the impact exercise can have on CKD symptoms and progression.

Clinical trials may also be observational. These kinds of trials don’t test an intervention – a drug, diet, lifestyle change, etc. Instead, participants are divided into groups and observed for differences in outcome. 

Do clinical trials always use a placebo? 

In clinical trials, placebos – also known as “sugar pills” – help researchers understand the effectiveness of an experimental treatment. While they can be an important part of the research process, it’s also understandable that patients hope they won’t receive the placebo in a clinical trial.

If you’re considering taking part in a trial but you’re concerned about receiving a placebo, it’s important to know that not all trials use one. Many trials test a potential new treatment against the standard of care, for example. In some trials that use a placebo, everyone in the trial may receive the study drug at some point during the trial. 

I don’t have time to participate in a clinical trial.

Time restraints are another reason many patients hesitate to participate in clinical trials. While some clinical trials may require weekly site visits, others may only ask participants to come in every month or so. Some trials may also offer virtual visits online or home visits to help reduce the number of trips you’ll need to take to get to a site. When you’re considering joining a clinical trial, ask the study team any questions you have about the trial schedule, reimbursement for travel, or anything else about participation.

Interested in finding a trial near you? Use the SlowItDownCKD trial search, powered by Antidote, to start your search. (Gail here: It’s at the bottom right hand side of the blog roll.)

Ladies and Gentleman, start your motors! I hope you find just the right CKD Clinical Trial for you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

That’s Not a Kind of Kidney Disease.  Or Is It?

It’s like I’m attuned to anything kidney. After eleven years of writing about Chronic Kidney Disease, I’ll bet I am. Sometimes, it’s the smallest connection that triggers something in my mind. For example, Sjögren’s syndrome kept nagging at me, although I’d never heard of it as a sort of kidney disease. So, what was it and what did it have to do with the kidneys? I went right to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation at https://info.sjogrens.org/conquering-sjogrens/sjogrens-kidney-disease for information.

Sjögren’s & Kidney Disease

by Philip L. Cohen, MD, Professor of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine 

About 5% of people with Sjögren’s develop kidney problems. In most of these patients, the cause is inflammation around the kidney tubules, where urine is collected, concentrated, and becomes acidic. The infiltrating blood cells (mostly lymphocytes) injure the tubular cells, so that the urine does not become as acidic as it should. This condition, called distal renal tubular acidosis, is frequently asymptomatic, but can cause excessive potassium to be excreted in the urine, and may lead to kidney stones or (very rarely) low enough blood potassium to cause muscle weakness or heart problems. Very occasionally, injury to the renal tubules can cause impairment in the ability to concentrate urine, leading to excessive urine volume and increased drinking of fluids (nephrogenic diabetes insipidus).

A smaller number of patients with Sjögren’s may develop inflammation of the glomeruli, which are the tiny capillaries through which blood is filtered to produce urine. This may cause protein to leak into the urine, along with red blood cells. Sometimes a kidney biopsy is needed to establish the exact diagnosis and treatment. Treatment options may include corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs to prevent loss of kidney function.

This information was first printed in The Moisture Seekers, SSF’s patient newsletter for members.”

This reminds me of when I was teaching critical thinking on the college level. First, we’d hit the class with an article about something foreign to them and then, we’d show them how to figure out what it meant. For our purposes, a few explanations and perhaps a diagram or two might be a good place to start.

Tubules, huh? What are those? Actually, the word just means tube shaped. Remembering that renal and kidney mean the same thing, we can see the problem area.

Here’s another picture. This one to show you glomeruli.

Now remember, CKD patients are usually limited as to how much fluid they can drink per day. Too much forces the kidneys to work too hard to clear the urine from your body. Remember the car analogy from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease?

As for potassium, that’s one of the electrolytes CKD patients need to be aware of. This article by Dr. Parker on Healthy Way at http://www.bmj-health.com/what-does-potassium-do/ explains:

“Potassium does many important functions in the body. This essential mineral is mainly found inside the cells of our body. Low potassium levels are associated with many health conditions including hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and muscle weakness. We should take adequate amounts of potassium-rich foods for a healthy life.

Potassium is essential for the heart

We need potassium to maintain the blood pressure within normal range. There should be a balance between sodium and potassium in the body to regulate our blood pressure. Too much sodium and too little potassium can elevate your blood pressure.

In addition, potassium is needed for the contraction of the heart. Potassium levels in the blood should be kept nearly constant or within a narrow range for the proper pumping action of the heart. The heart may stop beating if we have high or low levels of potassium in the blood.

We need potassium for stronger muscles

Most of the potassium in the body is found inside the muscle cells. It is the main positively charged ion inside the cells. It is essential for the contraction of muscles. Low levels of potassium are associated with muscle twitching, cramps and muscle weakness. Very low levels can cause paralysis of the muscles.

Hypokalemic periodic paralysis is a disorder that causes occasional episodes of muscle weakness and paralysis caused by lower levels of potassium in the blood. It is a genetic condition that runs in families.

It is essential for nerve conduction

Sodium and potassium are needed to maintain the electrical potential across the nerve cells. This electrical charge is essential for the conduction of nerve signals along the nerves.

It protects from stroke

Researchers found eating potassium-rich foods is associated with reduced incidents of stroke. A recent study conducted in postmenopausal women supports the findings. One of the co-researchers says, ‘post-menopausal women should eat more potassium-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, milk and unprocessed meats in order to lower their risk of stroke and death’.

It is important for water and electrolyte balance in the body

Water and electrolyte balance is maintained by the kidneys. This is one of the important functions of the kidneys. Aldosterone, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands plays the primary role in the balance of sodium and potassium.

The normal blood level of potassium is 3.5 to 5 mmol/l. A level of less than 3.5 is called hypokalemia, and more than 5 is called hyperkalemia. To achieve the normal blood level, we need to take about 4 to 5 grams of potassium per day. An average size banana will provide about 25% of daily requirement.

It is recommended to eat foods that have plenty of potassium. In addition, your diet should contain low amounts of sodium (salt). Taking supplements is not a good idea. It can cause many side effects.

People who have certain medical conditions such as chronic kidney failure should not eat large amounts of potassium-rich foods.

People who take certain types of medications should consult a doctor about their potassium intake. Some may need additional intake while others may need to restrict the intake of potassium rich foods.”

So, while Sjögren’s syndrome may not be a kind of kidney disease, it can affect your kidneys. Thanks for keeping me company while I made the connection for myself.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!