It’s been an interesting month so far. On the first, I found a lump in my left breast. On the third, my doctor confirmed that there was something there, though she suspected it was fibrocystic tissue possibly related to perimenopause. On the eighth, I had an ultrasound and mammogram, where they (thankfully) found nothing abnormal. So that first week was a rollercoaster of emotions that ended in relief.
Then last week, I had blood drawn for my semi-annual health checkup. The last time I did this, I had mostly good improvements from the previous autumn. This time around, I was expecting bad bad bad. After months of living on restaurants and microwavable meals, hardly able to exercise, and dealing with stress and weight gain on top of that, I knew my numbers would be much worse than in April. I was surprised, then, to get my lab results and discover mostly positive changes. All aspects of my cholesterol were better than before, some the best they’ve ever been. My glucose numbers are up slightly, but still within normal range and right close to where they usually stay. My insulin is back to normal for the first time in years, and my inflammation levels have gone from very elevated to only mildly elevated. My iron levels are smack in the middle of normal instead of being super high. My liver-function numbers are doing fantastic. Everything looks great, with one exception that ties in to the first part of this post.
Both my estrogen and progesterone levels are at post-menopausal levels. The progesterone in particular came in at nearly the bottom of post-menopausal range. My doctor already suspected I was in perimenopause despite only being 39 years old. That would explain a few symptoms I’ve had, as well as the development of fibrocystic tissue. It also ties in with family history of early menopause (usually by mid-40s). But I’m not menopausal or post-menopausal yet, not by a long shot. Those numbers shouldn’t be nearly as low as they are. This means two things: First, these numbers are likely being affected by my PCOS, and I need to work with my Ob/Gyn to get them back to normal. I have an appointment in January for specific hormone work after specific blood tests to come in December. Second, these out-of-whack hormones are possibly affecting my health in many ways, from difficulty losing weight to the bizarre changes to my senses of smell and taste over the last nine months.
[Side-note backstory: In January, I lost my sense of smell completely (anosmia). I thought it was related to a series of illnesses that lasted until I got strong antibiotics in April, but my sense of smell didn’t return until June 1st, when I came home to find my house torn to pieces and plaster dust everywhere. After that, the only thing I could smell for two months was plaster, and any food with a high fat content tasted spoiled/rancid. I actually threw out a jar of peanut butter, thinking it had gone bad. This isn’t the same as when you’re sick and things taste weird. This was a full-blown change in sensory perception. My doctor put me on prednisone for something else, and since then I can’t eat 90% of dairy products because they taste like copper. (That’s a common side effect, but it’s supposed to go away after you finish the medicine. It’s been three months since I finished.) Then one day, very sudden, the plaster went away and everything smelled like undercooked sweet bread. Rancid and copper tastes stayed. Then after another month, another sudden shift occurred and the only thing I could smell was sewage. That’s where I stand today. If there’s a strong odor of gasoline or pizza or rain, it smells like sewage. If it doesn’t smell like sewage, then I can’t smell it at all. Obviously, this is a problem, and I’m at a loss to explain it. I thought it might have been my previous antidepressant because I lost my sense of smell after we increased the dosage, but I’ve been off that medicine for nearly four months and nothing has changed.]
I saw my primary care doctor yesterday to discuss the lab results. Unfortunately, he was called away on an emergency and I had to see a different doctor in the practice, but I still told him about the anosmia after he went through my lab results. My next step – sigh – is to get a brain MRI to make sure there are no physical obstructions in my brain, pituitary gland, or sinus region. The anosmia might also indicate the development of full-blown hemochromatosis (a genetic high blood iron disorder that runs in my family, and which I’ve been tested genetically-inclined-to-develop with two abnormal markers in my DNA). I had no idea that changes in sensory perceptions could be caused by hemochromatosis, and since my iron, ferritin, and iron-binding levels are all on the lower end of normal right now, I’m pretty sure that’s not it. But I’m also hoping that this brain MRI thing comes back negative. It’s kind of a scary time for my health right now!