Back in June 2008 I had a routine blood test. My liver was found to be over-active, with elevated ALT and iron levels very high. After a couple more blood tests, I was referred to a liver specialist. This was the start of a rollercoaster ride of worry.
First, I was sent for an ultrasound – yes the sort that pregnant women had. The doctor confirmed that I wasn’t pregnant and that there was a layer of fat on my liver. Normal for my age apparently. I was 45, 5’9″ tall and 14 stone in weight. Not excessive, but maybe a little lardy!
Back to the specialist, who scratched his head a little and sent me for a CT scan. A most unpleasant experience with the iodine being pumped into your body so the scan shows up. Nothing untoward showed up there either.
Finally, the day before Christmas Eve, I am sent for a liver biopsy to make sure there’s nothing abnormal with my liver. This is a procedure that you remain conscious for as the doctor inserts a needle through your left hand side and into the liver. You have to stop breathing as this is done to stop the organs moving around and causing internal bleeding – the most common complication with a liver biopsy. The sensation is like being punched in the side, you can feel the needle push, then pierce the organ as it goes in for the sample. The biopsy failed, so a second needle was inserted (after a little swearing from myself). You then have to lie on your side for two hours, then stay in bed being observed for a further four before being allowed home.
So, wait for the results, then back to the specialist for a verdict.
Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease was the diagnosis in my case. Some people can cope with fat on the liver, but in my case, it makes it go berserk. Excessive iron and other enzymes won’t directly kill you through liver failure, but will cause other organs to have problems. The cure is to lose weight.
I was basically told “it’s not the liver that’ll kill you, but the iron buggering up your other organs”.
So, some incentive then. The prescribed diet was no carbs (no potatoes, rice, pasta, bread), no sugar (cakes, biscuits, sweets,fizzy drinks etc.), and no red meat. So, chicken, fish, salad, vegetables and fruit. Cheese and dairy is OK. I’d already given up the booze when all of this started back in June.
Weight falls off, but it’s boring, and I stuck to it 100% (they scared the sh*t out of me – quite literally). After about three months, I’d lost about a stone and a half, after five or so, two stone.
I joined a gym too, and when asked what my goal was, I replied “I want to move this up about a foot”, pointing at my stomach.
Back for blood tests and the final verdict after doing what I’ve been told by the specialist. If the blood enzymes are not back to normal, I’m in real trouble. Liver transplant or worse.
The specialist tells me I’ve got the all clear, blood results are back to normal, so I can eat normally now, but I have to keep the weight under control. 11st 12lb at the consultation for the record – a couple of pounds lost through worry no doubt!
I’m keeping the weight off successfully, three months on and still hovering around twelve stone. I avoid eating excessively, I’m still not drinking (mostly). I had two pints of Guinness two weeks ago – a real bender!, but drinking is a rarity now. I don’t eat chocolate bars as snacks any more & sweets just seem pointless. Yoghurt for breakfast, a salad and something like chicken or prawns for lunch and a normal dinner. Crisps and things like pizza are best avoided.
Our office has moved, so visiting the gym’s a problem, but I’m cycling to and from the station every day, so I’m reasonably active. Carrying my cameras around at the weekend is more exercise – yes really! Have you seen me carrying two large cameras and lenses?
Some bonuses :
I’m fitter. Nothing fazes me any more, like long walks, or the odd sprint etc.
I used to have trouble with my knees, and carrying about 15% less weight through them has just about cured that problem.
The downside is that I’ve had to buy new trousers. I’ve gone down two inches on my waist size.
I know that it sounds like a cliché, but I feel ten years younger – some people even say I look it!
Hundreds of chickens have died to help me achieve my goal and I thank them.