medication · Uncategorized

My Pituitary Gland Has A Great Sense Of Timing


So, I have a super rare tumor on my pituitary gland. It’s called a TSHoma or thyrotropinoma, because it produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). I’ve had surgery on it twice but we’ve never quite been able to get rid of it, there’s still a teeny stumpy bit left.

There’s actually technically no approved medical treatment for my condition, because it’s so rare, but for many years I was treated off-label with a medication called Somatuline, which is used for another kind of pituitary tumor and worked well for mine. However, when my husband and I decided we wanted to try for a baby, my endocrinologists suggested trying another medication, also off-label, usually used for yet another kind of pituitary tumor. It’s called cabergoline and they suggested trying it because it’s been used slightly more often in pregnancy compared to the other medication I was on. My doctors thought there was maybe a one in five or one in six chance that it would work to treat my tumor, so I was pretty pleased when it did.

Cabergoline stops you lactating, because it inhibits the production of prolactin by the pituitary. As I wanted to have a chance at breastfeeding, we agreed that I would stop taking the medication six weeks before my due date with Little Man, to give it a good chance to leave my system and allow me to produce breast milk before he arrived.

As it turned out, Little Man had his own plans. My waters went at 36 weeks and 5 days, and he arrived at 37 weeks exactly (just 2 and a half hours away from being technically premature!). Breastfeeding didn’t work out for us, but when I saw my endocrinologist a few weeks after the birth, I wasn’t having any symptoms from being off the medication, so we agreed I would stay off it for now. I was due to return in three months, and get in touch if my symptoms came back.

Well, now that coronavirus is here and I really don’t want to go to the hospital or GPs, my symptoms are back and I want to go back on my medication. It’s not terrible so far, just occasionally a fast heart rate, feeling a bit jittery, and the odd shooting pain in my neck (always the most unambiguous sign that my thyroid is doing something weird).

The hospital has introduced a great new telephone system where you can’t just phone a department directly, you have to go through a central switchboard. This is great because it means that you can wait on hold for ages to explain why you’re calling to the switchboard operator, who then explains that they can’t help you and will need to put you through to the department. Then you’re on hold again, which is brilliant because the hold music is not at all deeply irritating. Then either a) no one answers and the call just terminates, or b) someone answers and you get to explain why you’re calling again, so they can tell you that they’re not the right person to talk to and they’ll put you through to the relevant person. Then the relevant person isn’t in, so you’re told they’ll call you back. Then, when they don’t call you back, you get to start the whole process again.

It really is a genius of modern system design, because previously when I had to call the hospital, I sometimes only reached medium levels of furious hatred at their appalling administration, whereas now I reach maximum capacity every time.

So, last week I sent an email to my endocrinologist’s secretary, in a bid to avoid having to telephone hundreds of times until my soul is macerated completely and starts to run out of my nose. However, I have not heard back and my symptoms are only getting more noticeable, so I guess telephoning is now my only option. I can’t wait!

The pituitary gland is also known as the hypophysis. And that’s not just a hypothesis.
Just for fun · Uncategorized

Lockdown Fun: The Quarantini Challenge


So lockdown is boring (have I mentioned that?), and we have to find ways to make it more fun. My awesome husband came up with the idea of inventing a cocktail with just ingredients we already have in the house (although, fair warning, we do have two shelves of booze in the pantry, so it’s not a particularly heavy restriction). Clearly this would be named… The Quarantini. And this is the Quarantini Challenge!

I suggested we should each separately come up with a recipe and swap. Originally we were both going to make our drinks on Sunday evening, but after Martin made his drinks, it rapidly became clear that having another cocktail each would result in a much higher level of inebriation than intended or appropriate for a Sunday night. So I made mine on Monday instead.

Read on for the recipes…

Martin’s Quarantini: The Dirty Artini

Named after Dirty Arty, a video game character notorious for eating tinned peaches and leaving the cans behind (among other things). Martin went with the base of a classic Martini, and a quarantine twist straight from our cupboard of canned goods. His recipe:

  • 50ml gin (he used Roku gin, a Japanese brand)
  • 10ml Marsala wine
  • 10ml peach liqueur (or umeshu)
  • 15ml tinned peach juice

The above to be stirred over ice, strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a slice of tinned peach (lockdown bonus: you get to eat the rest of the tin afterwards).

My Quarantini: The Jumbletini

Named because it was made of a total mish-mash of random booze from the store cupboard, I proudly present my recipe for a quarantini:

  • 25ml spiced dark rum (I used Kraken rum, our favourite)
  • 25ml lemon gin (Sipsmith Lemon Drizzle)
  • 10ml pink grapefruit gin (from the Ely Gin Company)
  • 10ml umeshu (Japanese plum wine which I’m obsessed with, I used The Choya Single Year)
  • lemonade to taste
  • mint leaves from the garden

I smushed up the mint leaves (technical term) and served the above over ice in our favourite sparkley whiskey glasses.

The Quarantini Challenge: Who Won?

Obviously it pains me to admit it, but Martin’s quarantini was better! My cocktail was pretty nice actually, and I would drink it again, but Martin’s was delicious, plus you got to eat the boozey peach slice at the end, which was awesome. So yes: Martin won the Quarantini Challenge!

Have you made a quarantini? What was your recipe? I’d love to try other people’s store cupboard cocktails too!

More lockdown fun…

I’ve also written about my kitchen tips and tricks for lockdown, focusing around cooking and storage tips and ideas for stocking up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Why not check it out?


Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks for Food Shortages and Limited Shopping Trips


Hi guys! I thought today I would share some of my best lockdown larder tips for cooking and stocking your kitchen during the current coronavirus lockdown. My husband is the chef in our household, while I do the baking. As I’m on maternity leave though, I’ve done most of the organising of food shops and storage.

I’m currently sat in our living room with my three month old son, who is busy doing a poo. This is a rather involved process requiring a lot of concentration, so I guess we could be here a while. I might as well do something useful with the time…

Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks

1. You Can Freeze Milk

I was surprised how many people don’t know this! But you can totally freeze fresh milk. My mum has been doing this for years to ensure the house never runs out. I currently have four spare bottles of milk in the freezer for the times when we can’t get hold of it at the supermarket. Obviously if you’re going to do this, be considerate – don’t buy up loads of milk at once, as that’s what leads to shortages. Buy a little extra and set it aside over several shopping trips. Also, fair warning: frozen milk does turn yellow, which looks slightly horrifying, but it goes white again when you defrost it.

Bonus tip: you can also freeze butter.

2. You can make bread without yeast.

I know a lot of places are experiencing shortages of baker’s yeast, but you can make delicious flatbread without yeast, such as Indian naan bread (click for the recipe) or, if you prefer something that’s a more traditional loaf, you can make Irish soda bread.

However, in actual fact you can make a lot more kinds of bread because…

3. You don’t need yeast to make yeast

You can make your own yeast with just flour and water, by capturing natural yeast from the air to make a sourdough starter. Once your sourdough starter is going, you can bake all kinds of yeasted breads and cakes from it. Plus, if you’re homeschooling kids, it makes for a great home science project!

Speaking of which…

4. You don’t need eggs (or flour) to make cake

Obviously a lot of cake recipes require egg, and there seem to be a lot of shortages of eggs at the moment. Local farm shops/veg box delivery companies are a good alternative source to the supermarket, if you live somewhere a bit more rural.

However, if you can’t get eggs there’s still plenty of easy bakes you can do without them (and if you have kids, they’ll enjoy making them too). Try making scones,* or flapjacks are a great bake if you can’t get hold of eggs or flour. You can even make meringue without egg whites. There are also lots of vegan recipes online that are egg free, so get a’googling!

5. Green lentils bulk out meat dishes

If you are trying to ration what’s in your freezer, but want to make dishes such as cottage pie or spaghetti bolognese (really anything involving minced meat), you can make your mince go further by bulking out with green lentils. Cook your ragu or sauce, add the lentils about fifteen minutes before the end, and your meal will go much further, still taste deliciously meaty, and actually be healthier as well. Triple win! Plus, kids will not notice that you’re secretly feeding them veg. Quadruple win?

6. Freeze freeze freeze

Obviously you want to be making best use of your freezer right now, and minimising the number of trips to the supermarket wherever possible. There’s a lot of stuff that you can’t just freeze – lots of fresh vegetables need blanching before freezing, which is a total pain. On the other hand, I hear that scurvy is worse.

If you’re lazy like me, you can straight-up freeze onions and peppers (chop them first) without blanching, which is handy for making fajitas and stir fries etc. Then put other veg in sauces, soups, ragu etc. which can be frozen once cooked and make for an easy ready meal for your future self.

…And that’s me pretty much done on the top tips front, so let’s finish up with a few wise words from Ryan Gosling.

Lockdown Larder: Your Top Tips

Do you have any lockdown larder tips for food storage or preservation? I’d love to hear your ideas! Let me know in the comments.

* The recipe I’ve linked to suggests using egg to glaze, but you can substitute milk, or just not bother glazing!

Just for fun · pop culture

Why Boris Johnson and Joe Exotic are Practically the Same Person


Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve been watching Netflix’s Tiger King during lockdown. If you haven’t seen the show, I’ll warn you right now that this post won’t make a lot of sense. Anyway, I was of course immediately struck by the remarkable similarities between the semi-moronic egomaniac obsessed with power, and the… you know, the other semi-moronic egomaniac obsessed with power. And so, I present: eight reasons why Boris Johnson and Joe Exotic are practically the same person.

Why Boris Johnson and Joe Exotic Are Practically The Same Person

1. They’re both American.

Let’s start with the obvious. Joe Exotic was born in Kansas. Boris Johnson was born in New York.

2. They both use ridiculous names for their public persona.

Joe Exotic was born Joseph Schreibvogel, a name which completely fails to convey any sense that its owner may be America’s most prolific tiger breeder. Boris Johnson was born Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a name which very much succeeds in conveying the sense that its owner is an overprivileged, bumbling racist.

3. They both lure younger people into their bedrooms.

If Netflix’s Tiger King is to be believed, Joe Exotic induces young, straight men into relationships using the magic of meth. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, is under investigation for potential misconduct in a public office, after allegations that he gave his mistress, Jennifer Arcuri, public funds and access to foreign trade missions. Which of course might explain what she saw in a dumpy, spam-faced gentleman twenty years her senior.

4. They both have trademark bleach-blonde hairstyles.

Frankly it’s hard to say which hairdo is worse. But there’s certainly something about the bleached blonde colour that really brings out those reddish-pink tones in the skin.

5. They both vastly overestimate their ability to hold high political office.

Joe Exotic ran for President. Boris Johnson ran for Prime Minister. The only real distinction there is the number of other people each of them managed to fool into supporting them.

6. They both blame all their problems on an evil external entity.

In Joe Exotic’s case, all of life’s ills can be blamed on that bitch, Carole Baskin. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, prefers to blame the European Union. However, it should be noted that there’s absolutely no evidence that the European Union killed its husband and fed him to a tiger.

7. They both have someone pulling their strings from behind the scenes.

Boris Johnson has the murky shadow of “political advisor” Dominic Cummings looming over him like a creepy puppet master. According to Netflix’s Tiger King, Joe Exotic’s ex-business partner Jeff Lowe manoeuvred himself into position to take control of Joe’s zoo and conveniently land Joe in prison for soliciting murder for hire.

8. They both have ill-judged musical careers.

Thanks to Tiger King, Joe Exotic is now famed for such dittos as Here Kitty Kitty and I Saw A Tiger. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, once sung Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds to a group of journalists, and once heard it will never be forgotten.

Your Thoughts on Boris Johnson and Joe Exotic…

Have you been addicted to watching Netflix’s Tiger King during lockdown? Can you think of any similarities that I’ve missed between Boris Johnson and Joe Exotic? Let me know in the comments!

coronavirus · health

“Mummy, What Did You Do During the Pandemic?”


“Mummy, what did you do during the pandemic?”

“Well, darling, mostly I sat around the house wiping your vomit off things.”

It’s been three weeks now and I’ve left the house once for a walk and once to take Little Man to the doctor’s for his second set of vaccinations. It’s not really how I envisaged my maternity leave going. After two months, I’d just got to the point where taking Little Man out no longer felt like a huge undertaking, and I could predict how much time I would need to get us ready before leaving the house. I was just starting to think of doing some more adventurous trips out with him on my own, when coronavirus really hit and we had to stay in the house.

It’s hard not to be a bit gutted when I think of all the plans we had for maternity leave which probably won’t happen now. We were planning to take him for a couple of weeks in Ireland, drive down to Devon, we had family planning to visit from Japan in the summer, I was hoping to arrange some kind of ‘welcome to the world’ party for him… The list of cancellations goes on.

Equally, we have to get through this by staying positive and there are some positives. His dad is working from home which means he gets to spend so much more time with us, and that’s lovely for everyone (although he may not agree when he’s on a conference call and Little Man is kicking off downstairs). Plus, financially things aren’t so tight as expected with my maternity pay reduction, because we’re not going out and spending money.

Sometimes it feels a bit useless to be sat indoors, so I have to keep reminding myself that we’re at least doing our bit to try to avoid spreading this horrible virus around. We’re so grateful to all the keyworkers who make it possible for us to stay at home, from the delivery men who bring our shopping, to the medical staff on the front line who probably would like nothing more than to be sat at home with their kids every day, wiping vomit off things.



The Tooth Fairy vs. The Teething Demon


Older children who are gaining their adult teeth get visited by a lovely Tooth Fairy who pays them for their teeth (seriously though, what does she do with them?) and flutters away. But when babies are getting their teeth, who brings them? Pretty sure it’s the Teething Demon, who no-one has mentioned to me until now.

The Teething Demon Pays A Visit

In case that wasn’t enough of a clue, I can confirm that Little Man is teething. We’d wondered whether he was, as he has been dribbling like a pro footballer all week (it’s been very Messi) and quite fussy at feeds, especially towards the end when he’s been gnawing a bit on the bottle. Today we tried giving him his Matchstick Monkey teething toy to chew on, and he went absolutely popo loco, more or less trying to just bite the poor monkey’s head clean off (hence the Teething Demon…). I was super excited though, because he actually took hold of the monkey with his hands and put it in his mouth to chew, which is the first time he’s properly held anything other than mum and dad’s fingers.

I was surprised that he’s teething already, as he’s still not quite three months old and the NHS website says the average age for teething is six months. It doesn’t really seem fair, given that he’s not even over his colic yet and now we have another set of mystery pains to contend with! I do recommend the Matchstick Monkey (bought for him by his very proud grandma), and I’m going to see if we can get hold of some teething gel during the lockdown as well.

Interesting facts about teeth

I shall close this post with some interesting facts about teeth…

  • In Spanish and Hispanic cultures, instead of a Tooth Fairy, they have a Tooth Mouse! Sounds adorable, and definitely still better than a Teething Demon…
  • In the 10th century, there was a fashion for filing the teeth among Viking men.
  • In the Middle Ages it was believed that a witch could possess you if she obtained a part of your body, such as teeth, hair or fingernail clippings.

Enjoyed these interesting facts about teeth? Why not check out my post about the history of teething?


Vaccinations In A Time Of Coronavirus


Little Man was due his second set of vaccinations this week, so on Tuesday all three of us headed out to our GP’s office. We were a little worried about taking him to the surgery and the risk of coronavirus transmission, as we’ve all been very careful to stay at home as much as possible during the outbreak, but the illnesses he was being vaccinated against (including diphtheria*, tetanus, whooping cough and meningitis B) are just as nasty, or even nastier, than coronavirus. Diphtheria, for instance, has a death rate of up to 20% in the under-fives, and 5 – 10% overall even with treatment. It might be rare in the UK but there were still ten cases last year, and one death.

Vaccinations in a time of coronavirus

When I set up this blog on WordPress, I followed a number of other mummy bloggers more or less at random, to see what people were writing about and how families are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. I have subsequently already un-followed one blog that was pushing an anti-vaccination agenda. This included nonsense like claiming that it’s better for your child to catch measles so they develop immunity to it naturally, rather than through a vaccine. Of course, this rather misses the point that if your child dies from measles, they won’t get the chance to develop immunity either way.

Last year in Samoa, a measles outbreak killed 76 people, mostly children. Of the 1,249 measles cases in the US in the same year, 10% needed to be hospitalised. The average age of those hospitalised was just six years old. Even if your child survives measles, do you really want to run the risk of putting them through that when there is an effective vaccine?

I’ve never really understood the mindset of people who are anti-vaccine, but being a new mum and actively making the decision to vaccinate my child has got me thinking about it. Why do parents choose not to vaccinate? Maybe by trying to understand why parents refuse vaccinations, we can better address the issue and encourage a higher uptake of immunisations.

Why Do Parents Choose Not To Vaccinate?

It’s tough to watch your child have vaccinations

Firstly, I hadn’t appreciated how tough taking your baby to be vaccinated is. I thought I’d be fine with it – after all, Little Man was in intensive care for a while after he was born, and a couple of little injections should seem like nothing after watching him have a naso-gastric tube put in, various injections and blood tests etc. etc. But it was still tough! I had a little cry after I took him for his first immunisations. I think there’s a weird sense of guilt from the fact that I know what’s coming and he doesn’t – he’s being his usual happy self, in a room of new people and new things to look at, having some nice cuddles, and then bam! Someone sticks a needle in his leg, and he’s understandably upset. It’s not easy to see your child in pain, even very briefly, so maybe we need to acknowledge more that it can be difficult for parents, and provide more support and discussion of those feelings. Ultimately I was far more upset by the whole thing than Little Man ever was; once he had a cuddle he cheered up and was totally back to normal in about thirty seconds, probably wondering what his mum was looking so upset about.

Ideological reasons parents choose not to vaccinate

There are a lot of reasons why people choose not to vaccinate. Some religious groups refuse vaccines because of the way they are made, e.g. the use of animal gelatin. There’s also the fact that for those of us lucky enough to live in the developed world, there may simply be an impression that not being vaccinated isn’t much of a risk, because these diseases are now quite rare, or that the illness would easily be treatable if they did catch it. Ironically in that sense, vaccinations are a victim of their own success. These illnesses are only rare because we vaccinate and gain herd immunity. You have to wonder whether our experience with the coronavirus pandemic might help to change people’s perceptions on this one. There might not be a vaccine yet for COVID-19, but I’ll bet people will be queuing up to get it when there is.

Access to vaccinations

Finally, lack of education, lack of access to reliable information or access to healthcare are all potential issues. The anti-vaccination movement is big online and it can be daunting to wade through a deluge of online information about vaccines (including some heart-rending, but completely anecdotal stuff) to determine what is reliable and what is not. That makes it hard to make an informed decision.

Does the NHS do enough to encourage vaccination?

I received letters from the NHS reminding me to book my son’s vaccines, but it simply stated the type of vaccines he was due to receive, the timing of them, and a reminder to book the appointment. Given the concerns about falling rates of vaccination in the UK, this seems pretty surprising to me. Surely that letter is a golden opportunity to convince vaccine hesitant parents of the benefits of vaccinations? A few facts and figures would seem logical to include. After all, when I get a letter from the GP inviting me to have a smear test, it comes with a leaflet which aims to persuade me to have the test done. Given that vaccination benefits not just the individual child, but the whole population through herd immunity, should we not be putting a similar level of resource into encouraging childhood vaccination?

Little Man shortly after his 12 week vaccines

Your thoughts

What are your thoughts on why parents may refuse vaccination? Have you had any experiences which put you off seeking vaccination for your child? Let me know in the comments!

* I didn’t realise until writing this post that there are two h’s in diphtheria. I always thought it was dip-theria. You learn something new every day.

coronavirus · health · top tips

Top Tips for the Coronavirus Outbreak: #002 Vomit Explosion PSA


Another Public Service Announcement from the Little Man at this difficult time… Not all vomit is coronavirus vomit.

He is honestly such a comity baby, it is unreal! I had expected my baby to throw up to some extent, but he really does seem to have a very sensitive tummy because the vomiting is more or less constant – we even took him to the doctor’s and hospital when he was smaller to get him checked over because of it (at the time he was routinely projectile vomiting as well, which has fortunately reduced in frequency!). They checked him out for various things including cow’s milk protein allergy, and concluded all was well… He’s just very comity.

It’s amazing how being a parent changes your hygiene standards. Before, if got vomit on my clothes, I would of course immediately go change. But now, I know that the fresh clothes will just get covered in sick within about ten minutes anyway, so I have to admit I take a much more relaxed approach!


Yoga: Your Quarantine Workout Friend


When you go on maternity leave, everyone really drums home the importance of getting out of the house and seeing people.

“Make sure you’re getting out,” said my mother.

“Are you getting out of the house much?” queried the health visitor.

And YES actually I totally was! Me and the Little Man had a great routine going, where we went for a nice walk every day between 2 – 3pm. That was on the days where we didn’t have other plans like meeting friends at a cafe or going to the children’s centre.

Then, along came coronavirus and blam! No more going out. We did try going for our government-permitted exercise walk once, headed away from town where we thought the roads would be quiet. It was nice, but people were not reliably maintaining the two-metre rule for social distancing, and it wasn’t really anyone’s fault as the pavements are narrow and the hedges overgrown, making it even narrower. As I have a bunch of health issues including reasonably bad asthma (which gets bad during hayfever season… Great timing this year!) and Little Man is not even three months old, we decided that walking is probably not a sensible form of daily exercise at the moment.

So instead, we’ve started doing a daily yoga practice after my lovely husband finishes work for the day. I’ve always enjoyed yoga but never done it regularly, and my husband is a late convert. My sister qualified as a yoga instructor last year (follow her on Instagram @sorchakra) and we did a family yoga session on Easter Sunday with my mum, dad and husband. It was so much fun, and we were hoping to do a repeat this year, but with coronavirus it’s not to be. However, we are really enjoying our daily practice and I’ve already noticed improvements in my flexibility. Plus, the mindful aspects of yoga are beneficial when you’re stuck inside during quarantine, which is enough to stress out even the most chilled amongst us.

We’re using free online videos by Yoga With Adriene, who is probably the most popular yogi on YouTube. There’s a huge variety of different videos of different lengths and with different focuses (e.g. yoga for back pain, yoga for weight loss etc) so we can keep it fresh and not get bored. If you’re struggling to get your exercise in during quarantine, I highly recommend her videos.

My other apocalypse workout tip is the Fitness Marshall, also on YouTube but definitely more of a guilty pleasure…