Liver Disease and Me

Last week Joe Wright posted about liver disease. His story hit home to me because it echoed my own recent experience of being diagnosed with liver disease. Inspired by Joe, I thought I should share my story.

Early summer, last year, I had a sudden pain in my abdomen - a really sharp pain in my diaphragm. I couldn’t really understand what it was and I couldn’t seem to ease it in anyway. I called NHS Direct to get some advice and they decided to send an ambulance. The person on the phone said that they couldn’t tell me when the ambulance would arrive and they would prioritise things based on clinical need. Five minutes later and the ambulance pulled up!

Sat in the living room hooked up to an ECG machine, with my girls quizzing the ambulance team about everything they were doing, they decided that they didn’t like the look of my trace and that they would take me to A&E. It’s amazing how calm you can stay on the outside with your kids in the room. I phoned NHS Direct half expecting to be told it was probably indigestion and now the paramedics were taking me in because they were worried about my heart.

In the end another ECG and some blood tests put everyone’s minds at ease. The only thing they found were some elevated liver function tests. I was discharged, asked not to drink for a couple of weeks and to go back to the GP for further blood tests. My liver function improved but stayed high. I went back for further tests over the next couple of months and eventually my results stabilised. That seemed to be that. The doctor thought I might have had a virus that attacked the liver and this was a reaction.

Fast-forward to this summer and not really thinking any more about it some further blood tests revealed my liver function was still high. I was referred for ultrasound and diagnosed with Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

My doctor told me that this is often caused by obesity and that, in the early stages, it is potentially reversible if I am able to get my weight down to healthy level.

Joe suggested that we could encourage each other’s progress by sharing our efforts and successes. Joe has outlined his plan and will be posting six-week updates and I’m going to try and do the same.

I currently weigh 93kg - down from 97kg when I was diagnosed. The BMI charts suggest that 76kg is what I should aim for. I’m not sure that I want to set a timescale right now - but I do want to try and track the progress and I definitely want to track the things that I think will help me keep moving in the right direction.

I work from home and I’ve noticed it can be really easy to fall into the trap of being quite sedentary so the big habit I want to build is to make sure I do some sort of activity in everyday - whether that’s a walk or a run or swinging a kettlebell.

Running is something that I’ve been trying to make stick as a habit. I love how easy it is to just get out and do. You don’t need any special equipment and you can even manage it somewhat when you’re travelling. I want to run at least twice a week.

I really enjoy resistance exercise – like lifting weights. I find it hard to fit time to go to the gym around the family and work so I thought that it might be interesting to just see how adding a very small, almost no effort to start, habit into my routine would work. I will do press-ups everyday. I’m starting with just five and I’ll increase them once its established as a habit.

I realise that diet plays as much, if not more, of a role in losing weight as exercise. We cook meals from scratch pretty much everyday and working from home means that I have good control of lunch. However, I think I’ve always probably not managed portion size well. So that’s going to be my focus. With that in mind I will try to not eat seconds!

Alcohol – to help my liver recover its really important that I keep my alcohol consumption to a minimum. I’ve been thinking about how I want to do this and I’ve decided that I want to give my self dual targets. A minimum of 5 days a week alcohol free and no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

As well as trying to build these habits I’m also playing rugby again. There’s a whole host of social benefits of team sport as well as hopefully seeing the hard work payoff in my game that I hope will give me a different dimension to keeping my motivation up. Balancing that with the family and work I’m planning to play at least every other game.

Please do ask me anything about this and how I’m doing with my goals. I’d also love to hear any suggestions for keeping motivation up.