From above

The title of this post comes from last week’s photo challenge on the Daily Post at WordPress: From Above – Change your perspective on something. Share a photo
of a subject which you shot from directly above.

Inspired by the challenge, here is my photo…

IMG_1117What on earth is it?

Well, it’s me of course… from above.

To be precise, it’s me with a new haircut (more on that later)… from above.

More disturbingly though, it’s me, even further from above than I ever was…

Yes, it’s true…

I have just found out…

To add extra enjoyment to your blog reading experience, please play this video…

I am shorter than ever before…

I have lost height!

I have never been particularly tall. In fact, you could say without fear of contradiction that I am petite. Even in England, a country that isn’t full of statuesque Scandinavians, towering Teutons or mighty Maasai, I am a bit on the short side. However, when I say short, I only mean that I measure 5’3″/160cm. It’s not exactly a talking point. People do not stop and stare at the short woman.

According to Wiki, dwarfism in humans can be defined as an adult height of less than 4’10″/147cm, so it’s not like I have any sort of dwarfism. I’m simply a tiny bit closer to the ground than the average British woman – but not by much, it turns out…

I’ve done a little research to find out what the average height is for a woman in the UK and I’ve found different answers – an article on the BBC News website from 2010 states: “The average woman in England… was 5ft 3in tall.” The Wiki page on Human Height shows an average of about 163cm/5’4″, as do responses on Yahoo! Answers. I know, I know, none of these sites are especially reliable – well, maybe the BBC. Nonetheless, the point I am making is that at most I only fall an inch below the average height. That is, I did until the other day…

I had to attend a new clinic the other day, for an issue totally unrelated to myeloma. I will blog about it when I know more, but it’s nothing to worry about. As usual, measurements are taken and I found out that I currently weigh in at 65kg/143lb/10st3lb, which is more than I’ve weighed at any time in the past two years. I wasn’t particularly surprised as I had noticed a tightening of the smaller clothes I had to buy after losing so much weight when I was first ill and going through initial treatment. In fact, I was not only not surprised, but quite pleased – weight gain is a sure sign of recovering health… and plumpness! :)
(That is, as long as you’re not taking steroids, which along with other side effects, can also lead to weight gain… and plumpness!).

Imperial version: What I wasn’t expecting and which was a huge surprise was the nurse reading my height measurement at only 5’1½”! That’s 1½ inches less than I have been for the past 30+ years! That’s 1½” less than I always reply whenever I’m asked about my height. Well, no more it seems!

Metric version: What I wasn’t expecting and which was a huge surprise was the nurse reading my height measurement at only 156cm! That’s 4 centimetres less than I have been for the past 30+ years! That’s 4cm less than I always reply whenever I’m asked about my height. Well, no more it seems!

To her credit, the nurse tried several more times to measure me, with me facing different directions, straining to hold myself as upright and stretched as possible. It was quite laughable to be honest, but I appreciated her willingness. To my dismay though, every reading came back the same: 156cm. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a photo at the time. I really wish I had. I want proof!

I must have been measured many times over the past two years. Frequently treatment doses are calculated on patient size, which isn’t always only based on weight. How come I’d never before encountered having shrunk to 156cm/5’1½”?

So that’s it, I thought; I am a shrunken woman, a smaller version of myself – hopefully not a lesser person. And yes, I do know the adage that the best things come in small packages… but I was already a small package – I really don’t need to get any smaller. But, I figure, it’s not the end of the world, I don’t have a big issue, or even a small issue about it, just that it was a rather dramatic discovery.

Most people have variations in weight throughout their lives, even on a week-to-week basis at times. Most people though tend to attain an adult height and stick there until age/osteoporosis kicks in. Even then, I think the usual rate of height loss is about one centimetre every ten years and that doesn’t usually start until around age 50. I’m only 51!

As far as I know, I don’t have osteoporosis, but I do have myeloma and myeloma weakens the bones. Way back when I was first diagnosed, I had a full skeletal survey; in other words, a full body, head-to-toe x-ray. This was to determine how much bone disease the myeloma had caused and to gauge how likely I was to experience any fractures.

T7 spineIt was at this point that I found out I had a holey head: lytic lesions in my skull. Additionally, I had lesions in one femur, both humeri and my pelvis. One thoracic vertebra (T7 to be precise) was damaged and I had four or five fractured ribs. I’d not noticed anything other than middle back pain – that’d be the T7. It was also at this point that they told me I was at no further risk of fracture. I wrote about it here.

What didn’t happen at that time was any conversation about loss of height. I understood that the damage to T7 had caused it to become misshapen, but as I never actually saw my x-ray, I have no idea if it was fractured, compressed or just mildly wedged like in this diagram (not my x-ray).

I may ask to see my x-ray from 2011 when I’m next in clinic. I may even ask for a new x-ray to see if it has deteriorated further. I experience back pain in the same place almost every day and although it’s not severe, it does disable me at times, stopping me from doing certain things – some I can live without, like hoovering and washing up, but others I’d like to have a choice, like gardening and cooking/baking. I know that there are procedures that can be done to alleviate such pain and lessen the chance of kyphosis, so it would be useful to have a discussion about them, even if it’s to find out that they wouldn’t be suitable for me.

Anyway, today I was at Daycase, not for myself, but accompanying a friend who had to have some treatment. A great opportunity I thought, to get a photo of my decreased stature. So I popped into clinic and asked a nurse if she could measure my height, which she duly did. And then I asked her to take a photo, which she kindly did, with a curious look on her face…

Not quite as curious as the look on my face when she read out my height and showed me the photographic proof…

IMG_1154 IMG_1155

Yes, it really does read 158cm/5’2″! Can I have grown an extra 2 cm/¾” in the past week? I doubt it! Can two different hospital departments have different measuring equipment? Maybe all hospital measuring equipment is dodgy and I’ve not lost any height at all?! I am truly perplexed… but for now, I will believe today’s results and consider that although I have lost height ‘from above’, from my previous 5’3″/160cm, it’s not as much as I thought last week!

Now I’ve begun thinking of any possible places to have myself measured… Let’s hope it doesn’t become an obsession!

By the way mum, I know you will relate to this post in a big (or should I say, in a little?) way!

My haircut experience will have to wait for another update. This one is plenty long enough… or should I say a tall enough story?! ;)