“My ITP Doesn’t Slow Me Down!”

Listening to her body helps Jessica Topper control her platelets and live a full life despite ITP.

How does a person with a “go, go, go!” personality deal with ITP? If you’re Jessica Topper, a Buffalo, NY, mom, writer and bookkeeper, it just takes a bit of balancing! Between work and spinning and yoga classes—not to mention taking care of her family and home—Jessica keeps busy. So busy, in fact, that her 12-year-old daughter, Millie, a Star Wars fan, has promised to build her a protocol droid to help out.

No need, though. Jessica’s been managing just fine without robotic assistance from an R2-D2. Keeping the books for her husband, Jon’s, music business, Jessica has kept her days full since her 2005 ITP diagnosis—when a spate of bruises and fatigue so severe she could barely buckle Millie into her car seat sent her to her doctor.

At first, Jessica’s doctor prescribed a medication to help with thyroid problems. But a month later, at an out-of-town rock concert with Jon, Jessica knew things had worsened when she was too fatigued to put her arms up in the air with the crowd. On the drive home, Jessica used her daughter’s thermometer, which she had in the car, to confirm a high fever. Stopping at a hospital where her sister is an ER nurse, they learned Jessica’s platelets had dropped to 12,000. “I’ll never forget that feeling—that my body had betrayed me,” she recalls.

“I try to be Zen about my ITP”
Over the years, Jessica has tried a couple of different therapies and has a go-to treatment that boosts her platelets and recharges her. But that’s only part of the equation. Staying in tune with her body is a must, Jessica’s learned. “Getting run-down or very stressed—those are my triggers,” she says. She’s found that her platelets crash in September—as her daughter heads back to school and as she and her husband ramp up their days promoting an annual three-day music festival.

Monthly platelet checks and minimum twice-yearly doctor visits are part of Jessica’s health regimen. “My normal is 50 [thousand],” she says. “If my platelets drop to 28,000, I see my hematologist. He’s a great doctor—up on all the latest ITP treatment news.” It’s one reason she can relax a little—knowing she’s in good hands.

“I know when to give myself some TLC”
Jessica’s biggest challenge? “Brain fuzz,” she answers quickly. That’s what occurs when her platelets dip. Since she spends the day crunching numbers, it can be a problem. Luckily, she’s learned when it’s time to treat herself to some at-home TLC.

“I try to be mindful”
“I tell myself not to push so much. People forget the mental side of it. ITP can really mess with your mood.” Yoga helps with that. “You leave your problems under the mat for the hour and focus inward.”

“I stay hydrated. I get the sleep I need. And I make sure I eat well.” (Jessica and Jon have a farm share and, each week, pick up an assortment of veggies from a local farm.)

Not long ago, Jessica completed a “dirty girl mud run” benefiting breast cancer research. “It was a noncompetitive, non-timed fun run—a women-only 5k run with obstacles.” The obstacles—fences of varying heights—were optional. But Jessica took the high fences.

Lesson learned: “Next time, I’ll go with the low ones.”

Published March 2014

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