Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I've Got Stones

Gall Stones, that is.

What?  You thought I was talking about my Mom-balls again?

Yeah, I've got those, too.  Just try to take away a vital service from my autistic son, Jacob.  Mess with him and you will see my giant huevos come out, big time.

I mean, even though my *actual* eggs are kind of over-cooked at this point (see my last post), my metaphorical ones?  My "don't mess with my family" ones?

Outsize and ready for action.

But about that other thing?  Yeah, I'd really like to pretend this isn't happening.

But doubling over in slicing, cramped pain and then making a mad dash to the women's room to gag and dry heave for 10 minutes during my son's basketball practice on Saturday sorta makes that impossible.

I cannot say enough about how happy I am to have the good fortune to have actual medical professionals in my family, both natal and the machatunim.  (That's Yiddish for the whole {damned} family you marry into - you know, the in-laws.)

I had already self diagnosed via the friendly internet on Saturday night.  When I was finally able to stop moaning and sit upright, that is.

But you know?  The internet?  Scary place to do medical research.  Reminds me of that old Nicole Hollander cartoon, the one where Sylvia is reading a book called "Infectious Diseases."  As her daughter warns her to put the book down, she yells out "Oh my god, I've got anthrax!"

In spite of the chance to just completely terrify myself, I kept a mostly level head.

But the problem with hot-knife style searing pain of mind bending proportions in the area of one's major organs?  Hard to believe it's no biggie, not connected to a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.

But a nice chat with my lovely ER doc cousin, Jessie, in Vermont reassured me that had I come into her ER, she would have been all "Crap! Why is this person in my ER?  It's just a gall bladder attack, nothing dangerous. I had to wake up from my nap for THIS?" (She often works the overnight shift.)

She told me to see my doctor on Monday, went over the warning signs that should send me rushing to the ER for real, and gave me advice for how to get myself comfortable in the meantime (antacid, Tylenol, rest, duh).

And the next day I felt mostly better, which was a mighty good thing, it being the Sunday of my husband's family's annual Big Chanukkah Party.  (I know, not technically Chanukkah anymore.  But?  Shhhhhhh.  It was so early this year.)

What?  You want to see pictures of that?  OK here's a few:
Lighting Grandma Blanche's menorah
Presents Galore!
Grandma Sylvia got a zhu zhu pet
And at this bash?  Yes, indeed, I sidled up to Danny's cousin who happens to be a G.I. with that "you are about to be cornered by a relative with a medical question" look on my face, and he did not back off and disappear, which I took to be the go-ahead sign.  (If you're confused here?  Folks, we're Jewish.  To us "G.I." is short for Gastro-Intestinal as in a doctor's specialist degree, NOT Government Issue as in "G.I. Joe".  Please!)

So I asked cousin David, "Do you do Gall Bladder?"  And he gestured for me to continue.

I described my symptoms, and when I got to the part about the pain finally localizing in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen and then radiating to my back under my shoulder blade, he nodded.  Then he poked at a spot and I yelped and he said to call his office at 8:30 the next morning and they'd get me in right away.

Oh yes, I married into the right family!

So all this is how, yesterday, I came to have my first complete and thorough physical exam in... maybe 10 years?

The problem with being essentially healthy and taking care of multiple elderly parents and young kids with all sorts of issues is that you can neglect your own health big time.  (I *might* have done that.)

Until there's a big wake-up call.  Like, oh, feeling like you're being sliced in half by a ninja out of the clear blue at 2:45 on a Saturday afternoon while your autistic son is attempting to play basketball.

What?  You want to know how the basketball is going?

Yes, I did share my excitement about it, and planned to report back right away.   But life got... busy, you know?

Briefly: it's going well-ish.  (A full post account is coming up soon, I sort-of promise.)  Here, look at some cute pictures (sorry about the odd color, there's weird yellow lights in that gym):
One excited boy
Playing basketball, sort of
So, back to my foray into all things medical yesterday... having been a basically healthy person for 50 years (and believe me, I know how blessedly lucky I am about this, am grateful & do not take it for granted) my experience with medical procedures has been mostly on the sidelines.

Let me tell you, there was a more than slightly surreal quality to be personally undergoing the same diagnostic procedures that I had sat through countless times as the support person for a parent or friend.

Like deja-vu with a side-step.  Like in those dreams when your point of view flashes back and forth between a first and third person perspective, leaving you wondering if you are watching or experiencing the events at hand.

To be the one in the ugly, ill-fitting gown on the table myself?  Very, very weird.

What?  You want pictures of that, too?  Well, here's me waiting for someone to come into the room and do something to me:  
Beige is so NOT my color
So I've now had my first echocardiogram, folks.  And you young people with healthy hearts who have never had to care for someone with cardiac troubles will not get what a big deal this is.  But if you're on my side of the fence, you will understand the thrill, and why I'm bragging:

My ejection fraction?  Was terrific.  (The "ejection fraction" is a measurement of the heart's efficiency at pumping blood, and is severely compromised in Aortic Stenosis, the condition that did my father in.)

I jumped with joy.  (Well, I would have if I weren't laying on a table covered in yucky ultrasound goop.) 

Considering that I am essentially allergic to exercise?   I have no right to have a heart as healthy as mine appears to be.  And I am NOT going to take this for granted.  I am going to thank my lucky stars and work from here on outward to not let this good start turn sour through inactivity and complacency.

I am a 50 year old with young children. I need to do all I can to ensure I am here to care for them through their formative years, to do all that is within my power to not abandon them too young.  (Please hold me to this.  Yell at me if I don't start to take better care of myself in the future.)

I am guessing I have my love of dancing to thank for the positive state of things.  Those years of my late teens through mid-twenties when I went out dancing with wild abandon two or three nights a week.

And the way I danced?  Way aerobic.  I would work up quite a sweat.  Hell, I would often sweat completely through and thoroughly soak my clothes.   Looking back it's a wonder anyone ever dared go home with me afterward, sweatball that I was.

Although it must have helped that, as an old boyfriend put it, I "danced like a girl who likes to fuck."  Ahem.  Guess I wasn't afraid to move my hips.

Sigh.  It's nice thinking about a time when my body was more about pleasure than pain.

But getting back to the icky medical stuff.  I ended my day at the imaging center I had taken my father to many a time before.  Once again, the odd disconnect of shifted perspective.

"You've been a patient here before?"  The receptionist asked the question as a not-question, rhetorical. Clearly I looked familiar.  She thought I was a returner, a repeat customer.

"No" I answer.  Then, because she has raised her eyebrow sceptically I start to question it myself.  "I don't think so..." I stammeringly add, "I've been here so many times, but I'm pretty sure that it was always to bring my father in."

"Well, let's check, then" she says, inputting my statistics into the computer, which spits back... nothing. First timer.  Fill out the thousand forms and bring back the clipboard.

The technician is friendly, chatty, and I don't mind.  Gowned and gelled yet again, I am lying on the table when she swings the monitor around to show me: a solid white almond shaped nugget in the black hole that is my ultrasound gall bladder.  "Stone" she says.

Well, at least I wasn't imagining things.

"Is it a big one?" I ask, watching this thing taking up a good quarter of my gall bladder float around like an jumbo olive in a small martini glass.

"Oh, yeah, I would say that. The good thing is, it's too big to pass through the duct."

"That's a good thing?"

"Yeah, better than the granules, they really hurt going through."

OK, I'm happy to just take her word on that.

So now we wait on the blood-work, schedule another test in a few days (they're going to make my blood a teensy bit radioactive), and then?   Review the findings and evaluate my options.

Apparently, wave a magic wand and make it all go away?  Not among them.  Damn!

I may have a date with a laproscopic surgeon in my near future.  We may wait and see.

And if I do end up having my Gall Bladder removed?  Here's to hoping the guy doing it looks just like Weird Al Yankovic in his classic "Like a Surgeon" video.

Because I want to go under the knife laughing.

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