24 June 2007

Sometimes it's not what you say...

If you arrived here by clicking a link in an email from me or don't already know the beginning history of my current health issue, you may want to start here so that things make a little more sense.

When I last wrote, I mentioned that I was due for a procedure that would help identify the alien creature that is inhabiting my body. This past Thursday, I had a friend drive me to the hospital and checked in for a procedure that was medically called a cystoscopy with a transurethral resection of a bladder tumor. In plain English, the doctor was going to knock me out, stick another tube up inside me, slice off a piece of this alleged tumor, and perform a biopsy to ensure a difinitive diagnosis. When I checked in, I wasn't sure if I would be staying overnight in the hospital or leaving after the procedure. Given my general distaste for all things medical - I was in a reasonable frame of mind.

The waiting really was the hardest part. Once they started the IV in pre-op, things started to move quickly, and I ended up becoming a little more relaxed (which I can only assume was the result of a sedative). I remember being rolled into the operating room, and the anesthesiologist making about 10 seconds of small talk and then covering my mouth with what he described as "pure oxygen." The next thing I knew I was awake in recovery.

I guess I could best describe how I felt when I woke up as disappointed. I was in no pain (the drugs were probably still free-flowing in the body!), there was no catheter attached, and only about an hour and a half had elapsed. In my mind, this wasn't very good. The doctor told me that the procedure would take longer if he felt that he was going to be able to "make some progress" on repairing/removing rather than just identification. Since the surgery took such a relatively short time, I had to figure that he got in there and didn't much like what he saw. I was still groggy, but I remember the doctor coming in to talk to me and he showed me some of the pictures that he took - but, everything was way too hazy for me to make any sense of what was happening. I arranged for a post-op appointment the following day, and went to rest, as instructed.

I didn't know what to think when I arrived at the doctor's office the next day - but, in poker terms, I was absolutely "on tilt." The receptionist greeted me with some degree of surprise, as if to say "how are you up and about and in here for an appointment?" She also had a look in her face that made me think I was about to die. Hmmm....OK. The doctor came into the waiting room looking for another patient, spotted me across the room, pointed and said "you - in here!" I guess it's a good thing that your doctor recognizes you and wants to see you, right???

He sat me down and explained, as best he could, what happened during the surgery. He told me that when he got a good look through the scope, he was confident that the obstruction in my bladder was, in fact, a "massive" bladder tumor. OK...probably didn't need to hear the word "massive," but I am hanging in there. He immediately suggested that I seek treatment at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. He mentioned two doctors names, who he described as the best "bladder guys" in the southeast. This was probably the first time that cancer seemed real to me. Incidentally, the folks from Moffitt seem pretty together - they had actually called me BEFORE I ever left the hospital the day before. I hadn't returned their call, as I was waiting to talk to my doctor first - but, I was impressed that they seemed on top of things.

I asked about the biopsy - did he do one, when would the results be available, etc.? He told me that he didn't actually do a biopsy, as he had "serious concerns" about the mass. His fear was that if he stuck a blade into the tissue to secure a piece for biopsy, he would create a "bloody mess." I only THOUGHT I didn't like the word "massive" until I heard the phrase "bloody mess." As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure that if I had never asked the question, I would probably be a better person for it today. I was told by my friend who accompanied me to the doctor that when he used that phrase, I immediately went flush and probably didn't hear another word he said the whole visit. His overall assessment was that the folks at Moffitt would have the proper tools (lasers to coderize the bleeding, perhaps) to deal with such a medically dicey situation.

Apparently, there are still some things that could be causing this, but are not very likely. One possibility is diverticulitis or diverticulosis. Really, the only reason this is even a possibility is because of the location of the mass, not because of any particular symptoms that I have. To that end, I am calling this remote. However, he does want me to go and get another scope (other end this time) just to be on the safe side. Oh joy. The other remote possibility is that it could be residual infection from the sutures from the previous surgery. Again, this is remote, too, as the location of the mass (anterior) is not consistent with where you would find an infection from sutures. If I was giving my urologist a 30% chance of being right before, I would have to reassess that to be about 90-95%.

How about some good news? First, I am feeling (physically) surprisingly well. I have been amazed by this all weekend. I expected to be attached to a catheter and hopped up on Vicodin. That hasn't been the case at all. I could probably, physically, go back to work tomorrow, but I will take the day to get some details in order and make some appointments. Second, I am glad that the doctor recognized that he needs help in this matter, and referred me to someone who is better equipped to help me. I think doctor's egos sometimes get in the way of the best medical care - and other times, when a doctor is intrigued by a diagnosis (or something he hasn't seen in 20+ years), that s/he might "try" to fix things - kind of like a mechanic who doesn't really know what is making that noise under your hood. Lastly, I am overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support from the blogging community, my friends, and random others who don't even know me - or barely know me. I plan to do a separate post highlighting the other blogs who have picked up on this story, but I did want to share the idea that if laughter is truly the best medicine, I may well live a long and happy life after all.

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