20 June 2007

What do you do when you don't know what to do?

Things have been a little crazy around here lately. Lately, it seems like it is always a little crazy around here. Still, it has been a little MORE crazy than usual within the last couple of weeks. Truth is, I haven't been feeling well for some time now - I mean, I'm talking months. My symptoms are identical to a situation I had three years ago, when I had surgery to have a very large stone removed from my bladder. At the time, my urologist said that it was the largest stone he had ever seen in over 20 years as a urologist (hey - I win!). The stone was removed, but since I didn't really care for the doctor, I didn't do the follow-up to see what caused the stone or what treatments might be needed to prevent the same from happening again.

Fast forward to the present day. Back in January, I knew that I wasn't feeling well, but since my symptoms were identical to the last stone, I knew what I was in for, and I could tolerate being uncomfortable for a little while - and I didn't really fancy going back to the urologist, I suffered quietly, as best I could. Besides, I didn't want to miss my trip to Texas or the spring travel season for work while I was recuperating from surgery. In retrospect, and in no small part based on how I feel right now, I do realize that was utterly stupid.

When I got back to Florida after spring travel, I started to see a doctor and get the wheels in motion to get this stone out of me. Unfortunately, I learned that doctors are not really willing to rely on my own diagnosis and just schedule me for a surgery requiring multiple incisions. Instead, I have endured a battery of tests - the result of which is that they have found a mass in my bladder that is about 6.5 cm. Confident that this is the stone to which I referred, I again requested that they slice me open and remove the stone so that I could get on with the business of enojoying my summer. My new urologist, before slicing, insisted on doing a cystoscopy (a procedure that no man should ever volunteer for!) and getting a "look" at the mass.

Upon viewing this mass, the doctor informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I have some form of bladder cancer. Knowing that this is almost impossible, I informed the doctor that he was clearly incorrect - merely viewing my (abnormally large sized) stone as something else. Again, he questioned my ability to self-diagnose. To that end, he claimed to be confident that this is not a stone, but rather some form of cancer.

As a 35 year-old, non-smoker who is not exposed to industrial chemicals, it wouldn't seem as though I am in any of the risk categories for this type of cancer. But, the urologist doesn't see it that way. This means that I have to go in for another scope tomorrow (Thursday) to find out exactly what is going on in my bladder. I estimate the urologist's chances of being right at about 30%. However, since hearing this news about 10 days ago - I have been a little freaked out. OK...I started out a LOT freaked out, but I am much better now.

Up until now, this blog has been at least semi-anonymous. I really couldn't figure out how to tell all of the people that I thought should know, so I went for the completely impersonal approach. I deal with talking about myself best that way. I also did some inner battle with whether or not to say anything until I knew something more concrete. So - I almost wussed out on saying anything until hours before I am supposed to go in for surgery. Nothing like pulling the pin out of the grenade, tossing it in the room and then taking off running.

Let me be clear about a few things - in the last week and change, I have done a lot of reading about cancer - this cancer (that I may or may not have), specifically. I have learned even in the worst case scenario, this is not a death sentence. That's the good news; the bad news is that there is a serious likelihood of recurrence somewhere down the road. While death is not likely, some of the things that I may have to live with aren't all that appealing, either. For instance, at 35, I am not sure that I am looking forward to a lifetime of "touching, holding, cuddling, and caressing." I am pretty sure that I will not take the news very well if I am told than I need a radical cystectomy. The thought of having to drain my fake bladder every few hours manually is more than I can stand to think about. I have mentioned that I really do still think that this is just a stone, right?

I have contacted some of my favorite bloggers and asked them to post about the personal finance angle of learning potentially life-altering news. JD from Get Rich Slowly is going to feature this story on his blog in the next day or so, and hopefully, there will be a number of people who can offer up some advice - because I admit to being baffled with a lot of this stuff. And, as independent a guy as I am, going through this alone has me just a touch petrified. Hopefully, other bloggers will pick up on the discussion, as I feel this topic (personal finance as related to possible health issues) is somewhat underrepresented. I will post a follow-up as soon as I can.

Also, I ask that you try to take just a few things away from this post. The first is that I am not looking for sympathy (heck, I don't even think the cancer diagnosis is true yet!), and, even if it is true, I don't think I am going to die. I am not looking for an outpouring of support and prayer (though, I am not going to kick anyone away with a better pipeline to the "Big Guy" than myself). I am fortunate that I have decent health insurance and more sick leave than I ever thought I could use. I hope that any friend of mine who reads this takes away the idea that if your body is telling you something is wrong - and you know it - go to the doctor, go directly to the doctor, do not pass 'Go!', do not collect $200. I know that I have learned my lesson with my own version of "Scared Straight!"

This might be a good time for me to make a sales pitch for you to sign up for the email updates using the block to the upper-right. You won't get spam - and lord knows I don't post all that frequently, but you will get an ad-free, black-on-white, basic formatted HTML version of any updates from this blog only (your name won't be sold or used for any other unsavory things).

This story is updated here.


Brute Force said...

I think that life-altering news is an aspect of personal finance that even the more careful of us often overlook. I've seen a friend's friend suffer a heart attack before the age of 30, and also another friend of mine get an early diagnosis of cancer during to a random physical in the military. Scary stuff.

In any case, I look forward to reading what others say about the topic, and also to hearing about your swift recovery.

The Expert said...

Remember the promise I made to you this morning. That holds true. But of course, we'll never have to resort to such ceremony. And if we do, I'm expecting you'll pay for my flight down.

And buy me dinner.

See you on the road. Austin in the fall?

Anonymous said...

From another friend far-far away, I cannot begin to imagine your struggles with this ongoing novel. However, I will watch the updates closely. Keep in touch and know that, in all this time, there is still and always will be support and a place for you here.

With that said, I too, take the avoidance approach. I will certainly watch and learn from what you are trying to teach.

Enjoy life and dont be too good, 'cause only.... BJ and just remember that THAT JUST AIN'T AN OPTION!

Anonymous said...

I completely understand how you feel. Two years ago I found a lump in my breast, which my doctor said was probably nothing, but sent me for tests anyway. On the ultrasound the thing looked HUGE and the ultrasound tech said she was sorry, so I was convinced it was cancer. They did a needle biopsy that day, and the next day informed me that it was a small, completely benign tumor. It was a horrible, horrible experience. I couldn't eat or sleep for two days. My family, too, has a history of cancer, my uncle just died a few weeks ago, so I am well aware of my chances of it happening within the next twenty years or so. Good luck with your tests.

M said...

I came to this post by way of My Open Wallet. I'm sorry about your illness, but I think it's great that you are reaching out for help and advice.

I don't really have much financial advice (not my area of expertise by any means), but I did write a post in response to your situation and request for advice.

The post is based on sharing what I've learned about dealing with illness over the past 2.5 years of dealing with one myself. It is posted on my blog, today's (6/22/07) post, at cottoncandypink.blogspot.com.

Wishing you the very best.

Anonymous said...

Hi man, I hope everythings turns out ok in the end.

I found your blog through JD's.

While you're not exposed to industrial chemicals, maybe you drink a lot of tap water (which may contain trihalomethanes), drink a lot of coffee or eat a lot of bacon? These things may increase the risk of getting bc a bit. Eating broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc. on the other hand somewhat reduces the risk.

Let's hope it's just a false alarm.

Wishing you all the best.

bofh at wol dot be

Dreamy said...

I saw a post that Madame X had made over at myopenwallet.com and I posted my own story on dealing with a devastating medical diagnosis. Here's a link. http://dreamy1.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/dealing-with-a-devastating-medical-diagnosis/
I pray that you are alright, and things will work out for you.

EasyChange said...

Wish you the best of luck; you are right, this is a topic that needs more coverage in the PF Community. You are doing a brave thing facing it head on. Anyone who says they aren't nervous/scared/wanting to run away is just silly IMO. Nothing to be ashamed of or suprised about there.

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