Category Archives: medical

The ultimate CT

Does anyone else remember that abbreviation meaning something else back in the day? I’m not talking about the state of Connecticut either. These days, however, CT is the short form of Computerized tomography aka a Cat Scan or the test I had yesterday afternoon.

If you’re (fortunately) not familiar with CT scans, allow me to share the experience. Following blood work to ascertain the functioning of one’s kidneys, the patient is positioned, injected with saline followed by dye, and then moved into the machine for a few minutes. When the technician has everything they need, one is released to await results from their physician.

The images are essentially immediately viewable and, if you’re lucky, you hear from your doctor quickly. For me, this is the hardest part of the test and the longer I wait, the more convinced I become that there is something seriously wrong. Something so terrible the doctor doesn’t even have words for the sheer awfulness of the results. Yep, that’s what happens, at least in my mind.

After 10 days of worry, 4 visits to medical facilities, and an inconclusive biopsy, I was a bit on the edge. When my surgeon finally called this afternoon to give me the (good!) news, I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say…

She doesn’t feel the need to operate to remove this latest lump. She’s of the opinion that the lump is a “fried” salivary gland which shows no sign of malignancy. I’m to be closely monitored and the prognosis could change, but, for now, no surgery. I know there will be some disappointed folks out there – namely the friends who have sincerely offered to cook, drive and sponge bathe me, but I’m sure we can work something out.

Never has a good CT been so appreciated.

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Filed under cancer, medical

Not doing it myself

Inspired by this sunflower.

Inspired by this sunflower.

Since I’ve shared the part of my weekend when I did do things myself, I believe it is only fair to also share the days since then when I’ve been very much accompanied. Monday I went to see my ENT. I wasn’t alone. My doctor pretty much did what I expected – an in office fine needle biopsy, orders for some blood work and a CAT scan and the promise of a call to schedule surgery. Whatever it is, it’s coming out.

Because I had been so open prior to the appointment, I felt compelled to report back to my friends, both “real” and virtual, to share the news from my office visit. The warm wishes, promises of prayers, and offers for assistance have left a greater mark on me than that bruise, or any of the already existing scars, on my neck. Thank you, friends.

Two days post-appointment, blood work done, anticipated CAT scan tomorrow and surgery three weeks away, I am bolstered and protected by the people I love, people who have demonstrated that they return the feeling. Although I’ve been down this path before, in terms of medical intervention, this sense that my being taken care of is a concern to many, is new. And cherished.

So, pathology should be back in a matter of days and in just a few weeks this latest (and literal) bump in the road will be gone. Thanks for traveling this path with me, and to someone who has allowed me to ride shotgun for a change, thank you for taking the wheel. I so appreciate it.

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Filed under cancer, Flowers, friends, love, medical

Good news/bad news and a bit of a Grimm tale

The good news? I weighed less than I thought I would when I stepped on the scale. The bad news? I need to see my ENT surgeon post-haste. For the record, I like it better when the good news follows the bad.

I went to see my endocrinologist yesterday. I wasn’t scheduled to see her until January, but there was something about the thing I felt in my neck that made me uncomfortable. I made someone a promise that I would call first thing in the morning and I did. The receptionist was great and took my history after a single run through. A couple of hours later, my doctor phoned and asked if I could be there by 4.

Following our usual chit-chat, my doctor got down to business, dimming the lights and lubing up the ultrasound wand. With her usual thoroughness, she repeatedly scanned the area of my neck where the protuberance was. After a few minutes she asked if she could bring a colleague in for a second opinion. I stared at the ceiling, attempting to escape the room mentally by trying to see what the wattage was on the bulb, but as the second physician took his turn with the magic wand tears slipped from my eyes. The doctors conferred.

Their opinion? It’s either a “bad” lymph node or a chronically inflamed minor salivary gland. (See how I put the bad news first?) The plan now is to see my ENT on Monday and have her determine the appropriate course of action. I’m sure there will be some sort of diagnostics or study conducted. The hope, of course is that it is nothing serious, but my history leaves me feeling vulnerable.

To be clear, I don’t write about my health to garner sympathy or concern. It’s more an exercise in becoming accustomed to the possibility of yet another surgical procedure. It also feels a bit like an exorcism.  If  I express my fears and release them from my inner psyche they kind of lose their power.  Sort of like in that fairy tale when the miller’s daughter shocked Rumpelstiltskin by knowing his name, causing him to run away never to be seen again.  I’ve seen you before and I know your name, Cancer.  How about you stay away and let me have a shot at happily ever after?

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Filed under cancer, medical, musings, stress

In case of emergency

I’m in the midst of my annual array of wellness visits.  You know, the semi-annual dental hygienist appointment, my mammogram, a check in with the endocrinologist, a general physical.   I appreciate these practitioners and medical experts in my life for the peace of mind they provide that I am healthy.

I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that the physician’s assistant, who I’ve seen for the past three years, can’t be a day over thirty and has no firsthand knowledge of what I can expect from menopause.  That’s fine, I can read about that topic on my own.  The two-part experience of having my breast compressed and then covered with goop and wanded over, is an embarrassing indignity I can live with for the sake of early detection and my dental visit has been made far more comfortable with some topical stuff on my sensitive teeth.  All good.

No, the issue I have with each of these visits is with a simple consistent question on the intake form: Emergency Contact.  I don’t really have one.  Now, please, I have lots of contacts in my phone.  There are plenty of people I can call for various things – to meet for a drink, to take a run, to give one of the boys a ride home from a game.  But, there isn’t a single person who is close enough to me, physically and emotionally, to call if something really bad happens.

I don’t have a parent.  Or a spouse.  My only sibling lives 2+ hours away and my teenaged children wouldn’t be appropriate recipients of a dreadful call about me, their mom.  So, who to call?  I can’t put myself down, right?

I guess the 411 on my own 911 is this – I’d better not get hurt, sick or in an accident.  The thought of having no one to call is almost enough to make me sick.

See?  Being independent and single isn’t always rainbows and unicorns, after all.

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Filed under aging, cancer, medical

Defining Luxury

Someone needs to explain to my children that spending two weeks at the beach every summer is a luxury, not something to be taken for granted. It’s always been important to me that the boys have traditions in their lives, certain experiences that provide a constant thread throughout their childhoods.  Cape Cod vacations have been a part of their summers literally for their entire lives.  While there, we always eat at the Lobster Pot, we listen to the same song as we cross the bridge in Bourne, there is ice cream nearly every day.  It’s what we do.

But, something seems to have backfired.   Their attitude is in danger of morphing into entitlement – is this how that happens?  Somehow they’ve gotten the impression that everyone spends two weeks frolicking in the Atlantic each and every year.  All of the preparations, the shopping and stocking up on tequila chips and granola bars, the packing of the linens, the beach toys, the clothing…the arrangements for the house and our dog while we’re away…the bikes…they’ve gotten the impression that everything will managed. By me, apparently.  And, of course, I will take care of them and all the necessary details involved with making us all comfortable for two weeks in a place or two not our home.  It’s what I do.

I work two jobs to be able to afford a two week vacation in Cape Cod.  This is a luxury. Which brings me to healthcare…I am firmly of the belief that every one in this country should be able to have access to medical care.   Getting sick and requiring medical attention is a completely different set of circumstances. It is a necessity.  I’ve been without health insurance and it is a bad place to be, certainly about as unlike a vacation at the beach as I can imagine. 

I understand that we all have issues with how our taxes are spent – I personally wish we spent as much money on education and the well being of our citizens as we do on war, but shouldn’t everyone be able to bring their sick children to a doctor? If I lost my job, a possibility in these economic times when districts are eliminating positions left and right, my biggest fear would be healthcare. As someone who has already had cancer twice, as well as weird heart issues (obviously, a precise medical term), I can’t imagine health insurers would be willingly lining up to give me coverage. What do you think? I don’t know as much about Obamacare as I probably should, but it seems like a starting point as our country considers the health and well being of our citizens. To me, it seems a positive indication that someone cares about a basic and essential need in a civilized society. I think I might spend some time at the beach talking to the boys about how lucky we are to have two weeks at the beach. And health insurance every day.

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Filed under Boys, Cape Cod, Happy Hour, medical, musings, politics, Summer

Are you my mother? And who’s my daddy?

image: http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com
It’s been a weird weekend…I kind of hit the wall on a number of levels, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, hit the wall  with numerous body parts.  Truth be told, I probably used my head the most.  I had so many options available to me; concerts, and old friends, and art and strawberries, yet I kind of shrugged it all off.  Unlike many decisions in life, I didn’t get that immediate tingling sensation that confirms many of my choices.  I’m thinking maybe I’m a bit numb.  Summer vacation can’t come soon enough.

Despite feeling less than great (I’m about to pop my 3rd Aleve in 2 days!) I’ve maintained my commitment to running 20 miles this week and it has been a struggle.  The music hasn’t been quite right, and even if it were perfect, my right glute is screaming louder than any song playing.  Not tremendously fun or satisfying.

On my run Friday, I passed two elder(ly?) women walking.  They were on the opposite side of the street and I was wearing contacts, which don’t do all they should to improve my vision.  I was taken aback by one of the women – she looked like my mother.  I think.  The last time I spoke to my mother in person was when she attempted a “scar-off” to prove that her heart surgery was way worse than my cancer surgery could have ever been.  Ok, you win and what have we proven?  That you have a heart and I can cut malignant things from my life and prosper? Fine.

Well, it is a little disconcerting to not be certain whether a person is, or is not, your parent. You’d think this would be a familiar sensation for me, growing up as I did wondering if every single man with a brogue was my father, but it was still weird.  I had a familiar train of thought ride through my head.  What will it be like when she’s gone?  Will I stop seeing her everywhere the way I stopped imagining every Irishman to be my father once I knew he was gone?

I’m getting ready to be a stay at home mom for 10 weeks and I plan to slow down, enjoy my boys and try really hard to make sure that they always know who their parents are, two people who love them dearly.

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Filed under aging, Boys, cancer, Exercise, family, medical, moms, musings, relationships, running, stress, Summer

Incredibly well adjusted

The first time I went to a chiropractor I was in a bad way.  Although I can’t recall the exact nature of my complaint, I’m sure it originated in my lower back because that was where things used to hurt.  I remember being a bit hesitant about having my back “cracked” and feeling awkward about the process. I was skeptical about what the results would be, too. I mean, after all, it wasn’t real medicine, right?

Lee Masterson, at Delmar Chiropractic at 204 Delaware Avenue, has been my go to guy since the practice opened in 1999, the year my middle son was born.  I was committed to having a natural childbirth experience and felt that it was important that my body be in alignment to facilitate this process. What I hadn’t correctly anticipated was my need for regular adjusting post-birth.  I can’t imagine I was alone in “bumping” my hip out to provide the perfect straddle spot to support my infant, yet my body took it personally.  And revolted.  
One of the things I most appreciate about Lee is his respect for the integrity of the body.  He works in concert with my spine, my muscles and my lifestyle to help me maintain my good health.  During the years when I struggled with back discomfort, he taught me to recognize and address my body’s complaints and I feel much more confident in my ability to assess my state of wellness.  I make it a habit, particularly these days as I approach 20 miles of running per week, to check my posture and eyeball the levelness of my shoulder and hips.  When things don’t feel or look right, I call Lee’s office and arrange for a maintenance appointment.
I’m really fortunate to have health insurance which covers chiropractic care and a visit costs only a co-pay.  My oldest son as a toddler had an issue with a slightly inverted foot and Lee saw him for $3 a visit, his age at the time.  How’s that for commitment to your practice?  On occasion over the years, I’ve seen other providers in the DC office and I have been consistently impressed by the care I’ve received. I certainly can’t claim to be completely balanced in a life filled with boys, work and exercise, but I can say with complete confidence that my skeleton at least is very well adjusted.

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