Tuesday, August 21, 2012
My long summer
I hardly know here to begin, but at least I am feeling well enough to talk about my summer now. It actually started in the spring. I had a sore throat in March but thought I was just recovering from basketball and a cold practice gym in February. However, when the fever didn't go away the whole month of March I knew it was time to go to the doctor the first of April. They were also concerned that my blood pressure was a little higher than usual. When I was 30 I had been diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse and had ultra sounds to confirm. Then we moved and my doctor retired and I had not needed meds anymore anyway so I hadn't worried about it. In my 40's it started acting up again so I went to a new heart doctor who proudly proclaimed that MP was widely overdiagnosed and that I did not have it. I found his odd since I had seen several ultra sounds... But he's the doc so I went with it.... Until this April. It felt too familiar. So with the heart fever and sore throat I went to the doctor. I wa expecting antibiotics, but first got sent to the cardiologist who pronounced (and confirmed through ultrasound) that I have MP. Imagine that! However, he said my heart was holding up fine for my age. Boy, I'm already tired of that phrase, but I was relieved to hear that. Unfortunately, the symptoms remained and my follow up was with the NP and she said, "I'm afraid you might have either voice box or throat cancer." I was shocked and sickened at the same time. I still had a month of school left and my mind raced. She sent me to an ear, throat, nose doc and he put a scope through my nasal cavity and numb sprayed my throat. To our relief, he did not find anything. We thought we were all clear and left, but ended up back the next week because he was concerned with my swollen lymph node that wouldn't go down and I still had the fever and hoarseness. He feared lymph node cancer and sent me for a contrast MRI of my neck and sinuses. The iodine was not something I'd car to do again. I could taste it. I stressed through the week, even sicker with worry. The test came back within normal range for my age. Tired of the stress, no answers, and everyone telling me I probably had cancer, I decided to try some other routes. I went to the dentist to rule out a tooth infection and to talk about tmj which I have always had. My teeth were fine. No cavities as usual and my gums looked healthy, so no infection. Then we talked about my TMJ and my swollen neck. He said he thought I had sleep apnea and that a lot of people with TMJ have it. He sent me to a TMJ specialist who agreed based on my husband's report of my sleep habits. Apparently I did some things I wasn't aware of. I clench because my jaw falls back, along with my tongue and blocks my airway. So off to the sleep study to confirm. You spend the night at a sleep center. You have a private room and nurse. She hooked me up to a multitude of wires that measured brain activity, restless legs, heart, breathing, everything. I didn't think I'd sleep, but I did. Then back to a sleep doc for the results. He said my apnea was mild to moderate. Mild on my side and moderate on my back. I stop breathing about 20x a night on my back, but only 9 if I don't stay on my back! I thought, "Holy cow! How many times is severe?!" I also thought I had acid reflux so I went to a gastro specialist he next week. She evaluated me, felt the swollen lymph node, read all the reports and told me I probably had breast cancer or lymphoma because the lymph node was triggered by something. There it was.... The "C" word again. I had tried to forget it. She sent me for my mammogram. It was stable (I have cysts but they are benign) so if they don't change they consider them stable, but the radiologist was also concerned with the lymph node in my neck and ordered an ultrasound of my right armpit (home of more lymph glands) just to be safe. Those too were normal. But then the back pain that seemed minor compared to the throat, up to this point, got worse. I panicked and we headed to the ER? He felt it was a muscle problem and not cancer. FINALLY someone who didn't use the C word! Back to my gastro with good news. She scheduled an endoscopy to,check the damage of the reflux and to biopsy my smal intestine as she was still convinced she would find cancer. I had just finished summer school at this point and was very stressed. The endoscopy confirmed the reflux problem and found ulcers in my stomach and asophpogus, but no cancer. So many prayers answered you have no idea. So many times we would celebrate only to be told it was probably cancer again. My poor husband! Then the night of my endoscopy surgery I started to have jerking muscles at night. Back to ER via ambulance. I was severely dehydrated (poor instructions by the gastro doc for after surgery precautions). They pumped the fluids in me for several hours and also felt I had a reaction to the anesthetic so gave me something for that too. The dehydration had also caused a urine infection so antibiotics for that too. Did I mention my poor husband. So I went on a strict diet for the reflux (I'm still on it) and one week in, the three month fever broke. I also had an ultrasound of my midsection (gallbladder, liver, kidney, spleen), so they could rule out those organs. All good! The neck is still swollen and I'm still convinced its from clenching though they may just remove the lymph node if it doesn't go down. I had a special mouthpiece (top and bottom) made and it was supposed to stop the apnea and clenching. It was horrid and didn't do either. So today, I gave in and got fitted for the CPAP mask/machine (which I brought home). My husband will now be sleeping with an alien. At least the alien will be breathing! Oh yes, and in the meantime, my hip started acting up again. They sent me for a lower lumbar MRI because my physical therapist (PT) wasn't comfortable working on my back till they ruled out cancer. Apparently the electricity they use on their machines can stimulate cancer. Yikes! Good news... No cancer, but I have a bulging disc and arthritis. Oh, and my annual skin doctor check-up was squeezed in (no alarming moles), and my pap smear (still waiting for those results). So I am now in PT for my TMJ (neck) and seeing a back doctor for my disc. I have one final cancer test they want me to have and that is scheduled for Sept. it's my colonoscopy. If I pass that one.... I am not kidding... I am going to throw a party! It has been the most stressful summer of my life! I don't know what I would do without my husband. He has been my rock. I watch the way some people treat their spouse's health problems and I am sickened. Your inner self begins to be affected and I credit my husband for keeping my head above water. I also thank the Lord. I am thankful for a daughter who sensed my troubles without being told and came to help clean, and spend the night at times. I am thankful for Jason and Anne also sensing a problem and helping us pack. This has been difficult, but we're almost through it and it has made me aware of so many health things. It has changed a lot of what we eat, how we eat, and how I value every single day. No amount of money can make up for. Life shortened by poor health choices. I'm also cutting back on stress. Again, I'm thankful for a spouse who works to reduce my stress load and who builds me up. One more hurdle and I will be clear. Everything but my brain will have been tested. I am going to get this back stronger and my neck muscles loosened. I'm going to count my blessings and enjoy every minute I am blessed with!