I guess I should get around to telling a little bit of my medical history so you guys know where I’m coming from. I’ve always been sick in some way, between allergies, asthma and migraines, not to mention the common childhood ailments. This was a new one on me, however.
Starting back in October of 2003, I developed a skin problem. I tell people “skin problem” both because I don’t like the sound of the word “rash” and because the word “rash” doesn’t quite explain what was going on. If you’ve ever had a bad allergic reaction that was apparent in your skin with those itchy hives, imagine that. If you’ve ever rolled around in a patch of poison ivy, imagine that. Imagine this itchy feeling all over your body.
Now imagine having that feeling for over a year and a half. Imagine getting only two or three hours of sleep each night because you’re compelled to scratch your skin until you bleed. And then you keep scratching. Imagine seeing doctor after doctor only to see them scratch their heads. Occasionally one will come up with a new idea, but an idea that doesn’t quite fit. Doesn’t quite get rid of that maddening itch. Doesn’t let the abused skin heal.
Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of years.
A month or so ago, I had a physical with my regular doctor. Spent a couple of hours explaining everything that had been going on with my body in the past few years. He ran a few tests and discovered I had a pretty severe mold allergy. Maybe this was finally it! We’re living in a 100 year old house that we’ve been renovating ourselves. There has to be mold in this place! On that same appointment, I brought up this swelling I noticed in my armpit. One of my lymph nodes wasn’t liking something around me. The doc checked and told me to keep an eye on it and contact him if it got larger or started hurting. Over the next week, it did.
I went back to my doc and he gave me some pain pills to help me manage through the week, at the end of which we’d look at it again and do some more testing. In the meantime, pain pills and bloodwork. Incidentally, I love Lor-Tab. It was the first one to cut through the pain and give me that “look at the pretty colors” feeling.
Speaking of the pain, here’s what it’s like. Put your imagining caps back on, kiddies. Picture someone with a really wide butterknife. This person really likes the look of your shoulderblades, and as such has decided he needs to pry them off your body. He wedges the knife under your left shoulderblade and proceeds to try to lever it off. Fun, no?
Friday comes and I go back to my doc. He’s not there but his wife is (also a doctor) and she gives me a looking over. She decides to do a needle drainage of my swollen armpit. Yes, that’s much like it sounds – the stick a needle into you and see what comes out. Lovely. This will tell her if what I have is an abcess or not. The result was “not.”
Because of this, we need to get a better look at this area, which means a chest CT. She sends me over to my nearby hhospital, having me go through the ER so I don’t have to wait. Two hours later, I have a chest CT. In the meantime, I get the chance to start off on what will be a constant task for me – telling my medical story to strangers. Everyone would rather get the details from you that read what the last person wrote down. After awhile, I get a regular patter down, occasionally changing the story as new information is remembered, sometimes just to keep it interesting for me.
The CT results come back – there are a lot of swollen lymph nodes in my chest too. It’s admitting time! Oh, I guess I should mention too that my temperature was over 101 degrees at that time. It was a rollercoaster of a fever that would run me from 97.6 to 102.5 and every degree in between over the course of the next week of hospital life.
In the hospital, much blood was drawn from me, many temperatures were taken, and many many doctors were seen. Some of them were infectious disease doctors who had us worrying about rats in the house – leptosporosis and hantavirus. Great. Others were regular doctors, aching to hear my story. The last were the surgeons, explaining how they were going to take out one of my lymph nodes (one of the ones in the neck, just above the collarbone) so a pathologist could slice and dice it and see what’s wrong with me.
So the biopsy happened and the lymph node was removed. A day later I got to go home, where I basically had to lay around for a week as I waited for my doctor’s appointment to arrive. The doctor I would be seeing was a hemotologist/oncologist which didn’t sound very promising from the start. But there’s always the chance we’ll show up, he’ll ask why we’re wasting our time and send us home with some common easy diagnosis, right? If you’ve started reading from the first entry, you know the answer.
Looking back, I see there are a few gaps in my tale, but those will have to wait to be filled in because I’m hungry.