Health Update: CAT Scan, Infections, and Rediagnosis
For background: I had a pulmonary embolism in February 2023, as told in these articles: Part One, Part Two
The bleeding I’d had before that meant I’d already scheduled a colonoscopy to look at it (which was going to happen in May), but my colonoscopy got moved up, as told here.
The bleeding I had already scheduled a colonoscopy to look at (which was going to happen in May) got my colonoscopy moved up, and it happened last week as told here.
That resulted in a cancer diagnosis , and I saw a colorectal surgeon as told here. Then a cardiologist, as told here. Then I was nearly tortured by an MRI, as told here.
And, before we get into the update, I want to mention there are two massive multipublisher bundles of products on DriveThruRPG right now that are fundraisers for my growing medical debt. each has more than $700 of pdfs, from 16+ different companies, for a dozen different ttRPGs (including some core ruelbooks!), as well as maps, figures, stock art, and so on. Each is just $34.95, and will only be available through May 15th.
Bundle #1: http://bit.ly/3KNMw8f
Bundle #2: http://bit.ly/3Uu6JTV
Okay, back to the update.
After the gauntlet that was the MRI ([videogamevoice]”Owen needs imaging, badly!”[/videogamevoice]), the CAT scan had me worried. Yes, everyone assured me that it would be faster and easier than the MRI, but I’d been given assurances about Frank the Monstrous Research Instrument tooo, and they hadn’t panned out.
So as not to bury the lede, the Calamitous Analyzing Torus process itself was fine. Katty the CAT Scan got all her pain and misery out of me in advance.
Since the hole thing was supposed to take 15 minutes, I thought I’d been in and out with an hour. I arrived, checked in, and was asked if I’d drunk any contrast.
“Ah… no. Haven’t eaten any glue, either, if that matters.”
So, it turned out I had to drink 40 oz of contrast before the scan, and then 30 minutes after that I could go in. Now, I am sure that the medical industry knows what it’s doing, and if I had been alert enough to pick up on this, I could have selected a flavor of contrast that would be appealing (at least when graded on the scale of medicinal liquids). “Grape,” maybe, or “cherry,” which seem popular flavors for cough syrups and antibiotics to brutally ruin forever.
But since I was getting my contrast at the hospital, I had to take whatever they had left. And, given the taste, I can only assume the flavor I was given was “Pocket Lint, Extra Musty.” Which might not have been as bad as I make it sound except it was also wet (if felt like I was drinking Essence of Dryer Fuzz with Extra Cat Hair), and it came in a Big Size Me Damnit-scale cup.
But I got it down (and KEPT it down, which was the greater accomplishment), got wheeled in, and got to see Katty the CAT scan. Where Frank the MRI was a long, dark Time Tunnel into the unknown, Katty was a Stargate of Medical Information. There’s no position you can be in it where you can’t see the room, and I found that very comforting.
Like Frank, Katty was going to require an injection toward the end, so we needed to get an IV in me. The tech got everything set up, confirmed I was on blood thinner, had a gauze pad ready, injected the needle, and…
Blood went everywhere.
The tech actually squeaked. Blood squirted all over their hands. It pooled on the floor. It sprayed droplets on Katty CAT. The tech moved my arm so I wouldn’t get blood all over my clothes. They called for backup. For all the world, it was like my vein was a tiny hose, and they’d stuck their thumb over the mouth of it. It took two people to strap down the needle and get the bleeding to stop. They were shocked. I was shocked.
Katty CAT was appeased. My blood offering was acceptable.
Once that was settled, I had no issues with Katty CAT. Despite being exactly the same diameter as Frank the MRI, my vasty deep of blubber didn’t touch the sides of the CAT scan (I knew Frank had been screwing with me on purpose). It took the 15 minutes promised, made no frightening noises, didn’t try to burn me. I even got to keep my glasses on. (Good thing, too, or I couldn’t have read the sign on Katty CAT that said “Intense Laser In Use. Do Not Look Here,” which is exactly the sign you shouldn’t be squinting at to try to understand).
I didn’t get the results back for a week, but when I did it was good news. Beyond the two tumors we already knew about, there was no sign of cancer anywhere else in my gastrointestinal track. So, yay!
Speaking of a “Yay” moment, when my MRI was looked at by an MRI doctor, they concluded I was at early Stage 2 cancer, which was a bummer. (If by “bummer,” you mean “bringing of existential dread and depression,” which is in fact what I normally mean when I say bummer.) We’d been hoping for early Stage 1.
I saw my oncologist last week, who had more time to go over the MRI images, and consult with the rest of my medical team, and get additional info from various scans, tests, samples, and I think a small gnome named Burthug who makes “Pocket Lint, Extra Musty”-flavored medical liquidsand repalced elf-on-a-shelf for cancer patients.
That group rediagnosed me. Not as early Stage 2, but as late Stage 1.
Now, that may sound like a small difference. But it’s huge, for me. Among other things, it means I may well not need chemo and radiation before surgery. It also boosts my 5-year survival rate up into the 90%+ range.
Which lead to this exchange.
Doctor: “You definitively have Stage 1 cancer.”
… Some things you never expect to cheer.
Now, it’s not all roses and bon bons. This past week, my housemate went to have his own surgery, and my wife and I were going to go with him, wait for him to come out, see how he’s doing, and so on. We needed to leave the house at 4:30 am. I was awake well before that, and not feeling well. By 4am, we took my temperature. 102.2
We did a quick Covid test, which was negative, but clearly I needed to not be going to a hospital to breath on *other* people. We called my doctor as soon as her office was open, and she had me come in immediately. My sister had to drive me, because our housemate was in surgery, my wife is still recovering from her hysterectomy, our good friend Carl was with our housemate… Thank goodness my support system is so deep.
The doctor’s office took a lot of my bodily fluids, and wanted to send me to the ER. Why the ER? Because my symptoms could be Covid after all. Or the flu, or a UTI, or a bacterial infection, or spreading cancer, or pneumonia, or even another pulmonary embolism…
So the doctor thought I should go to the ER, and figured I’ll be there 2-3 days. I freaked out.
In the end, the Care Coordinator at that office convinced the doctor NOT to send me to the ER… yet… so I wouldn’t be sitting around with a compromised immune system where other people are sick. They send me to the hospital for testing and evaluation. I tested for everything. (Including pneumonia, and x-rays are not cheap.) At the last moment, they decide I could go home, with an antibiotic pill the size of my pinky toe. But they gave me a long list of red flags. If any of them hit, I was to call 911 for the ER, no delay.
That night, well after office hours, my doctor called me from her home. They had the results from my first round of bloodwork, and my white blood cell count was “extremely high.” Again, she thought I should go to the ER. I told her my fever had broken and I was feeing better (both true), and got tentative permission to avoid the ER. But I was to not hesitate a minute if I felt even a little worse. My numbers said that is could be sepsis, and could become deadly overnight.
Also, I was seeing her again right after that. And her care coordinator called on me twice the next day to check on me, as did the home health nurse. Everyone gave me side-eye, but I stayed just under the red flags, and got to stay at home.
I did get better, and when I saw her next she was satisfied with my progress. Final tests had come in and I did have a UTI… in that I had a massive kidney infection, had gone septic, and the infection had spread down frim my kidneys to everything else downhill from it. (Even bacteria like a nice waterslide.) She confirmed that I SHOULD have stopped fighting on gone to the ER… but the antibiotic they put me on was exactly the right one for this infection, and I was now out of the danger zone.
So, I’m out of the danger zone (yes, this one), and everyone is recovering… slowly. I’m exhausted. Lj is exhausted. Our housemate is exhausted. My sister is exhausted.
But hey, Stage 1 cancer! Woot!
Posted on April 25, 2023, in Health and tagged My Cancer. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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