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I'm pretty sure I don't have cholera, either

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Nov. 21st, 2010 | 06:26 pm
mood: relievedrelieved

Yesterday I received final resolution of some medical uncertainties which have made my life more complicated over the last month or so.  In retrospect, it's more funny than anything else, so I'll give you the [relatively] quick version of the story.

But I will put even that behind a cut.  Here's the really quick version: it went from thinking I was facing one of life's mid-level aggravations ... to hearing that I might have a deadly disease ... to learning that there was no [identifiable] problem at all.  Other than, that is, the aftermath of having expended a good deal of time, energy, worry, and, yes, money.

It began when I had some fairly annoying pain in the pelvic area.  After four days of it, I called for an appointment with the doctor.  I accepted an appointment with someone other than my regular physician, because he [the former] could see me the next day.

I told him my pet theory (at the time): that it might be a hernia.  He gave me the standard manual examination for an inguinal hernia, and said it wasn't.

After some poking around, it seemed that the worst spot was one where, he said, "all that's there is colon".  On that basis, his own best guess was that I had diverticulitis.  So he ordered a CAT scan to find out whether that was true.

Some days later, we had the results of the CAT scan, and they established that I didn't have diverticulitis.  But they showed something else of concern: a "possible obstruction" in the pancreatic duct.

If I understand correctly, there was no thought that this was the cause of my original pain.  It was just an accidental finding, resulting from the fact that the scan happened to cover that area.

At any rate, the recommendation, then, was that I have an MRI.  I chose to meet with my regular doctor, before agreeing to that.  She said, after checking with a radiologist, that (despite my scepticism and reluctance) she did agree with the recommendation.  It could be nothing, but it could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.

Somewhere around here, the original pain went away by itself.

Pancreatic cancer.  I was aware that that is a particularly nasty one.  A lot of its reputation for nastiness, though, comes from the fact that it is rarely diagnosed early enough to do anything really effective about it.  This case, if pancreatic cancer it was, would probably be one of the few exceptions to that generalization.

I agreed to the MRI, and scheduled it.  This time, the wait before actually having the test seemed a good deal longer (though objectively, it wasn't).  I've already survived one kind of cancer (prostate), so that probably tempered my attitude; but still, I was anxious.

The day of the MRI was when the thing really turned into a circus.  For reasons I won't detail here, I was taken from the outpatient imaging center to the emergency room.  There, it was quickly determined that there was no emergency.  (Quickly once I actually saw the ER doctor, that is.)

The ER doctor suggested that since my day was already shot, I might as well go ahead and have the MRI there, in the hospital.  I agreed.

One benefit of that: I got a preliminary reading of the results soon after the test was done.  The ER doctor said it showed [not an obstruction but] a possible dilation of the pancreatic duct.  He said this was nothing to be alarmed about; but I should go back to my regular doctor, the next day or so, to discuss the implications in detail.

So I did.  She said that indeed, there was now nothing to worry about.  It was now quite unlikely to be pancreatic cancer.  She suggested a blood test to make sure that there wasn't some sort of problem with the pancreas.

She said if the results were abnormal, they would telephone; if they were normal, they'd send them out in the [postal] mail.  I said OK, and had the blood drawn.

Eleven days later (which was yesterday), the results arrived in my mailbox.  They were completely normal, and a note emphasized that there was, now, really and truly, nothing to worry about.

For me ... and for anyone else who had known of the possibilities I was facing ... this came, of course, as a relief.  For anyone getting the whole story at once, not having previously known that any such thing was going on, the effect, I expect, will be different.  In trying to imagine what it would be like to get the story this way, I came up with the title I've given to this posting.  (And just to make sure everyone's clear: the title is wholly facetious.  No one has suggested that I might have cholera, nor have I entertained that hypothesis myself.)

I'm pretty sure I've seen a phrase like "trapped inside the medical machine".  I don't know what sort of machine others were thinking of, but I know what it felt like to me: a pinball machine.

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Comments {1}

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from: macgipt
date: Nov. 22nd, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)

So glad that all your tests and worries turned out not to be a problem.

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