Thursday, August 23, 2007

the ketchup post

Here is where I make a big long post for everyone to catch up. Get it? Catch up? Ketchup?

I know. Don't quit my day job.

Like I said, it has been just over seven days since I found out the bad news. It started with allergies and a bad cold at the end of June. When a week had passed and the cold had me coughing up yellow blobs of ick, I called my former doctor's office for an appointment. I was sure I needed an antibiotic and I was also sure someone there would try swaying me to buy some herbal/veggie/hippie concoction; it seems all the practitioners there own part of a health food store and soothe their ethical guilt by admitting it when they refer me there.

I emphasized former doctor because as I was making my appointment I acknowledged I had new insurance coverage. I'd moved from Aetna HMO to Kaiser Permanente HMO but whaddya know? They don't take Kaiser! What do they suggest I do? I was so frustrated and sick (of their crap) that I'd had enough. Jody's doctor gladly took me in at her request though I've since learned his office doesn't really take Kaiser either... a big obstacle I would find my way over only this past Monday.

Well, he wasn't available the first time I visited but his partner was and she checked me out. It sure looked like an infection so she sent me off with a 'script for an antibiotic, an expectorant, and to get some blood drawn for "the usual" tests. They all came back good though she commented I needed to exercise more and get some more fish into my diet. Only my bad cholesterol was a little high.

I finished those pills and wasn't really clearing up so I went back in. I met Dr. Morog as his patient for the first time and he gave me a different antibiotic and a different cough medicine as well as a 'script to go get x-rayed. By this point in time I'd been coughing so much I'd pulled the left side of my diaphragm and I couldn't breathe deeply. No yawning. No chuckling. It hurt really bad. Jody was beginning to see I'd really been sick enough to genuinely need to cancel our mini-vacation to Delaware for the Fourth two weeks before.

I finished those medicines in another week and a half and was closing in on a month of being sick. I'd bought an old BMW just the middle of June right before I got sick and my imagination ran wild. It is in great running order but needs the entire front suspension refreshed to pass inspection. I was hip deep in new parts and torn down car as I got more and more sick. I thought maybe the car had given me a bacteria, mold, or a virus; it hadn't smelled too great inside but what did I care? The plan has been to take out the interior and trim the car down to the bare minimum weight to have fun with at more track day events. (A gaggle of my track buddies are getting organized to fix the car for me in the wake of what's happening to me. I am truly lucky to have such amazing friends!)

While the checst congestion finally cleared, the cough wouldn't (and hasn't) go away. I was so tried of it that I okayed Dr. Morog to prescribe me liquid cough syrup with codeine; that gives me a headache when I take it. It worked a little, but the x-ray had shown some shadows Dr. Morog wasn't sure of. They could have been infection, scar tissue, foreign objects (like bits of Jason's melted Porsche catalytic converter!), or possibly cancer. I kinda laughed at that possibililty but I signed on with him asking me to get a CT scan. The scan was very fast but also inconclusive so he asked me to schedule a PET scan. This time I didn't laugh though I really didn't begin to get scared.

At Jody's insistence, I leveled with Dr. Morog that I'd been having some gastrointestinal trouble. For a long time. Since the holidays last year. I'd been embarrassed about it and just kinda living with it thinking my diet was crappy and that I finally needed to start exercising and eating better. I'd been doing the latter and noticing some weight loss as a result. I was just eating smaller portions of better things and passively avoiding bad starch (veggies instead of potatoes, multi-grains instead of white or plain wheat, fruit and yogurt, etc). It was making me feel good about myself.

Dr. Morog did not hesitate to send me to a gastrointerology specialist. By the end of the week I'd interviewed with Dr. Shih and told him what was up. I was having daily diarrhea punctuated by short bouts of more solid stools but still rather soft, greasy, and bloody. I'm sorry if that grosses anyone out but it's the truth and it really needed to be addressed a long time before I finally did. Dr. Shih wasted no time in recommending a colonoscopy procedure. He assured me if he found fissures or hemorrhoids or ulcers that he could fix them during the procedure. Anything unusual would be biopsied and he is an expert in his field. When he asked if I would like to participate in a research study comparing the "prep" medications, I signed up without hesitating. I'm all about science and testing. Besides, if I had to have a colonoscopy, I may as well make a hundred bucks answering some questions about getting ready for it. ;)

The prep was awful. Because I know I will most likely have to do it again, shortly, I will definitely ramp down my diet a day or two beforehand. For starters it tasted terrible. I've not actually had a glass of Liquid Draino, but the prep was about that consistency and tasted like lemon-scented floor cleaner. It gets you cleaned out though. The next day Jody and I met at home to drive together (twilight sedation meant I couldn't drive afterwards) and the colonoscopy was nothing. I didn't feel a thing nor have any knowledge it had happened.

That's when things began to get bad.

Laying in the recovery area, Jody came back and Dr. Shih checked in on me. He was kind but matter of fact the way someone whom has had to tell people bad news must have learned to speak from experience. He apologized but he had found colon cancer during the procedure. I was still a little loopy and I think I may have cracked a joke or something. Jody was hit by a truck. it was so very very surreal.

I got dressed and met Dr. Shih once again who gave me a copy of his report. At the bottom were strong recommendations to see a colo-rectal surgeon and an oncologist as soon as possible. We would follow up with one another in another five days. The shock was hitting me in slow motion and all I could think of was asking if I should watch what I eat after this procedure. Somewhere in me I felt I needed to stay calm so that Jody wouldn't worry.

I'm sorry but I really need to stop right now. Remembering this is good for me and hopefully is helping you, but I'm at one of those moments where I need to go have a good cry again. I haven't had enough of them and they are piling up a bit. It does get better! I promise! Just the last two days alone have been very very positive, but right now I need to finish this post and take a breather.


Joyce said...

I'm glad that you are writing this for us, but it is also good for you. Back in 1989, Chuck wrote everything down in a spiral notebook. He felt it helped him stay focused. You are constantly in our prayers.

Beth said...

What a wonderful idea to start this blog! Writing is extremely therapeutic as well as keeping us all informed and up to date. Is it OK if I pass this link onto friends of mine who are also praying? Know that you are loved!


Cristy said...

I'm one of those friends Beth mentioned, she is very special to me. Thank you for starting this blog so we can continue to pray specifically for you and your family.

John said...

Yes, Beth. Please feel free to share the blog link with anyone you like. :)

brsmaryland said...

Thank you for being so honest. I think your experience can also help others. Remember, beating this is the only option!

Preeti said...

It is amazing to see the positive spirit as u guys face this challenge. Just be strong. You will be constantly in our prayers.

Scattered Gemini said...

Hi there, John

I read Jody's blog and am here to lend you some support and additional prayers and thoughts for healing. I know any additional good energy sent your way, can't hurt.


norska said...

Starting to catch up. Sco, bless you, hopefully as this info and your experiences continue to spread among your friends, they will take the "don't put it off" message to heart. As difficult as getting the words down are, especially in the hard days to come, try to remember how you are helping YOU, and potentially touching so many other people too. #HUG# Love ya!!