50 Memories: A Big Scare

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This is not the post that I had intended to write for day #49, but something happened today that I didn’t expect and it will no doubt, be something that I will never forget and will forever reflect upon.

To summarize, I’ve been having some sudden onset abdominal pain and pressure for about a week now.  I am not much for going to the doctor because like many nurses, we always think we know what’s wrong with us; and we are generally right.  We self-diagnose, self-treat and put off seeking treatment.  This situation was no exception.  I put it off, self-treated and ultimately, self-diagnosed (and I was correct).  The issue is, we are leaving in a few weeks for Europe.  I did not want to find myself seeking medical attention in another country with language barriers and uncertainty, so I went to see my doctor after much hesitation and stubbornness.  He agreed with my diagnosis of “gastritis” (vs. gallstones) but ordered a series of lab work an abdominal ultrasound just to be safe since I am leaving the country.  I was able to quickly get the labs and the scan done while I was at work.  I got my blood results back quickly and self-analzyed them and of course, found a few things that I want to follow up on; nothing earth-shattering [but I’m of course convinced that I must be dying of something].

As of this morning, I hadn’t heard back about the ultrasound.  I was driving to meet my friend for a run and yoga class when I received a call from my doctor to discuss the ultrasound.  You know there’s an issue when they call vs. just upload the generic “you’re fine” email into your electronic health record online for you to read.  He gave me news that I was not prepared for, as it was totally unrelated to the abdominal pain that I was experiencing.  As many of you know, I lost my father in 2013 at the age of 74 to renal cancer…an 11 cm mass on his left kidney was found on CT scan and in 3 months, he was gone.  My grandmother [his mother], died of the same thing at the age of 84 [both had metastasis to the liver].  As my doctor was reiterating my blood work and that there were no findings related to my abdominal pain, he said these words “you have a mass on your left kidney that requires further evaluation”.   I asked him how large it was and he said, “it’s pretty big; 5 cm” [about half the size of Dad’s].  I reminded him of my family history and he said that while most of these masses are benign, my history definitely warranted some concern.  I was numb.  I immediately thought of my kids…are they now at risk too?  Should they also be scanned?  The doctor ordered a CT scan and I was able to get in immediately this afternoon to get it done.  I figured for sure that I’d have several grueling days of waiting, which is almost always the case with these tests and I was certain this was it; that I was going to follow a genetic path of doom just as my life is booming with goals and plans, an amazing marriage, a new grand baby, a job I love…it’s crazy how much goes through your head in just a few minutes; a few hours.  I managed to get in a quick run and a yoga class before the CT scan.  All the while thinking, I may not be doing these things that I love much longer; what about Jamie? My kids?  My grandon?  It seemed impossible that anything good could come out of this news given the history and randomness of it all.

My doctor was able to get the results immediately and much to my surprise, the mass turned out to be a complex cyst that doesn’t warrant any further testing or removal; only frequent observation to make sure it doesn’t change.  The CT scan also showed a few more cysts on the same kidney and one on my liver, as well as a uterine fibroid, which are common.  In a nutshell, I’m okay!!   While it’s hard to rest easy and be convinced that this isn’t going to deteriorate to cancer status one day, I am beyond relieved that I at least know that it is there and I will stop being so lax about medical issues.  Until this past year, I hadn’t even had a physical in at least a decade and the only time I see a doctor is for my annual GYN/Mammogram [which I’ve had a few scares with breast cysts that have also been benign over the last decade].  I usually have to be really sick or chronically injured before I will seek medical care.  I am all about prevention, alternative medicine, and avoidance of unnecessary doctor visits [which will never change], but now that I see how easily something random and unexpected can crop up, I will be modifying that mindset.

I hate that the cost of medical care, high deductibles, and decreased insurance coverage has created this monster in me to the point that I’m ignoring and putting off my own healthcare.  That stops here and now.  Life is fragile and unpredictable and diseases are aggressive.  I should know this, but nurses truly do make the worst patients!


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