I have always had rather excellent health over the years. Including the feeling of being immortal when you’re in your teens and twenties. As such, I had much neglected and failed to go to routine check-ups for over a decade and a half. A mistake now, I realize…
As you guys know, I’ve been having multiple health issues for the last year or so. It all started in February 2014 with an herniated disc in my lower back. Then in June I was struck with many mysterious symptoms that have not quite gone away since. It was first guessed (notice that I didn’t use the term “diagnosed” as most of our docs only do educated guesses) as a bad case of costochondritis. The thing is that, if you come in with a myriad of symptoms, most docs can’t make heads or tails of it and can easily forget important details. However, they did perform heart tests, chest X-Ray, a pulmonary scintigraphy to rule out embolism, and a few blood tests. All came back negative less the cholesterol levels (that was a duh). Then I also began to have sinus and digestive issues.
The sinus issues were not too bad at first, just a few yellow chunks in my first morning nose blowing, but it slowly deteriorated over time. The funny thing is that I took three different antibiotics treatments for my teeth problems (those were subsequently somewhat fixed with the extraction of a bad tooth) and those treatments should have fixed my sinuses too. It only diminished the problem during the treatments but came back in full force soon after terminating them. I didn’t have pain though. The pain came later around the Holidays. The usual pressure pain and mild headaches. Nothing much to worry about, yes? The real issue was that at their worse, the symptoms made my vision go out of focus until I was able to find the level of concentration required to re-focus. There was some fatigue and dizziness as well.
However, my sinuses and costochondritis were manageable with meds until my digestive issues came around. I’ve always had minor acid reflux but that was not the source of my problems. My oesophagus started to feel weird with occasional pains under my sternum after eating but mainly after drinking. It sometimes would radiate in my surrounding ribs. I also had an almost immediate sharp pain in my stomach if I dared to walk around after eating. Then a very strange sensation in my throat appeared, like there was some blockage. I was prescribed meds for my stomach, plus I was able to get a barium test, an ultrasonography of the liver and lower digestive tract, but again all of this came back negative. Note here that all of this took months of delays.
The next step was to perform a oesophagogastroduodenoscopy (shit, isn’t that the longest word you saw lately?), in short a “gastroscopy”, to visually inspect the upper tract. It took 3 months to get an appointment. It was due in in a few days but last Sunday, about two hour after eating dinner, I started to really feel bad, REALLY BAD. Pain, weakness, shivers, including all the prior mentioned symptoms. It had happened a few times before but never to this level. I mean, when you feel like shit for 8 months straight it sort of builds up on you. Especially since I didn’t know what the hell was the problem! You somehow start to give yourself scares that you have a potential life threatening issue. I got scared, which only made it worse, so I rushed myself to the hospital.
As usual, it took over 1 hour to get through triage, even if I had only 3 persons in front of me. It was visible that I was a trainwreck but I still got classified “code 4”, which is low-priority, one step shy of “unimportant / non-urgent”. Sooooo, 3 hours later I finally get to see the doc. Again, he was confused with the long list of symptoms that plague me since June 2014. However, he was successfully convinced that something needed to be done without further delays. Thus, I was hospitalized for further diagnosis. Out came the clothes. In was the gown and that intravenous bag thing (I am lost in translation here). Then came the blood tests, many of them. It was already late so they quickly transferred me to a non private room since I didn’t have insurance. That meant spending the night with 3 other patients.
I was a little taken aback since this was my first hospitalization and I had not much notice. However, I was comforted by Sylvie which would return the following day with some stuff and to keep my morale up. Fortunately, my mom was able to get her back home since as you recall my fiancée is sight impaired. Urgh, let me tell you that sharing a room with other sick people is no fun. If the constant snoring, coughs, farts, and weird bodily noises are not enough to keep you awake then the constant nurse calling by a senile man will. “I need to pee!”, “You have your diaper, do in it!”, “I need to drink!”, “Your water bottle is right there!”, etc, etc, etc.
The following morning, a doctor came and I had to explain everything again. Again, too much symptoms got her flabbergasted but I was able to have my gastroscopy done sooner. Let me tell you that I would never wish this even on my worst enemy. They only gave me an anesthetic spray for my throat and they went in. “You have to swallow the camera, it won’t go in on its own.” REALLY? OMG! FUCK NO! Shit shit shit I can still feel it by telling this story. Anyhow, it is no fun, none at all. After you swallow it, you can feel it go down your oesophagus while your body tries to reject the damn thing with very sickly coughs. Then, when it came into my stomach I could feel it move and it hurt. I was certain I would choke to death. “Control your breathing, relax!” I could not, my nose was filled with secretions! The surgeon saw it and told me to breathe through my mouth. I tried my best to calm down and endure the friggin’ pain. He only saw a small polyp (that is a mundane thing, not responsible for my symptoms) and quickly slid down the scissors/pincers through the tube to remove it. Then he took the entire thing out and it was over… finally! Excruciating few minutes……….. “Good news, Jay, all looks normal.” Errrm, then what else could it be? Then I got a PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography) order as the final tool to see what is wrong.
I was sent down to my bed since the procedure would be on the next day. Thankfully, Sylvie was there to help pass the time and support me mentally. The senile old man across from me got visited by his family and seemed to be panting a bit less than the night before. As the evening progressed, it got quiet since the lady besides me got transferred and that the other guy dozed off. Me and Sylvie were playing cards when we heard the old man pant really hard. It almost sounded like he was drowning. It got progressively worse to the point of being really disturbing. Since I had heard him pant similarly (but less severe) the night before I did not call the nurse since he would usually wake up and cough himself free. However, 15 mins later a nurse came and as we had suspected, he was dying. Now, before you slander me for doing nothing, it turns out that the family had signed the non resuscitation order and to give him only palliative care. We heard the rush of the nurses, the call to his family, aaaaaand the visit of the doc to confirm time of death… Let me tell you that the sounds of death are horrible. Honestly, it was an experience I would have like to avoid at all cost. Sylvie was also strongly distraught. That’s the reason why I didn’t go to see my last grandparents on their deathbed. Although it can sound heartless, seeing them dying like dogs is NOT the way I wanted to remember them. Call me a spineless coward if you wish, I will accept and admit it. I asked the nurse for a sleeping pill and Sylvie left for the night.
At 6 am, a nurse came to transfer me to another floor. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait much to be taken for the PET scan. I had to wait 45 minutes in a wheelchair holding that bag thing… anyhow we call it a “soluté” in french. Weirdly enough, although I didn’t eat for the past 36 hours I didn’t feel that hungry so the thing was doing its job. At the scan, they had to probe my chest, then retake the scan after injecting me with the tracer. “You’ll feel your entire body becoming hot and it’s normal.” However, there was a malfunction with my sub-dermal apparatus and the fluid came dripping out. So they had to retake the entire test. You’re not quite supposed to be blasted twice with the thing but I guess that if it was really dangerous they wouldn’t have. The second time I could feel the fluid disperse really fast into my body. Sorry for the graphic mental image but the only part that came “hot” was my anus. I told them that fact afterwards and they told me it was normal in males. Females supposedly feel like they are peeing (aren’t they always 😉 ). “Drink a lot of water to piss that shit out ASAP!”. I got shipped back to my room.
Not long after getting back, I was allowed to eat a small meal. It was not too bad considering that our hospital is infamous for serving really bad food. About half an hour before visitor time, the doc came to see me to announce me the news. Before I get to it, let’s just say that you cannot help yourself from thinking about the worse, trying real hard to keep your spirits up, but in this age of the internet this is almost impossible. Albeit informing yourself of your medical condition online can be good, you really need not to get yourself stressed out with dreadful possibilities. See, I had 70% of the symptoms of oesophagus cancer… and 90% for Hodgkin’s lymphoma (glandular cancer). Stress in itself is REALLY harmful and can make a situation much worse. Normally, I am not such a stressed fellow less a few a few aspects in my life. However, I can admit succumbing to small panic attacks in this whole ordeal. Anyhow, the doc tells me that other than a fatty liver they saw nothing wrong. The doc’s diagnosis was for an over-sensitive upper digestive tract but offered no explanation as to why or how to fix it. Since I was complaining of slow digestion, she prescribed me meds for it, and told me to otherwise relax and take care of myself. That was it… a somewhat happy albeit unsatisfactory end to my hospital stay.
I am still left with my pains, no remedy, and unknowns. Since I know about my liver (it is sensitive to the touch too) I will at least deal with that on my own. It has suffered years of neglect and junk food. Not to mention the near 2 pounds of cheese I eat every week… Ouch, ‘eh? My motto always was “Why try to live to 100 by cutting on all the good stuff when you can die at 60 from a heart attack having binged on all those sweet pleasures of life?” Trust me, I would have went on that road if my body would have let me. Anyhow, how my liver reacts to a light diet should be a good indication if there’s underlying problems. If they persists, then something else is affecting it other than a bad diet. That will be an important clue.
Hopefully, the antibiotics will take care of the sinuses and any other little infection that might be lingering around. I really hope that it will also take care of the general fatigue and numbness I experience on occasions. It is really bothersome and prevents me from working or attending to my hobbies. The costochondritis had slowly healed itself up until this winter when it came back in force a bit. I have also doubts on my neural integrity since I often have lightning spasms that shoot up my chest and give me a split second of dizziness. It can also radiate up nearby joints. It never affects the same spot every day, sometimes even hour to hour.
Hopefully, it is all nothing serious and my general condition may improve after I fix a single known issue after another rather than hoping for a miracle cure-all. As such, I will be focused on getting better for the time being. I have postponed my trucking runs indefinitely and will be living on the little savings I had made for my hobbies. I do not expect that I will be able to make Wabi~Sabi rally gravel ready any time soon. If anything, I’ll concentrate on implementing the final format I want to car to be first, and then continue from there on out until next winter. That is, of course, if health and budget allows. It should happen and I remain confident. Jay will get back up (again), until such a time that there’s nothing left to get back up for…