Posted by: jeanne | January 7, 2009

medical roundup ’08 – yah doggie

i didn’t put anything down for january because i ordered my daybook later. but starting februaryof 2008, here is a tally of my medical to-dos…

feb 1: mammogram.

march 6: oncologist checkup. she seems satisfied to know that i’m not dying right now.

march 14: a tornado rips thru our backyard. i watch until i’m too frightened, then grab the grandkid and head for the bathroom while jim is being drawn to the window. and then it passes. i think nothing of it for awhile.

march 20: a visit to my nurse practitioner. i’d been having diarrhea for a few weeks. i attributed it to overwork, as i’d been doing a lot of unnecessary work for my sister’s wedding in late march, and was tired and fatigued.

during april i recovered from my sisters wedding and didn’t schedule anything. i was having problems with greeat fatigue and diarrhea. i had applied for disability because i could no longer work. i felt like i was fading away.

april 21: i saw my nurse practitioner for a gameplan. we decided to see a gastro guy for my diarrhea, and a cardiologist to get an angiogram in case my dad’s ascending aortic aneurysm had passed down to me.  

april 22: an interview with social security over the phone. i told them how tired i was, and the woman was sympathetic but noncomittal. she kept saying is that all.

may 23: went and saw the cardiologist. they did a sonogram of my heart and said it was larger than it should be, and that i needed an angiogram, and scheduled me for that.

june 3: back to the cardiologist. he forgot why he’d told me to come back, had to go review my files. lots of waiting. he blamed his nurses for not scheduling me for the mra.

i was supposed to go get my eyes examined to rule out aneurysm. but i never went. they look at your fundus and see broken capillaries or something.

june 6: my nurse practitioner set up an appointment with a gastroenterologist, someone else in an office i’d been to before. so i called up and changed the appointment so i could see the doctor i had visited previously, a real sweetheart.

june 9: saw my oncologist again. i wasn’t supposed to see her until august, but i had developed a rash at the site of my surgery scar. it had gotten hot out, and we don’t use air conditioning, so it seems i was developing heat rash around the scar, and nothing more. sure had me going for awhile, tho.

june 12: the gastroenterologist. just as wonderful as i’d remembered. he listened to what was wrong and ordered both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy for later on.

june 16: saw my nurse practitioner, don’t remember why, but in order to go see anybody  i need to have a referral from her, so i go to her when setting up anything at all. i believe i remember her asking me what i wanted her to do, after hearing my continuing complaints. i outlined all the people  i would have to see and all the tests i thought should be run, she nodded, and started referring me. i was still waiting to be denied benefits at this point, and could hardly walk with the heaviness in my legs.

june 21: saw the social security doctor who listened to me, nodded, and asked a few questions. i told him about the rash and he had a look and said hmmm.

june 24: went thru a lot of red tape to go see my former surgeon, who my new insurance does not have a contract with. we were scheduled to do a biopsy of the rash. but it had faded. it had faded last month, as well. this was alarming to me because it indicated that it was fluctuating with the moon, and my cancer had done the same thing, getting big before i bled, getting small again, almost going away, in the midstof my cycle. the rash was doing something similar. i still hadn’t quite connected it with heat spells, because in this part of the world it’s usually hot after may. just not unbearable like it gets in august.

june 26: back to the cardiologist. we’d had a cat angiogram and he told me my heart was within normal limits, but on the large end of that. he said we’d have to have a cat scan every six months to watch it. i asked if he knew how much radiation he was talking about, and he said we can do a transesophageal echocardiograph, but it would take sedation and did i really want to deal with that. it’s a serious question. both have their bad points.

july 10: went for my anal probe, also my deep throat test. when i came out of the anesthesia the doctor said i had gastritis, and diverticuli, and that he could see no reason for the fatigue or the diarrhea, and that we would have to do more tests. he arranged for a cat scan of the pelvis and abdomen.

july 15: after no food for a day and this truly awful barium sulfate smoothie, they gave me a cat scan, a very annoying procedure. at this point i was at the height of my fatigue, and couldn’t go down the hall without having to rest. i was very put out that i had to get dressed, travel 20 miles, and sit in waiting rooms, never mind the evil shit they made me drink, and the loudness of the radiation donut. grr. the cat scan revealed nothing to the point, but showed that my spine is degenerating with age and that i have fibroids in my uterus, most likely due to the tamoxifen.

july 22: went for my mra, to rule out aneurysm. this was louder and more noisy than the cat scan, more disturbing, and more tiring. they used a contrast agent that has since been linked to cancer. they didn’t find out anything new with this test. either.

sept 11: my oncologist. i wanted to talk to her about protein and albumen in my blood, markers for something. she was her usual impassive self.

sept 29: my nurse practitioner. we discussed my case. she asked me to call for followups with the gastro and the cardio guys, and to ask them to explain the test results they’d sent to her. things to ask about: ibs, chrone’s disease, insulin resistance, the aberrant subclavicular artery that was discussed in the mra report. she said the best thing for me to do would be to go thru this one hospital system so all these findings could be documented. she recommended i see a psychiatrist as well, because at this point i was too depressed to deal with anything. i had been turned down by social security, for the reason that they couldn’t see where i was disabled. this threw me into a tailspin. what was i supposed to do, crawl off under a bush and die?

october 6: i went to the lab for blood and stool work. a large workup, many vials of blood and tupperware containers of poop. again, nothing.

october 22: went back to the gastro guy, who was  stumped. nothing nothing nothing, let’s send me for more stool tests. we’ll look for really obscure things this time.

october 24: my oncologist. stolid and silent as usual. she seemed amused that i was trying to get disability. they usually fill out that form when they’re alot more along than me. well, shoot me if i think i have a problem, when obviously i just need to get off my fat ass and do something.

october 31: the cardiologist. a review of the mra. he was very dismissive of my questions. obviously there’s nothing wrong with an aberrant subclavicular artery. it’s just not where they expected it, that’s all. oh. is he being arrogant, or am i worrying about nothing? i always talk to the nurses and secretaries. they’re pissed at him because he doesn’t complete his paperwork. maybe i need to rethink this. being in the clutches of doctors isn’t good for your health.

november 10: went to the large urban hospital that is rated number one in the southeast for trauma. like my nurse practitioner advised. waited for several hours in a clinic waiting room, read a good deal of my book and listened with much amusement to conversations all around me, many not in a language i could follow. i saw a snot-nosed doctor, i mean 3rd year resident, who had to dash out to ask what he should do, a slightly older supervisor came back with him and looked at my hands, which i had said were very painful. since they didn’t look like eagle’s claws, they decided it was nothing, and refered me to the hospital’s 13th floor, which is where they had their psych ward. a scary place, where you need a pass from a nurse in order to leave. i decided i did not want my fate left in the hands of residents. i’d had enough of them when i first had cancer. they’re the last place you want to go when you have something complicated wrong with you. they don’t have a clue what they’re doing, and are full of arrogance and dash.

around this time, it began to occur to me that the tornado had left me scarred. i had become afraid to drive, more afraid to be a passenger, starting at the slightest noise, viscerally disturbed when the wind got high. poor sleeping, loosing weight, digestive problems, memory loss, all these symptoms i’d been having were covered under post traumatic stress disorder. but this suspicion isn’t really testable, just locatable. and knowing doesn’t reall yhelp. these are fight or flight reactions i keep having, and once they’re triggered, i can only watch myself freak out but can’t do much to curb it.

december 15: a trip to the gastro. no results with that bunch of tests, let’s do more. stool samples, looking for electrolytes. he thinks perhaps i have lactose intolerance and advises refraining from all milk for 3 days. this has mixed results. if i can’t have milk, i won’t drink coffee, and my bowels shrivelled up and produce nothing for the three days. except that was back to normal slush on the 4th day, the day i ended the test. a mere 20 minutes after i drank my first cup of coffee with lovely moo.

december 17: my nurse practitioner. testing my a1c levels to see if i’m insulin resistant, since i have many of the symptoms of someone who is developing diabetes but does not have it yet. she tells me that even tho i tested negative for celiac, i should try wheat elimination because some people have mutations that don’t show up in the blood and stool tests.  of course i would be one of those. of course.

december 22: a different oncologist, one who specialized in hematology. the cardiologist thought i should have her look at my blood work to see if there was anything funny. there wasn’t. this was a pack-em-in-before-the-holiday-vacation appointment, where i saw in the waiting room for 2 hours, with all the chemo patients, and then sat for another hour in her office awaiting the consult, and an other hour between interviews with her while she slipped out to check on something. i was also supposed to go for a lung function test, but my old pulmonary doctor no longer takes my insurance.  he’s investigating my shortness of breath and fatigue.

december 31: i was sent by my nurse practitioner to get an mri to see what was wrong with my back, but they called to cancel it because the insurance said no. they weren’t going to authorize an mri because i hadn’t been hospitalized and wasn’t using drugs other than aspirin to treat it. okay. i don’t need an mri. she told me to come in for another blood test, an alkaline phosphatase test, to see if there was in fact anything to worry about, or if it were all in my head, where i can deal with it better than they can. i got in the mail that day an official denial of the mri from my medicaid, and with it was a form requesting continuation of services. as ifthey might think of discontinuing services because i’d asked for one thing to many. this sent me into a freewheeling spiral of anxiety.

and the new year begins. may it be an altogether better year than last year. in all the ways that count.

so we leave the year here, with a total of 32 doctor visits recorded in my day book. i think i remember that number right. you count it if you want. the upshot of almost a visit a week was a bunch of tests that revealed nothing, a large donation to the health system of this country, a situation that has somewhat improved just by letting time work at it, and a new understanding and respect for the power, wisdom, and expertise of doctors.



  1. This is unreal. The treatment or lack of and utter disregard for you is criminal.

    I don’t want to scare you, but because one of the first places breast cancer metastizes is to the bone they always do bone scans and ct scans every four months. Especially if you are complaining about your back. Hopefully it is nothing, but you need that checked. I have cancer in my bones along my bra line in upper back.

    I want only good for us in 2009 my friend. Let’s start having it. xoxoxo

    Love Renee

  2. Hello dear friend: just a shout out to see that you are okay.



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