Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cysts, Cancers, and Colons

This week's post is brought to you by the letter "C"!  And yes, it is all about bodily functions, so consider this your TMI warning.

 I know I have written about my battle with chronic pain and ovarian cysts before, but there's more:  almost two years ago, I went to the doctor because, in the course of approximately two months, I had lost 13% of my total body weight, unintentionally.  And while it was fun for a bit that some clothes I hadn't worn in a decade suddenly fit again, any medical provider will tell you that losing even 5% of your body weight in under a year (unintentionally) is cause for alarm and, at the very least, a doctor's visit.  And it became less fun when the majority of my clothes literally fell off me.  So I went to the doctor.  And she began a series of tests after checking me physically for lesions and asking about my family medical history because, hey, unexplained weight loss is often a sign of cancer.

What followed were several blood tests, an X-ray of my chest, and a combination endoscopy and colonoscopy, among other things.  Leonard did not have cancer of the colon or even polyps, as originally suspected.  But the pain and bloating were increasing.  So we moved on to other parts of the body -- namely, the female parts.  Leonard's cysts were back in action, one ovary was larger than the other, and there was that pesky polyp (named "Ted") still hanging out.

The new OB/GYN conducted more ultrasounds, and a new (to me) procedure called a hysterosonography, and did I mention that Leonard was doing a show throughout all of this?  A showing  on a moving fucking bus??  So yeah, that hurt.  A lot.

Then Leonard had surgery to remove "Ted" (and his previously unnoticed roommate), check for endometriosis, and look for interstitial cystitis (cysts in the bladder).  There were no ovarian cysts at the time of surgery (they had probably burst or been reabsorbed), and surprisingly, no endometriosis.  My bladder was "okay but not great."  I was just barely at the standard level for number of mL my bladder could hold.  The photos taken showed lots of teeny tiny broken blood vessels, but nothing bad enough for an "official" diagnosis (just something to watch).  She did notice that my sigmoid colon "seemed enlarged," which can happen if one is often constipated.

Removing Ted & Co. made a huge difference in my quality of life.  I no longer have to call off of work because of my period and the pain it causes.  I no longer throw huge, dollar-sized clots or have to change a tampon at least once (sometimes twice) during the middle of the night because of the amount of blood I'm hemorrhaging.

After the couple of weeks it took me to fully recover from outpatient surgery, I felt good.  Really good.  I don't think I had realized how much pain I had been in until it wasn't there anymore.  I would put off certain chores like cleaning the litterboxes and taking out the trash not just because they're gross, but because they would exhaust me.  I could do them (and other things) now without feeling completely spent afterwards; I could bend and move without pain.

A few months after that, some of the pains came back.  And the bloating.  OH THE BLOATING.  Painful bloating where Leonard's clothes couldn't fit.  Pain and bloating associated with (painful) ovulation shouldn't last more than a day (often not even that).  The OB/GYN suggested a new GI doctor.  The OB/GYN also pointed out that a clean colonoscopy just means there aren't polyps in my colon; it doesn't necessarily mean my colon is working correctly or any number of other things.

After a series of three tests, the GI doctor diagnosed Leonard with SIBO:  Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.  We've since learned that it's not all that uncommon.  2 weeks of antibiotics, 4 weeks of probiotics.  She also gave me a list of the "low FODMAPS diet."  (Don't ask Leonard what "fodmaps" stands for; I have no idea.)  The GI doctor cautioned that said diet must be followed strictly for at least four weeks in order to see if it's helping (it doesn't always help everyone).  As this was now November 2015, she recommended waiting until after the New Year so I didn't "ruin my holidays."  (Without even telling her, she seemed to know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday just due to the food.)  Funnily enough, many of the low fodmaps foods are things I already eat, so I didn't have high hopes for that.

Fast forward to just last week:  the pains (on the left side) are back.  I'm not ovulating.  Maybe I'm just constipated?  I'm a little constipated?  Why would constipation cause a pain in that particular spot?  I wondered.  And then I remembered what the OB/GYN had said about my sigmoid colon.  So I did a quick Google search of female anatomy:  where is the sigmoid colon in relation to the ovaries?

Copyright Amicus Visual Solutions

Jesus fucking Christ, it's right there!  LOOK AT IT!!  The pain I've been having, on and off, for the greater part of three years may have been caused by needing to poop.

Okay, I'm sure there have been other factors; the OB/GYN was sure to point out that because so many things have similar symptoms and overlap (sometimes literally physically), that we have to peel back the layers one by one, dealing with each issue singularly.  But FUCK!  Couldn't someone have searched like I did and said, "Hey, look at that!  Those two organs are touching.  That probably hurts!"

A dear friend, in response to something else, recently said, "That's why they call it 'practicing medicine.'"  Indeed.

So those are my bodily functions for the past 18+ months in a nutshell.  I have gained back all of the weight I lost due to exhaustion and surgery, and I'm not happy about it.  Exhaustion is setting in again, and it may be time to reevaluate my schedule of back-to-back-to-back shows/projects in addition to a 40-hour work week.  But I won't be able to do that until my schedule is free again....at the end of September 2016.

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