A day when life stares at you down its long nose…

Today, I had an appointment with my oncologist. I’ve known this day was coming for a while. It seems that the big “6-0” is a turning point in the blood disorders (cancer) that I have. Last year, my doctor scheduled an ultrasound of the corroded arteries. I was concerned and apprehensive about the testing because of the heart problems on both sides of my family. The tests came out good and I felt as though I had been given a reprieve.

It seems that this year has been the year of doctors and testing and physical therapy. I have had back problems for a while – stemming from sleeping on a bad mattress at a military base, years ago. Funny, how a few nights on a bad mattress can alter your life. Couple that with my less than gracefulness many falls and you end up really messing up your SI and wind up in physical therapy two years in a row for several months.

I just didn’t feel like dealing with some of the pains I was having last year, so my doctor and I discussed a plan of action for 2017. I kept putting things off and my body finally decided to call my bluff when the trigeminal nerve on the right side of my face flared up in April. I had no clue what was happening. I got up one morning and began to wash my face. The moment my hand moved across my face, I was met with an extreme shocking feeling bordering on pain. It continued to worsen over the next several days until I finally had to make an appointment to see my doctor. The appointment ended with an MRI of my brain being scheduled. Seems the trigeminal nerve originates in the brain and runs through the skull. The nerve can kink and cause the pain. As a precaution, she wanted to make sure that my brain was okay and not causing the problem. While I was there, we set up appointments with a pain management doctor (my back) and an orthopedic surgeon (my hand).

The first appointment was with the pain management doctor who was shot happy. I think I wrote about it this summer. Seems most people just want relief from pain. That would have been easy for him. I am not most people. I wanted an explanation of what my injury was and I was interested in physical therapy with an emphasis on exercise as pain management. Much to his disappointment, I opted for the PT route. I am happy I did because the physical therapist was a great help in my recovery from my injury and in my ongoing pain management through exercise and stretching.

The second appointment was with the orthopedic doctor whose face lit up when he looked at my hand(s). That should have alerted me to what was about to come. He wanted to cut my fingers open and scrape the arthritic nodules on my fingers and fuse the top joints. He then went into detail about a joint replacement on the hand with erosive arthritis. He knew my answer just by looking at my face. I left with knowledge but had to refuse the surgery and the shot that was offered. I do know, at some point in the future, I will have to make the decision on whether or not to have the surgery on my hand because once the joint deterioration gets to a certain point, my hand will be useless and the pain will be unbearable. I haven’t reached that point, but I now know my options.

So, today was the icing on the proverbial cake, so to speak. I knew in October when I turned 60, that this day was coming. It became a reality when my Ochsner app account started ringing with tests and appointments being scheduled by my doctor. Funny how they make your appointments and then let you know. It is as though they know our hesitation and thus remove the responsibility from us.

Ochsner Hospital is over an hour away from where we live so I was up early. That alone was enough to stress me out (and my original blood pressure reading reflected it)! I was scheduled for an echocardiogram at 8:30 am. They first perform an ultrasound of the walls of your heart so they can compare before and after pictures of your heart. The tech couldn’t see some of the walls so I was one of the lucky ones who had to have an IV with something (I have no clue – they called it a “solution”) in it to help define the walls. That was the first pick of the day; although I have to admit (and I told her) that she knew what she was doing because it didn’t hurt.

Before the ultrasound, the tech puts 8-10 patches on your chest (thank goodness for private rooms!) that the wires will be hooked to. I did not care for the little scraper they use to scratch the skin before adhering the patches. I am fair and have sensitive skin and it hurt and burned. Then, I had to lie down for the ultrasound and the tech used ice-cold gel. I must have a good heart because that alone should have killed me! Let’s see – patches and wires, ultrasound, IV, second ultrasound, treadmill, IV push (again), ultrasound. I think I did pretty good on the treadmill. I never opened my mouth to breathe. The tech kept speeding the treadmill up and the nurse kept asking me if I was okay and I was. I love to walk and know how to control my breathing so I felt good (and thank you physical therapy). I know they keep a tight schedule and I think I surprised them. The tech ended up speeding up the treadmill quickly at the end. I don’t think my blood pressure was cooperating and they needed to get it up for the test. It felt like I went from 6 to 10 in a matter of seconds and I was picturing falling off the treadmill like the Taylor Swift commercial. Then, as I am going 100 mph, the nurse is giving me an IV push and then the treadmill stopped and I had to hop off and hop on the bed for the ultrasound. It all happens in a matter of seconds and that is when I began breathing hard. That was a little daunting – not breathing hard on the treadmill but laying down?

All that to find out I have a good heart. The doctor was pleased and I guess that is what counts. It is not an experience I care to repeat anytime soon. So, long story short, I’m healthy – except for the Essential Thrombocythemia (and the doctor can’t decide if I also have Polycythemia Vera) and next up is a blood marrow procedure, opinion, second opinion, and drugs. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Yes, life was staring me down its nose today, but I was staring right back.