February 2, 2012

What a Difference a Week Makes

Today has been a good day so far.  So far, everything is going right, a trend that I hope continues since very shortly I will be climbing into my car and heading south for the winter--or at least for the weekend--to visit the Lovely Ladies of Lakeland (dang it--now I have an overwhelming urge to start singing "Lovely Ladies" from Les Mis, which just conjures up all sorts of wildly inappropriate images).

As a general rule, I don't like to be that person--you know the one--the "squeaky wheel who gets the grease."  I have no problem with someone looking for grease when the situation warrants it; however, far too many people like to whine and complain about anything and everything just to get their way, and it annoys the snickerdoodles out of me.  Don't get me wrong--I whine and complain plenty.  But I mostly do it to my friends, who are generously tolerant enough to put up with me.  I don't, as a rule, do it to the populace at large just to make everyone bend to my will.

That said, I must admit that my incessant bitching about the traumas and dramas of the last few weeks seem to have worked, at least on some level.  Today I went back to Asshat Medical to get the results of my MRI; given how things have gone there so far, I naturally approached the meeting with some trepidation and wariness.  I also fully intended to demand a copy of my medical records so I could take them personally to the next doctor.  When I got to the office, I dutifully checked in and went to sit in the waiting room.  Twenty minutes passed.  My name was never called by the receptionist, nor was my presence ever really acknowledged, though to be fair this was primarily because the receptionist was busy with another client and I snuck around him to sign in.  Still, this did not seem to be an auspicious beginning.

I sat and watched other people come and go, some of whom came in after me.  Then I noticed a sign on the wall stating that if you had been waiting for 30 minutes or more, you were supposed to go to the front desk.  I looked at my watch...24 minutes.  About that time, Nurse Stupid finally came out and called my name, hesitantly adding "Stuart" as though she didn't know perfectly well who I was by this time.  I got up to follow her through the door, and she greeted me almost pleasantly.  Almost.  Next she led me to her consult room, where she asked me to get on the scale.  I didn't say "no," nor was I "unprofessional," though I did ask to know why they needed my weight, since I was just in for the results.  She stammered a bit, saying that the doctor just likes to check stats every time you come.  I still wouldn't get on the evil, miscalibrated truth demon scale, but acquiesced a little by just telling her my weight and then letting her take my blood pressure.  As she was strapping me in, I noticed a certificate on her wall, emblazoned with the words "National Center for Competency."  I bit my cheek to avoid bursting out in hysterical laughter, settling instead for a derisive snort.  Nurse Stupid had no clue why taking my BP would cause such mirth, but for once in her life wisely refrained from asking.  Afterwards, she led me back to an examining room to await the doctor.

Dr. Earnestly Stepford came in a few minutes later and cautiously said hello.  Then she said "Well, it's good news...now let's sit down and go over the results together."  Um, what?  Actually including me in the discussion of my own health?  YES, PLEASE.  She took out the report from the diagnostic clinic and laid it and my file on the examining table, then scooted her stool over while I scooted up my chair.  She didn't just come in, glance at my file, hit me with the abridged version and shove me out the door.  She made a point of going over the report with me and letting me read it for myself while she translated as needed.  I think I even saw her expression change once or twice.  Minutely, but still.  At this point I was starting to wonder if these were the same two people I'd met only a week before.

Thankfully, my "renal mass" is not cancer but is indeed a cyst as suspected, specifically a "simple cyst," which just means that there's only one, as opposed to a cluster of several.  It's small, it's isolated, it's hemorrhagic, which is just a fancy way of saying it has a little blood in it.  I have a small blood blister on my kidney.  I was just starting to enjoy being grateful that after this whole ordeal it really was just a cyst as expected and therefore not a big deal, when after giving me the news Dr. Stepford added, "Dodged a bullet there!"  Wait...what??  You're gonna tell me that now, after months of being completely cavalier and nonchalant about the whole ordeal?  Talk about your WTF moments...

That little blip aside, the rest of the visit went well.  Because we were finally able to get a definitive test result from the MRI (squeak, squeak, squeak), and because it was a single cyst instead of a potentially problematic cluster, no follow-up testing will be required.  Woohoo!  We went over the rest of the report; my liver, kidneys, ureters, and pancreas all appeared to be fine, though they did confirm that I had "numerous" gallstones.  Dr. Stepford asked if I'd been having any symptoms, which of course I haven't what with being abnormal and all on the "presentation" front.  We discussed what symptoms would be like and where, what potential problems could arise if these or future gallstones got big enough to clog my ducts, then agreed that doing a pre-emptive gall bladder removal was probably not warranted at this time.  Instead, she just told me to be aware of it in case I did start having attacks (particularly if they became consistent after eating certain foods) that could not be quelled by OTC medications.  Turns out something like 20% of all people are walking around with gallstones and don't necessarily know it because they are so small.

Once the important stuff was covered, she moved on to general queries, such as my blood pressure and medications and such.  We talked about my tendency to bronchitis and a few other things, during which she asked if I knew I had a granuloma on one lung, which I didn't.  I gather it is also not cause for concern, and that I probably got it during my last epic bronchial attack 2-3 years ago.  She then listened quickly to my lungs; satisfied, she wrapped up the visit, bringing me personally up front so she could copy the MRI report and give it to me, even though I had not asked.  I gotta give the woman props; she was apparently quite serious about improving communication skills, at least in regard to me (squeak, squeak, squeak).

Two weeks, two visits.  Polar OPPOSITE visits.  In the end, I didn't ask for my records, surprised as I was by the 180 turnabout in approach.  I'll worry about that later.   Meanwhile, I went out to my car and just sat for a minute, my eyes tearing up with relief and the release of tension I didn't even know I had.  Even if you don't really think it's gonna be cancer, you still worry, especially after having watched multiple loved ones struggle with various forms of cancer, some of whom survived and some of whom didn't.  Just hearing the words makes all the difference.  ("You really dodged a bullet there!")

I left the office and went to Panera's for a late breakfast; this time I got in just early enough to get my beloved breakfast sandwich (free!  Thanks, Panera points!) and relax for a minute before returning home to pack for my excellent adventure.  I have now put away 4 loads of laundry, emptied the dishwasher (the hubs should have no excuse to complain while I'm gone), balanced the checkbooks, and packed.  And blogged.  Now it's time to load up the suitcase and hit the road.  I can't wait.

February 1, 2012