Friday, May 29, 2015

The Invader

In my last post I shared that one of the outcomes of a recent visit to the ER was that a "mass" had been discovered on my liver thanks to a CT Scan of my abdomen. Actually, the CT report indicates that there are two unidentified "things" on it, but one is significantly larger than the other.
Tonight, thanks to a 2-hour MRI session at the hospital, I got my first glimpse of the invader.
An MRI image of my liver.  I'm told that the "mass" is the white splotch on the left.

I don't know anything more now than I did before the MRI, other than to see this image of it.  Apparently, a doctor will analyze it today and provide his analysis before sending it to my GI doctor to discuss next steps.  I can't imagine that we're just going to do nothing, so I assume the next step will be a biopsy.  I've got my follow-up appointment with the doctor next Thursday so we'll see what he says.
The good news is that my frame of mind is good and I'm feeling fine.  If I hadn't ended up in the ER a couple of weekends ago I would never know it was there, so that visit may end up being a blessing in disguise.  Regardless - the fact that it's as large as it is seems to indicate that it has been there a while.  The next thing is to determine what its intentions are.
Some that I've shared this with seem to feel that the hormones I've been taking these last 15+ years may play some role in all of the maladies I'm dealing with at the moment.  Perhaps, but I don't know that there's any way to definitively know that.  And regardless - I'm not planning to stop taking them any time soon.  Cut back - maybe - but we'll have that conversation when a doctor who can say with some authority that it would help or not can explain it to me.
That's all for now.  Life goes on.  For now.  The weekend is upon us and I'm looking forward to spending a couple of days with some dear friends and getting some much-needed "down" time.  Somehow I'm thinking that this is the calm before the storm, so I better enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, May 25, 2015

I'm Back. Again.

It's hard to believe it has been 2 months since I've shared here.  Part of the reason is totally practical - for some reason they blocked my blog at work.  I find that the quietest part of the day is the morning when I first arrive so that's when I'd stop and write something.  Well, I can't do that anymore.

Part of it is that just when I think things are settling down something comes out of nowhere to throw it all out of whack again.  That happened recently - more than once, actually.  I'm not ready to share all the specifics because I'm still trying to figure it all out myself.

For some reason I revisited my "original" blog recently.  I've been "blogging" for a long time.  My first blog entry was June 8, 2004...almost 11 years ago.  I could swear it has been longer than that but that's the first "official" entry I could find.

One page is from 2008, when my puppy Maggie (now curled up next to me) was just a pup.  Here it is.

I look at the various events and people from my life who have led me to where I am now.  Some of those people and things have faded away, others have weaved themselves into the fabric of my world, and others have become foundational elements.  Good decisions, bad decisions, wisdom (or lack of it)  in choosing friends and placing trust, strongly held beliefs that transform themselves into life decisions....they're all part of this tapestry that makes up my life right now.

All that said - I apologize for being away so long.  The story written into my blog is the story of my life, and this is the largest hole in that story that I can remember.  Rather than write one long blog entry to try to plug the hole, or leave it unplugged, I'm going to write a number of entries over the coming days to fill in some of the blanks.

There won't necessarily be a rhyme or reason to them.  They won't necessarily be in any order.  We'll just wee how this goes.

My ER room - I spent a night of my life here.
I'll start by sharing that a week ago tonight I was in the Emergency Room at a local hospital for the first time in my life.  The thing that put me there was a day full of internal bleeding and intense pain that I just couldn't handle by myself anymore.  I had gone to a local Urgent Care clinic and they sent me to the ER.

The "situation" was a sudden one, that came upon me with no prior warning.  I spent all day Saturday in Myrtle Beach with my motorcycle for Bike Week and had a wonderful time.  20 miles into the 3+ hour ride back to Charlotte I was overcome by waves of oddness.  I've fainted before and know what it feels like - what I was feeling are the early stages when everything starts to go all white and that high pitch noise starts up.  It's dangerous when it happens and you're standing up.  It's crazy dangerous when you're heading down the highway on 2 wheels at 65 miles an hour.

The two bikes on the right are my babies.  
I pulled over to the side of the road and collected myself for a few minutes.  As I assessed my options the one that seemed best was to find my way home.  So, somehow, I did.

It was only a week ago, but my 12 hours in the ER was surreal.  I couldn't change the channel on the TV so it was stuck on the infomercial channel - that would be funny if it weren't also cruel to have to listen to that.  They put me on pain meds and antibiotics.  They did a CT Scan.  They kept me there to make sure the bleeding stopped and I didn't spike a fever....and at 6:30 Monday morning they let me go home.

The reason I share any of this detail is that the focus of what happened that night changed when they analyzed what they saw on that CT scan.  The list of diagnoses included a half dozen things ranging from high white blood cell count to internal bleeding.  But the thing that jumps out is that they found a "mass" on my liver.

When the doctor told me about it she emphasized that they don't know what it is, and it's not necessarily something bad.  The first place your mind goes when you hear this kind of thing is the big C - and she said that at this point it's merely something they can't explain that needs further investigation.

Several years ago I lived in Austin and had a dear friend there.  Her name was Julie Nestor.  She was a little older than I was and had transitioned there all by herself.  After I came out at work one of my lesbian friends had a friend who knew her so they tried to make sure we met one another.  We did.

Anyway, I could fill a number of pages of stories of our adventures.  But the one that's important here is an email she wrote me titled "What a life".  In it she told me that doctors had identified a "mass" on one of her kidneys and had determined that it was malignant.  Within a year she was gone.

So - when I left the hospital there were 2 different issues....the bleeding (and pain), and the liver mass.

This past week, when I started feeling a little more human,  I went to the GI doctor.  We're actively investigating both issues.  The most important event in the short term is an MRI of my liver, scheduled for Thursday.

I can't really say how I feel about that because it's not affecting me right now.  I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't gone into the ER.  But knowing it's there, and that it shouldn't be there, leads to a whole bunch of other questions running through my head right now.

I had an investigative internal procedure on Friday and they knocked me out for it.  They wheeled me into the procedure room and the anesthesiologist explained that he was going to inject something into the IV.  He said it might sting for a few seconds, but then the next thing I'd know it would all be over.

My mind still clings to the many times I've faced a similar threshold.  The first time I had surgery - my tonsils were removed in 1971 - they used ether.  I still remember the black mask and watching the room seem to get further and further away, and the voices in the room echo before everything went to black.

Other similar moments are cherished actually memories.  I'll never forget the OR before FFS, and SRS.  I made it a point to repeat my wife's name as in hopes that, if something bad happened, she'd be the last thing on my mind.

Well, this was nothing as complicated or difficult but it showed me how far we've come.  I was thrilled to wake up and not be in pain.  And I have long since stopped repeating that name.  It means nothing to me now.

So there you have it.  I'm feeling better every day...almost 100% again.  We still don't know what set it off, what caused it, or what is on my liver.  The good news is that we've ruled a number of things out and are narrowing the possibilities.  That process continues.

The mental part of it is big.  As I lay in the hospital last week the nurse asked me if I had anyone locally that they could call, or who could pick me up if I needed it.  As I thought about it the depressing reality was "no".  I really have no friends in Charlotte.  I work there.  My co-workers and I get along great but we're not on a level where I'd want to share too much personal medical information.  For all intents and purposes, I was all alone.  And that sucked.

So -

Regardless of what happens, I am taking active steps to change that.  I need to be around my support network - friends who care about me and who I'd trust to take care of me.  I have active support networks in 3 places...the closest of which is Charleston.

Things are convenient right now.  I really don't want to go into details, but if I could sum up my little world in one word that's what I'd use - Convenient.  Well, this little episode has reminded me that there are more important things than convenience.

It has also reminded me to appreciate the people in my world a little more.

I haven't shared any of this outside of this space.  I figure that if you're reading this - especially after my extended absence - we're connected somehow.  I need ways to express what's happening and how I'm feeling and this blog has filled that void for a long time.  I don't plan for that to change anytime soon.

I'm also paying more attention to the little things.  I'll end with a few pictures I took last Saturday - the day before the "incident" - while in Myrtle Beach.  We had been out riding for most of the day and came back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before heading out for dinner.  I went for a walk along the beach - the later afternoon sun is wonderful for photography.  Anyway - I took a few pictures with my camera I kind of like.  So - I'll share them.

The sun rising over Myrtle Beach

Life is good.