Saturday, December 17, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

Or perhaps, when it snows it pours since we have a partial ground covering of snow today (“It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas….”).  My Aussie son-in-law was thrilled to see it.

So much can happen in 24 hours. In one 24-hour period this week – just as my hair was beginning to grow back (I note with chagrin that the hair on my chinny chin chin raced back at a pace far exceeding that on my head and legs), just when I was beginning to feel more energetic, just when I abandoned my daily attire of bed clothing (to remind myself to reserve my energy for healing) and began wearing regular clothing – just then I was given three new diagnoses. My mother told me life wasn’t fair, but really.

The path to discovery started when one of my crack surgical team members did two scopes. The first was an esophagogastroduodenoscopy.  (My daughter remarked, “Holy Mother of Mercy, that is a mouthful.” Myself, I like a good 12-syllable word.)

It means that under conscious sedation with fentanyl (a narcotic pain reliever) as well as versed (a sedative and amnesic which – thankfully – makes one sleep and forget), a lighted tube (scope) is inserted through the mouth down the esophagus into the stomach right up to the duodenum (the beginning of the small intestine). The entire upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract is thus visualized.

This scope showed that I have a bleeding ulcer in my upper stomach near my esophagus. A bleeding ulcer! I have felt nothing. I drink strong coffee, albeit with cream, and have felt nothing. Or, with my luck of late, I felt it and mistook it for hunger pangs and ate. L 

Never having had this scope before, I don’t know how long the ulcer has been there.  But I suspect it is related to the muscular steroid Decadron that I received with each of my twelve chemo infusions and for a few days afterwards in pill form. And did I mention stress?

Next the colonoscopy was done. This involved the insertion of a larger scope in the rectum up through the large intestine to the ileocecal juncture, the joinder intersection between the large and small intestines. This scope showed that I had a large polyp near my bottom end. Honestly, how much more can be wrong with my body?

The surgeon believed the polyp to be non-malignant. This is corroborated by it not showing up on the PET scan in early September because a PET scan only shows “hot spots” – areas of increased metabolic activity (e.g., cancer). We’ll know for sure when the pathology report comes back.

Then I went in for a sleep study at a sleep medicine clinic. I stayed overnight in a lovely, sedate room done in hushed tones of blue. The technician fastened about two dozen electrodes with attached cords to my head and face and a few more to my chest and legs. When I moved my head I felt and sounded as though I had beaded strands of hair. For some reason I felt young again.

Then I laid me down to sleep and within a couple of hours the tech woke me up. This is because she had tracked at least 20 episodes of apnea (not breathing) in just one hour. Good gravy, that is lot of not breathing going on. 

What causes the apnea is my tongue lolling back against my throat. This closes off the airway between my mouth or nose and my lungs, and prevents my lungs from getting air (an apnea episode). This causes me to wake up just enough to take a nice, loud breath, resulting in major-league snoring, baby! (I am considering making a CD of my scary snoring sounds and selling it during the month of October.) 

This cycle goes on at least twenty times an hour! That’s an average of once every three minutes. No wonder I take so many naps – I am not really sleeping during most of the night.

So the tech hooked me up to a CPAP machine with a mask over my nose and mouth that pushes in humidified air with pressure. The pressured air stream competes with the tongue lolling and the pressured air wins. After that I slept for the better part of four hours straight and woke up – are you ready? – refreshed!

Thus my third new diagnosis: sleep apnea, a condition shared by ten percent of the population.  

So now I carry more diagnoses than Carter's got liver pills. Don't be jealous that I am way ahead on this score.

© Jean DiMotto, 2011  Website: 

1 comment:

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