For those of you not on Facebook or who missed my recent message, I just wanted to say that this blog isn't the usual continuation of my journey with Crohn's. It's about why I disappeared for almost three months since my last post. I decided to dedicate this one post to my Houdini act before I resume my story.
Caught Off Guard
I was in the process of writing my regular blog, when I started experiencing some lower back pains. Now this wasn't particularly unusual or alarming because joint pains in Crohn's is par for the course. What was alarming, was the rapid rate at which it worsened, then extended to my right side, all the way around to my right lower abdomen,and right thigh. It got so bad, it literally took my breath away. Stupidly, I decided increasing the dosage of my usual pain medication was the way to go because I figured it was just a temporary glitch in the works, and I'll ride it out. Yeah, well, I make these intelligent decisions from time to time. Anyway, I managed to hold out for two whole days, popping painkillers like candy, until I surrendered and called my doctor's office. Naturally, I chose to do this on a Friday afternoon when he’d already left for the day. The receptionist, obviously sensing my distress, suggested that I go to the nearest Emergency. I kind of expected her to say that, and, it had in fact crossed my mind, but the thought of sitting in the ER waiting room for hours and hours was almost as unbearable as the pain itself. Believe me, I've been there, done that, countless times, have all the ID wrist bands to prove it (okay, just stored in my head). Though we, in Canada, are very fortunate to have excellent health care, it's not without its challenges. This is one of the main ones, because unless you're wheeled in on a gurney from an ambulance, have chest pains, blood gushing from somewhere, or a dangling, almost severed limb, you have to wait your turn. Picturing this scenario, I asked (begged?) if there were any other options, so she suggested I call Telehelp. This is a free service where you can call and speak to a medical professional who asks you a bunch of questions about your history, symptoms etc., much like they do if you went to the doctor's office for the first time (minus the physical examination of course); they then give you some advice and guidance. Again, I have to say, Yay Canada! for this service. After hearing about my current problem, as well as, my past and ongoing issues with Crohn's, I was told that if I couldn't see my doctor right away, I should go to the ER immediately. What a surprise! After hanging up, I promptly called back my doctor's office and relayed the advice that I was given (which I decided I was totally going to ignore, because that's what a rational person does!), and asked the receptionist if I can see my doctor first thing the next morning. She agreed but warned me that if things kept getting worse or if I felt like I couldn't wait, GO TO THE ER! Okay, okay, got it. Jeez! To say that I was being stubborn and unreasonable would be quite accurate.
Through sheer determination and grit, with a healthy dose of defiance, I dealt with the pain during the sleepless night, and next morning, descended upon the doctor's office like a junkie looking for a fix, much earlier than the time for my appointment which was unusual for me. (I'm notorious for being late for everything). Thankfully, the doctor called me in right away (I guess the receptionist had filled him in about my desperation the previous evening). He proceeded to do a physical exam, asking the usual questions along the way, you know, like the location of the pain , what type of pain - sharp, throbbing, constant etc., how long I'd been having it, and then he asked me if I still had my appendix. After a brief pause, I said “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure”; he simply looked at me with eyebrows raised. For most people, that would be a straightforward yes or no answer, for me, not so much. Okay, before you judge me or think I'm a moron, let me explain. As I mentioned in my website https://www.alifewithcrohns.com , I've been hospitalized many, many, many times over the span of twenty-seven plus years; I have been subjected to all kinds of intrusive tests and procedures, plus I've had four major abdominal surgeries, and a few minor ones. I remember being told many years ago by someone, maybe a medical professional, maybe not ( I really can't remember who), that sometimes when you're undergoing abdominal surgery, some surgeons remove the appendix while they're rummaging around in there. So, I really didn't know if mine was removed; I never had reason to ask, and frankly, I never cared one way or the other. At the times of my surgeries, I had more important things to worry about, like, you know, whether or not I'd survive the surgery, and the possible outcomes/complications related to my Crohn's. So no, the appendix issue was never on my radar, and until my doctor asked, I was oblivious. Acceptable explanation? Well, it's the truth. That being the case, and from the location and intensity of the pain, he suggested that it might be my appendix about to rupture (if it was that), if not, it could be any number of things, including my Crohn’s flaring up. Therefore, I need to go the ER stat! No argument, no discussion, no delay.
My Nightmare Begins
With my doctor’s letter in hand, and by now limping, favouring my right side, I find myself in the packed Emergency Room with a sinking heart in anticipation of a very long wait. My worry was well-founded because it was eight hours later, after being poked, prodded, blood and urine tested, when I was told it definitely wasn’t my appendix. However, my lipase level was extremely high, it was in fact, four times what it should’ve been. Most of you are probably asking “what’s that?”, well, I did too as I had no clue what it was. It’s an enzyme in the blood, that when it’s elevated, indicates a damaged pancreas, blocked pancreatic duct, or pancreatitis. The ER doc explained that to confirm that diagnosis and get a better look at the area, they needed to do an Ultrasound, but since it was so late, I’d have to get it done first thing the next morning, at the Urgent Care Centre of the hospital which was at another location (a ten minute drive away)! To say that I was p***ed off would be huge understatement, but what choice did I have? I was told that when tests are done at the UCC, they get the results right away, while you’re there so it can be addressed immediately. Turns out that half of that was a lie, because they do get the results while you’re there, but definitely not right away! It took almost eight hours waiting again after I did the test for the doctor to see me about the results, and it wasn’t good news. The ultrasound revealed that my gallbladder was inflamed and there were four or five small gallstones, plus a three centimeter “collection” in my pancreatic duct, partially blocking it. He said they weren’t too sure what that “collection” was, but couldn’t rule out a tumour. Whaaat??!! Not what I was expecting to hear AT ALL! I’m not saying it is, he said, but it can’t be ruled out either. (That’s called covering your a**). And in order to get an even closer look, they needed to do a CT Scan, but will have to do it the following day because they were already fully booked. Seriously?! I really could not believe my ears! Yes I was outraged, just remember I’m still in pain. Again, what choice did I have? After another ridiculously long and distressing day, the Scan confirmed the previous findings, and I was told that I would need to talk to the surgeon about having my gallbladder removed. But, get this, I now needed to have an MRI done so they can determine exact locations and dimensions etc., specific details that the other tests don’t show. The problem was that the wait time for an MRI was about two months. That’s right, MONTHS! This information was relayed by the ER doctor to my GI, who had been consulted almost from the beginning because of my complicated Crohn’s-related issues. She refused to accept this, saying there was no way I could wait that long and, I guess, used her clout to get an earlier appointment which was a two-week wait.
It’s A Mystery!
Resigned to my fate and the expected two weeks of torture, I tried to carry on with life as best as I could. Then the strangest thing happened, the pain started to lessen daily although I wasn’t doing anything differently. It was a great relief, don’t get me wrong, but incredibly mystifying at the same time. Whatever, I thought, I’ll take it. By the time the MRI appointment arrived, all I had in terms of pain, were twinges which indicated something was still wrong but obviously getting better. That was my hope anyway, and not one of those situations where things got better before turning horrendous. I mean, I couldn’t be that unlucky, could I? So I did the test, and went in to see my GI to get the results. According to the results, my gallbladder was looking good, the stones, as well as the “collection” in my pancreatic duct, were gone. I was stunned, but my doc didn’t appear to be, so I asked her why she wasn’t . She told me she’s seen it happen before, where the situation resolved itself. Understandably, I was a little (okay, a lot) skeptical, so I had to ask, was I misdiagnosed?. Oh no, she said, and proceeded to show me the results of all the tests that I’d done, complete with pictures/images. I was truly blown away. Divine intervention, luck, or the body’s ability to heal itself as I discussed in my last post , take your pick.
Aaand We’re Back...
A week later, I had a follow up appointment with my family doctor, who concurred with my GI about having seen stuff like this happen before. So, he asks me how’s the pain now, still having the twinges, I told him, but something I can more than live with. Being a good doctor, he decides to do a physical examination and presses on the area, just below my right hip bone, a little towards the back where I still felt the twinges. Let me give you a visual. You know in cartoons, like Sylvester and Tweety Bird or the Roadrunner, where the character gets scared or blown up and ends up clinging to the ceiling upside down by the claws? That’s what I felt was going to happen to me, the pain was so intense! What the hell was that??!! I flinched so hard, the doctor actually jumped back. He probably thought I was going to smack him! Uh, I think we have a problem here, he said. YA THINK!! He told me he had a suspicion about what it might be, but to confirm it, guess what? I needed to do an xray and an ultrasound of my right hip. Why not? What’s another healthy dose of radiation? I had both done, and this time, the diagnosis was conclusive, I have something called Trochanteric Bursitis . It’s sounds worse than it actually is, and since I have as much of a desire to give you a medical lecture as you are to receive one, I’ll just say it’s inflammation of the fluid near the hip joint. If you’re really interested, you can click on the link for more details. My take on this is that if it’s not affecting my life in any meaningful way, hampering my mobility, or preventing me from getting on with my daily activities, then it’s not that important. Right now it isn’t, if /or when it does, I’ll deal with it accordingly. My doc says it could take months to go away, but in my case, who knows or cares. That’s just my way of thinking anyway. Oh, by the way, in the course of getting things figured out, I found out that I DO NOT have my appendix. I guess I had one of those surgeons who took the extra step. Lucky me! One less thing to worry about!
Taking into consideration the events over the last few weeks, I think you all can understand why I was not in the right frame of mind to write my blog, but I’m back now and putting this behind me. I’ll continue on my journey with Crohn’s in my next post, hopefully within a week, unless something else happens. Kidding!! (Sorta)