Back in March, I went to bed one night feeling some discomfort in my right abdomen and back about waist level – it wasn’t bad, just annoying. The next morning, the pain was worse – but of course I went to work anyway, ‘cause I’m an overachiever like that. About 10am, I was rocking in my office chair, trying to hold my back and abdomen at the same time, and wondering what unholy pestilence had hit me. Of course, I went to Web MD to get the answers – and it told me that I likely had pancreatitis.
Pancreatitis can apparently kill you – and the treatment is not to eat or drink anything for days and days until things calm down – and then you can’t eat or drink anything fun for the rest of your life, or risk another attack. Web MD told me that drinking alcohol would make things significantly worse – and since I was scheduled to go out for drinks with the girls from work that night, I figured that was an excellent way to confirm the diagnosis. If things got worse, then they could just call an ambulance and I would go directly to the hospital and be admitted before I died.
Apparently I did not have pancreatitis – in fact, by the time I went for drinks, the pain had gone away as mysteriously as it had started.
I had totally forgotten about that little episode, until about five weeks later, when it hit again. The pain was again in my right abdomen and back, again about waist level, and again (because I am a bad ass) I went to work in the morning, even though it was worse. I work in an OB/GYN office, so this time I trapped one of the doctors in a corner and asked her if an ovarian cyst could be causing this pain. She also seemed a bit confused as to why the pain would be so high and why my back would also hurt, but she said, “Anything is possible!” Thank you for that helpful bit of medical advice doc – but I guess I got what I paid for. I would have actually made an appointment with the OB/GYN doc to be officially diagnosed, but my insurance totally sucks and requires me to go to my primary care provider (PCP) for any problem first – even when she tells me that I’m basically crazy and all of my symptoms are in my head.
By that afternoon, the pain had again passed – so I put it out of my head – until three weeks later, it hit again, following the same insidious MO as the times before. This time, I reached the “Oh my God, this really, really HURTS!” holding my gut, rocking in my office chair, panting to catch my breath phase before 9am. I made the rounds in the office, trying to find another doctor to dispense free wisdom, but everyone was avoiding me seeing the paying patients. I then asked a couple of the nurses for their opinions. They decided that since the pain wrapped around to my back, I was probably passing kidney stones. To confirm, they did a urine test – which one proclaimed as “beautiful!” Apparently, I did not have kidney stones – and my urine is lovely and perfect – so I’ll hold onto that for the next time I’m having body issues. Still, the whole kidney mention got me thinking – my grandmother had died of kidney cancer. Was that something I needed to worry about? (Too late, I was already worrying).
When the pain showed no signs of abating, I bit the bullet and called my PCP for an appointment. Luckily, she had an opening in just a few hours. Unfortunately, the pain peaked (causing me to shed some tears) and then disappeared for the most part just a few minutes prior to my appointment. So, when I told my PCP about the previous incidents, she poked at my abdomen and said, “Yeah – it was probably an ovarian cyst that has burst. Nothing really to be done now since you’re not having pain. If it happens again, go the emergency room.” Thank you for all of your help, my good-for-nothing PCP – you couldn’t even order a damn ultrasound to confirm your 3-second diagnosis? I requested a prescription for pain meds, because if it happened again – at night or on a weekend – I didn’t want to be writhing in pain again. She pursed her lips and said, “Well…I don’t like prescribing pain medication.” I responded, “Well…I don’t like being in pain. I’ve never, in FIVE YEARS, asked you for pain medication before – I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request – because this shit HURTS!” She deigned to give me a prescription for five pills.
Two weeks later, the pain hit again – this time just in time for my birthday trip to see my girls and grandbaby in Washington DC. It never got to the horrible stage, thank God, but weirdly, this time it hit me on and off, over the course of three days. About then, I decided I would need to go back to see my PCP again and ask for a referral to OB/GYN and an ultrasound. The thought was depressing – because the bitch makes me feel like I’m irrational, stupid, and wasting her time.
While I was waiting for my appointment (because it usually takes a month or more to get in if you are not dying that very second), the pain decided to hit again. It was last Sunday, and this time I was in the car, coming home from a show when I felt some discomfort, again my mid-abdomen and back. By the time I made it home, twenty minutes later, it had hit full force. This alarmed me – because normally it took hours to reach the point where I thought I might die. I debated – should I wait until Monday, call my PCP and see if she would give me a referral to get an ultrasound and go to OB/GYN, wait the 3-5 days the referrals would take, and then wait more time for the ultrasound to be done and OB/GYN to give me an appointment? Or should I just go into the ER now – wait the five hours or so that it might take, but knowing that I would get a complete workup, labs, and ultrasound and a definite diagnosis could be made?
I opted for the ER and I drove myself over and checked in (Doc offered to drive me, but knowing I’ll be on my own soon and also childishly wanting him to feel guilty about putting me into the position where I have to do this type of thing on my own, I refused – I never claimed to be rational, you know – but this time, we’ll blame it on the pain). Unbelievably the wait was less than fifteen minutes to get into the back. The doctor was friendly and seemed very competent. She also was concerned by the placement of the pain and the fact that it wrapped around to my back. Her initial thought was it might be gallstones. She had blood drawn and said she was going to send me for an ultrasound of both my gallbladder and my ovaries – just to cover everything in that area. They moved me to a waiting area, where patients relaxed moaned in pain on recliners while waiting for their ultrasounds, CAT-scans, or MRIs. The woman across from me sounded like she was going to give birth any moment – and she wasn’t even pregnant!
I was chauffeured to my ultrasound in a wheelchair pushed by a young girl who seemed intent on breaking the land-speed record for the hospital. She would hit the handicapped button for the door without breaking stride, only to jerk me to a stop seconds before I slammed into said, still closed door. We wheeled around corners, defying gravity and incurring dizzying waves of nausea. When we finally skidded to a stop in the ultrasound room, she set the brake and told me to get out and hop on the table…so she could start the exam. It took me a second to process – I mean, she was like twelve years old or something! SHE was the ultrasound tech??? I struggled out of the chair and she proceeded to slather my abdomen and side with goo, sliding the camera over tender spots without mercy and pausing now and then to take an interesting shot. She then gave me a gown and told me to go to the bathroom, strip below the waist, and come back so she could get jiggy with me with her little dildo camera wand. Luckily, she let me insert the thing, but then she took over again and…well, let’s just say my girly parts got more of a workout than they have in the past six months.
I opted to walk back to the recliner room when we finished – deciding that might be safer than taking another wheelchair race. When I was settled, I texted my son to let him know where I was and he came right over, breaking hospital rules to smuggle me French fries and a Coke. The boy loves me! We attempted to talk a bit while we waited for results (and between the moans from the girl across the way. For God’s sake, give her some morphine or something!) Then the doctor came in and gave me the news…
Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story (literally, it’s full of twists and turns!)