That was quick!

If we ever get the answers to the questions why, why me, or why not then we will truly have arrived in a place of peace. Will it ever be this side of heaven?

This side of heaven, life moves quite quickly. The agonizing wait for a package to arrive, bringing the compounded, whizbang elizir to remedy some malady, can be mind-numbing. It’s all you can think about. Then before you know it, you are opening the package and quickly moving on with the other tasks of the day. If only this would apply to a workup to rule out cancer . . .

My days are blurry now yet not without a moment of reflection: largely on how the year we just finished has actually prepared me for the lump that is on my plate right now. Or more accurately, 7 lumps. Ruling out autoimmune disease, being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism then switching back to hypothyroidism, placating the diagnosis of Functional Movement Disorder, ruling out hyperparathyroidism, and narrowly escaping a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with surveillance puts 2019 on the map for me, so to speak. Every step of the way, my main concern was beyond the testing and treatments glaring on the surface; I was asking if this or that could be a cause of the more important strife in my life: daily convulsive episodes, my worst symptom.

Autoimmunie disease = Episodic Ataxia? Nope.

Hyperthyroidism = Seizure disorder of organic origin? Nope.

Functional Movement Disorder = Rehabilitation to resolve? Nope.

Hyperparathyroidism = calcium trafficking issues? Nope.

Pancreatic mass = insulinoma and blood sugar dysregulation that triggers seizures? Nope.

WTF is it then? Excuse my French and excessive use of metaphors. I am about to go mad and cannot use direct language anymore. How many near-misses can there be? The answer: at least one more.

A thyroid ultrasound just 8 months after one earlier in 2019 found SIX NEW NODULES with suspicious characteristics. Then there’s the hard one in my neck that didn’t go away with the common cold after Christmas. How can this be? Labs don’t lie but they certainly don’t explain this new, worrisome finding. It’s all I can do right now to keep from screaming while I research the good, bad, and ugly possibilities. Looks like at the very least, another Fine Needle Aspiration is indicated and will be completed under conscious sedation due to the seizure attacks that come with needle sticks. My only saving grace in this hot mess is that at least I don’t need to be awake this time when someone in a white coat puts a very long needle in my neck. UBER-EWWWWWWWW!

Someday to preserve the remainder of my sanity, I will list all the treatments, dietary habits, rehabilitation strategies, lifestyle changes, mold avoidance, and medical management that I do because some professional said it would help me. The list is burdensome. And expensive. But nothing compares to this. I have never had major surgery before let alone a bonified diagnosis of cancer. My heart races with the potential implications, my mind numbs the rest of the way after pressing on to complete some volunteer work on the computer, and of course I am hungry . . . again! If only I had taken that walk with the pup when she was whining so loudly this afternoon. I really should have, even in the freezing temps looming out the front door.

I talk to the Lord all the time now. It’s like breathing a prayer all day long. He’s here with me alone at this computer, this I know. Graciously, my beloved is more tender and sweet of late than any day prior in this almost 9 years of battling serious illness. I am so glad for Steve. Life’s skirmishes over here are about to escalate to battle and war. We both can feel it with the data on the ultrasound reports.

My, how quickly things changed. But like Barry Manilow once sang, could this be the magic at last?

More arrows pointing at a target

Seems like there are more arrows pointing at the same target this time, but will the archer get it right? You know, the one in the white coat with the big degrees, fancy knowledge, and ticking watch?

doctor, stethoscope, diagnosis, pancreatic cyst, EUS, endoscopy ultrasound, insulinoma

Too bad that it was me and not one of them that pointed out that the pancreatic cyst mentioned on the CT report still needed some kind of follow-up! But maybe it’s alright that things happened in the order in which they did? At least my 32 year relationship with thyroid medication has ended and removed one more factor in an equally puzzling dance with hypoglycemia.

Peripheral neuropathy, heart disease, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, pain, nausea, and a pancreatic cyst were all written down but no one put them together in the same story until I brought the report to my Doctor on September 11th. Let’s add daily seizure attacks for 7 1/2 years shall we? You know, the ones that we recently discovered can go away sometimes with a blast of sugar? The glucose monitor doesn’t scream answers yet as to why this occurs and how to manage it, try as I do, but some other labs are finally leaving clues.

An MRI and MRCP are behind me and an endoscopy ultrasound (EUS) shall commence but not a 72-hour fasting blood test (used to diagnose a particular type of pancreatic mass associated with hypoglycemia). Oh well. We opted for the local specialist to evaluate me but he only does the former test not the latter. I just hope it wasn’t a mistake NOT to return to the Mayo Clinic and the Pancreatic Clinic this past week. Travelling there is a big deal and trying to get home after procedures is a bear dontcha know.

I’ll try not to ruminate about the potential for pancreatic cancer and hope that this miraculous little finding is ordained by God for a time such as this, to point the new “archer” to a cure for my worst symptom. Who knew that these days when you have hypoglycemia they look for a cause? Decades ago the medical folks just had me eat small meals of particular food combinations; “it may or may not turn into diabetes someday” they said. Similarly I have seen just this year how medical treatment protocols change! Yes, thyroid nodules have not been treated with medication since the protocol changed in 1986! The researcher of that study turned out to be my endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic in March, starting me out on a plan of action that ultimately calmed my fried nerves, weakening bones!

Keep your eye on the ball I keep telling myself. One step at a time: live around the nausea, pain, and increasingly unpredictable convulsive episodes. Figure out what to eat. Cancel plans with your husband and stay home where it’s safe. Yuck! Venture out when you can regardless of how you feel. Keep up with the IV fluids every 2 weeks and take 2 cherries before bed in case the sugar spike prevents the episodes that meet you there every night. Then try to sleep knowing that the tempest beast who has ravaged your neck and back and head thousands of times before is lurking before you fitfully pass out by morning . . .

This hell. The joy is gone. And yet as I have stated to myself before in the words of Moody Church pastor Erwin Luitzer, “when going through hell, don’t stop.” Count your blessings including some new ones here at home; embrace your beloved hubby dear who loves you so. Dwell in the presence of your Savior. Reach out to friends in Christ. Talk to Jesus . . . He is here right now, back there, and out there too.

Twelve more days will have passed and chemically-induced rest for the EUS will be here soon enough. You got this! JJ

When the mind doth calm

Almost unbelievably, the change of more than Spring has begun

I never thought it could though wish for it I did with all my might.

Because you can only see from where you have been unless given to dream

But alas I don’t do well with fantasy: give me something real I can touch, I can feel!

Years with my mind in the craggy place of sickness but yet wired just the same

Astounded I functioned at all as I look back at my years from there to here.

So the consult among the experts, the one we had to persist to even get

Held the critical link to a change in medication becoming the magic pill, so to speak.

More days, more nights free of seizures than ever before have opened up my world

To the wonders of being, the tasks of life, the longing embraces of my beloved so sweet.

With more road to travel in this journey of recovery, I still do not fear it ending soon.

When the mind doth calm the seeds of true hope and love are born I can see:

My Lord hath brought His goodness and in it I will simply dwell for now, alright.

Psalm, Psalm 107:29, waves, Bible, storm, Jesus, calms the sea, hope, trials

Changing seasons, changing gears

As the winter loses its harshness on this second day of March, so have I. Seems that I am letting go of a few things inside and out as a change of season has landed on our doorstep . . .

Our trip to Mayo Clinic ended with a focus much different than the one we had when we arrived. Briefly, the expert neurologist informed us that my labs that I had painstakingly collated from home were “garbage,” that my problems appeared to be psychiatric, and that further testing would be a waste of money: we see 150,000 people a year in the Autoimmunity Clinic. You don’t have it! A second neurologist expert used more functional terms yet still claimed that “even a 3rd year medical student knows the difference” in the various differential diagnoses. So we (my healthcare providers to date + myself) are idiots? So it seemed as we entered the weekend in Rochester, Minnesota . . .

Six days after that first appointment, the shock of what they were telling us had worn off. The exhaustion and soreness from extensive lab testing, EEG, lumbar puncture, and 5 additional consultations gave way to a new direction in my ongoing recovery from a serious illness. It was a tough mental journey while literally trapped on Sunday in a Minnesota blizzard but I did get there. First, on Monday an Endocrinologist determined that I was on too much thyroid medication and it could be contributing to my symptoms. Holy cow! The new medication was ordered that afternoon and sent on its way to our home address. Days later, the adjustment process is both rocky and underway.

Second, the physical rehabilitation department has a special program for what they term a “Functional Movement Disorder.” The physical and occupational therapists retrain the brain using specific balance, breathing, and movement techniques within the context of stimuli for me that trigger my convulsive episodes. Interesting. A trial run of this approach was horrific! In retrospect however, I recalled an evaluation in a local Balance Center 2 years ago and treatment that was recommended for a “Mild Vestibular Disorder;” it was also horrible and I couldn’t do it in tandem with other treatments my Doctor recommended at the time. The Mayo Clinic staff say that their approach is different so I decided to begin their PT and OT home programs regardless. What if it helps? In 3 days since then the convulsive episodes have not yet changed but my balance is improving! Yay!

I don’t have an autoimmune disease as defined by the Mayo Clinic. My labs are also negative for various infections and inflammation, glucose and other markers for which my blood and cerebral spinal fluid were tested. But some other labs are waaaaaaaay off and those are the ones in focus right now. If I can progress in my home exercise program, and I suspect that I will do so quickly, I have the option to return to Mayo Clinic for a 5-day intensive Functional Movement Disorders Program. Perhaps within a couple of weeks I will know if this Program will be effective for me: if the techniques begin to change any aspect of the episodes then, Lord willing, I hope to return to the Mayo Clinic. By then my thyroid status should be moving in a better direction as well. It’s all good I guess.

Funny how enduring very early morning appointments under duress in a strange place with 1-2 hours of sleep painted a much different picture of me to these clinicians than what I am presenting now! Tonight I still feel depleted yet my stress level has gone down significantly. All of the laundry and unpacking is done along with the myriad of things you have to do after returning from a 9-day medical trip. (Our trip to Mayo Clinic was extended twice to complete all of the consultations recommended and requested.) The expenses were immense and we haven’t even seen the medical bills yet! (Did I mention that the water heater needed replacing 3 days later? Ugh.) Still I am stabilizing and in a better place than when I was struggling to just breathe 2 weeks ago.

The seasons are about to change and the gears of treatment planning for me are moving forward as well. Gentle Reader, you know my mantra will remain that Lord willing, I am going to get well! And to Him be the glory! I am grateful that Steve and I got to go to the Mayo Clinic and learn so much on so many different levels. What other levels you ask? Well that will be a bit o’ prose for another day of course. Until then Godspeed my friends, JJ

Just Breathe

The stress is crushing

Into my chest, my frame in flare

Old issues still wanting to be a friend

Screaming with the new ones, a symphony of suffering.

The stuff of life

Crowds every moment and then

The smart phone dies and hours are sucked up

In this Verizon store, that kiosk, then hours with online tech support.

My checkbook sighs

From neglect then a balancing act

Or nightmare as the expenses of preparation

Smell poorly like the “unscented” shampoo at the dog groomer!

Alas I confess

I have been here before:

A medical trip on the horizon

Brings hope but making it so: invites a nightmare.

For how does one prepare

With a brain on fire and infections too

Each vying for attention in the hours that remain

Before departing to the fabulous Mayo Clinic very soon?

Just breathe little one

The one inside that is afraid

Come to my rest my Jesus calls to my heart

Lay here your worries, your burdens; the time remaining is mine.

How fitting after Valentine’s

When I barely got to see my amazing love

That the Author of love would also come to my rescue

And all I have had to do is let go: let Him add the increase for the rest.

The rest. Hear that!

For the opening of this door

Was ordained for this season in life

The last medical records will arrive today. Go take a nap already JJ.