Back when I lived in Utah, I had a stretch of a couple of years where I dealt with chronic fatigue. Well, that’s what I thought it was at the time. Looking back on it, I’m more convinced it was depression. Then again, it wasn’t as if I didn’t know about depression at the time, so perhaps I should have a bit more faith in my ability back then to know what I was talking about. Regardless, it was a stretch of time where I had to handle something that just wouldn’t go away, and I wasn’t sure why it wouldn’t or what I could do about it.
Thankfully, when I moved to Maine, things got better. (Which is another piece of evidence in the “it was depression” argument, but whatever.) While I have subsequently struggled with depression off and on, I’ve largely just had to deal with things that come and go. (Well, now that I think about that, I guess that’s not really accurate, when you take into account eye issues, back issues, and about a million trips to physical therapy, and depression itself, which is nothing to sniff at. Sheesh. This post is getting depressing all by its lonesome.)
Setting all that aside, several months ago (a couple of weeks before I left for Hawaii, actually), I started to have some consistent abdominal pain. Nothing really acute or anything, but it wouldn’t go away. I know this is decidedly Not Normal, and so when I got back from Hawaii, I went to the doctor, who then sent me to the urologist. (Note: you do not want to go to the urologist. I now know this for a fact. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to the urologist if your doctor tells you to, but I am saying your trip to the urologist is not going to be a fun one. At all.)
I realize some of what I’ll write now is definitely tiptoeing the cliff of “why in the name of all that’s good did you tell me that?” territory, so I will do my best to keep as far from that edge as possible. However, I also think many people have issues like this that they end up facing largely alone, because they feel embarrassed to talk about them or something. Well, my “I’m embarrassed” gene is a little lacking, especially when it comes to writing about things online, and my “I want people to not feel like they’re alone” gene is perhaps a little too strong. So here we are.
First off, cancer was listed as a distinct possibility for all of this. Certain types of cancer run in my family, and they lined up too well with these symptoms for my doctors to dismiss them. (Or for me to feel comfortable, for that matter.) So I had a whole bunch of tests. Blood tests. Urine tests. A CT scan. And tests which are the prime reason you don’t want to go to the urologist.
Some of these tests came back with results quickly. Some took days. Sitting around wondering if you’ve got cancer is a bad situation to be in. Thankfully, all cancer tests came back negative. However, the pain remained, and unexplained pain is something I’d rather avoid.
Yesterday, I went in for a cystoscopy, a test which I’m not going to detail here, but which people are free to Google if they somehow think that’s going to bring them some kind of satisfaction. My urologist assured me it “wasn’t that big of a deal,” and that I’d be in and out in fifteen minutes. Well, the fifteen minutes part was pretty spot on. The “not that big of a deal” part was not. Any time they have to numb you to help you avoid pain, and the pain to numb you is really unpleasant, I automatically begin to get mighty suspicious.
I would have to say it was the most uncomfortable, painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. This includes breaking bones, but I’ll also be the first to admit I’ve been largely free of really painful experiences. This one felt like it made up for that. (I did some research after the fact to see if I was just being a big baby. No. In a small number of people, cystoscopies are very, very painful.) I spent the rest of the day in recovery mode, and I’m still not exactly over it. (Though mostly better.)
The good news is that it showed definitively there was no cancer or anything alarming there. The bad news is that I still have no idea where the pain’s coming from. Apparently there’s a thing called “painful bladder syndrome,” where you just hurt and they don’t know why. It’s the technical equivalent of a doctor saying, “Huh. I don’t get it.” That’s what I’ve got, it seems.
But on a positive note, the pain is far from severe, and I’m generally just getting used to it by now. (The biggest worry had been that the pain was being caused by something very problematic. Having eliminated all the “very problematic” candidates, I’m actually not too bad with the “this isn’t going to go away anytime soon” diagnosis. Not that my doctors are giving up. I’m on a couple of pills now that might help solve the problem. (Though they are, in turn, making me very sleepy and I’m really hoping that goes away soon.))
Hopefully I can get back to the point where I don’t have to keep missing work for tests. (The inner-guilt feeling is strong in me, and it’s still hard for me to just give myself a “you’re sick” card and not worry about work.) I think some of this is just related to the fact that I’m getting older. This beats the alternative to getting older, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.
In any case, if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been a bit MIA the last while, this ought to explain both why I’ve been MIA and why I haven’t really explained it earlier. And if you’re dealing with any of these issues, know that you’re not alone, for whatever consolation that’s worth. Chronic stuff is mentally and physically draining. It’s the difference between carrying a fifty pound bag across the room, and carrying a fifty pound bag for the entire day. Taken in isolation, you might think it would be easy to handle, but there’s the marathon aspect of it (and all the uncertainty surrounding it) that makes it much more difficult.
And that’s all I have to say about that for now.