Monday, August 08, 2005

Didn't go flying this weekend...

I've been feeling under the weather for the last three or four weeks. Nothing debilitating, just a few symptoms that have been keeping me from being as active as usual; back pain, a tired feeling, and a persistent dry cough. After a week of this, I called my family physician for an appointment, but they said they couldn't get me in for ten days. So I asked for a prescription, and he sent in one for ten days' worth of doxycycline.

The antibiotic had no effect, so I made another appointment, and managed to get one at the end of the same week. But that day - last Friday - the doctor had to cancel his afternoon appointments, including mine. I didn't want to suffer through another weekend, so I left work early and went to the emergency room, hoping to beat the weekend rush and see the on-call doctor.

After a few hours' wait - four car accidents came in when I did - I finally saw a doctor, and told him my symptoms. He ordered blood tests and a chest x-ray. After these were accomplished, he told me that they had found a spot on my x-ray, and needed a CAT scan. So, another new adventure; I received a dye injection and rode in and out of the tube. Finally (it was almost sundown, and I had walked in at 2:30) I got the verdict: A 4-cm mass or tumor on my left lung. The mass is pushing on my breathing passages, causing the dry cough. The other symptoms are likely related to this mass.

The ER doc went on to tell me that a likely diagnosis for someone my age (38) could be lymphoma, a form of cancer that attacks the lymph nodes (Hodgkin's disease is one of the less-common types). Modern treaments for lymphoma are very effective, and the disease is quite survivable. Another, more serious matter would be lung cancer, which would require aggressive treatment, and could be harder to fight. But the main thing was to schedule a biopsy, so that the nature of this thing could be determined.

I was wiped out, of course, and terrified. The ER doc said he wanted to admit me right away for further tests and observation, and to see if a lung specialist could be found to do the biopsy over the weekend. I asked to be released so that I could go home and get some things, and look after my cat, promising to come straight back. So they took out my IV, and I went home, sweating bullets. I threw some things in a case - mostly the wrong things, in this case - and called Gail to tell her the news. I went back to the hospital and was admitted just before midnight. As I tried to go to sleep, I realized I was starving; I had forgotten to eat anything since lunchtime. The night shift nurses were ordering pizza, and finally brought me two cuts of pepperoni, which I devoured before falling quickly asleep.

I was in the hospital until Sunday morning, the first two nights I have spent in a hospital bed in my life. I can't say I enjoyed it, although it did give me a chance to sit and think and rest. My friend Angela from my CAP squadron came by; she is a nurse, and one of the few I could trust with this troubling news. (I wanted to wait until I knew more, and could get out of the hospital, to tell my mother.) It was good to have someone to talk to other than medical people - who were all friendly, but professionally detached. Naturally, no specialists could be found over the weekend, so I was finally released, since no more tests or drugs were ordered.

Gail arrived in Scranton from Vancouver at 1:15 Sunday morning, after a chaotic 20-hour dash across the continent by bus, car, plane, subway and who-knows-what else. Seeing her, and having her here, did more to lift my spirits than anything; she is calm and rational, and loving, and is helping me immensely to deal with this. Her actions over the last two days only confirm what my heart already knew - that she is an amazing woman, of singular strength and character, and that I love her. I was looking forward to seeing her under happier circumstances, to carry on with our wedding plans; but now, we will have to deal with this first I suppose.

So now it's Monday morning, and I am blogging this experience, to chronicle it for myself and for a little perspective; and to let my friends who read here catch up on the news. I just heard that the lung specialist will do my biopsy tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 7:30, so Gail and I will have some free time to be together at home - and straighten it up a little! Embarrassing, but I have been tired and achy, and really let the housekeeping careen out of control.

Sorry for the absence of flying stories and fun pictures this week. I trust my friends and family will understand, and I appreciate their support and encouragement. Whatever this turns out to be - and we really don't know yet - I will deal with it, with all of your help, and get back to happier matters.