The story of a lump.

About a month ago I had a heart attack.  Well, the doctor at the urgent doctors thought it could be when I turned up with chest pain.  I felt a total fraud, because although the pain had been there for some time, I’d kind of burped about 10 minutes before my appointment came up and felt fine.

He did an ECG, if looked fine, he gave me some olympic class heartburn medication, and I went on my way.  That night I had a vomiting fit – a really nasty one.  Lying in bed recovering in the morning my GP (whom I dearly love) rang and told me that the ECG hadn’t been as unproblematic as first thought: could I come and see her.  We made an appointment for a few days in the future.

Seeing her, I still wasn’t well.  The ECG turned out OK, but we scheduled some urgent liver function tests and thought gallbladder thoughts.  So, my heart attack was gallbladder huh?  Not an uncommon trajectory I discovered.  She rang later in the evening (I told you she was good) and said my liver was suffering.  That we needed to look at it in more detail on Monday (this was Friday night by this point), but if anything felt wrong, get to the emergency department.

Next morning, I arose yellow.  Bugger, I thought.  After a call to the Health Department hotline, who encouraged me to get to hospital, I grabbed a cab (whose driver noted my muppet-like complexion) and spent the rest of the day in ED, and then admitted to hospital.

The jaundice and the liver function results were not good, and for the first time I heard the word cancer mentioned by and ED doctor.  Nonsense, I thought.  Gallbladder, I thought.  Just preparing me for the worst, I thought.

Ultrasound treatment showed a gallbladder clean as a whistle (apparently a medical term).  So, something was blocking my bile tract, and it wasn’t a gallstone.  A CT scan (that took a couple of days to get, it being the weekend and all) showed enlarged lymph nodes.

Maria had been visting her family in Chicago when all this started, and returned, as scheduled, the day before I was released from hospital.  I was so very glad to see her.  She was holding my hand when the registrar told be about the lymph node.  I gulped, and things went a bit grey.  You know the feeling when things become serious: I suppose there is a release of seriousotonin, the hormone for recognising when the shit hits the fan.

I did some research and some chores.  I made my will (Maria came with me, and made hers too).  I talked to my brother and my Dad and Liz.  I started re-watching Breaking Bad.  I looked at wikipedia.

Actually, that’s an interesting thing.  What research should a person do when they are ill like this.  What resources should they look at?  When I was concerned about gallstones I found some unintentionally hilarious films of people curing their condition with apple and lemon juice, talking to the camera from the toilet, straining to pass the ‘stones’ they had created.  I also found some fantastic animations of how the bile duct works.

I promised myself that I would look at wikipedia, and one-link-out to the wikipedia recommended links.  That has served me really well.  I recommend it.

Yesterday I had a gastroscopic ultrasound – I went up to Christchurch for it.  Its an amazing procedure when they stick a big tube with an ultrasound down your throat, and can take biopsies as they go past.  The result was confirmation of the lump.  Not big, 4cm by 6cm, sitting near my duodenum.  Not apparently attached to my pancreas.

That last sentence is important.  What I learned from wikipedia is that there are lumps, and then there are lumps.  Ones that are attached to your lungs or pancreas are the bad ones.    The bit of paper I have says “lymph?”.  When they do the procedure they have a pathologist staining and peering and diagnosing in the room at the same time, but its going to take a second opinion to confirm that question mark.

Another option is lymphoma.  Lumps aren’t by definition good, but this one is better than it could be.  I’m hoping that lymphoma is the worst possible case.  It could a cyst or something, which is the best possible case.  I wait to see.

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