Blindsided, Kind Of
Monday, November 28 2011 @ 05:56 AM PST
Contributed by: Richard Pitt
This is the first of my ongoing series of articles on my dealing with cancer starting in November of 2011. If you are squeamish or don't approve of the use of medically correct (or in some cases simply pragmatic) terminology then you might check out the lead in to the topic on my blog before you read further. richard
I'd had a sore back; nothing peculiar since we were renovating the house and of course there's always lots to carry and move and shift and push against when you're doing destruction/construction that in our case involved every door in the house, all the floors and a lot of cleanup of the yard. We'd not done any major renovations since moving in almost 18 years before, and it was time.
So I backed off a bit on the physical and let my cousin Marian and by friend Ken do much of that part of the work. Besides, I'm the breadwinner of the family and had to keep the finances flowing, so I spent more time in front of my computer and working on customer projects.
Eventually part of the backache went away, but another part didn't. In fact, it started to get worse - to the point that some nights I'd lie down to sleep and immediately have to get back up and sit on the edge of the bed moaning with pain. Again, nothing really peculiar. I'd "cheated" on the not doing anything physical - stepping in and lending a 3rd hand when needed, pruning bushes and trees and carrying stuff to the trailer to eventually take to the dump; nothing "heavy," but not exactly "nothing" either. And besides, this pain was shaping up to be similar in many fashions to ones I'd had in the past, ones associated with stomach ulcer.
I'm kind of prone to stomach ulcers you see. I have a fairly acid stomach and can't tolerate (or so I found out by experiment) hard liquor in any even reasonabe quantity - I'd get a bleeding ulcer at the drop of a hat so to speak
I was invited to a Robbie Burns dinner back in about 1999 by my good friends David and Jose Ingram. The evening progressed and along with all the Haggis and other Scottish festivities I found myself the recipient of about 6 or 8 shots of fine, single malt, scotch whiskey. Some were the second shots I'd take when buying a round of similar fair for my friends, some were their shouts to me. What could the harm be? I normally only drank wine and beer, and that evening I put the whiskey on top of a wonderful dinner as well.
Right... That was Friday evening and by Sunday morning I had a full-fledged bleeding ulcer attack, complete with obvious blood in my stool. To the doctor I went on Monday. Wednesday, when he used a gastro endoscope on me his comments were, "I can see where the ulcer was, but it is well on its way to healing and should be gone in a week or so"
That's been my most recent experience with ulcers, but this one was a bit different; it was sneaking up on me, taking far longer than normal to really manifest itself, and showing itself as back pain it seems.
So I went to the doctor and said "Doc, I think I have an ulcer." To which his reply was, "OK - what are the symptoms that lead you to this diagnosis?" and we went on from there. Knowing what I do know about ulcers (I'm sensitized to the word ulcer as my father died on the operating table while being treated for a bleeding ulcer) what I had compiled was in fact a pretty good diagnosis, except for the pain in the back. Yes, it also manifested itself at times as the classic pain just under the sternum - that "burning" sensation that I typically get when I'm hungry and many others get from acid reflux but which is also a classic sign of a duodenal ulcer; and it was the back pain that had me stumped.
Ahhh... he said, but it is not unknown for ulcers to show up as back pain, a fact I had not known. So he gave me some samples of a new "proton pump inhibitor" (acid reducer pills) to try, and said "4 to 6 weeks should clear this up," and I went on an ulcer diet.
That should have been the beginning of the end of it, but it wasn't; not by a long shot as things turned out.
Again, part of my background look at my eating habbits and life style was that I'd been creeping up on my daily coffee intake, from "the rest of a 12-cup pot after my wife has hers and maybe a friend or customer has some," to the scenario during the renovations with a couple of extra people around, "we're into the second pot and I rarely throw out any, somebody is drinking it and likely as not it is me."
That, and I found myself picking up the habit of hitting a Tim Horton's on my way to Hancock Wildlife's offices, or the Chevron on Pender if I was going downtown, and getting a large "tripple cream" to carry me through the afternoon.
In addition, I've always enjoyed spicy foods, and as part of my ongoing quest for relatively inexpensive, non-bland, yet good for my diabetes (or at least not bad for it) foods for around the house for luch time, I'd settled on Chipotle-flavoured beans and some spicy "smokies" or some other meat as a kind of Mexican fast-food at home.
So... the stage really had been set for this ulcer, and as memory served me, the backache symptom had started not too long after I'd started the extra coffee and the spicy lunches, so ulcer it must be - just not one of my instant ones.
And to top it all off, the major symptom was that if/when I lay down, the pain increased a lot, and stayed high, even after I got up; a classic sign of the acid in the stomach washing over an open ulcer and the irritation continuing, even though the juice level has receded (due to getting up off my back) and that this typically happened a couple of hours after my major evening meal, no matter what I ate.
OK - so, 4-6 weeks of pills and bland food and lots of milk and yogurt and even baby food - that should do it.
3 1/2 weeks in, as I was starting to run out of the sample pills, I went back to our family doctor and reported that I didn't really see any improvement. "Patience dear Richard, stick it out for another few weeks and all will be OK; here's some more of the pills to last you out to about 7 weeks."
All during this time, I'd been relegated to sleeping sitting up, and had found that the only place in the house where I could get comfortable and get any sleep at all was on the love-seat leather couch in front of our big picture window in the front room; the room where Shirley liked to watch TV until at least the 11PM news was over, while I'm an "in the bed by 10PM" kind of guy. A bit of tension there, but she accomodated me and I tried really hard not to look too much like a hard-done-by waif while I waited patiently for her to turn the lights and TV off.
My wonderful Shirley has her own medical problems, and ended up in hospital herself after falling while getting out of bed one Thursday morning a couple of weeks ago. All other things aside, I actually looked upon this as a bit of a blessing as far as my sleep-deprived body was concerned; I would have the front room to myself for a few days and be able to hit the couch whenever I wanted.
That (Thursday) night turned out to be particularly bad, despite me being able to start it about 9:30PM. Rather than the typical (for the past 6 weeks or so) night of about 3 hours of total sleep, I got pretty much none.
Friday evening rolled around after I somehow managed to wend my way through the day. During daylight hours, when I'm up and around, the pain is almost goin and aside from being groggy from lack of sleep, I actually got some things done.
So here it was, Friday evening, then Saturday morning, and I found myself wandering the house and moaning in pain. Worse, I found myself starting to halucinate from the lack of sleep. This was not good. In a fairly lucid moment (at least for that part of me standing back and laughing at the wretch doing the moaning and whose thinking was mush) I went downstairs, fed the cats some extra food that should last them at least a day until one of the kids or Ken could look in on them, got the charger and ear-bud for my smart phone, put on some clothes and dialled 911.
Thus began what turned out to be the best decision I could possibly have made under the circumstances. I was kind of blindsided by this but, as you'll see, not really. More soon.