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Sunday, August 30, 2015

High, higher, even higher hurdles

In my last post I summarized my recent health maladies. In some sense, getting through these was a lot like a long hurdles course. Maybe more like one of those old Wide World of Sports obstacle courses. When I was a kid we loved that show, and often lamented the fact we didn't have something like this in our back yard.  I say it was like hurdles, but it was more like hurdles where the hurdles get higher the farther in to the run you get.

There's an odd sort of symmetry to these hurdles, because this is basically also the order in which we received the diagnoses.

  • Kidney stone in right kidney.

  • Renal cell carcinoma in left kidney (discovered "by accident" during biopsy).

  • Multiple Myelmoa


We received these over a few days after that "get to the ER now" phone call. These were not like hurdles at all. Getting these was more like falling down a hole, finding a handhold, then having that crumble and falling down farther. I'll write more about this later.

The hurdles were basically like this, most of which were surgeries of varying seriousness. They involved 3 hospital stays over the course of about 7 months time, each of varying duration. I included a few "bonus" surgeries which were "minor", but did involve cutting and placing catheters into my major blood vessels near my brain and heart, so I feel like they count. I included links to some of these procedures. If you're like I was up until a year ago, you have never heard of these, of if you have, gave them only casual consideration.

  1. Surgery to remove kidney stone in my right kidney.

    1. [bonus] Insert emergency catheter for hemodialysis and plasma pheresis.



  2. Surgery to insert peritoneal catheter for PD dialysis.

  3. Surgery to remove my left kidney.

    1. [bonus] Insert another catheter for hemodialysis (first one was gone by then).



  4. Autologous stem cell transplant to put Myeloma into remission.

    1. [bonus] Insert central line (not PICC line) for chemo and stem cell return.




I did not count all the IV lines and inordinate number of "sticks" that come with hospital stays and follow up visits. I would also mention the three bone marrow samples I have given over the past year. They're not surgery, per se, but do involve digging bone marrow out of your hip bone with an auger-like device. It's an unpleasant procedure, but worth doing to see what's really going on in your bone marrow.

When I look back on this I'm frankly amazed that I've made it this far. Not because I'm some kind of hero, but because I am not: I'm just a regular guy. I wouldn't want to do any single one of these things, nor would I wish any one of them on anyone. When you line them all up like this, it seems insurmountable. If you showed me this a year ago, I wouldn't believe myself capable.

These hurdles were not insurmountable as it turns out. I was extremely lucky to have a support system in place, including my wife (thank God for her), family, church, friends, neighbors, my employer and our insurance. Let's not forget my doctors and nurses. I, for one, do not take for granted all the superior miracles enabled by the best medical minds in the world. All of these things put together enabled me to get through.

 

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