Sweet, I made it to 300! Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the help of my family, friends, Hope Lodge guests, Facebook friends, and t-shirt company sponsors. But, before I even got around to starting this blog, I had a lot of help from doctors along the way…
I vaguely remember being in the hospital when I was really young, like 3 or 4. I think it might have been pneumonia, but I’m not really sure. I do remember one morning feeling like I was surrounded by doctors and wondering where the hell my mother was. I did make it out in one piece, ready for my next medical experience.
That began when I was in 3rd grade and playing basketball at recess. I fell down on my ankle, and it hurt…a lot. I managed to limp around on it the rest of the day, using the desks to shuffle myself around in class. When I got home, I told my mother what had happened and she had a look. My ankle was enormous, and we immediately went to the doctor. The x-rays showed it was broken, and I had a cast put on it. I would end up missing the most of my first rec basketball season, but I still showed up with my team t-shirt and crutches to every game when I was injured. I was able to play the last game, but put up zero points in my league debut.
It wasn’t until freshman year in high school that I would end up in the hospital again. Like my ankle, I let the pain go on too long, and didn’t go see a doctor until I was unable to stand up straight without a sharp pain in my side. After my regular pediatrician thought it was just indigestion (yes, I did omit the fact that I had been having symptoms for a while), my neighbor (who was also a doctor) took a look at me when the pain wasn’t going away. He thought my appendix was about to burst, and said I needed to have surgery that night. What was supposed to be a 45 minute removal of my appendix turned out to be a 4 hour removal of 1 ½ feet of my small and large intestines and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. Good news, they knew what I had. Bad news, I would have it the rest of my life, and I would be in the hospital for Christmas that year. Good news, I was 14 and there were a lot of hot nurses taking care of me…(see also: http://davestshirts.blogspot.com/2010/05/t-shirt-126-i-love-nurses.html)
I learned to live with my Crohn’s and had gotten very used to being around doctors, nurses, having blood drawn, getting various tests like CAT-Scans, GI tests (the ones where you have to drink nasty crap, but are pretty cool because you can watch it on the screen), and having to answer question after question about my history, symptoms, and yes, poop. In a way, my Crohn’s Disease was a blessing because it got me ready for an even bigger medical challenge…
It was my senior year of high school and I was about to turn 18. I started having nasty headaches and double vision, and neither were going away. Learning from my Crohn’s, I told my mother right away that I was having problems and we went to my eye doctor to see what was the matter. He didn’t know, and neither did the doctor he referred me to. At the fourth doctor (a neuro- ophthalmologist), my mother and I were about to leave and my mom asked him if we should call if my headaches got worse. He looked at my file with a questioning stare as if he wasn’t aware of one of my TWO symptoms. He ordered a CAT-scan, and they found my tumor. I stayed in the hospital that night, after the doctors had told me they were “pretty sure” it wasn’t cancerous. They did give me some steroids (decadron, I believe) that relieved the pressure of my tumor and made the headaches go away. Because I was at UMass (where my Crohn’s was taken care of), I was confident the doctors would figure it out, treat me, and I would be fine.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that they found a marker in my blood that told them what it was….cancer. Although the news must have shocked and worried everyone else, I was just glad they knew what it was. Knowing is always better than not knowing when it comes to medicine, I think. The bad news was that it was cancer. The good news was they knew what kind of cancer it was and how to treat it. The even better news was that they assigned my case to the pediatric oncology team, so I was on the pedi floor instead of the adult floor (cuter nurses here). The funny news was that it was made of the same kind of cells as testicular cancer, proving to all that I was a “dickhead”.
There were three on my team of oncologists, and the woman on the team was the doctor that seemed to see me the most. She was also the one that seemed best cutout to be a doctor: she was friendly, funny, and always kept me informed. When I was about to be discharged after my first round of chemo, she came to talk to me about one of my chemo meds. She wanted to remind me that it had the possible side effect of hearing loss, and wanted to know about the concert that I was going to that night. I told her it was Pantera and Skid Row, and laughed when she asked me if they were loud bands. She didn’t think I should go, but saw it in my eyes that there was no way I was going to miss the show. And, I didn’t…
Six grueling months and rounds of VP-16, carboplatin, and bleomycin followed, but I made it through. The oncologists had initially said I would need chemo followed by radiation, but after my sixth round they said they had no explanation and that I did not need radiation. I didn’t argue, and was glad my battle was over.
I would get 3 month, 6 month, and yearly checkups after that and had so many neurological tests done on me that I could have performed one myself. The female oncologist always got a kick out of it when she would cover one of my ears to test my hearing and I would respond with “What?”. I really had learned that the best way to deal with all this medical crap was to laugh as much as possible.
Which is why I don’t understand any doctor that I have run into that has no sense of humor or “people skills”. I am glad that these doctors have been the minority in all of the MDs I have come to meet, but I wonder why they became doctors in the first place.
Since my cancer, I have also been in the hospital for getting hit by a Ford Bronco, kidney stones (twice), and my Crohn’s again two years ago. I have been blessed to live in Massachusetts and therefore be treated by what I think are some of the best doctors around. Also, UMass has always sent me home much better than what I got there. Every doctor at UMass that has treated me has done their job and has hopefully handed their wisdom to all the UMass med students.
I know a lot of people are fearful of hospitals and doctors. Yes, it does suck a little to be in a hospital and have doctors ask you all those personal questions. Sometimes the so-called “little pinches” or “bits of pressure” hurt a lot, but tests aren’t always easy. My advice (if you fear hospitals and doctors) is to get over it….But when you do go to the doctor:
1. Ask a lot of questions
2. Remember that the doctors are working for you, not the other way around
3. If you don’t like your doctor, get a new one (my Crohn’s doctor is freakin’ great)
4. Use laughter as a medicine, it helps the other medicines work
5. When you’re in the hospital remember that even though doctors are the ones “in charge”, the nurses do most of the work