Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

February 5, 2013

Today was an unplanned trip to MSKCC for an extra test ordered by Dr. M.  He is considered one of the best in the discipline and has experience with radiation damaged bodies.  Today he had ordered a barrium swallow scan.  I am dealing with a recurring swallowing issue.  Two years ago, I let it get bad enough that I was barely able to get water down my throat.  This period last well over eight months.  With the symptoms returning, I was not going to wait as long this time.

My doctors do not like that I wait until I hit DEFCON 5 to do something about my discomforts, and I am slowly coming to grips with living that way.  When it comes to the area of my body that took a major hit from radiation therapy, I know that symptoms, decisions, and actions will be critical.  My appointment is early this morning, earlier than I can normally get there using public transportation, but I was able to pull it off.  My tech was young, very polite, and soothing.  It is very easy to become overwhelmed once you see all the fancy equipment.  Even from twenty three years ago, I have always been fascinated with the technology.  I am not advanced enough to understand it fully, but enough to know what is going on.

Because of my fascination with the procedures, I am also able to pay attention and understand what is happening.  I probably should have added an asterisk when it comes to observation.  I am SUPER squeamish.  In spite of everything I have been through, I will pass out looking at a paper cut.  Back to topic.  The barrium swallow test is going to be basically a live xray of me swallowing a “radioactive” solution multiple times to watch how the liquid (and a couple of solid items) pass down my throat.  They will also be looking for areas that food and liquid get caught.  The substance is not the greatest tasting at all, and being warm does not make it easy to go down.  But it does go down.  At one point, I was given a small amount of a “fizzy” substance (similar to “pop rocks”) which I was supposed to swallow to get closest to my throat as this substance was going to dialate the throat.  That was wierd.  I was told to resist the urge to belch which I did not think was going to be difficult, but as soon as it went down, yep, I wanted to burp.  I held out though.

So that is all for the swallowing part of it.  What did they find?  I cannot stand when a tech tells me, “okay… good to go… the results will go to your doctor and you will hear from them.”  I should be happy with that after all, the last time I had to see a doctor immediately following a test, was when I had my heart surgery.  Unfortunately, I do not like surprises.  With my colonoscopy and endoscopy planned for next week, what currently stands as an outpatient procedure, I know can now be somewhat involved.  I am a “plan for the worst, hope for the best” kind of guy.

The first thing that they found clear as day was a hernia.  And yes, it is one of those discomforts that I have had for a long time, as in years.  As a long term survivor, I do my best to have my symptoms and complaints responded to and treated, so I do not want to come across as a hypochondriac.  If I recall, this was picked up on last year’s endoscopy, but was not of concern then.  The other item that was discovered they called a diverticulum.  I do not know if this is related to a diagnosis of diverticulitis or not, but one thing was clear.  The muscles of my esophagus were forcing this protrusion out which blocked off my esophagus.  Definitely a clear indication towards my swallowing issue.  I am not sure how it will be or if it will be corrected.

The one surprising thought that caught me off guard was when they explained to me what this condition had the potential to lead to, pneumonia.  For weeks, it drove me batty trying to figure out how I came down with pneumonia.  In the case of diverticulum, they call it aspiration pneumonia.  My last bout of pneumonia was all infection, which means that the pneumonia could have been caused by this.  The important words to me though, were when the doctor said I had true symptoms.  Duh!!!  I know they were true. 

As I left the hospital, I called home to Wendy to let her know how things had gone and that is when she told me that our youngest was getting quite ill from her ear infection and needed to get to the doctor.  I had the only available car, so I did what I had to.  Tear open my shirt exposing the capital letters SD on my chest, my cape now flowing, and got home as quickly as possible.  Okay, quick bus ride, quick train ride, and quick ride down the pike, up the pike.

Fortunately for my daughter, who has a hard time looking sick (remember this as adults, we require people to look and act sick when they are really sick) is happy as a seven-year-old who just downed eight ounces of pixie stix coated Sour Patch Kids.  So, neither of us gives the outward appearance that anything is wrong, but thanks to the doctors who care for us, care and knowledge result in diagnosis and healing.  Thankfully, Emmalie’s issue is less complicated than mine.

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