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by MJones
Rated: E · Essay · Experience · #2314463
How a surprise find on an MRI leads a woman into the black hole of Western medicine.
*NOTE: For context, it would be helpful to read this first:
 A Tearful Farewell (Part 2 of a W-I-P)  (E)
A joy-filled reunion quickly turned into an experience that would test my courage.
#2314160 by MJones

A Medical Nightmare

“Your white count and platelets are even lower than they were two weeks ago”, my doctor said, with a distinct tone of alarm. “I want you to see an oncologist to rule some things out.”


* * * * * * * * *

It all started when I struggled to perform box steps with my left leg. My right leg seemed fine, but my left one wouldn’t cooperate. It was weak and uncoordinated … and I was frustrated. "You may want to have things checked out with an orthopedist", my trainer suggested, so I scheduled an appointment. “I'm trying to strengthen my legs so I can improve my tennis game", I told her, "but my left leg isn't cooperating". She moved my leg in a way that made me wince. “I suspect you may have a labral tear”, she said, “I think you should get an MRI.” “Okay”, I agreed, hoping it would help her figure out how to help me. 

 When she called me with the results a few days later, she said there was a labral tear ... a tiny one ... with no surgical indication. "Phew ... good news!“, I thought. My doctor continued ... "They found something else, however, that's much more interesting”. “Yikes ... that sounds ominous”, was my new thought. Turns out, there was a lipoma lodged in the muscle belly of my left tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle. “It’s unusually large”, said my doctor, “You should probably have it checked out.”

I scheduled a consultation with a specialist at the local university, home of a prestigious sarcoma clinic. I have to be honest … this one freaked me out a bit. My father-in-law had recently passed away from a rare and aggressive sarcoma and they were sending me to the same clinic!

To my great relief, the doctor said I shouldn't worry. “It's unusual to see one this large, but it shows no signs of being cancerous”, he said. “I can remove it.” So after further discussion of the logistics, I began preparing myself mentally for surgery. Everything was on track until the blood work came back from my pre-op physical showing low white and platelet counts. That's when everything came to a screeching halt. Well ... sort of. "I don't feel comfortable approving you for surgery", my doctor said, "Let's test again in two weeks and see where things are at." Two weeks later ... they were both even lower. My doctor handed me a referral to an oncologist. “You’re kidding, right?!?”, was all I could think. Unfortunately ... she wasn’t.

I was by far the healthiest-looking “patient” in the oncology waiting room. I felt stupid for being there, but agreed to the recommended tests even though it meant a dozen or more vials of blood drawn. When they all came back with negative results, I was advised to get a bone marrow biopsy. “Is that necessary?”, I asked. “We can’t rule cancer out as a possibility without it”, said the oncologist. “Great ...”, I thought, feeling surprisingly more annoyed than scared.

While I less-than-patiently waited for the day of the biopsy (which had to be done in the hospital), I researched the process online. "It says people who are older (I was in my 50s) are more likely to tolerate the procedure without pain medication, eliminating the need for an all-day hospital stay", I told my husband. Since I could think of roughly a thousand things I would rather do than lay in a hospital bed all day, I decided I was “older enough" to try it.

“I’m going to put a catheter in your hand", said the nurse … "just in case. All you have to do is say the word and the pain medication will go in.” “Good to know”, I said, “but hopefully, I’ll be fine”.

Well … after three rounds of what felt like a corkscrew being twisted into my lower back and subsequently pulled out again, I found myself wishing I had said the word.

By some miracle (which I’m pretty sure didn’t have anything to do with my age), I managed to get through the entire procedure without the medication. “Yikes, girl … now that took some courage!", my inner voice was saying to me. 'Why does it seem like I keep needing to learn this lesson over and over again?”, I wondered.

Once again, the results were negative.

The rheumatologist was the final stop on my journey into the black hole of Western medicine. He almost laughed me out of the exam room, stating, “You show NO signs of having a rheumatological disorder.” “I could have told you that!”, I wanted to scream. But I kept my mouth shut.

After three straight months of twice weekly doctors’ appointments, countless vials of blood drawn, and not a single person being able to find anything wrong with me, I finally called it quits. “I've had enough of this medical nightmare", I said to my husband … "I need to get out of here.” The very next week, I was on a plane to Hawaii.

I never did get the surgery, but that lipoma would come back to haunt me in the years that followed.

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