Diagnosis

I’ve found most people have an interesting story of their health leading up to diagnosis. Here is mine:

History leading to Diagnosis

June & July 2013

The molar in the far bottom left of my mouth began hurting really bad. I had already had a couple fillings done on the tooth. My dentist confirmed earlier in the year that the next work he did on it would be a crown. In July, my dentist prescribed a steroid to relieve the inflammation, and scheduled an appointment to do a root canal on the tooth. He cancelled the appointment, and did not return my calls for more steroids, so I scheduled an appointment with a specialist to have the root canal done. In the meantime, I took a lot of Advil Liquigels to relieve the pain, and had 2 visits to the ER. The pain was excruciating. It was around this time I began to experience digestive issues that I did not have previously. Work was becoming increasingly difficult, between the tooth pain and digestive issues. At least my tooth pain subsided once the root canal was done. It was recommended that I get a crown on the tooth, as it was now weakened, and there wasn’t much left to it. The specialist who did the root canal also confirmed that the last filling done on the tooth had not been performed properly, allowing leakage into the canal.

 

August 2013

I started having stomach pain, and random pain through my body when I would eat. I would take a few bites of something, then couldn’t eat any more…but I would still be hungry. It was quite maddening. I called the random body pains my voodoo night fever pains. This seemed to only start in the late afternoon or evening. I would feel feverish, and would get random jabbing pains all through my body. It felt like someone was sticking my voodoo doll in random places, and each pain would usually only last a few seconds. When this happened, I could do nothing but lay down and hope to fall asleep. I had to take a couple days off work, which was very rare for me. I even stopped at an Urgent Care clinic to have them do some blood work on me on the way into work one day…I knew something wasn’t right, but everything came back normal.

 

My last day of work was August 20. I had 3 tests done this month, which confirmed that my gallbladder was functioning poorly. A blood test and ultrasound did not show this, but a HIDA scan test confirmed that it was functioning at 25%. I was referred to a surgeon, who prescribed me Nexium for acid reflux. He also suspected that I had stomach issues, and recommended an endoscopy to take a look at my stomach before removing my gallbladder. I had the endoscopy scheduled for September 12. We had scheduled a trip to Ocean City, MD, ending in Pittsburgh, PA to visit family. We left for our trip August 30, and I got a sinus infection on the 31st. This was due to not taking my allergy pills – they gave me gallbladder attacks. By the time we arrived in PA, I was about 25 pounds underweight, and I had no extra weight on me to begin with.

 

September 2013

I was miserable through our trip. Most food gave me gallbladder attacks, therefore I was either hungry or in pain. We returned home on September 10, and I had the endoscopy done on the 12th. This showed that I had chronic gastritis. The images showed red spots over all parts of my stomach. Thankfully gastritis will heal on its own. Looking back, I believe that all the Advil I ate for my tooth pain caused my gallbladder to “go bad”, along with my gastritis. The rest of September was filled with hunger, pain, and many calls to doctors trying to schedule surgery to have my gallbladder taken out. My surgeon’s assistant tried telling me that my gallbladder was fine, and she suspected I had either fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis – genius.

 

Diagnosis

October 2013

I had my gallbladder removed October 3. Although my sinus infection was gone, I was left with a bad cough. This is normally the case for me, and I tend to be sick for over 1 month when I get sinus infections. I expressed concerns about coughing prior to being prepped for surgery, and was told to hold a pillow to my chest when I cough. Looking back, the surgery should have never been done without having an x-ray and blood work done prior…especially being a smoker, sick and malnourished.

8 days after my surgery (October 11), I began to have sharp pain in my lower right lung. I didn’t seem to be healing well, didn’t have much of an appetite, and just didn’t feel like I should have after 8 days of healing time. I went to the ER the following day, and was diagnosed with pneumonia. I was given antibiotics, pain pills, and the option to be admitted, although the doctor did not feel admission was necessary. I decided to recover at home, and slowly deteriorated.

7 days later (October 18) I also developed pneumonia in my upper lungs. I had a post-surgery follow-up appointment scheduled with my Primary Care Physician for October 22, and enough pain pills to last through then. I decided to stick it out a few more days, with the intention of recommending that he admit me into the hospital. At this point, I was completely incapable of doing anything, and could barely stand.

October 22 I visited my Primary Care Physician, who admitted me to Immanuel Medical Center. I did not even need to recommend this. He could see how sick I was, and said that my blood work was all over the place. I was so sick that I didn’t even want to stop home to grab anything before going to the hospital. This was my first inpatient hospital stay. Little did I know what I was in for…

The following evening, 2 doctors paid me a visit, did an exam, and I answered yes to all of their odd symptom questions. They told me they were with the oncology unit, which meant absolutely nothing to me. I was so sick I just replied with “Okay…?”. I had no prior experience with cancer, and thankfully neither did anyone who was extremely close to me. They proceeded to tell me that my blood work showed signs of leukemia, and that a Bone Marrow Biopsy needed to be done immediately to determine more. They also mentioned that they would most likely wast to begin chemotherapy as soon as possible. I was completely blown away. How did malnutrition and pneumonia turn into this? They immediately prepared for my Bone Marrow Biopsy to be done in my hospital room, and at the protest of my nurse gave me an extremely high dose of Ativan to “put me at ease”. All that I remember is feeling like someone was drilling into my hip bone as I lay on my stomach, and waking up extremely nauseous and dizzy the next morning. I only felt relief after vomiting, which I am quite phobic about.

October 26 I was moved to the 7th floor of the hospital, the oncology unit. On the 28th, I had a triple lumen catheter  put in by the surgeon who removed my gallbladder. This was done in my hospital room with no equipment to monitor the process. I had a line coming out of the left side of my chest, with the ability to run up to 3 IV lines into. I had just stopped taking pain meds for my pneumonia, but the surgeon poked a hole in my lung (pneumothorax) when inserting the catheter, bringing all of my pneumonia pain back, and crippling the only piece of lung that wasn’t affected by the pneumonia. I had daily x-rays for weeks to monitor this, and got very familiar with multiple pain medications.

October 30 I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), and began my first round of chemo. Further tests showed that I had a subtype of M2, with translocation of chromosomes 8 & 21. I was told that I had a good prognosis. The doctors made it sound as if I had to go through 1 or 2 rounds of chemo, then I should be good to go home and get back on with my life…

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