Sunday, April 10, 2011

The lighter side of awful*

Tomorrow I plan to spend thirty thrilling minutes with a camera snaking up places I'm going to wish it couldn't go. My companion in this experience will be a man I've only met once but whom I've already determined is extremely talkative (although very nice). Perhaps when your profession is urology, you find that lots of light chatter puts uncomfortable patients at ease. This might be true, as long as he doesn't talk with his hands or otherwise pause the action while conversing. If he dawdles, my half of the conversation is likely to be less-than-polite. (Oh, who am I kidding? You can't be rude to a guy with a camera in your bladder. That won't turn out well at all.)

I've spent an unfortunate amount of time making conversation with strange men while lying down on a table, half-naked. This sounds more exciting/lucrative than it actually is. (I think the stirrups are what make the difference.) But I do find that having a normal conversation while being poked and prodded in my nether regions alleviates some of the discomfort and embarrassment of the situation. I like to exercise mind over matter when I can, and if I can chat pleasantly, I don't feel miserable. This even applies when having an unplanned gynecological exam with two small children in the room. Don't ask me why I know this.

I once met a doctor for the first time while naked from the waist down, lying on a table, with my feet in the stirrups. I offered my hand and said, "So sorry to be meeting you like this." We both laughed. He didn't help me much, but he was a nice enough guy.

Thankfully, times have changed in the last few years at urologists' offices and some of them actually treat women on a regular basis now. Fifteen years ago, it was me in a waiting room full of aging men, trying not to look too closely at the diagrams of the inner workings of the penis that hung on the walls. I spent eight years visiting urologists while trying to figure out why I felt like I had a bladder infection all the time, and eventually, when the pain stretched from my thighs to my ribcage and I was wondering how I was going to keep going through my life like that, I found a urologist who specialized in women's issues. 

After a two minute exam (which didn't involve cameras or catheters or anything else I'd had done 10 times already), this amazing doctor told me I had a muscle spasm problem in my pelvis ( "pelvic floor dysfunction," which sounds like it might be a description of a bad disco dancer) and prescribed physical therapy and a variety of life changes that I took on wholeheartedly. Things got a lot better, and eventually I was pretty much normal. So normal that I often forgot that I ever was not normal. Since my previous tests had ruled out this (at the time) new, incurable disease called Interstitial Cystitis that also had similar symptoms, I figured had nothing to be worried about. I'd defeated my problem forever. Victory was sweet!

Except now, Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is not so new, and they've decided that only 5-10% of the people who have it passed the test that they used to rule out the disease for me. The rest of them, apparently, were just like me. And here I sit, no longer healthy, with blood where it shouldn't be and pain where I don't want it to be, on the eve of a new journey into urologist visits that start out with me on a table half-naked. And it sounds as though the most likely (and probably best case scenario) outcome will be the incurable, chronic pain disease. The other, fortunately less likely outcomes, involve the big "C," although there's a slim chance that I've just got some rogue stones or something. The doctor's banking on the IC.

I guess if I knocked it into what I assume was remission before, I can do it again, right? Because I'm a lot older now, and I've got a lot more stress to deal with, and I don't have time to be crippled over in pain, with my pants undone because the pressure drives me crazy, panicking over finding the closest bathroom because the pain is ridiculous if my bladder is full. "Holding it" might cause waves of spasming, firey hot pain that lasts for days. No, there's just not time for that.

Of course, I'm not sure where I'm going to find the time to treat it either. Going to physical therapy for my disc pain nearly did me in earlier this year since it took up so much of my work time and I had to work many late nights to stay reasonably caught up. But not working while getting treatment isn't an option either, since I've grown fond of eating dinner and clothing my children. Physical therapy really helped during my first bout with this problem, as did giving up my beloved caffeine, so it might be the prescription for relief again. Along with some kickass drugs (I can only hope!).

On the upswing, if I get any kind of answers tomorrow, I'm going to have the doctor write me a note that I can flash in the face of anyone who makes fun of me when I tell him/her I have to find a bathroom (again), even if we are in the car in the middle of nowhere. It's not nice to pick on someone with a disease, right?**

Wish me luck tomorrow at 9:30 EDT!

UPDATE: Just went back in the bathroom before leaving for my appointment to put on more lipstick, and then I laughed really hard because I'm pretty sure that the last thing my urologist cares about is how my make-up looks. Seriously.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: I've survived my visit, although I'm going to be feeling it for a while.  The good news is that, I most likely do not have cancer although the doctor is sending off some slides "just in case." I also might not even have IC; we'll discuss that in six weeks after we see how well the treatment I had today and a long course of antibiotics work (plus I'll be seeing some other doctors as well). In extra good news, if I ever become a spy with some "too outside the rules to be named" agency and I need to torture someone to get information for the good of our country, I know how to do it. It involves his or her urethra and a collection of progressively bigger rods. I've no doubt that it'll work. NO. DOUBT. 

*Goodness, why didn't I name this whole blog The Lighter Side of Awful? Damn, that would have been brilliant! Can I have a do-over???

*Most of the people in my life are super awesome and don't give me (much) trouble for my frequent, often inconvenient use of public restrooms. Thankfully. 

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  1. Brenna-
    I have no such problem, but always need to know where the nearest restroom is and even practice going to the restroom "preventatively"! So, I definitely feel for you!

  2. I'm quite experienced in preventative peeing. LOL! Thanks!

  3. I hope another sweet victory is coming up soon for you!!!!

  4. Wishing you well and only good news to come!
    I think its great that even though you're going through something you have the courage to explain and discuss it. So nice of you to help others that way. Also its great to see you keep your humor! Thanks for sharing - and Good luck. Prayers it all turns out ok. Peace, Gia

  5. L Gia, thank you! I spent more time than usual determining whether I wanted to share this personal information. I decided it had value, and that I don't want to be a part of the societal need to cover up things to happen to a lot of us that aren't pretty. :) Thanks!

  6. Finding time to treat physical ailments really IS a problem! Seriously! I'm glad you survived such unfortunate events. I always think sharing such personal things is worth it for the sake of the story and you never know who it might help (even if it is just yourself). Your urologist may not care if you are wearing lipstick but if it makes you feel better then it matters...and you never know who you might bump into in an elevator!

  7. Thanks, Linda! I really appreciate your support! Oh, and I only bump into people when I look like crap. If I always wear lipstick, I'm safe. :)