Friday, January 3, 2014

It is remarkable how one event can change one's perspective in a few short seconds. I was going to say minutes, but it didn't take that long. I have suffered from chronic pancreatitis for almost eight years. It began with a great deal of imbibing of alcohol and a genetic defect in my pancreas called "divisum". To put it simply, the digestive enzymes, amino acids, insulin and probably several other non-essential things produced by the pancreas don't drain completely normally. The symptoms are relatively simple; it is as if you have grown an extra thumb somewhere in the vicinity of your abdomen and someone is repeatedly hitting said extra thumb with a hammer. On good days, the pain is a dull 3-4 on the pain scale and on bad days it is around 23 on a scale of 1-10. Over my eight years of being identified as having this malady, the inflammation and resulting pain probably led to 10-15 days per month where I was in that 3-4 range, 5-6 days at about 7-8 and about 10 at that 23 level. The only treatment is morphine and those really bad days are, as you might imagine, only remembered as being very painful because any events that may have occurred are forgotten before the next morning. The past four months have been dominated by those days where the pain level has been north of ten and often in that 23 range. I don't report any of this in need or want of pity, but to explain my view of what I would consider an improvement to my current situation. My GI, or gastrointestinal doctor, recommended I go to MUSC (Medical University of SC) for a closer look see at what was happening inside my pancreas. This would be the fourth time I have visited there in the last three years. My GI is Dr. David Wortham who is one of the nicest, genuinely caring, seemingly humble, and qualified doctors I have gotten to know and there have been a bunch during this 8 year experiment. I call it an experiment because I am pretty sure science could learn a great deal about plying an overly educated, less than brilliant, southern boy with very strong opiates over a long period of time. Now that I have explained my current situation, I guess you would understand if my primary objective for my doctors at MUSC (who all are nothing short of instruments of divine healing) was for them to reduce my pain level and hopefully significantly.

So, I am now at MUSC with a plurality of minor to major miracle workers (I have no doubt that the opinion of them, while possessed by a very large number of GI's, is also that of almost all of their patients). Their reputation is also shared by a large portion of the medical community who deal with diseases of the gastrointestinal system. After that introduction, you can understand why I expected I would be riding back to Powdersville from Charleston today with pain that would be significantly lower in intensity within the next few days. BUT, I actually rode back contemplating the presence of a T2 suspicious looking mass inside the tail of my pancreas and the possibility that it is cancerous. Anyone want to venture a guess at what my new expectation of a positive outcome would be based on these new developments? Nothing has changed about my high regard for the doctors, nurses, technicians, fellows, assistants, hospitality staff, or administration people I have come in contact with at MUSC. I truly believe that I am the focus of their immediate world when I am standing or laying in front of any one of them. They really do have a remarkable team. So, I would like for the lab to tell my Team that my T2 is not malignant, one of the amazing surgeons would remove my small mass so that it does not have the opportunity to become a large mass and they would send me back to Powdersville with the hope of living 20-30 more years even if I have to do so with my level of pain somewhere in the 10-23 range on my ten point scale. I really don't think that those are, or will be, the only two possible outcomes, but I would figure out a way to make that work if it meant I got to watch Lydia and William grow up and my wife grow more graceful and wise and all of the things I have seen her become more of in our first 30 years together.

I believe I can safely proclaim that my perspective regarding any aspect of my life, the world or the lives of those around me has changed so rapidly with a very short pronouncement from a guy wearing a mask and blue pajamas. I expect I will write again about my disease, and likely numerous times, but the stories I tell will likely be a little different than they would have been prior to today.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you started a blog. You have so much to say that needs to be shared.