Incidental Findings

So, since this is about my health, well, me and my health.  Let me start by saying I’ve always been pretty healthy, at times even very healthy.  A whole slew of orthopedic issues: toe that dislocates, ankles I’ve been spraining incessantly since I was 9, and then all of the achilles issues (both legs) including partial ruptures, debridement surgery.  Most of which I “blame” on my level of activity, playing tackle football with the boys in the neighborhood, frisbee football (where I first dislocated my toe playing in the grass barefoot), years of volleyball and basketball. I did have a benign tumor removed near my clavicle in my late teens, which I only mention because Dr. Bernie Siegel was the surgeon who removed it.  And I had tachycardia starting when I was 18, which did land me in the emergency room a few times, but was resolved with a cardiac ablation in 2010.

For a while there I took great pride in “approaching” middle age and not taking any medications.  Low cholesterol, low blood pressure, etc. But when my husband was dying, the stress definitely started to take its toll.  My body was doing strange things: my hair was falling out and I had terrible sweating and body odor (neither of which I had ever had before, and terrible is really an understatement). And when he dies I stopped sleeping,  With Ambien I was only getting 3-4 hours of sleep per night, every night, for about 9 months straight. I don’t know how I functioned. And then I noticed a weird lump on my throat.  It was my thyroid.  After a series of tests it was determined that I had a toxic multinodular goiter (as pretty as it sounds).  It was not malignant. It was causing me to have slightly overactive thyroid, but just needed to be watched.  This started only a few months after my husband died.  I told almost no one.  It just seemed like too much, to have a “medical issue” going on (especially for my children) so soon after my husband died.  And it really only had to be watched.

And then I went to my neurologist (I have a neurologist because I have suffered from migraines ever since my first child was born, however I had not been in years) because I was having days and days of migraines, which was unusual for me.  She gave me some medicine to try (which I ended up not liking) and thought I should get a baseline MRI of my brain, you know, “just in case I was ever in North Dakota, came down with a bad migraine and ended up in an ER where they did an MRI, found something weird and operated on my brain” – you know, like that. So I get the MRI and it turns out I have a golf ball size tumor (benign) an olfactory cortex meningioma.  This has nothing to do with my migraines, simply an incidental finding.  Although initially the local surgeon wanted to operate practically immediately (a craniotomy, you know, cut in your hair line, peel your forehead down over your face, cut into your skull – pretty!), the surgeon at Columbia-Presbyterian took a much more conservative approach, feeling that my risk of losing my sense of smell/taste was greater if it was operated on than the chances were of it growing. Phew – right?IMG_9296

Then I decide I need to get a new internist and I need a physical.  I see this great young doctor who is very thorough and smart.  I mention some stomach issues I have that seem to be associated with wheat products and he tests me for celiac disease. And then he called me and said he wanted to run a couple of more tests. And then he called me and told me I had these extra proteins in my blood, monoclonal proteins and that I had something called MGUS (mononclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance) and that he wanted me to see a hematologist.  Hematologist sounds so benign, but hematologists are hem/oncs, or hematologist/oncologists, so not so benign.  I did my online research and knew that I could have multiple myeloma, or my MGUS could turn into multiple myeloma.  I also knew that the only way to determine where I was at was to have a bone marrow biopsy.  So I was not surprised when at my first visit to the hem/onc they did a bone marrow biopsy. I was surprised to learn a few days later that I did have multiple myeloma.  I had no symptoms, I felt great, an incidental finding.  Nothing to do with my multinodular toxic goiter or my olfactory cortex meningioma, but as of May 2014, I had cancer.