Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Lamp in the Darkness

A couple weeks ago the book I ordered through Amazon arrived in the mail, "A Lamp in the Darkness: Illuminating the Path Through Difficult Times" by Jack Kornfield. I ordered it not because I felt like I was going through difficult times but simply because I love Jack Kornfield's writings. Little did I know how timely it would be to have his book on my shelf in my writing room. When I wrote my last blog post reflecting back on the health challenges presented to me in 2011 (and to my dog Ahnung) I was in a space of simply noticing, and in many ways, a place of acceptance. There's a great quote from the book:

"If you can sit quietly after difficult news; if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm; if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy; if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate; if you can fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill; if you can always find contentment just where you are; you are probably a dog."

Yesterday I met with my internist. Yesterday I realized I was very human, as I certainly didn't respond peacefully and quietly after some difficult news. 2011 turned out ending with another twist with my health issues. For about a week at the end of December I had been experiencing abdominal pain. Yes, it hurt but it was a tolerable pain. I could tell something was going on but because I've had so many health issues and seen so many doctors in the past year, I thought maybe it would just go away. I had a couple days where I noticed something different about my urine .. It was pinkish and rusty (i've since learned that I had an episode of gross hematuria). Then on Friday, December 30th, signs became very clear that I was bleeding internally and I was rushed in for an upper GI. Later that day I was told I had stomach erosions and a biopsy was taken. The pathology report came back indicating that I did not have the H. Pylori bacteria which can be the cause of stomach erosions. Another cause is often drugs (frequently taking painkillers like tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen). I mentioned to my GI doctor that for a few months I have been taking 325 mg of aspirin. Due to my heart condition of Left Ventricular Non Compaction my doctor has me on aspirin therapy to reduce my risk of strokes. My doctor did not believe the aspirin was the cause of my erosions and told me to keep taking the aspirin for my heart. I'm on medication for the stomach erosions (and it seems to be helping) and have another upper GI scheduled for 2/23. My doctor said he needs to go back in to see if the erosions have healed.

When I left Minnesota Gastroenterology I was told to follow-up with my internist. So yesterday was my appointment to do just that. Before I had the upper GI procedure they took my blood pressure ... it was 137/85. I looked at the nurse and said that's high for me. She said that's not unusual because patients get stressed. Well, in my gut I knew there was something off and that it wasn't stress. I've seen more doctors in the past 2 years and had more surgeries and procedures than some have had in a life time and my blood pressure (and pulse) have always been low ... typically 100/80. On a bad day it would get to 105/80. So I decided when I saw my internist for my follow-up I would mention the higher blood pressure and also what I had noticed in my urine a couple weeks ago. About a year ago, I had had a couple urinalysis reports come back showing I had blood (RBCs) and WBCs in my blood. A third test indicated it was back to normal so my internist at that time told me not to worry about it and to just get it re-checked in a year. In July, 2011 a had a full physical with my new internist. I failed to mention blood in my urine from previous tests not thinking it wasn't important. I learned yesterday that my urinalysis from July, 2011 indicated that I had blood (microscopic blood) in my urine again. I also had white blood cells which led him to believe that I may have an infection. After learning more about additional pieces of health information (which I inadvertently left out because I had so many other health issues ... mainly my heart issues!) he shared with me that intermittent bleeding in my urine (microscopic hematuria) needs to be checked out further with a urologist. He said it can be caused by kidney stones (although since i'm not in a lot of pain he doubts it's kidney stones) and can also be caused by tumors. "I'm not saying it's cancer, but we need to get it checked out," he said. Since it wasn't causing me any major problems I wanted to see if I could just take the wait and see approach. My doctor advised against that, "if it is cancer, if we catch it early we have much better chance of treating it." Next step is to set up an appt with a urologist and he would probably want to do both a scan of your kidneys and also a procedure called a cystoscopy ... unfortunately, he said, that's another not so fun procedure (as I told him how the upper GI was not an enjoyable procedure for me as I couldn't stop gagging!) I am scheduled for the kidney scan and appt with the urologist for 1/23.

Next item ... blood pressure. I mentioned how I noticed my blood pressure being higher than normal when I went in for the upper GI. My doctor checked my blood pressure twice. The first time it was 135/80 and the second time it was 137/85. He checked my records as said it was 101/80 in July, 2011. He said we technically don't start treating for high blood pressure until it goes over 140 so for now keep monitoring it. High blood pressure does run in my family. But I've always had normal or low blood pressure ... interesting that it's now high. It could be genetic or it could also be related to problems with my kidney. I wonder also, could it have anything to do with my heart disease?

I have always felt in my gut that whatever is going on in my body is something at a systemic level. In 2009 pre-cancer cells were found in my breast and it continues to multiply; in early 2010 I was  diagnosed with pancreatic insufficiency. In 2011 they removed a polyp from my colon and told me I had a 'colony of internal hemorrhoids' ... later in 2011 it was my heart ... 25% PVCs and a heart ablation procedure and a diagnosis of a rare heart condition, left ventricular non compaction. Then 2011 ends with stomach erosions and 2012 kicks off with high blood pressure and kidney problems.

I don't know why but I don't think I was emotionally prepared for my doctor to tell me yesterday that I have kidney problems. I wanted to cry when I left his office .... when will this end? What's next? Sometimes I feel like my body is gradually being taken over by some virus or bacteria or some alien being (oh, that could be from watching too much Star Trek!). The Buddhist way is to embrace uncertainty and to embrace the unknown ... I must confess that yesterday (and even this morning) I feel off center and am trying to find my way back to a place of true acceptance and peace with whatever life throws my way.

I know that I need to find a way back to my center. I ask for the courage and the strength to walk my life's journey and to welcome and embrace all that comes my way. I pray for the strength to simply Let Go and to trust that the path I am on is the path I am meant to be on ... and when I feel myself lost in the darkness of emotions that scare me that I just hold onto Ahnung, my north star, as she has always, and will continue to be the lamp that leads me through the darkness.

1 comment:

  1. Praying for your health and strength as you continue the Lord's work with animals (and people!).