22 October 2011

Not Cool, Man... Not Cool

It is 2:42 a.m. I am awake because there is something wrong with my butt. I know exactly what is wrong; however, I do not yet know the extent. The problem—and I CAN'T BELIEVE I'm telling you this—is that I have a cyst.

I happen to sit down a lot. I sit down a lot because I'm tired a lot because I've had a whole boatload of other health problems. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the computer, and that requires sitting down a lot. I sit in these weird smushed up, twisted up positions, which apparently isn't good for the skin back/down there. From all I can figure, I have traumatized the skin, which has led to the current situation. I also have a very shapely booty. Apparently, shapely booty-ism can be a contributing factor.

I am mortified

Also, I feel kind of crappy. Today was the third day of waking up feeling pukey and self-medicating with Pepto and Protonics. I think I might have a bit of a fever. My back hurts, and it's been hurting for so long that I can't remember it not hurting. At least some of my back pain originates from the fact that my L4 and L5 vertebrae are off kilter. Last month, I turned to a chiropractor out of sheer desperation when I could no longer put on my underwear without propping up against either the bed or the dresser and groaning onerously. The chiropractor has helped some, though I admit that I am always skeptical of the practice and that my ten minute appointments, marked by loudly banging drop tables and gentle prodding, often feel like eating rice cakes—unsatisfying. However, the pain in my back is a dull ache that spreads into my buttocks. I have convinced myself that my cyst has grown to epic proportions, and when I go to the doctor, he or she will tell me that I need to have the majority of my butt removed, which is what seems to be the classic treatment according to The Internet. 

That's the problem with The Internet. The Internet provides information, yet typically does not put that information into context and typically exudes an alarmist nature. If we all believed what we read on The Internet, we would all be about to die of some absolutely horrible disease. Forum contributors share horror stories on what seems like a 9 to 1 ratio, which makes sense in regards to human nature—because few ever feel compelled to write, "I had this thing. It was treated. No big deal. Now I'm fine." Instead there are postings replete with failures to administer adequate pain medication, slow healing, terrifying side effects, and sometimes even pictures of profound disfigurement. I know. I've been reading these posts for the past three hours—and that's just in relation to the current medical situation at hand. 

I've spent enumerable hours reading about my other conditions including stroke, brain aneurysm, fibromuscular dysplasia, and gastric rupture. I read and research not because I am a hypochondriac—I've got enough stuff that's actually wrong to worry about what "might" be wrong. I read and research because I am a person who functions better when I have lots of information. I like to understand the history of a disease, it's epidemiology, it's treatments. Understanding diseases from a scientific perspective helps me get a handle on them from an emotional perspective. The human body is a truly fascinating thing, and if patients can get beyond the fact that fascinating (and sometimes terrifying) things are happening to their own body, then an illness is a wonderful chance to engage the brain and learn something new. Since being diagnosed with intimal fibromuscular dysplasia and tested for overlapping connective tissue disorders, I have become very interested in the endothelial cell. Knowing more about the endothelial cell probably will never help me unless I'm on Jeopardy, but it helps me help myself. Science takes away feelings of having bad luck. Science explains disease processes for exactly what they biologically and chemically are. 

One need not be interested in science in order to seek out scientific information about disease. One need only be curious. Research has shown that patients turn to The Internet when they are sick; however, I am continually surprised by the number of patients with whom I interact who have not done any research at all. These such patients befuddle me. I do not understand them. I do not understand how they can so blindly and blithely go to see their doctors and fail to engage in their own healthcare. Nevertheless, an internet search of any given disease can and will turn up a plethora of information that ranges from extremely detailed medical research to full-on quackery. It can be difficult for patients who are not researchers by nature to differentiate what is real, sound medical information from that coming from Aunt Sally Jo's House of Cards and Ill-Advised Shams. Real medical information can be daunting. It's a bitch to read. Most of the words are terminology only used within the profession. However, patients can still learn from reading medical information, particularly if they take the time to look up terms and exercise their critical thinking skills. A good place to start one's journey into personal medical research is at healthfinder.gov, which includes an encyclopedia, free health tools, and more. Beyond that, patients should look toward sites that end with .org, .edu, or .gov. There are, of course, reputable sites with .com or .net endings; however, the big players at the medical table typically will be found in the .org, .edu, and .gov communities. Use some common sense. If one fears he or she has rabies and one finds a site recommending drinking three gallons of buttermilk and rubbing his or her skin with salt, one would do well to think that the deadly viral infection could use more aggressive and scientifically-based treatment. Homeopathic and alternative treatments absolutely have a role in medical care. I am a fan of aromatherapy—peppermint for nausea, lavender for stress—and have had great results with acupuncture. I turn to chamomile tea before I reach for chemical sleeping aids. I've found yoga and massage to help relieve muscle pain. But if I break my arm, I'm not about to go chew some tree bark and forget about it. 

My discovery of a small pit in my sacrum occurred a few weeks ago; however, I dismissed it as some sort of run-of-the-mill boo boo. The second time it made itself known, I had my duty-bound husband investigate the area. He found nothing much cause for alarm. This evening, discomfort led to another investigation, and carefully chosen Google terms quickly led to the cyst's diagnosis. It seems that the area needs to be incised at the very least, and at the worse... well, I'm not going to talk about the worst. The beauty of The Internet is that it is available 24/7, so my restless mind was able to pour over several sites' worth of information, including one truly wonderful patient driven site, consequently working itself in a real lather. Thankfully, 2:30 a.m. on the East Coast is only 10:30 p.m on the West Coast, and one of my doctor friends on Twitter was still awake and able to provide a bit of advice—go to a doctor but not urgent care; instead I need a surgeon. I am decidedly not thrilled about this entire scenario, but to find someone knowledgeable, who actually has had the same problem before, to provide a bit of comfort at 2:30 a.m. is wonderful. That's another bit of beauty about The Internet—it and everyone on it is there for you when there's something wrong with your butt.

1 comment:

  1. Glad someone with expertise was able to steer you in the right direction!

    Just remember @afternoonnapper, you are never, Alllll byyy yoursellllfff...if you are online. I've found it to be a lifeline if I don't wanna be allll by myyyyysellllffffffff! and you have too! If I'm on long enough, I'm bound to find a chuckle or two and sometimes deep-in-your-soul-satisfying uncontrolled giggle fits and belly laughs. And you, my dear, are responsible for many of my moments of comic relief :->

    I'm with you when it comes to being a proactive researcher. And my appetite for information is voracious until I find the motherlode, which means I too am up way too late on the computer as well!

    I'm really sorry you have one more thing to deal with! But once again, you've taken what comes your way and turned it into a teaching moment for others!

    I'll refrain from indulging in any tempting "pain in the butt" rhetoric and simply close by saying I'm sending healing energies and positive thoughts your way my dear!

    ReplyDelete

"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." — Buddha