“How bad is the pain?” asked the doctor pressing on my lower back.
“It feels like I’m in active labor” I replied matter-of-factly while sitting on the exam table.
I knew what he was thinking. How on earth is this woman sitting here chatting with me nonchalantly while in as much pain as she would be while in labor? I almost told him the story of how I delivered my twin boys without an epidural. And how that paled in comparison to the pain after my double mastectomy. But something told me he probably didn’t want to hear it. And, after waiting over an hour in the waiting room (where my excruciating pain led me to Google -sorry Mitch – my symptoms and diagnose myself before I even walked into the exam room), I decided it was best to stick to the problem at hand.
It had started over a week before. I had lower back pain that I attributed to exercise strain at first. Then came the bladder issues. And even more back pain. Thinking I had a bladder infection or UTI, I made an appointment to see my primary care doctor. She sent me off based on my symptoms with a prescription for Cipro. It didn’t work. The lab work came back negative for infection. So I made an appointment with a urologist as advised by the doctor.
In the meantime, I was due for my annual OBGYN exam. My OB happens to have a urogynecologist on staff. I decided to make my appointment with her. Perhaps there was something more serious going on. Maybe I had cysts around my bladder or kidney? The late nights surfing the Internet did not help to put my mind at ease. I went through various diagnoses in my head, including ovarian cancer which I am at risk for. Fortunately the doctor was able to put my mind at ease (and correct me about what a urogynecologist actually does). Nothing showed up on physical exam. She suggested I come back the next day for a pelvic ultrasound just to be sure. Fortunately that came back fine too. Phew!
Which brought me to the urologist. Where, while sitting in pain in the waiting room, I looked up kidney stones and decided that was probably what I had.
It wasn’t until the doctor had the nurse run one more test that he decided maybe there was something going on. There was microscopic blood in my urine which he said is not normal. Really? You don’t say!
I was told I would need a renal ultrasound to see what was going on. I made an appointment for the following week. On the day of the ultrasound, I was told I had to drink 35 ounces of water one hour before the test and I couldn’t use the bathroom after drinking all that water. Knowing my bladder, I drank less than half that amount less than thirty minutes before the test. It came as no surprise to me when the tech told me my bladder was plenty full.
I watched the tech who really had an excellent poker face. I saw her measure something and before I knew it the test was over. She told me to wait while she checked that the pictures came out. A couple of minutes later she came back and told me in a very cheerful voice that the pictures came out and I could go home. All I could wonder to myself was what was she measuring? Why was she so cheerful all of a sudden? I kept telling myself that she was just measuring a kidney stone. Yeah, a kidney stone, that’s it. Nothing more.
Soon enough the doctor called with the results. It was indeed a kidney stone. It was most likely too large to pass and would have to be broken up. But before breaking it up, the doctor needed me to go for a CAT scan and X-ray.
In the meantime, I also went to see an orthopedist. The urologist was not entirely convinced that my back pain was all related to the kidney stone and felt it might be skeletal. The orthopedist felt I may have had a bad back strain and advised taking ibuprofen a few times a day for four or five days to reduce inflammation. Now, most cancer survivors will tell you that even though they freak out about every headache or body ache post cancer they don’t like taking too much medication. Something about all the medications pumped into them during cancer treatment. I’m no exception. I get nervous about taking too much of any medication. The warning labels scare me. I’d rather take one painkiller than ten ibuprofens. Or nothing at all. But maybe that’s just me.
Over the last few weeks, I have had my ups and downs. There are days when I just have some minor discomfort but can still go about my daily routines. There are days when I feel totally fine and can have guests for Shabbos lunch or go see a movie with Molly. And there are days like this past week where I am curled up in a ball in pain and it takes every last ounce of strength to get the kids out of the house so I can crawl back into bed and lay there until they come home.
I met with the urologist today to go over my test results. There are actually two stones in my left kidney. The doctor still believes that it is not just the kidney stones causing all that back pain. He said if a stone moves and blocks the passage then it could be painful. He also said that there was still microscopic blood in my urine and elevated white blood cell count which could indicate some type of infection. Now, I’m no doctor but I know my body and I told him that I honestly think there was at least one other stone that probably passed before my initial appointment with him. And the pain I’ve had for the last couple of days is lower left of my back so…..
In any case, the plan is to shock the stones with sound waves. I meant to ask the doctor if I get to pick the music (just kidding). In the meantime, I plan to go back to the orthopedist and have an X-ray taken. Because, you know, I don’t feel like enough of a ping pong ball already.