The Next Step

I have lacked the energy (and emotional stability) to post much the past few days (sorry for missing Music Monday) but I wanted to give a quick update on my current medical journey.

The results of my abdominal ultrasound showed no evidence of gallstones or gallbladder disease.  You would expect that to be good news but to me it wasn’t. The reason for that seemingly twisted logic is that gallbladder disease can usually be corrected with surgery.

My liver and pancreatic ducts are still dilated twice the size that they should be. That isn’t good … at all.  It means that something is stuck in there, blocking bile from going where it should and other liver and pancreatic functions from taking place properly.  According to the ultrasound report, whether the obstruction is a “gallstone and/or lesion vs stricture remains unclear.”  Needless to say, it cannot persist untreated as it can lead to infections of the liver and pancreas, which can be fatal.

Thanks to a couple of angels (my Mom and my new GI specialist), I was able to have a GI consultation yesterday, without an appointment, and my doctor has generously offered to give up his day off (next Thursday) to perform the necessary ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram) and EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy).

I’m not worried about the EGD but I am terrified of the ERCP.  It is likely the most risky medical procedure I have ever had and each patient runs a 20% chance of developing pancreatitis as a side effect.

I fear that the chances of the obstruction being a gallstone are lower now because I currently have no stones in my gallbladder and no gallbladder disease. The other possibilities mentioned (lesion and stricture) can, and often are, associated with cancer so I am trying not to entertain that possibility just yet.  I wish I could honestly say that I haven’t worried about it at all, but I can’t.  I have thought, worried, and pondered all of the best and worst possible scenarios and I am fully aware that some of them could realistically be catastrophic.

If somehow what they find is a gallstone, they may be able to slice a small hole in some part of my GI system, allowing the stone to drop into my intestines.  If it is a tumor, they can take a biopsy.  If it’s neither of those things … I don’t know what happens.  I don’t really think that is possible at this point.  The bile ducts don’t dilate for no reason, if I understand correctly, so they are pretty sure something is in there.  Although, given my past experiences and many medical frustrations, it would not surprise me if I somehow come out of this scary procedure with minimal findings and unanswered questions.  That seems to be a trend in my world of chronic illness and pain.

I am told that this procedure normally requires you to be in the hospital for around 4 hours but if they do any sort of treatment (like removing a gallstone), a 23 hour overnight stay for observation may be necessary.  Since I am prescribed a number of sedating medications, which I take on a daily basis, they will have to use an alternative form of sedation for this procedure.  The doctor said that they will likely use Ketamine since my tolerance to sedatives could make it difficult for them to put me to sleep, even though I won’t be completely out, just more of a twilight sleep.

According to Wikipedia, some patients have reported “vivid hallucinations, going to other worlds, and seeing God” while under Ketamine sedation.  What a strange thought.  In some weird way, reading that brought me comfort and a sense of peace after what has been an extremely emotionally, mentally, and physically draining couple of days.

I can’t explain why I felt that way, but I just finally found a moment where I realized that none of this is in my hands but that’s okay because whatever is meant to happen will happen.  I cannot control it no matter how much I stress, worry, cry, or freak out.  Nothing that I say, think, or do will change the outcome so I might as well find my peace with it.  I am blessed to feel that way right now.  My personality does not lean that direction and my anxiety disorders leave me prone to excessive worry but for now I will graciously accept the inner peace that I feel.

Still this is one of the many moments where I can take a step back, evaluate everything rapidly unfolding before me, and wonder “how did I get here?”.  I’m still shocked that what I thought would be a simple doctor appointment for stomach ulcer symptoms somehow evolved into numerous extensive (and expensive) tests, procedures, TONS of blood tests and lab work, complete with a serious health crisis scare.

Regardless of how I got here, there is no going back now so I will have to ride this out and pray for better days ahead.  As I continue to work through the emotional side of this journey, as well as the profound physical fatigue, pain, and weakness, I may not be present or posting as often as usual.  Then again, I may end up posting more.  I may keep you all guessing as much as my journey keeps me guessing but I will try to do so in a much less distressing and disruptive fashion.  😉

Wishing you all a low pain level day ❤

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