Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Unexpected Challenges

As promised, I have some news to share with y'all that some will find interesting. The rest will probably conclude that Total Drek is degenerating into an emo site but, hey, they can kiss my ass.

Many of you know (from my occasional references to it) that I exercise regularly. What you don't know is that I have been experiencing infrequent chest pain for the last year or two. I haven't really thought anything of it as indisgestion can cause chest pain while exercising but, in the last few weeks, it has gotten much more frequent, sometimes even hitting me while I'm not exercising. It wouldn't be accurate to say that I've been in constant pain but it's been more frequent than I like. Given that there's a history of heart disease in my family, I thought this might be a good signal to get in to see the doctor.

My visit went pretty well. My pulse, blood pressure, and cholesterol are all quite low. Additionally, my chest sounds normal and my EKG is, aside from a small glitch that may be instrumenation, totally healthy. So, just to be safe, my doctor sent me for some chest x-rays to confirm there were no foreign objects in my lungs. On seeing the first two films, she said things looked just fine. On the third, she blurted out, "Wow, what the heck is that?" A weird round mass appeared in my lateral chest x-ray. Thinking it was an artifact, she sent me to redo the film. Needless to say, it appeared again.

Later that day, after consulting with a radiologist and an internist my doctor gave me news: the suspicion was that I had a malformation in my circulatory system, but they couldn't confirm it with the x-ray images. So, I was sent to the emergency room for a few CT scans. A looooong time later, it was confirmed. I have a defect in my left lung that fuses several parts of my circulatory system together in ways that are problematic. Left untreated there's a greater than 50% chance that I will suffer a heart attack, stroke, or brain abcess. That last one is just a fancy way of saying I'll grow a nice, fat, infected mass of pus right there in my brain. Yay!

What makes all this better is that the particular malformation I have is associated (84% of the time) with a genetic disorder that makes these types of malformations much more likely. Not just in the lungs though- the disorder introduces the possibility that I will develop them, or have already developed them, in my spine or (and this is my favorite) in my brain. My family is not aware that we possess this disorder but, since symptoms often do not appear until someone is in their 40's or (more often) older, it is frequently misdiagnosed. Ironically, it's only my otherwise good cardiovascular condition that may have allowed me to spot this in the first place. So, if nothing else, I may have acted as an early warning system for the rest of my family. Or, as my sister put it, "If my life has served no other purpose, at least it has served as a warning to others."

As of this moment we don't know if I have any more of these defects in me. Testing for that, and the genetic disorder, remains to be done. There are treatment options for this; options which the doctors refer to as non-invasive.* On the plus side, the treatment has a very good success rate and a comparatively low** complication rate. On the minus side, the complications of treatment include heart attack and stroke at non-trivial levels. So, either way, I'm taking a gamble with my life and/or highly useful brain tissue.

Is this my way of fishing for sympathy? Hell no. This isn't the first time my own body has attempted to kill me and I expect it won't be the last. Life is a gamble and there's little use crying about the odds we get. These are my odds and I'll play the game as best I'm able. Besides, my Sainted Fiancee is doing wonderfully in the support department. Mostly this is me saying that, for a while at least, I'm probably going to be unusually cranky and inconsistent with my blogging.

I just thought you'd want to know why.


* I have long since learned to fear this sort of description. Unless I'm mistaken, a colonoscopy is considered "minimally invasive." Allow me to tell you that having a camera shoved up your ass is not "minimally invasive." Similarly, a thoracic surgeon told me this morning that it would be a non-invasive procedure if she opened up my chest and cut the deformation out along with a section of lung. That is not, in my considered opinion, the slightest bit "non-invasive."

** In comparison to the likelihood of suffering serious complications from the disorder without treatment. The raw probability of serious complications from the treatment is, frankly, enough to be of concern to most reasonable people.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am deeply disappointed that this post did not mention Mathieu Deflem.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 1:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Bozzo said...

Wow. I'd have to say that the treatability of the condition makes this somewhat better news than I might have thought (assuming you have health insurance, of course, which will presumably make future Dreklings poster children for universal health care) -- and I'd expect many of us reading this knew people who got their diagnosis of similar conditions by virtue of sudden death.

But, yeah, surgeons have weird concepts of what's invasive. Presumably anything short of disassembling your ribcage is non-.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 2:18:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Bozzo said...

BTW, if there is an intelligent designer, may I suggest a product liability lawsuit? Just thought I'd interject a ruder note.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 2:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Egad, man. That's a lot to deal with, for both you and your SF.

Glad that you put it out there so you won't have to go through this in silence. By all means, call on me if I can help.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

My favorite surgeries are those labelled "exploratory" i.e., "we don't have any idea what's wrong so we'll just open you up and dig around a bit with our fingers and possibly some sharp metal objects. That is, if you don't mind."

It's wholly inadequate, but I wish you the best of luck and/or medical care.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 5:04:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Anonymous: I'm not sure why you wanted Deflem as, to the best of my knowledge, he is not a cause of cardiovascular disease. I suppose you might say that he's caused me pain, but that's a different story.

Tom: You're absolutely right. I'm honestly not mad or upset that I have this as, frankly, I'm just happier to find out about it sooner rather than later. It's still a little freaky, though. As for the intelligent designer: I might consider it, but he's notoriously hard to track down...

Jeff: I appreciate the offer. As I said, I'm doing okay so, aside from occasional online whining, I don't know that I'll ask y'all to put up with anything.

Kim: Thanks for the well-wishing. My chances are very good, but that feels different from "sure thing." Love the exploratory surgery point, though. Haven't had that pleasure yet, and not eager to try.

Seriously: thanks for the support, everyone. Hopefully I'll get back to my usual curmudgeoney self pretty soon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 7:08:00 PM  
Blogger tina said...

Drek,

I'm a bit dumbfounded, but let me just say that I'm sending good thoughts your way.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 7:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Red-faced Warbler said...

My theory is that Drek is actually the first real X-man. He is mutating at this very moment. I fully expect him to soon be able to shoot blood out of his eyes. In this way, he will finally, grandly, triumphantly demonstrate the reality of evolution.

Go Circulor!

Though I am sadly not telepath, my thoughts are with you, man.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous bookmobile said...

Although SF briefed me earlier, she didn't completely explain the extent of what was going on. I hope you can put this behind you soon, man, and get on to a peaceful and fulfilled life. I have family in healthcare if you need more info about this.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Volscho said...

I am sorry to hear about your affliction, but you will pull through this.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 5:50:00 AM  
Anonymous former officemate said...

You're too strong for this to get you down. Hope it all works out.

Can you still eat nachos?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger sep said...

oh Drek, although not in the same boat (I prefer to think of our boats floating within sight of one another, sort of like all the lifeboats in the movie Titanic), I'm just wondering wtf we did to make our bodies hate us so. Mine has little chance of fatality, just a lifetime of pain, so I can't say I feel what you're going through at the moment, but I've got a glimpse my friend. curmudgeonly behavior is very impaired by morphine, just so you know... :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 12:45:00 PM  
Anonymous alienacean said...

yikes dude.
i'll go ahead and circumvent your presumed atheism by sending you non-denominational, even secular, good energy. even my mom said she will send you "white light," and we'll keep you in our thoughts.

Thursday, October 05, 2006 8:04:00 AM  

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