When we originally came to Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo clinic in late July, my initial three appointments quickly grew to nine and even after that, I still had a couple more that I had to postpone in order to catch my scheduled flight home. And while my initial trip gave me a lot of answers regarding a myriad of health issues. It brought up new one’s that I, myself may not have been able to answer. Still, I knew I was getting the best care ever and the doctors and nurses I saw looked deeper than anyone else had ever done when it came to my medical history.Shortly after returning home to Seattle, a second, or follow up trip was scheduled and booked. With an understanding that my two new appointments could easily multiply and stretch out into a week, we booked our hotel for an entire week. Strangely enough, our first appointment with a neurology specialist took me aback by concluding that any and all issues I’ve been experiencing in the past years were caused by the radiation I received when I was twelve. The same treatment that was given to save my life has been the cause of just about every issue I’ve had since. Not the answer I was hoping for, but one I can’t say was very surprising. After a quick blood and urine test, I was off to my second appointment with a neurosurgeon who looked as if he just came from the cutting room. By then, I had already been diagnosed and endured one of the longsst doctor visis of my adult life. So, we were both kind of phoning it in.
Still, we had five full days to explore an area we have gotten to know and love in a very short time. Later that week, we left knowing the cause of my issues while having the best Fried Chicken we have ever enjoyed at The Post and the tastiest Deluxe Cheeseburger at Forager Brewery. While I’m not exactly looking forward to what will come my way as far as my symptoms go. I’m grateful to have some answers and ecstatic over not having to receipt my full name and date of birth every time I approach a front desk or get called in for my appointment. I’m also grateful for not having to go over my medical history again for at least a year. Maybe the next time they ask, I’ll say “You’re the fucking doctor. You got that shit right in front of you.” Until then.
After months of hard work trying to obtainn medical records and test results from hospitals in both New Jersey and Washington state. I was finally able to secure my appointments at the Mayo Clinic, book a hotel and flight to Rochester, Minnesota. It was a frustrating process that took months. A frustrating time where I often questioned whether or not I would be around long enough to to walk through the doors of the storied institution.
Due to the fact that my first appointment was at 7:30 am Tuesday morning. My wife and me flew in on Monday, which gave us an entire day to wander around and explore an area we had never been before.
Though I didn’t feel that going to the Mayo Clinic would help me find any new answers or a magical cure all for the progressing issues I’ve been experiencing. I arrived open minded, knowing that I would be seeing the very best doctors and getting the kind of concentrated care I had never before experienced. I’d also be giving my wife the peace of mind she more than deserves.
From my first appointment on Tuesday morning. I felt as if I was experiencing a level of care like I had never before seen. The answers of my questions were addressed and answered with a a great deal of detail and explanation. Before my first appointment ended, the initial three I had scheduled had morphed to six and by the time the days second one was over, I had learned more about my condition in a few hours than I had in the two years since being diagnosed.
As the week wore on the amount of appointments, test and waiting began to wear me down both physically and emotionally. After a blood and urine test, an MRI and a CAT scan the doctors all agreed that the calcification my my brain was creating my balance and speech issues, but questioned whether or not a I had FAHRS. Though not concluded, it seems as if the radiation for a brain tumor I had as twelve year old might be the culprit. Where I had felt so positive during my first couple of days there. the last two days there left me with a much better understanding of my condition but so many more questions than I arrived with.
What’s most bittersweet about all this is I will be returning for another round of appointments and tests in late September. Not to be negative but, I sometimes with that the original diagnosis and death sentence I received (a month to live.) when I was twelve, would have come through. I, nor my family and loved ones, would have to experience and suffer from all the bullshit that followed. And while I’d describe my trip to the Mayo Clinic as very positive. I wish I’d be returning home with a more detailed and defined outline of things.
For close to a year now, my doctors, therapists and my wife have urged me to open up about my health issues and the issues that accompany them. Knowing full well that trying to protect myself and loved ones from worrying about me and or thwarting their insistence on helping me, has only hurt me. Hasn’t helped in any way, form or matter. My attempts to hide symptoms and an overall fucked up long term outlook have only made me angrier and wasted much of the time I could have better invested elsewhere.
The hardest part by far has been trying to keep my parents at a safe distance. When I first arrived in Seattle. I had already been experiencing symptoms that my primary doctor of close to ten years had pretty much reduced my mounting issues as post brain tumor, post stroke relate issues. While numerous blood tests were ordered and performed over the years. Little more was ever suggested or done. It wasn’t until I went out on my own and booked an appointment with a nearby neurologist that my issues were properly addressed and tested, that I found out I had a meninigioma brain tumor. Not a threat to my life, but something else to worry about and keep track of.I was angry at my doctor for his lack of action and insight, but I also couldn’t help but blame myself for trusting him for so long.
Fast forward a few months, my symptoms worsened. I made connections with the right doctors and hoped that removing the new brain tumor would right the course. Further tests were including an MRI and CAT-Scan followed. The results were nothing I ever expected or be prepared for. I was told that alarming amounts of calcium had massed on my brain and I had a rare neurological syndrome/disease I had never heard of. One that had no cure and no known treatment. One that was progressively erodes your motor skills while wrecking havoc on your speech.
I was given a referrals to speech, a physical therapist and a social worker, My requests for a drano cocktail and a handgun were turned down and taken as a sign that I might be a suicide risk. (Note. New York humor and Washington State humor are very different.)
Since that October meeting. I found a great physical therapist just a few blocks from me. My social worker (One I really appreciated having.) moved back to her home town of Minnesota. I’m on my second walker, one which I need to get around with and one that keeps me from falling down and injuring myself. And while I’m being mentally prepared for a future in a wheel chair. I am doing everything in my power to remain active and positive. I’m boxing, lifting weights, going to the gym, writing and traveling as much as possible.
In the end, the hardest part has been opening up and struggling not to internalize my feelings or blame myself. I know what my friends and family went through during other life threatening episodes in my life. Because of that, I’ve tried to do everything in my power to shield and protect them from any pain, worry or complicate things any more than possible. I’m already feeling an immense pressure trying to keep my family at bay, while keeping them as informed and updated as possible. Opening up gives me the chance to breath again and say “I’m alright.” “Just give me the space and time I need to deal with things. I’m not writing this to worry anyone or look for sympathy. I won’t be starting any “Go fund me” bullshit. I’m just hoping for some acceptance and understanding. Below are some links that I thought would be helpful.
Web MD Brain Tumors
Virginia Mason Hospital
Renew Physical Therapy