A pain in the ass

11Dec09

It really doesn’t help to find out about the family BRCA mutation news while dealing with a persistent 6-month old low back pain.  It came on quickly while sitting long days in the office.  I assumed it was bad posture, too much sitting, and not enough exercise.  It was a bit more specific than others because it only really hurts when I sit and it’s very low in my back (just above the tailbone).  The doctors I saw gave me standard treatments: exercises, physical therapy, muscle relaxtants and pain-killers.  Only real improvement I got was from avoiding sitting.  Lucky for me that I have working from home in the last few months, so I can lie down and change positions frequently.  But with all the sitting-avoidance and exercise, I really thought it would be gone by now.

I’ve looking up all sorts of literature on the symptoms.  Like most medical conditions, there is also some horrible disease that technically could match but is most often is extraordinarily “not likely.”  Before my mom’s diagnosis and BRCA testing, I was able to quickly and rationally dismiss those scenarios.  For eample, “if it was bone cancer it would hurt when you press it!”  “If it’s the rhemutoid arthrisis then your other joints would hurt!” “Ovarian cancer is just too rare!”

Summertime, I suddenly lost 5-10 pounds.  At first, I was happy because I figured I was getting in better shape.  After all, I was doing exercises for my back.  It should help right?  My girlfriend laughed at me, “How can you lose weight when you’re just laying on the floor stretching?”  It got to the point where I really wanted it to stop.  My old size 12 pants were falling off me, I bought a new pair  of size 8.  And even they seemed a little too large.  If that wasn’t enough, I later noticed I was even more gassy than usual.  But I kept telling myself I was just being hypersensitive.  My stomach has always been on the fritz especially with my lactose-intolerance.  But another I got another knot in my stomach when my girlfriend noticed my poor digestion had gotten even worse than before.  At that point, I made promises to myself that I would see the doctor as soon as my insurance comes through.  But the weight loss stopped and the gas got better.  So while I still planned on seeing the doctor, I rationalized that the symptoms were too vague and inconsistent to be worth dwelling on.

Then there was the last three weeks.  When I saw the genetic testing results of my mom.  The 87% chance of breast cancer didn’t faze me too much, I was just staring at the 27% chance of ovarian cancer.  What’s the chance that…?

So that is one reason why I have been obsessing over this mutation.  My mother seemed to pick up on my anxiety and said I didn’t have much to worry about at this age.  I didn’t dare tell her where all the anxiety was coming from.  She has her own health issues to deal with that are far more disturbing than extra gas.  But actually I feel like I haven’t really told anyone about the depth of these anxieties.  I keep holding back, waiting to see the doctor and get an authority to set me straight again.

So I met with the doctor this week.  I prepared all my forms for referral to genetic testing and had rehearsed my spiel over my back pain history.  I was planning to ask the doctor about screening for ovarian cancer right away.  But I was thrown off course.  When I told her I needed the genetic testing, I realized that she wasn’t very familiar with it.  As she was asking me questions about my back, she was already writing out a referral for physical therapy and X-rays.  Things happened so fast, I never even got my senses together to tell her that I may be at high risk for ovarian cancer and believe my back pain plus other symptoms warranted a screening for it.  I didn’t even mention the “other symptoms.”  They just seemed too vague and besides, they didn’t seem to be ongoing anymore.  Looking back, I feel a bit dumb now.  I’m such a stickler for evidence and logic that I easily dismiss these things that can’t be easily quantified or seen.

And now here I am tonight, still worrying about these things.  I keep feeling around my pelvic region looking for definitive evidence that there is nothing to worry about.  I want to convince myself that there is surely nothing to worry about if I can’t feel a large lump there (because if I did have ovarian cancer, wouldn’t the sympotom of back pain imply the tumor was quite large?).  Lack of evidence doesn’t prove much though.  Instead, all the poking just causes my pelvic area to hurt and just makes me worry more.  Now I have pelvic discomfort on my list vague symptoms.

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