Monday, April 13, 2009

Waiting for a Diagnosis

Well, with tuberculosis in the news because of an infected doctor making the rounds at several local hospitals, I decided I might as well join the fun.

I think I have TB.

We'll know more tomorrow after we get the results from my chest X-ray.

All's I know is, I have all the symptoms except the ones I really wouldn't mind: loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss. Those would be excellent, really. The only time in my life when I had appetite loss was when I was preggers with M. Peevie, God bless her. I was so happy to be un-hungry, and the doc confidently (if insultingly) reassured me that she'd easily live off the fat of the land, so to speak.

But back to the topic at hand: my imminent death from tuberculosis. The symptoms I could do without are non-productive cough, chest pain, and a fever that keeps coming back at night, with chills and night sweats. It's hard to catch my breath sometimes, especially after a huge coughing fit.

Wait, where are you going? Stop backing away! You do not need to worry about infection, as TB is not typically spread through blog contact.

The good news from Dr. Zippy today is that my blood pressure was back down to normal and my weight was down by about three pounds. (It wasn't unexplained weight loss, however, as I spent the last month trying not to drink much alcohol, limiting my caffeine, and reducing the number of times I ate potato chips for breakfast.) I also improved my spirometer score, pushing the little red marker up to about 350, and once to almost 400. Not perfect, but definitely an improvement over "Are you even alive?"

But the TB-type disease is making me tired and a teeny bit cranky. Plus, I stupidly googled "TB treatment" and learned that treatment is complicated and lengthy. Four simultaneous antibiotics, one of them for 6-9 months; blood and sputum tests; no alcohol for the duration; and no Tylenol for the duration. As a person who hates and fears pain, takes Tylenol at the first twinge of a headache or any other kind of ache, and is allergic to all pain relievers except acetominophen, this might be the worst aspect of treatment.

If I actually do have TB, which, of course, is highly unlikely, except I really do love speculation about worst case scenarios, which is why we're having this conversation, I will be all achy, cranky and needing an adult beverage for six to nine months. Look out, world.

And if it's not TB, then what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on inside my chest? The docs agree it's not pneumonia--I guess they can hear pneumonia through the stethoscope. Is it just a particularly long-lasting strain of bronchitis? Is is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)--which, BTW, is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.?

Cancer? Brain tumor? Catastrophic lung failure, require double lung transplant?

Stay tuned.

4 comments:

Meg said...

Oh dear! Yes, do keep us posted.

And I hope it's just a bad case of bronchitis that will resolve itself soon.

Julia said...

Hunh - surprised it's not pneumonia.

It's a dangerous, dangerous thing looking up medical conditions on the internet. Before we could all diagnose ourselves, my mom had a Merck's Manual - she diagnosed me with shingles when I was in college - boy did that freak out my roommate. Fortunately it was just an allergic reaction to my new pyjamas.

Hope it isn't really TB - didn't they have sanitoriums for that back in the old days? Maybe you'll get a spa visit out of it.

E. Peevie said...

Meg--thanks. Check back this afternoon, which is when I should have X-ray results.

And Julia--I do not share your fear of Internet medical research. There are trusted websites out there, like Mayoclinic.com and WebMD, where you can get good info.

Not that online info should substitute for seeing a real doc. What I find is that doing research online helps me ask more and better questions when I do see the doc.

And yeah, they used to send TB patients to recover in sanitoriums by the sea. A spa visit sounds most excellent--but unfortunately, that is not standard treatment protocol anymore.

Dang.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but just not generous enough to offer a transplant of one of my lungs. Unless I'm accidentally brain dead in the next few weeks, which I hope does not happen. I think I signed the back of my driver's license, but anyway, this can serve as legal notice that you would have first dibs, should they become available.

Bucky,
Sacrificially, but not really.