Monday, November 06, 2006

Health update

My serum calcium level has spiked, a blood test last month revealed. A follow-up test Friday offered the minor consolation that it hasn't increased further. On the other hand, it hasn't decreased.
This rise in calcium levels is a primary symptom of my parathyroid cancer, something I've been battling the past five years. Suffice it to say that abnormally high calcium levels can wreak havoc on the body. The psychological effect of dealing with a chronic situation like this ain't no day at the beach, either.

I haven't posted a health update in a long while mainly because things seem to be trending inexorably in one direction. It's awfully redundant. I would rather post photographs and other odds and ends for the entertainment (and possible enjoyment) of those who read this blog.

My doctors are advising me to start taking an intravenous drug to lower my serum calcium. I'm resistant to that idea right now because this measure has a last-ditch connotation in my mind for a couple of reasons. Besides, I hate needles. And I've been poked and prodded these past several years for just about all I can stand.

The doctors are also suggesting I undergo a special type of scan that detects abnormal endocrine activity. I've had these scans about every six months since 2001, and the results are always the same. Either they reveal nothing or, in some more recent cases, they reveal a tiny tumor that the doctors and surgeons know they can't totally remove. I've already been told by one of the nation's leading experts in the surgical treatment of this illness that surgery would be futile, a temporary fix at best. At least he was straightforward.

Most doctors and surgeons hate to be left powerless in the face of a tricky situation. So even if the measures they pursue are completely ineffective or provide only a stopgap, they feel that at least they're doing something. That's not egotistical, in the case of my doctors. That's compassion and empathy at work.
That's my take on things.

I've had people tell me my doctors are incompetent, uncaring assholes driven by the need to succeed.
I disagree.
To me, they're ordinary people given the task of achieving extraordinary results. And when you try to achieve extraordinary results in the face of Nature, whose power and fury and precision and tenacity we don't truly comprehend, what you wind up with isn't always pretty.

My doctors aren't at fault.
After all, who in their right mind would want the awesome responsibility of telling a fellow human being that their future prospects aren't bright, and that they may be dying?


paperfrog said...

Michael, you might recall that I suffered from the benign for of hyperparathyroidism.

I remember what the calcium spikes were like -- mood swings, sleep problems, confusion, muscle aches -- it sucked. So my thoughts, my very best ones, are with you.

Don't discount the therapy out-of-hand. I'm not a doctor and this isn't medical advice, but I remember being told of the consequences of long term high calcium serum. Maybe it would be better for your overall health to go with it now and set aside the "last ditch" stigma it carries with you.

Be tough. Please don't stop writing. I know I'm not the only person paying attention.


Michael said...

Hey Kit,

Your compassion and empathy are humbling, your advice wise, your insight deep.

Please know that your support means a lot.

As ever,

Jean said...

It sound to me as though you are sufficiently well informed and honest with yourself to trust your own inclinations, whilst not closing off to new information and useful advice.

If it would help to write more about how you feel - now or at any time - your regular readers have a wide-enough picture of who you are, I think - your beliefs, talents, humour, aesthetics - not to ever see you as only this.

Lots of love. Take good care of yourself.

Michael said...

Hello Jean,

Thanks so much for your thoughts. It is great to hear from you!

Yes, sometimes worrying about how others perceive me can lead to the most stifling form of self-censorship there is.
Anyway, one way or another we're all in the same shitstorm.

Matt Kohai said...

I've been of the opinion for a long time that medicine can be as much an art as a science. It is a difficult job, and not a perfect science by any means, since there are too many differences from person to person to expect everyone on planet Earth to react the same way to the same treatments.

Good luck, and by all means, feel free to tell us whatever's on your mind - be it ruminations on your health or observations of the city you're so darn fond of and the people therein. Or anything else, for that matter. Write about something because you want to, not because you think we'll love it or something - I'm sure we will, but people are more than welcome to change the channel, right? ;-)

Michael said...

Thanks, Matt.

Patry Francis said...

"One way or another, we're all in the same shitstorm."

Ain't that the truth.

I love your photos and your writing, and your pragmatic courage. Peace and strength and health to you, MIchael.

Michael said...

Thanks, Patry. ...

I appreciate your comments. Courage is my aspiration. I'm getting there, a step at a time.

YourFireAnt said...

I haven't had time to look at blogs in awhile, and today I wanted to revisit some of your very evocative images, and found this in amongst them. One of the points of pain that drives (and presses) you. Your work is so very good. It stays with me and occurs to me in the middle of the darnedest things.

I thank you. I hope with you.



Kim said...

Hi Michael,
It's been a long time since I've blogged, but I've been checking into your blog from time to time. As always, I enjoy your photos and your observations.
You are in my thoughts as you go through this. Sending you peace, strength, and love,

Michael said...

Hello FA,

Thank you very much, FA. My health situation often imbues everything with a sense of urgency -- and a feeling that maybe it isn't really happening. I'm very lucky in that so far it doesn't cause much physical pain and I'm able to carry on with my routine. Sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about.

Hello Kim,

Great to hear from you! It has been a long time. I'm glad you stopped by, thanks for your good wishes, and may I extend mine to you.

All the best,

Millicent Ozdaglar said...

Michael, it's Millicent fellow Parathyroid Cancer sufferer, I am sorry you are so afraid today. I am afraid for you too and that makes me fearful of my own situation. It sucks being calcium crazy, you know why you feel the way you feel, but you can't help it. I thought after surgery everything would change. I think it's back.

Michael said...

Hi Millicent,

Being frightened about this illness is perfectly understandable. There are times I'm scared shitless.
But I believe I said this in an e-mail I sent to you (or maybe it was a reply to a blog posting) when you first contacted me:

You've GOT to stop fixating on calcium levels if you don't want to paralyze yourself with fear.

This illness affects different people in different ways, though there are a basic set of core symptoms. So, I'm not sure I know exactly what you're going through.

That your surgery appears not to have the desired result is par for the course with this illness, at least in my own experience. I had major surgery in August 2005, and it appears I may have to have the same surgery at some point in the future. But that's me, and not necessarily you or anyone else.

I can tell you that I honestly, fervently believe that a more or less positive attitude has helped me deal with this illness and may even have helped mitigate some symptoms. Yes, when I get bad news about a blood test or scan I'm down in the dumps for a couple days, at least. But I struggle to pull myself out of it, and if it needs to take longer some times more than others, so be it. But hope springs eternal, and please work to cultivate it.

The game isn't over until you say it is. Please be aware that their are quite a few medical options that DON'T involve surgery. I know because I'm availing myself of them.

If you ever want to contact me by e-mail, just access my profile and click on the e-mail link. If you ever want to talk on the phone, send me an e-mail and I'll send you my number.