Life Throws Curve Balls

A few days ago, I wrote this on my Facebook status:

Hey Life… You’ve thrown so much pain, heartache, challenges and curveballs my way for as long as I can remember and each time I have survived and then some. So today – I say “BRING IT ON!” You ain’t got nothin on me.

Why? Because life has really thrown a serious curve ball into my field this past month. Go grab some coffee, tea or hot cocoa and a comfy seat because this is going to be a long story.

Last month, a serious issue happened with an extremely good friend of mine – you could call him my best of all friends … we’ve known each other our whole lives. During Labor Day weekend, he started having severe pain and was peeing out blood. I don’t mean a drip and drop. I mean a ton of blood … like he was getting a period ton of blood. Now, my friend – we’ll call him Alan because he’s a very private person – he was in so much pain he couldn’t even sleep, but I didn’t know until the day after Labor about all this. Having known him my entire life, I know he’s a highly pain tolerant person. Heck, he’s never complained about anything in his life no matter how upset or sick he was. For him to call me to tell me he was in pain … yeah … that’s a lot of pain. He didn’t want to go to the ER, but his manager and I finally convinced him to go the day after Labor Day.

You’re probably wondering “why the heck didn’t he go???” Well, it’s quite simple really. Alan has been so used to not having insurance his entire life he’s been conditioned to live just deal with it. And secondly, he didn’t want to miss work. Yep, he’s really that dedicated … to EVERYTHING he does in life and for those who surround him. If it were up to Professor Dumbledore, Alan would earn a ton of points daily for amazing moral fiber.

The hospital did scans and found nothing. They also did the usual UTI exams and found nothing. They referred him to a urologist. The urologist did his usual stuff and found nothing unusual so they told Alan he needed a special exam called a bladder scope. Basically, they have to stick a tube up the urethra through the opening at the end of the penis. They did this with my lil man when he was only six months old to check for a UTI and he remembers it til this day three years later, so I can tell you with utmost certainty that it’s a painful procedure. Luckily for Alan, they were putting him out with anesthesia to do this procedure. The urologist said since the CT scans and the ultrasounds were clear, they needed to do this procedure to “manually” look at the inside of the bladder for an infections or issues. Here’s the kicker – they gave him an appointment for this procedure for four weeks later. Yeah.. he was bleeding and in excruciating pain and they couldn’t give him an earlier appointment because they “only do two a week”. Totally ridiculous! I was pretty upset, but Alan said he would call twice a week to see if they had something open. And yes, he did call them every week.

They gave him percoset to deal with the pain. The problem is instead of helping him sleep, it prevented it. AND you can’t even take percoset during the day! I know because I was given percoset before and they tell you not to take it until nighttime if you’re working/driving. HELLO!? Alan was driving to and from work daily during those four weeks. So aside from not sleeping and peeing out a ton of blood with frequent urination, he couldn’t take the percoset to manage his pain during the day! And by the way, he was in so much pain, he couldn’t even sit for longer than five minutes at a time. He was exhausted. I could tell just by hearing his voice on the phone. And when I saw him, he looked utterly exhausted. Like he was 60 years old.

Three days before his scheduled exam, the first week of October, Alan called me. He told me he was thinking about going to the doctor because he did not feel well. My goodness – he didn’t feel well. That was a complete understatement. I asked him what was going on. He actually told me, he was in a lot of pain and didn’t think he could go another day. Yeah – that’s a huge admission from him. I said I would pick him up and head there with him. He said he would call me back since I was at my clients office. That was noon. He called me back at 330pm that day saying he made it to the urologists office and had been waiting to see him for over an hour. He sounded like he was going to pass out.  Alan said he would call me back as soon as the urologist saw him. An hour after that call, he called me again to tell me he was told by the urologist to walk across the street to the hospital – they were going to do the procedure that day. The kicker here is that the urologist asked Alan why he waited four weeks after he last saw him to schedule the procedure. Are you kidding me???? Alan told him, “you tell me. I’ve been calling for four weeks asking your staff for an earlier appointment and they just kept telling me they couldn’t do any earlier.” Again, ARE YOU F-ing KIDDING ME! A total disconnect with his staff I think.

I went straight to the ER at the hospital to stay with him while he waited that was at 415pm. I didn’t arrived at the hospital close to 5pm because of traffic. In fact, it took me so long, Alan actually called me to ask if I was ok. Like I said, moral fiber this guy.

The urologist must have felt really guilty about the scheduling mix up because within an hour, we were spoken to by several residents of his team and they sent Alan up for some ultrasounds. Right after the ultrasounds, another resident came to get Alan and said he was going straight to the OR for the procedure. That was about 7pm. Around that time, Alan’s wife, “Becky” made it to the ER and we waited together in the waiting room. It was only supposed to take 30 minutes. An hour later, we were still waiting. I thought to myself, that did not bode well.

While we sat in the waiting room, Becky and I chatted the entire time. Talking about this and other things to pass the time. We came onto the topic of Alan’s visit with his primary physician. Apparently, the primary physician had seen Alan about the pain before he was referred to the urologist. Basically, she told Alan she was 100% positive it was JUST a kidney stone and that he would eventually pee in out. What?

The urologist finally came out to speak with us. We went to the “quiet” private doctor consultation room with him. He said the procedure went ok and that Alan should be ok now. No bacteria, but… they found a tumor. I was floored. A tumor? You mean like cancer? Doc said he was surprised to see the tumor when they went in because didn’t see it in any of the CT scans or ultrasounds so it was pretty small and given Alan’s age it wasn’t expected. And he said as far as he was concerned it was “contained”. He said they scrapped the tumor out and the bladder lining. From what he could see, it hadn’t spread past the inner lining. He said they sent the tumor for pathology testing, but that it looked like a low stage, low grade cell. Ok … so we wouldn’t know for a couple days. I asked him about the pain and he said, hopefully the tumor was causing the pain and that pain would be gone, but he also said he couldn’t associate the intensity of Alan’s pain to that small tumor. Which meant, there could be an underlying issue, but we wouldn’t know until the bladder heals. He also told us Alan would need to do follow ups with him every three months and the same procedure to ensure the bladder was still clean of any tumors. And he was planning to send Alan to a neurologist to see if the pain is being caused by a nerve issue. After that, Doc said Alan was resting and waiting for a room and someone would get us once recovery was ready for him.

We waited for a while … I finally asked someone about Alan. They told us to wait in the hallway because they finally got a room and we were heading up. So, up we went to the recovery room. He was pretty knocked out. We let him rest, but wanted to wake him up to eat because he hadn’t eaten since the the evening before because he was anticipating they would do the procedure that day and he know they couldn’t do it if he ate. But, he had so many sleepless nights up until that day, we really didn’t want to disturb him.

They kept Alan overnight and released him the next day. The Doc and every said the hospital wouldn’t let them keep him another day. So, off we went out of the hospital with a catheter strapped to him and a larger bag for home use. He was cleared from the hospital, but couldn’t head back to work until the catheter was out, which they said should be Friday or Monday. In the mean time, they gave him more meds, Alan requested non-narcotic, and told him he would continue to see a little blood until the bladder healed.

I called Becky daily asking about Alan’s pain level each day and the color of his pee. I swear, if we weren’t friends who had grown up together our entire lives, people would think it’d be a strange question to ask a person even in general. Becky said he was feeling a little better especially since he was catching up on his sleep and the meds were making his pain tolerable. So, pain was still there just not as intense. Alan went for his follow up on Friday and Doc gave more news … the pathology report came back. Tumor had cancer cells and it was actually pretty high grade. We were floored again. But, he assured us, again, it was contained and not spread. They removed the catheter, but said he had to take another week off work and that we wouldn’t really know whether the pain is from the surgery for another few weeks.

So, the next week, he stayed home. He was sleeping better than before since the pain was manageable, but there was still some blood in his urine. Alan went back to work this past Monday. By Tuesday, he looked tired to me. I asked him if he was ok. He said he was still experiencing pain and he was starting to see a little more blood and some scabs. As it turns out, he took a photo of one of the scabs and showed it to a colleague who’s husband went through the same issue. She said, no… that was not normal at all. Those were very big scabs and a more blood than her husband had after his surgery. We called the doctor. Doctor said to either go to the ER to see him that night, but it was busy in the ER so he also suggested drinking a lot of water to try flushing out the blood and see him in the morning. That was early evening… may be … 630pm or so because I was home eating dinner. I told Alan to call me if he and Becky decided to go to the ER later that night no matter what time. A couple hours later, I got the call, he was going in and he would keep me posted. Around midnight, Alan’s mom sent me a text saying he was still in the ER and they were staying there overnight until they had a room available to do the surgery again. Doc said Alan was bleeding more than they were expecting and they needed to go into the bladder again to cortorize it to help the bladder heal and prevent the bleeding.

I had work the next day and since Becky and Alan’s mom were with him I stayed with my client for the day while they sent me text message updates. By the noon, he was still in the ER waiting for surgery. By 5pm he was still waiting. He finally went into the OR around dinner time. I went to the hospital around 8pm. They finally found a recovery room for Alan so we went to the room to wait for him. He arrived around 9/930pm. He looked tired and was feeling nauseous. I told him, of course, he hadn’t eaten since 2am that morning and it was almost 10pm.

Becky bought Alan some food from Boston Market. He felt really nauseous, but managed to eat some food and keep it down. In our conversations Wednesday night, they told me the hospital had no records of the surgery from two weeks ago. Records of his meds and vitals yes, but no record of the surgery. Hmm… ok. I took that thought home with me around 1130pm.

Like the first surgery, the Doc said he had to release Alan after one night stay because of insurance. The good news, urine was starting to have less blood. We’re told we won’t really know though until the bladder is fully healed. In the meantime, more pain meds if there’s still pain, rest the weekend with another catheter. Follow up next week.

Every day, I pray this pain will go away permanently and that it was really just the tumor causing it. We’re really hoping for the best, but we’re not naive either. This pain that the doctors can’t seem to figure out, it could still have a different underlying issue. Wish us luck and send us virtual positive thoughts. My friend Alan and his family need it and appreciate it.

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