Posted by: Kate | July 3, 2010


It started as a twinge.  Just a little spot of discomfort, not even painful: just a heightened awareness, really, a cluster of nerve cells firing off a little more frequently than its friends and neighbors.

I noted it, gave it a few seconds’ thought, and went about my day.  I was preparing for a weekend in New York, for my baby’s baptism, and a lot of people’s plans were interwoven with ours.  Real pain, real illness, in myself or any of  us, would have canceled those plans without a moment’s guilt, but this was nothing near that level.  Just a twinge.

Through the weekend, that twinge blossomed and grew into something more aptly described as “discomfort.”  Still something I could ignore for long stretches, and could function through when I couldn’t ignore it, but it had decidedly upgraded itself.  It was strong enough that I began crafting little contingency plans: “If it gets bigger, or turns red, or just hurts more by tomorrow, I’ll go to the walk-in clinic.” “If it gets markedly more painful, I’ll go to the ER.”  But it never quite made it there, just kept twinging its way through the weekend.  The drive home was somewhat less than pleasant, but it was bearable.

By Wednesday, I gave in and called my OB-GYN.  I’d had a similar sort of uncomfortable, twinge-y sort of area back when I met her in May, a new-patient/post-partum/surgical-follow-up visit accompanied by all of the typical head-shaking and shocked disbelief that people typically show upon hearing the story for the first time.  I showed her this area, extending down as low as my girly bits and up along the pelvis toward my right hip, that was alternately numb and mildly painful, with a clearly delineated area of hardness and rigidity, as though there was an overfull balloon in my abdomen.  She explained that it was fluid and inflammation remaining as a result of 13-some surgeries, and it should soften up and fade away on its own over the next few weeks.  I should call her if it got worse, but otherwise should do my best to ignore it while it healed.

Well, it had improved, just as she had predicted, and so I continued to ignore it as long as possible.  But there reached a point when it was clear: this has definitely gotten worse, with a return to that under-the-skin hardness and pain that is fairly hiss-through-your-teeth sharp at moments, despite the presence of fairly strong pain medication already hanging out in my body, doing its thing for the spondylitis.  The medication was working pretty well for the back issues, but for this new imposter… not so much.

I called on Wednesday afternoon, and she asked me to come in Thursday morning.  “A quick little pelvic exam couldn’t hurt,” she said.

Turns out, she lied.  A quick little pelvic exam could hurt, a whole lot, when she found just the right (wrong?) spots to poke.  And then, instead of gently brushing off my concerns as being those of a mild hypochondriac, losing my mind at the slightest little symptom because I’ve recently learned just how intense those slight little symptoms can become, she told me that she would consult with my surgeon at Mass General, and then we’d go from there.  It could be nothing, but she also started using words like “lymphocele” and “osteomyelitis,” and I didn’t much like the sound of those possibilities.  Really, it could be nothing, she assured me, but then again … well, she just wanted to talk to the other doctor and she would get back to me on what we would do next.

So I headed home, dealt with this and that, and generally did quite an admirable job of not obsessing over the wait or the potential ramifications of my little twinge.  It’s true, it was in the same area as the big nasty twinge that started the whole ordeal in the first place, but it was nowhere near as debilitating as that one.  I kept myself distracted, and didn’t Google a single thing between the appointment and her phone call, a few hours later.

Which, incidentally, does make me nervous, when a doctor calls me directly.  A sad commentary on our health care system, when the idea of someone with an M.D. bothering to call, themselves, instead of pawning such a menial task as communication off onto a nurse, is a surprise, but there it is.  So the sound of Dr. V’s voice on the phone awakened some of the butterflies in my stomach.  She didn’t like the symptoms I was displaying, and she wanted me to have more testing; she just hadn’t been quite certain what tests, exactly, to order, and that’s why she had wanted to consult with my surgeon, and with the oncologist.  But now she knew that —

Wait, what?  Oncologist?  We needed to start consulting with oncologists now?  Now those butterflies woke their friends, and they started pacing around with baseball bats.

Anyway, Dr. V now knew that she wanted me to have bloodwork and a CT scan done.  I agreed, no problem.  I figured, tomorrow or so for the bloodwork, and maybe next week sometime for the CT, or maybe I would just wait to have blood drawn until I went in to Radiology, instead of making two trips all the way up to Beverly, since —

No.  Bloodwork was to happen now, this afternoon, Thursday, and Central Scheduling would call me to set up the scan.  Which they did within ten minutes: I had an appointment already assigned to me, 2:30 tomorrow afternoon, up in Gloucester because the soonest available appointment in Beverly was on Tuesday.  Really?  It can’t wait until Tuesday?  That’s only four —

No.  Tomorrow.  Please.

Right.  So, this afternoon, I drove up to Gloucester for the CT scan.  And, it turns out, I got the bloodwork done there, too, because of a snafu with paperwork at the lab in Beverly yesterday.  Fine, great, no problem.  The radiology technician tried six times to get an IV going, for a contrast CT, and was unsuccessful six times.  Good times, that, particularly because she had that hard-edged, short-tempered sort of personality that makes it impossible not to look at her and think, “Bitch.”  The butterflies didn’t like her, either.

I went out to the waiting room, following the customary instructions of, “Just hang on a moment while we make sure the images came out OK.”  I used the time to get blood drawn, and in the 20-some minutes that had elapsed, a radiologist had reviewed my films, made his evaluation and written out a full report; and Dr. V was waiting on hold, wanting to speak with me about the results.  Somehow those two details, the urgency thereof, were not comforting to me.

Insert various medical details and possibilities here.  What it boils down to is, I have a mass in my abdomen.  They have been extremely careful not to use certain scary words, especially the big C, and insist on calling it a “mass” or an “abscess,” never a tumor.  This might be comforting if she was a bit less intense about the need for me to follow up with the surgeon at MGH very soon – “In fact, I’ve called her myself already, and she has sent an email to her nurse, so you should get a call from her soon to schedule your procedure.  If you don’t hear from her by mid-morning on Monday, please call.”  This was at 4:30 on Friday afternoon, before a holiday weekend… mid-morning on Monday is only a few hours away, business-wise.  Her words also might have been more comforting if she was interested in treating this mass with antibiotics, at least prophylactically, pending the results of the bloodwork.  “No, that wouldn’t make much difference.”  Which gave those butterflies permission to drop their measly little baseball bats and rev up their chainsaws and flamethrowers.

So.  I’m home for the weekend, but have been instructed to go to the ER – and not just any ER, but the one at MGH, down in Boston – at the slightest fever, cold symptoms, or increase in pain.  Not on bed rest, but avoid any sort of sharp blow to the abdomen; “It might be a semi-solid sort of abscess, in which case it wouldn’t rupture, but we can’t really tell based on the films, so just in case…” Some people, with some presentations and medical histories, could attempt treatment with ultrasound-guided needle aspiration, but since they’re not really sure of the nature of the wee (1.8 cm wide x 5.6 cm long) beast, and this and that and the other thing, I’m going to require full surgery.

But, in the meantime, “Enjoy your weekend!”

Sure, right.  I’ll get right on that.  Are butterflies allowed to operate fireworks in Massachusetts?


  1. Holy fucking shit woman! The prayers are going full blast over here.

  2. Oh, Kate…

    Sending you FB message with my number, text any time w/questions, I’m around.

    Hugs from SoCal.

  3. Kate, soooo sorry to hear all this! I wish you were here so I could ply you with brownies all weekend. Prayers, vibes and hugs – in huge quantities!

  4. I am so sorry to read about this. I had been so hoping you and your family would get much deserved peace, health and tranquility. I hope that the doctors will be able to quickly and painlessly solve this issue soon.

  5. Yeah, happy 4th of July weekend, eh?

    You know, I bet it’s crossed your mind that if they’d paid this much attention to you…oh, way back when…that none of this would’ve happened.

    Still…most masses turn out to be just that…masses. Fluid-filled pockets of gook or summat. The reason they can’t say, “No, it’s not cancer…” because no one could say that ever, and if they did, and it turned out to be, well…you could sue them right down to the short and curlies, couldn’t you.

    But yeah, another *&@$ing surgery? Great. I think you should have a frequent flier card for the OR with a little smiley face stamp every time you go under the knife…12th is free…at least get a foot-long sub and a free drink.

    I’m really sorry this is happening yet again. When I was in the thick of it two years ago, people kept saying, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” and I’d think, “God’s not involved here, is He…must be on holiday.”

    *careful, large, busty hugs and murmurings in English and German*

  6. Hey Hon. I know I’ve been a bit silent for a while. This is a piece of crappy crummy no good news I must say.

    I’m thinking of you and yours. *hug*

  7. ((hugs)) You’ve been through too much as it is.

  8. I am so, so sorry about this. I’m keeping you in my thoughts.

  9. Oh Kate. I’m calling bullshit on this one. I think you’ve had enough already! Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery. I’ll be thinking of you.

  10. This is what hell IS. And the nightmare that goes on and on.

    I have no words, but send you strength to hold on to Love.

  11. Yikes! Thinking good thoughts for you.

  12. So sorry for another surgery. Sending good thoughts and prayers for speedy recovery and all good news!

  13. There is just no way that it’s anything other than benign. No way. You’ve jst awoken them to the possibilities that shit does indeed happen, so they’re being cautious. Hope you get good news soon.

  14. Kate, you can have all my vibes. I don’t need ’em any more. I’ve decided that I’m not having any more surgeries. The medicos and I are parting ways.

    I really, really hope this is a quick and painless-as-possible fix for you and that your life can get back on track.

  15. God bless you Kate! You are in my thoughts and prayers. I wish you lots of peace and strength.

  16. ((((hugs))))

    I cannot believe the trials you’ve had to endure for the past 3 months…

    I’m thinking of and praying for you.

    Love you.

  17. I’m sending you a great big hug and know that you are in my thoughts & prayers!

  18. I can’t if I’ve ever commented before. I just can’t believe all you’ve gone through – and now this. I just wanted to say that I’m a total stranger who is thinking about you and wishing you well (and who was drawn to your blog b/c I had a not great (though nowhere near as bad as you!) experience delivering at Salem Hospital and I like to knit).
    Thinking of you…

  19. Sending hugs and prayers your way. I know you’ll keep us updated. 🙂 Take it easy this weekend.

  20. Sending prayers from a practical-stranger whose heart is aching in sympathy and sorrow for you!

  21. Oh, Kate, I’m so sorry.

  22. Well here you go again. Suck city. WTF? Haven’t you been through enough? Land almighty. Well I will resume my prayers for you. Keep strong. This is just a little blip.

  23. Kate, Sending your lots of positive vibes & hugs for your surgery. I am so sorry you are going to have yet another frick, fracking surgery! You and your family are in my prayers.

  24. Good grief, Kate. Seriously? SERIOUSLY??? Someone needs to sit down and give your immune system a stern talking-to because this is just not cool. Not even a little.

    Hang in there. I’ll be thinking of you.

  25. Have you considered an exorcism? I mean really, this is just not acceptable. I’ll be thinking about you. Keep us posted.

  26. Thinking of you, dear one.

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