Three months gone by, and not much Zope work done. Still, it has been an exciting time. I wasn't sure I wanted to write about it in a public forum like this, but perhaps my experience will be useful to someone.
Not long after my last diary entry, I went to a conference in Las Vegas. I had never been there before, and had a fantastic time, especially at the GameSpot arcade. Feeding money into slot machines is the most expensive way I've ever been bored, but blackjack was fun, mostly because of entertaining dealers. I started noticing a weird visual effect when I was outside -- anything white and sunlit was a featureless glowing blob. It was like someone cranked up the contrast and brightness on the world.
The week after I got back, I had a checkup to keep tabs on my cholesterol and blood sugar (diabetes in the family). I asked about the symptoms that started in Vegas, which also included a sore throat and tinnitus. He decided that it was probably a cold or allergy, which was probably correct apart from the visual effects.
At this same time, my wife found a house in town that would be a much better fit for us and our four kids. Over the next two months, we went through the annoying and expensive process of preparing for closing. During this period, the visual effect became more pronounced, to the point where it was happenning all of the time, and where my vision would temporarily white out almost completely if I walked a hundred yards. I also started getting brief headaches and dizziness when I stood up.
We closed at the end of October, and started moving in the first weekend of November. At this point we realized that there was something seriously wrong with me. As long as I kept my level of exertion low, I had no problem. I spent six hours stripping wallpaper without difficulty, but carrying a box upstairs made me sit and gasp for breath for five minutes. Any time I did anything that raised my pulse rate, even briskly walking a short distance, I was immediately exhausted.
First thing that Monday morning, I got a walk-in appointment at my HMO. The doctor asked me the questions you would expect -- smoke? No. drink? Rarely. exercise? Not much. family history? Diabetes, nothing else. pain in chest or arm? Nope. darkened stool? No.
He gave me an EKG, which showed nothing, and a blood count, which showed that I was dangerously anemic. The figure that seemed to impress everyone was my hemoglobin level, which is supposed to be between 14.0 and 16.0. Mine was 3.9, or about a quarter tank. Apparently one isn't expected to be walking and talking with hemoglobin that low, but since I must have been leaking blood very slowly over a long period, my body adapted somewhat.
The doc immediately had me drive to our HMO's hospital, which is half an hour South in Temple, TX. I spent almost four very boring days there getting transfused with four units of blood and a big bag o' iron dextrose (so my body could finish topping off the blood supply itself). My hands turned pink again -- I hadn't noticed until the doctor pointed it out, but my palms were pale yellow and looked really weird next to anyone else's hands.
The most likely cause of a leak is an intestinal polyp or a stomach ulcer, so the highlight of my stay was getting scoped from both ends. Turns out there was a "mass" at the top of my large intestine that I have a rather gruesome picture of. Because of its location, and because it was bleeding so slowly, I never had the tell-tale darkening of my poop. They scheduled a right hemicolectomy for me the following Thursday to remove my *ahem* colon cancer. Until that was done, I didn't know whether it had a chance to escape the colon or not.
The part of this process that I most dreaded, stupidly enough, was Wednesday afternoon, when I had to drink a whole gallon of "GoLytely" 8oz at a time to make my digestive system sparkly clean and empty. This turned out not to be as bad as I anticipated, but was still quite nasty. The next day, back to the hospital I went.
The story has a happy ending -- my surgery went swimmingly, I only had to spend four uncomfortable days recovering before I was able to go home, and the 13 lymph nodes they took from around the tumor site all tested negative. My cancer was stage 1 (i.e. "caught early"), so I'm clean. I'll be going in for checkups every three months, and get scoped again in a year (and every few years from now on), but that's all.
To sum up: I'm 34, well below screening age, and have no risk factors whatsoever (other than insufficient exercise), and even took off 50 pounds a year ago, so I'm not overweight. If you're demographically like me, getting scoped would probably be an expensive waste of your time. There is one test that would have raised a warning flag, though, and might be worthwhile to try. For $10 you can get a fecal occult blood test kit that works by just dropping a piece of paper in the toilet to see if it changes color. I haven't tried it, but if you're interested, see http://www.ezdetect.com/
Oh, we're all settled into our new house, and loving it -- and I didn't have to do any of the heavy lifting ;-)