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February 2023 - the truth revealed


Sue BB

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As Peter Marshall said, “God will not permit any troubles to come upon us, unless he has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.” 

January’s weather was temperate, and the trip from Huron to Mandan was uneventful. It’s becoming a shorter drive every time I travel the same road to Jamestown, then down Highway 281 to Aberdeen, SD, and onward to Redfield, and then Huron, SD.

Of course, it’s way more fun with my granddaughter riding shotgun, but I hoped to make more trips down to see her new baby sister in February or March.

The doctor’s appointment made before I left Huron in January was scheduled for Monday, Feb. 6. I always enjoy visiting with my primary care physician. I’ve know her since my days as the editor of The Mandan News from 2001 to 2009. We agreed on not taking too many medications and more on a healthy lifestyle, so my visits were usually annual checkups with mammograms.

That changed in December of 2022. I have taken more antibiotics and been to see her more times in early 2023 than the last 12 years. The cough had worsened in January. It was time to dig a little deeper with a chest X-ray. I don’t know if I have ever had a chest X-ray. If I did, I didn’t recall. 

The doctor looked at the negatives and said the cloudy area appeared to be pneumonia. Another round of antibiotics. Later that day, the X-ray tech read more into that cloudy spot. In his words, "There was a mass-like density and mild collapse of the right upper lobe" of my right lung. He recommended a CT scan. Dr. Curl ordered it immediately and scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Feb. 14 came and went without flowers or chocolate. It didn’t matter. The first CT scan was the next day, and it was all I could think about. I had never had a CT scan before.

Thursday, I went to see my friend and “life coach.” The session was not any particular topic, just a check-in. Sometimes our conversations are so great I have to be escorted to the exit. However, this day, rather than scoot me out the door with a hasty goodbye, my confidant stood at the end of the hallway by the door leading to the concrete stairs.

Without warning, as I passed close enough, she hugged me warm and long. After releasing me, I looked at her and said, “we didn’t schedule?”

“I’m leaving town next week, but text me.”

“Is that acceptable?”

“Yes. Let me know what happened.”

What happened is less than 24 hours earlier I read a radiology report that I couldn’t fully understand. During my hour in the small basement office a nurse called and interrupted our conversation. It was important I took the call that I had been waiting for all day. Following up on the test results, the nurse scheduled another appointment for something called a PET scan the following Wednesday. These unfamiliar words were the topic for the rest of our time in the comfy office. With help from Google we learned PET stood for Positron Emission Tomography. 

According to www.healthline.com, “This scan is an imaging test that lets your doctor check for diseases in your body. The scan uses a special dye containing radioactive tracers. Certain organs and tissues absorb the tracer and help your doctor see how well your organs and tissues are working.”

What?

The repercussions of continued and more elaborate testing had not registered in my brain. For the next week, I couldn’t tell if my lack of breath stemmed from anxiety or the unknown "mass" in my lung. Five days seemed like a long time to find out what was going on inside my body. 

I didn't have a choice but to wait.

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Sue BB,

Well said and well written! Your Mandan News editorial expertise is showing.

In my struggle for life with this disease, I realized writing about my experience was a tonic. I kept a near-daily journal chronicling thoughts throughout my 3-year journey of failed treatment and mayhem.  I did this because, as a trained engineer, I was schooled to keep a detailed "design" notebook recording lessons learned. Engineers use this tool to look back at design problems encountered and solution sets explored. Our memories fail often, and what presents as a new problem is often a problem previously solved or an unimportant one. But my treatment journal revealed a brand new advantage: the ability to realize progress in a sea of uncertainty. 

Keep writing and stay the course!

Tom

 

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Oh Tom, at the time, all I could do in the middle of the night was write… it eased the pain and numbness I felt because I still cannot believe this is happening to me. I am so glad I found this site. Good information indeed, but I what I see is hope that I might too live more than a year. :) 

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