Cystoscopy and medical clemency

Lifestyle

It’s funny…when I started this blog, it was supposed to be my mechanism of blowing off steam for my days doing dentistry, or a way to tell a tale about repairing something around the house for the first time. It was certainly not my intention to discuss urinating blood and getting a cystoscopy for the first time. Yeah, you heard me right, a cystoscopy – the procedure where the urologist shoves a little camera lens up the urethra to evaluate the bladder.

It is hard to say exactly what my favorite part of the procedure was. Perhaps it was when I was asked to wait – “naked from the waist down” – for the doctor to arrive. Or was it when not one, but two nurses (one teaching, one training) entered the room to place local anesthetic up ‘there’ – in preparation for the procedure. No, it was definitely the grand finale, when the doctor came in (about 30 minutes later) and inserted a tube up my penis. Ah, good times.

As I mentioned in my last post, I suddenly started to see blood in my urine several months back. After numerous visits to the urgent care and ER, multiple blood tests, and all the financial costs that come with those appointment (on a high-deductible insurance plan mind you); I am happy to say so far the problem seems to have resolved without incident. With a family history of prostate cancer, suffice it to say, I was relieved when my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels came back within normal limits.

The cystoscopy was just like, the cherry on top, so to speak. The hematuria thankfully has not returned in well over a month; and the urologist seemed to suggest what the ER doctor speculated – and that is, perhaps a small kidney stone may have came and went, and tore up some of the lining along the way. I have heard personal accounts, from friends and family members, of how unfathomably painful kidney stones can be and I just want to say for the record – I just feel so blessed to have been spared any cognizance of that whole ‘passage’ experience, if in fact that is what happened to me.

I do still have a slight, unexplained, lingering lower left abdominal discomfort from time to time. Both the urologist and gastrointestinal doctor I visited do not seem to think anything of it. At least for the time being, I am enjoying having normal-colored urine again and pray to God to never again have to endure a camera scope my bladder.

I write this post…with some, almost scary degree of coincidence; because a dear friend of mine, her husband actually recently had routine bloodwork done and discovered a largely elevated PSA and got the diagnosis (from the same urology office in fact) of (prostate) cancer. :::sigh::: I do not know his family history of such disease. But I do know he is not much older than me, and I know he has a daughter the same age as my oldest son. I know his CT scan had some lymphadenopathy involved and that means he has a very scary road ahead of him.

Even though my cystoscopy took place several weeks ago, I still vividly remember the feeling I had laying half-naked on the urology operatory bed. Besides feeling embarrassed and vulnerable; worst of all, there was still this terrifying anticipation and uncertainty about what results would come of this procedure. I partially joke about having medical bills piling up on me, shrinkage when the nurses put the lidocaine up in me, etc. – but the reality is, I was incredibly fortunate to be given clearance and another chance in my life. I have countless reasons to feel relieved, thankful, hopeful, optimistic, what have you. I am not so quickly dismissive, and now feel a thousand times more empathetic, to struggles and health issues like the one my friend’s husband is having.

Alright, thank you so kindly for taking the time to read this. I am glad to give more details about my cystoscopy to anyone that wants it, and please feel free to share your own stories with me. Take care!

Hematuria and an Uncertain state of Health

Lifestyle

Every weekday morning I tend to start my day basically the same way. I do my morning routine in the bathroom, and simultaneously peruse through the days headlines in my News apps and check in on the stock market performance. Then, I head downstairs for breakfast, make myself some oatmeal while I Youtube last nights Stephen Colbert monologue. I sort through some left-overs in the refrigerator to take for lunch. I pour the kids a bowl of cereal before I wake them up. And then I am off to work. I love those mundane, predictable, uneventful moments in life.

So on March 1st of this year, imagine my surprise when I am standing over the urinal in the men’s restroom at work and peeing out blood. An hour or so passes, I go again and regrettably have the same outcome. Panicked, I start hydrating like crazy, and fortunately it appears to have resolved.

I told my wife later that afternoon about the concerning occurrence(s) and she immediately forced me to schedule an appointment with a urologist – whose soonest availability was 3 weeks out. Beggars can’t be choosers, I took what I could get.

Two weeks later, however, the horrifying hematuria returned with a vengeance. That day – almost every time I ‘went’ and despite how much water I drank – the toilet bowl appeared like it was filled with blood. My wife encouraged me to go to the Urgent Care.

At the UC, I provided a urine sample and blood to run some diagnostic tests. The physicians assistant (PA) that was examining me wanted to help rule out any sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, etc. The blood work thankfully all appeared within normal limits and the urine culture results also looked good once they came in a few days later. The PA was impressed (relieved?) to know I had already lined up an appointment with a urologist for the following week, and deferred to him for a more thorough and absolute diagnosis. That was Monday.

As before, a plethora of water consumption seemed to really help eliminate the hematuria. Throughout the week, things appeared again back to normal. However, my wife and I – both with a foot in the medical field – knew the underlying cause of this issue needed to be investigated. We couldn’t help but to Google search causes of visible (non-symptomatic) hematuria, inquire with some close friends and family that are physicians, and honestly just prayed it was not anything too serious.

By Friday of that week – with only a mere 5 days and counting until my scheduled (and long-awaited) urology appointment – to my dismay, the blood came back yet again. This time, my radiologist brother and pharmacist wife insisted I just go to the hospital ER and get some imaging done. The ER doctor ordered a CT scan of my abdomen and pelvis with contrast.

After receiving my CT scan, I must have waited in the ER waiting room for at least a couple of hours before my doctor came out to give me the results. Let me tell you, those couple of hours were daunting. The mind has a cruel way of playing out all the worst-case scenarios in dire detail. However, perhaps those hours were the rude awakening I needed to re-evaluate my life. A time to reconsider the things (and people) I tend to take for granted. A time to count all the blessings that were bestowed on me throughout my life.

I thought about how my wife has been so worried about me; and in that moment truly appreciated what her unconditional love meant to me. I thought about not being able to see my two boys grow up; and wondered to myself what great things they would do in their lives. I wondered how I would break the news to my beloved office staff; how I might phase myself out of my professional career and contemplated if patients would even notice my absence.

The ER doctor eventually came out, and apologized for the long delay and stated she had been called away on a code. She stated that the CT scan did reveal a left-side small kidney stone, but everything else imaging and blood work wise appeared remarkable. As for the blood in the urine, her theory was that I may have already had a small stone pass and that it could have damaged my ureter along its pathway. However, she too was pleased to discover that I had an upcoming urology appointment.

As of this posting, my urologist appointment was two days ago. While they concurred that there does in fact seem to be a small kidney stone present; they want to do additional testing to include a cystoscopy of my bladder and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level check.

Knock on wood, the bleeding has stopped since the day of my ER visit last week. Unfortunately, no sign (or really, pain for that matter) of a kidney stone passing. But I wake up every day now feeling different. I have a rejuvenated attitude about my life. I feel genuinely lucky to be here each day. I put my phone away when my kids talk to me; they get my undivided attention. I appreciate and take the time to notice the trees and the sky and the world around me.

I no longer read news headlines and stock reports, now my mornings are spent perusing my photo albums. However, still turn on Stephen Colbert – he’s too wonderful! I wake my kids up before I pour their cereal…just to get a few extra minutes in with them each morning.

I still have a lot of stuff to figure out with my health. I actually try not to think about it too much. I am trying to live in the moment and not worry quite as much about what the future holds. I will surely keep everyone posted. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post, and please always feel free to share your own experiences! Until next time…