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…

Thankfulness and Gratitude

Lifestyle

I want to explore and talk about this in more detail sometime soon, but I feel like I spend an inordinate portion of my life feeling down. I know varying degrees of mental illness is prominent within our society. We have celebrities committing suicide. We have, unfortunately all too often, mass shootings where the shooter sometimes leaves behind their deranged ramblings. And on any given day, you have someone walking down the street crazily yelling at themselves. It is certainly a societal problem that, thankfully (hopefully?), seems to be getting more public attention and awareness.

In my own life, I imagine I suffer from what I can only best describe as depression. Fortunately my thoughts have never gone to dark places like suicide or bringing harm to others. However, and probably to my own disservice, I have never sought any treatment from a therapist or guidance from a qualified healthcare professional. Part of the reason (and these are probably more ‘excuses’ than ‘reasons’), is the onset of it hits me so randomly. I will say though, it is usually when I am alone with my thoughts that I seem to suffer from it the most. When I am at work, distracted, I am normal and fine.

That leads me to maybe my other ‘reason’ for not yet pursuing care – which is to say that I do not really know the etiology. I think there is a tendency to chalk it off to stress or occupational burn-out; and I maybe justify and downplay it by convincing myself that this is just how our world works. Everyone from the Starbucks barista to cardiac surgeon experiences work-related distress. Especially now, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging still, there is fatigue, isolation, job and financial insecurities, and so many other possible stimuli for us to feel sad.

Before we were social-distancing, quarantining, and economically locking down; before we were afraid come into contact with something a stranger may have touched minutes prior; I did have a regular gym/exercise routine in place. The endorphins and the other benefits that come with working out regularly certainly helped my general well-being back then. I know I experienced sadness back before COVID-19 came into our lives, but – like work – exercising was a wonderful, healthy distractor and really helped minimize the toll depression can take on someone’s quality of life.

“You say you’re ‘depressed’ — all I see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective — it just means you’re human.”― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

I will be honest, I seriously doubt the melancholy mood I find myself in from time-to-time meets the criteria for ‘clinical’ depression. I doubt depression can be so easily turned on and off by being at work or getting in a good exercise routine. I certainly do not want to offend anyone going through much more serious bouts of this disorder, and of course, wish them all the best to manage it. I constantly look for things that help manage my own mental anguish. I want to try meditation and conditioned breathing exercises, a healthier diet, and (once COVID subsides) a more regular vacation schedule. I also notice I am easily overwhelmed, and have been making more of a conscious effort to slow down, stay in the moment, and try to appreciate what is in front of me.

In those rare moments of happiness and peace that my mind affords me, I take a step back and appreciate how truly blessed and fortunate I am. Perhaps the worst part of talking about depression is my sense of guilt about it. I have truly been given a wonderful life. I am surrounded by a loving, beautiful family. I work in a profession I absolutely love and with co-workers I adore. My family and friends are all in good health. So when that greyness starts to set in, and that absence of emotion begins to haunt me, it is hard for me to describe or explain when so many blessings have been bestowed upon me.

I am no expert on this matter. As with all my posts, I try and articulate what I go through with as few grammatical errors as I possibly can. I did come upon a website/blog I would recommend: https://www.blurtitout.org/ that goes over depression in great detail and has many resources for support.

I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving 2020! Thank you for visiting my blog. If you have personal struggles and stories you would like to share, by all means, reach out. Have a blessed day!