Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If it Walks Like a Cat and Meows Like a Cat it Must be Cat Scratch Fever, or Much Ado About Nothing

Yes, as the title confirms, I have officially been diagnosed with Cat Scratch Fever. I saw the Infectious Disease Specialist last week, and he said that my symptoms are classic, and even though I wasn't scratched, everything fits the profile for the disease. We basically came to the conclusion that the bacteria must have entered through that boil in my arm. I do pick up my cats, so it is quite possible.

The thing that concerns me is that if I had been given the correct antibiotic in the first place the disease most likely would not have progressed to the point that I needed surgery. Neither person that I saw at my family practice even mentioned Cat Scratch Fever. My husband was the first to bring it up after doing internet research, but of course we dismissed it because I hadn't been scratched. The surgeon, the third person I saw, was the first medical type person to even mention Cat Scratch Fever. Now, I am very glad that the first LNP I saw got to work on ruling out cancer, because if it had been cancer I wanted to start treatment as soon as I could. But, it turned out to be “much ado about nothing”. Lets not be so hasty looking for big problems that we overlook the simple solutions. The disease I actually have is easily treated under the correct course of treatment. According to the Infectious Disease Specialist, the antibiotic the LNP prescribed me wouldn't even touch Cat Scratch Fever. And it didn't. She could have started me on the right course of treatment for Cat Scratch Fever while I underwent the testing to rule out cancer, because apparently if Cat Scratch Fever is left untreated, it can get pretty serious, even more so than what I experienced. The Infectious Disease Specialist said that it can migrate to the brain and cause some major problems. Wow, am I ever grateful that something like that didn't happen. (If it had, it would have been good material for an episode of “House”.) I think it pretty much goes without saying that I will not be returning to that family practice. I actually found an Integrative practice through Wake Forest University that I'm pretty excited about. They take the best of conventional and alternative treatments and use them in combination, and they take my insurance!

Of course, this whole situation hasn't been all bad, and I continue to be grateful for the lessons I've learned through this. I am now on the correct antibiotic, and my arm is getting better everyday. I will not need any more lymph node surgeries. My energy level is almost back to normal. And, this experience did give me a very valuable kick in the pants! I now have the motivation that was severely lacking to get control of my health. I have also learned to value my husband in a way I never have before. Also, we have had so many people stand with us in faith and prayer. It's always a wonderful privilege to observe the family of God at work. Amazing things always happen! Thank you to everyone who has stood with us. I really can't express how much that means to me. And, finally, as I've said before, I know God has been with me through this entire process. Despite it all, this situation continues to be an opportunity for God to be glorified!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cat Scratch Fever? We'll See...

Insomnia... Man it drives me crazy. It is, unfortunately a regular night-time visitor. Not every night. It comes and goes. Usually it sticks around a couple of weeks at a time and then doesn't show up for another six weeks or so. Well, this time it took up residence for a week. So for a week I've been sleeping later than normal, so for a week I haven't blogged. But last night... well, last night I slept so well that Shawn couldn't wake me up to see Shaun White dominate the half pipe! I probably would've slept on till 6:30 if the little boy hadn't woken up at 5:20. But, then I wouldn't have had time to blog if I had.

So here's the lymph node drama update: Last Wednesday (after my blog posted, of course) I got another call from my surgeon. She said that the pathologist said that the lymph tissue they removed from my arm “showed the pattern of Cat Scratch Fever.” Well, other than fatigue, and my lymph nodes enlarging, I haven't had any other symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever. And, I haven't been scratched by either of my cats in so long, that I can't remember the last time I was scratched. As for the swelling, the plan was for me to come in this past Monday for my follow-up appointment, and she would drain off some fluid from my arm. But when I got there she said that she expected the swelling to be at the surgical sight, not in my tricep. She said that my surgical site actually looked really good, and was healing well, but the swelling in my arm wasn't normal. She referred me for yet another ultrasound to determine whether I had another swollen lymph node or a blood clot. Well, thank God, it's not a blood clot! It is another swollen lymph node, however. I see an infectious disease specialist today, so hopefully we'll get to the bottom of all this soon. I will be very happy to have full use of my arm again!

Through all this I've had the opportunity to see how amazingly valuable my husband really is. He has taken such good care of me for the last three weeks! He has taken time off work to take care of the kids. He has done extra work around the house to help me get ready for my Pampered Chef party on Friday (stoneware's on sale this month, yay!) He's trudged through when he wasn't feeling so well himself. He was feeling achy for a couple of days, but he did it all anyway. And, probably most importantly, he has encouraged me to start resuming some of my household duties as I've been able to without being overbearing. I really don't deserve him, considering all the stuff he's had to put up with from me. I've never been the best roommate. He's put up with a lot of stuff when others would have bailed. I'm so thankful for his commitment to our relationship. He's certainly not perfect, he is a man after all, but he's a good man, and I love him!

I'm also very grateful to God. This all would have been much more difficult to face without Him. I know I would have been full of fear if I hadn't been able to cast this care into His amazing hands. He has encompassed us with peace and has strengthened us. He has enabled us to wait through this time with grace. He has surrounded us with people that have stood with us in prayer and have supported us spiritually, emotionally, and practically. And, of course, He is the one who gave me my wonderful husband in the first place, not to mention the most fabulous kids that have helped to keep my spirits up. If God hadn't taken the time to instill a new level of character in me in the past few months, depression probably would have set in from the stress of dealing with illness. But, instead of going to despair, I've been able to rest in His peace. Even with all the pain and frustration and exhaustion, this really has been an amazing time! As I said before, this situation is an opportunity to glorify God, and He is glorified!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Pathology Report

My pathology report came back on Monday. So why has it taken me two days to blog about it? There's really not a very good reason why. I'm still not feeling 100%, but my wonderful husband has taken a couple of days off from work so I can get plenty of rest. He's been faithful to take care of all of the kids' needs so I wouldn't have to. So I've had the time to blog. It's that same old thing... if I don't get it done, or at least started, before I go downstairs in the morning, it just simply doesn't happen. I get caught up in other things and blogging goes by the wayside for the day. So...

Oh, but you probably don't really care about all that. You're probably wondering the results of the pathology report. You're also probably wondering why I'm stalling like this and wishing I would get on with it. I can totally understand that. That's probably how I'd be feeling, too, if I were in your shoes right now. What? Get on with it already? :D Sorry, I had to build up the suspense. Let me just say that we're praising God because the report was BENIGN!!!!

So what was the cause of all the trouble? I don't know. I was dozing off when the doctors office called, so I didn't have the presence of mind to ask at the time. I'll just wait to find out at my post-op appointment next week. Seeing as the report was benign, though, my suspicion is that the whole thing started with a boil that came up on my arm, just above my elbow, shortly after New Years. One of the things I read is that when lymph nodes get infected it's usually with the same bacteria that causes skin infections. The boil was very slow to heal, but it was just a boil, so I didn't think much of it. Of course, I also didn't think of mentioning the boil when I saw the first LNP about it, so it's possible that a different antibiotic would have been more effective in combating the infection. There was also another thing that seemed to complicate matters was as well. The day after my appointment with the first LNP, I was peeling an orange for the kids and something tiny and sharp lodged under the fingernail of my right hand. Yep, my infected lymph node was in my right arm. I tried to treat the wound, but it was burrowed in the fingernail bed, so I couldn't really get to it. I tried to keep it clean, but it got infected. The day before I called the doctors office after hours because my arm was so painful and swollen, my finger was throbbing. It's so strange to me that two seemingly small and unrelated incidents could come together to create such a big problem.

So, now, going forward, I'm getting my energy back. However, my arm is still pretty swollen, making it tender and hard to use. The surgeon told me that usually when they take out a large lymph node, fluid will pool in the area for several days until the body adjusts. I'm so ready for my body to adjust. I can't fully extend my arm right now, which is very annoying to say the least. But, I have realized through all this that I'm not as healthy as I had assumed. I've known for some time that I need to put more effort into being more healthy. Despite my desire to get my family eating the way God has designed us to, I still let myself eat things that I know I shouldn't. Sometimes I justify it with the “altruistic” motivation of making sure the kids get the healthiest stuff, but when it comes right down to it, that's really nothing more than an excuse.

I have taken the time to implement some healthy measures in the last couple of weeks. I've started doing “green” smoothies (though my end up looking purple because I like to add blueberries). I've also done some research, trying to determine the most cost-effective ways of obtaining certain healthy foods and supplements, as well as trying to determine which local CSA to join, and to work these things into the budget. (For those that don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. If you'd like to know more info about CSA's, just let me know. I'll be happy to answer any questions.) We're also planning out a garden and looking at growing our own mushrooms (no, not magic mushrooms), and maybe even raising chickens for eggs.

I think I've finally even found the motivation that I was lacking for exercise. I've known for a long time that I need to exercise. I've known that it's good for me, and that it will help me lose weight (or “waist” as Korrynn says), but exercise and me? Well, we've never been very good friends. Even when I was playing tennis in high school I hated the warm ups. I always felt like I was on the verge of passing out. God chose not to grace me with athletic talent, so exercise has always been a major struggle for me. (You're probably wondering how I managed to play tennis in high school, then. Well, it's simple. I was on the first girls tennis team my school had. The team was desperate for players.)

For some reason, though I never voiced it this way, I've always felt like poor health would never happen to me. I've known since I was a teenager that it's important to take care of my health now or I'd pay for it down the road, but I really haven't lived that way. As my pastor in Virginia Beach, Steve Kelly of Wave Church, says, I was living on "Someday Isle". I always assumed that "someday I'll" take better care of myself. Well, this incident has been the wakeup call that I needed. I don't want to miss out on any part of my kids' lives. I want to be there for them whenever they need me. I want to be a part of their lives as long as I can. I want to hold my grandkids. This little scare has shown me that tomorrow truly isn't guaranteed and I need to take control of my health for my family's sake and my sake. I'm going to be 35 this year. If I don't start now, when am I going to start? I'm not old yet, but I'm not getting any younger, either. I need to start taking better care of myself TODAY! The fact that the scale at the doctors office told me that I'm over halfway to 300 lbs adds a bit more fuel to the fire, too. I'm the heaviest I've ever been, and I don't plan on getting any heavier. So, I'm anxious for my arm to heal so I can use it. It's hard to exercise without using your right arm, and the jiggling created by aerobic movements is painful (in my ARM, people!).

So, while I hate the pain, and everything I've dealt with in the last couple of weeks, I'm also grateful for it. This whole thing is ushering me to the next level in my life so that I can be the best me that God wants me to be. Soon there will be less of me to love! :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Operation

Okay, so I had intended to blog on Friday, after my surgery, but, I simply didn't feel like it. So, I was going to write a post yesterday, but, frankly, I procrastinated. So I'll update you today.

Thursday, when I went to the hospital for the pre-op appointment I was running late, and for once it wasn't my fault. My husband had a work luncheon that went long, so he didn't get home until after I was already supposed to be at the hospital, and, as you may recall, I couldn't take the kids to the hospital with me, so I had to anxiously wait for him. Poor thing, though, he didn't even get to eat his entrée. They had to box it up for him, and he had even arrived at the luncheon 15 minutes early, so it wasn't really his fault either, just one of those things. Well, of course, since I was late for my appointment, I had to wait and wait to be called back. When I finally was called back the nurse was going through everything with me fairly quickly at first, and then she had to leave to find out when I was scheduled to be there for the surgery on Friday. (She couldn't have found that out before she called me to go back with her?) Well, once again, I waited and waited and waited. When I finally saw what time it was I realized that if the appointment didn't end soon I was going to be late picking the oldest up from school. So I got another nurses' attention and told her the situation. Because of rushing out of there I didn't even really finish the appointment. I was supposed to have a chest X ray, but that had to wait till the next morning. I've never understood why medical personnel seem to think that patients have all the time in the world to sit around and wait, and we never have anything else going on in our lives other than waiting for them. But, I digress.

As I reported in the last post, I found out during my pre-op appointment that I needed to be at the hospital the next morning at 5:45, childcare and crazy weather not withstanding. To be quite honest, I panicked a little at first. By the time I left the hospital, I had less than 15 hours to find childcare. I'm not sure why they couldn't have given me my appointment time before I went to the pre-op. I guess they just wanted to keep me on my toes. Well, it worked. I was driving down I-40 like a bat out of... well, you know, calling my mom in a panic, hoping she could make arrangements to come down that night, and spend the night. Who else was I going to be able to get to be at the house by 5:00am on such short notice, right? My parents live just over an hour's drive from me, and my mom teaches 8th grade English Lit. They were calling for a winter storm starting that night, so I really didn't expect her (or my daughter) to have school the next day. But Mom said she wouldn't be able to come because she wasn't going to be able to make arrangements for a substitute on such short notice. Let's just say I was a bit disappointed, and in an even greater panic, and it would be another half hour before I could do anything else about it.

After I got home with Korrynn, my husband and I tried to brainstorm about what we could do about the little childcare problem. Everyone we know either has kids or jobs, so to try to get them at our house at 5:00am seemed to be expecting a lot. I tried to rearrange the appointment time, hoping for a later appointment on Friday, but the next available time wasn't until the next Thursday. I finally just put a panic post on facebook. My neighbor, immediately, and graciously, called and told me I should have called her. Well, I ate my humble pie while we talked and made arrangements for the next morning. In spite of me, God was aware of every detail that needed to be arranged, and all I really needed to do was trust Him instead of panic. The funny thing is, Mom was planning to come down Friday after school to help me out on Saturday morning. (Well, that's not really the funny part, I'm getting to it.) She called me back later that evening, in a bit of a mild panic herself, because she realized that if the weather got bad overnight she wouldn't be able to make it to my house on Friday. She decided that she could make arrangements for a substitute if they did have school on Friday after all, and that she would go ahead and come so that she could definitely be there.

So with all the necessary arrangements made, we got up at the lovely hour of 4:30am on Friday to snowy weather. We got ready quickly. It was pretty easy for me since I wasn't allowed to have anything to eat or drink after 11:59pm on Thursday, I had already showered the night before, and I wasn't allowed to wear makeup (not that I was too concerned about looking beautiful while I was passed out on the operating table, after all I wasn't appearing in a soap opera). So we had plenty of time to get ready and head out the door with enough extra time to drive carefully on the snowy streets.

They finished up my pre-op stuff when I got to the hospital, and I still had plenty of time to wait and wait and wait before I was finally pulled into the outpatient holding room. Guess what happened in the holding room? That's right! I waited and waited and waited till they finally pulled my into the operating room (well, I did see the OR nurse, the anesthesiologist, the nurse anesthetist, and the surgeon, but all of those visits may have taken a total of 5 minutes). The only thing that kept me from anxiety at that point was praying. They pulled me into the operating room, helped me shimmy off the gurney and onto the operating table, told me to put my hands down by my hips, and I remembered no more. All of a sudden I was back in the outpatient holding room with a big bandage on my chest, someone calling my name, asking me if I was okay, and a very groggy feeling.

I was wheeled back into the recovery room where my husband was waiting for me. He told me that the surgeon had called him and told him that she took out one large lymph node and several smaller ones that were also inflamed. He also said that we should get the biopsy results by Monday. Of course he didn't ask any questions that would give him a better handle of the details. He was told the basics, so that was enough for him. The nurse went through some post-op instructions with us (good thing it wasn't just me there because I barely remember a word she said), and we waited for a wheelchair, then we went to the pharmacy and waited for my prescription to be filled, and then we went to the valet parking area and waited for our car. After all that waiting, we finally went home in the now rainy weather.

Through all this, I know God's hand was in it. Not only were the childcare details worked out, but the timing of the weather worked well for us, too. The nasty, icy weather came while we were at the hospital, and by the time we left it was all rain, and a balmy 33°F, so we never encountered really bad roads. Shawn has good benefits at work, and since this took place at the beginning of the year, there's plenty in our FSA account to cover the out-of-pocket expenses. Shawn has also been able to take some paid time off work, even rescheduling a trip out of town so he could be home with me. I have felt pretty good since I've come home other than being a little tired and sore. My mom has helped some with meal prep and housework (such a relief because I've been fatigued a lot lately and haven't been able to get the house as clean as it was before Christmas), and my neighbor and Todd's preschool director have volunteered a couple of meals. Plus, the peace I've had during this time has been absolutely amazing. I have to admit that when I first found the lump a couple of weeks ago, I was scared. I even cried when I called my dad to tell him about it. But once we prayed and I got that out of my system I have had an amazing sense of calm about this whole situation. I have been able to leave it in God's hands, and I know that God will get the glory through all this. He has given me this gentle assurance that He will take care of me and my family. I'm definitely believing that tomorrow I will get a benign report, but even if I don't, I'm not worried. God WILL be glorified no matter what news I receive tomorrow. So, now I'm waiting again, waiting to hear, waiting in God's hands knowing I can trust Him no matter what. Sometimes waiting is a good thing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Procedure

I found out a little while ago that the surgery to remove my lymph node will be at 7:30am tomorrow. They want me at the hospital at 5:45am (UGH!), and my husband has to be with me the whole time. We also can't take the kids with us because of flu concerns (not that I really look forward to the prospect of getting them up at the crack of dawn, anyway). God, in the form of my neighbor, has taken care of childcare arrangements, even though it was very late notice. Of course, the biggest concern now is the crazy weather we're supposed to get here in NC overnight & in the morning. Prayers for safety, as well as healing, are much coveted and greatly appreciated!

An Opportunity for God's Glory

Wow, what an amazing journey I've been on since last September! Pretty much all of my “extra-curriculars” were stripped away, either by someone else or through my choice, as I felt God telling me to take a time of rest. I have always been involved in church service from childhood, so to sit in the congregation without any responsibilities seemed odd at first, but as time progressed I found a new depth in my relationship with God that I have never had before. I am so grateful for this time I've had with Him and even for the circumstances that brought me to place. I've learned so many things through those cirumstances and the resting time. Things that I probably could not have learned otherwise – things that busyness had distracted me from. I am certainly a better person for the journey of these few months, and so many things have changed in me. The way I see God is different, the way I see myself is different. The way I see my family and those around me is different. The way I pray and conduct myself is different. It's as though I've been born again, again. I'm not negating my original rebirth experience, nor am I saying that my relationship with God was poor before the time of rest. I'm simply saying that it all has gotten so much better. And now I'm ready to rejoin church service with renewed vigor and vitality.

One of the things that I learned during this time is that I don't need anyone but God. Don't get me wrong, I desperately want my husband, children, and family. They are the reason for so much of what I do, and I dedicate much of my life to them. But, God forbid, if one or all of them were taken away from me, as painful and difficulty as that would be, I would survive, and I would continue to serve God. This realization has given me a lot of freedom in my life. I'm free to love my husband and kids in a way I never have before. I'm free from worrying about what other people think. I'm free to be myself, the person God created me to be, without having to prove to other people that I am acceptable. And, I'm free to walk in unity with those around me. Am I perfect in all these areas yet? No, I'm still working on breaking old habits, but I always return to Christ as my center. This is a new thing for me. Christ was always a part of me, to the point that when I've tried to deny Him the past I was unable to. But now He is so much more than just a part of my life. He IS my life. My desire is to seek Him first before all else and let Him take care of the rest. My desire is to do everything that my hand finds to do for Him and not for men. So, when I'm doing laundry, making bread, changing dirty diapers, talking to friends, blogging, or singing His praises, it's ALL for His glory.

That brings me to the present. Two weeks ago I started having mild pain in my right armpit. I felt for a lump, but found nothing at first. Then Sunday came. I had fallen asleep on the couch, and my husband lovingly woke me up to go upstairs to bed (as he does most every night). I was in a lot of pain when he woke me. Before I went to bed that night I felt in my armpit again. This time I felt a lump, very deep, very hard, and very painful. Monday I called the doctor and made an appointment for Wednesday morning. I saw the LNP, who said that my lymph node was enlarged. She ordered bloodwork and an ultrasound (she orginally recommended a mammogram, which I refused). The bloodwork showed no sign of infection. On Thursday the ultrasound tech had a hard time getting a good image of the lump because it was so deep, so a CT scan was ordered for Friday. The CT came back confirming that it was my lymph node, and that it was infected. I was prescribed an antibiotic and told to check-in after 10 days to confirm that the infection was gone. The LNP also said to keep checking the area to make sure it didn't change.

In addition to the Keflex, I have also been taking garlic, echinacea, green tea extract, and 5,000 IUs of Vitamin D. For several days I was able to take a couple of ibuprofen every once in a while if the pain got too strong, but at most that was once a day. Then came this past Monday evening. Instead of receding, the lymph node got larger and the swelling spread into my upper arm and down into my chest. The pain is excruciating at times. I was having to take three ibuprofen at a time and the pain usually came back in a couple of hours. So I called the doctors office back after hours Monday, and was told to come back in on Tuesday. I saw another NP on Tuesday. She gave me Vicodin for the pain (which I try to only take at night) and referred me to a vascular surgeon, who I saw that afternoon. The surgeon said that my lymph node, which should measure at 1 cm, was measuring at 3 cm. She said that it needs to come out. The danger is that the infection could easily spread to my bloodstream, and become fatal. She also said that once the node is removed they will biopsy it. There are three possible causes for the enlargement: infection, inflammation for unknown reasons, or lymphoma. We'll find out 24-48 hours after the procedure. She did say that if lymphoma is the reason, we've caught it very early, as it hasn't spread to any other lymph nodes yet, so it should need minimal treatment in that case.

After the appointment with the surgeon I went straight to Whole Foods and got unpasteurized, unfilitered apple cidar vinegar, which I'm taking three times a day, as well as colloidal silver, which I'm also taking three times a day. I wanted to get colloidal gold, too, for the pain, but it is a little too far out of reach for our checkbook right now.

Well, as wiped out as I was from the medicine yesterday (I will NEVER take Vicodin again!), I was determined to get to church last night. I knew I needed to be surrounded by people of God, and I needed to participate in corporate worship. I solicited prayer from a few people to stand with me, because, “If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (Mt 18:19-20 NLT) Needless to say, I don't want surgery. I am believing that the swelling and pain will dissipate, and I will not need to be cut open. Whatever happens in the next few days, I know there is purpose in it, because what the enemy has meant for evil, God will use for good, and He WILL be glorified.

Back to Blogging

Well, it's been quite a bit longer than a week. I apologize. I have finally found a way to work blogging back into my life. If I don't do it in the morning it won't get done, and I have had trouble fitting it into my mornings. Most likely I will post a couple of times a week instead of daily because right now I only have a couple of mornings to blog each week. Thanks for your patience!