Questions and Answers

Question Mark Graffiti
Question Mark Graffiti (Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon)

Do you remember playing the game, 20 Questions? You know, the one where someone asks a question like, “Does it have hair?” and you answer Yes or No, and they get 20 chances, while asking a question each time, to guess the right answer. You remember how hard it was, sometimes, to actually guess the answer? Sometimes you thought they didn’t even have an answer? You were simply asking twenty unanswerable questions? I’m beginning to feel like my health has twenty unanswerable questions.

In some ways I am a very inquisitive soul; in other ways, not so much. The answers (or lack thereof) to the giant questions of the universe never really interested me. Those giant, looming, ever-existent questions like “How did we get here?” “If there’s a God where did He come from?” “If God created us, how did He do it?” “Why?” “How old is the universe?” and other such curiosities have never really peaked my interest all that much. I don’t really need to explain the truly unexplainable. For some reason (maybe I am a very naive person) I can take it on faith that these things DO exist, that God created them all in His own good way in His own good time for His own good purpose, and the answers–or lack thereof-really won’t affect our daily lives all that much. I can even take my own personal existence on faith that God created me for a purpose…even if I’m not always certain what that purpose is.

Yet, when it comes to ordinary questions surrounding everyday life, especially my everyday life, I am profoundly curious. When I have the sniffles, I want to know what is causing them and how to cure them. When I have a stomach ache I want to know why, so that I can get rid of it. When my sons are struggling with something I want to know what is bothering them, so that I can help them learn to manage it.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I wanted answers. I needed answers. I wanted to know exactly what kind of cancer, how aggressive, where it was located, how big it was, how that kind of cancer operates and most importantly–how best to treat it. I was on the internet and in the book stores and in the library for weeks, researching…seeking the answers. I spent most of the time in my doctors’ offices asking questions. The more answers I got, the more I felt “prepared” to face whatever I had to face. As I once explained to my oncologist, I needed to know what I was facing so that I knew exactly how hard I had to fight in order to win.

All this brings me to a confession–I have been fighting a plethora of illusive symptoms for the past seven months, much of which I haven’t bothered to mention to very many people, least of all wanting to “bother” my blog friends with such mundane occurrences. Weight gain (can you say, blimpo?), brain fog, headache, bloating, balance issues (dizzy and not even blonde!), constipation, dry skin (want some crepe paper?), fast pulse, low blood pressure, brittle nails, dry hair, fatigue, aches, pains, indigestion, chronic cough, runny nose (and runs and runs and…), constant colds and infections… The list goes on. The list grows on. Every week it seems like I add a new symptom or two.

I have been shuffled from doctor to doctor to doctor in an attempt to find answers. No one seems to have any. Each new doctor tries to throw a new drug into the ever-growing concoction that is brewing in my system–most of which I have told them I will not take until they tell me what is causing these symptoms and why the drug will work to fix it. (Because many of these drugs cause their own set of symptoms, I hate throwing them at symptoms without the answers to know what is actually causing the problem to begin with.) As each month passes I am becoming more and more tired, more and more tired of being tired, and more and more depressed with the thought that there are no answers available.

I am having a very difficult time accepting the fact that my general health could possibly fall into the realm of the unexplainable. Do I truly have to just “take it on faith” that I will continue to be sick and tired without any explanation at all as to why?  Without any ability to make it go away? Must I simply accept that my life will be forever filled with illness, fatigue and…questions? Unanswerable questions?

I saw my oncologist for my final 3-month checkup prior to having my “leash” extended to 6-month checkups. She listened intently as I told her how I’ve been feeling (we had discussed some of it back in November) and I handed her my written “laundry list” of ailments. She said I have two choices, head downstairs to the endocrinologist (another doctor!) or send a request to my insurance for the approval of a full body PET scan. The amazing thing–well, actually there are two amazing things–is that she sincerely felt that a PET scan might be warranted in this case, and even bigger than that…I turned it down.

PET scan image3699-PH
PET scan image3699-PH (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PET scans are the high-tech machine version of Sherlock Holmes when it comes to cancer. While the insurance companies and doctors most often use them only as a tool for staging cancer once it has been discovered, they are very good at finding small cancers lurking in the shadows that can be missed by other scans. Most cancer survivors would give their right arm for the chance to have a PET scan a few years out from treatment, “just to make sure.” A year ago–even six months ago–I think I would have jumped at the chance. But for some reason, I chose the endocrinologist.

I have lived for over 36 of my almost 49 years with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and I am fully aware of the fact that, despite my tests all coming back fine, most of my symptoms are those of hypothyroidism. While I might opt-in for the PET scan if the endocrinologist finds nothing going on (my oncologist was kind enough to leave that option open) I feel that it is in my best interest to follow this opportunity to delve deeper into my endocrine system. You see, I really do want answers. I want answers that will give me health now–and more importantly, health for life. I have felt “off” for much of my life and many of these symptoms–while not having been around since treatment–had grown burdensome shortly before my cancer diagnosis. I don’t know if they’re related. Obviously, the doctor is concerned enough that she would offer a PET scan–but even if there’s no cancer brewing yet, I want to make myself healthy and strong enough to keep it from returning.

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