Episodes of Epistaxis

Recently, Life has, repeatedly, given me a bloody nose. And I don‘t like or understand it.

I never previously suffered with nosebleeds (okay, possibly once when I smacked my face into something, but not frequently and not mysteriously, as has been the situation this past month). Now, not to panic — such bleeding has only occurred four (or five) times, and it always clots away pretty fast, in an hour or less, nostril squinched closed between fingers clutching blood-absorbing kleenex (okay, Big Corporate — “facial tissues”). I havenʼt even been deprived of much of my precious sanguinous fluid, but this bodily misbehavior is new and puzzling.

Sure, it has been very cold (last night may again have set a record subzero low) and therefore dry both indoors and out, but I never spontaneously spouted red before… I would like to know what‘s up.

And that (rather moderately strongly motivated) curiosity prompts me to (after yet another two-month gap) to post anew here on Wakdjunkaga‘s Blog.

I have for years been taking a prophylactic blood-pressure-reducing (and arthritic base-of-thumbs pain-alleviating) nightly aspirin (or two) which I have ceased for several weeks, thanks to this novelty of spontaneous bloody eruptions from my left nostril. Did (optimistically) thinning my blood cause this (possibly age-related) unpleasant phenomenon?

And, abashed, I acknowledge that I do possess witlessly a lifelong unwholesome habit of digitally disentangling dried olfactory viscidity, and an errant fingernail may have in a thoughtless moment abraded a surface vein or capillary. (Yeah, sometimes my affection for periphrasitic pleonasm may have its euphemistic benefits.) And such boorish personal expurgations (but always restricted to private moments) may have unconsciously occurred since the epistaxis began…

However, I have diligently attempted to cease both possibly conducive activities — medicinal and chamferous. So far to no avail.

WikiHow "How to Stop a Nosebleed" — There are an amazing number of manga images of nosebleeds when one googles the term Try it yourself.

WikiHow “How to Stop a Nosebleed” — An amazing number of manga images of nosebleeds result when one googles the term!

The first incident was February 2, as I was bent over trying to tie my shoes before we left town for the day (which we did but an hour or so later than we might have done without exsanguination). I had the idea perhaps the stress of doubling my fat belly to reach my ankles might be causative (and I still wonder, as you will see). A small second eruption seeped spontaneously while we were looking for birthday cards at Target a few hours later; I plugged myself and sat on a bench by the doors, feeling inadequate until she had bought her selections, by which time, maybe ten or fifteen minutes later, it had ceased.

The second was the most startling so far (okay, maybe third). February 8, in the evening, as I was just begun on my shower, suddenly there was red all over. It took me a minute both to see and to realize. And it was really gushing, too. Just great. Janet scurried to my aid, and I had to stay both naked and incompletely dry for too many minutes before clambering one-handed into nightclothes and sitting myself quietly in my TV-viewing recliner for a good forty minutes (or more). She had to clean up my phlebotomistic mess, unfortunately. I eventually went to bed dreading that I might suffer another bout onto my pillow — although I did not.

Assuming I didn‘t skip any events, the third/fourth experience delayed until the 26th. During the gap I did halt the aspirin intake, mostly, but had returned to a baby tablet at night while we had been away for her birthday celebration at her sister‘s house. So I had consumed minute aspirins five nights (maybe fewer, as I don’t recall if I took one every evening). This time I had just finished dressing myself to head east for the nightly workout when I realized I had swiped blood onto the back of my hand. Eff! This bout extended over an hour, with several resurgences, each always on a reduced scale after I believed it had stanched. No workout that night…

And the fourth, most recent was yesterday morning (thus two within a week lately). I had arisen, not particularly early, ready to shovel snow, as we had received a new four inches or so overnight (actually all Saturday afternoon and into the night, and I had scraped away what might have been two inches midafternoon, after a previous inch Friday night). This time, I had gotten outside and pushed two big passes of snow away, realizing I really should get out the snowblower, when, on my way back across the driveway to the garage door, I saw red spots form on the snow. Effing eff of eff! Yesterday, I pinched my nose for maybe twenty minutes and three absorbent paper squares until She-Who-Must was ready herself to do the snowblowing, when I just jammed a new kleenex (“nasal tissue,” whatever) into my nostril, most of it hanging down over my lips, and quickly hatted and gloved to go out and help/show her how to get started. I kept at it (scraping at snow and machine tracks), with one replacement of the instantly frozen kleenex until the job was done a half hour later, and my epistaxic episode had concluded. (I liked not feeling like an invalid, worthless, while the incident proceeded.)

And that is where this new unpleasantness in the corporal husk stands as of now. Puzzling and distressing. Is exertion to blame? Am I headed for apoplexy? Will a perhaps lacerated blood vessel heal and end my predicament? No more aspirin, ever? Should I investigate nosebleeds as a consequence of lisinopril and/or simvastatin intake? Suggestions?

Advice or insight on this annoying development would be appreciated.

(Sorry about the gruesome topic, but I did previously write on ocular migraine symptoms and lipoma surgery. This issue — hideous pun — seemed to be right in line with those topics — quite popular, at least by hit counts. And I really would appreciate some advice.)

(composed with Bluetooth keyboard in MacJournal for iPad, transferred by wifi to the computer for editing and uploading for further editing to WordPress)

©2014 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

A Little Help?

The inflammation (or rash?) in question. What do you think, gentle readership?

Closer up…

Sorry about the gruesome physical details (reminiscent of my ingrown toenail post last fall — apologies, I suppose, for that one, too). I will definitely keep this addition to the blog brief. The picture(s) — I donʼt know just how many I am going to attempt,* as none so far do the issue justice — say(s) it all. 

One last look (and further apologies for showing it at all). Click, if you wish, to, um, enlarge the image…

Somehow, some time over the weekend (actually Friday or Saturday), while on the job checking firewood at campgrounds and reaching out about the emerald ash borer to the camping public (and while also taking down to check for bugs about a dozen of my traps, located at said campgrounds, in Dubuque, Jackson and Clinton Counties) I got a…  rash? Infection? Exposure to poison ivy/oak?

As the outbreak on my left arm hasnʼt subsided at all since I noticed it on Sunday, I would sure appreciate anyoneʼs suggestions (of what it might be, of what I could do about it).

It itches and hurts. Janet believes that the number of possibly pussy bumps** may have increased by a few. Cortaid is all we have tried on it so far (the salve does make it cease itching for a while).

Any ideas? Think I need to visit our doctor?

Your suggestions would, as of the time of this writing (Tuesday, early evening), be greatly appreciated. Since I am scheduling the post for Thursday, however, I hope they will all also be too late. Time will, sadly, tell…

* (right now using the built-in camera on the iMac, as I still havenʼt located our digital camera after Memorial Day weekend)

** Her opinion. Not mine. (And apologies yet again for that bit of further — but “tastefully” not boldfaced and italicized, however — gruesome detail, to which this footnote is an appendage, too.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

“Can You Hear Me Now?” (Predictable Title, Really)

I had my ear, nose and throat appointment on Wednesday last week. I think I mentioned back when I endured my annual physical and tried to remember to report to Dr. Bill all the little things I had noticed about my increasing decrepitude that he had referred me to a specialist for the tinnitus (and recommended that I visit an ophthalmologist about the “glittering eye” events he suspected correctly were ocular migraines — sheesh, what a year).

Although last Wednesday was a cold day, barely edging the mercury above ten degrees Fahrenheit, I put on a thermal shirt and my warmest Guinness hoodie to walk in the brilliant (if unwarming) sunshine the three-quarters of a mile to the hospital, Jimi Hendrix in the earphones from my iPod (donʼt know why exactly — West Coast Seattle Boy, perhaps? — But Iʼve been on a real Hendrix kick, again, lately). I have realized in the past few winters that I like hoodies because I can keep warm by putting up the hood — interestingly a style choice I have never seen a teen-to-twentysomething ever perform. However, for my walk to the doctor, I also elected to wear the head-wrap ear covers I use when running along with my favorite Alaska souvenir, my (by now well worn) Alaskan Amber cap, to protect the sometimes fragile eyesight from the sunbrightness I also ironically cherish. My elaborate costume worked. I was only somewhat chilled as I entered JCRHC and began the leisurely removal of the insulating garments. Then I noticed a sign indicating where visitors were to go for the various visiting physicians that day, and I headed off into the labyrinth of hospital corridors — fortunately on a familiar route for me.

These are my headphones mentioned. Click pic for details.

I had arrived early, not my usual system with doctors as I kind of resent being forced to wait at appointments, but five minutes before my actual time, I got ushered within the outpatient surgery bay (thatʼs where Dr. Benda, who only visits from Dubuque once a week, had been located; itʼs also where the lipoma got removed back in late September and where I received my colonoscopy two years back — hmmm, getting altogether too familiar with this questionable location). The nurse/assistant gave me a hearing test, which I figured I had utterly failed, but both she and (later) Dr. Benda were very positive about my results (perhaps I need to keep from Janet the knowledge that I havenʼt lost very much of my hearing). The principal test, involving both spoken words and electronic beeps, required me to wear big headphones (a lot like the ones I had for my old stereo, which I actually still do have, somewhat larger than the moderately sound-canceling Sony ones* I acquired a while back at Samʼs). The left ear-cover was red, as were the wires to that speaker set, while the right was blue (I suppose it does matter that the signals to each ear be kept absolutely correct in a hearing test — color-coded to prevent mistakes). The audiometrist also clamped a device to my forehead and behind my left ear for further beep-sensing.

Then for almost an hour I got to sit and attempt to write (I had foolishly only brought my little red notebook and no paperback to read when I left the house afoot). Eventually, as another guy needed to get audiometrized, I got shifted into the doctor. There our conversation and the examination (both ears took maybe three seconds — “good, good, very good” — while shoving objects down my throat because of Dr. Billʼs concerns about my hoarseness — results also, “okay, good, nothing: no polyps or nodules” — required only a few minutes, conversation accumulating only about seven minutes more) went very fast, mostly focusing on perhaps using white/pink noise to mask the tinnitus when relaxing to sleep or needing to concentrate, as I have done, without even realizing it, with a fan at night for years and playing music as I try to write. He didnʼt seem to think there was much to worry about, and except for the fact the supernatural, internal celestial rasping has grown louder through the year, neither do I. I bundled myself back up, including reattaching headphones-with-iPod, and strolled back home (the sum total of exercise for last Wednesday, I shamefacedly admit), further enjoying the glorious sunlight, one more visit to one more doctor completed for this year of transition between the Aughties and the Teens (I was one of those sticklers at the millennium insisting the actual change shouldnʼt be counted until the midnight between 2000 and 2001 — one too many readings and viewing of the Clarke and Clarke/Kubrick classic[s], I suppose).

Overall result: no problems, ears okay, throat okay. Nothing changes.

Now I wonder… How much that grand total of less than a half hour of personal contact with audiometrist, nurse and doctor will cost?

* I am wearing them right now, attached to the computer, hearing Warren Zevon do “Excitable Boy,” live on Stand in the Fire, as I type, as a matter of fact. On the other hand, I find that I can work equally well in what passes within my head for silence.

I think, since I must head outside now (Saturday afternoon for typing this) to shovel snow during our weekend blizzard, that weʼre back on winter decorations for Wednesday (as I already have tomorrow covered with some more utter nonsense from real life).

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Seeing Things, Literally

a very Judah-like vision of an “angel”

My character Judah of Toledo, not quite forgotten in the rage of NaNoWriMo composition this month, has visions. You donʼt really know that, beyond a small hint of something awry at the end of the the opening scene (in “Mistakes by Moonlight”) in which Søren rescues the black-bearded Kabbalist from a quintet of attackers in a very dark alley. Judah, seemingly beserk, starts to attack his savior, momentarily, until his wits return and he realizes who this extremely tall newcomer is and what he has done. The incident doesnʼt tell a reader much, not yet, not at that very early point. But I can tell you, privately, here, now: the poor man sees things — bright angels, perhaps even God Himself. Not being Glenn Beck or Pat Robertson, the poor fellow is deluded (after all, he heeds only one of those other fellowsʼ two — or three, if we include the uproarious Book of Mormon — Testaments) and suffers from some kind of ailment. I had originally guessed at some kind of bipolar condition (and that may be a factor yet), but now I realize that Judahʼs enthusiastic exaltations (oh, yes, very carefully chosen words, those two — check your etymologies at the door, my eye) have an even more mundane cause.

I made an idle status update (something I do not do very often) on Facebook, Thursday, following my physician-cum-optometrist experiences followed by a bit of quick online investigation (mostly consequent upon locating some pix for Saturdayʼs post) about “ocular migraines” and stirred up quite a bit of commentary — nearly as much as my political validities used to arouse. Unfortunately, in this case, the expandable comments section was a minor flood of sympathetic fellow sufferers, for whom I feel quite sorry indeed. My own case, so far, is really minor. I have only had maybe six incidents (although I am now coming to question many earlier experiences in my life, all the way back, in fact, to childhood disorientations — alas, now so insignificantly, unimportantly ordinary).

I first experienced “glittering eye” back in late April (possibly early in May), when Janet and I were working outdoors on spring yard work. My vision began to go as I endured an enlarging spot of brightness that swelled to fill perhaps half of my field of vision. I felt bad (weak, headachey, a little confused and discombobulated), and I thought the bright afternoon sun had caused some kind of reaction in my eye(s), so I sought to lie down in our basement family room, in dimness and quiet. This one came the closest to an actual headache, but mostly I was scared, not knowing or understanding what was happening to me. We were both pretty upset and concerned (Janet, I think wondering as well if I wasnʼt just ducking out on my fair share of the work), so I donʼt really know how long this spell lasted (it seemed like eternity, to me), maybe somewhat more than an hour. Afterward, my vision felt uncertain, what I have repeatedly called “fragile,” in the months since.

just add color… (Click for the informational source)

Having now learned something about migraines, I can in hindsight, analyze lots of predictable and normal (for migraine-sufferers) symptoms and behavior there. The brightness (as my only major symptom, the “ocular migraine” itself) that grows and then dissipates, however it manifests, is the “aura.” I was exhibiting the well established photophobia and phonophobia reported in too many migraines, or as the Wikipedia “Migraine” article says, “Many patients experience sensory hyperexcitability manifested by photophobia, phonophobia, and osmophobia and seek a dark and quiet room.” Exactly as I did.

The next two or three incidents followed in fairly rapid order, within just a few more weeks. Once I was working in the kitchen, washing some dishes, and glanced outdoors through the window directly over the sink. Immediately the disorientation and visual disturbance commenced, this time also mostly just a pulsating brightness in an extending curve, with some dark spastic bits, like animated optical “floaters” in an electric field (thus my choice of image above and to the right). I again sought relaxation in a calm environment until it passed. Another occurred as I was mowing outside (you can see the brightness connection that I originally ascribed as causative), but I kept working through it, realizing I was seeing a “tiger-striped” white-yellow and black jagged image, gemlike but fractured and animated (still brokenly curved along the right side of my visual field, expanding and growing somehow more intense and vivid) that appeared in a mindbending way within or behind the actual images of reality, but able to wash out, blind what I was actually seeing*.

The fourth vision (or fifth, because I believe there was another incident I have forgotten or blended into one or more of the others in my memory now) happened in July as I was driving back from Dubuque, having had lunch with Janet (who reminded me on Thursday evening that she, too, had once had such an experience while home alone, me being as usual at a play practice, that led her to finally call our then-optometrist in a near-panic. He guessed it was an ocular migraine — it was me using that term that caused her to recall the incident — and told her to lie down and call him in a half hour or so when it had passed or else he was coming over to check on her if it was something worse; it wasnʼt worse). Just as I left the first traffic light on the south side of town, on 61, I realized I saw a blurred spot in the center of my field of vision, which happened to be the back end of a van not far in front of me. Once again the sun was bright — very, very bright it seemed to me. This time I knew what would happen, and it did. The glittering spot began to form from the formerly just blurred area, shifting and jittery, expanding into a broad, jagged arc, hurting me to look through/at. Being a witless fool, I kept driving as the hallucination got ever more complex with more and more sub-areas glittering and vibrating with dark and light sections and bands. I think I saw coloration in some areas, too (but mostly I was trying to ignore the auraʼs shimmering, shaky, kaleidoscopic brilliance and look away toward my left to see what needed to be seen, so I could drive). The experience endured the entire drive home, and I again had the feeling of fragile vision and a fuzzy head afterward.

Chartres Cathedral, France, where the stained glass is every bit as wonderful as you may have read***

At that point I was ready to see a doctor, thinking I was somehow going slowly blind or something. However, then nothing further occurred. For months. Until the sixth incident (maybe it was just the fifth) about a month ago, as I was driving home from my Uncle Billʼs funeral (yep, I was driving, and I kept driving through the whole thing once again — dumb dumb and dumber). October 24th, to be exact, about 4:40 in the afternoon. This time, the day was gray, pretty dark, and rainy. Highway 20 going east was just about deserted, so I just enjoyed the light show, feeling only slightly uneasy physically, mostly just removed from actual life and Janet in the car. And this time the final phase of the scintillating scotoma was breathtakingly beautiful, randomly but clearly colored, shimmering and jittery, like nearly living stained glass windows conjoined in an evanescent, phantasmagoric bejeweled scythe through the right hemisphere of the external world (making me wonder if migraine auras might have inspired the origin of those windows back in medieval Europe**). Very clearly, the image seemed to arise blindingly from, rather than being superimposed upon, what I should actually have been seeing*. Once again, about an hour in duration, as the lovely, searing image gradually became less intense and kind of revolved upward and backward, dissolving into and behind my head. With no real ill effects that time, I drove us on into Dubuque, and we ate dinner at L May, enjoying pizza (even though I had very fragile and overly sensitive vision all night).

However, the problem hadnʼt just gone away as I had hoped earlier, so I brought it up at my physical, and the rest has been, well, to be polite, a learning experience — a ha!

And, of course, I now comprehend the foundation for my conception of Judah. (Remember Judah? Heʼs where/with whom this whole extravagant excursion into my private set of experiences began.) Unlike me****, Judah also hears things, too…

* The images seem somehow within or behind reality (not, as most pictures indicate, imposed on the actual perceptions).

** I wonder if more than just that art form (which features jagged interconnected vibrant bits of color, mind) owes its origin to misunderstood migraine…

*** …and I most highly recommend Henry Jamesʼs Mont-Saint Michel and Chartres! (But the regularity of the sections in the image I chose to include are just wrong for a migraine aura.)

**** I guess “unlike me” in that he hears words. I just have supernatural, hideous phantom scratchy squealing constantly (and weʼve got another doctor to see about that soon).

Enjoy some more renditions of this otherwise incomprehensible experience here and here and here and… (My “curves” are the mirror of the ones in most pictures and videos, though, right-handed rather than left). Except here (I havenʼt had the complete circle effect. Yet.)

Dear Teacher, This Is Why I Didnʼt Write Much of Anything on Thursday…

Not too much got written on Thursday (nor on Wednesday, as Hump Day marked my first substitute teaching job in more than a month, even if it was only for less than a day), either for the blog or more importantly for the November novel. Although later in the afternoon I did feel worthlessly lazy, the real issue was time taken from my otherwise busily typing hands. I started with one medical appointment, for a physical, and ended up with three (two new ones out of the first, and one of those newbies slated for later in the same day, Thursday). And nothing is wrong! (At least not yet…)

I have been seeing too much of doctors this year. I just had my annual physical on Thursday morning, supposedly just a regular thing, mostly to get my prescriptions renewed for another year. However, The Lovely One wanted me to make the most of this appointment by actually remembering to tell Dr. Bill about all my various (old age) symptoms and issues:

  • tinnitus
  • “glittering eye”
  • and various other pains and problems we wonʼt list here (mostly because none of them were important).

The appointment was at 8:00 in the morning, the first for him for the day. As The Lovely One and I must go through the HealthCheck 360 exam each fall for Janetʼs health insurance, in order to save money on lab tests and the number of blood-draws we endure each year (discounting donations — which reminds me, itʼs probably about time to give again), the doctor and we have agreed to use the insurance program blood work for most of our annual tests. Thursday was my opportunity to talk about what they showed and pick up my new prescriptions.

The basic blood pressure (124/82) and cholesterol (my two meds) part of the exam went smoothly and predictably, and I had my new prescriptions in less than fifteen minutes. Dr. Bill was puzzled why the HealthCheck blood work didnʼt include electrolytes and noticed I should have my thyroid test, too, which meant I would have blood drawn for those tests before I left. (Perhaps I should mention I have an enlarged thyroid, but for fifteen years now, itʼs meant nothing — the thingʼs just big.) The tinnitus issues (of which I have complained before on this blog) took more discussion because I had neglected to mention it when I saw our doctor as a doctor (rather than just a friend) on our last visit (the one that introduced me to the world of lipomas — astonishing the things one can avoid knowing anything whatsoever about in a lifetime, even at my rather advanced age; I wonder what other worlds of information await — wait, and you will learn, my children). He decided after explaining some possible causes that I should probably be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist about the ever-present, each-day-louder ringing in my ears as well as a noticeable hoarseness I have developed since retirement (which I think is due to me just not talking for ten or more hours a day). Now I will get to see another doctor for another time this year, early in December. Thereʼs the first of the newly added medical appointments.

This recreates an actual experience of mine driving back from Dubuque this past summer.

Obviously, he thought the supernatural screeching was important to some degree. The “glittering eye” issue (about which I have written a little now and then here) intrigued him more, enough to look into my eyes pretty closely (reporting I have minor cataracts, news to me), but guessing that my problem is most likely to result from ”ocular migraines,” a brand-new word for me. He suggested strongly that I get an appointment with an ophthalmologist to get checked for corneal issues, floaters and possibly retinal damage. We talked some more about other issues, and we were done. I waited about ten minutes, and a nurse came to draw my blood and then make the ear, nose and throat appointment. Then I was finished, I thought.

At home, I decided that putting off the call to the eye doctor might just make me forget altogether, so I phoned. Unexpectedly, after I had briefly explained my concern, the secretary asked if 1:15 today (which from our chronologically advanced point-of-view on Saturday would mean Thursday) would work. Could I say no? So I called Janet, who was annoyed that the actual doctor I was seeing was an optometrist (the one I visited to get new glasses back in March) rather than a full MD (me, too, initially, as I had protested on the phone getting my appointment), but she reached the same conclusion that I had: it was a starting point, and there were ten ophthalmologists right there with her in the office. We arranged to lunch together (my appointment was for 1:15 in Dubuque), and that left me with about half an hour to type Thursday morning before I had to get on the road.

Lunch was lovely at Star (I ordered their daily special, grilled pork loin with mashed potatoes and green beans, and I had enough left over to bring home for supper that night; Janet enjoyed Asian chicken salad), I dropped her back at work, and even fighting the idiot Dubuque traffic on Highway 20, got out to Medical Associates west campus six minutes ahead of the appointment. I was summoned beyond the desk (for the second time in one day, now that I think about it) after only five or six minutes after my registration, conversed with the assistant, who also checked on my vision basics (eye pressures 15 and 15) and dilated the eyes. After the customary wait for the chemicals to work, Dr. Walker took me back in the examination room, listened to my explanations (all over again from my point of view, but I took the opportunity to revise for a fifth time how I described the experiences), and shone bright lights in my eyes as she studied them from every conceivable angle. She said I had perfectly normal, healthy eyes — so the symptom (my “glittering eye” experiences) did not result from cataracts, corneal damage, mutant fluorescent floaters or anything else in the vitreous humor, or retinal damage. Her conclusion: “ocular migraines,” just as the old family physician had deduced earlier. (And about which, if plans hold steady, you shall learn more than enough, dutiful readers, probably on Monday.)

Our visit had one last bright moment. When I mentioned the possible cataracts perhaps observed that morning, she checked the optics again, assuring me that earlier conclusion had been mistaken: “healthy, healthy eyes. All okay.”

I got home about 3:15 (driving with my sunglasses on, covered by the doctorʼs plastic shades — my eyes were dilated, still are as I type this later Thursday), and the writing day was pretty well gone. I wrote this (having started before I left for lunch and the optometrist — can you spot the break?), and I will write Fridayʼs promised post. I donʼt know if one word will be added to the novel other than the couple hundred I put down this morning. Oh,well, thereʼs always yesterday (think about it; I didnʼt have Slaves to the Lesser Moon arise from a malfunctioning time machine for nothing).

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Last of the Lipoma

A rising number of hits (yes, I am still addicted to statistics) have resulted from people searching on lipomas, perhaps much as I was doing back at the end of August having first heard that word at the doctorʼs office. And I have also been asked in comments and e-mail about my situation. So as a kind of public service (mildly ironic there) and to collect the information that I have scattered all over posts from the past month or so, I thought I would compose one last reflection on my own luscious little fat tumor. (And my apologies to faithful readers for whom all this is simply a review of what you have read already.)

I first discovered I had a lipoma, without knowing what it was, when my wife noticed a lump on my left shoulder blade back in late August, I believe the evening of the 27th. At my age, nearly 57 (but I guess at any age), lumps make you worry about cancer, so she got me to go to the doctor first thing the very next morning to discover what this thing was. I wrote about that session in some detail here and here. Our doctor said he was sure it was a lipoma and told me what that was, a fat tumor, benign, in which the fat collects in a lump instead of spreading out in a layer as fat usually does. However, to be certain (and to be careful), he referred me to a surgeon for further investigation (perhaps a biopsy or full excision, depending on the surgeonʼs judgment). On our own, Janet and I investigated lipomas, and I found the Wikipedia article and the Mayo site most informative. Then I visited the surgeon at his offices in our local hospital, Wednesday, September 1. He made  very cursory examination (even needing me to tell him where to look), noting the lump did not push out much but was what he considered large — about seven centimeters in extent. And he decided right there it had to come out.

As my wife and I had some concerns about our insurance paying for this procedure (lipoma excision is frequently branded as “cosmetic” by greedy insurance companies, and I suppose for some people, unsightly lumps need removal just because they are unsightly), I was pleased he wanted to remove it for what he considered medical reasons. (None of my bills has as of yet come in, probably in the conduits of the insurance claims process still, so I donʼt know how much all this — doctor visit, surgeon visit, outpatient procedure and follow-up with the surgeon — will cost, both me and our insurance company. Perhaps that will be the final word on the whole thing one day when I do get the bills — total cost.)

We had our vacation to Alaska planned, so the surgeonʼs nurse slated my procedure for the day after our return home, Wednesday, October 20. Before my wifeʼs observation in August I donʼt think I had any pain or discomfort from the lump. Afterward, probably psychosomatically, I felt a dull ache, like a heaviness there on my mid back. And I may have felt that mild weight or ache for some time and just ignored it, but I think the sensation was mostly my reaction to the knowledge the lipoma existed. During the two weeks until the surgery, some days I felt that very mild ache, other days and times not. My conclusion for those who might wonder: no pain.

Although this one is from a dog, mine looked a lot like this. (Do I hear the universe chuckling?)

The surgery was uncomfortable but no problem. The doctor gave me a local (repeatedly as I made a conscious point to complain of any actual sensation of cutting or pain other than the pressure I could feel of him at work). He had to work more and longer than he had anticipated (evidently most lipomas kind of just “pop out” once a small incision has been made), as my lump lay low and adhered tightly to the muscle beneath. He also had to extend the incision because the lipoma was larger than he had anticipated. The most unpleasant part for me was feeling him tug and tug at me as he stitched me up (on, I believe, three levels). My appointment was at 2:00 PM; he began actual work by a quarter after, and I was being dismissed from the office almost immediately after 3:00.

Once I got to see the oblong lump itself (dull white, covered in watery red, about three inches — less — by not quite two inches), the staff took it for shipment to a lab for biopsy.

Recovery was mild and easy. The rest of that afternoon and evening, the painkiller kept me from feeling any issues at all, and my only problems were trying to sleep on my right side, forcing me to recline on a sofa to rest my back and side simultaneously for two nights. Periodically and briefly, about a half dozen times a day for not quite a week I got a flash of bight pain along what I assumed was the healing wound, but that was basically mild and very brief. They had prescribed extra-strength Advil for pain, and I only ever took one tablet at night to help me sleep easily (sometimes extra-strength PM). I had to keep the bandaged wound dry, and my wife changed the bandages after three days (twice before my return visit). I also was advised (and felt the need) not to move my left shoulder blade too much, particularly to avoid reaching overhead and also to avoid heavy physical exertion, like lawn work; and I noticed reaching behind me with my left arm could cause a stab of pain for a while. I avoided my usual exercise routine, jogging, and carried my arm as if it were in a sling until my wife observed that I did need to use those muscles as everything healed. The tug of the bandage tape was probably the most noticeable symptom all week long. I showered without turning my back to the water.

Exactly a week later, on September 27, I returned to the surgeon at 3:00 PM to have the stitches removed and get the lab results. This was a very brief visit, only about ten minutes altogether. The surgeon covered the healing scar/wound with “sterile strips” that I was to leave in place until they came off on their own (which I anticipate will be about a week or a little longer). Exercise was okay now, but weight lifting was not advised for a while longer yet; mowing the lawn should be fine, and I did that job with no problems last Friday. I write on Wednesday, October 6, but all seems fine. I anticipate being fully back to normal (well, as normal as I can be) easily within three weeks from the surgery. This past week I havenʼt really noticed anything at all with the healing incision.

I hope that the whole thing is now behind me.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


So it turns out typing is a chore when your back is stiff and partially immobilized by a bandage. Iʼm trying to use the dictation software instead, but I am discovering repeatedly that I donʼt really have anything to say. At least not today. The reality of having been cut must be hitting: it hurts. Mildly but definitely throughout most of the afternoon (Friday). I also want to do nothing but sleep (and thatʼs after having slept nearly a solid twelve hours Thursday night! — first for a quite unconscious eight, unlike the first postoperative night, on the sofa again, and then, after Janet departed to work, I lay down in the bed and conked for three more hours). I donʼt know if thatʼs Advil PM working on me or what, but I havenʼt been quite alert all day, either. On the other hand, I am not quite alert when all on my own somewhat often.

Besides, today the wound has decided to make itself known to me, sharp little pain in a line along my back. It might be the tape pulling sharply, but somehow I donʼt think so. Not wickedly bad but distracting and annoying. (And although I am whining, I realize, I donʼt mean to complain: people I know have endured real pain and some are experiencing actual agony right now. Iʼm just working on recognizing whatʼs going on with me, and this blog has turned sort of into a journal. So there we are.) And I have to watch how I sit or lean and what I do moreso than yesterday. I learned that doctors like you to rate pain on a scale of ten back in ʼ01 after the hernia job, and I didnʼt really know how to tell them what I was experiencing (without medication The Lovely One and I both learned as I was dismissed from hospital that day when they told her they figured I wouldnʼt want some painkiller for the evening because I had recovered all day without meds; she took the prescription and we stopped on the way home for the stuff). Maybe today is a periodic four.

I hope I heal fast, if only because I donʼt like thinking about or writing about just these petty problems.

Petty pain, yes. Today Qwest continues its evil ways with a vile vengeance. Every time I try to do anything online, the browser stalls and eventually complains of lost connections until I realize that once again the “internet” and “server” status items have eluded my electronic grasp. The internet connection has been so dicey that I almost fear uploading whatever few words I eventually put down here because I am sure that I will lose the post in the process by losing connection to that larger digital reality beyond me. Good thing that I have gotten into the drill of writing the post first in Scrivener and then just copying the text over to the WordPress window in the browser — a state that started from losing a post back in June that I had written in the browser and had thought I had periodically saved, but once I realized the Qwest connection had gone down (again), I learned that evidently I hadnʼt successfully communicated to WordPress after all.

I am almost to the point of advising anyone who asks to avoid Qwest for any service — phone, internet, video, whatever, because this is somewhat past annoying to troublesome. Of course, after all that sleep I am also somewhat grumpy today, or maybe something less than service has made me that way. Why should I complain? Qwest gave me a free month of continually interrupted “service” and no communication from their “service staff” in compensation for my complained-about difficulties with what they choose to call service. If I didnʼt already have one, I would say Qwest is a big pain in the back. As it is, I guess the pain they inflict is somewhat lower down.

So now I have discovered the theme for today — annoying pain, or aggravating irritations. Sorry for having written on that, but having pretty much wasted today, whatever I come up with as the minutes tick down to Janetʼs return from work will have to go up. And this is what I have to post. Perhaps a new week will do better for us all (and maybe in a new week so will Qwest, and maybe sows and boars will take to the air as well).

Oh. Click the picture for a positive side to Qwest…

Apologies. Take care out there.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


So I am back. Even yesterdayʼs post was written well before our vacation started (and those were a pretty busy week or ten days as I attempted to churn out three and four posts a day).

Vague First Trip Report

The trip was utterly fantastic, even though it was a cruise, and I will tell more about it soon. We went to lower (southeastern) Alaska, stopping at Glacier Bay (the highlight, even though we stayed on the ship the whole day), Juneau (a highlight only because The Lovely One and I took a bus out to Mendenhall Glacier, and that was amazing), Sitka (wonderful for history, forests, salmon running and totem poles), and Ketichkan (the lowlight probably, but we only had a single morning). On our way back to Seattle, the ship stopped for a few hours in Victoria (for legal reasons, someone cited the Jones Act, but I havenʼt looked it up yet — ships face fines for cruises that donʼt put into a foreign port), and although Janet and I walked around in the rain by the Inner Harbor there and somewhat downtown, it was about 8:00 PM on a Saturday night, and the town was full of cruise tourists, like us.

I broke my camera on our second day back in Seattle, and right now I am experiencing problems getting the computer to “see” the memory disk even when installed outside the camera, but I hope to have pictures (a few here) someday.

And Wednesdayʼs Unpleasantness at the Medical Center

I shunnned the bloody one that my “scalpel” search googled up…

I also visited the surgeon in his office on Wednesday, as I told you well in advance. The procedure was distinctly unpleasant but not painful (somewhat comical at times, like getting a syringe-ful of painkiller down my side when the needle wasnʼt properly installed), and I now know from experience that I prefer being knocked out while my body is invaded for my own good. I have learned that I donʼt like even the pain-numbed sensation of having my upper back split open and someone pulling and scraping inside. My body knew it was opened, and the sensation was… uncomfortable. (Dr. A was very good about injecting more epinephrine, I believe that was my painkiller, when I moaned and squawked, which I made a point of doing, as I should explain in future.) And my particular lipoma (which the gloating doctor let me see in all its bloody, pale and baggy glory) was bigger and much more deeply attached to the me below it than is usual — thus more than normal cutting, and a procedure that endured for nearly an hour. Getting well sutured afterward seemed to take forever as well, but I am very glad he did a good job.

Anyway, now I hurt on my left back, have to take partial showers, move delicately for a few days, and take care what I try to do for a week or so (the stitches come out next week, when I will also learn the lab results on the lump of fat). I slept the first night afterward on our basement family room sofa, seeking support on my rear while lying on my side, but I may just try lying down tonight (that would be Thursday) in the real bed. As I may have noted already, or as I just ran into words I could use in my mind as I was not rapidly falling asleep Wednesday night, no one ever talks much about the recovery from surgeries, which I have begun to suspect from my own fairly limited and actually mild (but disturbingly unpleasant and sometimes painful) experiences is because recovery is no fun at all. And the medicos just process you out and try not to imagine what you are enduring until they see you a week or so later.

Oh, well, why whine, when itʼs all for my benefit? (Because Iʼm actually getting close to a genuine post from all this?)

Meanwhile I am going to keep blog-stuff short because I have an actual writing commission to complete (one that I didnʼt realize had come through as The Lovely One and I were departing for the Northwest). Iʼm afraid itʼs a freebie, but I have made a start already yesterday (ha — I caught myself that time and didnʼt try to say “today” as in when I am writing), and I may explain more on that later.

For now, weʼll call it day. Janet should be home soon, and I have really gotten to enjoy seeing her 24/7 (as “those kids” might in their ugly way say).

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

A Little Update

Remember when I told you about the lipoma? (If you donʼt, just click the link and read all about it, of course.) I said I had gone into Dr. Bill on Friday and was scheduled to visit the surgeon the following Wednesday, and that no news was good news as far as the blog was concerned. And you had no news. So it was good news.

Ever wondered why clip art is so scary? Maybe itʼs the black and white…

Dr. Atienza was convinced instantly that the lump was a lipoma. Good news. Fortunately or un-, he was also convinced that I had to have the lump removed. It would be as simple as dentistry, he told me, meaning that I would only receive local anesthetic for the procedure. No naysaying or shilly-shallying allowed, I was having the fat thing out as soon as possible. And I am telling you today because todayʼs the day.

Yessiree-bob, I go in to have the lump cut out at 2:00 p.m. I donʼt know if I am nervous or not (although I am using a blog post to tell you dozens of faithful readers all about it, for whatever that tells us of my mental state and mood), but itʼs going to go away. Today.

I tried to explain that the insurance might consider the procedure cosmetic, and he laughed. “Not cosmetic at all. Necessary.” (Dr. Atienza is Filipino originally and still sounds it.) He went on to explain, “It is… Turn around!” I did and he palpitated me (a common experience for me in those few days back at and before the beginning of this month). “It is, what, five, no seven centimeters.” He showed me using three or four fingers what seven centimeters is like, which didnʼt look very large to me — abut the three inches I had mentally (over)estimated. “Pretty big. We have to take it out.”

And we are, about nine hours after this post initially appears.

He and the nurse assured me itʼs a really simple procedure. I wonʼt even bleed much, thanks to the specific anesthetic and the doctorʼs suturing. We didnʼt discuss recovery time, but I warned them about our vacation (thatʼs the real reason the surgery wasnʼt until today, as I will explain tomorrow) and my Picasso performance, and they said there would be no problem. So the deed was on. Dr. Atienza would have his third opportunity to look at whatʼs inside me (although this time only in the layer just below the skin).

Janetʼs coming with me at 2:00, but this time they werenʼt even worried about me driving myself home (so I guess sheʼs just moral support, as the nurse kept saying when we talked about it). When I had the colonoscopy, I wasnʼt even permitted to walk myself home, which I thought was pretty ridiculous (and so our neighbor, Levi, had to take the time to drop me off and pick me up — thanks, sir! — although I was fit enough to use my cell phone to give him the summons to bring me home). On my other hand, however, I think driving might feel a bit uncomfortable, considering where the lipoma is. Heck, Iʼm not even looking forward to sitting in the car seat (not to mention lying down in bed to sleep)!

And before I conclude, all this reminds me of a joke I like, being a language groaner. Enjoy:

So this guy went into the surgeonʼs office and told the nurse he wanted to get castrated.

“Castrated? Are you sure, sir?”

“Absolutely, nursie. Castration. Thatʼs the one I want. Castration.”

“Castrationʼs pretty extreme, sir. Are you sure you donʼt want a few days to consider this operation?”

“No, lady, I have considered and considered, and I want it done. Castrate me. Today if itʼs possible.”

So the nurse went to the surgeon and told him, explaining how definite the guy was. There was nothing on for an hour or so, and the junk could be snipped in the office with only a local. And no surgeon ever avoids an opportunity to cut, so they had the man in right then and there.

Just to be careful, however, as they were preparing the patient on the table, the doctor asked him again, “Are you quite sure that castration is what you want to have done?”

“No time like the present, doc. Iʼve had it for years, and itʼs time it was gone. Go ahead. Castrate me.”

So they did.

As the brand-new eunuch was leaving the office, walking a bit gingerly in his delicate condition, another man was at the window, speaking to the nurse.

“If the doctorʼs available today, miss, I need to be circumcised.”

“Circumcised, sir?”

“Yep, itʼs time I had a circumcision.”

“Dammit,” the first patient exclaimed. “I always get those confused! Circumcised. Not castrated. I wanted to get circumcised.”

“Sorry, sir,” the nurse informed him logically, “no do-overs.”

I may have stretched it out too long toward the end (and the original joke concludes with the first patientʼs speech). I kind of liked adding the extra ending, although I did change it for publication just now. My original final word was “Mulligans.” Any better?

Anyway, thatʼs the news for today. If thereʼs anything much to report or reveal from the procedure, perhaps Iʼll use the opportunity Thursday.

Wish me luck!

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.


For those who read yesterdayʼs post (and an unresponsive lot you were, considering all my carefully cultivated literary suspense, although I did give away the “new word” through the link Janet had given me) the title of todayʼs post tells it all. But so does my continuation of my little narrative essay, so read on…

“A lump, huh? How long have you had it?”

“Janet just noticed it last night. I donʼt really know how long itʼs been there…”

“Well, letʼs take a look.”

So I pulled off my t-shirt (this was becoming a habit within ten hours) and turned around. No real reaction.

“Which side?”

“The left. On my shoulder blade.”

He prodded at me. “Here? On the scapula?”

“Feels like it. Janet said the bottom of my shoulder blade.”

“Uh uh.” He took my left elbow and pulled it back, then up, also pushing on my back, on the lump I assumed. He moved my arm some more. A minute or so passed. Then, “Crap…”

That woefully unmagical word! It made me freeze a little. No one wants their doctor, or their friend, saying that when examining something that might be wrong with you.

He kept manipulating my arm, apparently trying to get a good view of the lump by raising or depressing the scapula. After a couple more maneuvers, he told me, “Let me move it.” I tried to relax and let him take charge of where my arm went, including high over my head and back through some positions it had already been. Also more poking and massaging on my back.

Then he corrected himself, probably realizing what had slipped out of his mouth. “—Uh, not ‘crap,ʼ uh, ‘cancer,ʼ you know. Just… itʼs hard to tell… Itʼs not, not a tumor, not malignant or anything. Not cancer.”

Best words I had heard in many years. They probably even beat, “you have won the lottery” or “yes, we want to publish your story,” although I havenʼt had the chance to compare yet. At least now I might get to get that opportunity and take our vacation, finish the stories I have going.

“Thatʼs good,” I said.

“Uh huh. — Try crossing your arm over your chest.” I did. “And now, up over your head. High. Higher than that…”

Now I had control of the arm while he prodded at my back with both hands. We put me through quite a few contortions for a couple more minutes.

“Okay, you can put your shirt back on.”

I did and turned around to look at him.

“Itʼs not a tumor, not cancerous. Probably itʼs a lipoma.” I wasnʼt sure I heard the word correctly (this was my new word that I featured so suggestively to begin yesterdayʼs initial post on this medical session). I must have looked doubtful because he repeated the word at least five times trying to explain it to me. “A lipoma is a collection of fatty tissue beneath the skin. Theyʼre harmless. Itʼs just fat. Your fat usually flattens out into layers, like what gives us a belly, but in this case it just stays in a lump right under you skin.” Mr. Overweight here wasnʼt sure this new thing wasnʼt an issue with me being just fat in general. And he went on…

I am not even close on the explanation, so Iʼll just quit pretending that I remember what he said at all accurately. Heʼs really quite clear in his explanations of medical issues and I understood, but I am afraid that nervous tension put me in the wrong frame of mind — shocked pleasantly — to have taken full note of every word. I got the key information, though: the word, lipoma, and the diagnosis, harmless. The tougher issue, the reason for his exclamation, is that itʼs difficult to tell for sure without surgery if itʼs actually a lipoma. He told me an x-ray, even an MRI might or might not show the mass very clearly in my case. It was probably, probably even undoubtedly, a lipoma. But to be sure, I should see a surgeon, and he would make the referral for me.

Wrong shoulder and too high, but a lipoma

At some point in the conversation I had remembered to indicate my upcoming obligations — vacation, performances, possible substitute teaching jobs. He said it would probably be best to get me right in. If the surgeon, our local surgeon at the Jackson County Regional Health Center, Dr. Atienza, who has had the joyous opportunity of getting physically inside me twice already — once for double hernia surgery (thanks be to the novice doctor at the old medical office who finally determined that I had to get that operation, as our health insurance counted hernia surgery as cosmetic/elective and wouldnʼt have paid otherwise) in 2001 and again over Christmas break my last year of teaching, my celebratory end to 2008, when I succumbed to current friend doctorʼs blandishments to get a colonoscopy — , decided either to take a biopsy or actually remove the lipoma, I would heal in a couple of weeks (which is the same recovery time I was promised after the hernia operation, and I was still pretty feeble at the walking game more than a month afterward; itʼs the recuperation that really sucks with surgery, and no one ever talks about that).

And that was that. I remembered to bring up my inflamed toe (recovering from an ingrown nail, as I had diagnosed myself — still somewhat infected, though) and the fact that my meds were running low. He wrote out a new prescription for both blood pressure and cholesterol. I forgot the third item on my list was not the reason I had gone in (the lump) but the tinnitus, so Bill still doesnʼt know about that little annoyance/symptom.

Reminding me to razz Janet about that imaginary party, he took his leave. The nurse returned to call the hospital and make my appointment with Atienza (which will be tomorrow), and I was free to leave. Having walked down the hill to the office, I called Janet (as per my instructions) while walking uphill home. I think she may have been as relieved as I was.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.