Thursday, May 31, 2012

How Long Will it Be?

Yes, fellow followers, all is well and good here on my end as our crew finally made it back to Springfield yesterday afternoon to settle back into lives outside of hotels and hospitals. Hopefully Adam was able to keep everyone up to speed throughout the past few days, but now that I'm feeling a lot better, I thought I could add a few of my own thoughts from the past experience....

Surgery. What a whirlwind tour THAT was, but fascinating all at the same time. Getting up at 4:30am, checking in by 5:30, meeting with the doc one last time at 6:30, then being stripped down and taken into pre-op all before 7; the Mayo seriously is a well-oiled machine. One of the surgeons warned me that pre-op would be like being in the NASCAR pit with everyone doing a million things at once to prep me to go, and she couldn't have been more right. Fascinating. Almost a week later, I still have the 'tattoo' of the surgeon's initials to say I was officially ready to cut open. Apparently, Sharpie has found its way to be used as an official medical tool.

As I was signing my life away before the start of the procedure, I had one surgeon ask me very seriously if I accept getting a blood transfusion if needed. I said, "Of course...I agree to whatever you see fit to keep me alive! My only request is that you give me the right type of blood. No mixing that up, now!" I chuckled, and I think it took him a sec to notice I was trying to make light of the situation. But then again, I suppose you don't have too many jokes flying around at 6:45am right before surgery. Looking around the pre-op room, there was a dozen or so more gurneys getting prepped to go, and no one looked like the joking type. Everyone was at least twice my age and looked miserable. I was hoping I would at least find the young guy I saw at my MRI to assure me I wasn't the only 'kid' there. No show. According to how this tumor works, though, I'm about 30 years too early to have this, but the surgeons all showed their thanks for my 'under-aged-ness' along with the fact that I was under 250lbs. I can only imagine how much easier I just had made their jobs.

From pre-op, I got rolled into the OR where I was chatting away with three lady surgeons about France. They stuck me with and IV and some cold fluid started trickling in, right after getting my permission for an epidermal in the spine. I said yes yes yes! Anything to forgo pain, and they laughed when I told them a quote from a girlfriend who recently told me, 'this is the time to forget everything you learned in DARE.' Say yes to drugs! Next thing I know, I was back in the pre-op room feeling nauseous and being told to sniff something alcoholic to ease the swimmies. Little did I know, a good 5 hours had already passed.

The doc originally said he figured the procedure would take anywhere from 4-6 hours, and if there were any complications, he'd be out to discuss this with my folks before proceeding. My parents were prepared for at least a solid 4 hour wait, so when they were met by a nurse telling them to follow her, they said there was a feeling of sheer terror. Shit, what had gone wrong! Was I dying? Oh no, the doctor just wanted to say they were all finished, and the other surgeons were simply doing their final stitching. The job was easier than expected, the tumor was cut out, and no other major organs or arteries had to be touched. Again, the best news ever. They, now, only needed to wait for me to wake up so I could be moved to my hospital room.

As for the rest of the hospital visit, you got the main gist from Adam, so I won't go into much detail there, but man, is it good to be home again. Last night was the first time in over a week I didn't need to wake up to an alarm clock or another nurse coming in. For most of the stay, I was woken up about every two hours to take meds or check my blood pressure or something. Now the real healing can begin.

Besides a constant ache throughout my body, the sheer pain when I chuckle (which can be deadly around my family), or my extremely slow movements, most everything else physically is feeling back to normal-ish. The queezies have gone away, and I thank the lord for my lack of a hangover sensation coupled with my achy body. At least now I can sit around and read or watch TV without feeling like I'm going to vomit....which btw, hurts like hell after having your whole stomach ripped apart. And don't even think about crying either. That hurts even more than laughing. I can't even imagine handling all this as a little kid where this whole situation would probably have me in painful tears over everything.

So here I am now with a new scar to sport as well as a revised belly button. I've always had an outie, but before the procedure, it started swelling out even more. Turns out, the docs found I had a hernia in that spot, so they did a bit of stitching that's made it more compressed. They joked this was the 'plastic surgery' part of the procedure, and that my bill for $6000 would be in the mail shortly. Ha. So weird. But anyways, here's the real quiz for you all:

My incision runs down the middle of my stomach, around the belly button, and just a bit further on.....sooooo, how long do YOU think the scar will be? You can round to the nearest 1/4."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Puzzles, Flowers, and Stained Glass

Bridgette's systems have been working since late yesterday, and with the doctor's approval this morning, she decided to pack things up, grab her prescriptions, and escape the hospital.

On the way out, we stopped by the puzzle Gale and I had been working on ... it'll just have to be completed by someone else hanging out in the waiting room:

Thank you to all the friends and family who sent flowers. They really do help brighten the room! We had to hunt down some boxes to move the "green house:"

As we pulled up the car, we took a moment to check out the big stained glass window. (This is the desktop background on all the computers throughout the hospital.)

And so, with little effort, Bridgette has made her way back to the hotel room for some more relaxation in a comfy bed. If no problems arise before tomorrow, she'll be back in Springfield before she knows it.

Hospital Sleepover

Bridgette's recovery has been relatively good. Following a good day Friday of downing fluids like a fish, talking, and even walking around the hospital floor a bit, Saturday was rough. She spent most of the day battling a stomach that would not put up with what she wanted to put down, be it tea or crackers. The nurses were very attentive to the situation, and the day ended up being a game of trying to time pain-killer pills around lost bellies and short naps. Bridgette's girlfriends were considering visiting, too. And knowing what state she was in, she was bummed that conversation would have to wait or at most be kept short.

So early Saturday afternoon, I was accompanying Bridgette on one of her walks down the corridors, as she fought off the shivers and dodged gurneys and nurses. We found that one hallway has a little extra heat near the windows, so that served as a nice goal for the walks. On our return, however, the Sharkeys appeared out of nowhere to greet her with hugs and flowers. We all walked our way back to the room, where Bridgette's exhaustion required more napping.

During that sleep, Jess and D showed up, too, so we all had a few hours of hanging out in the waiting room, catching up, until Bridgette woke up. Once that happened, she still was feeling crappy, so we decided to let her nausea meds kick in while she slept a bit more. Luckily, by the end of dinner, I got a text that the nausea had passed, so Bridgette was able to spend some real time chatting with the friends before they made the trek back to Illinois.

In case a rough night was ahead, I decided to crash in the hospital room. The sleepover was mostly uneventful; no ghost stories, video games, or eating s'mores. We were both spent after the friends left, so sleep came around 9.30pm (how incredibly exciting of us). The cot here was surprisingly comfortable, and both Bridgette and I think the blankets here are magical -- somehow thin and light, yet cozy and warm. At midnight, a nurse came with pain meds, and at 4am, another to take blood. 6.15am: the doc for a checkup, and finally around 8.30am, nature was calling. We started the day with yet another walk down the corridors to the comfy, warm hall with the windows.

Thankfully, today's nausea is more under control, and Bridgette has been able to keep down not only tea and crackers, but even a bit of scrambled eggs and French toast. Go, team! She's been sleeping a ton in between walks, snacks, bathroom breaks, and a little reading time. We (and the docs) want to be sure everything is under control with her digestion before we leave the hospital, so no definite end in sight, yet.

As I write this, she's sleeping, the parents are close by, and we're all relieved today is another "easy" day. Time passes strangely here: strangely fast, considering we're all doing mostly a big heap o' nothin'. We're all proud of how strong Bridgette is, and we can't wait to get her back to Springfield for some R&R without nurses waking her up every 4 hours. No offense, RNs out there.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Surgery Update

Sorry, no puns or jokes for this post: Bridgette has left surgery with no complications and things are looking very good. We expect her to be out of recovery soon.

Here's contact info once she gets to her room. Looks like at least a few days in the hospital.

Farewell, Scarless Belly

Tuesday. The biopsy results finally came. I had quite a sleepless night the evening before with the phone by my side waiting for the doc to call, for I just knew it would be first thing in the AM. My phone rang at about 7am, which jolted me awake, and I stumbled out of bed to answer. To my dismay, it was only the service guy trying to get into my condo in Chicago to fix my renter’s thermostat. Ugh. That call about gave me a heart attack.

At this point, I was exhausted from a poor night’s sleep, but wired with anticipation. The doc then called about an hour later with the news, and he said that it was what he had expected, a renal cell carcinoma cancer. Wow, it was quite strange to hear someone finally blatantly say it like that. I have cancer. It really seems so unreal because aren’t you supposed to feel really sick when you have killer inside you…albeit a silent one? Anyways, he added that it was actually a very rare type (only 2-3% of cases) of this sort of cancer called a chromophobe renal cell carcinoma instead of the typical clear cell cancer, and this all was very very good news. He continues that this Grade 2 (on a scale from 1-4) cancer was not very aggressive and has been less likely to cling on to and destroy other organs. The cure rate for patients like me is way higher than those with the true ‘garden variety’ renal cancer, and with this news, I had to take a huge sigh of relief. The docs would not need to do any chemo (thank god I get to keep my hair for the wedding next year!) and would be ready to cut me open and just scoop all this crap out. My brother asked if we could bring the goo home in a jar. His girlfriend (a nurse) simply stuck up her nose and described how disgusting cancer really smells. I had no idea it had a distinct odor, but apparently it does, and it’s something you never want to smell. I think my insides might need some fabreeze when this is all said and done. And with all that, we agreed not to bring the tumor home in a jar.

Wednesday. My parents and I headed from Springfield up to the Mayo and Adam and his mom joined us from Elgin. At 3:30, I had my first MRI, and all my loyal fans waited patiently for me in the lobby. Like I had mentioned in an earlier post, I had had the opportunity to help design an MRI room at my last job, so it was cool to finally be the end user. Once, I had heard that the magnet is so strong, you could put a strawberry (which is full of iron) above the epicenter of the magnet and it would simply float, and when asking the doc if he had ever heard about this he simply said, “awww, sweet!, really?” Guess I just gave him something to do in his downtime, ha. In any case, I went through the motions and let them zap me with magnets for almost an hour to get all the images they needed before tomorrow’s surgery.  Not really much to do while laying still in this tube looking at the plastic tube above you except listen to the clinks and clanks and beats the machine makes. I think you could easily take all those sounds and make a really sweet dance beat. I could just see us all now in some underground club fist pumpin to some MRI beats. What?!

 It really did feel like summer here, and to celebrate my last night of double-kidney-ness and a scar-free lifestyle, we went out for drinks, appetizers, and a great dinner at a local wine bar we discovered our first visit here. Ironically, we noticed that the guy sitting behind us at dinner was the same guy ahead of me for my MRI appointment. Seriously, what were the odds of that? Is this town really that small?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Godfather

Thursday. Consultation #3 + Biopsy = another 12 hour day at the hospital. We finally were able to meet with THE doc who had an actual say in all this, Dr. Leibovich, and our family friend doc who we had met with the day before had reassured us that this guy was the "best of the best", his best friend, and, oh yeah, the godfather of his child. When he walked into the room and shook our hands, we said, "so you're the godfather....we hear you make things happen." This made everyone chuckle to release some of the anticipation in the room.

For the millionth time, I went over my story to catch him up to speed, we looked at the scans together, and he explained in greater detail the three possibilities that might be the outcome of this biopsy. To him, the most likely result pointed towards the 'garden variety' (yes, he actually said garden variety, like it's something you'd just find out in the street or something) renal cell carcinoma cancer which would simply be surgically removed. Chemo and drugs simply don't have an effect on this type of cancer like it does on others, so with the surgery, we'd just have to cross our fingers and hope they get it all out (equals large slice down the middle of my stomach...we asked if we could install a zipper for later on when a baby comes..would be a bit easier than giving birth). If it were the other two options we'd discussed with the doc the day before, there'd be a chance I'd be asked to have some chemo treatments first to shrink down the tumor as much as possible with the possibility of removing it laparoscopically ( equals very small scars). Until the results come back, though, we won't know what the game plan will be. As of now, though, the doc is still planning on his number one guess of it needing immediate removal, so surgery has been tentatively planned for next Thursday. He also showed concern for my vena cava, the huge vein that brings blood to the heart, since the images showed it being pinched somewhere by the tumor. He said if there were any complications during surgery, he'd have a vascular surgeon as well as a general surgeon by his side to fix anything up that needs fixing. We all sighed in relief and told him, "...that's great, because we have a groupon for one surgeon, get two free. Sweet deal for us." I'm glad this guy found us funny, or at least played along well.

The Biopsy. We all thought this would be as quick and easy as a blood test, but of course not. I was brought up to an outpatient wing, told to put on the hospital garb and was given a lecture of the ultrasound guided biopsy procedure. I was just hoping it would be quick so I could get outa there and get something to eat and drink. I hadn't been allowed to eat since dinner, and had to give up drinking hours ago. I was famished. But no, it would be another two hours before lunch came to my rescue, and in the mean time, all I got was some crazy clothes to wear and a blank IV in my arm. Gross. I got on a gurney and was wheeled to another wing where the procedure would take place. The woman pushing me wasn't a nurse, but someone looking closer to a flight attendant. I later asked a nurse about these 'cab drivers' and she said, yes, there was a whole team of people whose sole purpose is to transport patients. Not a bad gig I suppose. I was wheeled into the ultrasound room where I met three other nurses and the doc (#13) who would soon be stabbing me. My heart rate went up and their IV fluid went right into my arm to calm me down. It was amazing how fast that stuff works. One of the nurses manned the ultrasound wand while the doc pinpointed the spot he wanted to prick. With a sharpie, he marked the spot then used something on my skin to numb me all the way through the muscle. Miraculously, I couldn't feel a thing being inserted, but then you hear a loud, CLAMP. Amazing, no pain. He did this a few more times, removed the needle, and applied pressure to the spot. "How's it feeling?," he asked. The Mayo has you tell your pain on a scale from 0-10. I said it was feeling fine, about a 1. The bandaid went on, then the pain bumped up to a 5, then 7, then, yep, it sucked really really bad. The doc immediately called for some more fluid in my IV and a Vicodin. Even with the speed of those drugs, those 30 seconds of pain felt like eternity. Ugh, and this wasn't even surgery, yet. My mind had to go to another place and try and think of something more painful I'd experienced to convince myself this wasn't so bad. I immediately thought of a past climbing trip where I was exhausted to death, missed clipping in, and slammed into the rock face a good 10' below me. Yeah, that sucked, too. Then by this point, the drugs had set in and I was back down to a 2-3.

After the procedure, my 'cab driver' was called and she wheeled me back up to my room. From there I was ordered to lay flat for the next 5 hours to give my body time to recoup and alleviate any chance of internal bleeding. Adam and the 'rents went out to lunch and I patiently waited, staring at the ceiling, sipping hot chocolate hoping company and lunch would soon arrive. I was just happy not to be my roommate on the other side of the curtain who just got out of surgery and complained how much pain she was in....oh wait, that would be me next week. Crap.

We were advised to stay in town for the evening following the procedure in case any complications may arise, so our plans to ditch town and make our way home were put off for another night. Everyone was exhausted. The waiting, the hospital time, the procedures, and more waiting. It's only the beginning.

Friday we made our way back to Springfield and we plan to head back next Tuesday for the real fun. 

Sticky Socks

Mayo Patients from all over the world

Thursday, May 17, 2012

10 Doctors and Counting

 So here we are, two weeks and 10 doctors later (since the discovery of all this) still twiddling our thumbs awaiting another day of doctor visits and tests. Luckily, though, we have been able to enjoy a bit of Rochester both last night and this morning wandering around town, discovering some fantastic local eats, and enjoying a stroll along the river walk (with Adam and I pondering things like, what color do you think the tumor is?...and do you think if they put the tumor in a jar it would still grow?... and where do you think they throw away all the hospital waste? know, important things, ha). It's really not too shabby of a town, and it's quite fascinating to see just how much everything is built up all because of the hospital.

This afternoon was my first consultation with the doc referred to us by the surgeon in Springfield, so the four of us made our way into the grand lobby of this world renown facility...yes, it was awesome. Not a skimp on any of those finishes! This place truly felt high class, especially with the pianist playing somewhere in the background. Up until this point, I had kept my cool, but now I was starting to get nervous again. At least the piano music helped ease the nerves a bit.

We checked in, wandered our way up to my appointment, then met with our recommended doc. But alas, after looking at my scans, him and his colleagues had a different theory about what this might be, and what this might be was not his specialty. Great : / So he immediately set up an appointment for me to meet with another doc who, ironically, is the husband of a family friend of ours. What were the odds? So back through the hospital we went to another floor, another waiting room. About an hour later, we met with this doc who had already set up a consultation for the following morning for the doc of his choice, the guy who would actually be doing the surgery, I suppose? I still don't know why we couldn't have just skipped this step and moved straight to the surgeon, but maybe it was because he knew who we were and knew we were coming, yada yada. Who knows. At this point, we are all just going with the flow. Long story short, though, all my scans and test results were reviewed, and once again, the docs praised the French for such clear pictures. No extra scans have been ordered as of yet. What we did find out, though, was that this could be one of three things: a Wilm's tumor (a childhood tumor), a retropertioneal sarcoma, or some sort of kidney cancer. No matter what it is, the kidney will have to come out, but until we know what it is, we won't know the proper procedure to take it out. The first two options might involve some sort chemotherapy perhaps beforehand (?) while the later may take me straight to surgery to dig it all out? I don't remember all the details, but this is the first time the doc has called for a biopsy to really determine the fate of the next few months of my life.

We asked how long until we know what the game plan will be and the doc's answer made our hearts sink.  Tomorrow will be consultation #3 followed by the biopsy. This will take at least 24hrs to get the results, then, wait...oh, the doc to do the surgery won't be in all next week. So now we're looking into something closer to Memorial Day weekend. For all we know, we might be heading home tomorrow being forced to wait some more.

Up until now, things have all been fairly cool, and the term tumor has become no biggy. But now that we're introducing words like cancer, oncologist, and chemotherapy into the vocabulary, things are sounding a lot scarier. One step at a time, I suppose, and come Friday, we all can really determine how worried we all should be.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Road Trip

So here we are, rolling along 74 West, on our way up to Minnesota, listening to some classic rock. For those concerned, neither of the above pictured people are currently driving; we have Bridgette's parents playing chauffeur / chaperon for this road trip. None of the four of us has visited Galena before, so that will serve as a nice midday stop, though I'm not sure if we'll spend more than enough time to get a bite to eat and have a look around.

Thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement as we continue this adventure to Rochester. We have our first consultation at the Mayo tomorrow afternoon, so no news, yet.

We've been blessed with abnormally gorgeous weather in Springfield, so our first week back in Illinois has been very vacation-like ... except for the numerous calls to the insurance company, doctor consultations, and attempts to distract ourselves from Bridgette's unwanted baggage. We've found a great use of our time in hunting down wedding reception sites in Springfield: maybe a vineyard, maybe a golf course, maybe a brand new park... such suspense! We'll need to lock something down soon because weekends are already filling up for next summer. And we thought we were on top of this game.

Bridgette also left me home all alone the other day while she joined her ladies for a day out dress-shopping. You can imagine my extreme, unbearable disappointment for not being allowed to partake in that. Instead, I holed up in a cafe to attend to some much-neglected emails, and to do a little tuxedo / suit shopping for myself. At the moment I'm leaning towards some nice suits for my men rather than traditional, overpriced tuxedo rentals. Besides, I'm well overdue for a new outfit.

The rest of our time has been filled with lots of family (thank you to both my parents for spending a few days with us "down south"), food, walks in the park, and general R&R. I think we're all, especially Bridgette, ready for the next step.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Don't Hold the Mayo

 Adam and I made it back to Chicago Saturday afternoon, and we were greeted with open arms by his parents who graciously drove us down to Springfield. From Saturday through Monday, both families had a great time hanging out together trying to keep things light before my first appointment with one of the head surgeons we found here in town.

Monday morning...the doctor-ness fired up again. The majority of the day we spent either waiting around for the appointment, waiting at the appointment, or talking with the insurance company about the procedure. We're crossing our fingers there won't be any hassle, but who are we kidding. It's America, and it's health insurance. There's sure to be a fight somewhere along the way.

The meeting with the doc that morning went fairly well, and luckily he knew a snippet of French (at least a good 3 years in high-school's worth) that allowed him to interpret the radiologist's report...or at least get the gist. He also added that, thankfully, the CT scans were done very well, and that we wouldn't need to redo any of this at the moment. High fives to the French. Unfortunately, though, he told us that a tumor of this sort was not his forte, and that I would need to be shipped out for the procedure. Oh, my heart sank, but I was thankful he was truthful with us about his own hesitation. His top recommendation was for a colleague of his up at the Mayo Clinic who has spent his career on this exact sort of thing. That made me feel a bit better, but I was still in shock, like, whoa, the Mayo? That's serious the major leagues of hospitals! Sounded scary, but also a bit high class, ha. Within 15 min of our exam, we had an appointment set for next Wednesday up in Minnesota. And now we wait.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Unwanted Baggage

Thursday - My first CT scan, and again, a doctor visit with little English involved. I was given a 4 page document to read over and fill out before the rendezvous (appointment), and I was seriously stressing out trying to google translate everything and quickly learn some lingo before being confronted with directions in French. Luckily our doc knew a little, but he refused to use much. It wasn't a big deal, though. I got the gist. He heard we were from Chicago and got excited because he had just visited recently and loved the town. Then he pointed to the scanner and said, ''s an American machine!' It was cute, and I started having flashbacks of the MRI lab renovation I worked on back at HED with all the GE equipment shops I had to pour over to make sure all equipment was accounted for. And here I was now hooked up to an IV being the test specimen. It was all a bit fascinating. What's not fascinating, though, was the results. After a bit of a wait, we were then called back to talk with another doctor who was analyzing all the scans, and she confirmed what the urologist had suggested. There was a huge tumor taking over the kidney and it would have to come out. Luckily, though, there was no sign of spread, so cancer was probably out of the question. The lady said a lot, and I didn't really understand any of her French, but again, we got the gist, then got our images to take back to the urologist.

Ah, back to our English speaker. The guy would would wash away all confusion. He looked at the images, and said that yes, this thing had to come out ASAP and showed us on the photos why everyone's jaws had been dropping. This mass was about 5 times the size of a normal kidney, and even Adam and I both had to gasp. How could something like this be possible? There had never been any signs. The doc said this could have been growing for years and I would have never known it, but wow, it was just so crazy that it so suddenly became so apparent. But again, he confirmed it was indeed localized and didn't seem to have any evidence of spread; he assured us that this was some very very good news.

All in all, we had a decision to make - do the surgery in France or go back to the States. We said we were planning to travel home within the next month anyways, and with that he definitely advised us to go back to the US. The healing process would take way too long, and travel would not be an option. Adam and I had some discussing to do.

That night we talked to parents as well as Adam's brother who is a radiologist, and all parties strongly encouraged me to get on a plane as soon as I could. This was heartbreaking. I had girlfriends coming to visit in two days, and here I was planning to pack it up for good. I might not even see them, and here they had planned this visit for so long. This was horrible!

Friday - I barely slept. I woke up and said, yes, I need to go home tomorrow. I just had that feeling in my gut. It saved me on the passport issue, and I was going to follow it again. And yes, thank god I didn't send in my passport to get renewed! We discussed some more, Adam made some phone calls, then finally  said, yes, he'd come with me for sure. We'd get outa here as soon as possible. For the next 12 hours, we packed, figured out where to store our stuff, cleaned the whole apartment, changed our plane tickets and wrapped up our entire lives here in Paris. Our plan is still to come back in July, but god only knows what the surgery will bring.

Thursday we went through shock, then tears, then disbelief, then more tears. Then Friday, we switched to go-mode and just focused on the task of getting us outa here. Now, as we sit and breathe for a sec, we realize this all could be a blessing in disguise. In addition, I wonder about the crazy timing of this all...was it meant to be? I mean, is it coincidence that Adam took a job this year that pretty much ended in time to allow him the opportunity to go home to be with me through all this? Is it coincidence that this happened now, and not in a year right before the wedding? And is it a coincidence that we discovered this unwanted guest through an ultrasound at a time before babies? I can't even fathom if this had come up the first time I was in for an ultrasound to see my future child. Yes, blessing indeed, and we're all trying to stay positive about it all.

So here we are wrapping up a chapter of our lives abroad, though there are still some items we've been meaning to post. And considering we'll both have some serious down time in the next few weeks, there will be plenty of blogging time to go back and document the rest of those thoughts. As for now, USA, here we come!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dear Diary, Today I had my first Ultrasound....

Ok, so back the the story about sickness. I thought it was all said and done, but alas, the worse was only beginning....

Last Saturday, we noticed that there was a strange swelling on my right side. I thought, hmmm, maybe this is just some aftermath from all the antibiotics? There was no pain, no health complications, just a strange firmness.

Monday - nothing had changed and I started to get worried. I called to make another doc appointment, but alas, she wasn't available until Thursday. I made the appointment anyways, but asked a friend for another recommendation. She gave me the name for her doc, and here I sat dreading to have to talk to yet another secretary over the phone in French. (and believe me, I'm not the only one scared of using the phone. A french friend of mine, who's English is amazing, once told me that's her biggest fear at work was answering the phone...considering she didn't know if she might just have to spit out her English. Oh the dread of not understanding and being misunderstood! We joked that we should call each other just to practice, ha). Long story short, I didn't understand a word the secretary said, and finally she spit out a bit of English telling me that all new patients had to call the doc's cell to speak directly to her. Huh? Ok. So I did just that, and (in English) she flat out told me her schedule was too busy, and that if I was already seeing someone, then I needed to stick with her. Well F that. I felt like I just got slapped in the face. We then decided to drop in on my doc the next morning sans appointment.

Tuesday - Oh guess what, it's a national holiday so everything's closed. No doc was in. Step two, walk to the nearest hospital and see if we could see someone. This local hospital (guess is was more of a private clinic?) was closed. We again got some more advice from a friend as to where to find an 'urgent care' kind of facility (located in an actual hospital) so we headed there and took our place in the waiting room. About an hour later, we entered a small office and battled our way through explaining the whole situation in French. I'd been practicing everything in my head over and over, but when it was time to speak, it all got flubbed up. And man did this woman speak fast! If felt like utter failure, but we got the point across. She gave me a check up, then even called some other docs who worked in the hospital for their opinion. Nobody knew. I'm thinking WTF. She said the only way to know would be to do another blood test and get an ultrasound.

Wednesday - Back to the lab for more blood and urine tests. This place was easy. They spoke slow, and now I knew the routine...though there was some miscommunication about peeing in the cup. The directions sounded different this time, so I got confused. Turns out they needed me to wait a bit longer since I'd just recently peed, so they actually let me take the cup home for me to bring back later. You'd NEVER be allowed to do that in the US! Then the ultrasound. We were sent to a private hospital, just a mere 5 min walk down the street (seriously, the convenience is simply astounding!) and waited our turn to be called in. By the way, up to this point with all these visits, we had never had to fill out any paperwork whatsoever. So unlike the states. We would simply check in, wait our turn, then pay. It's kinda amazing. The other twist to all this is that I'd been meaning to send in my passport to get renewed so I'd have it back in time to travel home for the summer. I had a bad feeling about doing this before the exam (not like I'd ever needed to show ID up to this point), but something in my gut told me to hold on to it. I thought I'd postpone the post office visit until after the exam. Long story short, I actually did need to show my ID this time and I thought, holy crap. Close call! Adam and I were then brought into a room with a friendly radiologist who gooed me up and started the doing the 'échographie' (seriously, we've had to learn the most random vocabulary from this whole experience). We were both thinking, sheesh, we are NOT supposed to be having our first ultrasound experience together like this! I could only understand about a quarter of what the guy said, but the things we did understand were words like, voluminous, mass, kidney, bad, urologist. Then we were told to go back to the waiting room. I didnt know what the hell was going on now. Were we seeing another doctor? The secretary then called me up, said something I didn't understand about an appointment, then handed me the phone....ahhh! the phone! Guess I was making an appointment for something. Turns out it was for a CT scan the following day. The visit with the local urologist came about an hour later. We were so confused. But ahhh, finally, a doc who spoke English! He said whatever I had probably needed surgery to get it out, but the CT scan would tell a better story. So we went home anticipating yet another day of tests and the final say on what we should do.