All in Your Head

As a health care provider, it often turns out that I have one of two reactions to not feeling well.

  1. I convince myself that this is likely how it ends…
  2. I convince myself that I’m a hypochondriac…

There really is no in-between.

In the beginning of August, I got a headache.  When it persisted for a few weeks, I saw the doctor a few times and was prescribed rest, further hydration and over the counter meds.  Eventually, I began vomiting blood, as a result of the overuse of aspirin.  I then spiked a weird fever that took over a week to break.

Within that time, the doctor decided that an MRI was warranted, as the headache continued to persist throughout.  I was convinced that it would show NOTHING.

They found some fluid.  Before I knew it, a neurosurgeon was reviewing my films, and I was getting sent to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor.  (I’ll leave out all the headache involved with managing referrals and actually getting in with the doctor for the purposes of this blog and just cut to the diagnosis).  Initially, though he mentioned several diagnoses, we felt that the best option was to treat the infection causing the fevers with antibiotics and steroids.

For a while, everything seemed to be working! After a solid three weeks of moderate to severe pain, I was feeling so much better!

Then I tapered off of the steroids… and literally eight hours after the last dose the pain returned.   At this point, it was now maybe six weeks into the symptoms and two weeks until my follow up with the specialist.  I messaged the doctor and he did indicate that it was likely the other diagnosis he had mentioned (which we were hoping it was not), because it is not easily addressed.

Yesterday I went to the doctor for my follow up.  It has been two months with varying pain varying from moderate to severe, with only a short reprieve during the time of the steroids.  I have an official diagnosis of a “cholesterol granuloma.”

How I understand it, a cholesterol granuloma is a cyst that will continue to expand.   The cyst is located under the skull at a bony landmark called the “petrous apex.”  In addition to being located very close to the brain, the cyst is nestled between the carotid artery, auditory nerves, and the balance centers.  Accessing it is the challenge and requires a skilled surgeon.  There are different approaches one can take, but in my case, the plan is to access it from behind/side.  This involves removing some of the bone in my skull and drilling a VERY tiny hole to drain it.  I’m probably oversimplifying it, and my knowledge on the subject is limited to how I understand from what I’ve read and what the doctor has told me.

The procedure is set to take place in a few weeks at the outpatient center.  All in all, it is estimated to take four hours and I will be under anesthesia.   Naturally, there are some risks, and they were clearly outlined by my doctor.  However, without intervention, the cyst will continue to grow and the pain will continue indefinitely.

To say that I am overwhelmed is an understatement.  This whole situation is just surreal.  I have been feeling somewhat emotional, which I suppose is natural in a case like this.  I have never really been “sick” or had any kind of surgical or other interventions.  I am terrified that there will be complications, and/or that recovery will take longer than expected.  I am terrified of the financial implications of this illness, surgery, and recovery both from the loss of income (time out of work) and the cost associated with it.

I’m holding out hope that all goes well… and who knows, maybe I’ll be able to guilt Joker into a vacation… or a new puppy.  😉

Until next time…

~Lenora

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