Where to begin...this is going to be long.......... I'm a 32 year old married man, and I have a 3 year old son and a 10 month old daughter. I work a steady low-stress 9-5 job for the past 7 years that has regular internet access and a lot of free time. I have some pre-existing medical problems, such as hypertension and pre-diabetes. I have occasional bouts of Gout, and have a history of mild acid reflux. I'm overweight, but not severely so (6' tall, 240 lbs). I don't normally exercise to a high degree.
I've always loved to eat. It's just been one of my favorite things to do. Eating has also historically been my stress outlet of choice; nothing makes me feel better like something greasy and salty. I've also been a very "regular" guy. I don't eat bad all the time, but when I'm stressed, I typically eat a bunch of fast food that I like to eat.
My family has experienced some big changes over the past 5 months. While my wife was pregnant with our daughter, she lost her job. We were making it ok on unemployment for a while, but then Federal Emergency Unemployment ran out at the end of December, and we were forced to move back in with my parents. A smallish 1800sf house with my parents, me and my wife, and our two children. Meanwhile, my wife has decided to go back to school to change her career.
I won't lie and say it's not hard. Prior to moving in, the past 5 years have been more or less good. I was happy, had a good routine, and although I've always been a "worry wart", i never let it control my life.
Anyway....the past two months have been utter hell for me. It all started with some gassy bloating in my upper abdomen that never seemed to go away. I would strain on the toilet and I would sometimes have normal stool, and sometimes diarrhea. Sometimes I'd be constipated, and I always felt like I needed to go. This went on for a week and I typically would go three times a day with varying different results. Then one day during my morning poop at work, I witnessed what appeared to be blood in my stool. Freaking out, I immediately went to google/wikipedia and was convinced I had colon cancer. I spent the rest of the day obsessing on websites learning about colon cancer, and was unable to get anything done at work.
Since I wanted to see a doctor right away, I was unable to see my normal primary care physician. I showed the other doctor the photo I took of the questionable stool, and he agreed it looked like blood. He did a finger swipe test which showed no blood, a physical examination of my abdomen, and a CBC/Ferritin/LFT/Kidney test. Everything came back normal (except Ferritin slightly elevated). His suspicion was that i may have either an internal hemorrhoid, or possibly inflammatory bowel disease like Chrons/UC. He explained to me the chances of me having colo cancer were very low, as it takes long time to form the polyps that become cancerous. I reiterated my concern to him and he explained that worrying myself to death on a tiny chance was not helpful. To be safe (or to indulge me), he ordered a sigmoidoscopy.
In the meantime, I was stuck at work for the rest of the week. I spent the bare minimum of work (half-assed for sure) and spent most of my time looking up the symptoms of colon cancer on the internet. Repeatedly. I re-read the same pages over and over and told myself that I didn't have symptom X or symptom Y, so I would be ok. Then, a day or so later, I began to have symptom X and symptom Y (in this case, pencil stools and irregular bowel habits.
Not confident in the first evaluation, and armed with my new symptoms, I went back to google/wikipedia and found that the sigmoidoscopy is limited only to the lower part of your colon, so I made another appointment, this time with my primary care physician. I explained to him all of my symptoms and showed him the photo, and he said that he could not be sure it was blood. He thought that if it was blood, it could mean something or it could mean nothing. He was satisfied with the evaluation from the previous doctor and agreed with the sigmoidoscopy. I pushed my concern and my doctor asked about my life, and his thought that I was suffering from anxiety, which could cause some of my symptoms and additionally that I probably had IBS. After asking again about the sigmoidoscopy, I was able to convince my doctor to instead request a complete colonoscopy. There's only one way to be sure, right? Nuke that sucker from orbit!
The bad news came that I'd have to wait until 7/18/14 to get the colonoscopy. I had become so agitated and anxious, I again went to google and wikipedia. I then began to manifest symptoms in my breathing. I was convinced the cancer in my colon had metastasized to my lungs. I started questioning my breathing. I became intensely aware of each breath, and a lump formed in my throat and my chest began to throb. I developed a cough and also began to feel lightheaded. I spent all day at work feeling this way; this feeling that I couldn't breathe without straining and chest tightness and a weight on my chest. After work, afraid I was having arrest or tumors in my lungs, I went to the emergency room.
I explained my malady and the doctors gave me an EKG and a chest xray. Both came back great. They also ran another CBC which came back normal; no anemia. The ER doc assured me that 99% of guys in their 30s coming in with bloody stools are not cancer, and was satisfied that my xray came back normal. Feeling better having received tests and having confirmed I was indeed not having cardiac arrest or obvious tumors in my lungs, I left for home and was feeling almost normal, and ravenous. I stopped by KFC and devoured a three piece meal (two breasts; I don't mess around) like it was nothing.
Anyway, I went home feeling better about things, and then.....compulsion struck me. I went back to google/wikipedia and looked up other cancers that I might have in the event the colonoscopy came back clean. Foremost of my searches for a upper abdominal bloating and fullness was stomach cancer. Reading the symptoms, I was satisfied that as long as I didn't have symptom X or symptom Y (in this case, loss of appetite, especially for meat, and weight loss), i was ok. My GERD in the past had been mild, and I can recall a number of times being beset with indigestion and gas, but my hunger had always been a trooper. I've especially always loved meat. Anyway, reading into that as being a risk factor (nobody in my family has had stomach or colon cancer, and I do not smoke), I soon began to lose my appetite.
One of my guilty pleasures has been McDonald's double cheeseburgers. In my youth, I could pound three or four of these badboys without a blink. But the next day at lunch, I couldn't stomach one of them. The taste was revolting and I was convinced that not only was my appetite lessening, but my love for meat (if you could call McDonald's patties meat) was waning. At this point I was convinced that I had stomach cancer. Hysterically, I called my doctor and got another appointment.
I had to wait three days to see him, and in that time frame I barely ate; additionally, my lower GI problems seemed to vanish and my upper GI problems intensified. My mouth was constantly watering, I was having trouble breathing, I had a bitter taste in my mouth, a lump in my throat, and my GERD was going crazy. I was somewhat nauseous and I felt pains all over my abdomen. I was a mess and couldn't focus on work or my family or anything except looking up the big C online, frantically trying to find alternative diagnosis that were less severe.
By the time my appointment came, it had been about two weeks since my initial interaction. From my measurements, I had lost about 7 pounds. My doctor said that could be anything from variation in the scale to the clothes I was wearing (indeed my normal EDC is about 4 lbs heavier than what i wore to the doctor that day, I measured the difference at home). He suggested that I'd seen the doctor twice, and a trip to the ER, and have a colonoscopy scheduled, and they were doing everything they should be doing to find out what my problem was. He had me take an anxiety quiz and a depression quiz, both of which came back moderately suggestive. My doctor thought that depression and anxiety could cause my loss of appetite, my weight loss, and even some of my GI problems. I was then referred to psych for an evaluation.
Feeling beaten and vulnerable, I accepted that diagnosis. I went home, and had started to feel ok about things. But the next day, as almost as a test, I tried to push down some more of those cheeseburgers that I once loved. I could not eat them. Feeling sick to my stomach, my mind racing, I emailed my doctor almost begging for an EGD to search for stomach cancer, H Pylori, Barret's Esophagus, etc. I felt terrible and frightened, and i checked my phone for that email every 2 minutes. Work was pointless, and even afterwards I had a bro date to a show but I was having no fun at all. I barely spoke to my friend, and I kept checking my email every 5 minutes.
Finally, I got that email from the doctor. He replied that he would order the EGD. Feeling great that they were doing something, I magically began to enjoy myself out, and went home and ate a full meal. Keep in mind my appetite has been ragged the past two weeks.
I went home, and then compulsion struck me again. I didn't know when i would get the EGD. I already had to wait a month to get the colonoscopy. What if I had to wait another month? It might be too late by then! Stomach cancer has a very low 5 year survival rate! It needs to be detected now!........so back to worrying I went. Appetite went south. I became detached; I just wanted to lay down and watch TV and sleep. I was tired, and even slept so much one day I gave myself a headache.
A few days later, my doctor emailed me informing me that the EGD was approved and would be done on the same day as my colonoscopy. He thought my symptoms of a lump in the throat, bad taste in the mouth, were from GERD, and suggested I continue prilosec. He was unhappy that the soonest behavioral medicine appointment wouldn't be until the 21st.....more upset at that than the fact I had to wait for the actual exams. Anyway, I felt great. I was happy they were doing something about it. My appetite returned, and I went home and smashed down a steak and eggs and a few apples to top it off.
Anyway, I had began to convince myself that my problems are just my EGD and IBS with anxiety and mild depression. I was starting to feel good about things. That night I had to do a sleep apnea take home test. I wore this silly bracelet and finger attachment. But.....today I began to read up about how bad silent reflux can be. I read about how it can cause esophogeal cancer, and then I began to look up throat cancer, and other cancers like pancreatic or lung. I noticed on my arm there was a bruise! How could this be? Maybe I swung my arm (the one with the silly apnea watch) and slammed my nightstand. Now I was "bruising easy". Back to google I went, to diagnose myself with leukemia. My appetite went to the toilet again, and for lunch I was able to eat a half a sandwich and two grapes.
I stumbled upon this website during my afternoon break, and read the Google sticky. I felt better about things. I felt that all my symptoms could just be anxiety, depression, or some combination of them.
I came home and slammed down half a hawaiian family size from Papa Murphy's. I'm feeling a little bloated down, but I'm pretty sure its the cheese and dough.
This whole time my wife has been supportive, but she's been occupied with satisfying my mother with home duties and taking care of the kids. My sex drive is one of the only things that seems normal, but she's never in the mood; probably because i am such a mess. Our relationship is strained already by our situation, and more so by this episode. I come home feeling impending doom and am constantly fearful of death. I talk to her about it sometimes but I just can't wrap my head around it. She tells me to stop "googling" but I can't help myself at work.
Anyway.....thank you for reading if you managed to get through it all. Maybe you can help convince me that I'm not dying.
In other news, my behavioral medicine appointment is not until 7/21/14. So that means I'll just have to suffer until 7/18/14 with my neurosis. I am trying to stay positive that the EGD/Colonoscopy will come back clean.
A question to you all.....have you always had HA? Or has some event triggered your HA? Is it often that it just happens?