Episode CXI - moving to the country gonna eat a lot of peaches
off to see my ENT
My hearing has stayed at the same level of loss since I finished treatment. I was actually glad that I had not lost any additional hearing. So on that end, it was a successful visit. However, I was still upset that I am unable to wear my hearing aids. It is not that I do not want to wear them or cannot wear them. I choose not to wear them.
While I have not fully figured out what causes it, I believe it has to do with the nervous system. I mean all those nerves in your ears trying to process all that sound... amplify it and amplify an already amplified nervous system. Ouch... or at least that was all I can figure it would be.
Other than my general lack of listening, I spoke to my ENT about my recent swallowing issues. I know - what else can go wrong with me?!?! Well, apparently I am unable to swallow correctly. Over the past month I have noticed that pills and food were not getting down my throat. Basically, I felt like things were getting stuck.
Not all things, but mostly small things. Rice. Pills. Even fluids. I figured that I was at a doctor's appointment with a ENT, I should use him for both ear & throat... he would know what to do... right?
something's stuck in there...
So after a brief discussion of my symptoms he decided that I needed a Swallow Study and a Nasal Endoscopy. Yeah, more tests!!!
While my Nasal Endoscopy would have to wait a few weeks until my next ENT visit, I was scheduled for a Swallow Study the following week.
new week. new test.
When I arrived to check in for the swallow study, I was at the "other" hospital. Most everyone has one of those hospitals. It was not the main hospital, but the smaller less popular hospital. The one that you do not really want to use, but sometimes have too. Well, I was there. And it was what I expected.
The waiting area was older. It showed wear-n-tear. It needed some upgrades... bad. The main desk in front of me was missing a portion of its veneer wood paneling. Sweet!
When my name was finally called I walked to the very last partitioned section. The woman was foreign which meant I was going to have some difficulty understanding her. It had nothing to do with her, but with the fact I do not have my hearing aids in and reading lips of English as Second Language persons was challenging for me. So, I leaned in and did my best not say "excuse me" too many times.
She was efficient and ready to take my payment. Post-cancer seems to be more expensive or as expensive as cancer. Once the money was exchanged she asked me about my cancer. It never ceases to amaze me at what people say. Usually people say the most ridiculous or insensitive things with ignorance. It was not like she was meaning to be rude, but what she said was rude.
Essentially I was told, "well thank goodness it was breast cancer as that does not really kill people any more." That was said by a woman who works in a hospital. Breast cancer leads to metastatic cancer which does kill people. That comment seemed pretty insulting to the many women I know with mets and the women who have died. You work at a hospital!!!
After seriously being confused by her comment I made my way to another waiting room where I was grateful to be seated in an area without any patients or crazy commenting workers. The speech pathologist was ready for me only minutes after I sat down. She was amazing. She was funny. She was knowledgeable. She was making the hospital appear better than it was. She did not make any inappropriate comments.
We made our way back to the exam room and I was surrounded by people. She had a high school student interested in the field shadowing her. There were multiple x-ray technicians and eventually a doctor even showed up. We discussed my many issues and my many treatments. There was a lot to discuss.
Afterwards I stood in front of an x-ray machine and they moved the machine close to my face and chest. I took a few gulps of barium milk. I took a few more gulps. I had a bite of barium applesauce. I had a powdered barium graham cracker. I had a spoonful of barium peanut butter. Sadly, I thought the peanut butter was ice cream, so I took a bite larger than I should have. Nothing like trying to get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth. Sticky!!!
The x-ray machine was filming my every bite and spoonful and gulp. When I was finished I was even allowed to watch my own images. It's so rare to actually get feedback. Normally you have to wait until your next appointment to learn anything. Instead I was watching an awesome black and white film of my face, neck, and body processing food.
I cannot express how cool it was to watch. It was really cool.
example of the image and a look at what swallowing is all about...
Afterwards, she discussed the findings. First off, she said so many things I cannot even begin to remember them all. In fact, she said so many Latin-based or Greek-based or Something-based words it blew my mind. I am only working with a tiny fraction of my brain here!!!
Basically, there were some issues with my upper esophagus. The sphincter in that area was not working as well as it should and she felt it may have been due to hardening from radiation. I was a bit taken back since I did not radiate my neck. I only went over my right chest. They felt that radiation (which can travel) may be the cause. Overall it was a minor issue, but the difficulty swallowing (or dysphagia) was a pain in my neck!
Radiation treatment can affect areas around the treatment area. It is not "common", but it can happen. Do I really have to get basically everything that is not suppose to happen?????
So, the area in my throat has thickened a little. She said when I just can take it anymore I can opt to do a Esophageal Dilation, aka throat stretching. That's essentially as odd as it sounds. It involves an endoscope in down your esophagus where a small balloon is inserted and inflated to stretch your esophagus. So, before I have one of these I will just tolerate my discomfort for a while.
Plus, I still get to see what the Nasal Endoscopy shows in a few weeks... joy!
In my head...
me resting with Molly (the dog)
All these appointments were wearing me out. I guess the new year did not bring new breaks, but more like new tests. I still have more to go, but at least the swallow study was painless. It was easy. No needles. No IVs. No prep. It involved eating. The biggest complaint (which it was not even a complaint) could be that the barium in the foods tasted a bit funny. Honestly, I did not really notice.
Even though they found something, it was not something huge. Not to say that my trouble swallowing is easy. It is annoying. I am having to slow down my meals, take smaller bites, and drink water between food. I am having to turn my head from side to side to help alleviate the narrowness. Is it a pain??? Yes. Is it the end of the world??? No. It is just another thing for me to deal with. Tack it on the list.
But so far, I would rate that test as one of the all time bests of my tests.
Episode Reference: Peaches, The Presidents of the United States of America song