The last year has been an interesting one for me on the medical front. While this is getting somewhat personal, there really isn’t anything I feel needs to be kept to myself on it. And there’s a couple reasons I’m sharing, from just thinking that my experience may help others figure out some other options in their health care to a spiritual component, keeping all things in perspective. Kind of the theory that there are no true coincidences – everything has a purpose.
Around October 2015, I started feeling tired all the time. Nothing specific, just didn’t feel right. I decided to schedule a hair mineral analysis test and then do a consult with a Doctor who specializes in that area. My consult, though, wasn’t until the end of March 2016. OK, whatever. I can deal.
It was Christmas 2015. Anyone who knows me knows that Christmas is my favorite day of the year. I love absolutely everything about it. I love what it means from my Catholic perspective – the birth of the Savior of the World, the humility in how He came to us, the joy that accompanied His arrival… everything. I also love all of our celebratory traditions. I am not a person opposed to the gifts, the treats, the decorations, the lights, the music… oh, the MUSIC! I find it all enjoyable, awesome, and in no way detracting from the real meaning of Christmas. Yes, people can go overboard and lose focus, but that is an issue with the person, not the thing.
So, it’s Christmas morning and… I’m in pain. And I know the pain. Kidney stone. I’ve had them a few times and have become intimately familiar with the drill.
OK, so in the past I’ve gone to the E.R., but now I know what to do. Get ahead of the pain with pain meds. Except this time I have an accompanying symptom. My bladder feels so full I swear it is going to explode, except that I have continually emptied it. This did not alleviate, and it was a tossup as to what was more uncomfortable – the pain associated with the stone itself or the unceasing feeling of a bladder that has no more room at the Inn.
This whole thing concerned me to the point where, once again, it was off to the E.R. You need to understand here that I am cheap (I personally believe it should be lovingly referred to as prudently frugal). A trip to the E.R. costs money, which now also causes psychological distress. But it is what it is, and I needed to find out what was going on.
So, while the kids were celebrating their new presents I was in the hospital, as was my wife who was there to pretend she wanted to be there with me on this most celebrated day of our Lord.
OK, fast forwarding a bit, the docs were concerned about the bladder symptom as well and I had a CT scan. The good news was that my bladder was in no danger of exploding, the bad news was that this was apparently my body’s current reaction to having the stone near it. Yay. In other words, suck it up and deal with it because there’s really nothing to be done, and there are no drugs that really take away the sensation of needing to urinate.
Oh, and by the way, it looks like you have some fat in your liver. Eat less fat.
And so it was. And I passed the stone that night, and life went on.
I had my hair mineral analysis. And then my consult in late March as scheduled. My analysis showed some interesting things. Most of my readings were either low, or at the low end of normal range. A few things didn’t show up at all. I began a general protocol addressing my HMA results, along with the general knowledge of the Kidney Sotne issues, my propensity towards headaches, my general fatigue issues, and general GI/stomach issues.
Around that time, I had pain in my lower abs area. OK, yes, near the groin if you must know. I also had a bulge in the area previously unknown to me. I’m thinking possible tumor or a hernia. So I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for late April.
The night before my doctor’s appointment, I passed another kidney stone. I didn’t go to the E.R. this time – I got ahead of the pain with the leftover meds I have. Man, those things suck.
Doctor’s appointment – good news… no hernia or tumor. Looks like a fatty tissue deposit that I don’t really need to worry about, and the pain is likely a groin muscle strain.
Oh, but we need to talk… the CT scan you had… the diagnosis is SEVERE fatty liver.
Um… what? They just said I have some fatty liver and to eat a little better.
No, it’s severe. Which is a bit odd, since all liver function tests are normal. So, I want to run some more detailed tests to see what’s going on that aren’t as typical. Oh, and by the way, back in 1996 when you had knee surgery your orthopedic surgeon ran a blood test that showed borderline underperforming thyroid function,. I have no idea why an orthopedic surgeon would have run that, but since he did let’s do that too and see what’s going on there.
I won’t go into how I pass out with blood tests.
Fast forward to results: (1) My thyroid is wonky. Hypothyroidal. (2) Copper is low. Weird. Alpha-1 % and Alpha-2 % are both low. Weird again. Outside of my doc’s expertise – see a GI doc. Oh, and suddenly my blood pressure is really high.
GI doc – normal overall liver function, nothing to see from physical exam. Probably nothing, but let’s run a couple other tests to rule everything out and be done with it all. And, oh by the way, anyone reading a CT scan and trying to proclaim liver conditions as anything specific and assigning severity is guessing. You can only do that from a biopsy, which we’re not going to do. So don’t lose too much sleep over it. And, oh, you need to pee into this bucket for the next 24 hours.
Fast forward to further tests: Wilson’s disease, no. But you actually do have low antitrypsin. Interesting. We need to do a genetic panel.
Final answers: (1) Thyroid is likely contributing to fatigue issues – I am not doing medication yet. Talked the doc into giving me a few months. Working with the hair mineral analysis doc on ways to address that, including putting iodine tincture on every day. (2) I have a genetic condition that I won’t even try to describe in medical terminology. Basically, I only produce 60% of normal antitrypsin levels. Antitrypsin is produced in the liver. I also produce a defective protein that is not recognized by the liver. This might be difficult for the liver to eliminate, and could produce scarring and liver damage. Antitrypsin also is what protects the lungs from all sorts of things. A deficiency could lead to lung problems, including emphysema. The good news is that 60% production should be enough for a normal and healthy life as long as I minimize my exposure to things that can cause lung issues. No smoking for me… I also may be more susceptible to prolonged cough symptoms that accompany colds and flu and may have more difficulty recovering, so I need to do my best to stay healthy in the first place and avoid as much of those circumstances as I can. (3) High blood pressure is not quite where they’d recommend medication (I wouldn’t go on it anyway) but I need to monitor. Buy a band.
Since then, I have no passed any more kidney stones. I have a follow-up thyroid function blood test in November. I have been on varying protocols with the HMA doc as new information has emerged from all these tests.
Here’s what is interesting to me. There is almost no way under normal circumstances that I would have ever looked into or otherwise discovered that I have this genetic condition. But now that I know I have it, I can eat certain foods and take certain supplements and do certain things that will really help me live a healthy life with this condition. This all came about because of bladder sensation while passing a kidney stone, combined with thinking I had a hernia that I didn’t have. Also, had my orthopedic surgeon 20 years ago not done a TSH test, I likely would not have pressed for one, and I probably didn’t give my doctor enough general information that would have led him to believe I needed one. But now I know I have that issue and can deal with it.
I guess you never know what to expect, but I feel that this all came about in such a unique way that there was some guiding hand out there that decided it was time for me to get healthy and deal with these somewhat hidden issues. As uncomfortable as it was, as much as I didn’t want to spend Christmas Day curled up in pain, and as much as it cost me I am nonetheless thankful to be where I am at.
I am a believer in both conventional medicine and alternative medicine. I want to find a way to cure or help my body first through natural remedies, but also think there is a time where you accept the blessings of modern medicine as well. I have followed the advice of the HMA doc and been doing some interesting things. I feel better overall, my recent Hair Mineral Analysis shows improved mineral readings, and I think this is the first major step to getting back to where I need to be. I’m drinking a juiced lemon every day that I can and taking a number of supplements. I am using tanning beds to get natural Vitamin D and avoiding D supplements. I have learned that the Vit D/Vit A/Vit K needs to be in balance, and it is likely mine was not. I need to produce D naturally and I need A to remove excess D, and I need K to deposit my Calcium where it is supposed to go, and not in my Kidneys or arteries. I am supplementing with copper to get that level up. Exercise and sleep are very important – I am trying to do better with both, but old habits die hard. Interestingly, my blood pressure is now back to normal levels.
I am also having my amalgam fillings removed. I know this is a point of debate, and to be honest I am not certain how convinced I am that it is necessary. But I’ve decided that if I do it, then any question about it is gone and I don’t have to worry about it.
I am willing to try just about anything that makes some kind of potential sense to me.
So, to finalize my thoughts on this, why did I blog about this today? Well, first, from the standpoint of faith and trust, i am not saying there is no such thing as coincidence, but I think we tend to overstate what might be coincidence because – for whatever reason – it is difficult for us to believe that God is directly intervening in our life to bring something about. What I think is interesting about this aspect of God in our lives is that seldom does He just give us a direct answer via a dream or something. It’s not like He sent me a note, saying “Get your antitrypsin levels checked. And your thyroid. K, thx… God.” He finds a way to bring it about that may not even be all that pleasant, but nonetheless gets us where we need to be. It’s almost like His price tag to giving us this information is an opportunity for us to join in Christ’s redemptive suffering on the cross. Even on Christmas!
The other thing that is interesting to me is the timing. I have been referring to Charlie Johnston and what he says is coming. I don’t want to overdo it with that, but it’s worth keeping in mind. If he is right, then the timing and the timeline needed to get all this straight for me is difficult for me to write off as entirely coincidental. It could be that the time has come to prepare myself for the times ahead and be ready physically for whatever it is my family and others will need me for.
In any case, interesting times for me, and for all of us.