April 01, 2018

April 2017: Today is not that day.

MTV's Daria was one of the best cartoons on TV during the 90's.
Welcome to April! As I'm sure at least a few of you are curious to hear about, let's talk about the results of my latest MRI. In the middle of March I consulted with my neurosurgeon and we reviewed the results of my scan which was done in response to what looked like a spinal cord tumor discovered during an MRI for an unrelated issue. The short answer is that there's absolutely no difference between the scan I received in February and the one performed in July. For all purposes, they're identical, and my neurosurgeon feels confident concluding that the intramedullary expanding cystic lesion inside my spinal cord isn't a cancerous tumor but almost certainly just a build-up of spinal-cord fluid and it's probably been there "forever."

We did discuss my concerns about weakness in my hands, a waxy feeling in my fingertips, and the aches and pains from my neck to my arms. He gave me a needle-prick test, which I passed without incident, but he also gave me a strength test in which he measured my ability to resist his attempt to pull open my clasped fingers or to push close my extended fingers. I didn't do as well on that test as the first time he performed it, so there has been some loss of strength. I asked him if this could the results of either carpal tunnel syndrome or run-of-the-mill generalized anxiety disorder, but his tapping assessment for carpal tunnel returned nothing and he wouldn't guess at anything beyond that. 

I guess all those conspiracies about neurologists pushing people into unnecessary neurological surgery, deliberately causing a major neural deficit to put the patient into a vegetative state, rushing to declare brain death, and quickly harvesting their patients' organs for sale on the black market to Satanists are bunk -- I mean, my neurosurgeon has done nothing but throw cold water on the whole process, so he's either not "in" on the conspiracy or he's just a responsible physician who's refusing to jump to conclusions. Incidentally, there are people who really believe that neurosurgeons are doing this, but at the risk of improving their Google search ranking I will not link to them from here.

At any rate, based on my reported symptoms and his diagnostic assessments, he wants to send me for electromyography (EMG) to see if there's a neurological reason for what's happening, and why not? That's a responsible thing to do that allows him to explore every avenue so he can say with full confidence that he exhausted his efforts to investigate and resolve my complaints. Great guy, I like this man...

... and that's why it kills me that I'm going to tell him that I don't want to go through with the EMG. Part of the reason for this is because I've got some serious anxiety about hospitals generally, but invasive tests specifically, so going to the hospital to be stuck with needles and given mild electric shocks for about 45 minutes is basically at the top of my list for things I don't want to endure. 

But the biggest reason I'm not going to receive an EMG is not because of the EMG itself, but because the larger ordeal itself is occupying every square inch of my mental real estate. Thinking about my health every moment of every day and planning ahead for appointments and diagnostic services, and budgeting for travel to a neighboring city for consultations, is feels like an imposing piece of Stalinist architecture squatting over the otherwise cozy neighborhood of my mind. I can't focus or accomplish anything with this happening, and I can hear your thoughts before you speak them: "Don't be crazy, listen to your doctor!"

And perhaps I should listen to my doctor, but at best what I'm experiencing is a psychosomatic response, a generalized anxiety disorder, or even just the result of not doing enough stretching -- things which I can fix on my own. At worst, I'm in the beginning of a long-term, chronic, progressive health condition for which there isn't any kind of cure or preventative measure that can be taken, and for which physicians tend to not do anything at all until such time as the symptoms become so severe that they're interrupting activities of daily life.

So for me, choosing to not continue with consultations, assessments, and diagnostic tests seems like the best choice. I mean to say, all of these consultations, assessments, and diagnostic tools are for the purpose of extending my life, but if the process of pursuing and enduring them makes my life unlivable, then what's the point? If such a day comes that it becomes clear I've got a dire, pressing need for medical attention, you can be sure I'll be getting it... but today is not that day.

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