Undiagnosed Abdominal Pain

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Bette Burt
I have often read you have to be your own advocate. It is true and it’s also exhausting. In 2012, I had a pain in my lower left side. It became a chronic pain, so I went to my doctor and described the location as just fingertips beyond my hip bone and achy. Tests would ensue. There’s an old urologists joke that goes: When Mr. Ford died and went to meet his Maker, Mr. Ford said, “I am in awe of all that you have created, but as for the female body…you made a slight miscalculation. From a design point – you made the intake much too close to the exhaust!”.  With this pain, I understood that joke all too well.

In my case – the pain could come from a variety of female issues or bladder/kidney, or intestinal issues or muscles. All of which I knew without a medical license. My goal was to have a professional discern and fix the problem. Unlike an automobile, however, we cannot be hooked up to a single diagnostic machine and have it spew out the answer. And so it began: blood workup, pelvic ultrasound, pelvic ultrasound and a transvaginal probe (which is as uncomfortable as it sounds). Hmmm, doesn’t seem to be a “female” issue.

So let’s try a colonoscopy. Hmmm, there is some pouching in the large intestine – very usual for someone my age – must be diverticulosis causing the ache. Even though the pain area is a little lower, I was told that sometimes the source of the pain is not where we perceive the pain.

Since I have acid reflux and was undergoing all these other tests, I asked for an esophageal exam. The exam showed a polyp in the small intestine, almost completely covering the opening to the pancreas. There were no symptoms and left untreated – would have been fatal within the year. It’s a good thing I thought to add this test.

I had the surgery (another story for another time) and after recovering, went back to my regular doctor for a checkup. The pain in my side was still there and still chronic – which isn’t quite the symptom of diverticulosis; so we had one more pelvic and transvaginal imaging done. Nope, nothing showing to cause the pain…must be that pesky colon pouch.

It is now halfway through 2014, I’ve had multiple tests and major surgery and I still have my ache. I have regular checkups and blood work done, including the tests for cancer markers. There have been no new tests suggested, and honestly, I get tired just thinking of going another round. No one seems to know what is causing the pain.

There are days when I would like to demand they just remove that pouch and all those female parts and maybe find the problem but most days I use my “thorn” in my side, to appreciate how lucky I am to still be alive. Had this pain not emerged when it did, the pancreatic blockage would not have been found and I would be a lot worse off, perhaps even dead. So in that regard I am lucky.  I do wish they would figure this out though.

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