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My story begins in November of 2017 (maybe a little earlier). I was on kind of a health kick. I would workout every morning and had been eating right for a few years. I reconnected with a dear friend from high school and began a long distance relationship full of excitement with a girl that I’ve loved for over 30 years. Her name is Kelly Fane. I began visiting her every other weekend but always complained that her mattress was causing me some back pain. We went to yoga a few times and my back and side began throbbing with a little pain. I blamed working out and yoga for the injury and meanwhile kelly is starting to think I cannot handle pain too well.
Around Christmas time I relaxed my healthy eating standards and ate all the cookies and Christmas treats and I thought I overdid it with the junk food as my stomach started to hurt. Not so bad that some Tylenol and Pepcid couldn’t take care of it. Kelly and I spent a wonderful New Year’s Eve with her and her family. Our relationship was moving fast and in a positive direction. I was already in love by this point and hoping she was feeling the same way. Life was great.
Then my side and back began throbbing more intensely so I went to see my doctor. She ordered a ct scan, a chest X-ray and some blood work. The Ct scan showed a fatty pancreas and blood work indicated high hemoglobin. Doctor ordered an upper gi to check for ulcers. By this time the pain had increased to an almost unbearable level. I was using alleve to fight the pain. The pain got so bad that I went to the er in Ottawa. They gave me a few things to settle my stomach and pushed me to my primary care physician for the pain. They did an ultrasound and found some inflammation in the common bile duct but no medical reasons to keep me. They were nice but I got the feeling I was being judged by the er people as someone just looking to get pain pills.
Then I had my endoscope a week later. It showed some gastritis and esophogitits to justify biopsies, but nothing to explain the amount of pain I was in. By this time I couldn’t eat, sleep or go to work. Kelly, who had been very supportive, began questioning me as well because doctors weren’t finding anything. I went to my doctor but she reluctantly gave some pain medication that didn’t work as well as Tylenol. She scoffed at the notion medicinal marijuana as it seemed beneath her to prescribe some “street drug” for pain. By this time I began losing hope. My pain was unbearable and my thoughts began turning dark. My choices, as I saw it, were to become a junkie for the pain or end it all if no one could find a solution. Not good options.
Through some connections with Dr Kokoszka’s office we were able to persuade them that the situation was serious and “Joe”was able to squeeze me in to his busy schedule. He looked at my records, and within a couple of minute, had seen that something serious was going on. He drew a picture of my pancreas and Showed me exactly where the foreign object was in my pancreas. He ordered an mri for the pancreas (mrcp, i think it was) Unfortunately he couldn’t prescribe anything for the pain unless he did a procedure on me because our wonderful politicians are battling this “opioid crisis” so people that really need pain meds can’t get them. Ottawa hospital scheduled the pancreas mri for 9 days later. Ugh! I couldn’t stand the pain for that long. Krystyna Bednarczyk, the owner of Geopool Surveying and Engineering, the company I work for, and her husband Andrzej have a daughter who is a doctor at Rush in Chicago. They drove me to the er at rush to seek treatment and I got the same treatment as in Ottawa. Same medications and standard procedure. No medical reason to keep me. Thank god that Dr Magda Bednarczyk advocated on my behalf, and the got the er doctor to keep me for observation. They kept me and did the mrcp that night and found that I had pancreatitis. They then ordered an endoscopy with ultrasound to find the source of the pancreatitis. A peanut sized tumor. I was relieved to have a diagnosis albeit an awful one., but at least now I knew what was up against, can hopefully get my pain under control, and begin the long battle. I owe these people’s special gratitude for saving, or at least extending my life, Dr. Bednarczyk and her parents Krystyna and Andrzej (my employers and dear friends), who I can never thank enough, Dr Singh and all of the medical staff at Rush who assisted in the diagnosis , Dr. Kokoszka, who has been working tirelessly on my case and advocating on mybelf, my sister Jamie, who stood by me and pushed me to get the problem figured out and not take the fast way out, my family, for worrying about me and sticking by my side and driving me to all my appointments and putting up with my mood swings, and not least of all Kelly, the love of my life that has sweated this thing with me and has been there every step of the way, pushing me to be more aggressive in the pursuit of a diagnosis.
The team that has been assembled to fight this disease with is one of the best I could ever have hoped for. That includes all of thesurgeons, doctors, nurses, family and friends and those who are sending positive thoughts and prayers. I will try to keep you all posted as to my progress, but I firmly believe that we will win this battle. With love -Aric