Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Which way to recovery?

A surefire way for a news reporter to flub an assignment is by "burying the lede," or leaving the most important part of a story out of the first paragraph.

If someone covering the performance at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865 waited till the fourth paragraph to mention the disruption in the State Box in the middle of Act III, that would be burying the lede.

Well, the doctor who examined the results of my recent MRI at Kaiser buried the lede in his report on the procedure.

I had the MRI performed on Thursday, and I got a copy of the report during my appointment with Dr. B1 on Tuesday.

If you've been following this blog, you may remember that Dr. B1 is my head-and-neck doctor and Dr. B2 is who I see in the oncology department.

You may find this hard to swallow –in my condition, I find everything hard to swallow– but the surname of the doctor in diagnostic imaging who wrote the MRI report also begins with the letter B.

So my Kaiser medical team is complete: Dr. Thiamine, Dr. Riboflavin and now Dr. Niacin: Drs. B1, B2 and B3.

Dr. B1 gave me a rigorous head exam on Tuesday.

He looked over my tongue and said that it appeared much less swollen than it did early last month. He put his fiber optic camera in my nostril and down my throat and said he could see improvement there, too. Then he slid the camera into my trach and saw no problems in my windpipe.

After taking a peek inside my ears, however, Dr. B1 said that he saw quite a bit of wax so he led me to another room and removed it.

Then he called up Dr. B3's report on my MRI on his computer. I read over Dr. B1's shoulder as he pointed out the highlights.

Dr. B3's report begins optimistically enough. I know the meanings of only about every other word, but the words and phrases I do understand were pleasing to hear:

". . . decrease in the amount of soft tissue mass . . ."

". . . the base of the tongue demonstrates marked improvement . . ."

". . . appears significantly decreased in size . . ."

". . . no new lymphadenopathy . . ."

Then, a string of words in the fifth paragraph jumped out:

"There is, however, persistent disease . . ."

Talk about burying the lede! When I heard the words "persistent disease," I wanted to tell Dr. B1 to pack that wax back in my ears so I wouldn't be able to hear any more.

Dr. B1 tried to put me at ease. He said that he was going to send my MRI around to some of the other doctors involved in my case so a clearer picture of what's going on with me might emerge, and he wants to see me again in five weeks.

Before I headed back to work, I sat in my car and read the MRI report three or four times. I found it hard to avoid focusing on that "persistent disease" phrase, but I also had to acknowledge all of the positive signs that Dr. B3 observed in my MRI.

Next steps?

One, getting an assessment of my condition from my radiation oncologist. Two, having another MRI or CT scan performed, probably in June. And three, seeing if physical therapy can help me recover my speech.

In short, I'm keeping up my march toward recovery, damning the flares and the road signs that warn of "Persistent Disease."

Reader, that is my lede. And shame on me. I buried it in the 24th graf.

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