My journey with cysts and polyps began with some headaches.
The problem was this: remember the time I told you about my freaky blind eye*? Well, these headaches happened to be localized directly behind this freaky blind eye, leading me to believe that my blind eye was up to no good. Either it was dying, or it was growing some big cancerous blister on its back just to spite me and my parents for its 30 years of wretched existence.
Soon, the frequency of the headaches made me sure that if I didn’t act soon, I would be murdered by my eye in an act of vengeance, leaving my wife and children to fend for themselves.
I contacted my doctor. When I went in for my appointment, I explained that I was pretty sure something was happening with my blind eye.
He looked it over, checked my charts, and said: “I have no idea why you are having headaches, so I think I’m going to go ahead and send you to 3,469 specialists to make sure I don’t get sued. The specialists will perform tests. Hopefully one of the tests will tell us what is happening in your head.”
His words were comforting to me in the way a mallet is comforting to dry-wall. Before he headed out the door, he took a moment to reassure me. “I’m pretty sure it’s not cancer.”
Next thing you know, I found myself strapped flat on my back listening to the soothing, machine-gun-like sounds of an MRI machine and trying to hold my head as still as humanly possible. You know how on TV they show you people going into MRI machines and it’s all uncomfortable and dramatic and then the doctor presses the lever that propels the patient out of the machine and says something like “I’m so sorry. Your skin is going to fall off because the part of your brain controlling skin growth is covered in malignant lesions” or whatever? Well not so in the real world!
In the real world, your MRI takes an hour. An hour for you to sit listening to noise reminiscent of a jack-hammer with nothing to prevent you from lapsing into full-fledged panic about the possibility of malignant head masses. Then, instead of hearing the results when you’re done, you are forced to wait for an entire week, giving ample time for your malignant head mass scenarios to morph into full-fledged multi-month death-fantasies that you run through nightly as you fall asleep.
And then when you get your results, they look like this.
Now, I’ve highlighted the pertinent sections so as to not make you run screaming from this post. But the basic take-home message for Josh: your head is filled with weird, repulsive masses, at least one of which is a chronic lesion.
Not surprisingly, my own doctor was unhelpful when I brought this incomprehensible document to my next appointment, as well as a disc containing the images from my MRI. “I don’t have the right equipment to look at this,” he explained with a wink and a smile after trying to load the images onto his laptop unsuccessfully for a full 10 minutes. “You’ll have to talk to a neurologist.”
Thanks for your immense help as always, doc.
By the time I saw the neurologist I had done some research. As it turns out, the chronic lesion that was making me all terrified was actually a totally innocuous brain cyst called an arachnoid cyst. Apparently, it has been in my brain since birth, right there in my right parietal lobe, just waiting to be discovered.
Here’s an MRI shot of a cyst that, in this shot, looks something like mine, except mine’s further back in my head. (I would have copied it and just inserted it, but I didn’t have time to get permission from the cyst-owner.) The cyst is the greyish part at the perimeter of the brain. Yeah, that big blob on the right.
(I’ll have you know that in trying to find pictures of an adequate cyst online I was subjected to some of the most disturbingly haunting and disgusting images of human flesh and excised nastiness you can ever imagine. I’m pretty sure I now have PTSD.)
Anyway, I asked Neurologist about the headaches. His conclusion? “Your anachroid cyst is not the cause of your headaches.” I then told him about this theory I had that because it is a brain lesion located on the lobe in charge of spacial understanding and certain math skills, maybe I am legitimately brain damaged and that is the reason I am directionally impaired to the point that, having lived in the greater Seattle area for four years, I would be hard-pressed to be able to find my way to Seattle by car.
“No,” said Neurologist. “Chances are that you really are just that stupid.”
Leaving that meeting, then, I knew three things. 1. I have two inconsequential cysts in my brain, one of which is disturbingly large. (“I’ve seen them much larger,” Neurologist told me, despite the fact that what I was looking at was so large it was actually protruding into my brain-matter. Yikes. (If you look at deeper photos of the cyst I linked to before, you’ll see it is huge–much larger than mine. And his was removed. Comforting, no?)) 2. I have a polyp the size of a baby’s fist in my sinus. And 3. there is no identifiable reason that I get lost coming back from the bathroom in restaurants or that I can barely add and subtract other than my feeble intellectual capacity.
Good work, team!
Sadly, I still didn’t know was what was causing the blasted headaches. (Though by this point, all that helpful medical insight notwithstanding, I had developed my own hypothesis.)
All right. This post is long enough, methinks. Who knew this would turn into a four post series? I certainly didn’t! Stay tuned for the conclusion, which will thrill and chill to the bone. (Not really–I’m actually aiming at barely more exciting than a complete anticlimax. We’ll see if I can achieve that ambitious goal.)
If you haven’t happened upon the previous posts in this scintillating series, you can find Part I here, and Part II–the creepiest face you might ever see here. Aaaand I just realized I linked those at the beginning of the post. But I’m not taking the links out because they took five minutes of my life to make because I’m that computer-slow, so you get to enjoy them twice.
*I cannot tell you how many times now I’ve written “blind I” accidentally instead of “blind eye.” One of these posts, it’s going to happen. Just you wait.