Hidden Scars

I have focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH). This is a very long way of saying I have benign tumors in my liver. They aren’t cancerous, or pre-cancerous, but they can be a literal pain.

My diagnosis came in 2002 and quite by accident. I’d gone in for a CAT scan for another issue and the FNH was simultaneously revealed. My doctor at the time immediately took me off birth control because she suspected the hormones were causing the problem. After some monitoring (read: MRIs every few months), it was determined that the nodules weren’t growing, so all was well. (If the tumors get too big, or block anything important, they have to be removed.)

There was some concern when I got pregnant that the FNH might become more serious. Oddly enough, I had no problems when pregnant with either of my boys, but the pain returned when I was carrying my daughter. Different hormones, I guess?

And now, just recently, the pain reared its ugly head again. I’ve since moved across the country and whatnot, so it took some explaining to my current doctor. When I went in today, she of course took a look and at first didn’t believe me when I told her that, no, I haven’t had a gallbladder since 2010. Because she couldn’t find the scars.

Gallbladder issues run in my family, but it’s also very common for women who’ve given birth to have gallstones. One of those things they don’t tell you before you decide to have kids. A year after my third and final child, it was discovered I was, as the ultrasound diagnostician put it, “full of stones.” So a very dour but incredibly skilled surgeon from South Africa removed my gallbladder. There are four tiny, nigh invisible, scars. (More visible in summer when my skin goes toasty.)

Anyway, there’s something wonderful about witnessing one medical professional admiring another’s work. Once my doctor did finally spot the gallbladder scars, she was highly impressed. If only I could take the credit, but I can only say I’ve been fortunate in my choices of health care providers—fortunate, that is, in whom I’ve been able to choose because this system is the pits.

As for the FNH, I’m due for an ultrasound next week. We’ll see if those nodules, lesions, tumors–whatever they decide to call them–are misbehaving. As I age and the chemicals in my body change, well… I can’t say I’m a fan. BUT. I’m still here, right? All these changes, no matter the inconvenience, are better than the alternative.