It was Christmas. We went to visit my grandmother and cousins in the province to give our gifts. I was alright. I was not feeling sick at all. My husband and I just decided that it was time that we have our second child as our firstborn was already four years old. I just withdrew from contraceptives two months back.
When I alighted from the car, I was greeted by two old friends/neighbors from my home place. It was one happy, curious inquiry that would lead to succeeding life-changing episodes... I was simply asked if I were pregnant--to which my simple retort was why did they think I was.... Then came the innocent comment that my nose was as big as it was when I had my first pregnancy. That was it!
Such innocent comment, unknowing to the one who gave it, confirmed my growing dislike of how I looked, especially in the recent pictures taken during an office Christmas lunch-out. I looked different--ugly, in fact, to my eyes! Not that my nose was perfect or small before but certainly it was not so big as to make me shun from having my pictures taken. And my eyes seemed to have become smaller, appearing puffy as if I had just cried.
Apprehensive and very much affected by the honest criticism on my appearance, I went right away to see any available doctor in a nearby clinic. Most doctors were out on their Christmas break. The doctor I chanced upon specializes in internal medicine; she had to call her OB-GYN professor to seek for advice on my case as she could not place where the swelling was coming from, i.e., other than being pregnant. She ordered a pregnancy test and asked me to stop any medication I was taking (I was taking antibiotics prescribed by my dermatologist then), and advised me to see an OB-GYN.
When office resumed in January, I immediately set an appointment with our company's OB-GYN consultant, who, just like the first doctor I saw, seemed to be out of wits in being able to diagnose my condition. She said that it was very unlikely for the swelling to be caused by an early pregnancy stage. She had some blood tests done and referred me to another doctor. The third doctor that I saw had more blood work done plus a liver ultrasound. Everything came back normal except for the thyroid tests which gave slightly indicative abnormal findings. That made her refer me to an endocrinologist. Finally, I was with the right doctor.
At my first consult, all I could tell my endocrinologist was that people in the province whom I saw last Christmas after almost a year noticed that I looked as if I was pregnant again. I told her that I dismissed my condition as just something that could be related to my abrupt withdrawal from the pill which I had been taking for almost 4 years. She queried if my shoe and ring size had increased over the years. I was size 6.5 just right after college, became 7 after giving birth, and four years after, I was even size 8.5 at times! My engagement and wedding rings used to easily fall off with a little soap when I wore them on my left ring finger, but recently, they had become so tight on the left, leaving etched circle marks on my finger when removed, and would not fit on my right ring finger.
That first consult with my endo was to be succeeded by several visits that eventually led to an MRI exam, results of which confirmed my endo's first impression, that it was indeed acromegaly!!! She said that she had approached my case systematically before reaching her diagnosis. On one of my visits, she assured me and my husband that she would not refer me for surgery were she not 100% sure!
Acceptance of my condition came not as hard for me as it did for Let, my husband. Not a few times did he say that increased shoe and ring size could not be accepted as symptoms as these are experienced by all people who gain weight. His point was that how could I be easily diagnosed with acromegaly when I was not manifesting symptoms other than aging appearance and increased shoe and ring size. He would say that my nose was really big right from the start, especially when all my hormones came back normal after the blood tests. All except for my growth hormone, which was barely suppressed after a glucose load. While Let was still in a "denial" stage, so to speak, I would search the web, trying to make sense of the repetitive medical stuff about acromegaly on google. I felt that I had most of the symptoms of acromegaly: swelling of nose, fingers and feet; excessive sweating; oily skin; snoring; fatigue.
With some bitterness, I accepted my circumstances, sought for healing and gave it all up to God. This could not be as hard as cancer--such was the thought that made me accept my condition easier. In fact, God knew I had it, and even before it was discovered, he was preparing me for it. He first made me move to a new job with an organization that has a comprehensive medical insurance. The diagnosis coincided with my appointment confirmation (on my first year anniversary). The surgery was then scheduled posthaste. Had I still been with the government institution I was before, the sickness I have would have cost all of my husband's savings and more. Rare as the disease is, curing and managing it is very expensive. I might had been worried sick of our finances on top of being worried of excessive growth hormone in my body. God has a reason for this. He chose not to give it to anyone, he chose me among the few that He knew could survive it.
1 February 2007 was a day in my life that could have been my last if there were surgical complications. But, it came to pass! Before the surgery, my feeling was that I was prepared for anything but the possibility that I could be leaving behind a four-year old kid without a mommy. I believe that that was the single thing I was most afraid about. I could not hold back my tears as I was fetched from my room and wheeled into the operating room. One nurse whispered before she wheeled me inside the OR, "God bless, ma'am." That had me crying even more. My son was all I could think of. I was seeking God's grace for forgiveness of my sins and praying for my life, for my son...
Through the ordeal of the surgery, not once did my husband leave me. He was my anchor, a reminder that my life was precious, that I was still needed. My family stood by me as well, helping as much as they could to make the ordeal seemed just like another confinement.
Life is too precious indeed to be claimed by acromegaly. Five months after the surgery, my postoperative MRI is indicative of a subtle residual tumor measuring 3 mm. But, there's hope. I'd bet that acromegaly could only make me look less beautiful but it could never claim my life. My battle goes on, with only God knowing how and in which way it will go...