Well That Certainly Raised My Blood Pressure

Note: this is a highly personal post concerning a recent health issue, but I thought it would be helpful to some readers to offer a laymen’s perspective on the topic.

It started about four weeks ago when I noticed a very small amount of blood in my urine (don’t say I didn’t warn you about this being very personal…).

Of course, in this age of Google-based medical care, the first thing I did was search for what the possible problem might be. One of the first web sites I came to was the Mayo Clinic, which I assumed would be a trustworthy source of information. Here is what I found:

Blood in the urine is medically referred to as hematuria, and according to the Mayo Clinic, there could be several reasons for such an event, including the following:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Kidney infections
  • A bladder or kidney stone
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Inherited disorders
  • Kidney injury
  • Medications
  • Strenuous exercise

And at the bottom of the list, the Mayo Clinic offered the following advice: Whatever the cause, contact your doctor right away if you see blood in your urine.

So I called my family doctor, and was able to get an appointment for the following week.

I then went back to the list, my eyes immediately drawn to the worst possible item on the list – cancer:

Visible urinary bleeding may be a sign of advanced kidney, bladder or prostate cancer. Unfortunately, you may not have signs or symptoms in the early stages, when these cancers are more treatable.

That’s certainly not something I wanted to read.

I then went a couple of days with no more incidents, so I thought it was just a one-time, freakish occurrence, and thus no reason to be concerned.

But then it happened again, and this time with more blood than the first time.

So now the panic really started to set in, and my doctor’s appointment was still a few days away.

Finally it was time to visit the doctor (no more incidents in the interim), and as usual, they took some vitals, including blood pressure. My blood pressure is usually around 115/75, but that day it was 125/85.

Anyway, the doctor did a quick exam, didn’t notice anything obvious, and suggested that I make an appointment with an urologist, which I did as soon as I got home.

While waiting for that appointment to arrive, I did some more reading on the Internet, and everything I read was just making me more and more anxious, as well as a little bit annoyed.

I kept thinking, ‘what else can I do to be healthy? I’ve been a vegan for 10 years, I eat 10 servings of fruits and veggies each day, I exercise every dayI don’t smoke, I don’t drink (alcohol or caffeine), I get enough sleep, there’s no history of this in my family, and I don’t feel too stressed out (unless I’ve got a calc test).

During my research, I read about a procedure, known as a cytoscopy, that’s often done to diagnose the cause of blood in the urine. That’s what the picture at the top of the post is showing. Basically a thin tube, with a camera on the end of it, is inserted into the urethra and checks to see how things look. The procedure is done with a local anesthetic, and it was usually described as “not painful, but uncomfortable”.

So that’s all I kept thinking about until my appointment with the urologist. When I went for that appointment, I first gave a urine sample, and then they took some vital signs. Once again my blood pressure was higher than normal; this time it was 135 over 90.

The doctor was professional and friendly, a winning combination. He said they checked the urine, and there was no blood (it had been over two weeks since I last saw blood myself). He did a quick exam, including checking my prostate (talk about uncomfortable…).

He did not see anything unusual, although he said my prostate was a bit large, which is quite common in men my age.

He said the next steps were to get a CT scan so that my kidneys could be checked, and to come back to the office for a cystoscopy.

I got the CT scan completed a few days later. This was easiest part of this whole process; I just laid on a table and they moved me back and forth underneath the scanning machine.

Finally the day I had been dreading arrived.

It was time to see the urologist again.

My blood pressure this time was a record setting (for me) 149/95. The nurse said something along the lines “a little nervous about the procedure?”

Uh, yea.

They brought me back to one of the “procedure rooms” where they do the cystoscopy. There was lots of equipment in there, and while waiting for the doctor I kept trying to figure out which one was the thin tube they were going to stick into me – none of them looked that thin to me.

The doctor then came in, and the first thing he told me was that the CT scan results came back, and my kidneys looked fine.

He then inserted some anesthetic gel into my urethra. That was perhaps the worst part of the procedure. It results in a burning sensation at first, as well as a sense of needing to urinate. After a few seconds of waiting for the anesthesia to work, the doctor then inserted the scope into my urethra.

At this point in time I tried to take my mind off what was going on and instead tried to go to a happy place ( a deserted beach for me).

I had thought he had said the actual procedure was only about 20 seconds, so I counted down the time. In reality, it was closer to two minutes, and the descriptions I had read were pretty accurate. It was an uncomfortable feeling for those two minutes, but I wouldn’t call it painful (although I hope I never have to get it done again).

After the procedure was over he told me that everything, looked fine with my bladder, and it seemed to be a case of an enlarged prostate. Since I had no other side effects often associated with an enlarged prostate, he told me there was no need to put me on any medication, and to just take a wait and see approach.

He did tell me to drink lots of water to help clean things out, and said that I would probably see blood in my urine for the next few days, and that there could be a burning sensation. He turned out to be right on all of those accounts.

As I got in my car to drive home, I can’t explain the sense of relief I felt. All of the worries of the past four weeks seemed to have faded away, and I felt like my life could get back to normal.

Later that night my wife, son, and I went to Barnes and Noble for a while. I went there to do some practice problems from the AP Calculus books I knew they  would have on hand. Somehow, I got every problem I tried correct, and it didn’t take too long. It was my second sense of elation that day.

As we were walking to the car to go home, I just felt an incredible sense of energy. I had gotten a clean bill of health earlier that day, and the math was starting to click.

It’s now been three days since the cystoscopy, and everything seems to be back to normal health wise.

As for the math…

Well, my test was yesterday, and I was as prepared as I could be.

I sat down to do the test, and I took a look at the first problem and I thought “I have no idea how to do this.” I went to the next problem, and I think I did ok on that one. But then the third problem was also one I had never seen before. Another problem , where we had to find the volume of a shape, was a shape I had never seen before.

So I am not very optimistic about how well I did on the exam.

But hey, at least I’ve got my health.

P.S. If you’ve read this far, you now know way too much about me…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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