Spitting blood and feeling fine…

Yup. That's a hospital gown selfie, moments before my endoscopy.
Yup. That’s a hospital gown selfie, moments before my endoscopy.

My mother thinks I’m crazy. She finds it absurd that I talk about my health problems on social media. Some of her friends find it odd. I think most people in my life from my generation and younger don’t think a thing about it.

I’m a writer. I write about my life. I’ve been spitting up blood for more than a year now, starting when I moved to Uganda. That’s a big part of my life, and I’m naturally going to write about it.

I write about it because I want prayer. I write about it as a witness tool- to show that although I’m spitting up blood, although we don’t have answers, I still have faith that God is in control. I also write about it because I hope that maybe someone somewhere will stumble across this post and have an answer. There are many reasons I write about it.

I love all the prayers and love people are sending me from around the globe, and I think it’s so sweet when people tell me they hope I feel better. But that’s the weird thing. Overall, I FEEL fine. There hasn’t been pain associated with the blood. That’s certainly been a blessing through all of this. While it made sense that the bleeding was associated with the half a dozen sinus infections I had during my time in Uganda, apparently they were unrelated.

But for whatever reason, I have been spitting up blood for around three to five days every month since September 2013. (With the exception of August and September 2014.)

One source of frustration throughout this whole ordeal is people who think they are smarter than doctors and tell me, “It’s probably just (insert random idea here).” I’m sorry, but if I’ve seen almost a dozen doctors over the past year and not one of them has had an answer, what makes you think you’ve got a medical degree, can diagnose me, and tell me I’m fine? And there’s a difference between telling me everything will be OK (I believe it will), and telling me that I’m worried for nothing. Not one doctor has said, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.” They have each been concerned.

It’s been especially tough to return to the US and not get answers. I expected to see a doctor, for the doctor to hear my story, and then say, “Oh, well that sounds like (insert health ailment here).” But not one single doctor has said that. Each doctor and specialist has heard I’ve been spitting up blood for more than a year and have no other symptoms, and each doctor and specialist has given me a blank look. They have no clue.

Really tired of having blood drawn!
Really tired of having blood drawn!

So basically, I’ve been a lab rat. They keep taking blood (what else could possibly be left to test in my blood at this point?!), I’ve had a nasal endoscopy, an upper and lower GI endoscopy, two CT scans, two chest x-rays, an esophagram barium swallow, and allergy testing, and apparently… I’m fine. At my endoscopy on Monday they removed a gastric polyp, but they don’t believe that’s the source of bleeding. I’ve been referred to a pulmonologist, who I will meet with tomorrow to schedule a bronchoscopy and possible chest MRI.

It never ends.

Or at least that’s how it feels. I know it will end eventually. I know that either we’ll reach a conclusion, or I’ll someday stop spitting up blood every month.

The bright spot to all of this is that I haven’t “felt” sick. Besides the sick feeling I get in my stomach after each procedure when they say, “We found nothing,” I feel fine. If I wake up and spit up blood, I do so, and then I get ready for work and go about my day. Even on days I spit up blood in the middle of the day, it doesn’t impact that day’s activities.

I am grateful for the loving support of family and friends as I work with doctors to find the cause and source of bleeding. I’ve never been a smoker, so to think this is in my lungs is really discerning. But, through it all, I still believe God is good. Whether it’s a parasite, some sort of disease, or simply a burst blood vessel, it does not change my faith. If anything, it makes it stronger.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13

Bloody mornings and impending terror…

Between spitting up blood each morning and the likely terrorist attack that will occur here in Kampala, it’s been quite a week.

And we’re only halfway through it.

It’s common for me to wake up each morning, go to the sink, and spit up a bunch of phlegm. My sinuses are constantly draining junk. But when I spit on Monday morning, it wasn’t phlegm. It was blood. Not blood in the spit, but straight blood.

My CT scan from today's hospital visit.
My CT scan from today’s hospital visit.

I quickly examined my mouth, thinking maybe my gums were bleeding from something, but they weren’t. I spit again. More blood. This went on five or six times until eventually it wasn’t blood anymore.

If you know me well, you know I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Needless to say, spitting up blood while living in Uganda wasn’t exactly the best of feelings in the entire world. I have God to thank for keeping me calm through my phone call to our personnel director who said she would escort me to the doctor.

My blood pressure was fine. Temp was fine. Chest sounded clear. They took blood- all of my counts were good. I wasn’t in any pain. It was quite perplexing to both me and the doctor. She determined that maybe I had a cut in my throat that bled, and that would be the end of it.

However, I woke up Tuesday morning and spit up even more blood. Back to the doctor I went. This time they did a chest x-ray to rule out something like pneumonia. Chest x-ray was fine. She referred me to an ENT.

Today I was at the hospital from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., waiting to see the ENT doctor, seeing him, and then waiting even longer to get a CT scan. When I first saw the doctor, I showed him the pictures I’ve taken of the last two mornings and the blood I spit up.

“Whoa. That’s a lot of blood,” he said.

After the scan, the doctor did an initial review of the film. He didn’t see anything wrong, but said that doesn’t mean my sinuses aren’t irritated, possibly from the change in environment. What I find odd is the fact that I haven’t been in any pain, nor do I feel any sinus pressure.

He said the complete report might show something different, but that whatever it is, it isn’t that serious or it would have shown in the scan. Still, I’m a results girl. I don’t like not knowing the exact reason why I’m spitting up blood every morning. He prescribed me some antibiotics and a steroid, as well as nasal spray, and I’ll wait to hear what the full report says.

My mom wants to know why I’m handling this so well. To be honest, I haven’t had much of a choice. What good is freaking out going to do? I did have a few breakdowns today, just simply from feeling like a lab rat with all these tests and not knowing what’s wrong with me. But I definitely have faith that God is with me, and that I will get through this, whatever it is.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about this week.

It started with a few discerning emails from the American Embassy stating that Americans should avoid shopping malls, festivals, large gatherings, and other places frequented by white people, until further notice because of the attacks in Nairobi (which is around 400 miles away from here).

Sure, we can do that. We don’t go to places like those very often anyway.

The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.
The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.

However, the American Embassy also has visited our school for the past three days. We’re a clear target for terrorists. While this is true even on a day-to-day basis, it’s never been more imperative that we increase our security at school.

I know, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere. They happen even in the United States, and violence occurs at movie theatres and elementary schools and shopping malls. But when your own government (both U.S. and Ugandan) flat out tell you that you’re a prime target for an inevitable attack in Kampala, it’s kind of scary. It’s more than kind of scary.

Ugandan police have increased our security at school until further notice. Luckily, we’ll be surrounded by armed guards until things settle down.

Today my roommate and I went to the grocery store. As we pulled into the parking lot, soldiers not only took out our backpacks and searched them, but they also went through the backseat as well as the trunk of the car. While it’s reassuring that they are thoroughly searching every vehicle, it’s a little unsettling to know that it’s come to this here in Kampala.

But what breaks my heart more than anything right now, is the fact that one of my Kenyan students lost more than a handful of friends in the Nairobi attack. The attack there not only occurred close to us physically, but it has broken the heart of a student I love dearly. I can’t even imagine what he’s going through.

Please keep us all in your prayers. I’m not the only one dealing with confusing health problems, and there’s an entire school and city on edge right now just waiting to see if our home will be the next victim of senseless violence. I’m learning to have faith like I’ve never had to before.