When I saw I had a missed call Friday morning from mom’s cell phone I thought it a bit odd. She never calls from her cell phone (it’s never on). Then I got a call from Marta. Uh oh. This can’t be good. It wasn’t. She told me dad was going to the ER on the advice of his doctor because of blood test results that looked bad. Something about high calcium levels. Huh? What is that all about? We were about to find out.
I met mom and dad at the ER around 10:30 AM. They had dad in a triage area and there was no doctor or nurse present. So we waited – and I broke out my PDA and Googled his symptoms. High calcium levels in the blood. Fatigue. Thirst. Hoarseness. Bone pain. Most of the results led to a condition called hyperparathyroidism – an overactive parathyroid gland. It all fit. All the symptoms matched. A benign tumor was pressing on the gland stimulating it to produce too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). The hormone regulates the amount of calcium that goes into and out of your bones. As the calcium leeches out of bones it causes pain and great thirst. The tumor near the voicebox would explain the hoarseness. The best part was that a 20 minute outpatient procedure could cure it and the symptoms would resolve completely. This was it. Except it wasn’t.
They took dad back to the ER into a room where they ran some tests. They took CT scans and x-rays. Mom and I waited for a couple hours before meeting dad back in his room where a doctor came in and spoke to us. This was all a formality of course because we had already diagnosed the malady. The first thing the doctor mentioned that fit the symptoms was… hyperparathyroidism. Bingo right? Wrong. Looking at the CT scans there was no tumor on the gland. The possibility of this being the ailment was very slim. What now?
Due to dad having had prostate cancer a recurrence had to be considered. Could it have metastisized to the bone? Possibly said the doctor. He also mentioned one more thing – something I had never heard of before. Multiple Myeloma. I didn’t like the sound of it. Anything ending in “oma” is bad. Put “multiple” in front of it and it’s worse than bad. Then he mentioned it was not curable. And my heart sank. It was all you could really focus on from that point. We heard a lot about plasma cells and hypercalcemia and proteins and bone marrow – but it was all taking a back seat to the word “incurable”. The doctor did mention it was treatable however. What does that mean? It all didn’t matter really – dad was not going to have multiple myeloma. Over the next 5 days in the hospital that unfortunately would prove to be untrue.