Mystery Diagnosis

November 21, 2013
It's quite strange to think about how life moves in a circle. How one day your elders are taking care of you, and the next day you take care of them. It's a sad but yet astounding thing to watch take place. To watch someone slowly lose the small skills that people like you and I take for granted. To see them struggle and have no idea what you can do to help. To hear the words you never want to come out of a doctor's mouth. "I don't know". Well I surely don't know either. When someone asks me what’s wrong with my grandmother and why she is the way she is, I can say no more than "I don't know". Not because of a lack of intelligence, but because there truly is no answer.

4 years ago, my grandmother was just like any other. Always spoiling me, cooking the best dinners, doing all the cleaning in the house, and she had a full time job working in an elementary school cafeteria. She would drive herself to work every morning and she would drop me off at the bus stop on the way. My grandmother had the cleanest bill of health. She never smoked, wasn't a heavy drinker, and didn't really have any medical problems in the past besides border line diabetes which she didn't even have to take medicine for.

Shortly before things started going hastily downhill, I went through a very horrifying experience with my grandmother. I was in fifth grade and it started out as just another normal summer day. It was a weekend so my grandmother had a few drinks while she was sitting around the house cleaning and cooking dinner. A few of my friends were over as well as my cousins and we were all sitting on the front porch when I decided to go back in the house to get a marker because our friend had a cast on his arm and we wanted to sign it. When I walked in the house I went straight upstairs and I smelled something burning, but I didn't think anything of it. I walked back downstairs and as I started making my way into the kitchen, I noticed my grandmother lying unconscious on the floor. I ran outside and could barely get the words out to tell my older cousin, who was only 2 years older than me. I was hysterical. My cousin ran straight over to my grandmother and called her name and shook her until she woke up. When she lifted her head off of her hand and all I saw was blood, I darted out the door to my friend’s house who lived nearby and her parents rushed over. We called my uncle and he was there in a matter of minutes. This was most definitely the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me. When I saw my grandmother laying on the ground like that the god-awful thought that crept into my mind was that my grandmother was dead and I was the one to find her lying on the floor. My grandmother ended up being okay after that. We believe she tripped and hit her head on something which knocked her out. After a trip to the hospital and a few stitches to fix her busted lip, she was back to her normal self.

Although this incident is pretty much irrelevant to the other happenings in my grandmother’s life, it almost marks a starting point. A few years after the fall, my grandmother’s health started declining. She began to have a tingling, numbing sensation in her feet. At first, she thought nothing of it. She blamed it on the sheer fact that she worked on her feet all day. Little did she know, this was the first symptom which led her to where she is today. Over time, things started to get worse. My grandmother had to retire from her job because she was beginning to become physically incapable. Less than a year after the numbing in her feet began, she was unable to walk. Things went downhill fast. She had tons of tests done to try and figure out what was wrong but we couldn’t seem to come up with any answers. Soon after, she underwent surgery in her spine which we were told was supposed to have her up and walking again in six months to a year. Then, things got even worse. My grandmother had a stroke and lost all use in her left hand. The stroke was caused by aneurisms in her brain which, the doctors said, could have been there for years upon years. My grandmother was hospitalized for quite a while after this and the hospital was her least favorite place to be. Along with the hospital, my grandmother also hated when she had to stay at the nursing home while she was rehabilitated until she was able to come home. When she came home she was still unable to walk. She tried doing physical therapy in order to get her walking again but she began to lose the use of both of her hands completely so she couldn't use a walker to help her learn to walk again. Eventually the thought of my grandmother being able to walk drifted away and everyone lost faith. This didn't mean we were giving up on her, we would never do such a thing, but we knew that in order to start seeing growth, we needed to find out the root of the problem.

After endless trips to many different doctors, dermatologists, monotonous blood tests, biopsies, MRI's and a countless number of other tests, we were finally getting somewhere. Although it seemed like we would never have a clear answer as to why my grandmother is the way she is, we were getting closer and closer. My grandmother had begun to grow large red bumps on her skin. They didn't hurt or itch, but it was a helpful sign. After a few biopsies and tests the doctors were finally able to give a name to her condition. She was diagnosed with Lymphomatoid Granulomatosis which is a form of lymphoma that most commonly attacks the central nervous system. This was the reason my grandmother had formed this mysterious rash, but it is still unclear whether this is the reason she is incapable of walking. She went through a treatment similar to chemo therapy called immuno therapy, which is just a more mild form. These treatments just recently ended and they cleared up her rash completely. There are still a lot of unanswered questions. Why is my grandmother unable to walk? Why can’t she use her hands? Why is she not making any progress? Will the doctors ever have a distinct answer? It's been over three years since it all started and we still don't know.

Lately my grandmother has been doing well. Nothing has gotten any worse, and some minute progress has been made. She is quite a strong woman and despite her physical disabilities, her health isn't too deficient. She continues to fight and doesn't let bad news bring her down. I love giving back to my grandmother and helping her with anything I can. She is quite an inspiration and will always be one of the most influential people in my life. I'm proud of how far she’s come and I am gratified to have been right beside her throughout this journey and I expect things to keep getting better in the future.

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