On Friday, August 19, 2016, I developed an insidious left flank pain. My mind thought the worst: it must be a malignant solid tumor compressing my internal organs. With such a grave predicament, my time is limited. I kept this information quiet since we were going on an epic journey. The next week, my family and I vacationed in Yosemite National Park. My mysterious pain that had a potential ominous diagnosis would not impact a once in a lifetime trip to one of America's Great National Parks. At 40 years old and at the peak of my life, how could I succumb to such an early death by this insidious, stealthy, slow killer. My wife and kids were oblivious. I would enjoy my one week in Yosemite to the fullest and keep my new diagnosis private. To ignore what seemed like obvious facts and enjoy the present moment was my mission.
The following week in California was amazing. I gave a lecture at Unity of Oroville, signed many books on Superior Health (that I embodied, yet was ironically dying slowly), spent an entire week with black bears, cougars, hiking, dipping in the icy cold Merced river, telling scary stories by the campfire, playing dominos past midnight, and much more!
Amidst this great fun, the thought of death keep rearing its ugly head. Eerily, my kids went into a small bookstore and were “dying” to buy a book. I got chills as they desperately wanted to buy an intriguing book, “Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite”. Could this be yet another ominous sign?
“I should schedule a full body MRI scan once I get home,” I thought to myself.
Mysteriously, I was pain-free for most of my vacation. Perhaps I had a spontaneous remission. During this amazing one-week trip, I had great fun and little pain. But alas, upon return to Eugene, the pain returned with a vengeance. First it came in subtle waves, then it became stronger, and stronger, until the gnarly pain became unbearable.
I still did not tell my family of this mysterious diagnosis that my mind had conjured. Yet, it is haunting what occurred next. My youngest child told me a few days ago, “Dad, I had a nightmare last night.” I said, “Oh yeah? What was it, buddy?” He stared at the floor, “I had a dream you had cancer...”
“Why did he have this dream?” I secretly asked myself. In medical circles, it is known that “tumor is the rumor, tissue is the issue, and cancer is the answer.” My son does not have x rays, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, or biopsy reports... and neither did I. Could it be synchronicity on how he came to this conclusion? His nightmare and my self-diagnosis had closed the deal. The severe pain in my left rib cage, which was affecting my breathing and sleep, must be a catastrophic terminal illness. My mental chatter was incessant... what’s next on my bucketlist?
Just yesterday, I did a workout on the bark: 800m x 6. My times were slow. To say they sucked is an understatement. With each breath, I had excruciating pain in my ribs.
“Pain is my friend,” I told my running partner, keeping my self-diagnosis a secret. I am not malnourished, not underweight, and not cachectic yet... so I should be much faster, I thought to myself.
As luck would have it, a very adroit third-year medical student was rotating in my private practice who has incredible osteopathic manipulative medicine skills. He examined me and I grimaced from blinding pain. Was this manipulation causing a potential tumor to spread further into my bloodstream? After feeling my rib, he determined that I had a rib out of place and some spastic intercostal muscles. As he told me my diagnosis, I said, “What about my solid tumor with metastasis to the bone?” He said, “Yeah, Doc, you are in perfect health, are a runner, follow a great diet, you don't have cancer.” Had my restless mind contrived a cruel self-diagnosis? Had I misdiagnosed myself and went down the slippery slope and darkness of hypochondriasis?
I took a step back and analyzed the facts. The rib pain had started while taking massive cuts on the driving range before my Yosemite trip. Then for three weeks, I did not torque my torso, and the pain disappeared. Then over the past four days, I have shot 54 holes of golf, all of which triggered my severe pain! My new diagnosis is a torn intercostal muscle in my left rib cage. Although this diagnosis is still tentative, it seems much more plausible. I have cancelled the full body MRI scan I had scheduled.