The History

The start

When I was 7 months pregnant with Conor in February 2000, I talked to my doctor about a rib that felt weird.  It didn't hurt, it just felt, well, big.  Wide.  Enlarged. I had taken to calling it my uber rib.  She felt it, as did just about everyone else in the office.  Ultimately she said that they didn't know what it was, that we shouldn't do anything while I was still pregnant, but to have it looked at after delivery.  Which I didn't do because it didn't hurt and I forgot about it. 

Let the testing begin

About a year later, in March of 2001, I was coughing and it hurt.  A lot.  Constantly.  It felt like someone was stabbing me.  So I went to the emergency room (San Francisco General, which by the way, is where you should go if someone is *actually* stabbing you) in the middle of the night, and they said I had bronchitis and had probably pulled a muscle coughing, but I should see my primary care physician if it still hurt.  They did take an X-ray, but it was very blurry on the left side.

I did go see my primary care physician, and she agreed that we'd look at it after the bronchitis cleared up.  I went back a couple of months later (feeling stupid, of course, because it wasn't like I had a *real* illness) and she ordered an X-ray.  It showed an abnormality--a wider-than-normal rib.  She ordered a CT scan (results here ), and that also showed that the bone was abnormal.  It didn't have the usual ring of white (bone) surrounding the grey (marrow).  It was all blobby.  

She referred me to an orthopedic surgeon, who looked at everything and ordered a CT-guided fine-needle biopsy.  The radiologist was very nice; he said he was going to go easy on me and that I  might hear him arguing with the pathologist who was going to want more cells than I was willing to give him.  (The pathologist actually comes into the CT room during the procedure and makes the slides right on the spot.)  The radiologist also gave me the preliminary report from the pathologist, which was that it wasn't malignant.

So the orthopedist looks at the biopsy report ( results here ), and says that it doesn't appear to be anything but he thinks it should be removed, especially if it hurts.  And if I'm planning on getting pregnant again, because I noticed it during pregnancy and once pregnant they can't do anything about it.  He won't do the surgery; he doesn't do ribs anymore, but recommends a thoracic surgeon.  I'll spare you the effort to find a thoracic surgeon.  I finally got opinions from two who concurred with the orthopedist.  But one was much more thorough, and was also willing to monitor it with me if I didn't want the surgery.  

Did I mention that all along this trip everyone I talked to said it wasn't malignant, because if it was cancer I'd have been dead already?

After Thanksgiving, it started to hurt again.  Not like before, when I'd bang it (or after all those doctors prodded it) or when I was coughing, but more like it was growing or changing.  So I scheduled the surgery.  I kept telling Kevin that when they opened me up these two little hands were going to pop out and pull the incision closed.  Of course, it stopped hurting a week before the surgery.