The Single Best Tool You’ll Ever Have

Good afternoon, friends and neighbors. Sorry this week’s blog post is a little late, but things went a little bit… sideways on Friday, and I’ve had some hard lessons to learn about my limits, and just how far I can push my luck.

I’ve had better Fridays to be sure…

In truth, it really started back in January when I was having some sudden, severe bladder pain. At first, it felt like a muscle injury and I had just pulled something in my groin, but when it didn’t seem to be healing after 3 weeks, I went and saw a doctor.

My insurance at the time put me in front of an internal medicine doc who, over two visits, gave me three antibiotics, diagnosed the problem as prostatitis, and just told me to arrange some more test for myself “whenever it was convenient.”

Well I’ve got a diagnosis, I got some prescriptions for itI guess he’s just being careful.” The pain subsided (mostly) and I just let it go.

Then about a month ago, I started getting back pain. The really bad kind, the kind I thought I left behind when I lost weight. It felt centered inside my right hip and right lower back- like a sharp stick was jabbing into me.

“Well, I’m a baker. I probably just lifted wrong one day, and I haven’t been able to rest enough to recover completely.” I sought the advice of my family first- I took Aleve every day for two weeks. I reduced my workouts. I did stretching and warm-up routines when I did, and the exercise itself was gentler. I couldn’t stop working (obviously), and I’d dealt with back pain before. This would be no big deal. Just take it easy, get help lifting things, and it’ll heal in time.

Then Wednesday night, the pain came roaring back. I couldn’t sleep at all. Nothing was working. Finally, I made an appointment with a local clinic to get looked at, and I called the bakery to say I’d be in late. I was almost in too much pain to eat, so breakfast was little more than a buttered roll and some water. I figured I’d eat properly later.

At the clinic, the PA took down my medical history and symptoms, and said that yeah- I probably had pulled something and would need to take the day off. She wrote me a prescription for a muscle relaxant (I normally hate taking painkillers- taking Aleve for the last two weeks had already pissed me off.) Then her ears perked up when I mentioned my bladder.

“Are you able to drive? I’m making you two appointments for today after you leave here. First you’ll go to one of our other locations for a massage for your back, then one other place for an ultrasound. You mentioned your bladder, and this could be kidney stones- but we’ve gotta wait for a while first because you ate that roll for breakfast.” On my way out the door, I called the bakery and- for the first time in nearly three years- I called out sick.

The massage was good. The therapist talked me through the stretches I should do and helped me relax. At this point, it was nearly 1pm. I hadn’t slept all night, and barely eaten as I rolled up for the ultrasound. The technician talked me through everything and laid me out in a small, dark room. I pulled up my shirt and she squirted warm gel on my belly. I craned my neck slightly to see the screen as she slid the probe over my torso.

When she got to my right kidney, I noticed her eyes squint slightly. A couple clicks. A couple notes taken. “That… doesn’t look good. I’m going to send these back to the PA at the other clinic for her to look at, but somethings definitely wrong there.”

20 minutes later, the pain hasn’t subsided. I’ve been driving around the city all day, getting poked and prodded and answering the same questions over and over on very little food or sleep. In the parking lot of a Plaid Pantry, where I decided I needed to get at least some protein bars and water in me, I got a call from the PA. She sounded quiet and scared.

Matt, I’ve just looked at your ultrasounds. Your right kidney is enormous… it looks like you have a cyst. You need to go to an urgent care right away so they can help you. Right now. There’s one connected to your insurance in Northeast. I’m sorry to drop this on you, but it’s not a muscle ache. This is really really bad.”

Great… If I wasn’t ready to cry from pain, I’m ready to cry from nerves. I choke down the water, protein bar, and jerky I bought, text my wife about the situation, and drive for the urgent care.

After more blood being drawn, a CT scan, and MORE waiting (all of which is adding up to a very expensive day) the urgent care doctor comes out and gives me the news- there isn’t a cyst, but my right kidney is blowing up like a balloon. I need to be seen by a urologist immediately, and probably have surgery. She calls ahead to an ER 30 minutes away and says they’ll be waiting for me. I should go. NOW.

Running like this is NOT good for pre-messed-up kidneys.

As I drive across the city for the fourth time that day, get stuck in traffic, and then wait three hours in the ER, all I can think of is “Why me? Why this? Why NOW?” I already know the answers though.

It’s because I didn’t pay enough attention before. I placed being productive over my physical health. It was because I was worried about the time lost being sick, or the money spent on care that I didn’t know I’d have. It was because I trusted my resilience- “I’ve dealt with worse. I’ve worked through worse before.”

This isn’t a big deal.”

After several hours waiting in the ER, I was finally seen. The urologist explained that a simple surgery would be necessary- a stent to empty my kidney, and another surgery in a few weeks to either fix the congenital blockage in my ureter… or to remove a failed kidney.

I spent 36 hours in the hospital. Those protein bars were the last food I would eat until 6pm the next night. I have now been home for 48 hours and my manager has taken me off the schedule at least till Tuesday.

I refused to let my body rest… so my body pushed the issue. Emily doesn’t think I should even be writing right now.


This was longer than I intended, but I hope the message is clear:

YOUR BODY IS THE SINGLE BEST TOOL YOU WILL EVER HAVE, AND YOU ONLY GET ONE.

Take time to look after it. You can’t buy a new body with all the money you make burning it up. Rest when you need to. Be kind to yourself, and take it seriously. It may save you from driving around your city, sleepless and starving on a Thursday afternoon with a wooden spike in your side, waiting for a surgery you didn’t think you’d need.

Stay Classy,