Message In A Bottle, Set Upon The Sea

When one is stranded on an uninhabited island, with no hope of rescue, the poetic, and desperate, solution is to write a message and slip it in a bottle and set it on the sea, with the hope that someone may find it in time to send help.

This is my message in a bottle, set upon the sea of cyberspace. And here is the story:

About 16 months ago, a bit of a bump first appeared in the palm of my left hand, certainly a strange place to find anything that I hadn't put there myself. When I first noticed it, almost imperceptible, I hardly gave it any thought at all, probably hearing those immortal words of mothers everywhere: "Don't pick at it. It will go away." Yet, a few weeks later, it was not only still there, but it seemed to be getting larger. Nothing huge, mind you, only the diameter of a small pea, at most, and not much of a bump at all, just a slight rise in the surface of the skin, but probing revealed a mass that was noticeable below the skin.

Still, I ignored it, confident that sooner or later it would go away, the way most things do, eventually. I guess I'm the ostrich sort, burying my head in the sands of Denial. Spontaneous, growing bodily lumps have never been good news, have they? I remembered my bout with melanoma (malignant skin cancer) 17 years ago. That was a case of something that decided on its own to start growing on me, and would have eaten me up completely if it were not for a fortunate visit to a doctor. So I decided to show my new palm visitor to my frisbee partner and friend, Dr. Mark, a physician at Scripps Hospital.

"Dupuytren's Contracture," he said without a moments hesitation. It seemed as if he had barely glanced at my palm, and blurted out this completely strange diagnosis. What the heck is ... What did he say? I asked him to repeat the words several times before I could pronounce it myself. I pride myself on a reasonably good knowledge of medical stuff, but I was totally ignorant about this one.

He mentioned he had seen this before, but he is an internist and doesn't treat such things. So it's off to Google I go to learn more, and what I learn is not good at all...

Incurable. Progressive. Crippling. Usually starts out with a small lump at the base of the ring finger, in the palm, and grows fibrous tissue under the skin, eventually pulling the finger forward into the palm permanently, and spreading to other fingers, severely limiting the use of the hand. A disease which appears to be limited to Northern European males (7 to 1 over females). Also called "Viking's Disease". It's supposed to be genetic, but no one in my family has ever had it. The only good news is that it is not fatal, and usually not painful. Sort of the cotton candy of incurable diseases. That is, if you are going to get an incurable disease, I guess this is one of the better ones to get.

Treatment for it? None, really. However, when the fingers are pulled more than 30 degrees into the palm, surgery is usually done to cut the tissue and release the fingers, but the disease itself is not stopped, and subsequent attempts at surgery are usually not possible due to the loss of tissue.

This doesn't sound like fun at all. So I decide that Google might not have all the answers, and after several more months of living in denial, I decide to get a referral to a doctor who specializes in hands. He was completely aware of the situation, but held out no hope whatsoever, confirming everything I read on the internet, and saying that there were no new ways of dealing with the disease. Yes, it is incurable. Yes, it is progressive. No, there is nothing that can be done to stop it. No, there is no way of knowing how fast it will progress. Thank you for stopping in. Have a nice day.

As of this writing, the little lump in my left palm has grown to be about one inch long, and about a quarter inch wide, in a line decending from my middle finger. Additionally, another lump has appeared at the base of the ring finger on my left hand. Not only that, but the disease has spread to my right hand, with a lump at the base of my ring finger.

Denial is no longer possible. This stuff has taken root in me and seems to be quite content to stick around. And keep on growing.

So then, this is my plea for help, cast into the great digital sea, on the hopes that someone may find it, and be able to help. Surely, somewhere, there is a solution for this affliction. Modern medicine has no hope for a cure. Does anyone?

More info on Dupuytren's Contracture

American Society for Surgery of the Hand
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Needle Aponevrotomy

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