My Muscles Mysteriously Began Growing So Fast I Thought They Might Kill Me

In November 2007 a communication glitch delayed scheduling a physician’s appointment, and I nearly exploded. This is able to be the seventh physician I’d seen in eight months as a result of my muscle tissue had grown so massive. They seemed buff, however my muscle tissue additionally tightened and weakened as they grew. My biceps had grown too muscular and weak for me to placed on earrings or regulate a turtleneck. After I watered the pink impatiens hanging on my entrance porch, I needed to relaxation between crops.

After I lastly scheduled the physician’s appointment, I calmed down and puzzled on the rage I’d felt. I spotted I used to be scared that I’d die, that no matter was taking place to my physique would kill me ― quickly. Too quickly.

I used to be 52 and had at all times been sturdy and wholesome. I had a husband, 5 kids and an accounting enterprise, and I needed to stay. However as I looked for a physician who may give me solutions, the stress of operating my life as my physique weakened turned every little thing grey. After weeks of looking and stressing, I spotted that whether or not I had 30 days or 30 years left, I’d stay these days extra totally if I may lay down my concern.

No downside, I assumed. Now that I see how concern is damaging no matter time I do have, I’ll simply cease being afraid. However my trapezius muscle tissue tightened a lot that I felt ache. Work deadlines swirled, my breath got here quick and my physique couldn’t chill out.

I made a decision that once I felt confused, I’d cease and ask myself what, precisely, I feared. Was it that I wouldn’t end a tax return in time, or that I would wish a wheelchair quickly, or that my muscle tissue would finally smother me? Then I crafted a psychological image of an important final result: delivering the tax return, beginning to jog once more, respiratory simple. Count on good issues, I informed myself. Count on. Good. Issues.

It turned out to be plan, and the method helped me. However coping with my concern wasn’t a straightforward or occasional train. It was extra just like the time years earlier than when my toddler daughter flung pumpkin puree on the wall. I wiped the pumpkin away, sprayed the remaining orange spot with Fantastik, and scrubbed. Then I stepped again to see a shiny white spot on a wall that had collected grime so steadily over time that nobody observed the sluggish accumulation. I spotted the entire wall of my thought habits wanted cleansing.

The writer along with her husband, Buddy, in 1992.

Courtesy of Sally Massagee

By Could 2008, my medical doctors nonetheless had not found out why my muscle tissue have been rising. It began with my shoulders, then my biceps and forearms, after which my quads and calves. Then my again was bulking. My decrease again muscle tissue tightened in irregular bunches that damage once I walked for too lengthy, which quickly turned only a block.

I used a CPAP respiratory machine to manage the sleep apnea that had began when my muscle tissue went amok. The machine wanted the next setting every month. What occurs, I requested the neurologist, when it maxes out?

He despatched me to an otolaryngologist who threaded a tiny digicam by way of my nostril and down my throat. He informed me the swath of muscle tissue increasing beneath my chin was tongue muscle. He may minimize away some tongue, however the actual downside was that the muscle tissue on both aspect of my backbone have been closing in my throat. He wouldn’t contact these.

I saved making an attempt to think about good issues. It didn’t give my medical doctors solutions, or loosen my muscle tissue or create extra vitality, nevertheless it did calm me. As I turned much less reactive and frantic, individuals related extra totally. I introduced a extra current vitality to my duties.

Largely, I had extra enjoyable. My dwelling tasks and my work have been in my life as a result of I cherished them. I couldn’t do extra stuff once I put down my concern, however I did get pleasure from residing extra. I joked with my shoppers. I teased certainly one of my daughters. I savored the scent of sauteing onion as I rested between the now-exhausting steps of cooking dinner.

Medical doctors initially suspected acromegaly, a situation by which, often, a benign tumor on the pituitary gland prompts the physique to make further development hormone. However my endocrinologist was sure, primarily based on blood checks, that I didn’t have acromegaly.

In June 2007, close to the start of my seek for what was incorrect with me, an MRI had proven no tumor. In Could 2008, a second MRI confirmed a pituitary development. The surgeon stated that a number of individuals bought them ― perhaps as a lot as 15% of the inhabitants ― however that they typically appeared briefly and have been often not an issue.

The surgeon resisted doing invasive surgical procedure, which might contain going by way of my nostril to the pituitary gland nestled in opposition to the mind. The process, even when profitable, typically left sufferers needing hormone remedy for the remainder of their lives. However there was no different pony within the race, so we moved ahead with plans to take away the expansion.

The author in 1977.
The writer in 1977.

Courtesy of Sally Massagee

I checked into the hospital. Nonetheless uneasy concerning the surgical procedure, my physician ordered one other MRI. Two hours earlier than surgical procedure the next morning, I sat in a Naugahyde recliner in my hospital room and puzzled what awaited me.

My medical doctors at this high medical middle had exhausted their concepts of the place else to search for a solution to my situation. And as sure as I’d been the entire time that my physique would finally cease rising, my muscle tissue continued to bulk. How, precisely, how, how may I count on good issues if this one final risk was dominated out? I closed my eyes and sat quietly till the greedy feeling in my intestine stopped. My breath got here full and deep, and peace settled over me.

I known as my husband, who was at our favourite native cafe ordering breakfast earlier than my surgical procedure, and requested him to get me a breakfast burrito in case we didn’t undergo with it.

“I’m really worried about what happens to you if they don’t operate,” he stated.

“I’ll be OK,” I stated.

Shortly earlier than the process was because of start, my surgeon entered my room.

“I guess you’re wondering about results,” he stated. “I waited for my best radiologist to get back from a seminar to have a look. There is no growth. The nurse will bring your discharge papers.”

“Things like this happen ― more often than you’d expect,” the nurse informed me. “Sometimes there’s a greater power at work.”

I felt in my bones that I’d had no quick, miraculous therapeutic. My physique was the identical inert, cussed self it had turn out to be over the earlier two years. Nonetheless, I puzzled, was the nurse proper? Was a giant life drive at work, transferring me towards some fantastic conclusion? Or was it simply that pituitary growths come and go, and many individuals have them at occasions, and this wasn’t what was the reason for my muscle tissue bulking?

I used to be proper: I’d had no instantaneous therapeutic. And the medical doctors nonetheless didn’t know the place to search for a solution.

The next months introduced numerous alternatives to apply placing down my fears and as an alternative making an attempt to get pleasure from my life, as tough because it had turn out to be. Crafting a psychological image of a contented final result helped me to savor these moments, whilst loss of life seemed increasingly more sure. I purchased a stool so I may sit and relaxation each couple of minutes as I made dinner. However I nonetheless placed on jazz and opened the home windows to benefit from the cross breeze whereas I cooked, simply as I’d at all times accomplished.

The author and Buddy in 2009.
The writer and Buddy in 2009.

Courtesy of Sally Massagee

Lastly there was a breakthrough, and my medical doctors identified me with a uncommon manifestation of a terminal illness: AL amyloidosis, which causes cells within the bone marrow to ship an irregular protein out into the physique, often to the guts or kidney, and infrequently finally ends up being deadly. My protein first went to my muscle tissue.

There is no such thing as a remedy for AL amyloidosis, however remedy can provide sufferers extra time. In June 2009, I had a stem cell transplant at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, removed from our dwelling in western North Carolina. And it did give me extra time ― heaps extra. I’ve by no means requested how a lot time to count on. I get pleasure from imagining an extended horizon earlier than me, and that is likely to be tougher to image if I knew the statistics.

Since my transplant, I’ve typically walked a size of Folly Seaside in South Carolina. Scrub pines stretch forward to the left, and ocean waves lap to the appropriate, making an extended hall of sand in between. I stroll towards what appears like a useless finish because the water extends out for miles. However as I strategy the waves forward, I attain the top of the scrub pines and a brand new vista of shoreline opens to the aspect, prepared for me to show the nook onto the continued path.

I’ve hunted a quote that claims with the ability to tolerate a scarcity of closure is a prerequisite for pleasure. I can’t discover the quote. Perhaps nobody stated it, but when not, somebody ought to.

I stay on in my physique that has been modified, each from once I was effectively and from once I was at my sickest. My muscle tissue have softened and grown smaller, however they’re larger than at the beginning of this journe. I stroll, now extra slowly. I stretch and gently transfer towards a fuller vary of movement than I’ve had not too long ago. I work, cook dinner dinner and join with buddies, now with a extra centered and open presence, as if approaching loss of life deepened the times I’ve left.

My Mayo Clinic physician tells me she’ll probably know earlier than I do if the situation turns into energetic once more and if we have to contemplate a second transplant. I hear that to imply I gained’t know straight away ― circuitously from my physique ― if it’s heading once more towards a loss of life that’s prior to “sometime.”

Each three months I ship blood and urine to Mayo Clinic. As I await outcomes, I savor the moments. That quarterly wait jogs my memory to stretch and develop in new methods, to take the youngsters for ice cream, to absorb the great thing about the timber. I may die quickly. Or not. And no matter is forward for me, and nevertheless quickly or not, proper now, life, with all its brevity, immensity and thriller, feels candy.

Sally Massagee lives in western North Carolina along with her husband and Nice Dane. She’s arduous at work on a memoir, “Whole.” You’ll be able to go to her on-line at

Do you’ve got a compelling private story you’d wish to see revealed on HuffPost? Discover out what we’re in search of right here and ship us a pitch.