Pat’s Place: Can’t A Guy Get A Break?
Published: Sep 5, 2013 2:53 pm
Three months ago, my painful right hip was replaced. Recovery has been swift and rewarding. I’m able to kick in the pool again when I swim, take long walks, and not wake up in the middle of the night with my myeloma-ravaged hip joint throbbing.
But all my news on the pain front isn’t good. Back before I was diagnosed in 2007, my myeloma had been systematically attacking my bones for years. My ribs, lower back, pelvis, and right femur were all involved. Hardest hit of all were several of my cervical vertebrae. As a result, I was in a lot of pain in the neck area, but the discomfort improved with time.
Recently, my neck pain has been making a comeback. And I’m afraid my new hip has contributed to it. It seems that becoming more active has been aggravating my damaged neck. Chalk this up to, “Can’t a guy get a break?”
Back when I was in high school, we called the pain I am experiencing now “stingers;” pain that would shoot down our arms or legs after taking an awkward or particularly vicious hit.
Stingers best describe what I’m experiencing now. For no particular reason – and at the most inconvenient times – sharp, burning pain radiates from my neck down my arms and back.
The cause is simple enough to identify. My cervical vertebrae were damaged by my rampaging myeloma early on, before doctors figured out why a 50 year-old ex-jock and coach could barely walk up the six stairs to his office.
An MRI of the neck area looked eerily like something you would see in a sci-fi film; black, spongy-looking material had replaced nearly half of the bone in my C5 and C6 vertebrae. The invader from outer space had been relatively quiet for the last four or five years. But now it’s awake and shocking me whenever I turn my neck to one side or the other.
Oxycodone helps dull most of my other pain. But it isn’t as effective against the stingers.
Surgery is an obvious solution. After all, it worked like a charm for my hip!
My medical oncologist and I had a conversation about it even before my neck pain worsened. I thought that surgically repairing my neck and lower back might leave me practically pain free.
My doctor chided me for even broaching the subject. “Surgery for a myeloma patient like you is always risky,” he said. He added that he had several patients who went down that road. “The first surgery went fine,” he explained. But apparently there were complications with subsequent surgeries. None of these other patients survived.
I remember being surprised by how strongly my easy-going medical oncologist felt about it. He believed it was a bad idea to undergo any more elective surgeries.
I think he has a point. Although my lower back is always uncomfortable and my peripheral neuropathy is getting worse, I realize that I can’t safely fix it all!
And I’m alright with that. It’s never easy living with multiple myeloma. But I’ve lived longer than I expected, I have a wife who loves me, and – thanks in part to the misfortune of my diagnosis – I found my calling as a writer.
All in all I can’t complain; just don’t ask me to turn my head quickly to the side. Ouch!
Feel good and keep smiling!
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