Pain Clinic and Cardiology Check Up – Good News!

On November 22nd, I had an appointment with the Spine Pain Clinic at the hospital and my 4-month cardiology check up with my oncology cardiologist.

The spine doctor I saw talked about my back pain flares:
-how it feels (achy and burning),
-where I feel pain (T6 vertebrae where I had cement put in with burning that extends into my ribs, like wings),
-what works to ease it (ibuprofen which upsets my stomach, including the new 24-hour one, oxycodone in small doses, daily Cymbalta, lying down, listening to a meditation),
-what makes it worse (sitting or standing for long periods, activity),
-what doesn’t work (Tylenol, sometimes oxycodone).

I told him that I feel like a lot of my pain results from a lack of strength. Activities that require me to support myself and my back make it hurt the most. I’ve gotten stronger since surgery and feel more stable, and I have more progress to make in order to gain strength to keep up with daily activities, like cooking dinner and sitting at work. I’ve also learned to let my chair at work support me fully by sitting all the way back in it. If I spend too much time leaning forward, it’s a recipe for tired muscles and pain, then a smidge of painkiller to get through the rest of the day.

He recommended a spinal nerve block in my back and physical therapy. I have reservations about the spinal nerve block. Most days, I feel like I don’t need it. Other days, like Thanksgiving morning, I wake up and wish I had it right then! We had gone tubing the day before, which was really fun and didn’t bother my back while doing it. I was so happy that I could do it and felt like it was harder on my leg than anything. It always catches up with me later. With all of the cooking to do on Thanksgiving, I stayed on small doses of painkiller most of the day. I’ve also learned that when I stay on top of the pain or nip it first thing, I do a lot better for the rest of the day.

Anyway, a nerve block seems like maybe too much, too extreme. The doctor had trained with one of the top oncological spine doctors in the country. He said that he would have recommended this route in cases like mine. The optimist in me wants to try the physical therapy first. Maybe mix in some acupuncture. I just feel like I keep having procedures done without knowing if it will help or harm me more. Did kyphoplasty help me? Yes and no. I don’t worry about my vertebrae collapsing. On the flip side, recovering has been awful when the procedure’s intent is to bring near-immediate and lasting pain relief. Okay, so I’m a one-off on that. I’ll get there. It’s definitely gotten better. I can do so much more now than I could in August! I know physical therapy will hurt at first. That’s where the nerve block could help and allow me to heal faster.

After this appointment, I had to get some coffee! It had started snowing a lot in the middle of the night, so I didn’t have time to make myself a latte that morning. It took an hour and a half to get to the hospital in the nasty weather. The hospital serves Dazbog, a local roaster, and hooked me up with some foamy goodness before I went to the Cardiac department for my echocardiogram.

I saw a different technician this time. She brought me a warm gown. I didn’t know they existed. I will get one from now on when I visit on cold days. The echo went well and didn’t take too long (always a good sign). It’s an ultrasound of the heart and leaves lots of lubricating jelly to wipe off after the exam and wipe and wipe and wipe.

I got done so quickly that I had time to run down to the cafeteria for pancakes. I love the hospital’s pancakes. I know it’s weird. I got the last one! To up the protein in my meal, I also got a Greek yogurt. I still had over an hour before my appointment with the oncology cardiologist. I went and sat in the very full waiting room at the cancer center. To drown out the noise of a room at full capacity, I listened to a Freakonomics podcast. So grateful that I had remembered my earbuds that day! I had forgotten them the week prior when I had my oncology check up.

I saw my cardiologist right on time. She reported that my Echo looked good. It looked so good that she was going to give me a longer leash and have me come back in six months, not four. EEEEeeeee! We talked about chest pain that comes and goes and how it’s improved with time, as well as, arrhythmia. She asked me about leg swelling and if that had gotten better. It had. My feet still swell when I’m on them, nothing abnormal. I have no excess fluid around my heart, or pericardial effusion. 😀

My next oncology appointment is on Friday, December 13th. It’s scan day, so it will be a long one. Brain MRI first to check on the tumors there that had shrunk to itty bitty in September. CT scans of my chest and abdomen follow. I’m not expecting anything drastic. I’m hoping to see that my main lung tumor has decreased a little more and my bones have made more progress regenerating. My long shot is to see less cancer in my bones. Like I said, it’s a long shot. Regrowing and healing bones takes a lot of time and bone shots and calcium supplements. Haha. Getting cancer out of them? Even harder. I will be happy with whatever progress is reported.

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