Well hello there! I know, it’s been awhile. That’s how I roll (crazily, sporadically, and often uphill). But the caption of this blog post isn’t a reference to you my dear blogosphere friends. No, I’m meeting with doctors again. Sigh. But don’t worry–and I’m trying not to–this may be far less dramatic then my constant meeting with doctors in 2009 (aka the “thing” that started this all–the cancer diagnosis that became the blog that became the book that became the second book that became the speaking career that became my favorite things to do).
Here’s the short scoop on the new news (ha! we all know I don’t do “short”): On May 9th I worked super late, got home super tired, paid not enough attention to the dogs and threw treats at them as I made my way to collapse on the bed. Before I made it to my bed all hell broke loose in the hallway– Daphne and Percival were going at each other like I hadn’t seen or heard in a long time. I sprinted to the hallway and grabbed for Percival as he was closest to me (and also appeared to be the dog “on top”). Just a second behind me came Chris who, while reaching for Daphne, unintentionally bumped me at the same time I lost my grip on Percival and began falling backwards. The result was me flying backward and slamming my curved back (I had been bent over to grab Percival) into the door jamb. I then collapsed on the floor. I’m not highly dramatic (that will become apparent in a moment or two) but the impact was such that I actually tested my legs and arms to make sure I could move them (I could!). Then I just lay on the floor in pain. Chris was dealing with the dogs alone so didn’t realize I was down for the count. Daphne did however and was frantically trying to get around Chris to me, which only made the situation worse. I believe the word for this is “clusterf*ck.” I could only concentrate on breathing and not moving, so I have no idea what Chris was doing. He eventually got the dogs under control and turned to see me sprawled out and unmoving on the floor of our library, where I had fallen like some Clue character (it was Percival, with a growl, in the library). Chris asked if he needed to call 911 but I abhor drama and said “No. Just let me lay here until I can move” (or, my back stops spasming, or the shock wears off). 20 minutes later, I got up and went to bed (yes, it hurt. A lot). I wasn’t much better in the morning and walking, moving, lifting, was all difficult. So naturally, I went to work. Then I kept going to work (ibuprofen was my friend).
Then on May 29th my car broke down half way between Paso and Riverside and I had to lift two 30 lb beagles out of the car, into the tow truck, out of the tow truck, and back into my car where we sat and waited for Chris to come get us. (Side note: my not 3 years old car needed a new transmission!!).
Car fixed, back not fixed, we merrily went on our way to Europe for 3 weeks in June. Chris heroically hauled the luggage about for us both except when we had to get on and off trains (there isn’t enough time for one person to handle the baggage for 2 people; at least not the way I pack…and shop), but there was nothing he could do for me when it came to the four flights of cement stairs at our Florence, Italy Airbnb. Or the two steep flights of stairs at the Tuscan villa. And these don’t seem like places where one should complain about anything. We just chose our cafes based on who had padded chairs. Also, there was ibuprofen. Also, massive amounts of really excellent wine.
We got home, I continued working through July though sitting in my chair at work was difficult and my work days had to be cut shorter than normal. Then on August 1st when I was still in pain and my back was clearly not getting better, I went to Urgent Care. Which is literally next door to my office in Riverside. I walked over and in less than 20 minutes total, learned that my back hurt so much because it was broken. Bro.ken. [Insert back-breaking jokes of your choice here; trust me we’ve done them all.] Compression fracture at T12 and I’ve lost a 1/2″ of height due to the compression. Luckily, I had plenty to spare. Doc says if it ain’t better in a month, go see an orthopedic surgeon.
It’s been more than a month. It ain’t better.
This past Monday I went to see a neurosurgeon in San Luis Obispo (minor tangent–I actually tried to get in somewhere in Riverside but as I needed to get in before 2019, that wasn’t going to happen; I’d forgotten those chapters in my book!). And he’s where the “deja vu’ all over again” starts. He’s a great, young, caring doctor. And I can see as he’s looking at my films that he is “concerned” (come on, by now I’m an expert at reading doctors). He does lots of tests (reflexes, nail strength, watching me walk, push/ pull exercises), and asks lots of questions.
Things he told me that I already knew: I have mild scoliosis; compression fracture at T12, slightly more to the right.
Things that were new to me: I have weakened bones. Too weak for my age. Likely caused by the chemotherapy I had. The fall I described should not have smashed a vertabrae (I totally agree with this which why I did not go to the emergency room!). Depending on the weakness in my bones, I may or may not be a candidate for the injection of spinal “cement” which would prop up that vertebrae and relieve the pain.
Doctor hands me 4 slips of paper with four different orders for 4 different medical visit procedures. I’m a pro at this and the “training” kicks in. I ask him to repeat what I’m supposed to do, who is supposed to call me, who I’m supposed to call and where al these places are. I also request the locations closest to Paso Robles. Then I have the nurse walk through it one more time and actually write the “plain English” directions on the “orders.”
So now, I launch into another season of many doctor visits. So far I’ve had my blood drawn (cute young phlebotomist asks “have you had your blood drawn before” OMG. How adorable is he? “Dude, I even know to call you a phlebotomist.”), and Friday I go for bone scans. Then an MRI will be scheduled (yeah, a nap!!). Then I meet with a bone specialist. Then back to the neurosurgeon. I notice one of the orders says “Breast Cancer/ right; r/o metastasis.” Wait, what? Deep breath and I remember r/o means “rule out.” They’re also going to make sure this isn’t a case of metastasis to the bones. Don’t want any nasty tumors hanging out in my spin getting poked with spinal cement!
So…we meet again cavalcade of medical peeps.
True fans of “The Dog Lived (and So Will I)” will understand when I say that at this point Chris and I are treating this as another case of “If this were any other patient…” I rarely think of my self as a cancer survivor. I rarely think of my cancer, except when I speak at events, or if I’m talking to someone recently diagnosed, or something like that. I don’t really consider it a part of me…until something like this. Then it all comes back. I’m not “any other patient”–I’m someone who had an insidious disease and who had treatments that very often cause other insidious diseases. I’m a cancer survivor and that makes me “not any other patient.” So I’ll go through the steps and with any luck at all, we’ll get my back all fixed up and I can go on with my life as before.
There will be wine. And also, we all know I get the spinal cement injections on December 23rd right? I mean, that’s a given.