Feeling the weather

Yeah, weird title.

Bear with me.  The past couple of weeks has been mentally and physically… trying. I’ve been having extra back pain for a few weeks now, in a new place. As always with a cancer patient, the doctor was disposed to do a bit of investigating, and because of previous back surgery, he put a bit of a rush on it. Off to the CT scanner I went. Now, I think you’ll agree that images like this will cause a little stress in someone whose cancer is predisposed to metastasise into the spine….

My T8 vertebra, with mystery object

However.  It’s not the bad news I’ve been stressing about for days and days. I have IVP, or intervertebral vacuum phenomenon, or air pockets between the vertebral end plate and the disk. Probably caused by osteophytic degeneration of the endplate, or old age, to those of us speaking English. Oh, there are other issues too, which will cause problems down the road, but that’s pretty much to be expected with the degeneration that’s going on.

One of the interesting things about IVP is that not only is it affected by position and posture, it’s also sensitive to atmospherics. I feel atmospheric high and low pressure in my back. It’s storm season here, and we’re having an endless band of thunderstorms passing over us. Not only is poor doggo in a constant state of stress, but I’m also getting gyp from it. Happy days.

On a more cheerful note, I now have additional medication which is working a treat. But if you tell me about the bad weather and I say, “I feel your pain”, I mean it… literally.

Excuse me, I’m off to tai chi while the sun is shining!

Displacement activity

As some of you know, these last two weeks I have been spending more time than I’d like with my friends in the medical imaging departments at our two local hospitals.

It has’t been a happy time… I’ve been having severe back pain, without any discernible cause or initial event. Here’s the thing. When breast cancer spreads, its most common destination is bone. Two weeks ago I had a CA125 tumour marker blood test and a pelvic ultrasound. Nothing there. Last week I had a CT scan and a nuclear medicine bone scan. I saw the oncologist again on Thursday to get all the results. For bad news, it’s actually pretty good! No metastatic cancer. But…

My back pain is intractable, responding to neither the slow release oxycodone analgesia I normally take for the arthritis, nor a hefty top-up dose of Endone, or benzodiazepine muscle relaxants. But I now have some neuropathic analgesia which, o joy, is actually working. And I’m wearing a back brace.

SpineWhat you’re seeing here is my L4 and L5 vertebrae, which are “incorrectly aligned due to degenerative spondylosis, with mild scoliosis of the lumbar region with convexity to the left”.  And you know what?  It’s not nice. The space for the spinal cord is getting a bit pinched (see that top arrow?), and the vertebrae are beginning to rub on each other (bottom arrow). I’m having an MRI on Friday to see the close detail, so they can see if there’s any herniation of the disk, anything pressing on the nerves, and hopefully put together a plan for conservative, physiotherapy treatment rather than surgery.

So of course, during all the waiting, I responded as I always do, with displacement activities. (That was a joke, in case you missed it. Not very funny, but the best I can manage with displaced vertebrae :-/ ) I finished the dress. I’m cranking out Time for Teal blocks as fast as I can, I cut out another top to sew when the paper piecing is driving my crazy, I have embroidery to catch up with for tomorrow, and several more hatbox blocks to make. Much of this can be done sitting. Standing’s the hardest, lying down with pillows under my knees is wonderful, but you can’t get anything much done that way, and the doc wants me to stay active.

I like having something pretty to think about. It takes me longer than before, and I have to move more gently and picking things up off the floor is a major exercise, but I can still make, create, imagine, design, draw, sew, embroider and write.

All things considered, it could be a lot worse. Life is still sweet.