Pain is a funny thing. I’ve been in pain before, but in the past, it’s all been temporary. Pain from being ill, breaking a bone, having surgery, etc. Chronic pain is different. Chronic pain consumes you. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. It consumes your thoughts, your feelings, your motivation, and your energy. The pain began a couple of weeks before Christmas. Just a nagging pain in my leg. I, at first, wrote it off to a pulled muscle. But even then it felt quite different. With a PET/CT scan approaching on January 3rd and the pain continuing, I was less than optimistic about the results of the scan. To my surprise, the scan results were good. The cancer was stable or shrinking and no new spots showed up. So, why the pain?
Excellent question and one that we still do not have an answer to. The doctor first felt that perhaps the problem was in my back and sent me for an MRI of my back. The results showed small spots of cancer that we already knew about, a small cyst, and mild arthritis. Nothing the doctor felt should be causing me pain. Meanwhile, the pain begins to worsen. It hurts to stand, it hurts to walk, it hurts to bend. For the first time in a long while, I reach for my prescription pain pills. They give a temporary reprieve, but it comes at a cost. It makes me groggy, tired, yet I don’t sleep well on them at all. I wake up more exhausted than when I went to bed. I toss and turn. I wake up nearly once an hour. I become desperate for rest. It’s a horrible choice. I either don’t sleep because I’m in pain, or I don’t sleep because of the pain pills. Either way, I don’t sleep!
So, being that I like to self-diagnose, I suggest to the doctor that perhaps we should check for a blood clot. Somewhat of a long shot, but not out of the realm of possibility. She agrees that it’s probably not the case, but sends me for an ultrasound anyway. Ultrasound is negative for a DVT. Still in pain. So back to doctor google. I then read about an interesting side effect of one of my medications. For 5 years I’ve been receiving a drug called Zometa. It’s typically given to women at risk for osteoporosis, but also to patients with cancer in their bones. It helps strengthen the bones and create an inhospitable environment for the cancer. However, one of the risks is sudden femur fractures. The warnings say that patients can experience thigh or groin pain for weeks or months before presenting with a fractured femur. So I print out this information and take it to my doctor’s appointment on February 8th.
The doctor does not think the femur fracture is likely, but again, orders x-rays just to be sure. Since she doubts the fracture, I ask her what she thinks it is. She answers “cancer.” I guess it only makes sense that an oncologist’s thoughts revolve around cancer. So, I ask what the treatment would be. She says she would radiate and that should help with the pain. Then I ask what the treatment is for a fractured femur. She isn’t sure but would refer me to an orthopedist. After some reading I come to find out it usually requires surgery and putting a titanium rod in my leg. Ironically, I find myself thinking for the first time ever…..”please let it be cancer!”
But, x-rays are negative and no problems with the femur can be found. Now what? Back to the MRI machine! Tuesday I will go in to MRI the hip and thigh. At this point, I care less about WHAT it is, and more about what we do about it. I’m tired of being in pain. I want to think about something besides pain and cancer. Every day has become more about “getting through it” and less about “living it to the fullest.” I’ve always said the key to living with terminal illness is to focus on the living part. But when you’re in chronic pain, that becomes so much more difficult.
I fear my journey may be taking a turn for the worse. I fear that the “easy” part might be coming to an end and now it’s all about trying to keep me comfortable. Of course, that’s also a side effect of pain. You’re mind begins to fear the absolute worst and your positive attitude begins to slip away. I’m far from ready to give up. I think I have a few more years in me. I will fight for every last minute to stay here with those I love. It’s just getting tougher and once again, I have to adjust. The mental adjustment is always much harder than the physical.
I will be sure to write an update when and IF we get to the bottom of this ugly pain!