Saturday, March 22, 2014

They can do that?

So I met with the surgeon on Thursday. She tells me that they will remove part of two vertebrae to get to the tumor in something called a Laminectomy. They will then remove the tumor and stitch the muscles and tendons together over that spot without replacing the bone. I will have to lie perfectly still for 24 hours to allow the meninges to seal up. After that I should get up to move every couple of hours. I will likely be in the hospital for three or four days and then I can't lift more than 5 lbs for a full month after that. I can return to work once I can sit up long enough to type. This is going to be tough. But, with the help of the Lord, I can do hard things.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On Finding Out That I Have a Tumor

I joined a club. It wasn't my idea, it just kinda happened. This is a club that nearly 1 in 3 people join at some time in their lives. Unlike many clubs, it isn't limited to a single area of interest. Its members cross all demographics and  types of people. Its initiation rite is administered by a doctor. In my case it was a phone call.

On Friday I had an MRI to look at what has been an ongoing issue. Since a year ago November, I have had numbness and burning in my legs. It started with my right quad and then quickly spread down my leg to my toes. A few months later it spread over to my left foot and across my backside. I went to see a doctor after a few months with no improvement or real change in symptoms. They quickly surmised it must be my back and ordered an MRI of my full spine and brain. Because my mother has M.S. they wanted to rule that out. I balked when they called to schedule the scan and told me what my out of pocket costs would be. Instead I said "No thanks" and went to a chiropractor. There was a nice Groupon deal for one in the area and it included a massage. The massage helped, the chiropractor made things worse.

The doctor told me to watch out for symptoms such as difficulty going to the bathroom. Naturally, I looked up the symptoms and came across cauda equina syndrome. All of the symptoms matched. Everywhere I looked it said go to the emergency room if you have any such symptoms. Of course, because I now had something to get really stressed over, I naturally obsessed over it. A few days later I was sure it was taking longer than usual to use the bathroom and the sensation was increasing in intensity so I had my wife drive me to the ER on a Sunday night. They wheeled me right into the MRI to scan my lumbar and what do you know? it was clean. In fact, it was very healthy. The doctor gave me some muscle relaxer and sent me home. I took it and felt amazing the next day. Almost all the symptoms were gone.

But they returned a short while later. At the time I was training for a triathlon that my wife had signed the whole family up for. She was on a fitness kick, which I was certainly supportive of. I had been running, biking, swimming and was the fittest I had ever been. However, I was not stretching before or after my workouts and I generally didn't know what I was doing. The doctor referred me to a specialist; a physiatrist. I had to have him write it down since I had never heard of this specialty before. The soonest they could see me was a month out. A neighbor recommended I see hers and I was able to get an appointment the next week so I did. He suggested I go to the physical therapist and referred me to their in house team. I set up an appointment and met with them a couple of times. They gave me some stretches to try. Most of them didn't help and some made it worse, but they gave me the knowledge of the nerves in the area of concern.

Armed with this new knowledge I went to the internet and again searched and lo and behold, another condition that matched my symptoms perfectly: piriformis syndrome. Everything fit, The recent move from couch potato to triathlete, the numbness and tingling, the burning. With this I went back to the physiatrist who declared it must be so and sent me back for more PT. Given the lack of improvement at their PT office however, I went to another practitioner whom my wife had had better success with and indeed I had myself on a previous flare up of tendonitis in my left foot. He gave me entirely different exercises and stretches and they alleviated my symptoms, though they did not eliminate them. I continued with this course for several months until the therapist that I liked in that office suddenly left to practice somewhere else.

By this time I had given up the triathlons and went back to my couch potato ways with the hope that it would reduce my symptoms further. During this time I had a flare up of pain in my groin. I went to the doctor who ordered another MRI, this time of my pelvis, which confirmed that pyriformis was an issue. but found no hernia, or indeed any cause for the groin pain.  For the rest of the summer and into the fall it neither lessened nor worsened considerably, however by winter, it was flaring up rather badly. At the first of the year (with a new FSA flush with cash again) I again made an appointment with the PT only this time a third office. She examined me and declared it must be my back despite my previous clean bill of health on that matter. Being outside of the university health network which is where the MRIs had been done meant she could not access those records. She gave me other exercises to try. Most made things worse.

I finally scheduled again to see the original physiatrist since he would have access to the MRI. After waiting a week for the appointment, he examined me and declared it to be neurological and referred me to their neurologist and to yet more PT. This time the PT helped again and I went for several weeks while waiting for an open appointment with the neurologist. The earliest was over a month out. When I finally got in to see her she did the pin prick test which the physiatrist had done, but took it all the way up my sides and back and found a clear line around the level of my belly button that was affected. She ordered an MRI. The same one which my original doctor ordered over a year ago. This time I insisted on the full scan. That meant another 3 week wait.

Friday I finally went in and was told I would have the results fist of next week. Less than three hours later however, I got a call from the Neurologist. She said my brain looked good. There were no issues with my upper spine either. However, there was a clear tumor on my thoracic spine and that I will need surgery to remove it immediately.

My world stopped.

That is something that only happens to other people.

The shock has begun to wear off. Since this was a Friday late afternoon, it meant that I have had the whole weekend to ponder this. I am hoping to meet with the surgeon this week and have the surgery complete withing the next week or two. Right now it is a waiting game.

As I have prayed, I feel to say "Thy will be done oh Lord" and to be grateful for the growth that can come from trials. I know that He is there and watching out for me and that no matter what the outcome, I will be ok because it is in His hands.