Friends and Family,
I’ve come down with a new disease, and it’s been pretty hard to get beyond it for the past couple of months. It’s called the Whinies.
The symptoms are bad. Minor pains are amplified, and major pains result in a lot of speaking in a foreign tongue. In fact, other people sometimes say “excuse my French”after using this tongue.
Yes, I’ve been cursing under my breath and building up a head of steam for a couple of months . What does it have to do with cancer? Nothing. Or, nothing directly. I'll find out when I see my oncologist on Tuesday.
The source of the Whinies is back pain that I’ve had for the past two months. Lung surgery? Sure there was pain, but I never had the Whinies. Chemo? I felt crappy, but I was on a mission to beat cancer, so I wasn’t suffering. Back pain? There is no meaning in that pain, and I couldn’t adjust my attitude much, so I was suffering. I didn’t even know WHY I was hurting, which was another source of my (many) complaints.
Skip this next paragraph if you feel the Whinies could be contagious.
I told my San Diego oncologist about the pain. He referred me to my Portland oncologist to get an MRI. SHE couldn’t touch it because it was unrelated to cancer, so she sent me to my primary care physician (PCP). My PCP told me to take oral steroids and come back in two weeks. I did, and they worked, for exactly the six days that I was taking them. His next solution: Lather, rinse, repeat. Protesting that this plan was going to fail didn’t get me anywhere. So, I felt better for six days, and came back in two weeks. Next, he convinced me to try something that has been effective for “many people”with back pain, gabapentin. I was ready to try it until I got home and read about the side effects. THAT is when I hit my limit. I called his nurse and said I refused to be drugged into semi-consciousness. Carly Simon was right when she sang, “I haven’t got time for the pain.”
Life is too short to spend my time trying to keep my eyelids up, especially when I don’t know how short life will be. I respectfully (or assertively) requested an MRI.
I got the MRI, which showed that I have a few bulges in my discs. No big deal–so does the rest of my body. However, I also have tears in a couple of discs. HOW DID I GET TEARS IN MY DISCS? Even more puzzling, how did I get tears in my discs TWO YEARS IN A ROW, at the same time of year? Last year I could only walk 1-2 blocks due to the pain, and was occasionally using a wheelchair. I was in physical therapy for six months, and kept doing the exercises all year, and still it happened again. Are my discs held together with rice paper? Could they be super-glued back together, or rubberized, or replaced with something sturdier, like Junior Mints?
I will find out this week, when I go in to meet with Dr. Payne. That may not be his real name, but I’ll wait to learn what it really is until I see if he can do something useful, like giving me a cortisone injection, or replacing my spine with a bungee cord.
I’ve had to give myself a time out, put a bar of soap in my mouth, and use the skills I have learned with cancer. What can I do differently to get better results?
Sharing makes a difference. Truly, sharing this journey with you has made every part of it so much easier to cope. Next, a good dose of humor may not keep the doctors away, but it makes me like them more. And the last key to coping is perspective. When I step back and look at the big picture, if I'm complaining about back pain, it means that cancer is not my #1 problem at the moment. That makes ANY day a pretty good day. It makes it easier to remember the gratitude that normally fills just about every day. At least it does when I don’t have the Whinies.
A couple of days ago I was talking to Genevieve on the phone. She was in San Diego. I told her that the weather in Portland was a beautiful 50 degrees and sunny. She told me that the weather in San Diego was a mediocre mid-70’s and partially cloudy. I’m not telling you this to pick on Genevieve. When I’m in San Diego, this is exactly how I look at it. Perspective is everything, isn’t it? I’ve started to feel sorry for those poor San Diegans that never experience the joy of a sunny day, because they have come to expect it. Anything less is a letdown.
I hope you have a relatively spectacular day.