Bad Back, Bad News

Jan 14, 2016

After the upbeat nature of my last post, I'm afraid to say things aren't going to plan.

I had said I wanted to have no medical interventions I didn’t choose myself. Nope - I’ve failed at that one.

Last week, after the kids went back to school, I started to get a pain in my back. Back pain is not unusual for me, so I ignored it for a bit. But it got progressively worse. I became permanently attached to a hot water bottle, even taking it into the office with me. I started talking painkillers but the paracetamol and ibuprofen weren’t cutting it, so I broke into my stash of Tramadol. This was a mistake as it sends me a bit doo-lally. It didn’t make the pain much better either, so I went back to the paracetamol and ibuprofen. Walking was becoming laboured, bending and twisting was agony and I couldn’t sleep properly as the pain was waking me up. I like to think I have quite a high pain threshold, but this was something else.

Ross suggested I do some stretches and use his roller for easing muscular pain. For a quiet life I gave them a go, but nothing helped.

By the time Monday morning rolled around, I’d had enough. Ross suggested seeing the GP for painkillers, but instead I emailed my Oncologist’s secretary to see if he could fit me in for a quick telephone chat. I wanted him to tell me to “Man up and get on with things”. I even told him this when we spoke later that evening on the phone. I explained my symptoms, and he thought it sounded like a slipped disk. Oh! I haven’t had one of them before! Then he said given my history, that I should go for an MRI and he’d get his secretary to organise it quickly for me. He also told me to go to the GP for the painkillers. He gave me a list of what to ask for.

The next morning, I go to the GP’s and come back with a good haul of painkillers, including anti-inflamitories and valium. ( :-o ) He tells me if I don’t get an MRI through quickly via my consultant, then I was to go back and let them know and they would organise one for me. This is a bit odd. People are taking me seriously!

At lunchtime I get a call telling me to go for a scan at 4:30 that afternoon, and that the Oncologist will catch up with me the following Monday to discuss the results.

Once the scan is done, I get all my images on disk. This is quite exciting, considering all the scans I’ve had, I’ve never actually seen any! But I’ve got my own disk! To keep! Obviously Ross and I have a look at them, but can’t make head or tail of them so put it back in it’s envelope and wait to see the Oncologist.

The appointment comes through quicker than we anticipated. His secretary contacted me the next day to tell me that he wanted to see me as soon as possible and could I get to the hospital for lunchtime. Oh. Ok.

At the hospital we are sat down and Dr Shah makes no bones about the fact (no pun intended) that he is 90% sure my pain is caused by cancer in the vertebrae which is causing it to bulge and press on my spinal cord. Obviously this is bad news. Very bad news. It means the breast cancer has metastasized and gone traveling. If it is the 90%, then I’ll be classed as Stage 4 or terminal. There is no cure for this, only management.

The first thing he wants to do is get my pain under control. In addition to the painkillers given to me by the GP, he has given me steroids and oral morphine, as well as a couple of drugs to counteract the side effects of these. He’s said if the pain can’t be controlled by this method, he’ll get me admitted so it can be done in a more controlled environment. Obviously, I don’t want to go into hospital, I want to be with me family. I want to watch Imy and Felix play rugby on Sunday. I want to see Star Wars again on Saturday, but this time at the IMAX.

To confirm the diagnosis, I need the have a couple more scans. A CT is booked in for Friday, and another MRI for Monday. The idea is they confirm that the suspect vertebrae is in fact Cancer (although there’s still a 10% chance it’s not), and also see if it’s managed to go anywhere else.

The treatment plan would involve radiotherapy and “therapy” but he wasn’t clear on whether that would be chemotherapy or targeted therapy like Herceptin or it’s sisters. He said there was no point having a big long discussion about it now, as until he’s got all the facts, he won’t have a plan of action.

The question “How long have I got?” was also evaded.

We then went to the chemo ward to have some bloods taken. It was bizarre to be back there, seeing the lovely chemo nurses. They gave me big hugs, and I told them as much as it was nice to see them, I hadn’t really wanted to go back there. They completely understood.

So here we are, back playing the Waiting Game. Thankfully we won’t have to wait long. I’ll be seeing him again on Monday.