Saturday, February 12, 2011

What my oncologist said...and MRI Arthogram

I had my first three month follow-up with my oncologist, Wednesday the 9th.  My blood looks good, no tumer cells showing up.  I explained my shoulder injury to him, and he looked incredulous.  "You have a labrum tear?" 

"Yes, that's what they think," I said.  "The Arthrogram is tomorrow."  He next comment surprised me.  He stated that they probably positioned me wrong on the operating table during my reconstructive surgery. 

I always suspected that was the case, but I didn't think doctors ratted on each other. 

He even asked me who the doctor was.

Anyway, for what he is treating me for - cancer (remember that?) I look fine.  He did a breast exam (his secretary had to come in and take my bra off, which wasn't at all embarrassing) and he didn't feel anything unusual.  He didn't do my cancer side because there is nothing there but an implant, and I can't lift my arm for him to check the axillary area.  Anyway, I'm "Dancing with Ned" which is the news all cancer patients want to hear.  (That means I am in remission.)

Which should be great news but it's hard to concentrate on that when it feels like you have to physically hold the right side of your body on with your left arm.

The next day I had my MRI arthrogram.   I'm so used to these tests that I wasn't the least bit worried about it.  I had been told by my doctor that there was a recovery period after that could be painful.  However, the actual test wasn't supposed to be painful.

They lied. 

I followed the usual routine.  Got undressed in the ever-cold room, put on a hospital jonny, put my stuff in the little locker and then was led to the flouroscope. I rested on the table and dozed until the doctor came by and injected my shoulder with contrast.  They use an x-ray machine called a flouroscope so they can see what they are doing and make sure they get the fluid in the joint space.   Once your shoulder joint is full of fluid, they take you to the MRI. 

Labrum tears are hard to diagnose, even with an MRI.  That's because the labrum is between bones.  The theory is, any place they see the contrast leaking, they assume there is a tear.

I was actually very eager to have this test because I knew they were going to numb the shoulder first.  The pain is now quite intense and I am more than ready for some lidocaine.  You know me, I'm not a complainer.  But, it's gotten worse by the day, and it seems each morning I wake up, my arm has figured out a new method of torturing me.  To get through the day, I've upped my pain meds to levels that would kill a normal person.  I'm working, but only because I have TAs (teaching assistants) that do anything involving lifting and by lifting, I mean filing, handling mail, unlocking doors, etc.  I can answer the phones, and I can type (although not comfortably) and that's about it.  Even writing hurts. 

The newest symptom is my arm goes completely numb if I put it in the wrong position.  I can't sleep on my stomach at all, my shoulder won't allow that positioning.  Honestly, it feels like it's dislocated and in fact, that's not out of the realm of probability.  The labrum is the cartilage in the shoulder that holds the humerus to the socket.  It can tear completely off and then your arm is just held on by tendons.  But, I also hear it stops hurting if that happens, so clearly,  mine is still attached.

So, anyway back to the imaging center.   I was eager for the lidocaine and a few hours of relief.  Sadly, it was not to be.  He put it in but nothing got numb.  Then he put the contrast in, which was a strange and horrible feeling.  You feel your shoulder getting fuller and fuller, like a balloon blowing up, then you feel it swell painfully down your arm.  It's quite alarming.  Not only that, but the doctor roughly moved my shoulder into a position it had not been able to be in for a month, which left me quaking with pain.   He acknowledged that sometimes when the bicep is involved there can be "some" pain.   Fortunately, it went back to normal levels quickly, and I went to the MRI machine and had my typical nap.

I drove home, one-handed, a task I'm getting quite good at.  I use my knee to help me with turns. 

I find out the extent of the damage Monday, which is Valentine's Day.

Here is a question:  it's become very obvious to everybody that this is not an injury I could have done to myself post-surgery.  Something happened to me on the operating table during surgery.

I now am looking at more time off work recovering from a surgery, months of physical therapy, co-pays, using up my vacation for illness.  I like my plastic surgeon and think he did the best job possible.  But, something happened in that operating room that caused this injury. 

What do I do?

I'm not a person who is willing to sue for an accident.  I know nobody did anything to me on purpose. On the other hand, this is going to cost me time and money (not to mention pain, and disappointment, and a house I've not been well enough to clean for like two years!) and this was not my fault. 

I have a follow-up appointment with him next week.  I don't know if I should ask him directly, or what I should do, if anything.

Sometimes, I feel like the unluckiest girl in America.

Then I remember, I actually am lucky.  I have  a great family, nice friends, a roof over my head, insurance, a job I really love, enough to eat.  This too, shall pass.


  1. I am so sorry for your hurt. Ow! It's such a drag to have to keep going to all these appointments and tests. But I think I may be in competition with you for unluckiest girl in America.
    You can read my story here:
    but I have to warn you it's a long story. I think we should get together and swap tales some time.

    Thanks for blogging!

    Dianne Duffy

  2. Well, that just sucks. I never believe them when they say it won't hurt - too many times it doesnt. I have developed significant back problems due to degenerating disks. Nothing but old age. Regardless, I am sick of being sick. Good luck to you?

  3. I think I would ask for the surgery report. I'm guessing at least that they have something that covers what they did during surgery. I think I'd probably also ask the dr. point blank if my injury could be related to anything that happened during surgery, and say I can't think of anything else that could have caused it.... I'd be slow to sue I'm sure, but I'm big on finding out what happened. Good luck with everything!

  4. No you are definitely not a complainer so your pain must be very intense and I am sorry for that. I think I would use all my energy to get well and not on a law suit but that is your decision, it wasn't your fault and you don't deserve all you are going through so I understand how you feel. Hope all will be repaired soon....:-)Hugs

  5. What a story! Well, here's hoping they figure it out soon, schedule the surgery, and get you healing ASAP!!!!

  6. My shoulder has been messed up since surgery, and seems to be getting worse, but it is nothing like what you are going through! I can't believe you are still working! I agree with not wanting to sue someone, but you need to find out if there is something that can be done to help you with the costs. You might want to speak to a lawyer, just to get some advice. I know most hospitals have patient advocates also. Hope things get better for you quickly!

  7. Oh wow. I never thought about doctors actually damaging one DURING surgery, but that makes total sense.

    Have you gotten your results yet?

    I am just going through breast cancer myself, I got diagnosed in January (last month) and have now completed my bilateral mastectomy and am going to be starting chemo in a month.

    I am glad I found your blog - I will have a read through it and see if I can learn something to help me with all my fears.

    It's scary going through this, and I am 35 years old with little ones at home.

    Thanks for posting this :)


  8. I think you should consult a lawyer. I believe, like you, that nothing was done on purpose. But still, you really shouldn't have to pay everything yourself.


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