Saturday, July 16, 2011

Surprise! MRI!

The machines must have missed me. It's been, what? An entire month since I've been in one?

This past week has been extremely difficult for me. I won't go into details, except to say it involved my car breaking down, $750.00, travel to another state, and lots of pain: some mental and lots physical.

Do you remember the worst flu you ever had? The one where your fever was so high you just slept for three days, sweating in your bed, head throbbing, with every muscle, every bone, every molecule of your body aching with pain? Well, I have that flu, only minus the fever, and actually, the flu.

My feet are also swelling up, just when I was back to wearing heels comfortably, dammit. I have fat feet.

And, my long-time nemesis, the lower left back/flank pain, has returned - in full force. I kind of love that pain because it caught my liver mets early, but hate it because it hurts me. Usually, it lives in the background and it's manageable with the pain meds I am prescribed. But, the past few days, it has been extremely intense, preventing me from sleeping and traveling down through my hip and up my ribs. You know how when you are having a baby, and they give you an epidural, and the pain goes away, except some unlucky people still feel it in spots? So, they labor on their left side or lower back only?

It feels like that, only my baby is 14.

I had my chemo appointment last Wednesday, and as always, reported my symptoms to my chemo nurse. Swollen feet, body aches and and intense pain in the back, and as I said that, a tear dropped.

Yes, me. My eyes wet. I cried.

I really hurt.

I surprised even myself though; I planned on being my cheery self.

They gave me a shot of dilaudid which slightly relieved the pain, but only slightly, it was that bad. The doctor even made a surprise appearance in the infusion center, and knelt in front of me to ask me what was going on. I told him how much my back hurt. I felt like a liar since the last thing I'd said to him about it was that I wouldn't worry about it anymore. He was puzzled. We know it isn't cancer because the PET came out clean in that area. He thinks it might be a nerve injury. He asked me if I'd had an MRI, and I said "no" but I have two CTs that showed nothing.

So, MRI it is: Lumbar Spine and Pelvis with Contrast. I think it could be kidney, I even asked my nurse if a kidney stone could last this long (he said no) but this test won't show who knows?


Friday was MRI day. I had a migraine when I woke up, and I took my second to last Imitrex shot. I just filled them and I can't fill them again for two more weeks, so clearly, this chemo is giving me migraines. (I don't want to think of the alternative). I had a two hour fast before the test, and my back was hurting, so I took my pain meds before the time I couldn't eat and drink. I read the paper and then took a hot bath to help ease the aching.

My headache returned as I was driving to the imaging center. I thought maybe I could just doze in the MRI machine and help relieve it. I arrived, filled out the same paperwork I have filled out dozens of times, and read Wired magazine while waiting. Usually I play on my iPhone or iPad but the screen was too bright for my migrainey eyes.

They took me back and I followed the drill. Undress, put clothes in locker, get on machine.

First, they did the lumbar spine and I was okay. My headache was pounding, but not terribly. But, when they pulled me out and told me to pee before they did the pelvic region, my headache increased. By the time she shot me up with contrast, I was in trouble.

Inside the machine, my headache grew as did my nausea. I concentrated on the air blowing across me so I wouldn't puke in the machine. I heard voices in the MRI, saying, "Health health health" and then "Die die die" and then "bye bye bye." I was having constant hot flashes and my back was aching and I felt so sick.

Really sick.

But, I didn't push that bulb, I stayed in the machine. Victory Victory Victory!

The test was over and the techs pulled me out. I immediately put my hands on my head, and they brought me an ice pack.

I got my stuff out of my locker and sat on the floor in the changing room and dumped the emergency meds I keep with me out onto the floor. I always keep a water bottle and drugs with me, so I picked out a compezine, two fioricet, and an imitrex pill and took them all at once. I got dressed, went to my car, and lay on the back seat with the ice pack on my head for a few minutes. It was pretty hot but I left the door open. When the nausea subsided, I got in the front seat, turned on the car for the air-conditioning, and lay the seat back, and sat there for about 20 minutes, alternating the ice pack between my head and neck.

Once I felt I could drive again, I put on sunglasses and went home. I came into the house, told my son to take care of the dogs, and injected my last imitrex shot. I went to bed and slept for several hours.

I'd promised to help my son with a project but didn't get to do that, which really disappoints me.

I haven't felt that sick in years. I've felt tired, yes. Exhausted yes. But, lately, I have felt sick. Terminally-ill type sick. I know it's temporary and I'll recover. As I write this, I'm sitting in my back yard, watching my dogs lie on the grass, listening to the fountain, back and legs aching but feeling okay. Gathering energy to make Gazapcho, my favorite summertime treat. Recovery is still possible but for the first time, independent me felt like I know what it's like to be incapable of taking care of myself.

The worst part is I'm not sure that MRI is going to show anything. I may join the groups of folks who have undiagnosed back pain who just have to live with it.

I feel sorry for you all.



  1. I've had excruciating lower back pain for 2 weeks, radiating around my hip. Dr Magic Hands fixed it 10 days ago, but it's back & can't get in to see her till Tuesday. My girlfriend suggested an MRI, but I can't bear the thought of being buried alive in that thing.

    There's lots of us with back pain that takes over like a migraine can. Then there's those of us, like you & me, who've had cancer & always think about mets. I'm not going there until I see whether Dr MH can fix this.

    Know how you feel. Oh, girl! I'm sorry.


  2. Sorry about your back pain, Brenda. I hope it's nothing.

    I'm not worried about mets. My body (except the brain) has been completely examined and the only mets are in the liver. So, who knows what this is? What I know it isn't - is cancer.

    If by "Dr. Magic Hands" you mean a chiropractor, and you have had cancer, you should not do any kind of manipulation until you have ruled out mets. It is unethical for them to do manipulations on cancer patients with undiagnosed back problems, because if it is mets, he can break your spine! Please be careful and get an MRI or CT or even a bone scan before you let a chiropractor touch you. Lots of cancer patients don't seem to know that but we have to be very careful about this.

    If you mean a masseuse, then you are fine. :) I'd like a back massage myself except my arms won't move in the right place to protect my implant pressing against the chest wall, so it would hurt. :)

  3. So sorry Ann - maybe you could do a massage and they could put pillows so you could not squish the boob - kinda like they do with pregnant ladies who don't want to squish the baby.

  4. That sounds like the worst day ever... I hope it will never return.


  5. Ah, Anne, so sorry you are in this place, but glad that you are feeling better enough (there must be a better way to say that) to post.

    When it comes to things that aren't cancer, I so much prefer a good primary care physician. If our oncologists were great diagnosticians, they would be internists, not oncologists!
    The problem is, once we have had cancer, they get so terribly uncertain.
    I have had asthma for about 30 years now. My lungs are total barometers, I am very sensitive to changes in air pressure and humidity, as well as pollen.
    Right after I completed rads, we had a cold, wet spell, and I upped my allergy and lung meds, as I was feeling tight. And went in to see allergist, after calling office. Now, I have a lovely allergist who came into the practice as my original allergist gradually retired. I respect her professional skills, and I like her. But when I said, well, the weather is tough, my lungs are cranky and I just completed radiation, and I am upping my pills, she didn't say, as I am sure her predecessor would have, well, see how it goes once the weather gets better.
    Instead, she told me to go back to my rad onc. Who said, well, isn't it asthma. How about a pulmonologist.
    This isn't what I wanted or needed. From either of them. What I needed was someone to say, well, I am comfortable with your knowledge of your body, and that you know how to manage your medication through this rough time. Which, since it is two years later, was what I had to do for myself.

    So, I guess I would be back at your regular doctor, saying, I need you to respect my knowledge of how I work, and I am concerned that this is going on. And my oncologist and I both don't think it is cancer-related, but if this doesn't stop soon, I think I will SCREAM. Except it would hurt too much.

    Gentle hugs

  6. So sorry that you suffer from back pain and that it may remain undiagnosed. I'm getting some symptoms that doctors can't explain. When that happens they attribute it to the chemo. Maybe chemo causes multiple unexplained permanent problems. But we go on. Life goes on. And we are all here for you.
    Also gentle hugs,

  7. As always, Ann, thanks for your candor. While you are often hilarious and I so enjoy your humourous approach to what is a bloody awful diagnosis, I also count on your for honesty about your experience. I'm of the "I'd rather know than not know" category and so I very much appreciate your sharing the worst of your experience as well. While that isn't my story ... yet ... what you tell me helps me better understand what other people might be experiencing. Increased understanding and empathy can only be a good thing.

    I really wish this wasn't happening to you.


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