Doing my Best

The last few months have really put me through the wringer, emotionally and physically. It has been incredibly difficult to go from an able-bodied, overzealous DO-er, to someone who has to accept help from others, and be satisfied with myself when I accomplish less than my usual best.

My mother has dealt with chronic pain for nearly 17 years, over half of my life. When she wasn’t able to do all that she needed to, I stepped in. I spent most of my teenage years being a nurturer, a teacher, a chauffeur, a cook, and serving my family whenever necessary. It was frustrating and overwhelming at times, but I was happy that I was able to serve. Although I never really understood my mother’s physical pain, I trusted that she was doing the best she could. I knew I had the ability to help…and I did. And still do.

Since I injured my back in December, my life has been like a parallel universe. I have little endurance and mobility. I am dependent on several medications to function AT ALL. I keep ice packs, heating pads, and “granny pillows” at hand. I go to physical therapy 3 times a week. The entire office staff at my doctor’s office know me by name. I’m on the phone sorting out bills with my insurance, hospitals, urgent care clinics, imaging centers, and medical supply companies nearly every day. I deal with symptoms that sometimes cripple my mobility, such as limb numbness from hip to toe, for hours at a time. I got my first bedsore this week. Sometimes I lose bladder/bowel function. Sometimes the cerebrospinal fluid pressure changes from the cysts in my back cause mindblowing headaches. Some days, I barely make it out of bed at all.

And this life does not suit me. At all.

I pray daily for the patience to endure my pain. I pray for the patience of my friends and family members, who are affected by my illnesses. I pray for the understanding of others, that although they may not know the particulars…they don’t judge me harshly for the things I’m not able to do. I pray that my husband doesn’t give up on me, and understands that I’m truly doing my best.

Did you hear that, world? I’M DOING MY BEST.

Please don’t give up on me. Please be patient with me. Please do not judge me for the things you don’t understand. And I’ll do the same for you.

Public Service Announcement: Never Sleep With a Laptop

I am guilty for spending hours in bed with my laptop. And pretty often, I fall asleep with my laptop on my bed. Usually, the computer will go into standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity. When I woke up this morning, I was shocked to see this huge blister on my hand:

I was puzzled…where did this blister come from? It didn’t look like a spider bite.  It didn’t look like any of the crazy skin reactions I get when I’m allergic to something. It looked like a burn…but I didn’t remember burning myself.  I reached over to my laptop to update my Twitter feed with a Twitpic (of course!)

I went to my doctors’ office, and confirmed that it was indeed a 2nd 3rd degree burn. I was told to lance the fluid when the swelling got too intense, slather it often in ointment, and keep it covered. It was so oozy that I went through a box of my Band-aids at home within 2 hours. So I headed to Sam’s Club for a bulk box of Band-aids.In doing more research, I found out that burns and fires from overheated computers are quite common. Particularly from laptops in bed. High functioning processors can clock heats as high as 170 degrees F (80* C). That’s enough to cause a burn!

Moral of the story? Don’t sleep with a laptop, no matter how tempting it might be. You’ll just be burned in the morning.

I Grit My Teeth and Fake a Smile


I grit my teeth and fake a smile
And no one knows it all the while

My life is spent in waiting rooms
And stressing over copays due
My back is screaming, feet are numb
But to share my pain makes me feel dumb

I pawn my treasures and count pennies
To pay doctors bills and pharmacies
My husband’s based in Tennessee
So rarely can he care for me

Spanish Fork life gives me few perks
When Salt Lake City has all the work
Full-time employment may be a dream
When my pain daily makes me scream

I’m truly blessed to be Rosie’s mom
But she has nightmares that I’m GONE

My neighbors want to help my life
With MLM schemes for a stay-at-home wife
Unless it’s free, I can’t drink superjuice
So I’ll cry in bed, reading blogs like Dooce

Now that I’ve moaned and cried a bit
I’ll wipe my eyes, and publish it

Who on Earth is Tarlov, and How Did I Get His Cysts?

Yesterday I went back to the imaging center for my second MRI of my lumbar spine. This time it was done with contrast dye, which I had a mild adverse reaction to (burning sensation, nausea, etc). Once my body calmed down after the dye was injected, the MRI was pretty simple.

This afternoon the results made it in to my primary care doctor, and his nurse called me with the results. She said that there is no visible spinal disc compression, but I do have Tarlov Cysts in the sacral region of my spine. She said that I should come in next week to discuss my treatment plan with Dr. J. Because I am impatient and curious, I did a little Google sleuthing to find out more info on Tarlov and his cysts.

Tarlov Cyst (Perineural Cyst; Sacral Nerve Root Cyst)

Definition

Tarlov cysts are abnormal sacs of spinal fluid that usually form at the lower end of the spine (sacrum), or tailbone area. In most cases, they do not cause symptoms. But, if a nerve area is affected, you may experience pain.

Causes

The cause of a Tarlov cyst may be related to:

  • Trauma to the spinal cord
  • Increase in the cerebrospinal fluid pressure
  • Blockage of cerebrospinal fluid

Often times, the cause is unknown.

Once you have a Tarlov cyst, the following may cause it to become painful:

  • Traumatic injury such as a fall, automobile accident
  • Heavy lifting
  • Childbirth
  • Epidural anesthesia

Symptoms

Most Tarlov cysts do not cause symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to Tarlov cysts. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Nerve pain
  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet, vagina, rectum, or abdomen
  • Pain when coughing or sneezing
  • Weakness, cramping, or numbness in the buttocks, legs, and feet
  • Swelling, soreness, or tenderness around the lower end of the spine (sacral area)
  • Abnormal sensations in the legs and feet
  • Sciatica symptoms, such as pain when sitting or standing
  • Headaches
  • The feeling of “sitting on a hard surface”
  • Pulling and burning feeling in the tailbone

Treatment

Most of the time, Tarlov cysts do not require treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Corticosteroid injections or other medication injections—to relieve pain
  • Prescription medications—such as pain medications, antiseizure medications or antidepressants (both of these may be used to treat pain)
  • Lidoderm patches—applied to the sacral area to provide temporary relief of pain and discomfort
  • Aspiration of the cyst—a needle is used to drain the cyst to relieve symptoms
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)—electrical impulses are delivered through the skin to help control pain

In rare cases, surgery may be done if symptoms are severe and the cyst has caused changes in the bones of the sacrum. Surgery involves removal of a thin layer of bone and the cyst.

I’m not sure what all of this means for me at this point. I’m not informed of the details, and will iron out a treatment plan with my doctor next week. I’m going to do my best to keep a good balance between rest and activity, and hopefully this condition will dissipate on its own. I REALLY hope it’s temporary. My mother has been dealing with chronic pain issues for well over a decade, and I don’t want to have a life where pain chains me to the bedroom. On one of the info sites, in interesting letter was written by a nurse who deals with Tarlov Cysts. I don’t see myself sending it out to friends and family, but it scares me a little that I might have to live life like this.

Dental Drama and PT Pain

The past few days have been somewhat miserable for me. Anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows that I’ve had a ridiculous about of dental work and other tooth woes: crowns, root canals, periodontal work, the Cerec fiasco, etc. Last week I went to a new dentist, who informed me that two recent crowns would have to be replaced due to shoddy work, and one would need an implant. He also suggested to crown a molar that had an old gigantic amalam filling. I was bummed that I needed to have so much recent (expensive) work replaced, but I’m kinda used to it.

On Sunday night, after returning from my quick trip to Florida, my upper left gums and molars started throbbing. I was in an immense amount of pain, and I had no idea why (because all of the work scheduled was on my right side). Through the night, I used Orajel, Lortab, and many ice packs to try to take down the pain level. Between 2 am and 8 am, I only dozed off a few times because I hurt so bad. Despite my perpetually sore back, that pain had NOTHING on my jaw.

I called the dentist’s office as soon as they opened, and they got me in a few hours later. After a round of x-rays, he informed me that I had 4 abscessed teeth, with infection permeating both my upper and lower jaw. The two worst teeth were ones that had ceramic crowns, so he drilled them and did two pulpotomies. He handed me a prescription for Amoxicillin and told me to come back on Thursday to complete the root canals. He hoped that the other infected teeth would improve with the antibiotics, and would not require invasive treatment.

Over the past three days, I’ve been miserable. Not only was I dealing with the dental drama, I had a little mishap at physical therapy on my back. I finished an hour of electrostim and traction, and as I sat up, my hip popped about 3 cm out of place. My physical therapist did some manipulation and nearly and hour of electrical ultrasound to get me to the point I could walk. I still feel like a disconnected insect. Or a bowlegged cowboy.

Luckily, Taylor was home for a few days to take care of me. He replenished my ice packs, made sure I took my meds on time, prepared soft foods and offered general support and entertainment till he had to fly back to Memphis yesterday. Just before heading up to SLC to drop him off at the airport, I started getting a fever and body aches. By the time I dropped him off, my fever was up to 103*. My face was so hot, I felt like I could fry an egg on it. Something tells me the Amoxicillin wasn’t strong enough.

I have my appointment for the root canals this morning, right after the office opens. I have a sneaking suspicion that they will postpone the root canals, and send me straight to Urgent Care.

Not a pain in the neck, more like a pain in the butt!


Two weeks ago, I was shoveling snow in my driveway. We’d gotten about 11 inches of snow, and had let it sit for a day. Once I picked up a scarf, hat, gloves and some snow boots from DI, I went to work clearing a path for my car in the driveway. After about 45 minutes, I mightily thrust my shovel into a section of snow that was actually rock hard ice. The shovel didn’t move from the point of impact, but I wrenched my back in the process. Ironically, this happened while my husband was in the warm house playing XBOX.

I’ve been pretty miserable since, utilizing ice packs, heat, and lots of Motrin. A few days ago I decided to try shoveling again, and my back flared up even more. I happened to find out that my neighbor is a physical therapist, and he evaluated me. It appears I have a “bulging L4-L5” with “S1 dysfunction.” He poked and prodded me while ordering me into uncomfortable positions, gave me a lengthy list of exercises, and forbade me from shoveling snow, loading a dishwasher, vacuuming, or any other rotating repetitive movement for 4-6 weeks.

So….how should I bribe a Deacon to shovel my driveway for the next 6 weeks?

A battle of wits and wisdom

This morning I got a call from the Thoracic Surgery department administrator, saying that they were very interested in meeting with me again, and interviewing with the surgeon that I’d be working for (if I chose this position.) The only time that he’s available to meet is Thursday morning at 7:30 am. I have my PEP interview at 9:00…so this works out fine. When I mentioned that my Pathology interview went really well, and that they wanted to hire me…she said they were willing to fight for me. Does this mean I have leverage for a better salary?

In other news, I have been laid up in bed for most of the day. I have been feeling shooting pains and spasms. I don’t know if it’s from Clint’s adjustment, or from using muscles not usually used while swimming…but I’m pretty sore. Hopefully I’ll wake up without pain and be able to trek (through all these new inches of snow) to the gym.