Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tumor Flare, Percocet, & DNS - 9/25/10

Last Saturday, I was in Wilmington, DE for the Delaware 100 Miler, a race that I had DNF'd last year. But I had so much fun last year and I felt that the course was doable, even for me, that I decided to go back this year. I only ran 40 miles of it last year. This year I made it to 68.5 miles. Given one more year, I probably could finally finish it, lol. But this may be the last year for this race. The race director, Carl, and his family are contemplating moving from Delaware to Tennessee. I teased Carl about starting another 100 miler in Tennessee, so that there was another choice besides the infamous Barkley 100 Miler.

For the most part, I felt good all day. My feet were sore, but I've finished plenty of races with sore feet, so that wasn't really the reason that I dropped out of the race. The real problem was that the last 10 miles took me over four hours to complete. I was so slow that I was on pace to finish in 34 hours, which meant I would have missed my plane on Sunday. Even though Carl said that he would give me an official time no matter when I finished, I didn't want to keep him and his family waiting for me so long after they had been so generous and kind to the runners by opening their home to us. I still had fun with old and new running buddies, and I don't regret the trip at all.

On Sunday, I flew back home, after a four hour delayed layover in Atlanta. The plane was late and then when it arrived, it had mechanical problems. I repositioned myself on my carry-on luggage and went back to sleep, while other passengers griped and moaned about having to wait for the plane to be fixed. Really . . . would you want to get on a plane that was experiencing mechanical problems, lol?

On Monday, I went to work. My feet were back to normal, and I had no muscle soreness whatsoever. This was proof that my training was getting me back to where I was supposed to be endurance-wise. Now all I had to do was to figure out how to get some speed back. I'll need that for the Heartland 100 Miler in a couple of weeks, where the cut-off is a strict 30 hours. I had one more long training run scheduled before then at the Hinson Lake 24-Hour in Rockingham, NC. I had no mileage goal. I just wanted a good long run with my running buddies. From the list of entrants and with almost 200 people registered for this race, it seemed like I knew about half of them. This was going to be a running party! Besides, I wanted to keep that good feeling going from my time spent in Delaware.

On Tuesday, I woke up with, literally, a pain in my butt. It was on the right side, but I figured it was probably some delayed muscle soreness from Delaware. I went to work. All day, the pain was getting progressively worse. And then I became nauseated. With 3 hours left on the clock, I ended my work day and told my manager that I would see her on Wednesday. I took some Advil, went home, and got into bed. I hadn't caught up on my sleep from the weekend, and I figured a little rest would do me some good.

By Wednesday, I could barely move. The pain was throbbing and intense. Each throb sent a shock through the rest of body, and it appeared that I was having spasms. This was not muscle pain. This felt like bone pain. Since radiation in June, I've had very little pain, so this incident was taking me by surprise. I began to dig out bottles of Hydrocodone and Oxycontin to go along with the Advil. I couldn't sit in a chair for more than 10 minutes before I was in horrible pain. Standing and walking seemed to make the pain worse. Previously, movement was the only thing that had eased the bone pain. Finding a comfortable position to lie down in bed was another worthless ordeal. I began to think that maybe one of the weakened bones in my pelvis had finally fractured.

On Thursday, I called my oncologist's office. The pain was intolerable. Other than the spasms, I couldn't move at all. I needed to see a doctor, and I needed to see one right now. Do I go to the oncologist's office? Do I go to my primary care physician? Or do I simply go to the emergency room? The advice from my oncologist's office was to go to the emergency room and to ask for pain relievers that were stronger than the ones I had. If it was the cancer, there wasn't anything that could be done any way. Getting a shower and putting on clothes was almost impossible, but I managed. It's amazing how the simple, every day things that we do and take for granted can become so complicated when pain prevents simple movement. Pulling up my pants and putting on a pair of shoes were comical. A friend of mine went with me to the emergency room. From the pain and the pain killers, I was not only nauseated but weak and dizzy from not being able to eat properly for two days.

In the hospital, I was given Percocet. What a wonderful drug! Within a half-hour, the throbbing had stopped and the pain was at a dull roar. I was so relieved. I answered seemingly inappropriate questions given the circumstances so that paper work could be filled out. No, I hadn't fallen. No, no one had hurt me. No, I hadn't hurt myself. I told the doctor and nurse that I thought it was my bone cancer that was causing the pain, but I wanted to make sure that nothing else was wrong because this is the first time that my pain level was a 10 on a scale of one to ten. They watched me try to move from one room to the next. The doctor poked and prodded and then ordered x-rays. My discharge papers read, "Your xrays show metastatic disease to your right sacrum and iliac bones" and recommended "Percocet-2 tablets every 6 hours as needed for pain". There were no fractures, so I was sent home to deal with the pain. What pain? The Percocet was working!

I had the prescription filled and went home to eat soup. It took forever to get it down since I was still nauseated. I spent the evening watching television and enjoyed having relative pain. Life was wonderful, until the Percocet wore off. Where was that bottle?

After an hour of no relief and the pain had increased to an unprecedented level, I wondered why the Percocet wasn't doing it's job. I looked at the bottle, and the pharmacy had substituted Oxycodone for the Percocet. I let out a stream of expletives that I won't repeat here. I took an Oxycontin, and an hour later I took Hydrocodone. At some point early Friday morning before the sun came up, I was able to finally dull the pain for a couple of hours of sleep.

Friday was another day in excruciating pain-land. I moved around as much as possible and took pain medication when I felt I couldn't handle it any more. The pain medication was all mental, because it did nothing to ease the pain, but at least my brain thought I was attempting to do something. Several times during the day, I just broke down and cried. Crying did not relieve the pain either, but I was so frustrated and hurt so much that the tears flowed before I could stop them. I had now missed several days of work, and I was going to be a DNS (did not start) at Hinson Lake. I was barely walking and in pain the whole time. I couldn't even sit at the computer or lay down on the couch in front of the television for very long. I tried reading in bed, but that lasted only so long before I was struggling to sit up to ease the throbbing pain and then struggling again to drag myself around the house. I was weak and dizzy because the nausea was also preventing me from eating. I was miserable, and there was nothing I could do about it but wait it out.

Saturday was a repeat of Friday. The only difference was that I was now so drug-induced that I could sleep a couple of hours throughout the day. To make matters worse, it was a beautiful day for a run. I hoped that my running buddies at Hinson Lake were having a great day.

Throughout this time, my one and only baby sister (by six years) has been keeping track of me. Bless her heart! She was really worried about me. She offered to come and help me, but I told her that was not necessary. She has to take care of my niece and four nephews. Besides, I felt like I was being a big baby about all of this, and I did not want her to feel sorry for me. Nothing was broken. It was just pain.

The one thing that my sister and I have in common is that we are realists. She asked the hard questions that no one dares to ask. I can appreciate that.

Have I ever been told how much time I have? No, I haven't. It varies for everyone. I have outlived the "average" time (24-36 months) of "expected" survival after metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, so every day is gravy. I know of one woman who has been in treatment for 20 years and is still going strong.

Why don't I quit my job and collect disability? It's not time yet. I want to live a "normal" life for as long as I can.

When it is time, will I come home and let my family take care of me? No, I don't want to be a burden to everyone. I'd rather pay for hospice care, but we'll discuss it if we get to that point. She hates that answer, but she doesn't argue.

Miraculously, on Sunday, the pain was dull but not throbbing. Throughout the day, the nausea went away, and I ate a decent meal. I was able to lay on the couch in front of the television and watch football all day. Since the pain was tolerable, I didn't take any pain medication. I could walk, although at this point it looked like a hobble. I had survived another tumor flare. In three years, this was the longest and harshest of them all. All of a sudden, things were looking up.

On Monday, I am back at work. I can sit for extended periods of time now. I can walk. It's such a simple process that babies can even do it, but I couldn't do it a few days ago. I missed walking. I savored my one mile walk from the parking lot to my office. The pain is dull and not throbbing. I am not taking any pain medication. This is what I am accustomed to dealing with. I was back in my element. Maybe I can go for a short run later this week. I'll definitely walk as far and as fast as I can over the next couple of weeks to get ready for Heartland. It does not look promising, but I'm going to try, darn it! The race and the flight are paid for, so why not? I'll get in some runs to loosen up the legs, and then I'll go to Cassoday, Kansas to do my best. I'll run a few steps with several running buddies before I'm left at the back of the pack, and I'll enjoy my alone time in the open prairie. Whether I finish or not, I'm looking forward to it.