Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spinal Tap - 12/15/10

This week has been busy. By Friday, I was ready to pull out my little Afro, lol.

On Monday and after almost three months of trying to see a neurologist for my headaches, I was called in for an appointment. I had an appointment for the 27th of this month, but I was also on a waiting list to be moved up if there were any cancellations. The neurologist looked at my last MRI and determined that three things could be causing my headaches. It turns out that my oncologist was not so far off when she said that the images from my MRI appeared as if I had had a stroke. The neurologist said that there may be some vascular issues that are causing the headaches. The most unlikely case would be multiple sclerosis. I even ruled that possibility out, and I'm not a doctor. The most likely case is that the cancer is in the spinal fluid. He scheduled me for my first ever spinal tap (i.e., lumbar puncture) on Wednesday to either confirm or rule out this possibility. Next month, I'll have another MRI to see if there are any changes. In the mean time, since I've been rationing out the steroids, the neurologist will authorize my oncologist to prescribe more steroids until we figure out what's causing the headaches. I'm not excited about taking the steroids, but they work. Metastatic breast cancer has taught me that just because I'm strong enough to deal with pain that I really should not if it's not necessary.

On Tuesday, I had another PET Scan. I'm not sure why my oncologist ordered another one so soon since my last one, unless they needed a base line before starting the chemotherapy next week. My poor veins in my one usable arm for injecting the radioactive dye are pretty swollen, bruised, and sore. I wish that they could use my port, but they can't, so there's no use griping about it, I suppose.

On Wednesday, I had the spinal tap. Like I always do, I did a lot of research on the procedure over the last couple of days. I was not comfortable with what I read - horrible back pain, inability to walk afterwards, terrible headaches, lying down flat for hours, and blood patches inserted a few days after the procedure due to complications. I am happy to say that my spinal tap resulted in none of these adverse side effects. There was very little pain, besides the initial prick of the needle for local anesthesia. There was some pressure in my spine when the fluid was being drawn, but even that wasn't too bad. Other than that, I just laid very still on my stomach with the right leg bent up and my face turned towards the wall. It took the radiologist all of 15-20 minutes to finish the procedure. The preparations prior to the procedure (answering questions and having my back scrubbed for sterilization) and the two-hour "recovery" (lying flat on my back with as little movement as possible) after the spinal tap were harder to deal with than the procedure. I'm still waiting for the results of the spinal tap.

On Thursday, I had an echocardiogram. The whole point of the test is to see if my heart is strong enough to handle the rigors of chemotherapy and to have a base line of my heart's function, since the chemotherapy drugs can cause congestive heart failure. Other than seeing snakes or bears on the trail during a run, it's a good thing that I don't scare easily. I'm hoping that my background in running mitigates any heart problems that may arise from the chemotherapy.

After the echocardiagram, I had an appointment with the research nurse for the clinical trial. Honestly, I think she could have told me what she needed to tell me over the telephone, but I know how my oncologist's office is. They like all of those warm and fuzzy, make you feel good interactions. I'm not going to complain. We had a nice chat and ended the conversation with the both of us anxious to get started on the new treatment. She is really optimistic about the chemotherapy getting my liver and lung back on track, so that we can then go back to working on the cancer in the bones.

I'm mentally exhausted. I hate missing time off from work, and I even missed my section's annual Christmas breakfast on Thursday morning at the Loveless Cafe. The biscuits there are wonderful - not that my hips need any biscuits, lol.

Over the last few days, I've been reading disturbing articles about Avastin, one of the chemotherapy drugs that I will be using. It appears that the FDA is revoking its approval of the drug for treatment of metastatic breast cancer because the success rate does not outweigh the side effects of the drug. That's my rough summary, and there are all kinds of details in regards to the revocation. I have a lot of questions for my oncologist before we start this treatment protocol. The articles indicated that those patients using Avastin would not suddenly be taken off the drug, but if the drug has been proven not to help, my question is why stay on it? And in my case, why even start taking it?

Okay. So, Friday finally arrives. My entire Division had its Christmas breakfast at Montgomery Bell State Park. This is a bigger deal than my section's breakfast, so I was glad that I was able to attend. I had biscuits, but they were not as good as the ones I would have had at Loveless Cafe, lol. After the breakfast, I left for my six-hour drive to Huntington, IN for the HUFF 50K. I was so ready to hit the trails and stretch out my legs for a long run. It was going to be cold, with highs in the low 20s. There had been snow all week, so the trails would be covered. But still, I was ready. I would look like the Michelin Man with all of my clothes to stay warm, but all I could think about was running for hours to clear my head.

It's been a couple of years since I've run HUFF. It's a relatively easy 10.5 mile loop (repeated three times), with a few miles of road for easy running to make up for any slow time on the trails. Besides a couple of ups and downs, it's pretty flat with very few roots and rocks. It turned out that the snow was hard-packed, so the footing was better than I thought it would be. I've been on this course when the snow was deeper and powdery, and the trail was a lot harder to run on. My ITBs didn't even scream that much because there was very little sliding. The right ITB hasn't been fully functional since the Equalizer 24-Hour in October, and the left one met the same fate during the Mother Road 100 Miler in November. Once my toes warmed up and since the ITBs were behaving, I was moving well, slowly as usual, but having a good day. So, it was with a heavy heart that I was pulled from the race after the second loop because I was over the cut-off to start the last loop. Well . . . isn't that just how the rest of my week had gone, lol? What was I expecting? Groan and sigh, lol.

Christmas is coming up. I still have presents to buy for the family. Other than trying to catch up on projects at work, that will be the focus for this upcoming week. I'll then spend the long holiday weekend with the family, which is always an enjoyable experience. Even though I start chemotherapy on Tuesday, this upcoming week will be a major improvement over this week. I'm sure of it.


  1. Tuesday will come, and the chemotherapy will start. And you know what? You'll be the same tough, brave, smart, wonderful woman you've always been. I admire you, Tiger. Good luck.