Thursday, January 23, 2014

She's Got Some T12-L1 Problems

There are some days I'm not sure if my back is ever going to give up. There are some days that all I want to do is give up. The physical, mental, emotional side to chronic pain is so wearing. Wearing enough to finally break down last fall. I thought for sure our trip would give it enough rest, get some thai massages, and heal up...whatever it was that was causing the pain. I was wrong.

It's all been going on since my early 20s, but per my usual I just continued down the painful path. No sense in paying for another doctor's visit, having diagnostic tests, and more visits when I could just go on with the pain. Again, that pain just never gave up. To the point that I'd only get a day or two of "feeling better" (I use that term loosely) every couple weeks. My breaking point came in October when I found myself having to sleep on the couch often, heating and reheating heat packs to give me just the slightest relief. I do not take any medications, but I did attempt ibuprofen a few times. Didn't cut it.

I finally found myself sitting in at my PCP's office where she ran some tests, testing positive for a gene related to ankylosing spondylitis. So for 4 weeks, that's all I could think of...I have another autoimmune disease, another chronic illness, and I eventually could become fused in my hip and low back region, leading up my spine. In all honesty, I'm pretty sure I become slightly depressed. It was an awful feeling not knowing and having to wait to see a specialist. After x-rays, MRIs, and a million lab tests...prayers were answered and I DO NOT have AS! I cannot imagine what it's like for those of you diagnosed with cancer. The concern, the waiting, more tests, more waiting, treatment, waiting to see if treatment works, more treatments, and so on. I just can't imagine. I have become that much more empathic in my nursing career from that period of my life.

So what is wrong with me? Well I still have problems sitting up straight without my low back hurting and my coccyx feeling like it could explode if I roll out on a foam roller. I can't do long car rides as I get so stiff that at times I look like I'm grossly pregnant trying to get out of the car. I use a mattress heating pad I can control on just my side of the bed to help with the aches and pains getting out of the bed in the morning, which it's hit or miss when I even feel all that great morning after morning. On occasion, I can't take deep breaths in the morning when I'm extremely stiff. Then there's times I can't bend over without spasms and cramps making me want to keel over...that instead, I have to squat to get anything off the ground. The examples of my symptoms can go on and on, but you get the gist of it. The bizarre thing is that my symptoms don't necessarily correlate to one specific spot. That's where the spine specialists came into play.

They found narrowing in my spinal canal and osteophytes near T12-L1 causing my nerve roots to be displaced in the wrong direction. Most symptoms with this area of our spine include bladder and bowl incontinence. Praise the Lord I haven't reached that point! They believe this has been going on long enough that it's caused inflammation down my spinal canal. Bummer deal. Next trial is injecting a steroid into my spinal canal on Friday. Rather than being sedated, I've chosen the route of just a little numbing around the injection site and going for it. They hope that this injection dose will provide a way of decreasing the inflammation in the canal and in turn, relieving my symptoms.

So yes, I'm super happy to not have to walk down the path of another disease like AS. Bummer deal is requiring steroids injections that can lead to osteoporosis. And I'll tell you what, the more I lose in my bones, the shorter I get. I definitely don't have much height to lose! Lots of thoughts and prayers this takes, pain improves, and on we go with life. Thank you all who have been praying and helping us get through the last 4 months...not sure what I'd do without Ty especially! He is the true nurse!