tumor

An Ordeal I would not Wish upon my worst Enemy

I have battled Cancer, I’ve endured Chemotherapy and I’ve suffered the indignities of Surgery and yet I have seen first hand just how fortunate I was to be dealing with my particular ordeal. Cancer was a formidable foe to be certain, warranting the battle of a lifetime. Chemotherapy was an out-worldly experience, one that I would never, ever want to go through again in this lifetime; I found the experience to be horrifying, an encounter which exposed me to be the coward that I am. I had Surgery to reconstruct the humerus on my (left) dominant arm after a cancerous tumor ate into the bone resulting in a fracture. Several horrible elements combined for one hell of an ordeal, though I know for certain many others faced even more horrendous situations and they have a faced it with grace, courage and dignity in their own ways.

One year prior to these events, among other things, I had rekindled my passion for writing and had taken up jotting down notes and ideas on a semi-regular basis. I kept it as a hobby, more or less, writing thoughts and ideas, a little more earnest as time went on, making sure I filled any spare time I had with writing. Soon I was writing on a regular basis, albeit for limited time, again mostly thoughts and ideas, and then short story ideas, and some script and stage play ideas. I submitted a short story based on an actual event, then a short stage play, then a fictional short story, none of which were accepted. I felt as though I was getting somewhere with my writing hobby and was looking for creative writing courses when disaster struck, I broke my writing arm and discovered I had Cancer which turned my life upside down for several years.

I was in no state to write, not of mind or body. Six months after the fracture we got smartphones and so that enabled me to start jotting down ideas, all with my right thumb. When, after a fashion, I could prop myself up I was able to write on paper, again with my non-dominant arm. Not an easy feat, to start to write with ones non-dominant arm, try it for a while. I had the added bonus of dealing with the side effects of the Chemotherapy which gave me a temporary cognitive dysfunction to muddle through. Google ‘Chemo brain’ (or maybe I can link it) for a better idea of what that is, or wait a while because I know I’ll have a whole blog post devoted to chemo brain. It took me well over one full year before I was able to even attempt to write with my left arm again, and I am sure my recovery sped up after that.

Though I survived I don’t like that term, ‘Survivor’ or ‘he was a fighter’, somehow, to me, that implies the poor unfortunate souls who succumbed to this horrid disease were not putting in the same effort; we are all different, our Cancers and treatments differ from person to person. Yes, I survived, a victory for me, but it was a Pyrrhic victory

On Pain.

This post is mostly about having to endure different types of pain, I will get into the specifics at a later date as I need to go through all my notes and files. I have bits and pieces scattered here and there, we really could use a good assistant or two over here at The Rusty Prose. So, for now, you get fragments of pain.

I suppose I could have told this story from the beginning, but I can think of these posts as Prefaces and the like. Besides, it’s my blog and I’ll transgress if I want to. A little anticipation never hurt anyone, and today we’re talking about the pain, man. Soon enough we will get to the beginning.

During my Cancer ordeal the pain was intense, incredible and excruciating on so many levels; as a result I tend to feel and experience pain on a much different plane now. The pain was all encompassing, only to be surpassed, or exacerbated by the horrors of Chemotherapy. There was the tumour which slowly ate into my Humerus bone until it shattered one fine morning. Next we add in all the various tests, needles, and biopsies; the muscle cramping and neuropathy were there for the comic relief.

On the gorgeous and hot morning of July 19 2011 As I was getting ready for my dentist appointment to finish the second phase of a root canal when my left (dominant) arm went into a muscle spasm and broke seemingly on it’s own. YOUCH!!! And WTF!?!

My arm had been sore and aching for several weeks prior, but I had been much busier than usual and thought I was over exerting myself and had strained my triceps and biceps muscle. It’s called a ‘Pathological Fracture’ when a bone breaks for no known cause but shows to have a hidden medical reason; the cancer caused a tumour to eat into my bone, the bone fractured into the tumour and through the remaining weakened bone.

Then I lay prone for five weeks while I waited for the proper diagnosis. They knew it was Cancer, it just took a long while for them to pinpoint the actual type. NHL; non Hodgkins Lymphoma. They wouldn’t operate until they could be certain they didn’t have to amputate, or that I was going to be around long enough to warrant the procedure. I lay prone on the couch for five weeks in agony.

The reconstructive surgery took away some of the pain, then it brought along some new one’s. I had steel plates, pins and screws into my bones and the tumour in the bone. Yeah, that was a whole new level of pain my good friends. Nothing else mattered at that point. Then I had to lay prone for another five weeks in agony while we waited for the screws to set, and for the chemo to kick in. Then came the cramping and neuropathy, which feels like when your arm or leg fall asleep except this is all over your body and comes on much more gorilla like.

For my second Chemotherapy session, the nurses could not get the needle into my vein, so they went and got a nurse from somewhere else and pulled the curtain around us. They explained they have a procedure to get the needle into my vein but it’s quite painful. She looked me in the eye and said, ready? Though it wasn’t so much a question as a command. Then as quick as she could, she slammed it into the outside of my thumb down to my wrist. Sorry, not into the joint but along the wrist below the thumb, apparently there’s also a nerve which runs along that part of the vein. Freaking ouch!

Next came the PICC line, basically it’s like a catheter but they run it through your veins. Mine went all the way to my heart, I don’t know if they all do, but mine sure did and I could feel it knocking onto my heart on occasion. That is an odd pain sensation, but it’s also eerie.

Then I got myself a frozen shoulder, more pain, more cramping, then a nice long needle inserted into my ball socket. Ouch

The bulk of the intense pain was during the initial seven months of my ordeal. Then came two years of rehabilitation. Physiotherapy therapy. Two years of rehabilitation of my arm and frozen shoulder. It took me almost two full years before I was able to make a fist or raise may hand over my head, took longer before I was able to make a fist and raise that over my head without grimacing in pain.

All the deep tissue work to reanimate my atrophied muscle was an excruciatingly painful experience that we at the rusty prose would not wish upon anyone.

I view and feel pain much different now.