There is nothing short or brief about filling out a two page form to take my “pain inventory”. Today I am at the Michael DeGroote Pain Clinic at McMaster Hospital. Am I here for a followup for my mastectomy? Nope. An appointment for the hematoma? Nada. What about an appointment for the reconstruction? Niete. I am here to receive epidural steroid injections in my back. Yep, unfortunately I have two herniated disks in my back as well as arthritis and a touch of scoliosis so I receive injections into my spine every three months. Fun wow.
When you check into the Pain Clinic, you are given a two page sheet that asks various questions about the pain you are experiencing. It is rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the absolute worst. There are questions that ask how your pain affects your mobility, your appetite, your mood, your energy level and how you deal with others! You also have to shade areas on a diagram of the human body to indicate where you are experiencing pain. As you can imagine, the areas I shaded on today’s visit included my lower back and legs but also had a lot of shade added to my chest, shoulders and arms. Let’s just say there were more shaded areas than not.
As always, I had my handy dandy chest pillow with me. It has become my constant companion….don’t leave home without it! The nurse who gave me my gown and hooked me up to a blood pressure machine asked had I been in hospital overnight in the last three months. “Yes”, I replied. “I had a bilateral mastectomy June 13th”. I could audibly hear her swallow. “I’m so sorry”, she said. “Are you ok?” The good thing is, I could honestly say “Yes, thanks…I am!” And I can. Yes, my chest hurts, yes the hematoma throbs, yes I’m still weak and can’t sleep…but in the grand scheme of things…I am ok. I am cancer free and that is more than OK!
Immediately the nurse went to speak to the surgeon and his team to tell them what was going on with me. You see the issue is that while having the injections I have to lie on my stomach on the operating table…which means that for the first time since my mastectomy I was going to have to lie on my chest. With pillow in hand, I marched into the operating room determined not to cry. I have a sinking feeling that every time I enter an OR from now on I will well up. The nurses helped me climb up on the table and tried the best they could to help me find a position that I could comfortably lie on for the next 45 minutes. A pillow under my hips, my giant pillow for my chest and a pillow to rest my head. I tried the best I could to keep my chest pushed up away from the table until the surgeon was ready to start. My arms were already shaking before he began. I could feel the tissue expanders digging into my chest wall while my sutures felt like they would explode. Start the clock, please, let’s get this over with. The injections are very painful. They guide needles into my spine and focus on the herniated disks while watching for the placement on a big screen. Each manipulation of the needle sends stabbing pain from my back, through my buttocks and down my leg. I have to remain very still which in itself is hard but I was also contending with the pain shooting through my chest and armpits as I did my best to not put too much pressure on my sutures, etc. Forty five, forty four, forty three….the minutes slowly went by as the the doctors worked on my back.
Done. And not a minute too soon. By the time they helped my roll off the operating table and onto the gurney, my face was swollen from crying into the pillow. I could see mascara smeared all over it and apologized for making a mess and being a wuss.
The nurses assured me that the pillow would be cleaned and that I had nothing to apologize for. “You’ve been through a lot. You did extremely well. Honest.”
The injections really do help my back. And I only have to get them every three months, but given all the other sh#t I’ve been through the last few months, today was just a bit too much. I wanted to raise a white flag and surrender. “I’m done.” I wanted to shout. I’m so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. It’s not the person I am or want to be. Where is that super-hero cape when I need it!? I could really use the help.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.