Today I had epidural steroid injections in my back. I have them every three months to manage the pain from two herniated disks, arthritis and some nerve damage brought on by my other operations. At the pain clinic, you need to arrive an hour before your procedure. You register and then fill out a form that tracks your pain. There are questions like, from 1 to 10, how is your pain now? How has it been in the last 24 hours? How does it affect your mobility, your mood, your sleep, appetite and your relationship with others? If you aren’t stressed before filling out the questionnaire, you certainly are after! When it is presented to you in black and white, it becomes very clear, no matter how hard I work at masking it, I AM IN PAIN!
The doctor’s and nurses at the pain clinic have been extremely understanding and accommodating. I was originally scheduled to have the procedure next Wednesday, October 2nd, but that is now my new surgery date to remove the hematoma. It is not easy to get appointments with at the pain clinic, my surgeon is booked 4 months in advance, but they have bent over backwards for me and I can’t thank them enough.
That said…these injections, although necessary, are very painful. The whole experience is difficult. As I have shared before, I now experience major anxiety every time I have to walk into an operating room. It’s not actually caused from the anticipation of the pain…its more the whole experience of the lights, the look and smell of the room, the masked doctors and nurses, the table laid out with surgical instruments and needles and the sense of vulnerability you feel when you have to put yourself into someone else’s hands fully and completely.
Today, when the nurse met with me beforehand, she reviewed my “pain” questionnaire and then asked me if there had been any changes in my medication. Lord, did she open a can of worms. I had to explain that I’d developed stomach issues, which may be an ulcer, due to all the meds that I have had to take over the last 15 months. We talked about my upcoming surgery and how was I going to manage the pain after without being able to take any pills? Unfortunately we didn’t come up with a solution. They were also concerned that given the fact that I am having surgery next week, that perhaps it wouldn’t be advisable to have the injections as the steroids can interfere with the healing process. And given I will have a nasty six inch incision to remove the henmatoma left over from my mastectomy, this is a valid concern. My surgeon decided that it would be better to have the injections as without them my pain would interfere more with the healing than the steroids!
The procedure took just under an hour. Several needles are inserted into my back to get as close to the disks in question without hitting my spinal cord. As the needles are moved around sudden bursts of extreme pain shoot through my legs, buttocks , hips and groin. I am asked to tell him as it happens, which is no secret as I usually scream “Fu#ck ME!” when it happens. I then have to tell him exactly where I felt the pain so that he can manipulate the needles in order to reach the perfect area to inject the steroids. This is all done under X-ray and recorded for future appointments/procedures. I try to breathe and focus on the music playing in the background. I try to lie still while holding myself up off the table slightly as I still can’t lie comfortably on my chest. I try to focus on the outcome, rather than the procedure and pain being inflicted at the time and I try to remind myself how I lucky I am to have these treatments available to me.
After, in the recovery room, I do my best to pull myself together as quicky as possible. I wish they had mirrors, because I always have mascara smooshed all over my face from crying. It’s embarrassing. I know they have seen worse, but I have tried really hard not to let people see me at MY worst. I have tried my best to keep my sense of humour…to keep positive and to be the Patti that people knew me to be before this shit storm called cancer invaded my life.
“Keep the faith that things will get better. Look on the bright side. Don’t dwell on the negative. Tomorrow is another day.” These are all cliche phrases that I used to roll my eyes at. Now they are my daily and sometimes even my hourly mantras. I know that one day this WILL all be over. Until then you will see me laugh and smile and be as “up” as possible. But don’t be surprised, when I am finally finished this journey, that you find me in a puddle of tears, as relief finally sets in.
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.