(truth is, they never really got off the ground)
When my cancer treatments were coming to an end, I spoke with all my doctors about how to maintain a healthy vigilance without freaking out. My radiation oncologist said, you’re getting older and things are going to start going downhill. Especially once you get past 45, you start falling apart.
Ha! Thanks. So I pretended she wasn’t talking to me and went about my business. Now, here at 46, I am remembering.
We have some extra funds in our use it or lose it FSA account, so I decided to get my right knee looked at by an orthopedist.
The embarrassing back story.
When I was 16, my dog broke his leash and ran away. He was always a little befuddled by freedom and we had a deep yard. I called him out of the back 40 from the front of the yard and he came running at top speed toward me. He kept running. He ran me over. My witnessing brother still claims it was one of his funniest memories ever.
Months went by and my knee wasn’t recovering from the collision, so my mom took me to a doctor. While the fall aggravated it, my cartilage, the chondral tissue, wasn’t really right in the first place.
It has bothered me off and on my whole life, most recently on. My oncologist told me that chemo can accelerate arthritis, but I thought I’d get it checked again, to make sure there wasn’t something else happening. (nudge nudge wink wink, fellow cancer-ites. “something else.”)
Aren’t they pretty?
Somewhat comforting to know because of course the dark cloud of fear never really dissipates, that it’s all the same as when I was 16, just plus 30 years and yes, the degeneration from cancer treatment. The doc suggested an anti-inflammatory shot then some PT.
You know I’m an invincible warrior since cancer, but HOLY COW that was a big needle. And by the night, I couldn’t walk. I barely slept, awoke with a headache, missed work, and asked the doc for pain meds.
Funny story. This was a new doctor, so they prescribed me a non-narcotic kind, probably in case I was displaying drug-seeking behaviors.
Sidebar: There is a lot to be said about addiction and cancer. Writing more about it has been on my list, but this is an excellent piece from the Cincinnati Enquirer. I loved it so much that I emailed the writer as soon as I read it.
Imagine this: Your life is humming along and you’re hit with a health crisis, perhaps a serious injury from a car accident, a series of kidney stone attacks or a surgery. Maybe you get cancer and face a battery of severe treatments.
It’s a near certainty in today’s health care system that you will be prescribed pain medication.
Your condition might force you to miss work for a month or two. You might feel a little sorry for yourself at times. You might be bored. At some point, the physical pain and emotional pain might get a little blurred, and, it turns out, the pills work pretty well for both.
So, just to be clear, when I was undergoing treatment, especially in the end of radiation therapy, I was taking a lot of pain meds. Over the course of that year, I was given everything, up to and including morphine. But when I was done, I was done. Not a twinge of craving. I have seen addiction up close and for whatever reason, I have been spared that gene. I don’t know why, but I am grateful.
So I scoffed at their little non narcotic pain medication, Tramadol. I felt a little defeated because I read it has an SSRI-ish effect (like Sertraline). But they prescribed it and I took it. I felt better and super-goofy. When the pain started coming back later that night, I took two more.
I woke in the morning with a pounding headache, feeling flushed, and off-kilter. Then the vomiting started. I missed another day of work and was shaky for two more days. I was thinking it was the steroid shot. So Saturday night, the knee pain came back and I took a half a dose of Tramadol.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 6 am with a pounding headache and proceeded to vomit until 8:00 that night.
Oh dear god. The whimpy baby pain reliever took me out more than CHEMOTHERAPY.
The Tramadol has been banished, I’m telling all my doctors to keep it away from me. Never have I encountered a bad reaction to a medication before.
And how’s my knee? Well, I felt a lot of improvement for a few days. Today, it’s cold as Dante’s 9th layer and it’s achy again. It seems that in my warped desire to protect my knee, I’ve managed to weaken my quad, so I’m doing exercises through a physical therapist to strengthen that. They’re confident it will be better by Christmas.
My brain, you ask? The rare zap still and I am occasionally overcome by emotional incontinence. Audra McDonald singing Climb Ev’ry Mountain last week was my latest inexplicable outburst. That woman’s got pipes.
Truly, it was the only part of that NBC spectacle worth watching. Carrie Underwood is a terrible actress who keeps getting in the way here, but I’m choosing to believe she was overcome by the sheer amazement of it all as well.
Most of all, I stopped counting how long it’s been since I quit the Zoloft, but if you must know, it’s been 38 days.
Moral of the story #1: Arthritis, while painful and a real bummer, wasn’t nearly as bad as my quest to get rid of it.
Moral of the story #2 (from my brother, the same who watched me bowled over by a 50 pound dog 30 years ago): Maybe next year if you have money left over, your husband should get something fixed.