Symptoms and Side Effects

As I said I would, I called the oncologist and talked to a nurse practitioner. The tinkling (I can’t type tinGling for some reason…) in my arms is probably a side effect of chemo – neuropathy. The joint pain is probably a side effect of the drug I’m taking in the study – Exemestane (very similar to Tamoxifin).

“Do you have any neck or back pain?”

“Yes, but I had back pain before all of this and during a massage this week, the therapist said my left shoulder, upper back and chest is full of knots, very tight.” My natural stance has been to hold my shoulder forward to protect my left side. Yoga and a massage this week have made that side sore, in a good way, stretching those muscles and releasing my shoulder from my breast.

“Hmmm. I’m a little concerned about your neck and back pain, but it does sound muscular, especially since it was bothering you before. Let me look at your chart. Estrogen positive is good. Only in one lymph node is good. Since you have numbness in both arms, that probably means neuropathy. If this was something going on with your bones, numbness would probably be in just one arm.”

“What are the symptoms? Let’s just say it: for bone cancer.”

“Yes, the symptoms are very similar to the side effects of chemo and the medications. Just for peace of mind, we could do a bone scan. I think that’s the thing to do, just to be sure.”

So, for peace of mind, Monday morning I’m going in for a bone scan. I have a dye injected at 9:30 a.m.; then I have 2 ½ hours of free time while the dye makes its way to my bones; then I go back and lie perfectly still for an hour while the scan is done. She sounded apologetic for me having to lie still for an hour in the middle of the day. Couldn’t we all use an hour of lying still in the middle of the day?

A year ago I had the mammogram that found the starburst in my breast. I had my first follow-up mammogram Tuesday, no results yet. I visit my surgeon next Thursday for a follow-up. I have a follow-up visit with my oncologist next week for the study I’m in. I also have my monthly injection to shut down hormones. I’ll be ready for the long weekend.

While I’m guiding my brain to think this is all precautionary, there are moments I’m spinning. For me, the anniversary of the start of all this, and this coming week of doctor’s appointments is reminiscent of past weeks. And for others. Hearing about the Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis of a young mother this week. Waiting to hear when and where my 2-year-old niece will have a small non-cancerous tumor removed from her pituitary gland. Waiting to see if a new medicine will help release the pressure in Dad’s eye so he will regain clear vision. Knowing a good friend is recovering from a stroke.

Anticipation. Glorious when planning a trip, a special day out, a visit with friends. Agonizing when the plan is out of your immediate control, and even more so when you want to help someone else, but don’t know what you can do.

Staying strong and adding to my pocketful of prayer,