November 6, 2009

So it started, O Best Beloveds, last Friday, I think. I’ve been having some on/off pain just under my right ribs for some weeks now; it started after a coughing fit where I literally felt something go “pop”. I figured I just cracked a rib or something, and let it go. (I know, how very stoic, but there’s nothing else to do for cracked ribs.) As I said, the pain came and went, but since my coughing is now all but gone, it wasn’t an issue.

But that Friday–I think–I got a bad pain in my right back, just about below the ribs, in the muscle. And it got worse. And worse. By Saturday day I was walking around hunchbacked, pressing into the spot with my hand as I did so, and having to sit up when I sat down, with a heating pad. Then in the evening, it felt like I was being stabbed at intervals with two sharp daggers, one on each side of my spine. There was a lot of “OW” going on, and sometimes it crossed the line from “Oh, my, that hurts” to “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD THAT HURTS.” Emergency room? I couldn’t move to go there, plus I figured they couldn’t do much other than admit me (no, thanks). Call Dr. W? Won’t he just send me to the emergency room?

After lots o’ pain pills, I got some sleep. I managed to get to Quinn’s reading in Larchmont, and figured things were better. Nope. Same escalation of pain as night encroached. I ended up sleeping upright in one of those Relax the Back contraptions. By the time I got up, Steve had me booked to see Dr. W. at 1pm. At first, I felt okay but by the time we got there, I was howling in pain again. Mixed in was fear; hey, those spots? On the back? Kidneys. My, what could be causing pain in my kidneys? All kinds of things, and none of them good.

But fret not! Dr. W. said. It’s just cancer! As I began to freak, he hasten to clarify; old cancer, as in, your spine doesn’t have any pain, and we know from the falling numbers that tumors have been disappearing, and when a tumor departs the bone, it leaves a hole. He thinks it’s just the hole pinching on a nerve, though of course he wants PET and other scans to prove this. But first, he said, we have to take care of your pain, and right now. As if I don’t naturally want to hug him all the time.

So I got a dose of Ativan and Decadron as steroidal relaxants, and a prescription for Diladid (“Drugstore heroin!” I said, perhaps too gleefully. “That’s what killed Danny Gans!” My medical staff looks at me, puzzled. “Big Vegas performer? Overdosed not long before Michael Jackson?” Nothing. [“This speaks of a poor allotment of time management, if they don’t know that,” said Quinn.])

Between my cocktail and the Diladid, I woke up the following morning feeling great. But did you know Diladid is short-acting? Like, it can wear off in two hours? Yep, pretty soon I was knocking it back all night. And Wednesday night I nearly passed out again from sudden onset of pain. Luckily, we were already going to see Dr. W. Thursday, where I demanded my new steroidal cocktail, and was also switched to Oxycontin (“Hillbilly heroin!” I exclaimed, while Steve kept trying to get me to keep my enthusiasm for this down, finding it just a touch unseemly.)

But my relief that all this may not portend anything dire vanished when I saw Dr. W.’s face. Seriously, play poker with the man; you will clean up. From his woebegone expression, I guessed the numbers (blood was drawn on Monday) were up. Yup.

Last month: 1400-something.
This month: 2200-something.

No worries! though, cheered Dr. Optimist. We are going to immediately switch you from estrogen to Femara, and those numbers are going to drop again! Really? I said. Because, you know. And for how long? And then what? He needs to get to San Antonio, he said, annual CancerCon, in mid-Dec, because he will come back with a whole new book of treatment for me. If, you know, we need it. That’s fine, I said, mentally calculating. Mid-December gets me through another planned trip to New Orleans. And here, I was just about to write “I can live with that” and then I snickered; well, yes, as it happens. A good reminder why one should try to avoid using cliches.

Okay, so that’s all a bummer. Consequently, I will follow this up with a feel-good email about the food and music and friends orgy in NOLA two weeks ago. It’s much more fun. Look for that over the weekend. And sometime next week we will know what that PET and Monday MIR have to say for themselves.

Also, I want to say that I have been dreadful about responding to lovely, supportive emails, which is awful of me, because they help me so so much. I really hope I haven’t offended anyone. It’s just that with my left arm (still not improved) it’s harder to type and I’ve been really slacking off. So I’m sincerely sorry I haven’t responded as you deserve, individually, but know that I so appreciate it that you take time, wit and sympathy for me. An email from one of you is like that incredible mac and cheese we had the other night at CUT Steakhouse, which is possibly the best mac n’ cheese ever. It’s a recipe they worked on for two years.

Some things are worth striving for,