Tears quietly washed down her young cheeks. She held our her doll to me, a piece in each hand. The dog had taken it in mind to play with my little girl’s “Pammy,” and it had not reflected well on the doll. It was now in my daughter’s hands, the body in one hand and the head in another. “Can you fix her, Daddy?” she said, choking on a sob. I took the parts of Pammy and surveyed them.
“The doctor is in, little girl.” I told her. Her big eyes looked at me, showing a combination of fear and trust while I wrestled with the pieces. It took a little doing –with the help of a dinner knife and a number of choice expletives. I did manage to succeed, and handed Pammy back to my daughter. She hugged it to her and then squeezed it. Normally when the doll is squeezed it made a ‘wah’ noise. Now when pressured it said “eck.” My daughter grinned widely and exclaimed that Pammy had learned her first word, and ran off to show her mother.
I listened nervously as my doctor explained the results of the MRI I’d just had performed. The damage seemed extensive to me based on what he’d been saying. There was significant deterioration of the bone in my L section vertebrae and I had three ‘slipped discs’ (herniated discs) as well. That certainly explained the pain I’d been feeling in my back. The MRI was limited to the lumbar area, but the doctor suspected that I would see similar damage in my neck, shoulders and hips, all of which are pain areas. I pointed at the screen and asked “Can you fix this?” I flashed on my daughter and her doll.
“Well, normally a slipped disc –herniated disc, will improve on its own. Avoid putting weight on it, reduce movement, stretching, take it real slow. In your case though is a complication of the cancer. Your bone deterioration is unique, kind of like the Myeloma you present.”
“Well, yes but no. We’re seeing exaggerated loss of bone material in contrast to most people, even non-secretors. At the same time, your bloodwork looks like the bloodwork of a healthy adult male, very good for sixty-five. As you know for sure, we had to find your Multiple Myeloma by multiple scans and a little drilling.”
“BVut…so, can you? Fix it?”
“Well, there are a number of approaches, but they’re problematic for you. You have three discs in a row that are damaged, a normal fusion treatment would create some serious range of motion issues. I suggest that we approach the symptom and do some more watching. You might want to consider a pain pump.”
“I think I already have a few of those.” I said, waving towards the computer screen. On it was an xray of my pelvis.
“Let me show you what I’m talking about.” He turned to the computer and brought up Google Images and typed ‘pain pump’ into the search box. The screen filled with rows of tiny images and he selected one.”It’s a small resevoir that we put under the skin. As you see, small tubes run back to the spine. It puts the pain medication right where it stems from and it’s very effective. It’s refilled through an IV port. One of the great things is that it takes a lot less pain medication because its so directed.”
“Um, you mean you would run little hoses over to my spine, into my neck and shoulders? Down to my hips?”
“No, no. We’d just direct it to the most vulnerable –painful areas.” I gave that some thought.
“I don’t know. My hips and shoulders and neck can be just as noisy as my spine, painwise. I worry that I would end up with only part of the pain dealt with, or how to properly dose myself. I’d have this pump sending morphine to my back getting multiplied by the oral morphine I would take for the other pain.” I mused aloud.
“That’s not really an issue, actually.” he smiled. “There are points to consider, it’s true. But I think that at some point we’ll have to look at either a more directed attack on the symptoms, or look to curative possibilities. Until then we can continue as we have been and keep and eye on things.”
I was hoping that my doctor could whip out a dinner knife and fix my back the way I fixed my daughter’s doll. Okay, maybe better than that. But there isn’t any daddy magic for some things. We just have to accept what we get and work with it.