Wow how time flies when you are racing down the highway of life, motherhood, and multiple myeloma!
Life seemed to be cruising along quite well as I enjoyed the end of chemo treatment for now, and the beginning of school. To be honest it was really nice to send the kids back to school and have a little more peace and quiet at home to rest and recover from treatments.
Summer turned into fall as our family became consumed with sixth grade, ninth grade, and football, football, football. It has been good to get back into a routine, although I still struggle with the getting even the basics(cleaning, cooking, laundry) done around the house some days. I am told it will take a good six months or more to regain my energy and get the chemo out of my system.
This fall my husband coached my youngest son’s little league football team. They had a great time and took things pretty seriously; winning most of their games.
My fifteen yr. old son played on the high school freshman team. He played with heart and struggled with his size; as he is on the smaller side of most of his his team mates.
My 18 yr. old son finally got a job after searching half the summer. He is working for a freeway construction company. He drives to construction sites throughout the county collecting rock samples. He loads the samples in his brand new work truck (yea I’m somewhat jealous!) and takes them back to a lab for testing. For the last ten weeks he has been working the graveyard shift. This has been a major change for my extremely social son who basically eats, sleeps and then works 12-14 hr. a day,
My previous post gave you a glimpse of the highlights of becoming a new grandmother. It has been an amazing experience, and I am very lucky to live within a couple miles of this gorgeous growing baby and her parents.
So that has been a recap of life on my highway over the last few weeks. There have been many good things happening along the way, but I have definitely ran into a few speed bumps as far as my health goes.
I am learning that remission does not mean the end of “cancer concerns,” or lingering side effects. My body, mind, and soul have been through so much over the last two years and I have been somewhat naive in thinking that I would be able to bounce back more quickly.
Speed bump number one slowed me down right after all my major tests in August. My blood work all came back with good numbers but a PET scan revealed some over activity in the uterus—huh! My oncologist suggested I had an additional MRI on the pelvic region. He did not seem too concerned, I on the other hand “freaked!”
I celebrated my 46th birthday in the tunnel with some anxiety for another few days, but luckily the results showed nothing, nada, zip! I have got to learn to not let these things get to me so intensely. Who knows what would show up inside any of us if we were tested, scanned, and x-rayed too frequently with high powered, sensitive equipment. A case of indigestion could show up as your long lost twin or a nasty tumor if we rely and dwell on all this technology too much and too often. Does that make sense?
Several weeks later I ran into speed bump number two. Called ONJ. And what may you ask is that? Well I asked the same question as I began a monthly bone hardening infusion way back in December of 2008. A common part of MM treatment involves using a Bisphosphonate called Aredia or a Zometa to treat, fill in, or strengthen the bones which have been damaged by the cancer cells in the bone marrow. ONJ stands for Osteonecrosis of the jaw. I had read about this and questioned the oncologist about this side effect from Aredia. He explained that it was very rare and I should not have to worry about it. Well nearly two years later I’m worried about it!
I went to the Dentist about a month ago because I had a sore on my gum at the very back of my mouth that would not heal. He took x-rays-couldn’t see anything and referred me to a peridontist. By my appt., a small piece of bone had broke through the gums and I was diagnosed with ONJ. My elementary level of understanding of this means that the delicate balance of bone being built and then reabsorbed within the body is disturbed when long term use of bisphonsphonates are introduced. The bone growth in my jaw is a result of that. The dangerous part of this is when infection enters the scene. The bones of the jaw can become so infected that they die. This can be very painful and disfiguring. It is recommended that no heavy dental work or extractions be done for quite some time after taking Aredia. The good thing for me is that I have had very little pain. The bad thing is that I have a major cavity on my top back molar. The easy thing to do would be to just pull that baby out, however that is not possible right now so-lucky me- I went in to an endodontist to have a root canal on wednesday.
I hope I am not whinning too much or boring you with all the details, however I am letting you know that now might be a good time for a “commercial break.”mmm………….
Okay back to my story. So things were going quite well. I had prepped myself well. Brushed my teeth extra long, flossed twice, gargled mouthwash, and even watched a youtube video of the procedure. I was ready when I sat in the chair and the Dr. seemed very kind and gentle as he explained what he was doing.
The time seemed to be going down fast when all of a sudden I felt like I was drowning. My throat was stinging and with my my mouth propped wide open and stuffed with a rubber dam covering all of the teeth in my mouth, I motioned that I had to sit up RIGHT Now!! The nurse quickly removed everything out of my mouth and I started bleeding out of my nose and coughing up blood. This went on for a good twenty minutes. They kept shooting syringes of saline up the drilled out root canals into my sinus’ to get the blood flow to stop. This made me cough more and continue to bleed out of my nose. Pretty graphic Huh? It was disgusting. The Dentist said he had only had this happen once before with a patient and he really did not have a reason why. We looked at the x-rays and the root canals had come close but not entered the sinus. So there was really not a clear explanation. But you should have seen my face. I was swollen up on one side like a big red balloon. They nurse had injected about 2 cups of saline into the right sinus. After several minutes of more coughing and ice packs the Dentist asked if I wanted to finish up the procedure that day. Aaaa..Yes please!! I was not planning on coming back! So ten minutes later, extra strength tylenol, ice packs in hand, $900 down, and I was out the door.
Once again I became the patient battling a rare cancer, a younger woman with an older man’s disease, and the person with another rare side effect. The questions of “why me” have long faded away. Now my questions seem to be about understanding my health, my body, and multiple myeloma. It is a huge stretch for my chemically, chemo-treated mind.
Most of the time it is better to concentrate on all the good things, people, and blessings in my life. I may not be driving a shiny red sports car down my highway of life. My dusty, dented up body, or my “uniqueness” or “rareness” sometimes wears on me when I have to slow down over all these speed bumps, but it also provides me with some cynical humor, crazy adventures, and beautiful scenery along the way.
(And p.s. next blog I promise to talk about my new puppy instead of root canals.)