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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Welcome to my Pity Party

So, here’s the thing. I am 67 years old and healthy. I have no heart disease or diabetes. My liver and kidneys work just fine, thank you. I’m not plagued with headaches like so many others. Organically, I’m in good shape, unless, of course, you count that I’m 20 pounds overweight.
The problem is that my infrastructure is crumbling. I have a “slipped disc” at the top of my lumbar spine. It has caused me to have something called spinal stenosis, which, according to Mayo Clinic’s web site is “a narrowing of the open spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine to your arms and legs.” 
I’ve been plagued with back spasms off and on since I was in my 30s. Every now and then, I get down in the back and have to take muscle relaxers and pain killers and prednisone to reduce swelling and pressure on the nerve that causes the spasms. About three days of treatment was all that was required to get over it. It used happen once a year or so, but in the last few years things have gotten out of hand, and I’ve had many more frequent episodes. 
About three weeks ago, I started feeling lightening bolts shooting down behind my right knee. Some of them even went as far as the bottom of my foot, and that were doubtless a consequence of my spinal stenosis. I let it go for a week, thinking it was something that could be resolved by taking it easy and treating my back with respect and doing the stretching exercises I have been doing for years. I positioned a warm bed buddy at my back and an ice bag on my knee and watched old episodes of West Wing when I wasn’t showing up to write. I already had the muscle relaxers on hand, so I started taking them. It didn’t get better, so I went to see my back doctor’s PA. 
Well, he prescribed a six day course of methylprednisolone, (medrol dose pack) a steroid that blocks the substances in or bodies that cause inflammation. I took the medicine, along with the muscle relaxer and a non-opioid pain killer. (Opiods make me fuzzy and I don’t like them.) He suggested that, if this conservative approach to my discomfort didn’t work, I might consider having an epidural injection of steroids. I’m still weighing that idea in my head. 
I lay around like a slug for a few days, running hot and cold, as it were. The dose pack served mostly to kick my cardiac rhythm out of whack, and the lightening bolts continued. My back never has stopped hurting except when I am stretched out on the red leather chaise, which perfectly contours my back as to take pressure off it. The PVCs stopped almost immediately after I finished the steroids.
But about that time my other (left) knee swelled up and became painful. I’m not making this up. I didn’t fall on it or wrench it or run into a piece of furniture with it. I simply can’t point to an event that could have caused it. I spent several days on the sofa with a heated bed buddy at my back and an ice pack on my knee. The lightening bolts went away. One problem solved.
Trouble is, when I get up and do anything at all, and I mean anything, it swells and becomes painful again. And my back hurts—all the time. So yesterday, I went to see my knee doctor’s PA. He ordered some x-rays that suggested a space in the joint that shouldn't be there, that maybe I have a tendon tear. Great. I had one in that knee about eight years ago, and it was successfully treated with an arthroscopic procedure to “trim it up and clean it out.”
Are you sick of this yet? Well, I don’t blame you but stand by because there’s more. The knee doctor’s PA scheduled an MRI for next week, put a brace on my knee and told me to continue with the muscle relaxers, and since I was getting no relief from the pain—in all its various places—he suggested I take two pan tablets rather than one. 
I did as I was instructed, and about an hour after I took the medicine, I started to itch, all over. No rash, just itching. My nose looks like Bill Clinton’s, I’ve rubbed it so much. I was like a worm in hot ashes, scratching all over and looking in the mirror every now and then for signs of a rash. 
And to add insult to injury, I couldn’t sleep. There I lay, warm bed buddy to my back, trying to go to sleep. When I had no success, I got up and watched some more West Wing, then went back to bed. Still sleep wouldn’t come. I dozed briefly, and when I woke and checked the clock, only a few minutes had passed. It was like that all night. And then there was the itching.
Finally at six o’clock this morning, I abandoned trying to sleep and decided to take a Benadryl for the itch. It worked. But my knee and back were still killing me. Exactly 12 hours after I took two pain pills, I took a single one. No itching but no pain relief either. What ever became of of Tylenol #3? It’s not too strong, and at least for me, doesn't cause itching.
So here I sit on my chaise, where I can write comfortably and birdwatch, heat to my back and ice to my knee, doing #continuouspractice to tell the tale. 
That’s the conclusion of my pity party. Thank you all for showing up and listening to my tale of woe. You see, I live alone and don’t have anyone except Honey to bother with this. And she’s pretty damned tired of my whining.