Friday, January 10, 2014

Something new

Last Friday, I was lying on the ultrasound table again. It felt like déjà vu . . . x3? 4? 5? How many times have I been there?

Let me fill in the gaps. Back in the spring, after my second chemo treatment, my right forearm began to ache. Not sure if it was a side-effect of all the cross-word puzzles I was doing while resting in bed, I decided to give it a few days. When it didn’t improve, I called the chemo clinic and spoke with the head nurse.

He asked a few questions over the phone. Since my arm wasn’t red, swollen, or warm to the touch, he didn’t think I had anything to worry about. It didn’t sound like deep vein thrombosis.

But a night or two later, when I rubbed the crook of my arm, I felt something hard ~ like the tendon you can feel at the back of your knee. That didn’t seem right . . . especially since my left arm didn’t feel like that at all. Then I took a closer look at my right arm, and could see a faint pink line travelling down toward my hand. That scared me.

The next morning, I called the chemo clinic and said, “I want someone to take a look at this. When can I come in?” They said I could come right then.  

After seeing several nurses and my oncologist, I was scheduled for an ultrasound on my arm that very day. (This was another startling reminder of God’s gracious control ~ but that’s an even more complex story.)

The ultrasound revealed, much to everyone’s surprise, that I did indeed have a blood clot ~ a long one, extending from mid-forearm past the bend in my elbow. “That means you’ll have to be on blood thinners until the end of chemo,” my oncologist said. And the nurse asked, “How do you feel about needles?” What she meant was, “You’ll have to give yourself a shot in the stomach every day. Can you handle that?”

Well, I wasn’t crazy about it. But one thing I’ve learned is this: you do what you have to do. After a couple of training sessions, I was able to do it on my own. I figured, there are other people who do this all the time. It just became part of my day (the yuckiest five minutes of my day, admittedly, but part of my routine nonetheless).

I survived giving myself nearly 100 injections. Coming to the end of them was almost as exciting as the end of chemo itself! And my oncologist was convinced that the clot was gone.

But throughout my radiation treatments this fall I found that my arms would fall asleep when I was holding a book or tablet while lying in bed. Then, in November, my hand fell asleep while I was knitting. This got worse as Christmas approached. 

Once the holiday rush was past and we were settling in at home, I called my doctor’s office for advice. I was beginning to think I was dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome, but I couldn’t shake the fear that that nasty old blood clot was still hanging around and cutting off circulation. 

So last week I saw both the nurse practitioner and my family doctor, and had another ultrasound on my arm. Praise the Lord, the ultrasound revealed no trace of the blood clot! This brought me peace of mind. But now my doctor was leaning toward the idea of carpal tunnel syndrome, and her first recommendation was for me to stop knitting. 

My heart sank. For two years now I’ve been working on making afghans for my kids; I’m almost finished with the third, and have just one more to go. I queried, “How long?” and told her about my projects. Then, unable to hold back the tears, I said, “I know it sounds silly, but from an emotional standpoint, it’s really important for me to finish them.”

With kindness, she assured me that she thought it was a beautiful thing ~ not silly ~ but we just need to see if we can get my arm healed.

So on the way home, I had another wrestling match with God. Am I back to “my hopes, my dreams, my plans”? If He wants me to take longer on this project, am I okay with that? What if He wants me to give it up altogether? Can I trust that He has it all under control ~ that He may even have a bigger plan in mind? Yes. Okay, Lord. I surrender.

I’m waiting now for the hospital to call and set up an EMG test to confirm the diagnosis (and severity) of carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve tried wearing a wrist splint and giving myself bio-feedback, and I’ll meet with my doctor again on Monday

This is going to be a never-ending journey, I can see. Just when I think I have one lesson learned, I find out that I need to learn it all over again in a different context. But the joy is that God keeps working on me!

[If anyone has experience with carpal tunnel syndrome, I’d love to read your story or suggestions below.]

1 comment:

  1. Anne -

    I have had carpel tunnel surgery on both of my hands... I couldn't write on the board for a long time. I had one done when I had my first surgery for cancer... and the second one done much later... Now there isn't a problem with either of them... I hope that yours will go as you desire. But you have it figured out... Thanks for sharing...