Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Another Possibility

Last night, right about at 4 am, I woke up again with pain in my leg. But I think I may have another idea as to the pain's cause.

About 15 months ago I had abdominal surgery. This was a deep and invasive procure that left an enormous scar. The scar is small potatoes in the scheme of things, though it still surprises me when I see it in the mirror. The incision, when open, was probably big enough to pass a cantaloupe through, easily.

When I awoke from the anesthesia I complained of numbness in the inner thighs, which the doctors originally attributed to normal post-operative stuff. But as months went by and I still couldn't feel anything in the thighs, they mentioned that there are many tiny nerves in the area where they had to operate, and likely a few of them were cut in the process. It was, they assured me, a delicate multi-hour procedure that involved 3 surgeons. And its fricking Mayo Clinic -- not Doctor Nick's Hollywood Upstairs Medical Center -- with one of the world's leading specialists in bladder cancer on the job. The nerve group in the area where they were operating ties into the inner thighs and -- if cut -- could indeed cause numbness there. I was told that this numbness would just likely be the way that it is. The implication was that its a small price to pay (without it they would not have been able to do the lifesaving surgery) and that it doesn't affect quality of life very much. And they're right. Until now.

I have gotten used to the numbness over the past year and happened to notice a few days ago that it is not as numb as it once was. It is not back to 100%, but it's definitely better. I feel that the pain in the left leg could be part of those nerves coming back to life, reattaching, or recovering from that trauma. When I really pay close attention when its at its worst, its not always a constant pain, but more like a shooting pain. This implies (at least to me) that it is neurological and possibly not bone related.

Oh: one more thing to add in, here: I tried the Tiger Balm patch yesterday on leg and back. The back seemed to improve by about 10-15%, which was very nice. Although the burning feeling from the Tiger Balm is a little distracting and makes it hard to forget about the back. Possibly its just that I was focusing more on the Tiger Balm than on the back pain, but it really seemed like I was able to sit in uncomfortable chairs at dinner without pain. Of course, that could just be the Oxy 15. Anyhow, not really a perfect scientific experiment, but one that I'm continuing again today. Heck: it's worth a buck to have some relief. I could do half-assed testimonials for them, with a quote like that.

But the Tiger Balm on the leg: not so good. I had it on for about 3 hours, and it seemed to progressively make the leg pain worse, feeling finally like I had my upper thigh in a hydraulic vice that was made of molten lava and operated by satan. The pain faded after I removed the patch (which I tried to stick on to my back with only limited success, the adhesive quickly loses stickiness). So, for whatever reason (and I have a feeling that doctors couldn't tell me why, either) the Tiger Balm aggravated the leg and soothed the back. Which -- perhaps scientifically, now -- implies that they are different kinds of pain, or at least come from different sources. It implies to me that the back pain is largely muscular (though it may have a bone/spine/disc origin) but the leg is either bone or neurological. 

Catching up to the rest of the story here, the leg pain *could* be those nerves regenerating or rebuilding or whatever they're doing in there. The plus side, if true, means that the pain is not cancerous. And having the beginnings of never-ending cancerous bone pain is a pretty bleak horizon to stare at. The downside of the nerve-ending hypothesis is that the pain may continue for an unspecified period of time, with no treatment that I am aware of to dull the pain... other than my pal Oxy.

Doing some research (the internet is a dangerous thing) it seems like the pain could also possibly be sciatica. BUT: The sciatic nerve runs down the back of the thigh. My pain is definitely on the front. So, my armchair self-diagnosis is currently neurological.

Perhaps Ironically, I saw an neurologist at Mayo last fall, who said that my back pain was not neurological. I'm meeting with 3 docs at may in a few weeks, none of which are a neurologist. Now, I do wish I had a meeting with a neurologist scheduled, as I have a feeling that the orthopedist is going to want to send me back to the neurologist for the leg pain. I'll call tomorrow and see if I can squeak in a neurologist visit, also.

It is still odd that the pain centers on the old bone break. And I do know that feeling well: it would sometimes ache a bit for a day or so when there was a storm or pressure change, for a few years after the break. It hasn't really troubled me at all in many years, and it has never been this painful, this consistently.

To further confuse the issue and disagree with myself, the theory of post-chemo pain does still make sense, also. There is documented evidence of old bone break pain after chemo (Jen was nice enough to dig some up for me).

More will be discovered at Mayo. And if not, I'll be highly frustrated and extremely discouraged. I'm still hopeful at the moment, of course, but expect a rant or two if I come back from Rochester with no better insight into the back and leg pain.


Eclector2 said...

I think you have done all that you can to put the pieces together and to hire the people who can give you the answers you are seeking. I know it is tempting to keep probing for the source of the pain but, unfortunately, you don't have the medical knowledge to fully understand it. I encourage you to try to put the probing on hold and just manage the pain until you get to Mayo where you will, hopefully, get the answers and the plan for how you go forward from here.

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