Still dead, I should think

Today, I took the dogs biking; visited a sick neighbor in the hospital; got another neighbor to take me to pick up my computer (Peggy had the van); and went to appointments with two doctors and a physical therapist. Tonight, one of my three lodges holds its biweekly meeting. I had rather stay home and rest, but I feel duty bound to go, it being a small lodge and me being an officer.

I haven’t written about my health issues lately. When I last wrote, I said that my fifth cervical vertebra is not malignant. That’s the good news; the bad news is that it’s dead (osteonecrotic in doctor jargon). No one knows why it is dead, but I’m supposed to have another MRI in February to see how it is doing (still dead, I should think). Now, I am having appreciable pain in another vertebra halfway down my back, and the first doctor I saw today (my internist) speculated that it too might be dead. I didn’t ask if he anticipates another biopsy based upon the results of the MRI he ordered because the answer seemed obvious. Besides, he looked so bummed on my behalf that I didn’t want to make things harder for him than they already are. As silly as this sounds, there is some truth to it.

I told the internist that my shoulders are doing well enough that I would like to give physical therapy a new try with a new therapist. He wrote out an order, and I saw Chris four hours later on a cancellation. He spent a solid hour testing my strength, sensation, and range of motion, and predicted significant disability if things continue as they are. This came as no surprise. He wants to work on my posture and on improving strength and flexibility in my upper neck and shoulders. This came as no surprise either; I have been tackling these problems on my own.

Later, I had my second visit with an orthopedist who only performs non-surgical treatments. Since every other orthopedist I’ve ever seen loves to cut people open, I don’t know if his is a heartfelt position or if he is simply a klutz with a scalpel. I wouldn’t have even seen him following my appointment with the physical therapist if he hadn’t been expecting me. He sent me home with literature about something called prolotherapy. I don’t know much about it, but I wasn’t impressed with what he told me or with his snap diagnosis of superior-cava-something-or-other.

He was the third orthopedist I have seen about my shoulder problems, and all three gave me different diagnoses. I have also seen two neurologists, and each of them gave me a different diagnosis as well. You always hear about the importance of getting a second opinion. I’ve had five. Some were reached—and treatments accordingly prescribed—so fast that I hardly had time to sit down. My last neurologist (the one who did my neck biopsy) literally recommended a second surgery only to run from her office while I was at the scheduling desk to tell me she had changed her mind. I give her credit for having the guts to make herself look bad.

So, you might wonder, why have I seen five doctors about one problem? Do I just really like doctors and want to support them financially as best I can; or am I hoping for ever more prescriptions for ever stronger dope; or am I just entirely too hard to please? Well, I’ve been referred around some, and that accounts for the two neurologists. As for the orthopedists, I left one because she thought my shoulder problem was arthritis, and I didn’t believe her because my shoulders started hurting at the same time and practically overnight. I then went to second orthopedist, and he recommended surgery; so I went to the third orthopedist in hope of finding a non-surgical solution. During all this running in and out of doctor’s offices, I discovered that my backbone is falling apart.

Hence, I am here, now, today, hurting in my back, neck, and shoulders, and feeling quite drained by it all, and really not wanting to take my bike out into the cold night air to go to lodge… I wish I could believe there is going to be a happy end to it all, but I don’t. At least not at the moment, although I keep plugging away as best I can, there being nothing else I can do.