Bones. Part II.
Part I of this post was written exactly eight days before I was admitted to the hospital with a large cancerous mass in my chest. For those of you who are new to the party, my most recent health ailment has not been my first this year.
In February, I took a tumble skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa and shattered my left radial head. A small bone at the end of the forearm that connects to the rest of the elbow. It’s the bone that is responsible for rotating your wrist, and of course, helps move your elbow back and forth.
I ended up having a 5-hour emergency surgery where they attempted to piece the tiny pieces of my elbow back together with screws and glue. I’ve since consulted with three surgeons about the injury, and all of them say it’s the worst radial head fracture they’ve seen.
That was my first time ever being int he hospital, ever having surgery, and ever having something wrong with what I thought was my otherwise perfectly healthy body.
The surgeon knew it was a long shot trying to piece together my bones, but he was hopeful my health and age would work in my favour. Problem is, it didn’t. Five months after the accident and my bones still hadn’t healed. They were actually deteriorating!
Apart from what the X-Rays and CT scans showed, I wasn’t making much progress in physiotherapy either. I still couldn’t straighten my arm or bend it up to my shoulder again, and I could only rotate my hand to face my body, and not up to the ceiling like you’re supposed to.
My surgeon in Moncton wanted to take a slightly more radical approach – remove the bone altogether. It was just a mess of broken bones and screws anyways, I might have a better chance at getting mobility back without it. A prosthesis was out of the question because I am so young.
I really hated the idea of more surgery, of removing a piece of my skeleton. By this point I’d become frustrated and tired with the injury. It had already forced me out of my job as a personal trainer and took away my ability to do my favourite activities. Hell, I had trouble even washing my face with it.
After consulting with other doctors and doing some of my own research, I ended up deciding to go with the radial head excision. My progress had stalled to a point where I was still considered non-functional, so why not? My surgical consult was scheduled for July 6th and I expected to go under the knife again sometime at the end of that month.
But then, the cancer reared it’s ugly head.
Any pending surgeries have been put on hold until the cancer is gone. I actually ran into my orthopaedic surgeon while waiting to go into the OR for my lymph node surgery, and I kind of felt like asking him if he wanted to just hang around and slice into my other arm while they were at it.
In terms of mobility, it’s still stuck. I was going to physio three times a week, but haven’t been since I went into hospital. It’s something I’d like to start up again soon if I’m allowed!
Pain is still on and off. This injury was an incredibly painful one, and sometimes it still flares up. But now the pain is just added to the chorus of the other chemo-induced pains happening all over my body.
I will say, now that I’m no longer so intensely focused on my arm, the severity of the injury doesn’t bother me as much. Before, the idea of living with limited mobility forever and ever agonized me. But cancer has certainly put that into perspective. So what if I can’t twist my wrist to pull a pan out of the oven? Christ, at least I’m healthy enough to be baking!
The cancer has also given me a slight peace of mind over the cause of the injury. Even though it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when the cancer started growing, the doctors say it is very possible the cancer is the reason why I broke my arm so badly and why it never proceeded to heal. Lymphoma is a blood cancer after all, related to leukemia which starts in the bones. My cancer didn’t start growing until it got into the lymph system, but those cells actually originated in my bone marrow. I’m convinced I had a “cancer growth spurt” in January, which not only caused my accident in February, but was also exacerbated by the accident itself.
So that is the latest update in the never-ending saga that is my arm injury. My gimpy left elbow actually now has a friend in my gimpy right arm. I’m still recovering from having a lymph node removed under my right arm and moving on that side is limited and painful as well.
I still intend to have the radial head removed someday, but these days I’m not so upset about it. If anything, I’m thankful for the lessons and experiences from this injury, because without them, fighting cancer would have been a much larger burden to bear.