Saturday, December 29, 2012

24hours post diagnosis: Feeling Kinda Lucky

Mulling over the news these last 24 hours doesn't leave me feeling any less fearful of what it means to not be able to put any pressure on my knee for two months including walking. But I do see that I am really lucky in the timing. I feel like I tend to get incredibly lucky. When I tore my right ACL playing soccer four years ago, it was 9 days before my mom's fall break. So I was able to arrange everything and have my mom fly out to take care of me for a week after surgery, which I pushed the insurance company, doctor's office, etc, etc to arrange only nine-days post injury. That way my mom was able to wake me up every four hours to take narcotics and change out my recirculating ice container and I healed very quickly.

The cartilage in my knee could have been torn as long ago as when I tore my left ACL thriteen years ago and was just a ticking time bomb, waiting to fall away. The back of my knee first felt loose last April. It didn't become painful until around the time of the Chicago half marathon at the end of July. At that point I couldn't squat down without a lot of pain, but I thought it must be a pulled muscle or something. My leg muscles have tightened up since then to protect or 'guard' it. It feels similar to when I tore my ACL in terms of how tight my muscles have become and that guarding response.

So if I hadn't run enough miles to get it to start falling away now or whatever else I did, then it could have fallen away at any other point during my career. But this is the year where I need to sit still on my butt and study. It is perfect! Next year, actually beginning in July, through my residency (the next 6.5 years) I will need to be up-down, on my feet, running around the hospital, beating attendings to the meetings. Having surgery and being unable to walk would not be an option. Which would mean that I would have to let something that is 100% fixable for the rest of my life go. Then I wouldn't be able to run without tremendous pain for up to 7 years at least! And the pain would get worse due to increasing damage to the bone without treatment.

When my mom got sick I got incredibly lucky as well. I had great support from Montana State, unreal even, as I took off the semester at the drop of a dime to go be with my mom. Also my background was perfect between a year in biochemistry and two years studying neuropharmacology of stroke treatment. So the teachers there let me put together a research project on the neuropharmacology of glioblastoma treatment (though glioblastoma was not the type of brain tumor my mom had) AND allowed me to finish my classes at a distance. This gave me time to put my 100% into researching my mom's brain tumor and e-mail the top people who were publishing about treating my mother. When I brought her to the National Cancer Institute to meet with Howard Fine's group, who by far had the most experience in treating gliomatosis cerebrii type II (my mom's type of brain cancer), I was offered a job in radiation oncology by the head of the department based on how informed I appeared on my mom's case... in the middle of a recession!

This meant that I got to have a job with understanding people while taking care of my mom, who had taken care of me when I couldn't walk. I got to have a job while being there for my mother in the middle of the night the way she had taken care of me! Once again, despite misfortune, I have come out incredibly lucky. I can get treatment AND do my job... sit on my butt and learn all day. Wow, I am lucky the cartilage broke off now instead of half a year from now, so I can get treatment and make a full recovery. Plus I now know that I can run a 1:22 half marathon without cartilage in my knee.... I can only guess what I will be able to do once I have full capabilities again. Now I just have to get through the next 2 months of not being able to put pressure on my leg while living in a second story apartment....

1 comment:

  1. That's the spirit. Olympic trials here we come even with med school and all that jazz :)