My Personal Cancer Journey — Barbara & I, #4

Another striking difference between Barbara & I revolves around pain. Barbara had no pain when she was first diagnosed — her cancer was detected because she had a persistent cough which prompted a chest X-ray.

Pain was my first symptom — not pain in the chest or difficulty breathing which might have been expected with lung cancer, but pain in my right arm, from the elbow into the shoulder and upper back.

Barbara’s pain developed later, in July and August. Her pain, it turns out, was localized in her lower vertebrae, where¬†metastasized¬†tumors were discovered during a PET scan. I also have a small tumor in a vertebra (Thoracic – 10) but it has not been a source of pain up to now.

My pain miraculously disappeared almost immediately when I began taking the Tarceva pill. Barbara’s pain was never controlled — she was in pain throughout her ordeal, right up to her death, even though several treatments were administered to address her pain. For example, she was given marijuana, in the form of candy, which was first suggested to increase her appetite (it didn’t) but her doctors thought that the “weed” might also help control her pain, to no avail. She also had a pump surgically inserted in her lower back which was supposed to deliver pain medication constantly, but it never worked either. In addition, she was taking Advil and Oxycodone (Percocet). At the end, of course, she was administered high doses of morphine. This happened when she moved to Hospice. As a result, she was never conscious from the evening of October 13, 2012 until her death on October 15th.

Management of pain continues to be a major concern in cancer treatment. Pain changes everything!

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