Fractured Rib – chapter 2

After all of my treatment was done. I focused on getting my strength and energy back. I went hiking with friends and joined a Cancer Rehab Group. They are so much fun, really pushed me and let me box! I also got to be on their website, in the marketing pamphlets and on a billboard! I got a new job. One that allows me to work to live not live to work. During my cancer journey, I did not have a nurse navigator or advocate guiding me. I figured it out by myself, navigating a complicated healthcare system. I found programs where I qualified for financial assistance, processed applications and caught billing errors. My education and career path in health information helped tremendously. There were times when even I was confused and I did this stuff for a living, I couldn’t imagine how confusing and scared patients must have been with no healthcare understanding. I volunteered more with patient advocacy efforts in my community. Nevada Cancer Coalition, National Patient Advocacy Foundation and ACS Cancer Action Network. I was fortunate to be nominated to represent Nevada on Patient Advocacy Hill Day in D.C. and have recently accepted ACS CAN 2nd District Ambassador.

July 17th 2013, was my first day back to work after surgery. I had my first breast reconstruction procedure which took me out of work for a week. By lunchtime I was experiencing this incredible pain on my left side towards my back. I had been taking pain meds for a week so who knows how long this particular pain had been there. I just thought I over-did-it on my first day back. SHOCKER right? I went home, took some pain meds and the next day, same thing. Over the following week this pain was not getting better, only worse. I toughed it out for another week knowing I had my 1 year Radiology Oncology (rad onc) follow-up.

I met with Dr. Legarza (aka The Nuker) and we decided on a chest CT. I worked in a hospital and was able to get in that day. She called me later that night and asked what I had been doing to cause a rib fracture? I explained I had been migrating from my bed to my chair as I was covered in bruises having just had surgery. Well, since there was no explanation as to how my rib broke and there was some soft tissue swelling that was inconclusive (…surgery 3 weeks prior), we ordered a PET/CT just to make sure everything was ok. PET/CT happened on July 31st for those of you wondering about dates.

ALL OK! Just a rib fracture and it should heal in 6-8 weeks and I was supposed to take it easy. Which I did cuz it hurt a lot and I was tired of taking percocet.

In September, I dragged a case of wine all over Vegas and had no pain, I went to Ottumwa to celebrate my mom’s 60th birthday and had no pain, I hiked the Hunter Creek Trail by my house and did not experience any fractured rib pain. I was doing the laundry and the simple motion of pulling clothes out the washer, twisting to throw them into the dryer caused a painful pop and I was down for 2 days. I requested another RX for percocet and The Nuker said this would take some time and to be patient.

Weeks and months would go by and the rib pain would come and go with no rhyme or reason. I took a nap on my couch and woke up in excruciating pain. I reached for the remote in the middle of the night and caused another injury. The bone pain was sometimes dull and achy to full on flare -ups thus requiring me to stay in bed high on pain medication. It never hurt to breath but coughing, sneezing and hiccuping would sure cause a cuss word or two. I was living my life in constant caution, losing touch with my friends, not able to do anything fun for fear of hurting my rib again.

I was seeing my oncologist  and we ordered a nuclear bone scan in November 2013. Results showed inflammation consistent with a rib fracture.  Over the holidays, the pain was off and on with shorter periods of intense rib pain and longer periods of healing (at least that’s what I called it).

1st week of February, follow-up with Dr. Reddy (aka the Blood Guy), Labs all looked great. It had been almost a month since I had rib pain, so we thought I was finally on the healing side of things but decided to do a Nuclear Bone Scan just to make sure. Results showed: persistent increase tracer uptake in area of reported history of rib fracture. We talked about exploring all other tests before moving to a biopsy as both of us just weren’t sure what was going on and I reeeeaally didn’t want my rib to be taken out. My labs have all  great for months, nothing indicating metastatic disease etc. So, The Blood Guy wanted to collaborate with his colleagues and community peers before we moved forward.

I had been feeling great and over Valentines Day weekend, Shauna and I were taking the boys to visit family and play tourist in Southern California. And par for course the road trip there really caused some intense rib pain and it only got worse after that. I called The Blood Guy upon our return and lost it. I hurt so much , had missed work again and was I over it. I wanted something done now!

On February 25, 2014 I had a stat CT w/wo contrast. Result: large tumor embedded within the rib bone 9 CM in length X 2.5 CM in diameter. Some soft tissue involvement worrisome for metastatic disease.

ooohhhhh….so, that’s why my rib broke all those months ago and has never healed!