Cervicogenic Headaches

With cancer and cancer treatments there are more than enough challenges that can crop up in the patient’s life.  For my husband, he has definitely had his fair share.  When a new problem presents itself inevitably the mind goes right to the darkest place – fear that the cancer has spread.  This is not always the case.  The problem may be related to the cancer, but not necessarily mean that the cancer has spread.  Take for example the headache.  In my husband’s case his headaches have consistently increased over the last couple of weeks.  At the same time his mobility has been challenged due to his physical limitations and consequently his body has started to show the outcome of persistent pain.  His posture has changed dramatically.  His shoulders have rounded, his spine curved, his head droops forward.  He’s lost a good two, maybe three inches off of his height.  Throughout the last couple of months all of the family have commented on it, or more appropriately stated, nagged him about it.

So is there a correlation between the posture issue and the headaches?  I really do believe there is.  His headaches are textbook cervicogenic.  He has a rotator cuff injury which has been exacerbated by the use of a trapeze device over the bed to facilitate movement when lying down (mobility issues).  He has deteriorated discs in his thoracic spine that have contributed to his increased slouching (posture issues).  Add the two separate ailments together and it is bound to have a cumulative effect on his overall health – enter the headache.  So we have made a couple of positive responses to this.  First, in addition to a CT scan on Tuesday of this week to get an update on how his cancer is behaving, he is also going for a shoulder x-ray to see the exact issue with his shoulder – could be a corticosteroid injection will fix him up.  Second, he has started a series of small physio based exercises to release some of the tension in his neck.  He is far more mindful of his posture and this is the most important part of the response, to ensure he is aware of his posture so he can make those minor adjustments throughout the day.

The main thing we have to do is continue to stay focussed and positive.  Not every ache and pain means chemotherapy or radiation is required.  I write this in advance of the appointment on Tuesday, not knowing the outcome.  We won’t know the outcome until the 13th of January.  However, regardless of what the CT scan finds a little gentle exercise is not going to do any harm, and his increased awareness can do him a whole lot of good.

The Doctor Visits

Family is forever.

Family is forever.

Our GP stopped by yesterday, gloved and masked since she herself has been battling a bit of a bug.  My husband is paranoid about germs, always has been – he had on his mask.  It was quite comical looking at him, the doctor and my sister-in-law after she arrived – all masked up chatting away in the living room.  I felt totally secure, after all everyone was busy inhaling their own germs, what would I need a mask for?  Anyway, the doctor stated she thought that it was time for a visit since she hadn’t seen him for a few weeks.  Really she was there to do an emotional gauge.  Monday is CT Scan day and also my sister-in-law’s surgery day – both are heavy on everyone’s mind.

I notice a significant change in my sister-in-law, the nerves are showing – she’s pushing herself pretty hard but is obviously exhausted. Somehow she’s managed to stay remarkably upbeat which I thank her for, I know she’s doing this for her brother.  He’s worried about her so I know she’s trying to reduce his anxiety by staying as positive as she can.  Ask him if he’s anxious and he’ll say no that this is just another curveball in life – but I suspect he is and it is feeding into his headaches and extreme fatigue.

The doctor was here for about 45 minutes.  One of the things we discussed was the purpura and petechiae on his left leg.  In the last day or so it was looking a lot less angry and the swelling in the calf had started to come down. The doctor wanted us to know that with his platelets dropping after chemo it was possible that it could flare up again.  We need to ensure that the skin is well hydrated and that if there are any breaks in his skin to immediately start applying an antibiotic cream twice a day.   I have a feeling we will see our GP at the house again by the end of next week.  I think she recognized how high his anxiety level was and will check in after his chemo next Wednesday.

Regardless of how everyone is feeling we decided to plan a nice roast beef dinner for his sister.  She’s been hankering for one and so no problem – that’s easy to deliver.  We will do a traditional Sunday dinner with all the fixings – even if nobody eats it the table will still look nice and the house will smell great.

We need all the positive thoughts we can get – so send them our way.

Tomorrow

One small misstep and you can go through the ice.

One small misstep and you can go through the ice.

Tonight I go to sleep and wonder what tomorrow will bring.  Will it be a better day?  The day dragged along until finally it is over.  My husband had intermittent bouts of nausea that plagued him all day.  There are unspoken words that float between us when he has a day like this.  What does it mean?  Is it just a bad day or is it indicative of something else going wrong?

There’s no doubt that the blood clot has made us paranoid, it can’t help but do so.  At any time, until that thing is gone, he remains at risk.  As he went to bed he was complaining about pains in his stomach – not piercing pains, just a bellyache – like the ones he would get in the past when he took Tylenol #3.  Tylenol has always been tough on his stomach and that’s what his stomach feels like tonight.  But it could be so much more, right?  We were told if he gets sharp pains anywhere above the navel to call an ambulance immediately – it could be an embolus, part of the clot breaking free and travelling up towards his lungs.  What constitutes sharp pain for one person may not be the same for the next person – so who knows what the threshold really is.

He woke up with a headache – was it just a headache or is it symptomatic of something else?  Is it allergies?  Is it his sinuses, or is it something related to cancer?  I take his temperature and blood sugar and blood pressure and everything seems to be in order, but I just don’t know.  Am I missing something?  Can a headache be just a headache when you have cancer?  I suspect the answer is “sure”, but there’s always that “what if”.

He is the whole world to me and I am so afraid that I am not up to the task.  This is just such a difficult process.

A Beautiful Day to Be So Sad

When you are used to being at the top, you can forget how hard you had to work to get there.

When you are used to being at the top, you can forget how hard you had to work to get there.

This day started out tough and has continued downhill.  My husband’s headache morphed into nausea and he has continued to feel lower and lower.  The weather outside actually makes it harder on him to feel good.  He’s sitting in the living room looking at the outside wishing that he could take advantage of the nice weather – but he can’t.  He can’t walk for any length of time on his leg, it wouldn’t matter anyway because he’s just too dizzy to make it far.  He still has to use a walker to get around, which in itself is extremely depressing for a guy who is used to being mobile and on the move.  Add to that the headache and nausea and I’d say he’s just a mess.

What do I do to make this any better?  Days like this are so challenging – how do I support him and help him without annoying him or coming across as a nag?

There is nothing easy about this journey.