St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Margo Improving

It has been about 8 weeks since Margo's back surgery #2 and 6 months since back surgery #1.   The surgeries repaired problems of the lower back and then the neck and upper back -- moving away bones that threatened to pinch off the spinal cord and paralyze her.  Without surgery there would be no pain relief and continued degeneration.  With surgery, the deterioration would be halted and "possibly" some of the pain would be removed.  

The surgeries were successful in getting the cord free and the back stabilized, but, said the doctor, "it may not relieve your pain."   The  pains from shoulder and leg -- caused by pressure on the spinal cord rather than any leg or arm difficulty itself are mostly gone--so that part was successful!   

In replacement for those pain, is a constant neck ache in the area where all of the hardware and repair was done in early April, and with that, weakness in the arms and balance problems and overall weakness.    

So, Margo uses a walker most of the time, although sometimes tries a cane and sometimes stands a little on her own.  With the walker she can walk a few hundred feet with several stops along the way.   She is working on raising her arms over her head and getting her arms, hands and fingers back in use again.  

The surgeon said that recovery would take a year.  So, two months into recovery, Margo is doing better gradually, but still trying to figure out what will be her ongoing pain level and what will be her functionality. She hopes it will be much better than it is right now.  

Each dayt she does her exercises, walks some and uses and exercise bicycle.  We got Dad's electric scooter running again with new batteries so she can get out of the house and around the yard again -- as she is unsteady to walk on uneven surfaces and had been stuck in the house without help from someone else.  

Pain management is difficult.  "Don't take ibuprofen, aspirin or anything other than tylenol and tramadol as the others will interfere with healing," said the doctor.  

  Too much tylenol is not good long term and tramadol may be the cause of migraines for her.  Oxycodone works fine and also adds some cheerfulness, but the doctors won't prescribe that any more as it is addictive, they might look bad over prescribing, and it is not good to take it long term either.  So it is pain management rather than pain relief.    

June 3rd she has her birthday.  In June 3 years ago, she got her diagnosis with stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.  The triple negative cancer was the most difficult to treat, so a year of two types of chemo, radiation and surgery left her weak and then the deteriorating back got worse after helping her father recover from a stroke so she had not really recovered from the cancer treatment and the back problems have been added to this. 

Three years later, her cancer is still gone; her back has been repaired, and recovery is coming along slowly, but she continues to improve and we are optimistic that by year's end she will be back to living a life she enjoys.  In the meantime, pain management is still a problem and mobility limited. 

 Thursdays are therapy day at Barron Mayo.  The drive over and back is about as much travel as she can tolerate, and the therapy sessions leave her exhausted and worn out the whole next day.      

She does like visitors and on a nice day can be found sitting on the porch at the farm on Evergreen Av. This June 3rd and for the week she will be back in Rochester at Mayo for some more checks on her progress and cancer followup.   

I think that things will be looking up when she gets to the point where she actually feels up to doing something she likes to do-- like using her embroidery machine or baking or gardening. I think she plans to enter a few Polk County Fair items this year -- in hopes she will be able to scoot around the fair grounds on the three wheeler.