Linda's Silver Linings

Hi, I’m a fan & ‘faithful reader’ since discovering your site!

I’m 54 & was diagnosed with stage II FBC 03/2010. 2 lumpectomies. Had 4 rounds of A/C, 12 of Taxol (ended October 2010) & 6 weeks of radiation (ended 01/2011). Experienced nearly every side effect known to medicine… lost hair & fingernails, red scaly rash all over, blood clot, extreme fatigue. While I didn’t experience the mouth sores, I did develop a similar problem at the other end – which at one point was treated with a nitroglycerin ointment (giving a whole new meaning to “blow it our your…”). Neuropathy in feet & loss of sense of smell persist & the occasional fog of brain. It was not a fun ride.
Shortly after my 1st chemo treatment, I started complaining of shoulder/back/neck pain – “like someone standing on my shoulders” – I must have said this several dozen times. When the pain persisted long after treatment, I was referred to two pain doctors & had lots of different drugs prescribed. These were not effective & produced their own problems, so I stopped them. Also did 2 months of physical therapy. No relief.

Throughout chemo & persisting a year & a half later, I’ve had hypercalcemia, an elevated blood calcium level. I was told it doesn’t usually have any symptoms at the ‘mild’ levels I experienced (10.5 – 10.9), but I was unable to take a calcium supplement, even though it was needed it for worsening osteoporosis (courtesy of chemo). I also had an elevated parathyroid hormone level.

Was finally referred to an endocrinologist October 2011. He did a lot of tests – blood-work, 24-hour pee collection, ultrasound, mri & a sestamibi scan (not a made-up word). Nothing was found, so we were in “wait & see” mode for 6 months, pain persisting.

Finally, I had a second, more accurate (double isotope) sestamibi scan & they found a parathyroid adenoma.

This is a benign tumor on one of the four grain-of-rice-sized parathyroid glands that sit around (para) the thyroid gland, so I was referred to a surgeon. Thank you, Dr Esclamado, Duke Hospital!

I am ECSTATIC to report that yesterday, I had parathyroid surgery & when I woke up from anesthesia, the pain in my shoulders had almost DISAPPEARED! After over two years of constant pain (ranging from 3-ish, to sometimes an 8 on that silly pain scale), I actually cried from the relief of it.

Wanted to share this, because I hope it can bring relief to someone else who may be experiencing the same issue… it’s NOT all in your head!

Hypercalcemia is common in cancer patients & it doesn’t have to be severe/life-threatening to cause symptoms. DON’T GIVE UP on feeling ‘normal’ again!

My challenge now is to re-learn good posture & walking straight – not having to hunch my shoulders into the pain anymore!

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