Musashi Mix Inq

Palliativity 182: a new hope

Posted on February 7, 2013

MRI of my neck from the left side

“The secret of joy is the mastery of pain.”
― Anaïs Nin —

This blog, Palliativity, started out as a weekly journal on living with severe chronic pain and the things in this world that fascinate me and make my life better despite it. The act of writing my experiences out into the universe sparked a fire to discover a way to get better even after so many disappointments and set-backs in the past. For your support, I am eternally grateful.

And now, for the breakthrough:

It’s the sort of miracle I’d all but given up on. The kind of life change that is generally reserved for myth and legend. I think I have finally found a cure for my crippling chronic pain!

Starting in November 2012, I committed myself to finding a life beyond palliatives. I would no longer settle for temporary solutions and the prospect of living this way for an entire lifetime. I’ve suffered from neck pain since the age of thirteen. More than half of my life has been spent skipping from one dead-end to the next:

  • Surgery
  • Dozens of inconclusive tests and diagnostic exams
  • Over 6 years of rehab total
  • Thousands of pills
  • Chiropractor
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Electorstim
  • Ultrasound
  • Gallons of Bengay
  • Thousands of injections
  • 5 epidurals
  • Countless sleepless nights

All of these palliatives, doctors and specialists and yet no solid diagnosis; no mention of a cure. For a long time I settled for not worse = better. I would remain a prisoner of my body. My hope of a real big happy died long before.

• • •

Sixteen years later, I’m about to climb back out of hell. With a big supportive push from my partner, I stepped up and was ready to try again. Last November I got a new MRI and my first solid diagnosis: Nerve damage on the facet joints of C3-5.

This is what the diagnostic exam looked like

In just 3 months, I went from a diagnosis to a pain medicine specialist who told me that he could cure my pain within the first five minutes of meeting him. The procedure is called Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA). The short definition: Using radio waves to burn out the damaged sensory nerves causing all of my pain. FUCK. YES.

On Monday I had my diagnostic exam to see if I was indeed a candidate for RFA. The night before, my partner and I had many fears and doubts. I couldn’t go on this way, both for myself and my partner’s sake. If this didn’t work, we’d keep looking- at least this would give us more information.

It takes bravery to hope. It takes courage to seek it out.

Under the fluoroscope, the doctor injected novocaine into the C3/4/5 facets in my neck. I’ll admit, the procedure wasn’t fun. Hearing a needle pop thru multiple layers of your flesh from the inside is a pretty fucked up sensation. Like a raw cavity, the deeper the needle went, the more intense the pain. I felt the cold pressure as the novocaine soaked my nerves. They cleaned me up and sent me back to the recovery room to wait with my partner.

After the doctor left, I sat down holding my partner’s hand. “How does it feel?”, she asked. I had to take a moment to think that over. What is this new state of consciousness? Not the same sensation of neouropathics, opioids, uppers,  downers or psychotropics. I felt like I was falling up the rabbit hole. NO. PAIN. I felt alive for the first time that I can remember. All of me cried…

Mind you, this was just the exam. I’ll be having the real procedure next week. I can’t wait.


The Rebirth Saga:


2-20-13 Post-procedure 1

2-28-13 Post-procedure 2

3-14-13 Post-procedure 3

3-21-13 Post-procedure 4

5-30-13 Post-procedure 5

6-12-13 RFA on right side

6-20-13 Post-procedure 1

6-27-13 Post-procedure 2 

10-10-13 Back on track 1

10-17-13 Back on track 2

11-14-13  Reflection

12-04-13 Turning 30

2-12-14 Re-Birthday

4-17-14 Return of the Legend

2-12-15 Re-Birthday 2

2-12-16 Re-Birthday 3

Comments (0) Trackbacks (10)
  1. Hello, David,

    Greetings from beautiful Palm Springs, CA. This is Jake Burack’s mom, Amy Cohen. I suffer from chronic pain. Jake may have shared with you that I was in a life changing accident on the escalator of The Sears Tower escalator almost 7 years ago. The accident robbed me of my career and I have been in chronic pain since that moment. Have you had your RFA procedure yet? I couldn’t find it on your blog. I had considered having this procedure but I was too frightened to undergo it. I would be interesting in hearing your comments. Best wishes to you and your family! Amy Cohen

    • Amy,

      Great to hear from you! I remember Jake telling me about your condition.Sorry to hear about it.

      I did indeed had RFA back in February and it has entirely changed my life. I suffer from Cervical Facet Syndrome. It took 15 years to diagnose but just one month to cure. The procedure itself took just an hour and involves no cutting or stitches. I was back to work the next day teaching judo. I’d had 6 epidurals previously that were both more invasive and had no effect whatsoever.

      Post-RFA, I went from a baseline pain of 6 to zero in one week. I used to take two Vicodin every night just to sleep and inject lidocaine multiple times a day in order to function. Now I have had less than four pills in three months and the trackmarks on my neck have healed over. RFA gave me my life back.

      Although it is possible for the damaged nerves to grow back, they will never be as strong and RFA can be repeated as many times as necessary with no negative effect.

      I hope this has been helpful and that both you and Jake feel better soon. Please feel free to get in touch anytime!

      Take care! -David

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