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.

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The Rebirth Saga:

back-flex

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

Filed under: Belief, Blog, identity, Pain, RFA 5 Comments

Palliativity 181: Dangerous to go alone…

Posted on January 31, 2013

The hours and nights I spent gaming into the dawn with friends forged our destinies for a lifetime.

The warm tube glow of agony and triumph side by side on our end-boss date with destiny.

It's dangerous to go alone:

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Filed under: Anime, Art, film, Gamer, Pain No Comments

Palliativity 180: The Astroboy

Posted on January 24, 2013

Astro Boy - 鉄腕アトム Tetsuwan Atomu, lit. "Mighty Atom" - 1952

Welcome to the strangely tragic post-apocalyptic story of Osamu Tezuka's Astroboy. Rather than just an innocent, simple tale of a kid with rocket legs and laser beams, the origin myth of Astro begins with the death of a child.

The boy's father, a mad scientist, cannot accept the fate of his son and chooses to remake him with steel and atomic fire in his chest. Ultimately, the mad scientist rejects his surrogate-child creation and Astro is forced-out into an unforgiving world that sees robots as slaves undeserving of compassion.

Astroboy not only launched Japanese animation onto the global scnene, but also planted the seed of cyberpunk in the minds of children across the world; a generation destined to question the ghost in the machine.

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Filed under: Anime, Atomic, film, Pain, Tech No Comments

Palliativity 179: seeing red

Posted on January 17, 2013

My heart stops.

For the past four years, I have self administered lidocaine injections daily as a palliative to numb my chronic neck and shoulder pain. Sticking a 3ml syringe into my neck meat took a little getting used to, but it's my only non-narcotic way of feeling normal. I only know of a few people whose doctors have trusted them this much. The only side-effect is that my neck is grey with scar tissue and I look like long-term a vampire snack.

Lidocaine: "the first amino amide–type local anesthetic, was first synthesized under the name xylocaine by Swedish chemist Nils Löfgren in 1943. His colleague Bengt Lundqvist performed the first injection anesthesia experiments on himself. It was first marketed in 1949." -wikipedia

The only catch of this magical tincture is that if I hit a vein and inject, I would die. For that reason, I pull back the plunger every time I dose myself. I have only ever drawn blood 4 times. Each time, panic sets in and I freeze. I slowly pull the syringe from my neck and breathe; like easing off the hammer of a 1911, finger on the trigger.

averaging 4 injections per day x 365 days x 4 years = 5840 injections total

4 times I've hit a vein / 5840 injections = .00068

.068% chance of death if I don't look myself in the mirror

My heart stops…

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Filed under: Blog, Pain No Comments

Palliativity 178: Alive Day Memories

Posted on January 10, 2013

The very not a toy gun that was pulled on me:

It was one year ago, Saturday January 7, 2012 at 6:30PM that I made the panicked call to 911.

After teaching a judo class to kids with disabilities and wounded veterans, I planned to take the subway to meet my partner downtown for a concert. After I entered the turnstile,  three black youths grabbed at me, trying to steal my iPhone. I pick and rolled past them, and turned around with my hands held out and open. Then the leader pulled a gun from his jacket.

I ran.

Looking over my shoulder, the three men chased me. The gun was out in the open now, pointed at my back. GO GO GO!

Reaching the stairs, I flew down praying hard: THIS IS NOT HOW IT ENDS! I dropped my judo bag to trip them up as I decended.

I took one last look back up and saw the gunman atop the stair…

In total disbelief of being alive, I got safely down on the platform- back against the wall.

No shots rang out. They did not follow me down.

Miraculously as I was calling the police, a National Guard in full tactical gear and a sidearm came to my aid. He rushed back upstairs, apprehended and cuffed my three attackers single-handedly.

I stayed on the line until a policeman came and retrieved me. Each step I ascended was a gift. When I reached the top of the stairs, the station was filled with men in blue with flashing lights of red. My three attackers stood there cuffed and surrounded.

The gunman with tears in his eyes pleaded with me, "Tell em, I dint do nothin!"

The policeman asked me to identify the men.

With fire and cold vengeance I said, "These are them. All three of them. (pointing) The crying one had the gun. YOU'RE ALL FUCKED NOW! It's over."

I left the train station with my police escort. I climbed into the back of his chevy tank that sat in the Apple Store fountain.

I asked the officer if I could make a phone call on our way to the station. Shaking, I looked out the window as we passed by the white and glass Apple cathedral as we reentered trafic.

I dialed my partner, "Don't panic. I'm okay now, but…"

From start to end, this all transpired in a mere five minutes.

Along the course of this past year of courtrooms and telling my story over and over, the three assailants were all found guilty.

• • •

It just so happens that a year to the day of the incident, Karma walked into the room.

Back at the dojo this past Monday, our friendly neighborhood cop stopped by. He himself is a martial artist and was at the station the night of my attack. On this day, the Officer came in with a young black man in tow. He introduced the kid, saying he was a bright young man from the neighborhood. The kid comes from a difficult family situation and is in need of more positive role models, discipline as well a healthy outlet.

Like I said: Pure Karma.

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Palliativity 177: 2012 Artwork in Review

Posted on January 3, 2013

Cheers to another lap around the sun!

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Filed under: Art, New Years, Pain No Comments