Sunday, 9 June 2013

Epidural Update

I've been meaning to update you on the caudal epidural I had on Tuesday afternoon at the Ottawa Hospital's Pain Clinic. For those of you considering the procedure, I'll tell you a bit about how it was done and I will report on success and side-effects to date.

First, The Procedure

I was met by a nurse who interviewed me about my current pain medication and pain levels. After a bit of a wait (I'm not complaining), a young doctor I hadn't met before came in. I'd seen him consulting my regular anaesthesiologist moments before. He asked me a lot of questions about the extent of my pain and nerve symptoms, explained the procedure and its risks and then asked me to sign a consent form.

Moments later, a handsome young man -- who Sweetie thought was dressed for a joust given his head to toe x-ray shields -- took me into the room where the procedure would take place. He introduced me to the female X-ray technician and asked me to mount the bed. Yes, "mount." The bed was at a 30 degree angle. I was to aim my hips at one pillow and my head at the other. Now I'm not very athletic at my best... and Grace is not my middle name. So, it is a miracle I made it on there in one try. Then things got weird. I mentioned that the caudal epidural goes into the tailbone. Well, I hadn't thought through how they would get there. You see where I'm going with this? Yes, that's when The Jouster pulled my pants down around my hips. But we've just met!

He also set me up with a blood pressure cuff and the little thingy that monitors your blood oxygen. Then the young doctor came in. They placed a drape, wiped my butt with disinfectant, which I later discovered was that bright pink stuff that is hard to scrub off. Probably the worst pain of the procedure came next, when they gave me a local anaesthetic. I didn't feel much, maybe some pressure, when the doc inserted the catheter through my tailbone. The Jouster kept me informed of each step of the procedure, and reminded me to breathe deeply to relax. I felt more pressure as the doctor injected some contrast dye to mark his location. He continuously asked the X-ray tech for another shot, sometimes asking her to switch the angle of the X-ray machine for a better view. All that to make sure that the drug was released where my frazzled nerves needed it most. Next thing I knew, the steroid was being injected and the catheter removed, neither of which I felt. I was then unhooked and moved to a wheelchair for 20 minutes of monitoring... And a snack, which I appreciated having fasted through lunch.

The After-effects

The first few steps after I left the wheelchair felt a little funny, but I'm always stiff when I get up. Plus, my bum was numb. We stopped to pick The Bean up from our neighbour on the way home and I was able to stand a while to chat. Later in the evening I was drowsy, but that isn't unusual. I couldn't really tell if the epidural was working. I was told it could take a week to get the full effect. I thought I was feeling fewer zings. That was good.

The next day, I felt fine most of the day. In the evening I had some chills. I also got wicked indigestion after eating a chocolate bar. I also felt in a peculiar mood for a short while. By the next morning, it was clear that I was reacting to the steroid as I did during chemo. Thursday, my cheeks were hot and red all day. I was told I looked like I was teething! The chills continued off and on, as did the indigestion. I felt quite low, chemo low, for a couple of hours Thursday and again Friday. For what, I ask you?

This is the problem, the zings haven't completely disappeared. I do think they are fewer and farther between, but they are not gone yet. If I had to decide now, I don't think I would repeat the procedure. But let's give it a few weeks to see what the real improvement is.

It wasn't really pain I was hoping the epidural would relieve. The medication change in early May did that. It was the lingering nerve damage, which left long enough will become permanent. I want to be able to lie down beside my girl at bedtime, I want to brush my teeth, I want to pass the potatoes without feeling a zing up or down my back. That's all I'm asking for. We will see if I get that.


  1. dear kate,

    yes! do hang in there for awhile, because chances are you will see an improvement. oh, the jouster part was just met!

    i am sending you BIG HOPE that soon you will be able to do all those things you are so longing to be able to do; they surely aren't much to ask for, and if only i could wave a magic wand to make them happen, i would gladly do it.

    love, XOXO

    karen, TC

    1. Thank you, Karen. I'm glad I could give you a laugh.

      Oh, if we had magic wands, what changes we would make!

      I appreciate you stopping by. ~ Kate

  2. Well damn... I'm sorry you reacted to the steroid, and that you are not seeing much in the way of relief from your nerve pain. Crossing fingers that it will come, soon... hoping with you that you can lie down beside your girl at bedtime. Thank you for the laugh by the way, it's a very good thing that cancer can't eat our sense of humour! Sending much love...

    1. Oh, Carolyn, I got the zings laying down with her tonight. On the upside, I moved onto my back and she cuddled right up next to me. Lucky mommy! ~Kate

  3. Well, the procedure you describe sounds unpleasant indeed, but your sense of humor about it all did make me chuckle. I wish you were getting more relief and less zings. I hope at this point things are improving a bit. Glad you and your girl got in some snuggles. Thanks for the update.

    1. Thank you, Nancy! Monday I found that shopping and driving caused a lot of zings. I think I'm just going to have to live with them. ~ Kate

  4. I am so sorry. About the cancer, about how young you are, about how little your daughter is. And I like you. Your sense of humor is wonderful. This post was also very informative regarding the subject of nerve blocks. My husband, Stage IV lung CA with extensive bone mets involving the spine, recently underwent stereotactic radiosurgery for pain control of his arm (from a met pressing on the spinal canal). It was not until perhaps 6 weeks after treatments were finished that he got relief. So good to hear a fairly good report regarding the nerve block.

    I shall pray for you, never ceasing.

    Sending you lovelovelove,

    1. Thank you, Deborah. You are so kind. I will remember you and your husband in my prayers.

      The epidural hasn't helped much yet, but I'll try to be more patient. Maybe it will take a few more weeks to work.

  5. Hi Kate, I am still new in reading your blog. I want you to know that I very much admire your courage and the ability to tell your story with humor! It's been well over a month and a half since your procedure and I hope it took effect and helped you with the pain. You are inspiration to many women out there and I hope you will not give up. Sending you healing thoughts and prayers...

    1. Thank you, Lorie! The "zings" are very few and far between these days, hurray!

      Please think of me next Wednesday when I get my latest CT results. stable would be good.

      ~ Kate