health, personal, rant

Update: Tarlov Cysts

The good news is that I won’t be undergoing surgery any time soon. My nerves are not pinched significantly by my protruding discs and Tarlov cysts. The bad news is that the cysts do need to be monitored regularly. I am set to undergo another MRI in three months’ time to check if the cysts are growing. At 4 cm in diameter each, the cysts manage to be not so problematic, but things could change if they grow even an inch each.

If things go for the worse, I might undergo surgery. Surgery plus hospital accommodations and doctors’ fees will total to approximately 400,000 pesos. The money is a small fortune here in the Philippines. It will also take two weeks for one to recover from the spinal surgery. Also, there is that strong possibility of the most excruciating pain imaginable. We are, after all, taking about a spot where a bundle of nerves lies.

Right now, though, I am still feeling a little lucky. I am set for two weeks’ physical therapy to strengthen my spine and to hopefully correct the protruding discs. I have been prescribed more than three months’ worth of Lyrica, a strong nerve pain reliever. I am also taking care to avoid carbonated drinks that block the absorption of calcium. I am drinking milk twice daily to hopefully correct three decades’ worth of nutritional and lifestyle mistakes. By lifestyle, I don’t mean one that is full of vice because I do not drink, smoke or eat lots of fat. In fact, I choose the meat when the maid and I go grocery shopping. I go for lean meat, fish, and veggies. There are fruits all the time, too. Juices are abundant. Unfortunately, I often shy away from milk and water. Somehow, though, a generally healthy-living medical doctor’s daughter ended up with lots of health problems: tarlov cysts, degenerative scoliosis, protruding discs, asthma, kidney stones, mild fatty liver. My dad and uncle are medical doctors. My brother is a medical intern. I am the sick one.

Still, I have to keep on fighting. I have a young son who is relying on my survival. I pray that this stage of my life is only a reminder of my mortality – that I should take things slowly because I tend to work as if there is no tomorrow. I don’t want to be right – about that tomorrow I mean.

(Image of me as a nineteen year old working at my dad’s clinic as secretary. This was in Dominica before I went back to the Philippines for university.)

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health, personal

Tarlov Cysts: Beginning of a Journey

It has been a long while since I last wrote a post here. I was busy with getting back to the academe as a part-time college instructor, teaching subjects such as Digital Imaging and Color Management, Maya Rendering, and Vector Graphics. I am also a home-based blogger and a mom to a three-year old. Oh yeah, I am also writing my thesis proposal and thesis samples for my MFA in Creative Writing course.

For the past few months, I busied myself with house-hunting, preparations for my son’s fourth birthday, lesson plans, MFA thesis, blogging, and the usual household concerns (bills, grocery shopping, organization, and the like). It took some really intense back pains for me to realize that there should also be some time to slow down.

All this April, I have been suffering from moderate to severe back pains and sciatica. The worst pain can only be described as the bones in my sacral region being crushed every time I get up or sit down. There is also a shooting pain from my right buttock to the back of my right knee. I immediately suspected a herniated disc.

(image courtesy of www.actasurologicas.info)

tarlov cysts

I went to an orthopedic surgeon on the 6th of April to get checked. She suspected that a pinched nerve is causing the sciatica. She ordered an MRI. I was scheduled on the 15th at UST Hospital. The MRI showed that I have two protruding discs, a degenerative scoliosis, and two 2.0cmx3.0cmx4.0cm Tarlov cysts on my lower spinal cord. Supposedly, the location of the cysts has very few nerves, according to the Manila Doctors’ neurosurgeon I was referred to by the orthopedic surgeon. She ordered a nerve test, which turned out normal I believe, but I will be getting my official results tomorrow. On Saturday, I will be seeing the neurosurgeon yet again.

The neurosurgeon wants me to go through conservative measures first: physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs. She said that she was able to successfully treat a patient with bigger cysts this way. I do want to ask her the following questions on Saturday:

– Do my cysts have potential to grow bigger?

– The cysts are now eroding my bones. What does this mean for me in the future?

– Will the cysts affect or add to pain during future pregnancies? I am 31 years old with only one child, after all.

– How much is surgery?

– How much time will it take for me to recover?

– Will the surgery benefits outweigh the risks?

Tarlov cysts, apparently, are rare. Even in the United States and Canada, some neurosurgeons are still not quite sure how to deal with them. People all around the world then have to endure all the pain associated with the cysts. These cysts, after all, are sitting near a bunch of nerves. The doctors I have seen are not that sure if the cysts are the cause of my pain. Then, why is the pain I am feeling consistent to the symptoms associated with Tarlov cysts pain?

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