I first noticed pain in my back after sledding in December 2009. As time passed, my lower back pain worsened and I ended up seeing my chiropractor in search of relief. With exercises, my back pain improved minimally. I continued to work and stay active until the pain worsened again over the next four months. This prompted my chiropractor to order x-rays in May 2010. On the x-rays, an unusual appearance of one of the bones in the spine was noted with a small amount of compression (a change in the shape of the bone). At the time my Primary Care Physician was not available because the practice went out of business. So my chiropractor took the next step of ordering an MRI and suggested I go see a spinal doctor. The MRI showed an unusual appearance of the bone at the T12 level with compression fracture of the bone in that area. Ultimately, my chiropractor suggested that I see the physicians at Virginia Spine Institute for further evaluation.
When I came to VSI, my back pain was severe with loss of flexibility. A full medical evaluation was initiated. I underwent a whole body bone scan which is an x-ray taken of the entire body, looking for abnormal areas of bone activity. The bone scan confirmed an irregular appearance at the T12 vertebral body consistent with fracture and possibly tumor. Also noted was an area of unusual activity in the rib which had not previously been identified. Brace treatment started during this time. Ultimately, a biopsy was recommended to determine the cause for the broken bone in that area. Unfortunately, the tissue that was examined under the microscope did not give a specific answer to the question.
I continued to have worsening pain in my back. About six months later, new x-rays and an MRI scan showed the deterioration of the broken bone at T12 with tumor growing in the bone. The doctors explained that a cancer growing inside the bone had weakened the structure of the bone, causing the fracture. At that point, I was brought to the hospital for a rapid evaluation.
In the hospital, I had x-rays of my entire body, as well as a CT scan to look for a potential source of tumor in my spine bones and look for tumors in other areas. My doctors were assisted by others specializing in medicine, radiology, and oncology. The thorough work-up revealed that tumors were present in multiple areas of my body including the spine, hip, and pelvis, as well as the ribs. As the tumor in the T12 vertebra had increased in size, some of the tumor had begun to push against the front of the spinal cord. Because the situation was worsening, the decision was made that surgery would be necessary to prevent compression or damage to the spinal cord as well as stabilize the area of the spine that had been eroded by the tumor. On the day before the surgery, another biopsy was done on the T12 body, the same location in which the previous biopsy did not find anything. This time however, the biopsy confirmed I had Multiple Myeloma, a rare plasma cell cancer which causes tumors in bones.
First the doctors performed surgery to remove the broken bone and tumor at the T12 level. A titanium cage was used to replace the T12 vertebra in order to realign the spine in the area that had been destroyed by tumor. Once that was complete, the doctors performed surgery placing titanium screws and rods to stabilize and fuse the spine, restoring normal spinal alignment.
After the surgery, I worked with physical therapy and began to walk. Pain medications were needed to help control the pain from my surgery as well as for the pain from tumors in other bones.
During the surgery, the doctors had removed the tumor at T12 so that it could be furthered examined. After a thorough pathology evaluation, the multiple myeloma was again confirmed, and large tumors had formed in my bones in various locations.
I had to then wait a full month to heal from the surgery prior to starting any cancer treatment. I chose to be very aggressive, moving forward, with treatment for my disease. Ultimately, I chose to enroll in a study protocol and underwent treatment with double autologous stem cell transplantation as well as an aggressive chemotherapy regimen with multiple medications. After completing the second transplant, I was declared to be in near-complete remission from my disease. Four months after that, I was in complete remission!
I returned to walking and full activities without any limitations and have not had any problems with back pain. I feel very fortunate to be free of back troubles and in remission from multiple myeloma. Even if it means I have to shovel the driveway when it snows!