Patience seems to be the name of the game!
I had a PET scan January 19th which showed less inflammation overall than the prior scan, and also showed that the brain edema is down to October’s level (I need to get to May’s level of no edema!). It also still showed a lesion in my right hip that has remained at 8 mm for a number of scans but had more intense avidity this time, so I’ve already had one fraction of radiation (February 10th) to treat it which was successful in treating the same thing in my left hip over a year ago. Done! The only other thing to be treated is the bothersome soft tissue tumor just below my right knee. It has decided to grow again after two T-VEC injections last May/June and radiation in July. It will be gone by mid-March after some quick out-patient surgery under local anesthesia.
I’ve had five weeks of physical therapy (PT) – 10 sessions total – and have made some progress. For example, my left-hand grip strength improved from 7 to 15. In comparison, my right hand’s grip strength is 40. That’s improvement but I still have a long way to go. It continues to be frustrating to tear open envelopes, deal with ziplock bags, read anywhere other than a table, and open cereal/cracker/pretzel bags, etc. In the big picture, minor stuff.
I have some muscles firing in my foot though foot-drop is still a major issue which affects walking. My balance is improving, but any uneven surface presents a challenge. I’m still using a cane when I leave the house to provide some extra stability, and I still need a railing on both sides of a stairwell to feel safe navigating the steps. My shoulder has a lot more movement now and I even found myself swinging my left arm while walking – that was a good day! I’ve been driving myself short distances since mid-January.
The neurosurgeon (January 26th) said that as the edema goes down, my brain must re-establish the neural connections that were temporarily lost. He ordered a brain MRI for April when I see him again. In the meantime, I’m building my strength, working my muscles, and moving the body parts that won’t seem to move on their own. I ride a stationary bike for 10 minutes at each PT visit and have increased the resistance from 0 to 5 (out of 20) and maintain a speed at or over 60 mph. I also walk on a treadmill for 15 minutes at the same visit and have increased the speed from 0.8 to 1.2 mph (but still have a death grip on the handle). Even with that, the therapists see the improvements I’ve made better than I.
I also started weekly personal healing yoga sessions January 16th which complement physical therapy perfectly. I’ve learned different deep breathing exercises, meditation, spinal flexes, and more – all from a chair. I’ve used some deep breathing and visualization at PT just before doing a difficult exercise (high marches) with success. I silently chant a mantra when I have trouble falling asleep. It’s good stuff!
So, I’m making slow progress, but that’s better than no progress at all! I’ve come to understand that when the doctors say months for recovery, they really mean months and it’s only been one and a half months since the surgery. I’ll continue to work hard at getting my left side functioning closer to normal and come out of this more fit than I’ve been in a long time. My goal of a 5K might not happen this summer, but I’m ready to sign up for next summer!