My Cancer Journey
– Old Pain; New Pain –

Dr. Al Danenberg Nutritional Periodontist

June 19, 2022

 

Hang in there with me. I’m going through another type of pain that I am experiencing right now.

But first let me tell you, I am doing amazingly well – except for this pain. My mind is clear, alert, and active. I have a great attitude, and my nutrition is excellent. I even planned a surprise dinner party for my wife for her 75th birthday on 6/5/22. She had no idea. The tears were flowing. I was pleased. It was great!

Yet, I have new pain. And I always have been a wuss when it comes to pain.

By the way, here’s a little secret that you already may know – men do much worse than women when it comes to dealing with pain. And I can assure you, I am not an exception. I am a baby when it comes to pain.

But pain is real.

 

My Old Pain

In my Blog on 4/17/22, I discussed an incapacitating sciatic nerve pain which I had to deal with 24/7. The pain was a result of malignant plasma cells becoming active and concentrating in the pelvis around my left sciatic nerve. All of this was caused directly by a combination of severe side effects from my immunotherapy that compromised my body’s immune system. Immediately after that, I contracted COVID, which activated the malignant plasma cells of my multiple myeloma to create a mass in the pelvis where the left sciatic nerve exited to travel down my left leg. Continuous pressure was put on the sciatic nerve. The symptoms began in early February 2022, but the pain got progressively worse.

To rid the pain, my oncologist suggested 10 targeted radiation therapies directed to the affected area over 10 daily sessions. The rationale was that the radiation would kill the mass of malignant cells, but it would not treat the overall multiple myeloma. It was a targeted treatment to stop the excruciating pain. And it worked.

Treatment began on 4/4/22 and ended on 4/15/22. By Monday 4/11/22, the pain in my left leg was gone! That was awesome. I was a happy guy.

 

My New Pain

Here is a brief history of my new pain’s origin.

My diagnosis of IgA Kappa Light Chain Multiple Myeloma in 2018 included innumerable lytic lesions throughout my skeleton. In other words, my bones had many areas of internal bone loss from the activity of all the malignant plasma cells, which were eating away at the bone. This created very weak bones – like a person with severe osteoporosis. So, these weak bones were (and still are) susceptible to pathological fracture. That means that any normal twisting or bending could cause a bone to snap!

In 2019, I experienced my worse setback because of these fragile bones. While brushing and flossing my teeth in my bathroom, I twisted my body slightly to the left to throw away my used dental floss. Immediately, my right femur broke in half, and I crashed to the floor. I broke several ribs and snapped my right humerus in half. The damage was so severe, I was placed into a hospice hospital to die. But as you may remember, I recovered. I revoked hospice and went onto thriving. But I learned my lesson – my bones were fragile, and I always would need to be careful in the future.

And I have been diligent about not bending or twisting abruptly since then. I take my time to move my body. I am consciously aware and proactive.

This brings me to my new bone pain.

About 5 weeks ago, I started having back pain. But this pain didn’t stay in one place. It was around my rib cage in my back, then moved under my shoulder blades, and then traveled to my rib cage in the front of my body. Bizarre!

Eventually, the pain seemed to settle into the back of my spinal cord in the thoracic region and under the right scapula. It became stagnant and constant. At times it was piercing. Don’t forget, I am a wuss and hate pain. My wife can attest to the fact that I can be a pain-in-the-ass when I don’t feel well!

Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen just didn’t cut the sharp pain.

When I saw my oncologist on 6/7/22, he agreed that something was wrong. My blood work that day was relatively good but showed an increase in markers that indicated some bone activity was occurring. He ordered a Thoracic MRI for 6/16/22, which was the first available appointment.

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) produces 3-D images of the body structures using powerful magnets and computer technology which can show the spinal cord, nerve roots, and the surrounding areas, as well as enlargement, degeneration, and tumors.  He believed I had a pathologic vertebral compression fracture. I must have twisted or bent my body the wrong way even though I have been so careful in the past.

He also added Percocet to my pain medication regimen – a drug that I never wanted to take since it is a narcotic.

A pathologic vertebral compression fracture is the collapse of a vertebra, which is a block of bone within the spinal cord. Because of the effects of multiple myeloma, these fractures could occur from just a simple daily activity such as stepping out of the shower, sneezing forcefully, or lifting a light object. This could lead to severe pain.

Here is an x-ray of a typical vertebral compression fracture, where the RED ARROW points to the crushed bony structure:

 

Results of my Thoracic MRI

My oncologist called me on Thursday evening, 6/17, with the radiology report. Here is a summary of its findings:

  • Pathologic vertebral compression fractures exist in a few thoracic vertebrae.
  • Several masses of malignant plasma cells exist alongside the spinal column putting pressure on nerves.

 

Treatment Plan

First, outpatient treatment will address the pain caused by the malignant cells using image guided radiation therapy. This will destroy only the malignant cells responsible for the pain but will not treat the overall multiple myeloma. Then, if necessary, outpatient surgery may include a procedure called kyphoplasty:

  • Image Guided Radiation Therapy
    Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) is the use of imaging during radiation therapy to improve the precision and accuracy of treatment delivery. Radiation therapy machines are equipped with imaging technology to allow the doctor to image the malignant masses before and during treatment. This allows more precise radiation doses to the tumor. Treatment will start with an appointment for measurements and then 10 days of consecutive radiation.
  • Kyphoplasty Surgery
    Vertebroplasty is a surgical procedure usually done on an outpatient basis. It may be performed with a local anesthetic and intravenous (IV) sedation. Using x-ray guidance, a small needle containing specially formulated acrylic bone cement is injected into the collapsed vertebra. The cement hardens within minutes, strengthening and stabilizing the fractured vertebra. Kyphoplasty is a modification of this technique where a balloon is used to help guide the cement and to increase the height of the collapsed bone. The spaces created by the balloons are then filled with the cement.

 

My Expectations

I have been here before.

As I just described in “My Old Pain”, I had targeted radiation treatments to destroy isolated masses of malignant plasma cells, which were successful. Also, I had pathologic vertebral compression fractures in the past that were treated successfully with kyphoplasty.

I am scheduled with my radiation oncologist to begin radiation treatment on Monday, 6/20/22.

Once radiation is completed, the pain should be gone. If there is a need for the kyphoplasty procedure, it will follow.

And then, full steam ahead.

The bottom line for me is this:

I most likely will not cure my “incurable” bone marrow cancer. But I know that radiation treatment can stop the pain, which is my most difficult roadblock.

I’m not a miracle; I’m just a plain old guy who won’t succumb to the conventional medical norms. I will continue with my 11 Unconventional Cancer Protocols, which I have designed to enhance my immune system to be the best as it can possibly be.

I appreciate each one of you for reading this, for your constant support, and for the interest you have in my journey.  I’ve still got a lot to share with others and to do for myself. After all, it’s been almost 4 years since I was given 3-6 months to live. I’ve made it through a broken femur, botched injection, fractured bones, and even the dreaded COVID. Each time, I managed to regain control of my health and THRIVE! This is just another bump in the road, and another opportunity to learn more about the body’s incredible ability to heal.

 

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17 Comments

  1. <3 Sending love and prayers….

  2. Dr. Al, YOU ARE AMAZING!!! My heart goes out to you in dealing with all of this excruciating pain, time & again. I will keep sending you healing thoughts & energy. Your endurance & resilience are beyond remarkable. I continue to be inspired by you, how you show up on your journey, & the time you take to share with all of us your experience and wisdom. I pray for the best outcome with radiation & kyphoplasty. Thank you for all you are & all you do! Be well.

  3. Dr. Al, you are extraordinary! Hugs, love, and prayers to you and your family.
    Thank you for your work.

  4. I love reading your journey as I am a colon cancer survivor myself I can relate to some of what you are going through although my cancer was different than yours! I’m inspired by your strength! I pray all goes well for You with the IGRT and Kyphoplasty! Keep us Posted and Never GiveUp. 🙏🏼❤️

  5. I’m amazed of your extraordinary life experience’s and your internal strength. I’m inspired by your resilience. My prayers are with you and I look forward to all of your blogs.

  6. Good luck today with the radiation. Pain gone is a very good thing. I am now awaiting a bed in the hospital to figure out the pain and crepitation going on in my pelvis after the treatment of cervical cancer. It’s been almost a year this pain is now increasing. There was an inoperable abscess my oncology team hope would go away with antibiotics. My last MRI has now showed more swelling so I am being admitted to hospital to figure things out in a more timely manner. One stop shop is better than sending me here and there. Life is not enjoyable and pain is not managed with Hydromorph long and short acting and Tylenol 3 that does not much.

    Your blogs really give me hope and understanding. God Bless you and you beloved wife. Here’s to both our journeys. We got this.

  7. Wow! Just wow!! What an incredibly positive and strong person you are!! Upward and onward Dr Al!

  8. Good luck today with the radiation. Pain gone is a very good thing. I am now awaiting a bed in the hospital to figure out the pain and crepitation going on in my pelvis after the treatment of cervical cancer. It’s been almost a year this pain is now increasing. There was an inoperable abscess my oncology team hope would go away with antibiotics. My last MRI has now showed more swelling so I am being admitted to hospital to figure things out in a more timely manner. One stop shop is better than sending me here and there. Life is not enjoyable and pain is not managed with Hydromorph long and short acting and Tylenol 3 that does not much.

    Your blogs really give me hope and understanding. God Bless you and you beloved wife. We got this!

  9. Good luck today with the radiation. Pain gone is a very good thing. I am now awaiting a bed in the hospital to figure out the pain and crepitation going on in my pelvis after the treatment of cervical cancer. It’s been almost a year this pain is now increasing. There was an inoperable abscess my oncology team hope would go away with antibiotics. My last MRI has now showed more swelling so I am being admitted to hospital to figure things out in a more timely manner. One stop shop is better than sending me here and there. Life is not enjoyable and pain is not managed with Hydromorph long and short acting and Tylenol 3 that does not much.

    Your blogs really give me hope and understanding. God Bless you and you beloved wife. We got this.

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience Dr Al…you are truly an inspiration! Your work has been invaluable and the effort you put into it is astonishing, especially given your circumstance. You will continue to be in my thoughts + prayers…God bless!💛

  11. I love that you never give up, you are always looking for a new answer. This constant search for answers is the answer. It’s so refreshing and I thank you for sharing. You continue to inspire; keeping you and your family in my prayers and positive thoughts!

  12. Thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  13. I am so sorry to hear you are in pain. Blessings to you and your family. I just listened to your interview with the Steak and Butter Gal – you were remarkable. I wish every medical professional was as informed and concise as you were. I was inspired and continue to be inspired by your healing journey.

  14. I wish I could give you more than just encouragement. Thanks for your inspiring posts. Stay strong!

  15. Dr Al, you are an inspiration! I have multiple autoimmune conditions, the latest is the very painful Ankylosing spondylitis. I’ve eaten the Keto way for 19 years, Carnivore for 2+ years, and refuse to accept the “uncurable” status, even after 8 surgeries! I believe our bodies are healing, thriving from the proper human diet! Keep up your spirits, pain can be awful, I try to ignore it, too much to do!

  16. You are amazing. May God Bless you all throughout this journey. You are one strong individual!!!! Prayers for you and your family 🙂

  17. “you light up my life, you give me hope to carry on”


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