Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Side Effects: Bone Pain



Every two weeks, twenty four hours after each chemo infusion, I have the pleasure of injecting myself with Neulasta (a.k.a. pegfilgrastim), a drug that stimulates white blood cell growth. My oncologist didn't want to take any chances after my extremely low neutrophil count sent me to the hospital in May.

Since starting Neulasta, my white blood cell counts (WBC) have been up up up! Normal WBC ranges from 4.5–11 k/mm3. My WBC have been approx. 12, 13, 16, 19. (I asked my oncologist how high was too high and she assured me my levels are perfectly fine.) My counts dropped to 12 following my unstoppable period. Then, prior to chemos #8 and #9 my WBC dropped to 9-ish, which weirded me out because they seemed so low—and that weirded me out because 9 is totally normal!

Because my bones have to work extra hard to produce lots of and lots of white blood cells, this leads to another annoying little side effect:

Bone Pain

Source: Bringing Up Baby

Normally, the pain isn't too bad. A dull ache deep inside my bones. An irritation akin to a growing pain. A twinge here and there. A bruise-like tenderness sans discoloration.

The first pains manifested in my elbow.


Then in my fingers, 


followed by my toes. (Toe knuckles aching = strange sensation)


More recently I've felt it in my upper arms and legs.


In my lower arms, usually near my wrists.


In the top and sides of my skull.


In my shoulder blades.


My entire back, for that matter.


My oncologist says the back pain is most likely a result of the increased white blood cell production. Although I had intense back pain one week after chemo #1, several days before my hospital excursion and several weeks before I started Neulasta. Personally, I think the back pain is a mix of all the drugs blazing through my body.

As uncomfortable as the bone pains are, I'm grateful they don't all throb at once! The pains alternate around my skeletal structure. Like osteo roulette.


My Solutions

Usually the pain is dull enough that I can endure it without intervention.

Massaging the aching area helps temporarily. So does performing stretch exercises.

A warm shower also does wonders. Or swimming in my back yard pool, weather and personal energy levels permitting.

Medication is another option: over-the-counter for smaller aches (Tylenol preferred, avoid NSAIDs) and prescription strength for when the pain becomes too intense/bothersome to think about anything else. The prescription drugs always lead to more side effects, like dizziness and impaired judgement (no driving until the effects wear off), so I only resort to them when I'm desperate for relief (and feel like staying home for a while).

Further Reading

Every person is different and their experiences will differ from mine. Always discuss your particular symptoms and concerns with your doctor.

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