Sometimes my life seems to consist of a flurry of health-related appointments. Apart from my two physio appointments, this week I will have had blood tests in le Vigan, foot and ankle xrays in Ganges, and two visits to specialists in Montpellier.
The xrays were a bit of a waste of time; they simply confirmed that my left foot and ankle are very arthritic, so that there is little more that the podologue, who has been checking on my insoles, can do to ease the discomfort.
On Monday I saw an endocrinologist in Montpellier to discuss the blood test results (deficit of selenium and zinc) and my continuing loss of hair. She was very reassuring and said my hair will grow back again, now that I am recovering from all my innards dramas and am no longer on a limited diet, and has prescribed treatments for the next six months to increase my mineral and vitamin levels. I still cannot get over the sensation of touching my head and feeling how little hair I have. I now know how bad this must feel for chemeo patients, you lose a bit of your identity, and I look forward to growing more hair in 2019.
On Tuesday I was back in Montpellier, this time to see a surgeon to discuss the possibility of an injection to ease the pain in my back (which is not acute, but wakes me up every two hours at night). This is the latest in my string of attempts to sort out my back problems, having abandoned the medication prescribed by a neurologist, Dr Lionnet, earlier this year because of the side effects.
I was extremely impressed by Dr Dhenin, who specialises in spine surgery. It is so rare to meet a surgeon who is personable, with very strong communication skills and at the same time an air of evident authority and competence.
He turned the screen round so he could better explain to me what he was seeing when he looked at the MRI and scan from last year. He showed the path of the spinal cord on the MRI and said that, though the spinal canal in the lumbar area was narrow, it was not yet ‘catastrophique’. He turned to the scans, and showed how the arthritis was particularly bad in the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae. He was pretty sure (as is Charlotte, my physio) that this is the cause of the pain.
He has proposed – and I have agreed to – a procedure called thermocoagulation. From what I can understand this involves injecting electrodes (under local anaesthetic) into the lumbar area in order to effectively burn off nerve ends in the two offending vertebrae and the disc.
Of course I realised afterwards, when being interrogated by my daughter, Kate (far more efficient at analysing information and asking pertinent questions), that I have only the vaguest understanding of what is going to be done. Unfortunately it is a procedure which was sniffed at by NICE back in 2002 and therefore I can find little on the internet to clarify my confusion.
I have confidence in Dr Dhenin, however. I am not the only one: at a village lunch today I talked to someone who had this done last year and regards Dr Dhenin as his saviour. He is also the surgeon who performed much more dramatic spinal surgery on my friend, Margaret, who is another of his fans.
The procedure will be done, as an outpatient, on 2nd January. Meanwhile I have to see to the usual round of preparatory visits such as trips to see the anaesthetist.