By the middle of February, 2005, Richard was eating better and had more energy. He was frustrated, however, because his activity was limited by back pain. His original symptom had been back pain which turned out to be from a compression fracture of his L2 vertebra from the myeloma.
Myeloma causes the bone marrow to over produce a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells then collect in the bone marrow. They can crowd out the normal blood components, especially red blood cells, resulting in anemia. Plasma cells also produce substances that break down bone, resuting in weakened areas that show on xray as lytic lesions. Depending on where the lesions are located, pathologic fractures can occur. Compression fractures in the spine are very common with myeloma. They are also extremely painful. Here find more information on myeloma disease.
The L2 fracture was treated with radiation that eliminated about 90% of the pain. But in the summer of 2005, Richatd began having pain in the thoracic area of his back. This was found to be another compression fracture, this time at T7. A fracture in this area made it difficult for Richard to lift anything or bend or twist. He couldn't start the lawn mower because he couldn't pull the cord with enough force. He asked his doctor about a vertebroplasty to help with the pain and improve his physical function. Vertebroplasty is a procedure during which the compressed area of the spine is filled in with a type of bone cement. About 80 % of patients get significant pain relief from the procedure.
It was determined that Richard was a good candidate for the procedure. He had it done early in March. It was successful and he was mowing the lawn by the end of the month.