My Lunates are Dying

WARNING: This blog contains a lot of profanity. I’m not kidding. Please don’t read it if you are easily offended or are my mother. 

I worked off a lot of calories this morning at the gym. I’m pissed off and damn it, my arms will pay the price.

I found out yesterday that my lunate bones are dying. This does not mean that I am dying, let’s get that out there right away. No, the lunate bone is the middle of three bones along the bottom of the hand where it meets the wrist. For whatever reason, the blood supply to this bone in both of my hands is cut off, either from a long-ago trauma to the wrists or by being a freak of nature who only has one instead of two blood vessels in those bones.

This dying of lunates has a name – Kienbock’s disease, named for a German radiologist who wrote of the disease’s progression in 1910, although the disease had been identified 70 years earlier. It is an “uncommon” rather than “rare” disease, meaning it affects 1 in 150,000 to 200,000 people. If my math is correct, that means it affects roughly 1,500 – 2,000 people in the United States. It also affects mostly men. And usually in only one hand. Lucky me. I’m a woman and I have it in both hands. Take me to fucking Vegas, baby, because I can beat the odds.

I’ve known for about three years that there was something wrong with my hands, especially when my handwriting went to shit, but I’d just pop some Advil and tell myself to buck up. This wasn’t real pain. Real pain is felt by people with real problems like cancer or broken bones or burns. I trained myself to ignore the pain even though I can’t open child-proof lids anymore or even snap off the cap from the Pam cooking spray. I squeeze the can between my knees and knock it off with the butt of a butter knife. Denial is the mother of invention, right?

I’ve denied my pain because I didn’t want anything to be wrong. But pain can be quite a motivator. I can’t run a vacuum without pain. I can’t drive a car without pain. I can’t use my hands to touch or stroke or rub or scratch or caress without feeling like I’m being stabbed in the middle of my wrist with a ballpoint pen.

It’s that kind of pain that made me call my doctor. Who sent me for x-rays. Which caused her to send me to a hand specialist. Who told me I’m a “unique case.” Not only do I have Kienbock’s, I have Kienbock’s with a twist, only he doesn’t know what that twist is yet until he reads my MRI which I’ll have done on January 29. He says he’s not seen a case like mine before. He says he’ll want to present it at a conference for hand specialists. This is NOT the kind of celebrity I was hoping for. I want my hands to write words that move people, not hands that give plastic surgeons wet dreams.

Grief commonly has five stages: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I’m fully ensconced in anger right now. I’ll probably skip bargaining because it doesn’t do any good anyway and just hop right on over to depression. I’m sure there will come a day when I’ll get to acceptance, but for now, I’m gonna be angry.

At least with anger comes some sense of reality, that this isn’t going away on its own, and I’d better grow the hell up and face what’s going on just beneath the surface of my skin. And the reality is that Kienbock’s has no cure. From what I’ve read, and there is very little out there to read because this freaking disease is “uncommon,” most people with Kienbock’s have wrist pain and weakness the rest of their lives, even after bone grafts, lunate implants, proximal row carpectomies, radial shortening, radial wedge osteotomies, or ulnar lengthening. But without these interventions, my dead lunate will be absorbed by my body and the bones next to it will collapse into themselves, creating a host of other problems. The fucking cure isn’t much better than the disease, but at least I’ll be able to hold my grandbabies one day and not drop them on their heads.

I’ll find my strength in time. Right now I’m just pissed. And sad. While I was beating myself up at the gym I was listening to Robert Plant’s song “Shine It All Around.” This phrase struck me as I was in the middle of an excruciatingly difficult push up:

“These are the times of my life
Bright, strong and golden
This is the way that I choose when the deal goes down”

The deal is going down and being angry right now is the way I’m choosing to cope. Goddamn Kienbock’s.

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One thought on “My Lunates are Dying

  1. This is one of those moments when I don’t know what to say. You know I care and you know I’d do anything I could to help.
    If’n you want, and if it will make you feel better, you can come over and punch me in the face.
    Love ya, my friend

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