Cordotomy offers cancer pain relief in time for Boot Walk
On Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, Kimberley Berry arrived at MD Anderson in her cowboy boots and Team Berry T-shirt, along with a dozen of her family and friends. Together, they raised $6,000 and were all set to support Kim in the inaugural Boot Walk, a fundraising walk to support MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer.
The only problem was that Kim’s upper thigh started to hurt. It became so painful that she asked for a wheelchair, but the staff inside MD Anderson’s Emergency Center urged her to check in instead. As Kim’s family and friends walked in her honor, she was admitted to the hospital.
While the drug began to kill and contain the cancer, it didn’t help the intense pain near her groin, where the tumor had grown. Over the next several months, the pain that started on the day of the Boot Walk became so great that Kim could barely walk. She was prescribed pain medicines and went to physical therapy twice a week at MD Anderson in Sugar Land, yet the pain persisted.
“On morphine, my only options were to be in pain or to sleep all the time,” Kim says. “On dilaudid, my pain was never below a six. I was miserable.”
She had a nerve block done, but the relief didn’t last long, and the pain soon returned.
Cordotomy is a minimally invasive neurosurgical procedure used to treat cancer-related pain. The procedure is performed using real-time CT guidance to ensure precision and safety. During a cordotomy, a neurosurgeon places a radiofrequency probe into the main pathway that carries pain signals within the spinal cord. The probe is then heated to interrupt the pain pathway.
“I was awake the whole time,” Kim says. During the procedure, she responded to Dr. Viswanathan’s questions about exactly where she felt pain, so that he could target the appropriate pathway.
“The relief was instant,” Kim says. “Those two hours changed my life. I felt like I could get off the table and walk down to recovery.”
Walking, dancing and boot scootin’ again
The day before her cordotomy, Kim’s pain was at an eight or nine. Walking a few feet from her hospital bed to the bathroom was slow and painful. A few hours after her cordotomy, Kim and her mother were dancing down the hallway.
“Before, I could barely walk,” Kim says. “The next day, I was literally dancing. I’ve got moves. I can get down, girl!”
She’s looking forward to busting out her moves – and her boots – at MD Anderson’s second annual Boot Walk on Saturday, Nov. 11. Team Berry is full of energy and support for Kim, and she’s excited to actually walk with her family and friends this time.
As she continues to give her cancer the boot, Kim says, “I’m more myself than I’ve been in months. I feel like a million bucks.”