Is that a tree growing on your neck?

Several muscles on the right side of my neck tightened up during surgery on April 15th, and haven’t relaxed since. They are rock hard, and they protrude sideways like small tree trunks under my skin. The surgeon said they didn’t really expect it to happen. The nurse called it cording. No one knows exactly why it happens to some people, but it is presumed to be the body’s defense to injury.

Massage could potentially help. But I couldn’t get massage during my six weeks of radiation in Houston; my skin was burned and burned skin can’t be massaged; it might break open.

Now my skin is less sensitive, but I don’t know anyone in Tyler who can do this special kind of medical massage. If you press too hard in the wrong spot on a neck, you can kill a person. That totally defeats the purpose.

I saw a pain management doctor at MD Anderson on July 17th, and he gave me a series of ten steroid shots in these muscles, in an attempt to relax them. He pulled in one of his medical students prior to the procedure, pointed to my neck and told her “You will never see a case as bad as this one.”

Just as I suspected.

The steroid shot seemed to work for a minute or two, but it had no lasting effect. I can’t get more shots for another six months, but I don’t think they are worth getting again.

The muscles are always stiff, but sometimes they contract like charlie horses and feel even worse. They are doing that right now, as I type. I think they know we are talking about them and they don’t like it.

These corded muscles — please pray that they will supernaturally soften, relax and return to normal. They are my biggest source of pain.

You want to see a picture, you say? Well, okay, if you insist. It is not pretty AT ALL. A good scarf or wig could cover up the bad parts in real life. That brown stuff on my neck is NOT dirt, it is burned skin in various stages of flaking. It may be hard to understand what you are seeing when you first look at the photo, but that is the right side of my neck, with a bit of my earlobe, my chin, and the neckline of a pink t-shirt.

WARNING: Photo not suitable for the squeamish. Or for me (but I have no choice).


Imagine having to look at that in the mirror every day!

Now I’ve shown you the picture, it’s unsightly, and I have no dignity left. But surely you can understand better why I ask for your prayers.


5 thoughts on “Is that a tree growing on your neck?

  1. Teresa says:

    Sorry you are the “unusual” patient again. It certainly looks painful. I pray for a local therapist who can help you. Above all, I pray that our Great Physician brings relaxation to the muscles.


  2. Oh girl. That does look uncomfortable, and I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such an unusual side effect. I’ve heard of other breast cancer patients developing this (AWS–auxiliary web syndrome)–try finding a physical therapist or nurse who has experience with breast cancer rehabilitation. With therapy this should improve a lot for you.
    Praying for the muscles to release, for an easing of pain, and for much better rest.


  3. Bless your heart. I am so sorry for this side-effect. Had no idea it was that bad. No wonder it is so painful. Praying that this quickly improves and the pain will subside. Love you.


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