Written July 31, 2011
BACK SURGERY JOURNEY – Back Story
I was blessed with many wonderful things when I was born ? most importantly, loving parents and many really good genes. Unfortunately, sometimes the bad comes along with the good, but you don’t get to find out what that might be until you get older. One of the not-so-good blessings for me seems to be a pretty bad spine. I’ve learned some big words in the last couple of years: Kyphosis, Scoliosis, and down in that old lumbar section, L4 and L5 to be exact, is Spondylolisthesis or Spondy for short. The first two issues I can live with, but as the doctor says, I can’t live with the spondy. The L4 vertebra has slipped a half inch forward over L5, very close to completely shutting off the canal where the spinal cord and all sorts of nerves live. They call that Stenosis.
One of those unhappy nerves for me is the sciatic nerve. When that one pinches, it creates a nasty pain that starts in my left buttock and creates major burning pain down the leg and into the foot, sometimes debilitating. In addition, the Spondy is cutting off other nerves that result in my not being able to stand in one place more than a few minutes without my thighs going numb and burning. Sitting for long periods doesn’t work very well either. Walking feels good, so Jesse (our pup) and I do that every day. Dancing used to be one of my joys but that’s on hold for awhile.
Since the possibility of a final big pinch would cause paralysis and a wheelchair existence, that is simply not an option. So this blog is going to be a sort of diary of what this process, a surgery, will be like. So far, I’ve tried several chiropractors, acupuncture, cranial sacral therapy, EFT, physical therapy, deep tissue therapy, and massage. Then I gave in and went to the spine doctor. I showed Dr. B some X-rays one of the chiropractors had taken. He shook his head and said, “Whew.” Not exactly encouraging.
He suggested trying cortisone shots. However, I would need to have an MRI first. Well. I’m very claustrophobic. I finally, with a few caveats, made it through. A soft pad for my eyes kept my curiosity impossible to satisfy and I insisted my husband be in the room with me to keep his hand on my leg. They agreed ?-just no metal on his body. And I took two Xanax that morning. That kept the anxiety under control and I survived it, much to my slightly wobbly delight. A half hour later, I was getting my first shot with Dr. B. The relief lasted a week. I waited the required two months and got another shot. It lasted about two days. When I asked for a third, Dr. B told us the bad news. Surgery. Fusion with rods and screws. Oh whoopee.
Anxiety set in again and still is in conflict with the desire to be rid of the pain. I did ask if they could add the three inches back that I’ve lost in height, but he just smiled. I think that’s a no. Dr. B sent me to Dr. O who does the surgery. I have to say they’re both so darn handsome and sooo young. (I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.) Anyway, fortunately I have a couple of friends who went through this last year, although they were both in good physical shape right up to the operation unlike me. One even went skiing the day before. Good Lord. I can barely roll over in bed, let alone get up without groaning! I’m not much fun right now. Just ask Jim.
I alternate between being grateful that it’s not the big “C” and being frustrated and even angry that this has happened. Mom and Dad lived to 89 and 93 respectively and never had any major surgeries. Dad shrunk nine inches, but he still drove and never complained. He couldn’t turn his head far, but it didn’t stop him and neither could I, and he played the piano to entertain the “old folks” every day of his life. So what’s with my body?
I’ve got all the appointments set up now. A day of pre-op at the hospital being fitted for a brace that I’ll be wearing for 8 weeks, and a notebook full of “do this, maybe that, but absolutely don’t do that!” It was a gift from the spine clinic. It’s a 2-3 night stay in the hospital and I’m told they get you up almost immediately to walk. Hard to envision right now. I’ve been told I’ll feel pretty much like chopped liver for a couple of weeks but things slowly get better every day. I won’t be able to bend, twist, reach, lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk, and I simply cannot fall. Physical therapy starts at about 6-8 weeks and before that, it’s walk, walk, walk. A mile a day right away, in pieces, with a walker. I sense more groaning in my future.
Recovery takes at least six months, actually up to 1 ½ years to totally “harden.” The doctor did emphasize, “If you don’t dance now, you won’t be dancing in six months.” I said, “I love to dance and I darn well want to do that again!” So … the surgery is scheduled for October 13. God willing, I’ll be able to comfortably use the computer again since writing is one of my joys. I don’t have much interest in marketing my current books right now, and the creative juices aren’t flowing enough to work on the new book. Excuses, excuses, whine, whine, whine.
So there you have the back story. Yes, it’s about my back but it’s also the necessary information explaining how I reached this chapter of my journey. Talk about a Shift! Future blogs will be much shorter, I promise.