12/13/12 – Thursday – I seem to feel OK this morning as far as side effects, but of course the pain and numbness it still present. I don’t know what I was expecting—-maybe a miraculous recovery, but I feel really sore this morning. I will take the other pills today and see what develops. Later in the morning my resolve breaks and I just feel like enough is enough regarding the intense pressure and numbness in the abdomen and back. I start out by saying that this is ridiculous, and it builds up to a full-blown meltdown, complete with ranting, raving, vows of suicide and calling the doctor’s office yet again. Of course they have to take a message because there is no way to actually get someone on the phone immediately. The nurse finally calls and says she spoke with the surgeon who said I need to get another MRI (hopefully the insurance company will pay for this) before my Monday follow-up visit to see if there is anything wrong. At least she is on the same page as I am because that is what I was going to suggest. No MRIs are done in their facility on Fridays so I have to get it done somewhere else. In the meantime, I have to get blood work done downtown at University Hospital, which makes me nervous to drive there. But, I finally make it after getting a little lost and I am proud of myself for keeping calm. The MRI is scheduled for tomorrow on N. Belair Road, which is easy to find, right in Evans. I’m not sure if I want it to show something drastically wrong (sponge left in, or bone out of place, or more narrowing) to explain why I have made basically no progress. If everything is as it should be then it is even more discouraging because there is no explanation as to why I still feel these horrible symptoms. On the other hand, if there is something drastically out of the norm, then it would at least give me hope that this can be corrected. There it is again, that word HOPE. If they keep telling me that I just have to be patient, then I will lose all hope. I need HOPE at this point to continue on. I simply cannot or will not continue to live my life as half a person. An old friend once told me that his wife had back surgery years ago and she just would not get better. They did an MRI and discovered to their horror that a sponge had been left in. She then collected a huge sum of money in a settlement. That has stuck with me and who knows? I am not looking to collect money (although that would not be so bad)—-I am just looking to feel better. Nobody knows how terrible it is to wake up every morning and have pressure and numbness in your belly, back, and legs with no end in sight. Nobody knows how devastating and frustrating it is when there are no answers in sight and your whole world is rapidly going down the toilet. I pray to God for help but God helps in his time, not mine. Please Lord please get on the same page as me. Thanks.
Positive Mindset: 11/27/12 – Tuesday – Today I went to the orthopedic doctor I’ve seen numerous times for knee injections. He is the surgeon’s partner and actually I like him a lot. He ended up giving me a cortisone shot which will help with the stiffness and pain. I was in a better state of mind for the rest of the day. I went to a meeting and felt so much better.
11/28/12 – Wednesday – This is the first day of my physical therapy. I am in a good state of mind because I will hopefully get the OK to do some more exercises. He says I am more flexible than the average person, which is a good thing. But, of course, he cannot give me any time-frame for my nerve root to heal. Until that heals, all the therapy in the universe will not bring my dead leg back to total function. It is a slow process, as I’ve been told over and over. But, on a good note, he said in about 6 months or so he thinks I should be back to normal. Six months is a long time, but as long as I continue to see progress, it is OK with me. He said to walk slowly so the nerve pathways can learn again—if I walk too fast (which is really not even an option at this point) my nerve becomes “confused” so keep it slow! I went to Target to walk around with the shopping cart (buggy down here) but for some reason, my legs felt like someone had injected an anesthetic agent into them and I was walking on dead tingly legs; very discouraging. I decided to go home and work on the computer. It is an effort each day to stay in a positive state of mind but I am going to try. I cannot guarantee that I will be successful. I’m scared that I will never be able to return to the life I knew; I am scared that I will be permanently disabled. You can’t play the “what if” game. My biggest problem is between my ears. Life constantly changes but that is the nature of life. I don’t know what the future will hold so I have to just take “one day at a time”.
New Reality – Sunday – I decide to clean my bathroom, even though I am still unsteady. My knee feels slightly better because I am not doing so much bending and flexing during exercise. Even the backwards squats, holding onto something, irritates my knee. I go to the gym and work out in the woman’s section so I won’t be so noticeable. I am acutely self-conscious about my limp and having to use the cane. But I guess it would be even more embarrassing if I fell, hence the cane. Maybe I need to get a distinctive walking stick for some flare! I do the treadmill, some biceps, triceps, shoulders, etc. using light 5 lb. weights. I also try the thigh and hip machine on an extremely low resistance. I am careful not to do anything that pulls on my back at all. All of a sudden I notice my damn knee is back to being painful, probably due to my small squats to strengthen my knee. Again, I am very discouraged. I am laying low today in the house, writing and taking it easy. Yes I could go out again, but I decide to just chill since it is Sunday. It is amazing how I actually wish I were working tomorrow because I am losing my mind with boredom. I love to write but as always, I lack structure in my life, which I so desperately need. My goal is to actually get better enough to start traveling, taking pictures with a new digital SLR, and getting paid with the pics. I am a good photographer and this is what I want to do. But, everything in my life is on hold until this incredible numbness in my legs gets resolved. My left leg is not so bad and not weak, but my right leg sometimes does not even support me at all. I am walking in fear all the time, and so slowly that it makes me feel extremely old. But I have to stop looking at my past and reliving my former self. I find myself saying, “Oh, I used to run marathons and be in great shape. I used to work out every day for an hour. I used to look good. I used to have gorgeous shapely calves, etc.” That does me no good whatsoever. I heard Stacey say that she would tell people that she used to make 100K and have a beautiful spacious home. The reality is that she lost all that and now lives in a nice apartment. My reality is that I no longer run, my right leg is atrophied a little due to weakness, I cannot work out the way I used to and my body does not look the way I want it to anymore. I have to accept this and move on to the next phase in my life. Hopefully, and God willing, my leg will improve as the numbness subsides, but as of now, my life is changed. I do not know when or if there will be improvement, although I’ve been told there will be. I have to latch onto that prognosis and try hard to notice even the most infinitesimal improvements. I never thought that I would take so much pleasure in such small things, but maybe that is why this is happening. My mood can turn around in an instant with just one small improvement in my walking, my knee, less numbness. But, conversely, it can go the other way when there seems to be no improvement or even a setback. I have to learn to roll with the punches and realize that ultimately it is my attitude that will save me.
Beginning: Background – About 8 months ago I became aware of a chronic back and overall ache, mostly in my back and hips. Thinking it was due to my new mattress I returned the mattress 4 times trying to wake up not feeling like a Mack truck had hit me overnight. I would shake it off, pop my 4 Ibuprofens, take a hot shower, and go out for a run or to the gym before going to work. But, it soon became apparent that my right knee was painful and I probably had a ripped meniscus. But It also became apparent that I was having limited ROM on my right side and had constant pain all over—not just the knee—even while working out in the gym. At first I ignored it and just tried to put it aside, but I knew I had to see a specialist. Regarding the knee, I have had that surgery before and just assumed that I would recover completely within 2 or 3 months. However this has not been the case.
As of right now I am also trying to recover from back surgery (laminectomy) which also affects the knee. My “recovery” has not been what I expected—from both the laminectomy and knee surgery. Because my right leg is so weak, due to the injured spinal nerve, it has prevented the quadriceps muscle (thigh) from being strong and this affects the knee recovery. I am now using a cane because of my weak right leg and knee. My knees are so stiff and my right knee so painful that I can barely walk. This is probably due to having two anesthesias and surgeries back to back, or so I have been told. As a form of therapy, I decided to document my ordeal in the following posts.
Unless you are experiencing chronic pain, you have no idea how absolutely all-consuming and debilitating (both mind and body) it actually is.
I have always prided myself with being very physically active and fit; I was not going to be one of “those” people who walk with canes, limp, and generally have trouble getting around. I would be forever “young” regardless of my age. I think God has a great sense of humor and he/she loves to give us lessons in humility when we are too damn cocky. I have been a runner for about 26 years and regularly accepted the chronic pain in my knees, but it was basically achiness due to some arthritis. I have had numerous knee arthroscopies throughout the years, but apparently it was not enough to take up another sport. I just kept on, ignoring my poor, deteriorating knees due to my obsessive nature. Then about 8 months ago, I bought a new mattress and suddenly it was my back and hips that began to ache. It started out with just some stiffness but after a while, it was constant when I worked out. I noticed that when I ran it was worse. Then my right knee began to give out and when it rains it pours, because then everything went wrong. I went for Supartz injections into my knee with the hope that I could return to running, but there was no improvement. But, it became painfully (no pun intended) obvious that I was dealing with more than just a torn meniscus. Gradually, my right foot and toes, my low back and hips, my thighs and belly have become numb. The pain in my back has been non-stop and I was living on ibuprofen. I saw my primary doctor and he blew me off, in addition to my orthopedic doctor, who was only concerned with my knee. Since the injections in my knee joint did not work, we did an MRI, which showed a torn meniscus, which has now been repaired with arthroscopic surgery (5 weeks ago). But the back issue remained and what most concerned me was the numbness. Finally, due to any lack of caring or just procrastination on the part of the aforementioned doctors, I took the bull by the horn and self-referred to Augusta Back. After telling my tale of woe, the osteopath ordered and MRI, which shows bulging disks, as well as some spinal stenosis. I just went through the first round of epidural steroid injections and will have more for the next level of the spine that is affected. But, I have run the gamut of emotions due to severely limiting my physical activities, although I am still working as a massage therapist. Yesterday I woke up in such bad pain (both knee—which is taking forever to heal—and back) forcing me to literally hobble to the bathroom, that I had a total emotional meltdown. Some days the pain is not that bad, and other days it is more than I can take (probably emotionally more than physically). It does not help that I am still limping on my bum leg, which throws my back and gait off. It also does not help that I am on my feet constantly at work and went back to work only 4 days after surgery. I always thought of myself as “superwoman” when it came to my body and overcoming aches and pains but God has other intentions, apparently. They say that things happen for reasons, and I am still waiting to discover what the reason is. Perhaps it is just to slow down and smell the roses and realize that I am human. Or, perhaps it is a way for me to be more compassionate with other peoples’ suffering from chronic pain or debilitations. I have to say that when I see people walking slowly I can now relate. I would appreciate if anyone going through something similar would please add a comment and let me know your story.