Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Last Summer, Part 1

The things that happened "suddenly last summer" in fact did not all occur in the summer. They started in spring and stretched to the early fall. The very first thing that happened -- and it should not surprise you to learn that these are all bad things I'm referring to (though maybe if I were a more enlightened person, I'd seem them as otherwise, but not yet anyway) -- was that my mother had surgery and then became terrifically ill as a result. So sick that it seemed there was no way she was going to shake the troubles that were plaguing her and bounce back, but in fact she did. After weeks of truly miserable health problems, she improved and is now back to presurgery health, just thinner. Her scary surgical complications are not even one of the things that so affected me "last summer," because once the situation passed, it was in the past. It was no longer part of the present, as the rest of the occurrences still seem to be. However, there's a part of me that feels like I cashed in all my chips wishing and hoping and even praying for her recovery. After that, the coffers were empty, there was nothing in the bank to keep evil at bay and it just started to creep in.

In April we had a crazy heat wave in the Northeast. It hit 90 degrees a couple times, if I'm not misremembering. At the time, I was still employed full-time, and I climbed up with one foot on my desk and the other on a windowsill, and bent in half to pull straight up on one of the huge old, perennially stuck windows in the office. Even as I was hauling on the window in this awkward position, I was thinking, "This is a bad idea." And though I noticed no pop or ping or sudden shooting pain, before the end of the day it felt as though I had pulled a muscle in my butt. Things just got worse until I had pain the whole way down my right leg within a few weeks.

I'm going to cut to the chase here and tell you what it took me two months to discover: I had herniated a disk in my lower back with this stupid maneuver. Badly. Everyone who looks at the MRI goes out of their way to mention how large the herniation is. It's so large, I think I can see it in this scan that I just had done last week. Can you?

I'm pretty sure it's that bubble about a quarter way up the image, where the spine starts to curve out. That's the disk between the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae, which happens to be the most common place for herniations because people fall back on ill-advised bend-and-lifts just like I did. If I'm right about that being a big glob of nucleus pulposus projecting into a location where it should not be, it's actually a good thing. I met with a surgeon recently, and he's the one who sent me for this, my second, MRI. We had decided (or I had; I hope he's coming along for the ride) that if this MRI showed that I still had a large herniation, I'd undergo surgery to have it removed.

Surgery would be a huge boon right now, trust me. I've been in pain since April and am verging on addicted to opioids. I take that back. I am addicted. If I don't get them, I don't go screaming out into the street grabbing passersby and looking for a dealer, but I'm miserable. I can think of nothing but the pain, which, if I miss my pills, feels like I've been kicked in the behind and have a deep and very tender bruise that's under constant pressure. And this is discounting the buzzing, humming, tightness, and numbness that occur down my leg even when I'm on medication -- that I can bear. I'm so hooked on my drugs that when the darvocet that I'd been taking for 6 months was recalled by the FDA in late 2010 because it's associated with potentially fatal heart abnormalities, I just continued taking it until my prescription ran out. I didn't want to face having to go without my drugs. (And in fact, the replacement med I'm on now isn't nearly as good. I miss my darvocet.) So surgery that would remove the herniation that's impinging on a nerve and causing this sciatica and get me off this drug dependency is something I very much want.

This herniation has changed me. I'm not the person I was before I was in chronic pain. I had no conception of what constant discomfort could do to a person -- to a life -- until I hurt myself. I was no great athlete but I occasionally went to yoga with a friend, I hopped on a bike a few times a summer, I walked my dog the mile to work with regularity, I was just your average able-bodied middle-aged woman. Strike all that, and that's who I am now. Plus my patience, my demeanor, my outlook, even my creativity -- the me of me -- has all been altered for the worse and has, not surprisingly, affected those around me, which has affected me some more, and so on. Vicious circle, thy name is disk herniation.

I have my fingers crossed that I'll get a call in the next few days from that surgeon saying, "Come on in. Let's schedule that operation." It would be like hearing I've won something. Something I have to pay for, but something I really wanted nonetheless.

In other news, my new best friend (she doesn't know that yet though) Lori Anderson is letting me be part of her Bead Soup Blog Party. I apologize if you are one of her readers who followed the link to my blog from the list she posts of all participants. No doubt you came to check out pretty beads and exciting jewelry, and there's not a lot of that here yet. But give me some time and know that if you get partnered with me, I'm going to send you a terrific collection of components. I'm nearly as excited about fabricating a focal element, putting together that package, and working with whatever you send me as I am about possibly having that operation. Spine surgery / bead exchange -- two sides of my lucky January 2011 coin.


  1. with God you NEVER run out of chances for an answer for your problem. He is always a call away and His timing is the perfect even though it may not seem so. And look at all the patience and understanding you now have for drug addicts, and those with chronic pain issues. Ok, I really did not mean to preach to you- more like encourage you that He does care. Welcome to the Beading exchange and if we are partners I will be thrilled. Alice from Alice's Beads and Baubles

  2. we have the same best friend! (she doesn't know about me either) lol

    Best wishes on your back. daily pain, or any pain for that matter, sucks.

    Your partner will love the package you make for them!

    Keep us updated on how your doing.

  3. I have a horrible back -- I feel for you!

  4. I read your post with great, great sympathy. I just had my second surgery for a herniated disc between L4 and L5 in 15 years. Yes, that is a great time span. I can totally understand where you are coming from. I was lucky that this go round my doc did surgery within 6 months. (that sounds really long) I can relate to the drug dependancy. I did the vicodan thing and coming off was hard. The needing to have them on my person, in my bag was a ruling factor in everyday life. Making sure that I had that little bottle. Right now, all I want is to be able to exercise again!!!! :)

    All this being said, I am so sorry. I can relate and you are welcome to contact me at any time!!!! I get it.

    You will love the Bead Soup Blog Party! I joined last go round and it was a blast and a half. Lori is the most amazing hostess!!!