I had back surgery about three weeks ago to fix a herniated disk and put an end to the disabling sciatica (nerve pain) I've been having in my right leg for close to a year. For the first three postoperative days, the sciatica was complete gone. Though there was discomfort at the surgical site, I knew that was temporary, so I was a happy camper. Then on the fourth postop day, the sciatica started to come back, and it got worse every day until it reached its presurgery level and I was back on the narcotic pain relievers. My surgeon says not to panic, that this can happen. Sometimes the nerve is so dinged up by the herniation and aggravated by the surgery that it takes six to eight weeks to heal, so it's too early to know whether the operation was a failure. He had no good reason for why I'd have had no sciatica for three days only to have it come back but said it's a pattern he'd seen before, and it doesn't mean that the sciatica is back for good. (When he said this, I leaned in, looked him right in the eye, and said, "You wouldn't lie to me about this, would you?," and because I selected this surgeon myself from many options in the Philly area, I will believe him when he said he would not.) He gave me some steroids and more painkillers to add to my extensive sciatica-related pharmacopoeia, wrote a prescription for physical therapy to strengthen my ailing core, set up another appointment, and sent me on my way with a firm, reassuring handshake.
It's taking everything I have not to freak out entirely about how this is going. Even though I was aware that there was a possibility the surgery wouldn't clear up the pain, I was convinced that it would, and it seemed to have done so. But then, no. It feels especially cruel that I was allowed to think I was fine only to be more greatly disabused of that notion every day as the numbness, tingling, and deeply bruised feeling returned to my leg and grew stronger. I'm trying very hard to believe that, indeed, the nerve may just need more time to heal, even though not a single soul I know of who's had the same surgery reported a recovery like this. They just woke up after the operation and the pain was gone for good. That's what I wanted, what I thought I had. That relief seems to have slipped through my fingertips is all I can think about -- that and what else I will have to do to fix this if the surgery did not (kinesiology, acupuncture, perhaps stabbing myself in the other leg with a steak knife as a distraction). Keeping my chin up is harder every day.
There's my little trauma, and then there's Japan. Japan, Japan, Japan. When I'm not thinking leg, leg, leg, it's Japan, Japan, Japan. I watched as much of the news yesterday as I could bear and saw a country swept away, crumbling, exploding. They said on NPR that a train was missing. A train, gone. How do you start to fathom the loss of life and culture and property? How and where do you start to clean up and where do you go with it all? (The practical side of me sees landfills the size of mountains.) I wish I could say that I'm someone who feels empowered by tragedies, who mobilizes resources and moves swiftly and firmly to make things better, taking matters into my own hands. I'm not though. I make some donations of money and clothing and goods, whatever they're asking for, and then I hope that other people are making things better. Katrina, Haiti, the Indonesian tsunami -- donations plus wishful thinking is my pattern, along with not delving too deeply into the stories about the misery. So, Japan, you'll be getting some money from me, via one avenue or another, and I will be keeping you in my thoughts and engaging in conversation about you when others bring you up, and in exchange I ask you to forgive me for avoiding news stories about your dead and mangled citizens, your lost treasures, the seeming impossible feat of cleaning up and rebuilding that you face. I care, but I just can't watch.
Finally, my blue mood is deepened by the knowledge that in two weeks, H would have turned 50. There would have been a righteous celebration of this to which I would not have been invited, but that's okay. I'd have called him a day or two before and wished him well and dropped off a gift on the back porch, as I have practically every year since we split, since that's the kind of exes we were. In the past month or so, I've seen several things, mostly artwork, that made me think "H's birthday present," a thought that isn't fully through my mind before it's headed off by "H is gone." A happy thought gone wrong before it's fully thunk.
The hits are getting harder to take, but there are happy things too. Last evening I went to an opening reception for a gallery show of my friend Alyce's paintings, which can be seen here. She is as genuine a person as I know, is a terrific artist and teacher, and is always wearing at least one piece of jewelry I made, so just seeing her cheers me up. Here we are last fall standing in front of a localish tree in a localish park that won some kind of statewide award. (Yeah, who knew that trees competed?) We followed signs leading into the woods to the state champion tree and frankly found it to be pretty average when got to it, so we took a picture of ourselves standing in front of it to make the occasion more memorable.
Glad I dug up this picture, since seeing Alyce's smiling face is again making me feel a bit better. Thanks, Alyce.
Hang in in there, Japan; help is coming. Wish you were here, H. And get over your bad self and fly right, sciatic nerve. I've had about enough of you.