Monday, May 21, 2012

A reluctant journey

Almost a month ago I began a new journey. A new path in my life. It actually started a few months before that but the mile marker I am going to use is April 24, 2012. 

Some journeys are planned and others just happen. I have taken many of both. I am both reckless and cautious, not an easy mix. This journey is one of my own making but not a conscious one. Sometimes things are truly outside your control. This is one.

"Things happen for a reason, " my Gram always says. "The reason is usually at the end of the road." Well, Gram, I am looking for the reason but I don't think I see the end of the road yet. I hope the end is less scary than the beginning.

The beginning
One morning I hurt my back. A sharp pain that only a person with what would start with what would later be described as a bulging disc can appreciate. I have had a bad lower back since junior high. I know, a little early to start having back issues. I broke a few vertebrae in gymnastics and spent months in a bed in the living room. So I was used to back pain but this was different. 

When a few weeks went by and I was still miserable, I went to the doctor. She sent me home with pain pills and an opportunity to have my first MRI. I mentioned to her that I was getting tingling in my fingers and my right leg was acting odd. It just felt wrong.

The doc said I had a bulging disc that didn't look too bad but I should see a specialist. A month later I have more dumbness in my hands and now my leg is burning and tingling. Finally the health care wardens approve a visit to a specialist and I am in what is the scariest doctor visit in my life. Thank goodness for my husband. He is my rock. He speaks 'medicaleese' fluently and doesn't pull any punches. 

After having to do the normal doctor exam things like walk for me, close my eyes and touch my nose (good practice if I ever get pulled over), banging rubber mallets on my knees etc. He says I need a new MRI. Great! More expensive tests. He also tells me I have carpel tunnel but I knew that. I am computer goddess and of course it has messed up my wrists. But then my rock asks the questions I can't ask. "What do you think it is?" Over the pounding in my head I hear things like MS, nerve damage, etc. I want to kick my rock for asking.

Two days later after a much better MRI experience, we are running a couple errands in the big city. We live in a small town now and love it but sometimes a trip into "town" means shopping at real grocery stores. About 45 minutes after the MRI my phone rings and the doctor wants to see me first thing in the morning. That's bad. So we go to happy hour. What else can we do really? 

So the next morning we are back and this time the doc meets us in the waiting room. Crap! Not a good omen. Nope not good at all. So he tells me I have spinal injuries which are causing the numbness and burning. Don't move my head and I need surgery asap. I knew his meeting us at the door was bad! 

After the initial diagnosis I am relieved it isn't MS. But then I tune back into the conversation after the buzz in my head stops. Spinal injuries? I haven't been in an accident how do I get spinal injuries? Apparently my body did the damage. No more rolling my head from side to side, no more leaning back, all those normal activities were causing damage to my spine. Who knew my my morning stretch was out to get me?

After the surgery
I met another neuro surgeon a few weeks ago at a cooking class. He said I was a poster child for the surgery. Right. But the other thing he said was his 2 x 2 rule of surgery. "Two  days you want to die. Two weeks you want to kill the doctor."  That describes it. 

I am now a bionic woman. Wish I could move like her. I move more like a robot but it is getting better. I went back to teaching my two classes a week  after the surgery fueled by pain meds. I couldn't dress myself but I needed to feel worthwhile. 

Knitting by braille
It's a good thing I have been knitting and crocheting in the dark for years. Although my vision is fine, my range of view is sorely limited. For weeks I couldn't look down.  I can barely look down for long now due to the rods and pins in my neck. 

I could move my eyes but not my neck. Give it a try. Stand soldier straight with your back against the wall. Keeping your head firmly against the wall look down. What do you see? I am a fairly busty gal and I could barely see the girls. Now put your bifocals on.  

So I knit with my arms out in front of me. Funny looking and painful. In the best of times my arms would've gotten tired after awhile. When they move your shoulder muscles out of the way to get at your back, it's a bit more painful. 

And knitting lace socks on drugs leads to some interesting results!

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