Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Biding my time

There's a certain beauty in bad news. There's always a story, there's always a topic of discussion surrounding it. It doesn't stand on its own laurels; there are extenuating circumstances.

On Friday, I reached an apex of pain that heretofore did not exist in my body. I was in such pain that I was sweating bullets and thought I was going to throw up. The nurse couldn't take my blood pressure because I couldn't sit, but I can tell you that if the machine had read my BP it would have been through the roof. My heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest.

I had already planned to be at my orthopedist's office because I had an MRI that Monday to assess the cause of on-and-off pain I'd been feeling in my butt (as I've been telling my friends, this is all a literal pain in my ass) where the hip and leg meet. It felt like it had been getting worse, so I headed into the tube. Friday was results day. Friday was my bad news day.

My L5-S1 disc, which is the very last disc in the human back, is recurrent. Which means it has herniated again, almost ten years after doing it the first time, when I was thrown off a horse. I don't know what caused the recurrence, but I have seen my fair share of lumbar MRIs (mostly my own) and when my doctor pulled up my MRI on the screen, I immediately started crying. And all I could really say was the word "fuck". Out loud and then in my head, over and over and over again.

The large black thing in the middle of this photo is my L5-S1 disc. The white crescent beneath it is my spinal cord. In a healthy back, the disc would be an oval and the spinal cord would be a circle.

There are no conservative solutions to this problem. No pills, no PT, no acupuncture is going to fix this. The only option my doctor has put forth is surgery.

While I was a strong advocate during my first injury of trying all the options, I ultimately spent a year "trying" and failing to relieve my pain. The only thing that fixed it was surgery, which took place in May 2006. And this time around, part of me is happy because I am not going to wait a year while being jerked around from office to office hoping for a miracle cure. My orthopedist is going IN. And that's all there is to it.

I did not realise how upset I'd be when faced with another surgery. But I am. It's honestly a scary proposition: someone slices open your back and removes something poking deeply into your spinal cord with a knife. One slip and I won't be able to walk ever again. But my doctor is one of the best in the area, and he's done this surgery so many times he can probably do it to himself. I'm still nailing down a date for surgery; I was originally scheduled for the end of November (by my choice), but I've decided to move it up a month because I am worried about the repercussions of waiting.

I will be out of work for a month. That's a little unnerving. I've only had a few days to process all of this, but some of the info has gone down easier that other parts of it. It's one thing to take a month of vacation, but it's another to be forced out of commission. I'm struggling with that. I'm sacrificing a lot, professionally and personally, to take the month of November off completely: multiple big programs at work, doing some very fun things (my first and probably only real Halloween party), and even voting at my poling place are all now off the table so I can be on the table. I've decided, though, to make the absolute best out of my convalescence (thanks Downton Abbey for the introduction to THAT word): I am going to paint and read graphic novels and watch documentaries and learn to poach an egg and make Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon. I'm not going to let this get me down. Work is such a big part of my life that being taken away from it for a month is daunting.

I've been really lucky: my parents, of course, will help me deal with this (it's pretty easy since I still live with them!), and the outpouring of support from my friends has been incredible. I have an amazing support system in so many levels: my boyfriend, my boss, my many coworkers who overlap as friends, and my long distance besties all have my back (insert back joke here). Knowing that these people are here during the good and the bad has made all the difference.

Blogwise, I don't think a whole lot will change--I'll probably be taking pause from outfit blogging for a bit because I won't be dressing for anything but PT, at least for part of the time. I'm going to hope that I can get up and about after a couple of weeks, which was what happened after my last surgery. Back surgery usually doesn't involve a lot of lying in bed like an invalid--the more I move the better, so maybe I'll be able to get back to outfit photos relatively soon. In the meantime, though, expect photos of books and poached eggs and cats and whatever else I do. I might even work on a very slight blog design upgrade. And I will no doubt be aggressively Instagramming every tiny bit of my convalescence as well.

So yeah. Back to our regularly scheduled blogging, starting tomorrow.

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