I used to be a really healthy person. I was active, went to the gym, climbed rocks, was never in the hospital for anything except a couple of broken bones years ago. Then back in December I bent over to pick something up off the floor and boom, my back had this amazing pain. That pain, once it went away was replaced with a pain in my leg that made it so that I could barely walk at times.
That pain (I later learned it was called sciatic pain and caused by one of the discs in my spine herniating out of its natural spot and then pinching the sciatic nerve) stayed with me for about 8 months. It totally changed me. I was limping all over the place, I was in pain all the time, I was essentially disabled. I couldn’t sit in places for more than a few minutes, everything suffered.
I saw doctors. I tried yoga, physical therapy, epidural shots into my spine and 4 trips to acupuncture. Nothing worked. Finally I saw a surgeon and he explained how he could help me by doing a micro-discectomy. This is where they do a ‘simple’ procedure where they cut into your back, take out some spine bone, move the nerve over and then clip out the bulging part of the disc. I can’t tell you how afraid I was of this procedure. I could die, become paralyzed, or worse yet, it may not have worked. But I had to do it. Nothing was really helping the pain and I was at my wits end. I couldn’t take it any longer. I scheduled the surgery.
Of course I didn’t plan on breaking up with my girlfriend before that happened. Historically I am very, very bad at being sick. I fall apart and need my partner to totally take care of me and nurse me along until I’m better again. Now having to go through surgery alone was going to be even harder than I had expected it to be. And I had expected it to suck a lot.
I did it on one Friday. And I expected to be back at work the next Monday. My doctor assured me I’d feel some pain but be ok to go back to work and to recover alone. Of course this was far from the case with me. Luckily I had friends who insisted they would take care of me. The first week was terrible. Not really the pain, but getting over the anastasia and pain medications. They really did a number on me and I was a depressed mess and had various other physical issues as well. I literally contemplated suicide over being broken up and alone and I had a couple of serious meltdowns. Note to everyone, don’t go through surgery alone! Thank goodness I had people checking on me all the time.
After a week I was feeling a bit better and I wasn’t being as careful as I could have been. I’d been told not to bend over and to not lift anything over 10 pounds. Of course I did both. 8 days after my surgery I woke up and my leg pain was back completely. Did my lifting do it? There were only 2 occasions where I’d lifted things and they were both fairly minor but the timing was right. Nobody could say for sure.
Another week passes and I’m convinced I’d re-herniated my disc. The doctors don’t agree and tell me to rest and take it easy. They say it’s just part of the healing process. Day 15 I literally cannot walk without extreme pain. Day 16 is even worse. I am a wreck physically and mentally.
I go to the ER and spend 8 hours there before they give me an MRI. 2 hours later the preliminary results are that I have re-herniated. For the first time in 10 days I actually feel good because I was right. Everyone I knew (doctors too) were certain I was fine. I knew better. I speak to my surgeon the next day and he says I should go back to surgery in 4 days.
At this point I’ve been through literal hell. It was the worst 2 weeks of my life. All the pain, all the tears, all the missing of my work, and falling behind in my life, everything has been almost too much to bear. And now I’m being told I have to suck it up and do it all again.
That was one week ago today. Last Friday I did indeed go back and do it again. I haven’t been home since. I at least knew this time to limit my pain meds and I’ve taken almost none since Friday. I’m at a friends house since I know being home alone is not good for me mentally. And I’ve been religious in focusing on nothing but distractions. I’ve watched more tv and movies than I ever have before and done little else.
But there’s a small problem. If I re-herniate I’m told that I will have to do a way more serious surgery next since there is no more disc to spare in my L4-L5 space. If I have to go again, they do a full discectomy and they remove it entirely and replace it with a substitute. But that’s not good enough. In addition they will need to go in through my belly as well as my back. They will need to fuse my vertebrate together with a piece of bone from my hip. Instead of the 2 week recovery, it’s 2 months. Instead of a little pain and suffering, it’s a lot.
So you can imagine how I feel right now. I am terrified. I can’t even imagine living any kind of normal life again since at any moment I could re-herniate my disc. Sure the next month is really scary since when I’m not healed the chance is greater, but there’s the rest of my life to worry about as well. Who’s to say that in a year when I lean over to pick up a pice of paper from the floor I’ll do this all again?
All I want is to be healthy again. I want to live my life again. I want to not be in fear or in pain or disabled for the rest of my life. I’ve been a really good person in so many ways all my life. Why does it feel all of a sudden that I’m barely able to keep my head above the water? What did I do to deserve this fate?