I’ll soon know whether there will probably be more back surgery in my future. My appointment with the VA neurosurgeon is this week. Chances are, being a surgeon, he’ll be all for doing surgery. On the other hand, neurosurgeons tend to be on the conservative side when it comes to treating back problems. I think they know they’ll always have work, whether they operate on one more person today or not. That and they probably figure that sooner or later, they’ll get you under the knife – that is if your back looks like mine.
I’ve read some personal experience stories by people who have similar back conditions, some of whom believe having surgery was the worst decision they ever made, and others calling surgery a life-saver. It comes down to individual differences, sometimes the abilities of the surgeon, too, but, from what I read, you kind of get out of it what you put into it. If you do the work prescribed by the surgeon and the physical therapists, and give the process enough time, you’ll have a better outcome than if you sit around in shock because all your pain didn’t miraculously vanish the moment you came out from anesthesia.
All business about surgery aside, living with a painful, but “invisible” condition is a drag. There’s no percentage in trying to put on a good show or keep up with the activity levels of everyone around you. You end up three times as exhausted as a normal person doing the same thing. And everyone expects you to maintain the pace indefinitely. Or they get annoyed that you’re dropping your end of the load, without realizing or caring just how long ago you may have needed to put that load down for good. I’ve concluded that it’s just better to let everyone down right from the start and grow a thick enough skin (or shell) to deal with the invective about not pulling your weight.
So much for not indulging in a whine festival.
Pain management becomes your most important daily activity or you just get overwhelmed. I walk. I had been doing some exercises to strengthen my leg and core muscles, and for a while, those helped. But I’d still get stiff after only short periods of sitting or standing. I started taking the Puppy to a local park with a one mile walking path so I could know for sure that I was walking at least that one mile. After a few trips, we’d walk almost all the way around, then turn around and go back, to make it nearly two miles. I did it that way to avoid walking past the car. I knew Ramses would want to get in the car – he wants to get in every car we pass – and that not getting in the car, but walking away from it again when I was getting tired would make me even more tired. So I fooled us both.
But now that it’s started to get warm (read scalding hot) here, and that park doesn’t open until 8:00 a.m., I’ve found another park with a nice walking path and plenty of shade where I can go much earlier in the mornings. I kind of have to guess about distance, but I think I’m still doing close to two miles. And I’ve started going every morning. I’ve had to shuffle my schedule a little bit, but have decided that this is a priority. For one thing, the Puppy is somewhat better behaved after he’s had some exercise and fresh air. I say “somewhat” because nothing can change the fact that he’s a Basenji, and consistently well behaved is just not what they do.
The difference in how I feel after I get back from that walk is noticeable. When I get out of the shower I take when I get home, I don’t feel any pain anywhere. I want to jump up and down – which would not be wise, but still. The pain-free window doesn’t last, of course, but I don’t stiffen up as quickly, even if I sit at the computer for a while. Sometimes I keep writing longer than I should, but considering how often I can’t finish a piece because I start feeling so broken that I can’t think of what I’m trying to say, I have to try to find some balance.
I’m not losing sleep, yet, over the outcome of this appointment with the neurosurgeon. I may not wait long to make a decision about whether to have surgery or not, but I do intend to wait until I know the outcome of my VA disability claim before I schedule anything. Once I have that in place, if I have surgery, I’ll have some income to carry me through my recovery if I end up missing several weeks of work. It’s the waiting that’s so annoying. I’ve been waiting since January for this neurosurgeon appointment, and I’ve been waiting since last June for my disability claim to be processed. I’m ready for everything to be resolved, questions answered, and some kind of path forward in front of me.