One… two… three… Wow! It’s been 3 months since I last checked in! It’s amazing how quickly time can pass. No, I am not MIA! (haha) I do want to apologize; however, to all of my wonderful fans and followers! I never intended to let you all down by disappearing for so long, so let me explain what’s been going on.
Early in 2013, around May, I started experiencing severe back pain. I went to my family doctor about it and he referred me to an orthopedic doctor. Well, upon visiting the orthopedist, I asked for an MRI but they only did an x-ray. I was told they couldn’t find anything wrong and that I was just having muscle spasms. They gave me pain medication and told me to see a chiropractor, so of course I did what I was told.
As the year went on, the pain did not stop. It would come and go, but it would last for at least a week, or two, when it did occur. It was so severe that I could not bend over to pick up anything, and often, could barely walk. I tried to ignore it and just keep going; too much to do, not enough time to do it all. (same ol’ same ol’) The pain often kept me from going to work or from getting to work on time. It was not a good situation for me to be in since I, of course, need my job – especially now as I am still working on finishing my divorce.
Well, in November, the pain from my lower back was now extended all the way down my right leg and was causing some of my toes, in my right foot, to feel numb. When this started, I went to the hospital because the pain was simply too excruciating to deal with. The doctor at the hospital did not do any x-rays , MRI’s, or anything else. He simply told me I had “sciatica” and I needed to start doing a lot of stretching to relieve the pain.
This diagnosis bothered me, because I am only 34 and I am in pretty good shape for my age. I couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble with my back and now my right leg. In addition, I researched sciatica and found that the basic meaning of this is that the sciatic nerve is being pinched…. but from what?? I realized that there had to be an underlying cause and no one had attempted to find it yet. I also discovered, from my research, that the cause would, likely, only be found via an MRI.
I needed to know what was causing this pain so that I could get it fixed. I decided to try the orthopedist again. I called them and told them about the diagnosis given at the hospital and I asked them to please do an MRI so that we could see exactly what was causing my pain. This time, they did order an MRI. I had the MRI done on Thursday, November 7th, 2013. On Saturday, November 9th, 2013, the orthopedic doctor called me and informed me that I had an extremely large herniated disk in the lowest part of my back and I needed to have immediate surgery to fix it.
On Tuesday, November 12th, 2013, I had outpatient back surgery to “fix” the large herniated disk. The doctor informed me it would be anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks before I was healed enough to go back to work. He also instructed me on what to do, and what not to do, during the recovery period. I had to wear a brace, I couldn’t drive again for at least a week after the surgery, after about a week or two when I started feeling better, I could start going out a little at a time but not to push it and to listen to my body. If I started to hurt or get tired/dizzy, I needed to rest and use an ice pack along with the pain medication and anti-inflammatory medicine. He also reminded me that a big part of recovery is to be as active as my body would allow. I needed to get up and move around, go for a walk, etc. I just had to use common sense and not do anything strenuous like lifting anything heavy or bending over too much.
After about the first week and a half, I started feeling well enough to go out a little. I started driving my daughter to gymnastics again and I would ride (not drive) to the store, or wherever, when I felt like I could. I still had discomfort when driving so I did as little of that as possible. Going along for the ride to do something every now and then wasn’t so bad. Sometime, around week 3, or 4; however, I realized that I still had some pretty severe pain in my tailbone and my leg wasn’t really feeling any better. When I went back for my scheduled appointment with the orthopedist, I informed him of this issue. He ordered another MRI and this time it was with contrast.
On Tuesday, December 10th, 2013, I had my MRI w/contrast done. The next day, I met with my orthopedist doctor to find out the results of my MRI. Unfortunately, I went to this appointment alone. I had high hopes that all was good and my pain was nothing. I really did not think I would receive any bad news this time. When the doctor came in, he informed me that the same disk was herniated again. He could not explain how this happened and I couldn’t either as I had followed his instructions during recovery. He went on to tell me my options for resolving this problem. I had two options: 1) do the same procedure that they had just done in November, with no guarantee this issue wouldn’t happen again in the future or 2) remove the disk completely and replace with a spacer sealing it up via a fusion. Either way, I was looking at yet another surgery. I was devastated. I did not want to have to go through the pain of another surgery again nor did I want to have to be out of work any longer. The doctor went on to explain more detail around the procedure for option 2. I had to make a decision on this right away due to the new herniation. I decided to go with option 2 to prevent myself from having this same issue again next month, or any other time in the future.
This new surgery was now scheduled for the following week (Tuesday, December 17th, 2013) and this time I would spend approximately 3 days in the hospital before they would allow me to return home. The recovery period for the fusion is much longer than the recovery period for the first surgery. I would be able to return to work in approximately 6 weeks; however, the full recovery could range anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. The fusion is dependent upon the bone growing back around the spacer resulting in a solid fusion. Screws would be inserted into the spine for support. This would keep the spacer in place while the bone grows back. The result of the fusion would be total immobility of that section of the spine as there would be no disk there.
I am now into week 3 of my recovery from the fusion surgery. The first couple of weeks were awful. The pain from this surgery has been significantly worse than the pain from the first surgery. I have spent the majority of my time lying around the house, just trying to get comfortable. This week has been the first in which I have felt some relief. I haven’t had to take my pain medication during the day and I have finally been able to start driving again. My driving, so far, has consisted only of taking my children to, and from, school and their after-school activities. My pain tends to get worse as the day goes on, especially if I am sitting for long periods of time. So, I have been trying to mix it up between sitting and lying down. I also do not drive unless I absolutely have too. I still have nerve damage in my right leg and I am not sure how long it will take for that to heal. It’s amazing just how painful the sciatic nerve can be. My goal is to go back to work by the last week in January because I am tired of not feeling “normal” and I want to get back to having a set routine.
I have missed out on a lot of very important life events over the past few months because of my surgeries and recovery. I was unable to go visit any of my family during the Christmas holidays and I even missed out on my daughter’s Christmas play, in which she had a major part and wanted me to be there so badly. I have learned just how important the spine is in everything that we, as humans, do. I admit, I use to take it for granted, but now, I want nothing more than for my spine to be healed. Take it from me, your spine is the one part of your body that keeps you together and touches many different nerves. Take good care of it!!