As I've written about, I had a lot of nerves (no pun intended) about the surgery working, how much was in my head, worrying we were fixing the wrong thing, etc. Nobody could seem to agree on what was causing what. It does make you feel crazy. Thank God, I have a primary care physician who was dogged in helping me get answers. When I was told I needed surgery, they said there was no way to know until they got in there if my weakness would be fixed - concerns of the nerve being too damaged. That was really hard to hear, but I chose to believe it would be fixed. More than anything, my strength has been my biggest concern. I was also told I had another area of my neck that would likely need surgery, but it could be next year or 20 years from now. Okay…again, nobody wants to hear that but you choose to believe you may never need it. The pre-op appointment was the day before surgery. I again expressed how important it was that I get my strength back. This time, the doctor pulled his chair up right in front of mine, looking me directly in the eyes - telling me my nerve was smashed. That it was going to be a long road to get my strength back to my baseline, and that the baseline was my strength that day, not what it was before. I was crushed…..He reminded me again, that the surgery would assure it wouldn't get worse….The possibility of another surgery, then turned to, "You need another surgery on your neck, and this surgery may not fix everything." It hurts my heart to even write this. I came out of that appointment, feeling so sad….
The surgeon said it all went well. There were three nerves bunched behind the disc. They removed the disc, freeing my nerves, removed bones spurs and added a plate with four screws. I must admit, I was completely unprepared for the physical pain and emotion pain that would come with surgery. I knew there would be pain - I've had knee surgery. This, however, flattened me.
The first week the pain was truly unbearable a lot of times. I lived on painkillers and muscle relaxers. I remember it was being truly miserable, but there's probably a lot about that first week I don't even remember. The pain (which was centralized mostly at the surgery point in the back of my neck) began to improve, but then the pain changed and moved to my shoulder and arm. My arm swelled, and was put on steroids to knock down the inflammation and swelling, etc. The nerves were angry, and I was feeling all of it. The second day on steroids, was great. The pain was much better, and I felt like I had really turned a corner. I went off of the painkillers and muscle relaxers thinking everything had been fixed through the steroids. Holy shit was I wrong. I went through the withdrawals of the painkillers but pain returned, and I had to make the really difficult decision to start them again. In the first week, I slept a lot. I would take 2-3 naps a day and sleep at night. There is no great sleep when you're in pain and in a neck brace, but it was sleep. The steroids then stole my sleep. I've been off of them for over a week, and my sleep is still fucked up. I could no longer nap, and one night, I got less than 3 hours. So, I was on painkillers (downers), muscle relaxers that make you drowsy and steroids that take away sleep. I felt every bit of it. I only took the painkillers a couple more days, but even so, that week was incredibly dark. Had I not been through the potassium issue, I would not have known what this kind of darkness was like. I just kept telling myself it would pass, but it grabbed hold of me and wasn't letting go. I was very upset by some people that I love that were not there for me during this time (surgery - on). I am not proud of dwelling on it or how much I've done for others and feeling so abandon in my time of need. Again, it's unbecoming. I despise self-pity, but it owned me for those days. Still, there are some parts of that, that sting. I was worried I would come out of this, a changed person. Why would I do things for people, if people aren't there for me? Thank God, I no longer feel this way. If anything, I come out of this with even more empathy, than I had before.
I turned that corner I had been praying for at the end of last week. There has been steady improvement every day. There was even a day this week that I didn't take Tylenol (that shit is nasty and can't wait to stop - but I am not able to take ibuprofen for a few months yet). There are definite, huge improvements that are already evident- post surgery. My left hand did not work right, and there were certain things I could not do. I could do them the next day. The shaking has stopped, and I no longer worry about things slipping from my hand. I do panic a little, the couple of times I've fumbled things - but I think that's more of my being clumsy or things still working themselves out. Per instructions of surgeon, I cannot lift my arms above my shoulders. I can't lift heavy things or push or pull anything. The neck brace is on at all times, exception showering, so I don't know how well I can turn my neck yet. The pain has gone way down on those accidental time that I turn, and I really do feel improvements every single day. My follow up to see if I can return to work is 10/24. I have every confidence that everything will be a go at that time, and I can get rid of this godforsaken brace. I can't wait to turn my neck and see where my strength is. I do believe I will get my strength back. I will be stronger than ever. Before surgery, I had this thought that after my 6 weeks, I could return to boot camp or do this or that. Reality has reared its ugly head. I respect my body and what it's going through. It is supposed to be a 6 month recovery time, and I can see that now. I do look forward to continually improving, though, just as I am right now.
When you're home with orders to rest (and walk - and I'm rocking that part), there is a lot of time for reflection. Some might say - too much time. I'm not supposed to clean, do laundry, vacuum, etc., so it's all a little maddening. I am doing some cooking, though. Last night I made a nice dinner and pancakes this morning. When doing things, there is great care to not overdo it, though. Really, for the last 11 months or so, I've been sick on some level or another (at least I knew something was wrong last November). It does take its toll. I'm not as strong as I thought I was before going through all of this. I have so much respect for those who fight through their ailments. Legit. There are some true warriors out there. In fact, I'm sure there are people we know, that are fighting for their lives right now, and we have no idea. After ending up in the hospital in April and being told I could have died (I do not say that lightly…. I do not talk about that part of it), this journey has been frustrating. I've been hard on myself, knowing I got a second chance at life but still knowing things weren't right. I think a lot of those things have been fixed with this surgery.
I'm grateful this all started when I was at my lowest weight and healthiest, physically. I think that saved my life. Still, since the hospital I've gained weight. I have beat myself up over and over about it. After all of this self-abuse, I finally have some clarity. It was a year ago, that I went on my first zip line, after being too heavy to do it in Maui. That moment was huge for me. It was huge that my best friend recognized what it meant to me and made it happen. As sick as I was, in February, I again zip lined, even jumping off the platform backwards (and I'm a total chicken shit). It is time to celebrate how far I've come. I am much heavier now, than I wish I was, but I will get control of it again. I certainly haven't been eating well since surgery, but 6 days a week, I have been making my fresh smoothies and adding Juice Plus to it. It is a way of taking care of my body. I've been drinking shit tons of water, and now that I 'm more able, I'm going to work on healthy recipes. I do want to lose the weight, but I'm in no race. I'm more concerned with rewarding my body for saving me. I haven't been on a scale in over a month. I don't know when I'll get on one again. I recognize I have a lot of work to do on myself mentally and physically. It is a work in progress. I'm excited to be healthy - and getting back to a smaller pant size will feel great.
I mentioned the feeling of abandonment, but the fact of the matter is - there have been many people here for us. From texts, cards, meals, visits, etc., it has all meant so much. I have this friend who works more than anyone I know. She is in the medical field, and she cares so much about her patients - it really runs her life in a lot of ways. She is always working. She took Monday off after working many days in a row. She is not one to take time off, and I'm proud of her for taking a day for herself. On her one day off….she came and took me to lunch in a neighboring town, came back and picked up my dog, so we could go out to her property. My dog was in 7th heaven out there. We made some pumpkin bars from pumpkins she'd grown and gathered fresh eggs. It was everything I needed. It was the best medicine. It means so much, that she chose to spend her very precious personal time with me. There have been wonderful moments like that, and those things will stay with me forever. So, when we are at our lowest low and feeling sorry for ourselves and wondering why we put ourselves out there- why we are there for people….it' s because we have the power to change, like in my case on Monday, a really hard day for someone and turn it around. When people are hurting, they are at their most vulnerable. Let's be the person who helps in whatever way we can, no matter how big or small. We are all human. We are all imperfect, but we can choose to be good. Let's do that.
Okay, time to wake up. I'll let you go. I needed to write. I finally got to a place where I could. This is home for me. Thanks for being here. Have a wonderful weekend.
I'll leave you with this wonderful new song I've discovered with all of the television I've been watching. It's by Rita Wilson (Tom Hanks wife), who knew? Fantastic lyrics.