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Taking Time To (Re)Treat January 25, 2014

IMG_4834So many things have helped me on my path to health, but one that I have been practicing for over 25 years is the retreat. I love this word. It means to take a step back; it means to take refuge. It also means to re-treat: to treat oneself, again. I first came to Santa Sabina in the mid-eighties, when I was a budding calligrapher (little known fact). I signed up for the Friends of Calligraphy retreat,  not really knowing what I was getting into.

It took my breath away. Silence, and beauty. The scratching of pens on paper in what had been set up as the Scriptorium. Words on paper (or on walls). A great spaciousness. My mind was blown.

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Once I started coming to this place, I felt I craved it like one craves chocolate, or oxygen. Once or twice a year (especially when I had babies and small children), I would slip away for twenty-four hours, to step into the quiet corners. I could climb the steps to the straw-bale Hermitage and “be the hermit” for a brief while.

IMG_1617 IMG_1612 IMG_1611Sometimes I came on my own, or with other writer friends. Sometimes I came with groups- calligraphers or poets. I experienced several amazing poetry weekends – one focusing on the work of Rilke, others with Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye. There is poetry everywhere here, and art. The art basement is a generous space filled with art supplies of all kinds – a calligraphers’ nook, a collage room. It invites gentle creativity.

IMG_1633 IMG_1630Several years ago, I began offering group retreats myself at Santa Sabina. It has been one of my greatest joys. Two years ago, I led a retreat called Stories of the Body. Participants came together to share stories through collage, art, writing, movement, and to be with their own bodies’ stories in silence and reflection and silent, mindful meals. It was so moving and beautiful. I have been trying to book a date for a return visit for years, but the center has been undergoing many renovations and there have not been dates open — until now! I am thrilled to be offering Stories of the Body again at the end of March.

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There’s an early-bird discounting until January 28th, and I’m also offering a discount to YOU, blog readers. (you can take advantage of both!) For readers of this blog, just enter the code FOODFOODBODYBODY and you’ll get an additional reduction in price.  I am also offering a deposit option with extended payments for those who cannot pay all at once.

I am hoping to be able to offer a weekend scholarship for one retreat assistant to this retreat this year. The work involved would be minimal but of great help to me (registration, set-up, logistics). If you feel that you would benefit from this special time away (and into yourself), please email me with the following:

  • Why you feel this retreat would benefit you at this time
  • Your commitment to attend if chosen
  • Experience in dealing with groups (ie your “people skills”)
  • DEADLINE: February 1, 2014

Exercise and eating well have been so elemental in my health journey, but this – THIS- has been an invaluable element that I often forget. Being with myself. Taking time for the quiet. I hope you will join us.

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Photo Shoot (Me) January 10, 2014

silly shot with Junior & Juniorette

silly shot with Junior & Juniorette (photo credit: Laura Duldner)

About a month ago, I got an email from someone at a diabetes publication, saying they’d found my blog and wanted to interview me. Yay! I like doing interviews. I was feeling good about my 5-year (!) healthaversary coming up, and it felt great to commemorate it like this. Five years!

The phone interview was fun. I blathered on. The writer who was interviewing me asked a lot about advice I’d give someone who was newly diagnosed. I realized the stuff that helped me then is the stuff that continues to help me now; i.e.. small changes. That is why Weight Watchers, Couch to 5k , #wycwcy (What-You-Can-When-You-Can) and other small, gradual steps have made all the difference, both at the beginning and on an ongoing basis. In many ways, I am starting from the beginning again.

After the interview, the writer said they could find some pictures here from my blog, or I could send some. Then a few days later I got an email saying that they’d like to “send a photographer.” SEND a photographer? Here?

Yes. And then last week I heard from the photographer herself. I had NO IDEA what big-deal photos she had taken (look here and have a heart attack like I did). She informed me that I was going to be on the COVER of the magazine and did I have a hair stylist? A makeup person? (#faint) I hurriedly went to check out this magazine and saw… 40 million readers… and the people on the cover? Gulp. Looked to be about twenty years old.

It threw me into a tizzy of anxiety, nerves, wanting to eat Everything In Sight, and just have a general meltdown.

Monday came. My hair stylist (aka my regular person who sweetly offered to come to my house before work) and my Makeup Person (friend of mine, who I had a vague idea “did makeup” but again had no clue what a pro she is!) arrived. I threw every piece of clothing I owned onto my bed in a fit of despair and I-Have-NOTHING-To-Wear!!

The hair blowout was fine. I was used to that. But then… the makeup… OMG.

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trying to be cool as a cucumber

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a bit beyond my usual naked face + Burts Bees tinted chapstick

The photographer arrived early, to “scout out” the house and surroundings for suitable backdrops. She decided on the front porch and “yard” (it’s more of an overgrown jungle). She got her equipment set up while I got my Face on. It took like 90 minutes which was fascinating and also kind of overwhelming. I felt like a painter’s canvas! But the end result was the most natural makeup I’ve ever worn and I still felt pretty much like me. Whew.

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me + Junior, and sans glasses

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She’s not messin around. So… I guess they didn’t like the Instagram selfie I sent in?

We took about a gazillion shots on the front porch and in the yard. Many outfit changes. Sweaters. Scarves. Running clothes. Medals. No medals. Rocky shot! I have-to-pee shot! (apparently this “elongates” the body- who knew? one could look so svelte when waiting in line at Portopotties?) We even went up to the park nearby (where I usually run) and I did some fake-running while she photographed me from her belly on the very edge of the trail. I pretty much had to run OVER her body while she exhorted me to “Keep coming at me, at me, at me!!” She had to do a costume change herself when we got back to to the house, so encrusted she was in trail stuff.

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She really worked for her money that day!

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Here she demonstrates the “have to pee” pose. Very elongated!

It turned out to be, after all, a lot more fun and a lot less stressful than I anticipated. The stress happened before and… after.

It was pretty trippy to do this. It messed with my head in various ways. Of all the magazines to be on the cover of, I was pretty proud and happy to be on a diabetes health magazine. (the only one I could ever hope for is to be on the cover of THIS magazine) I loved doing the interview. But the focus on my physical appearance for hours on end was just unnerving. I’m not used to it, and it just made me all discombobulated. I got really unbalanced. I sort of lost it a little. I was anxious and moody and jumpy and weepy. I found myself thinking crazy thoughts like, I hope they PhotoShop me. (even though I am so against that kind of thing!)

Going for a run-walk near the beach brought me back to myself yesterday. As did returning to a beginning meditation class this week. This is tricky stuff, y’all…

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running the next day

 

Baby Steps, Baby Sweats, and Goodbye for Now January 5, 2014

Filed under: body image,emotions,exercise,good things,health,injury,Nia — Susan @ 9:59 pm

A couple of weeks ago I sweated for the first time since September. It was a gentle, beautiful, emotional and extraordinary experience. I went to a Nia class, which was one of the very first kinds of movement I ever did, five years ago. Danielle was the instructor, and it was one of her final classes before she leaves for a two-year journey to China. IMG_2220One of the other dancers was Alexis (pictured in my post here 2009). She brought her adorable six-month old baby with her, and danced with her in a front carrier. Her gentle, modified moves were perfect for me, just creakily getting back into movement. She didn’t bend as low or hop in the air or do any sudden moves. Just gentle.

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babydancing

Because it was Winter Solstice weekend, Danielle did a routine called Mandala that involved no spoken instruction. She moved, we followed, and she indicated transitions by clapping her hands. It felt so organic and wonderful. And the music? It made me tear up immediately. She played the music of Kitaro, which brought back really intense memories of a long ago time…

……………………..

Back in one of my first home health physical therapy jobs when I was in my twenties, I had a patient named Oscar. He had a really advanced spinal cord tumor which had left him with paraplegia. I first worked with him in the hospital and then at his home. After some time it became clear that he was not getting better. His final desires were to walk again, however limited, and to go home to his homeland of Argentina. None of his doctors believed in either of these goals as either possible or advisable, but he was a determined guy.

When I visited him at home, he played Kitaro for me for the first time. “Listen,” he said, and he put these huge cushy headphones over my ears. This was at the very beginning of “New Age” music, and I’d never heard anything like it. He believed that it was magical. That it would help him walk. And one day I’ll never forget, he played this music through speakers in his living room, and step by step, he walked about ten steps across the floor. I was holding him by two shaking hands with a gait belt, and pulling his wheelchair by nudging it with my toe, and both of us were sweating bullets. But to the soundtrack of this incredible otherworldly music, he took his last walk.

Next, he asked me to take him to Macy’s in San Francisco so he could buy a traveling outfit – new pants and a jacket, and gifts for his family. It took all that I had to transfer his unwieldy body and his heavy wheelchair into my little Toyota hatchback, but we made it. I wheeled him all through that department store and helped him stand up (in physical therapy terms, using Maximum Assist) so he could see himself in a full length mirror. As we were leaving he said he wanted me to have a gift, and he bought me this beautiful ivory colored poet shirt with huge billowing sleeves. Because you are really a writer, he said. (yeah, he knew) Shortly after, he got onto a plane to Argentina and that was the last I ever heard from him. I assume he made it home for his final wish. But that was one of the most moving and meaningful experiences I ever had as a therapist.

I was young. Super young. And in retrospect I broke all kinds of rules I probably or maybe wouldn’t do now: I took a patient somewhere in my own car (liability no-no!). I accepted a gift from a patient, and lunch too. All these things are super frowned upon now (and probably then as well!). But that experience changed me.

……………………..

Hearing Kitaro again in this return-to-movement class was terribly emotional for me. Danielle was leaving. Oscar had been leaving. I was returning to something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do again. All of this without words, but in stretching and turning and circling around the room. I had a hard time keeping the tears in. (so I didn’t)

Danielle has been an amazing teacher for me  - graceful and strong and fun. I will miss her Michael Jackson Nia classes, her Halloween class, all of them. She sent out so much healing energy to me when I was hurt and I really felt her caring. I will miss her. I’m glad I got to experience her Nia one last time before she goes. Godspeed Danielle, and thank you. oxoxo

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Grateful. November 29, 2013

a new day

a new day

Yesterday was Thanksgiving day, and I had a lot to be thankful for. Just a few weeks prior, I thought I might have to bail on the holiday altogether, as I had been bailing on many things right and left since September. But thanks to my successful surgery and my gradual recovery, I had a wonderful day that managed to keep the majority of beloved traditions intact.

For the past four years, I have been participating in our local Weight Watchers 5k Turkey “Trot” (mostly a walk, although I did partially jog it a few times). This is something I really did not want to miss; starting the day out with some good company and activity. I had missed my WW members so much and I was hoping to see some of them there.

so excited to see many of my WW members

so excited to see many of my WW members

Hooray! Quite a few of them were there and it was great to walk along the shoreline with them. Pretty soon, though, I was feeling like “whew you guys are walking awfully fast!” and I fell back to the group behind them, and then behind them, and I was walking slower and slower and then I felt my gas tank start to sputter. I knew I had to turn around to the start point. I didn’t  measure the distance but I was guessing it was maybe half – like a mile and a half? The last few blocks back to my car felt like forever. I waited to meet up with them coming back the other way and got to see the fabulous Julie, who has been generously and enthusiastically holding down my meeting for me in my absence. I am forever grateful for HER for giving my members consistency while I’ve been away.

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It was tiring, but I was really really happy to have gone, and to be out there on the shore at sunrise. It felt like the beginning of a new day.

The triple challenge for drive-walk-drive, from 6:30am-9:00am pretty much took the stuffing out of me. I went home, gave instructions for various food preps, and took to my bed for several hours. Whew.

Right before dinner, we had a little holiday card family photo shoot.

intergenerational beauty and silliness

intergenerational beauty and silliness

the guys took care of the bird

the guys took care of the bird

My family has been amazing. A billion more gratitude points for them. They lifted all the heavy pots and pans, reached into high cabinets, chopped and prepped and stirred and did everything that I couldn’t. It all came together into a beautiful meal.

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my plate

my plate

After dinner, I needed another very big lie-down. The one task I had taken on was the Making of the Pan Gravy, and standing over the stove with my neck bent over the pan didn’t prove to be very comfortable in the long run. I was incredibly grateful (AGAIN) to everyone for doing ALL of the cleanup while I took some medication and lay on the couch.

dessert buffet!

dessert buffet!

Round 3 of Thanksgiving tradition: dessert and games! We had good friends come and join us for the grand finale of the evening. We have been playing games after Thanksgiving dinner for as long as I can remember, and it always ends in great hilarity. This time we played the old chaotic game of Pit, and then moved on to Balderdash so that all 14 of us could participate. We were laughing so hard we were wiping tears. Good times.

PIT!

PIT!

By ten o’clock another wave of major droopiness was setting in. But that was fine. All of the major holiday traditions had taken place: turkey trot, family photo shoot, dinner, friends and games. I managed to get through out with several big rest breaks and not a whole lot of pain. Considering where I was just four weeks ago, this was nothing short of a miracle.

super thankful for him

super thankful for him

Today is rest day.

 

 

Back In the World (Sort of.) November 23, 2013

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

#throwbackthursday: sometimes I have to hold onto stuff.

Little by little. I’m venturing out. I’m doing small things, both in and out of the house.

Everything feels huge. HUGE. The first time I drove the car last week, I felt like a sixteen year old with a new permit, gripping the wheel with white knuckles, waiting long minutes before pulling into traffic. Testing out my neck, my reflexes, my attention, my ability to focus on more than one thing at a time. (the radio, other cars, my husband’s voice) I drove about 5 miles to drop my mother off at her volunteering gig.

I am humbled and amused that my 90 year old mother has about 100x more stamina and energy than I do. She can spend a day stuffing envelopes, come home and walk the dog, then go out to a Golden State Warriors basketball game, cheering and stomping until 10:00pm. All of which would probably kill me at this point.

People are happy to see me out in the world. They tell me I’m looking great! The teeny tiny bandaid at the the back of my neck doesn’t really represent anything. I say, the incision is small but deep. But it’s not just the incision that cut through the tough white fascia in my spine, the muscles and the drilling into my vertebrae. It’s the six weeks of unfathomable pain, of lying in bed trying to find a position, or walking around in ballet position, of counting the minutes before I surrendered and had to just get horizontal again (15 minutes on a really good day, 2 minutes on an average day).

Meanwhile I was forever experimenting with the pharmacy that was multiplying in my bathroom, trying to test the drugs to see which would bring relief without vomiting or psychosis or some other unpleasant side effect. Meanwhile my muscles, so long the pride of my body, have thinned down into thread. I have to be careful with what I lift. Even some plates are still too heavy. I’m better with saucers, single utensils, the little mugs and glasses, not the big ones. Pots and pans are out of the question. I won’t be hauling the turkey next week.

This week I stopped in at the Weight Watchers center to check in with Julie, the fabulous leader who has been filling for me since September. I told her I didn’t think I’d be back this week. Just sitting in a chair listening to her speak tired me out. I couldn’t imagine summoning the energy to stand up in  front of the meeting room. Not yet.

Last night I went back to the Writers Grotto because my beloved office mate was having a pre-nuptial party and I wanted to celebrate with her and the writers I’ve missed for so many months. I wanted to see my little space that I’d missed.

My succulent plants were long dead.

is this a metaphor for something?

is this a metaphor for something?

After a couple of hours of merriment (during which time I mostly slouched in the corner of a sofa, kind of dazed) I felt like I was melting. Unable to speak or hold up my head. I got home around 7:30 and went directly to bed.

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

Parties are fun, but they take a lot of energy!

This is how it is now. Better, so much better, but so far from where I was. I’ve taken a few walks this week, no more than a mile at a time. I slow-walk, always with a friend, whose arm I can grab if I start to wobble, half a mile to the “It’s Nice To Be Nice” bench. Then I rest. Then walk a half mile back to the car and again, directly to bed. It wipes me.

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Alexandra accompanies me on the one-mile marathon

Still, I’m managing to get some things done. I’m checking things off my to-do list. Phone calls and getting stuff done that I never had time to do before. Small things.

I’m reading. And writing. Thinking about new directions for the new year.

I’ve started reading Roxana Robinson’s stunning novel, Sparta, and reading about the Marine returning home from Iraq, and how returning from his experience is so surreal and terrifying, how his loved ones want to welcome him back just as he was before.  I know that two months of a herniated disc is not really comparable to four years of war, but it’s been like a little war in my body. It was a shocking kind of attack like I’d never experienced before. Where everything I believed and knew about myself was called into question.

I’m putting my life back together but it’s so much slower and in smaller increments than I ever could have imagined.

 

 

 

Post. Op. November 17, 2013

Pre-Op with my buddy.

Pre-Op with my buddy.

So, it finally happened: I had a cervical laminotomy, microdiskectomy and foraminectomy on Wednesday afternoon. I had been hoping hoping to avoid surgery, but after eight weeks of really relentless pain, I was glad to try something that promised the hope of relief. I won’t lie, I was nervous. And emotional. But ready.

We got to the hospital a few hours ahead of the 3:30pm surgery time. I put on my stylin’ hospital gown (very nice design, with a big pocket in the front!) and settled in to wait. I was visited by the neurosurgeon, the anesthesiologist and the OR nurse. Finally they wheeled me into the operating room. The last thing I remember was going through the swinging doors that said OPERATING ROOM on them, and then… nothing.

I woke up and there was a nurse who kept saying, Take another deep breath. Another one. Apparently I had to hang out in recovery for a couple of hours because the breathing thing wasn’t happening to their satisfaction. I had about a minute of “I think I’m going to be sick” but they shot me up with anti-nausea stuff right away and nipped that in the bud, so for the first time I didn’t have terrible vomiting after anesthesia. I was very grateful for this.

Finally they brought me up to my room where Mr. McBody had been waiting for me. I was so happy to see him. And by the time I was awake enough to notice, I realized that the arm/shoulder blade pain that has been torturing me for two months was gone. GONE. AWAY.

I did a lot of sleeping. I managed to get up, with a lot of help from the nurse and Mr. McB, to the bathroom.  The next day (Thursday), the physical therapist came by and stated we were going for a walk around the hall. This sounded very ambitious to me, but lo and behold, holding on to the IV wheel, I did it.

the physical therapist took me on my first walk

the physical therapist took me on my first walk

There was a big board in my room with all of my pertinent information. One thing they do is ask every several hours, What is your goal? (I thought this was kind of amusing). I said my goal was to go home.

Goal: would like to go home.

Goal: would like to go home.

I got home around noon on Thursday. I think I slept most of that day. Friday and Saturday I felt pretty sore in the incision area, which they said was to be expected. Even though my incision was pretty small, it was deep and a lot of stuff had gone on in there. As Mr. McBody is fond of saying, “they really raunched around in there.” He was able to get ahold of my surgery report which I found very interesting.

I had noted that there were these two spots above my ears (on my skull) that were very, very sore and tender. Then I realized that this was because my head was clamped to the table!

The head was secured with the Mayfield head fixation device

Which I suppose was a good and necessary thing. I was taken by how many times the words “careful” and “carefully” were used in the report. Like a dozen. Somehow this made me feel good. I mean, he wouldn’t say “casually” or “messily” but I liked that he made a point of being “careful.”

It became clear that there was a large disk herniation causing marked compression of the ventral nerve root at its exit from the spinal canal… the larger pieces of the herniated disk were mobilized…this resulted in immediate decompression.

Reading this, and talking with the surgeon the next day, made me feel so relieved and also like… so there was a REALLY BIG REASON I have had so much pain. He said that the nerve had basically been strangled and stretched and he was surprised I had been able to go 8 weeks in this condition. I was also so relieved that it was so straightforward – there was a very specific, physical cause for my pain and he fixed it.

So since I’ve been home, I’ve had different pain. The place where the incision happened has been pretty sore, but it mostly bothers me when I’m changing position. (lying down to sitting up is the worst) Once I’m in the new position, it kind of calms down and then I’m good unless I move too much. It’s a completely different sort of pain, and I am noticing that it is improving every day.

Yesterday, Lily came by and took me for a walk up on the trail. We went a whole mile and although it was exhausting, it didn’t make my pain worse. So YAY!

1 mile walk!

1 mile walk!

I feel like I am finally on the road to getting better. I’m still not able to drive (too much head turning) and I don’t have a lot of energy, but that terrible, awful stabbing pain has left the building.

I didn’t get to Minneapolis this week. Which was sad and disappointing. But tonight I am actually going to show up for something on my calendar. I’ll be reading from this new book tonight and I’m going to be out in the world, even for just a few hours.

Yay. Whew. Yay.

 

(Getting To The) Moment of Truth November 11, 2013

Photo credit: Steve Richey/Unsplash

Photo credit: Steve Richey/Unsplash

This weekend was such a mixed bag.  Yesterday I had that great walk in the park. Last night some good longtime friends came over and brought us a beautiful dinner. It felt so good to hang out and laugh, to eat good food and visit with friends we’ve known for decades.

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This morning I woke up feeling pretty optimistic and confident. I decided, it’s probably time I start really cutting back on the prescription painkillers I’ve been taking. Narcotics. Way less than I was at the start, but still way more than I want to be taking. I tried taking some over the counter Tylenol in hopes that I could maintain my level of comfort. We planned to go out for another little walk in the park, but it felt really different than yesterday. By the time we had driven up from our house to the parking lot (about 1/4 mile), the familiar stabbing near my shoulder blade had started up.

I took a deep breath. This is not going to get the best of me, I said. We walked maybe a total of ten minutes and at that point all I could think of was coming home and getting horizontal.

Discouraging. I gulped down my pill and lay on my back. Again.

Tomorrow the surgeon comes back. I was still hoping to get to Minneapolis on Thursday. But I think some kind of reality hit me today. When I realized that even though I am so much better than I was a month ago, I am still so far from normal.

Here is the hard truth. I still can’t:

  • work (any of my three jobs: physical therapy, writing or leading Weight Watchers meetings)
  • get through a day (0r night) without prescription pain meds
  • exercise in any meaningful way (including: Nia dance class, work out with my trainer, run, swim or ride a bicycle, lift weights or do any of the workout videos in my house)
  • carry a purse or a backpack
  • drive my car, or independently get myself anyplace outside my house
  • pick up anything heavier than a coffee cup
  • prepare meals for my family that involve more than a microwave
  • go shopping or run any errands
  • do anything that involves being upright for longer than an hour maximum

People, these are a LOT of big things on the “can’t” list. Yes, I am super happy for the progress I have made. But this has been going on too damn long. Too long. An entire season has passed by while I have been down.

The surgeon comes back tomorrow. I expect we will probably have a conversation sometime in the late afternoon or evening.

I’m ready to be done with this.

 

1.14 MILES! and Other Good Things November 9, 2013

Filed under: body image,emotions,exercise,good things,pain — Susan @ 4:42 pm
Fall has arrived in my front yard!

Fall has arrived in my front yard!

Yesterday I felt a real corner-turning. Mr. McBody asked me (as he always does) if I wanted him to bring me a cup of coffee. Just last week I was having to drink coffee out of a straw because it really hurt to drink it sitting up.

bendy straw + water bottle

bendy straw + water bottle

But yesterday, I felt like, I want to get my own coffee! So I went downstairs and did just that. And it was a little twingey but it didn’t take everything out of me like it had in the past. He went to work and I came back and surveyed my little bedside kingdom. WHAT A FREAKING MESS.

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For the past 7 weeks, I have only strayed from this spot to go to another bed, or to the living room sofa. People have visited or mailed me nice stuff, and I looked at it let it drop from my hand and then it just… sort of… accumulated. Lots of books. And cards and stuff. My bedside table was a mountain of medicines, bendy straws, and goodness knows what else. I spent most of the morning sorting it out and getting down to a clean(er) surface.

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That felt so much better. (I didn’t get to ALL the stuff on the floor, but that’s another task for this weekend ;-)) But it was such a great thing to feel like I could do– SOMETHING. Like I could do anything. I spent the afternoon getting caught up on my physical therapy charting from MONTHS ago that I had just… abandoned. By nighttime I got an email from the QA person at my office saying that things were finally looking “pretty clean.” HIGH FIVE. I just have not had the mental acuity to really focus on this stuff, either from pain or drugged state or both. It felt really good to get that done.

Today I wanted to get out of the house. I was getting tired of just going up and down my little street, so Mr. McBody drove me up to the park near our house (it’s a STEEP HILL getting there, so walking there did not quite seem do-able yet). I was so happy to be on my familiar home trail.

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trail sweet West Ridge trail

We decided we’d go 15 miles or to the “first bench” or which ever came first. Turned out it was all at the same time. By the time we got to the bench, it was just a little over half a mile. It was a very nice place to lay down and rest. Thanks to Chuck Conlin. (see plaque)

This bench always makes my day.

This bench always makes my day.

When we got back to the parking lot, my Runkeeper said we’d gone 1.14 miles. This was so much better than I’d thought. My neck and arm were achey (I’d say about 3-4 on the Pain Scale) and I was tired, but it felt worth it.

Now I’m lying down again. But I feel really good about that walk. It’s real progress!

Last night my PT buddy came over and did some reflex and muscle testing. They’re definitely still problematic on the right side, but how much is the question. We will talk with the doctor again on Monday. My current thinking is to push it out another two weeks and hope for even more improvement.

She had her reflex hammer in her car!

She had her reflex hammer in her car!

And now… a nap. ;-)

 

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back November 6, 2013

Photo credit: The Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: The Commons/Flickr

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I went for that walk on Monday. Yeah! I thought. I’m finally getting out there! So yesterday I had a lovely visit with my friend Mara. She brought me delicious fish tacos and I made the big step to actually enjoy a meal at the kitchen table. I didn’t rush through it. We just kinda hung out, and ate and talked, and it was so NORMAL!

 Mmmm, fish tacos!

Mmmm, fish tacos!

Then I felt like I had to lie down. So I lay down on the couch and we visited some more, and then a guy came to show us some hardwood floor samples (a little renovation coming up) and I got up to inspect those. Then she was going to leave and I asked if she wanted to walk down the street with me. I was, again, feeling all superconfident and maybe a little bit show-offish (LOOK I CAN WALK DOWN THE STREET!) so we went to the end of the block.  I stopped to admire my mom’s persimmon tree in the front yard. And then it kinda hit me. You know that feeling you have when you’ve gone just a bit too far?

FIRST EVER persimmons on my mom's tree!

FIRST EVER persimmons on my mom’s tree!

I went right to bed after she left, and applied major ice package to my back. But I realized, as the hours went on, that I had really overdone it. DAMN. I mean come on. Shower, dress, eat lunch, one-block walk. Too much? Apparently so. It plagued me the rest of the evening and I was back to my regular painkiller dose. Bleah.

Today I’m taking it easier. Sigh. I’m so very tired of taking it easy.  Luckily, I have plenty of work to keep me occupied.

Yesterday morning I was feeling so optimistic, like, maybe I could avoid the surgery altogether. I know. I’ve been through this before. Yes. No. I don’t know.

The surgeon returns from vacation on Monday and then we will do the big reevaluation. But I’m saying, where I’m at now (physically) is not where I want to be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about tracking. Tracking (ie writing everything down) is a very big deal in Weight Watchers land. It gives so much INFORMATION and history and a way to really understand our situation. I admit I have not been tracking my food input very much. Basically, I’ve been eating whatever I can deal with, which is often not very much.

But I’ve been keeping a medicine and pain tracker. And it has been encouraging to see that I am much, much better than I was a month ago. It’s hard to remember this when I get impatient and bored and chomping at the bit. I’m definitely much better off. Just not where I ultimately want to be.

writing it all down keeps it real

writing it all down keeps it real

 

 

Step by Step October 29, 2013

Filed under: challenge,emotions,injury,lessons learned,pain,surgery — Susan @ 11:29 pm

photo credit: Chris Sardegna/Unsplash

So until this afternoon, I was mentally trying to prepare for surgery tomorrow. But things have been changing. I have been getting progressively better since Sunday (2-3 days ago). Whereas last week I was desperately gulping down painkillers every 3-4 hours, I am now down to about two a day. HUGE difference. I am now going long periods of time without having to lie on ice packs. I am relatively comfortable in a flat position. This is all good. But I am still only able to tolerate being up (above a 45 degree angle) for about 10 or 15 minutes at a time. That means a quick shower, lie down and rest, getting dressed, lie down and rest, then another quick blowdry of my hair. Then painkillers.

Still, it is way better than last week. A week ago, I was getting intravenous morphine in the ER and even at 3-4 doses, when I was almost unconscious, I still had level 6-7 pain. That was bad. It was so bad. I am so thankful to not be there anymore.

The surgeon called earlier this evening and we had a good long talk. I really like this guy. He is so thoughtful, and reasonable and smart.

We decided to postpone the surgery for another two weeks and then re-evaluate.

He said I might just keep getting better until I am ALL better. He also said I might plateau at a certain point and when that happens, I am just going to have to see if that is at an acceptable place. For example, if I were to plateau where I am right now, this would NOT be acceptable. As comfortable and improved as I am, I am not about to live the rest of my life lying on my back.

I’ve been feeling great empathy/solidarity with Frida Kahlo these days. And inspiration and awe. Especially images like this. If she can paint, I can write.

I feel like I bought a little more time. To see how things go. I am feeling a lot more alert, like I can do things again. I can write. I can read and get some things done.

This is going to take a lot more patience. We asked the doctor, the difference between resting-healing and surgery, in terms of pain relief. He said the surgery would give me immediate and total relief because the nerve would not be getting squeezed anymore.

What about a chance of relapse if I don’t get the surgery? There’s a 30% chance of relapse (in the next year or two), just because the nerve doesn’t have as much space as it did before the disc ruptured. That sure doesn’t sound like fun. Just saying: if I DO have a relapse of this experience, I’m getting that surgery lickety split. No question.

So I’m back in wait and see mode. I am feeling…. mostly good about this. I have to admit some degree of disappointment because I was getting pretty darn excited about the IMMEDIATE AND TOTAL PAIN RELIEF. But I also know there is are risks with any spinal surgery.

Patience. Patience. I’m learning so much about patience. And again, letting go.

I let go of the Grotto reading at LitCrawl. I let go of our grand 25th anniversary trip to San Miguel de Allende (sob!).

Next up on my calendar is the Adoption Policy & Reform Collaborative Conference in Minneapolis in two weeks. I am scheduled to speak on a panel and perform. I want to do this SO BADLY. For so many big, big reasons. If I did do the surgery tomorrow, chances are I’d be recuperated enough to fully participate. But doing this the nonsurgical route, I am not so sure. It makes it much less likely. I am going to wait until the very last minute to decide. It could just be one more in a long list of letting-gos.

I’m also learning so much about kindness. I’ve been astounded and overwhelmed at the level of support and encouragement coming my way. Lovely gestures of caring and friendship. Today I had three visitors. One friend brought me this fabulous ice pack contraption. And a “happy skeleton” cookie.

Another friend brought some beautiful orchids and my favorite clam chowder from Sam’s Chowder House. I’ve been feeling very, very loved and cared about. Which has been humbling and sometimes enough to make me cry.

I’m mostly feeling a lot of gratitude. A LOT. To all the people who have left me sweet comments and words of support on Facebook, who have texted and sent cards and stuff to cheer me up. Who have brought food to my family, and visited me when I am able, and who have understood when I am unable. Who have listened, who have supported Mr. McB who has really been worn down to a nub by all of this. Who have filled in for me at work. Who have tracked this whole weird journey and just been so nice. Thank you.

Thank you so much.

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