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Year of Pain, Year of Humble

IMG_7202Last week, after I spoke on a panel on reproductive stigma and justice, an audience member came up to me and said, “I know you.” I looked at her. I didn’t recognize her at all – a warm smile, brown skin, dimples. I squinted and said, “Really!” She said, “You’re Foodie McBody. I follow your blog!”

I was overwhelmed by a storm of thoughts and emotion. What blog? Hahaha. I haven’t posted a thing in months. And who? Foodie McWho? That person was a person who had receded so far away from me. I’d changed my Twitter handle and Instagram name, and nobody called me that anymore.

Foodie McBody was a person who, once upon a time, took her health by the reins and galloped into a transformation. There were years of glory. The first 5k! The Weight Watchers Lifetime key! The 10ks, the half marathons. Four of them. The two triathlons and more 5ks than I could count. I loved my health and loved my active body and I was just proud and glad, even through the struggles. I had little bouts here and there – a sprained ankle, a wrist flareup. But they all resolved within a month or two, and then I was back in the saddle again.

But then 2013 happened. I call it my year of pain. When my hip gave up after the Oakland half marathon, my last, and told me I might need to get it replaced. And then the fateful bounce on the trampoline that ruptured my cervical discs and brought me to a halt. When I could do nothing more than move, agonizingly, from one horizontal position to the next. Surgery, recovery and rehab in small, tentative steps.

2014 was supposed to be my comeback year. But it has not been that. After a brief triumphant walking 5k at the start of the year, I have been plagued by a thyroid condition that stalled my metabolism, and a foot ailment that won’t let up. Plantar fasciitis turned to posterior tibialis tendinitis leading to some sort of Achilles problem. My Achilles heel, indeed. Every morning I hobble out of bed like a 90 year old. Actually, I hobble out of bed more painfully and slowly than my own 92 year old mother, which is humbling, to say the least.

my Achilles heel
my Achilles heel

Do I want some cheese with my whine? Well, why not.

2014 has been the year of humble. But if I’m honest I also have to admit that it’s been a year of fear. Recently our family re-watched Spirited Away, one of those hallucinogenic Miyazaki films. One of the most disgusting images is this creature, the Hungry Ghost, that eats everything in sight – frogs, bicycles, humans, and keeps wanting more. It grows into a mountainous blob of sludge, its arms outstretched, and stinkily consumes everything in sight. When our young heroine refuses to be intimidated by the ghost, and doesn’t run away from it, it starts expelling the contents of its innards. Finally it shrinks to a fraction of its enormous size, and silently boards an underwater train, presumably bound for freedom.

That image has haunted me. And I think that that creature is like my fear. It reminds me of the Before version of Foodie McBody. Before I charged into healthy living in 2009, I was afraid of everything. Afraid to move. Even when it felt good.

For much of the time these days, I am paralyzed by fear. Only recently I’ve been able to venture into small, almost laughable activities. I join a weekly AquaFIt class at our pool, where most of the participants are ten, twenty or even thirty years my senior. For an hour we splash around the pool with foam weights and noodles. It feels like play, but when I climb out of the pool, I have to admit it’s kicked my butt.

I walk silently in the redwood forest near my house. Today I did a silent walk and in the quiet green I thought about my fear. The sky was white, a little blue, like the inside of an ice cube. The air I moved through was chilly and perfect, and the sun blinked uncertainly through the clouds every now and then. What am I afraid of? I am afraid of pain. My left heel sent out little jolts. So what, I said. So what. It’s not killing you. I notice. What do I notice. It’s like electricity. It’s like heat. It’s like a twangy little song reminding me that I’m alive. I liked the feeling of my legs. I still have muscles there. They’re still strong. I pushed up the gentle incline and I didn’t wheeze. I didn’t die from shortness of breath. I was doing it. It was just a walk. Calm down, I told myself. You’re okay. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

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Worse than the pain, though, is the shame. The pain of shame. Of knowing where I was three years ago, that relentless athlete that swam in the icy, salty bay. The one who looked fear in the face and climbed on the bicycle, up hills, up so many hills, near whizzing cars and dogs. I ran and ran and ran. Three or four days a week, tweeting about my six pain free miles, my happy eight miles. These days I would consider it a victory to walk a 5k, to make it around Lake Merritt without sitting down, without limping. This is the greatest pain. To look in my closet and push aside the majority of the clothes, because nothing fits.

How to find compassion? That is what I want for 2015. The year of compassion. To say, it’s all right. You’re okay, whether you never complete another triathlon again. Whether those 15 pounds stick around like old friends. You’re okay. You’re okay.

These days do not look like 2010 or 2011. These days look like walking in the beautiful trees, like greeting my gray haired companions in the shallow end of the pool. Of meditating every morning, first in silence and then listening to the calm, warm voice of my teacher, leading me through the compassion meditation. Open to the possibility of being kind to yourself, he says. Open to the possibility of appreciating your life.

I’m open.

my walking meditation path
my walking meditation path
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Plantar Fishy-what??

image: http://www.trufitusa.

Ah, this blog has become such a litany of woes, I might as well just re-name it “I’m Getting Old, Falling Apart and Whining About It.” Seriously, though. Really?

No sooner had I gotten over the bummershock of having a faulty thyroid, than I began waking up with excruciating, hobble-inducing, holding-onto-walls heel pain. It had started out as a dull ache which I not very brightly ignored. Then while we were on our lovely vacation in San Miguel de Allende, which involved miles of tromping around on picturesque cobblestone streets, lo and behold it worsened every day. I think my foot liked those pretty streets very much.

Plantar fasciitis. OW.

And it pretty much put me off walking except when absolutely necessary, and running, like ever. WAHHH!

More travel happened. A long weekend in Louisiana for an amazing family reunion. Boatloads of crab (no exaggeration at all!). Ten thousand percent humidity. Aching heel. No movement. Pathetic thyroid. All this adding up to… more weight gain, overall bummedeness, etc.

More travel. Back to California, and straight to Pact Camp.  Intense emotions, busy days. NO time to deal with anything. But along the way, I’ve been picking up suggestions and ideas from fellow PF sufferers. Rub your foot with a metal spoon. Icing. Dansko clogs. Splints.

But now I’ve been home a few days, and I’m re-grouping. One great thing that happened while I was zigzagging around the country is that Carla favorite a tweet that said something about The Sock.

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Then, shortly after, Frank answered.

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I clicked on the link for the Sock. I watched the video. It was designed by a physical therapist! My people! I sure liked the IDEA of a sock rather than a rigid splint, which I knew would drive me insane within minutes. I read a ton of enthusiastic reviews, and then I ordered.

It arrived yesterday. I put it on before I went to bed. I already had a feeling that keeping my ankle/foot at a 90 degree angle, even if in a flexy sort of way, would be radical. I like to sleep on my stomach or my side, and my feet are pretty much in high-ballerina position all night. Yes, my heel cord was getting SUPER tight.

I didn’t apply it super tightly. I’d read warnings about numb toes and such, if it was too tight. I didn’t want to freak out myself or my toes.

I woke up this morning. The proof is in the STANDING UP, which is normally when I double over from pain and have to grab at the bedpost to stay upright. And then I hop to the bathroom on one foot. It’s not nice.

But this morning — I had the dull ache, but it was equal to what I normally feel after hours of walking around. It was GREATLY improved.

I have been so very discouraged and bummed about this, I didn’t want to write about it until I felt at least a glimmer of hope. Well, it’s glimmering. Here’s to turning a corner and having no new parts fall apart for a while.

I’ve been trying not to feel too sorry for myself when I see friends out and running or walking 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, triathlons every weekend. But I tell myself, I’ll be back. And now I think I might even believe it, a little bit.

image from Clipartbest.com

Back In the World (Sort of.)

#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.

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

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

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

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

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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Side Effects

IMG_1252Three times now since this all began, I’ve had wild hopes for various medications that initially feel awesome, and then after 12 or 24 hours, suddenly turn on me with mad ferocity.  The first one was a patch that gave incredible blessed relief for a day or so. It knocked me out and I was able to sleep comfortably for the first time in weeks. I was so grateful. But the next day, I was overcome with vomiting which began a bad spiral of dehydration and misery. Stopped that.

The second one, I was thrilled at first. It seemed to give complete pain control AND I was alert (maybe even a little buzzed/hyper). I thought, wow, I can actually FUNCTION on this one!  Maybe I could even get some stuff done! But by the second day, it had bizarro psychological symptoms that made me feel like a bona fide insane person. I was hysterical, paranoid, fearful and just living some kind of nightmare (and having bad nightmares when I slept, on top of it). That one went into the trash.

This past week, I tried a new medication that came highly recommended from a physician friend for whom it has worked wonders. My neurosurgeon also recommended and wrote me a prescription on Thursday. I tried it out and felt AWESOME on Friday. I was up and about for much longer than my normal tolerance (normal = I can be upright for about 5 minutes before the red hot poker stabbing thing begins, and on Friday I was able to have an entire meal sitting up). I felt great. GREAT. I was so excited.

But then 2am on Saturday morning, the side-effect hell began. Splitting headache. I felt like my eyeballs were going to explode. Nausea. More vomiting. And uncontrollable, out of control weeping. I was, as they say, a hot mess. Despair.

It took all day Saturday and Saturday evening to detox and let that stuff leave my system. Finally today, I am back to baseline. Tired, pain when I get up, but as long as I remain horizontal, I am relatively okay. I took a little field trip to the hospital this morning to get my pre-op testing done (blood, urine, EKG). It wiped me out. But now I am back in my cozy bed, able to eat a little of my favorite toast and yogurt.

I am so ready for this surgery. It’s definitely a go. 3:00pm Wednesday.  If you’re interested in the details: a posterior cervical laminotomy at C5-6 and C6-7. It’s going to be done arthroscopically, which I am uber excited about. A small incision. Just done through a little tube, with microscopic tools. I have utter confidence in the neurosurgeon and I feel like it is the very best option I could have hoped for.

I’m estimating that I have lost about 15-20 lbs of muscle mass since this began. I absolutely CANNOT WAIT to begin my rehab, to start gaining my strength back, to be back in the world. I am hoping that by next week at this time, I will be well started on my way back. I couldn’t be more ready.

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