Thursday, March 4, 2010

There is a reason for everything

And definitely, blessings come in strange ways. It is interesting when you look back at situations that at the time seem devastating and like everything is going against you. Then realize that those moments definitely opened an opportunity for something else to happen, or perhaps could have saved your life.

This has been a horrible week for me, mostly emotionally. Last Wednesday, I met with the surgeon and had come to the conclusion that the best option for surgery would be to remove the whole disc and fuse the vertebrae. We scheduled it for the following Thursday, to give me a week to get things situated. I felt okay with it at the time, then immediately the anxiety and panic set in. I wasn't necessarily worried about the surgery itself, but how it would impact the rest of my life. I wondered how it would effect massage, if I'd be able to lift and hold babies, even if I'd be able to hike with the weight of a pack. I just felt very unsettled and terrified. I literally was a nervous wreck. I bawled and bawled for 4 days straight, with such fear and dread for my future. But knew that if I didn't go through with the surgery, I could very possibly lose all nerve function in my right leg. And that would have affected my future even more than the surgery. I just felt stuck.

Monday, I get a phone call from the Surgeon's assistant saying that my insurance company denied the pre-authorization, stating that my eligibility date for that surgery wouldn't be until Sept. 1. Not knowing if I'd even be able to walk by the first of September, I hit an even bigger panic. At this point I honestly felt that everything was in it's power was working against me, trying to slowly maim me. September would have been too late. I knew it. After calling and unsuccessfully bawling out the insurance company (in a state of panicked rage), I had remembered another option that he had mentioned that would fix the problem in the leg, but not the whole problem. At the time of negotiation, it didn't seem like a feasible option for many different reasons, so it was pushed aside. Now it felt right. Made a few more phone calls, and by Tuesday, that other surgery had been authorized, and we were still on for Thursday.

The anxiety and panic had left me. I felt so much calmer.

Now, looking back, I can see how that denial was a huge blessing. Even though I'll still be living with back pain, I'll have the pressure taken off the nerve. Somewhere down the road, I may need to go back in and have the vertebrae fused, but for now, I honestly feel that this may be all that I needed. With "downgrading" the surgery, it changed me from an inpatient to an outpatient surgery. It also cut my down time in half, so hopefully I'll be back to work in the month. And most importantly, Dr. Moulder pointed out that fusing the vertebrae would just open the door for my already slipping L5-S1 disc to completely herniate. Which would put me right back into the situation I was in, which would put me into requiring another major surgery. So for now, I can live with the ache in my back. I've been living with it for years. I'll live with it for more. But the nerve compression is now gone, and that was causing the bigger problems.

Now that I look back, I thought the world was against me. No, the world was trying to save me. And the panic and fear was my first clue. I didn't need the fully invasive surgery. For now, this is all that I needed.

And, today is the first day that I've actually been awake for a good portion of the day. I'm still coming off the effects of the morphine and demerol, and have plenty of lortab and phenegran in my system, and I feel like I'm rambling, so I apologize if I've repeated myself multiple times, and don't make sense anywhere else. I feel like my brain is on a 10 second delay. It's quite amusing, actually. I'm just happy that I'm able to focus on my laptop, and most importantly, that I'm posting from the comfort of my home and not a hospital room. Yes, I am blessed.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

*Disclaimer* Very unsettled when this was written.

I wrote this a few days ago, and have been debating whether or not to post it. Even though the anger-hurt-disappointment emotions have settled a bit (but the frightened emotions have definitely taken front seat), I am still hurt at the general situation and figured I'd just better let it out. So, even though I do mean what I wrote, I'm not too proud of how it was written at the time.

It was originally titled "Why I haven't blogged for a while."

Word got back to me that someone in my group of family/friends has been accusing me of making up medical problems for attention. And that deep hurt and let down has pretty much killed any inspiration and motivation I may have had to post anything at all. Because after all, anything I post is for attention, apparently. Well, I've come to the conclusion that someone who makes those kinds of accusations are guilty of doing the exact same thing themselves, making things up or exaggerating something for attention, and that I really shouldn't take it personally. But it's me, and I take everything personally. I have a very hard time understanding two things: First, for someone who has been told by many that she has a very caring, selfless and service oriented heart (AND has a very hard time accepting any service herself), how could it possibly be in their nature to be deceiving for personal gain of sympathy? Second, how could someone possibly fake a medical issue that has been ongoing for years, progressively getting worse, and has been under the watchful eye of specialists? How can someone fake problems that show up on an MRI? That's just beyond me. And now I'm looking at needing surgery that I really should have had a year ago, but have been trying to work through and live with the pain. I didn't want to be a burden on my friends and family, neighbors & ward members. I just have been dealing with it, taking it day to day. The pain I've been living with has been pretty severe, and many days I cry on my way home from work, and many nights I cry myself to sleep because of the deep burning pain. It's come across as depression. Well, sorry if I've been a bit moody and down, and anti-social. I'm doing everything I can to not constantly whine and complain. Trust me, if I had any choice, I'd choose NOT to be dealing with this, and I'd choose to have a very healthy body. I don't enjoy this at all.

For many years, I've had a deep ache in my lower back. Once in a while it would get so bad that I could barely move. I'd get ample treatment to relieve the symptom, but never found a cause. At that time I figured it was all muscular, and I had just "pulled a muscle" while twisting and bending, or twisting and reaching just the wrong way. Luckily those episodes were few and far between, but were progressively getting closer each time, and with more intensity. I was finally referred by my family doctor to a specialist, where an MRI was done. That MRI showed that I have arthritis in my lower spine that is causing bone degeneration. It also showed that the L4-L5 disc was herniated, and also starting to degenerate. The herniation was on the right, and was up against the right nerve root. So the treatments started with steroid injections to relieve inflammation and hopefully reduce the pressure on the nerve. After a year of physical therapy, many shots in the back, and two invasive nerve root injections, unfortunately the symptoms didn't go away, but progressively got worse. The pain in my low back has become a constant companion, always burning, always throbbing, almost nauseating. It then got to the point that my thigh felt like I had a blood pressure cuff tightening around it, and along the nerve pathway I felt constant hot stinging pain. It started to affect the way I was walking because I felt like my right leg was full of hot lead, and my muscles were struggling to comply with their instructions. My right leg had weak reflexes. So 14 months later, MRI #2 on my low spine, and yet another referral to an even more specialized Doctor to discuss a possible surgery to remove the portion of the disc that was causing the problems. Big sigh. So, MRI #2 showed that the disc had herniated even more, and was totally compressing the right nerve root. That explains the pressure and stinging pain in my leg. MRI #2 also showed that the disc that 14 months ago was starting to degenerate is now completely diseased.

So I met with the back surgeon yesterday, and spent 2 hours discussing, weighing pros and cons, and ultimately coming to a very difficult decision, for both of us. With the disc being diseased, the idea of just cutting off the herniated part was no longer an option, as that would expose the spinal fluid to the diseased tissue. The whole disc would have to be removed, replaced with a synthetic one, and the surrounding vertebrae would have to be fused. The other option would be to let it be, and risk the disc rupturing and oozing the infected tissue into the spinal fluid. Risk of an infection in the brain. Risk of death. Obviously I choose surgery, even though through my rehab, surgery has always been an option only as a last resort. This particular surgery is very invasive, they'll not only have to cut through spine stabilizing muscles and tendons, but through bone as well. I'll be laid up for weeks, maybe months depending on how my body responds. Rehab will be major, as I'll be having to retrain my muscles to stabilize my spine. I will be unable to give massages for a while, unable to do something I love. I may not even be able to hike this spring and summer, unable to go surround myself with the beauty of our mountains that I just love.

Now I ask you this: Why would anyone choose to do something like that for attention? Why would I choose to deprive myself, and put myself in such agony for attention? Sheesh. Maybe I should be proud of myself and pat myself on the back. After all, that's some pretty crafty talent, being able to make up a problem that's quite visible on an MRI. Just shaking my head here.

And now I tell you this: People don't have to have missing limbs or be in casts to have a medical problem. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. For those who make rude comments to someone that doesn't look disabled parking in a disabled spot, you don't know if they have a heart condition, or an amputated foot. Or if they have a disabled child in a wheelchair that has not yet been taken out of the car. And it's also none of your business. Just be thankful you have two legs to walk with, and the health to do so. Don't live your life in such a way that it's necessary to put others down to boost yourself up. And last, but not least, remember that nobody is perfect. Neither are their bodies.

This is one of the images from last weeks MRI. The disc that is diseased is the L4-L5 disc. On this picture, it's quite obvious which one it is. You can easily see how much it's compressing the nerve. Also, see how all the discs have a white core and that one doesn't? That dark color shows that the disc is diseased, which is the main reason the whole disc has to be removed, and the surrounding vertebrae fused. Otherwise we'd be doing a much less invasive surgery of just cutting off the portion that is herniated.

Now all I can say is that if that person still thinks that I am making this up for attention, then they need some serious mental health help.