Cut 2 C Spine

A word of warning: I’m going to do a fair bit of whining to start, but I promise it will get better.

I’m done.

Cheryl thinks I should have come to this conclusion a year ago. That’s how long the pain in my neck, shoulder, arm, and head have beat me up and down. For now I’ve given up on physical therapy, massages, chiropractors, pain management specialists, and a few others lost in the fog of drugs and pain. I’m still stretching though, trying in vain to keep some of the surrounding muscles loose.

I said yes to surgery.

Some folks fear the knife, but not me – not now. I’ve given a year to every other option I could think of not called acupuncture. All of those little pins/needles/whatchamacallits freak me out, man. I don’t look forward to six weeks in a cervical collar, stronger pain meds, or the rehab to be named later. My Doc wrote up the docs for work saying I’ll be out ten weeks, which seems like a freakin’ long time. But I don’t want to repeat last year. I’m pretty sure I could, but I won’t. I’m saying no to 2012: no to the pain, depression, and helplessness. I’m saying no to the feeling of isolation that follows this unholy trinity of despair.

I don’t want to know my heart rate from the hammer blows felt inside my head. I want to be free of the vise that sometimes squeezes my upper body, as muscle spasms fire up and down from my neck. I’d like to take a deep breath without fear it will feel like I’m tearing muscle from bone. I don’t want to stay behind while my family experiences life.

Day after day I struggle to put on a good face, wanting to be a relief to the tensions of an office in disarray. I come home physically and emotionally exhausted, collapsing on the first appealing/horizontal surface. Sometimes it’s the floor. I often lie in odd positions seeking relief that doesn’t come, not moving for fear of making it worse. I sleep little overall, but in lots of short, non-satisfactory bursts.

But today it feels good to be moving forward. There’s a lot to be said for doing something, even when it involves waiting. Effort gives purpose and can fuel hope.

Does it sound odd hearing someone say they’re looking forward to surgery? I can’t wait to get me in there and fuse me some vertebrae! I suppose you could interpret it as desperation, but I don’t feel desperate. Some would say it goes against my nature, but I’m optimistic. I don’t expect a miracle cure. I don’t even expect to be fully cured. I accept the chance it won’t cure me at all. I’m hopeful most of it will go away – not counting the sleep.

Surgery is just the next arrow in the quill. The aim may or may not be true this time, but I’m not afraid to try. Well, not much anyway.

It’s passed time to rejoin life, and the living.


All this time

A few months ago I reached a relatively low point in my life. I wasn’t dying, starving, lonely, unemployed, or bankrupt so I use the word low lightly.

I visited my psychiatrist six weeks ago. (I’m not ashamed to admit it, I have one of those.) After the last few years chatting with me, even she was a little concerned by my appearance.

My sleep situation was worse than ever. I was sleeping between 10 – 13 hours a night with naps in between, possibly 15 hours a day all told, yet I felt like I’d got none (or very little). Efforts to slowly start exercising again left me in much worse shape. My blood pressure was inexplicably low. I was suffering from pretty bad reflux/heartburn, confirmed by a tube they stuck down my throat – despite a relatively good diet and avoiding the common triggers. This came after a brief ECG scare, suggesting irregular heart behavior, which turned out to be a false alarm. Leukemia hung in the background, never affecting my health, but seemingly biding it’s time for the best time to strike. I set a personal record for body mass. Since I didn’t get any more dense (Cheryl might argue the point), I set a similar record for volume. My natural tendency to slip towards depression made it all seem worse.

I couldn’t stay awake – anywhere. One of my doctors said I shouldn’t be driving. Cheryl became the designated driver in the family. I couldn’t focus at work for more than a few moments at a time, despite lists I made for myself to put me back on track. Trips to the printer left me week in the knees, my legs trembling, like I was going to collapse in exhaustion. Any sound reaching my cube was a distraction, pulling me from my work. Fighting these distractions made the headache gods VERY angry. Folks whispered about the time I spent working from home. For the first time in my life I was told my work was slipping. My daily routine shrunk to working, getting ready for work, and sleeping.

Many doctors, bad guessing, and failed treatments leached away my one remaining defense – hope. Even though poor sleep was clouding my judgment and slowing every step, I felt like there was no “big thing” to point at and say, “that’s what is wrong with me.” However, it felt like I was nearing my 990th paper cut.

Three months ago, I went to see my primary doctor. She ordered blood tests and a follow-up.

Two months ago, shortly after seeing the psychiatrist, she said my thyroid numbers had more than doubled in less than a year, suggesting hypothyroidism. She ordered more blood tests and another follow-up.

Three weeks ago the new, more extensive tests came back the same. I started taking thyroid hormones.

Things haven’t changed a lot, but they have changed. I’m sleeping a bit better. Work has been easier. Exercise doesn’t seem impossible. Cheryl signed me up at the Y so I could work out with everyone else (the whole family goes). My energy level remains low over all, but I have bursts where I feel more like my old self – like right now. Maybe best of all, I have something to point at.

I have hope.

– – –

Even though I’ve gone silent for quite some time, I know a few folks I consider friends have had tough times: tumors, hospital stays, and worse. On the off chance one of you stop by (you know who you are), you’ve been in my thoughts.