It’s Been a While: I’ve Had a Micro-Discectomy and Other Things.

I have been silent. I have had writers’ block. I have had reduced pain. I buried my head in the sand and stopped wanting to talk about my bloody back pain; talk about a pain in the back. I have plodded, and managed with lower level pain. Not disappeared pain, but bearable ‘let’s pretend it’s ok’ pain. Stoic. Just waiting for a date for my L5/S1 Lumbar micro-discectomy.

I stopped taking Tramadol about a month ago. How about that? It’s been worrying me, using this drug, and I feel fine without it. Great in fact. It’s been R’s 40th birthday; we went out for wine tasting and I wore heels; we had a party/gathering and I wore Fly London Wedges. I looked fantastic that night with my new dress, new haircut (even if I say so myself, as did others), and red glowing sunburn; I drank alcohol as I had no opiates or nerve blockers in my system, and it was great as alcohol dulls pain; I got drunk; we went out for post partying breakfast and I struggled to bend down to pick something up from the floor. And that was the end of the ‘good phase’. I could not get out of the car coming back from breakfast and we holidayed in a yurt for the following five days, up a steep hill, with a LOT of painkillers and the lovely diazepam to keep me going. It was actually fab, but despite backpain (you got to just get on with these things right?).

On Tuesday, having returned from holiday to just one day’s work before going off sick again, the neurosurgeon’s secretary called me; “How would you like to have your surgery tomorrow morning?’

So, this is what happened

Tuesday 18th June in the morning, I was called by the secretary, a simple yes or no, she will call me back with details. In the afternoon I got the details of where I need to be and what time. A mad rush followed, sorting out new jimjams (didn’t bother), cleaning and drying my finest pants (I had to take em off, waste of effort) and supervising R cleaning the bedroom so it was lovely when I came home. We organised childcare etc and I spent a little bit of time trying to calm down a very worried little Summer Girl, ‘what if you sleep for too long mama? I don’t want you to go!’

On Wednesday 19th June at 6:20am I said goodbye to my tearful Summer Girl, my slightly nervous R, and a Winter Boy who wanted to wave at the mini cab taking me to the hospital – there was no point disturbing the children’s routine, and it was last minute so who could have them at that time in the morning? It wasn’t an emergency so R did school run as normal – by 6:45am I was stood in a queue of dozens of other people waiting for their ops. ‘Fucking Hell’ I thought, ‘I won’t be seen first that’s for sure.’

Wrong! At 7am I was booked in, 7:15am wristbands put on me, a million questions asked by a student nurse (including, ‘are you pregnant?’ about 10 times). At 7:25am I was seen by the Registrar who told me I would be having a bilateral micro-discectomy and I signed the consent forms. I changed into the very fetching gown and stockings provided, keeping my lovely clean M&S knickers on. At 7:45am I was seen by the anaesthetist who kindly let me know he will ensure I will be provided for drug wise when I wake up. Not reassuring, as that suggests I will be in a lot of pain! I missed seeing the Consultant as I was busy contemplating whether or not to keep my pants on as I got changed when he looked for me.

At 8:43am and having been told my neurosurgeon prefers his patients with their knickers off, I was answering the following important question in the anaesthetist’s room: What Makes a Perfect Manhattan?

Next thing I know, it was 12:30pm and I was fucking freezing lying on my side in the recovery room. Not for long, as I got warmed up by a lovely blanket thing that blew air all around me. (I need one for home, but apparently you can’t buy them).

AND NO PAIN IN MY LEGS!!!

Thursday at 3:30pm – I left the hospital, having been discharged as ready and desperate to get home, with one of my best friends in the world having brought me a proper take away coffee for the journey home.

I am still waiting for the pain to return. I have done too much today, and so am actually hurting a little, and in truth I do have a little pain in my legs, but it’s throbbing pain which I think may even be referred pain. There are no stabbing pains as I lay down or sit, so feelings that my leg will snap off, no pins and needles (a little fuzzing). There is some numbness in my toes and that might never go away, but. FUCKING YEY!

The Technical Bits

No fusion! I had a left sided decompression, instead of the anticipated bilateral decompression as the surgeon didn’t want to remove bone from both sides; he said this would leave my already unstable vertebra even more unstable and the risk of fusion would increase significantly. Apparently this means a slightly increased risk of right sided prolapse in the future and need for further surgery, but he felt that was a better risk than doing it now when right sided pain was minimal. I agree. Actually.

The incision is Tiny. Really tiny. Hardly even hurts.

I am moving! I am walking! I can’t sit for too long, or stand for too long. I have a granny seat on the loo. I am trying really hard not to do too much, but I feel…NORMAL! Apart from nagging pain, which is healing pain so it’s good pain.

A success! I do have to wait and see, as it’s still early days, but I am pleased with my microdiscectomy surgery!

The misaligned L5/S1 vertebra is a backwards misalignment and could have been caused by injury to the vertebrae.  The Clever Mumsnetter, DillyTante, uncovered the likely cause of my back trouble, especially as this is NOT degenerative in my case, and all information since continues to point toward this being right.

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Medicinal Spa Pool Recommended by GP

I have had a very unpleasant week. My back went into spasm again last week and coupled with significant vomitting for much of the week I was quite a mess – in pain, could not eat or drink anything, couldn’t take my medication of any kind for much of the week. Let’s not do details, but the short of it is, as well as being in horrendous pain and unable to stand straight, I also struggled to <ahem> take a shit. The medication, along with pain, and not eating much had basically stopped my digestive system from working. It is all sorted now but the week and in particular the end of it was actually quite traumatic. My GP said taking a laxative was like taking a sledgehammer to fix the problem. And she was right.

Today, post traumatic stress induced me has been signed off work for a further two weeks. Again. After managing a wonderful 2 weeks at work. My GP told me to ‘forget about work’ for the time being (not for the first time) concentrate on myself. Luckily I get paid full sick pay but that is not the point, I want to and need to be working.

So, I am going to the gym, to walk the pool and keep active, and then to sit in the Jacuzzi until I am wrinkly. I told my GP this and she said this was entirely recommended that I need more than anything to relax myself and that will help with the pain. She suggested doing it daily. I wonder if I can get it on prescription?

I had a conversation with some lovely people on Mumsnet yesterday about keeping reserves so that I have something to fall back on when things get bad. I was given a link by one of those people who herself suffers from chronic debilitating back pain about the Spoon Theory. If you have not heard of it, take a look. Work is a task that cannot take one of my spoons at the moment as I don’t have that many in my hands, but the spa, right now can take that spoon.

Blown Away by Hope and Pain.

There are two parts to this blog, as technically this computer has been confiscated by my husband so that I can listen to the audio book he has downloaded for me, and so I can fully rest my back.

Firstly, Wow. The power of Mumsnet is two fold! Not only has ‘Doogie Hower’ in disguise found the cause of my back problems but, how many people have come to check out my post! and have left me some amazing supportive messages. And yes, the more I think about it, the more I can feel the place where that oddly large and painful but quick to disappear from my memory bruise was. It was right in-between my vertebrae at the base of my spine. Now I remember, and have discussed with R, neither of us have any idea how it escaped our memories. It just demonstrates how easy it is to block very important details from our minds.

There is no doubt in my mind  now that the unfortunate event of the shower curtain caused my slipped disc. But, I know many people are thinking, as R did, ‘so what?’ and as someone commented on my last post ‘you can’t un-salt the soup’. That is true. This revelation does not fix my back. It won’t change the treatment offered. The damage is done and it is going to take a long time to fix, whatever the cause. Perhaps had I linked it at the time it might be a different story, but probably not.

What this does change is how I deal with it, emotionally, in the long-term. It gives me hope. I was told by several medical professionals that this is likely degenerative. It has happened over a period of time and the disc is disintegrating. This has put a little pressure on the discs above. And, as it is degenerative, it is likely this will progress upwards in time. This has been the source of great angst for me, as many of those who have journeyed with me over this last almost-year know. Coming to terms with the loss of so many things in my future. Having to find a way to parent so this debilitating condition does not hugely and negatively impact on my children’s upbringing. I have had so many tears of worry that this might end up crippling me. I have seen my career disappear in front of me and seen my relationship change and become damaged in front of my eyes.

This means, that maybe there is a chance that won’t happen. This means that if I can get this disc fixed, that it might not spread upwards, that it is not degenerative, that it is not inevitable that my life will be a continued cycle of pain and medication. Hope.

Alas this leads to the second part of my post. At the time I should be revelling in this fabulous news (and believe me I have been blown away by it) and seeing this as a new episode in my life, where I can go to work with little pain feeling this is actually progress that might stay, instead of walking with a swing in my step, I am in bed in pain as my back has gone again and I can’t stand or walk.

I have been throwing up since sunday, (for those who have an aversion to vomiting stories, read on, there will be no details) and now I am unable to walk for pain and muscle spasms. I have a theory about this, about the links between my pain and being sick, but that is for another time. For now, having had to crawl to the toilet on my hands and knees I am in so much pain I am going to return to the excellent audio book The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss for those who want something cool to listen to.

But, this is not going to beat me now. Not anymore. I am not going to just accept my fate is out of my control, this is not my destiny to have a back problem, it is not genetic, or degenerative. So I can overcome it. After some sleep.

(ps Thank you everyone for reading my blogs and for ‘liking’ and for the lovely comments. It means a lot. Even with a little nudge from those at the top.

TIme for Change

Having completed the fear inducing first blog post, this is my first daily log, a snapshot history of my back pain and a snippet of how it has affected my parenting. My life has changed dramatically over the last few months. But not more than in the way it has impacted on my family.

My Summer Girl and and Winter Son are young. And wonderful. They are so empathic it makes me cry sometimes. They have taken it upon themselves to be my saviours, to cheer me up when I am low, to kiss my back when it hurts and Summer Girl rushes to get me a gallon of water as soon as she sees me reaching for my meds.  They also take it upon themselves to jump on me at every given opportunity. If I happen to lie on the floor to do my physio exercises, Winter Boy does not see mummy doing press-ups, he sees a horse for him to ride, on he jumps ‘you horsey mummy! Go! Faster!’, or jumps from the top of the sofa onto my belly or legs. And Summer Girl still gives the best hugs, which often include jumping up and wrapping her feet around my waist, or swings on my arms. OWWWW to all of those things. But, how can I avoid the kids jumping at me and on me, and more to the point why would I want them to? It upsets me that they have to adapt their behaviour because I can’t step up to the mark as a mother. It upsets me that I can’t be the one to push Summer Girl as fast as I can on her bike, or swing Winter Boy up in the sky. But it is how it is and I have to find a way to cope with that.

About 2 weeks after my back ‘went’ again in June, I finally got the results of my MRI, and a conversation with my osteopath went along the lines of ‘and you have to avoid things that will cause a relapse, like for example picking up your children…’. Yeah right! I am never going to stop doing that! I thought. Not happening! I decided. Until the pain just refused to go away. And then one day soon after Summer Girl came up to our room after having a bad dream and crawled into bed next to me. After a cuddle,  I scooped her sleepy self up in my arms, legs wrapped around me and head nestled into my neck. As I walked down our winding loft-room stairs and the pain tore through my back and down my legs, my tears flowed, tears not only of pain but of realisation that I this was, consciously, the last time I would be carrying my wonderful daughter back to bed after a bad dream.  I hugged her tightly and cried the tears of a mummy who wasn’t ready to stop carrying her children, but who understood it had to be done.

I cried many tears that night. And, as is often the case in my darkest hours, I turned to the women of a fabulous internet forum, Mumsnet, to get me through. words of sorrow, personal experiences and empathy filled the pages along with great ideas for how to keep the closeness – cuddling in bed, on the sofa for bedtime stories. There are many ways to show her I love her and I realised it was not the end of the world, just a change.

I do still pick Summer Girl up, after all that heartache, but less often, and with much more caution. And certainly not down steep or winding stairs. No more lifting the deadweight of a sleepy child and the pang of regret, of loss of something huge in my life is ever-present in the middle of the night when I am called for and I nudge my husband awake to carry our sleeping child back to her bed.

Roo, well he is a different story. Being 2 and all.