Monday, December 20, 2010

Quick Update

Injection #3 is complete. Still no relief but I really didn't expect any. It did hurt quite a bit after it was over - each has progressively gotten worse.

I asked if I needed to continue w/ the 2bananas/1gram of calcium a day because it hasn't helped in the first 11 days...and he said yes, I needed to finish the final 4 days. However, I did find out what he was ruling out......he was ruling out the leg fatigue/weakness being from the injections. Which because there has been no relief, that was indeed ruled out. What does this mean? It means the cause of the leg issue is from the original reason I needed surgery to begin with...not good news. Confirmation that surgery is needed....frustrating because I can't have it.

Made a claim to the Office of the Inspector General against the insurance company. Not sure that it will do anything but I did it at the request of my dr. Guess now I'm supposed to write the insurance company. Again, not sure it's going to do anything but at least it's something.

Jan 3 is the next appt to follow up on the injections and see where to go from here.

...and again, the waiting begins.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

another path..

After going on three weeks of my legs being constantly weak/fatigued feeling, as if I had completed 6 marathons a day....I called the dr. Dr. R (who is doing my injections) made two suggestions that I'm to try.

1 gram of Calcium a day x 15 days (aka FIVE HORSE PILLS)
2 large bananas a day x 15 days

Not sure what he thinks it is but I'm following the suggestions.

Final injection Dec 20 then the follow up Jan 3.

We'll see what happens in the next 15 days!

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Injection #2

the injection itself didn't hurt but as soon as I was in the chair resting, as I am required to do after each one, it started to hurt... thankfully, the xanax knocked me out shortly after I got home which I think is a savior nowadays.

today was the day after the far the worst day of pain i have had in a long time. not welcomed. very frustrating! from shooting pains down my legs to pain with every step i took to aching in my legs to tingling in the majority of my body........tears of pain and frustration.....

i just want it all to stop!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back to square...let's say 2.

Well, after feeling like there was absolutely no hope and no where to turn, there seems to be a plan. At least something in the meantime.

Dr. B suggest I return to Dr. R (spine physiatrist and pain consultant) and see what he felt my options were moving forward to at least help with the pain. After the typical month-long wait, I met w/ him Nov. 18. I met at length with his assistant first in order to go over all the stuff that's gone on since I had seen them last in August... and her jaw dropped when I told her that my insurance denied surgery. Shocked! After her part was done, Dr. R came in. He was reading the notes that J and I had just done and I mentioned to him the insurance denial and he stopped mid sentence, WHAT?!?! He said, and I quote, "I will get them. I take this very serious." He said he would treat me in the meantime, while working to get the surgery approved. He was going to research the issue and get them. I went back to work and faxed him over all the insurance denial information and the insurance guidelines for a fusion surgery.

Plan: another round of epidural spinal steroid injections
When: Nov 22, Dec 6, Dec 20

When I went to the first injection, he said that he had done some research and found that Anthem was pushing back hard on back surgeries because they feel they are done entirely too much nowadays and that there were already National Boards his research was quick and the boards, I believe, are taking over from there. He said, "Enjoy your Thanksgiving and don't worry about the insurance at all." So, that's what I've done :)

The injections can take 3-10 days to work. . .and from what I can tell thru today, so far I haven't felt any changes. Maybe after the next one, I'll feel more relief. Until then, I just keep managing it the best I can and seeing where things go!

Oh, the appeal that I was going to write will not be finished. I started writing the letter (because the website STILL will not allow it to be done online) didn't get very far because I needed I requested my medical records from Neurological Assoc. Once I got those, I still didn't have anything I could use to meet the insurance's guidelines so I don't feel there is any point.....and it was the same day I met w/ Dr. R and since he is fighting for me, I am ok in letting him do the appeal work, rather than my meaningless attempt.

Fingers crossed something gets done to get me whatever needs done to help this pain!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Remaining broken...

Finding out surgery was denied when there were 2 days left of the countdown was hard to take...but there was an ounce of hope. A peer-to-peer review was requested from the insurnace co with my surgeon, who normally doesn't participate in them. When the countdown hit 1...the peer review was done. . .and yet, they still denied it. Surgery was cancelled. All post op appts cancelled.

Simply put, I'm completely devastated. I've cried for three days. I'm angry. I'm numb. I'm lost. Totally at a loss on the moving forward.

Right now, I should be in the hospital, recovering from an extensive surgery. Nine months ago today, I was in the hospital recovering from my first lumbar surgery. But instead, I'm sitting in my own bed, eyes drained of all my tears, completely lost. I don't even know how to describe what I feel right now.

I've spent the last two days trying to file an appeal online, which I'm told, is my right. However, their site doesn't load that page. I've talked to customer service and technical support - been told I can file an appeal online and that i can't.... I've lost all patience w/ this insurance company, their employees, and the website. So I search online to learn how to write an appeal, since I was counting on the website to give me guidance, as I've never had an issue w/ my ins. co. before. Talk about overwhelming...didn't leave me with any hope, and I didn't have much to begin with anyway. But I did learn that I needed the denial letter to write the appeal so I could include specifics. So I waited....well, just so happens it came today. DATED LAST FRIDAY!!!!!!!! Just pour more salt in my already deep wound. Knowing what I learned online, and reading the letter...there's little hope, or if I'm being completely honest, none at all that anything i write is going to change the mind of my insurance co who denied it before and AFTER speaking to my surgeon.

My head spins. . . .to think that I've spent the last 5 months waiting for this very day. Today, October 15th, I was to have my best shot at relief from the daily pain I've been living with for the last 18 months. I went to my doctor appts, MRI, waited for results, was subjected to the MOST EXCRUCIATING PAIN EVER with the discogram and waited weeks for results and then longer to find out the plan...then waited another month for today to come.... for what?????????? Absolutely NOTHING! Instead, not only do I have more pain than I did in May...but I have no forseeable options for relief. The surgeon has her hands tied and cannot provide me the option she feels is best for my recovery. She's done w/ my treatment completely. I now wait for Dr. R to get my message next week to see if there is anything that he can do to attempt to alleviate the pain. (Dr. R is the pain physiatrist who did the discogram who specializes in non-surgical pain treatments) Dr. B recommended I call him to see what he might come up with but wasn't sure he would be much help, as he is the one that sent me back to her after the positive discogram, recommending the fusion surgery. At this point, Dr. R seems to be the only hope that I have for relief. The thought of temporary treatments for pain is not ideal to me, when the underlying problem cannot be fixed.

Maybe something will happen and I won't suffer from this forever. Maybe there is a good reason for this denial and cancellation of the relief I was hoping for. But right now, I don't see anything positive. Living everyday with chronic pain that limits me from doing things I enjoy is unacceptable....and it more than angers me to think that the insurance company can overrule the recommendations of two neurosurgeons and a pain physiatrist. Living on pain pills and muscle relaxers to function is not the quality of life I deserve...but thanks to Anthem, that's what I'm left with now.

Back to square 1. . . .completely lost!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

the Final Countdown...

Well, just 5 more days until surgery!! Pre-op appt is done and cleared for surgery. Brace fitting is done and the two-colored blue brace is just waiting (and I didn't pick the color, despite what everyone thinks LOL, it just worked out perfectly). Meet n greet w/ Dr. D (surgeon and hardware expert who will be assisting Dr. B this time around) is done. I am more at ease with the upcoming surgery, now that I know the details of what's to come.

Here's what Dr. D shared w/ me. . . .
Dr. B will be removing 3 bones in my spine that will allow for decompression and relieve the pain in my legs (which was tremendous news as that gets to be the worst by the end of the day). The side bones that stick out (don't know their names) will be shaved a bit in order to signal to my body to generate new bones. Dr. D will put rods in that will line my spine, attached to the bones with 8 BLUE titanium screws in order to stabalize the 3 level area, so that it no longer has the ability to move. Because there will be tremendous pressure in the area(just by normal living), they have to fuse the area w/ bone in order to prevent the rods/screws from breaking over time. This is done by grinding up the 3 bones that were removed and adding it to the good parts (minerals, etc) of cadaver bones until a 'putty' is formed. This will be placed in between the bones and allow for the fusion to take place.

The surgery has 3 purposes...decompression, fixation, and fusion in 3 levels (L3/L4, L4/L5, and L5/S1). Because of the invasiveness of this surgery, I will be in the hospital for 2-3 days to manage the pain and such. I will be walking before leaving the hospital. My brace is for times where I'm up and moving about. I don't have to wear it when I'm sleeping or even necessarily when I'm sitting and watching tv, per se. I need to wear it a bit more this week to get used to it...don't need to be healing from this surgery and getting used to the brace at the same time. I'm a pro at getting it on and off so that helps. I could be wearing it for 8wks, 12 all really depends on how quickly I heal. After I do heal, then i will start PT again, to recondition my body for movement. It's not used for pain management post-op this time, as it was after my first surgery. So I won't be starting that for a couple months.

I have been ok'd (by the nurse LOL) to work from home beginning 11/1 so I don't have to go too long on disability income. However, I won't be returning to the office for approximately 6 months it sounds like. I'm not gonna know anyone when I get back! That's such a long time but they want to be sure that I'm healed and ready to return to sitting for long periods of time.

After this week of appointments, I feel I'm ready for surgery (as well as I can be). Just ready for the relief that I'm praying this brings to me!

let the countdown begin.... 5....4....3....2....1......

Saturday, September 11, 2010

because I've neglected this....updates

Wow, it's been a while since I have posted...and even longer since I updated about the neverending pain of the broken back.

After meeting with Dr. R...the discogram was scheduled and then moved up a week, to July 23rd. Never in a million years could I have ever EVER prepared myself for what I was about to endure. After getting up at 3:45am to make the hour drive to Marion, OH for the test, I'm as ready as I think I can be. The staff was great and I was first on the list for the day. Just get it over with. . . .WOW! The 4 needles were placed in each of the 4 discs being tested and it began...well, I didn't even know he really started because I didn't feel anything with the first disc...aka, no issues there. Then, hell was just seconds away! I had no sedatives as I needed to be able to feel the pain to let the dr know . . . the 2nd disc was done (L3/L4) and I remember saying "8, 9, 10, 12" as the pain just kept increasing. It was like an extremely painful spinal steroid injection that kept getting worse until it was almost like I was being crushed from the lower back and down. The next one (L4/L5)- I'd rather die than ever experience that again. I immediately screamed, burst into tears and jerked as if I was trying to jump off the table...just a reflex from being in that much pain - who wouldn't try to get away from it?? He says "I think we know where the problem is." They quickly tried to calm me as best as one can consoling someone who feels as if they are being crushed by a semi...and he continues to do the last one (L5/S1) and I cry harder and scream again. ...and it's over. Demerol is quickly injected into my IV and I start to feel a bit of I'm forced to switch to another bed to take me to "recovery" where they remove the IV and I get dressed....all done w/in 15minutes as I need a CT scan before the dye has too much time to disappear. I was able to walk out of the surgery center and head down to the Imaging center (of course Trina was driving) and had the CT scan done right away. Painless of course...then the hour drive back home! We stopped for breakfast and I spent the rest of the day in bed! Too many possible side effects from the procedure - all of which I wanted to avoid! I was fairly successful in that but I recovered nicely, in comparison to what I was just put through! WOW, recreating the pain? That's as misleading as it gets! I've never felt pain like that, nor do I ever want to again!

The next step was back to Dr. R's office for the results, August 17th. I'll never forget it...he opened my file and started reading the report out loud and just as soon as he did, he stopped and just read silently, shaking his head! Never a good sign! Clearly, I knew the results due to the reaction of the test. Positive at the bottom 3 levels tested. His recommendation: "extensive three level fusion surgery". NOT what I wanted to hear...but, exactly what I expected! If the point of the test was to determine where the pain was coming from to know where to fuse...I just expected it and tried to prepare myself for hearing it. He shook my hand, wished me luck, and sent me on my way! Back to the surgeon again. . . . .

Back to Dr. B...she was not happy with the results, but went over my results a bit and talked about the options. Ha, if you really want to call them that. Option 1: do the 3 level fusion which is never ideal because they don't like to do more than one or two fusions because of all the added pressure put on those discs above and below..but in my case, three need fused and though it's not complicated to do it, it's just not a great situation. Option 2: pain management (which isn't working now and hasn't been through it all). Trina and I asked all the questions we could think of being in the when in the office, all the information makes my brain spin outta control and I can't think too clearly - especially in this instance. Some of the answers: 3-6 month recovery easily. 2-3 day hospital stay minimum, longer if complications/infection. mobility wouldn't be much different than what it is now, just because I can't do much bending with the pain. cannot do just two fusions because there is pain in all three and it wouldn't be a good idea. the three discs will be removed completely, filled with bone graft, hardware put in place. back brace. two neurosurgeons would be doing the surgery, Dr. B and her partner Dr. D, who is the hardware expert. 30% chance of future surgeries due to the added pressure on the surrounding discs. no guarantee this will rid me of all of the pain. (there might have been more but that's what I recall now..). Then it was time to hang out while they called the insurance company and then we sat down w/ the scheduler and worked out all the details.
Surgery: Oct 15. Next appt: Oct 5 for the brace fitting and meeting with Dr. D about the hardware. Post op appt: Nov 15. Xrays need to be done prior to ensure the grafts/hardware is in place.

I left the appt w/ my head spinning. I never dreamed that it would all be so difficult to process. I had a busy evening so I didn't have time to really think about it. However, the next day, it hit me hard! I spent many tearful days trying to figure out if I was doing the right thing. I'm not sure if I really even have that answer still but I'm moving forward with the decision. As days pass, I spend more time planning and preparing for the surgery and recovery, getting help lined up and the house post-op-friendly since I won't be able to reach/bend for some time. Maybe the planning will help prepare me for the actual surgery, or at least help keep my mind busy.

So with 34 days left until surgery, I will keep preparing for it physically and mentally. I know it will be here before I know it!!!

Til then, there are Colts games to attend (season tickets ROCK), softball games to watch (no more playing for me...a BIG hurdle to mentally overcome), family to see, and friends to hang out with.

Live each day to the fullest! It's times like this that it really hits home!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Derrick - Class of 2010

Where did the time go? I remember vividly the day that Derrick was born. I've watched my first nephew grow up from a adorable little baby to a handsome young man. Wow, what a great individual he has become in the last 18 years!! I'm so proud of all that he has done so far and look forward to all that is in store for him as he starts the next chapter in his life.

At awards night, he racked up some class awards and scholarship money totalling over $32k! How cool!!!!! I watched him get his honors for his academics, as well as athletics. With each accomplishment, I became even more proud (and I didn't think that was possible). After the program, he even posed for pics ;)

Then....came graduation! WOW, I knew it was going to be emotional but I was quite unprepared for how it was going to affect me. WATERWORKS started the second the band started playing Pomp and Circumstance. Derrick was the second graduate in from the left, walking w/ the class Salutatorian. So many emotions flooded me while I watched him head to his seat...and I just couldn't take my eyes off of him. In his short amount of time on this earth, he has been through and experienced so much...the loss of his mom, being adopted by his other mom, becoming a big brother, moving from grade school to high school, from South Newton to North Newton, and keeping his grades up, just to name a few. Such a remarkable young man to go through it all with the kindest of hearts and a smile that can melt anyone!..two traits he most definitely got from his mom!!! This should all bring a smile to my face...and it does, thru the tears! Words just don't do justice to the feelings and emotions I'll just end w/ pictures!

I'm, without a doubt, the absolute proudest aunt on this earth! Congratulations Derrick and cheers to the next chapter!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

another Back Update...

Well, I went back to work after 12w2d off post-op. I had been feeling better and didn't want to wait an additional two weeks for my next follow up with Dr. B. so I called and got what I needed faxed to work so that I could return.

Work was work when I returned...some things never change. However, pain started to increase sitting there for hours and hours. I was questioning the return to work - however, I guess it had to be done.

Therapy continued...I went to my follow up appt at the end of April in which it was determined that because there was still pain, another MRI would be done. They are usually repeated 3-4 months post-op if needed, which was the time frame I was in. May 15th, it was finally scheduled, and I got it done. I asked my referring dr to look at the results because I wasn't sure how long it would be before I heard from the surgeon (I had no followups scheduled-to my knowledge). Dr. D. looked at it and said there was still healing, no more stenosis, scar tissue but overall, there was improvement over my pre-op MRI. I thought, GREAT! So, I called Dr. B's nurse to see if I could get my results. She returned my call and said I had an appt May 27, that Dr. B didn't give results over the phone.....however, I knew nothing of that appt. So, I went in on the 27th and was prepared for good news, to hear just keep doing what I was doing and eventually the pain would stop. Boy, was I wrong!!

I saw her assistant again, which was fine because I always seem to have more time w/ her when I see her. While waiting in the room, I hard Dr. M. outside looking over the MRI results and possibly explaining what she was seeing to someone else. I could tell instantly that there wasn't going to be good news coming my way. She talked about how there were issues in multiple levels...just nothing positive. When she came in, she asked about PT and pain and such. About the only word that sticks in my head from the appt was "fusion/s". Fusions aren't something that I would have ever anticipated and it seems pretty scary! She did some more MRI studying and came back in, saying that they were going to send me to see Dr. R...a spine physiatrist and pain consultant, within the same practice in order to have a discogram done - which is a test that injects dye into the discs one at a time in order to attempt to recreate the pain and determine where the pain is exactly coming from. This would determine the levels of the spine causing the issues (if it's from the discs) and help figure out which levels would be fused together, if that's the route that gives me the best outcome! s.c.a.r.y! So, the consult for the test is scheduled for June 14th then the test will be scheduled, completed, then it's back to Dr. B's to determine what will be the next course of action!

All that being said, it took a few days to process everything and come to terms with it all. Because it was the last thing I expected to hear, it took more time to get a grip on it. Now, I'm just looking forward to getting the test done and find out what's really going on!

This week, I finished up 4 months of PT. I'm sad to be done in a way because I had two amazing therapists...but because progress had stopped and I'm being followed by a few dr's right now, it was just decided that I had had enough and we'll go from there!

Whew, I think that about covers it. I'm tired of the seems to be getting worse as the weeks go on, so just hoping for some answers in the very near future!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More time off?!?!

Well, just as the first surgeon follow up didn't go as I expected, the second follow upon Monday did not as well. I expected to go back to work Tuesday, since that would be 10w4d since I last worked. Well....the office was as crazy as all the other times I had been there - this total office time would be 3 hrs (from the time I arrived 20 min early, until I left) but I just look at it as she is good and worth the wait. I actually chatted w/ another patient in the waiting room...another girl my age who had had her 2nd surgery a month before my surgery...YIKES! Definitely put into perspective of what could be in my future if I don't take care of the ol' back!

So, because of the huge back up in appointments, they had called Dr. M. from the hospital to come over and help with post op appts...which would be me. I was angry while I was still waiting because I didn't want to see anyone else that didn't know my case, I wanted to see Dr. B. However, I'm actually thankful for the switch. Dr. M. sat and talked to me for 20 minutes...more time than I've spent w/ Dr. B. total over 2 appts and surgery morning. She said she assisted in my surgery and that made me feel even more comfortable.

She asked about my pain and how therappy was going, what i did in therapy, tested the strength in my legs (which is great, as I've not lost any over all these months), asked about work.... looked at my MRI report and said I started with "crap". It makes me laugh to hear all of my doctors and surgeons use the same word to describe my back :D But it is was crap. Because my pain still was pretty consistent when I do more than sit around the house, she was a bit concerned. Given my age, I shouldn't be feeling like this still. She asked if I had flexion/extension Xrays done and I said no (xrays taken while bending forward and backward). That would be the first step going forward...which I shot over to the hospital right after my appt and got those outta the way. We discussed going back to work and really it was up to me. I wasn't sure how long I could sit at my desk in a given period...and thought maybe half days would be better. By that time, we were in the hall at the desk and Dr. B. came up and joined the conversation, asking how I was feeling and such. The three of us decided that we would hold off sending me back to work until the results of the xrays were in, just in case something WAS going on still and getting back off work might have been more challenging, or messy to say the least. Sooo, next follow up will be April 26. Tentatively, I'm off work until at least then. However, if there's nothing in the xrays, I'll probably go back before then. Just continuing with PT and hoping it starts to get better!

After my original 12 PT sessions were completed, it was decided by my therapists to add at least 8 more. I did make progress throughout the first group of sessions...I improved 30 degrees bending forward and 15 degrees bending to each side, on both sides. Despite being able to bend 15 degrees more on one side than the other (can't remember which now), I still improved the same amount on each. Seeing improvement in numbers is awesome! Measurements are more concrete than my subjective numbers describing my pain levels.

I'm just tired of feeling the pain when I walk more than 10 minutes...I feel I've hit a wall in healing and am just standing still!

Fingers crossed that progress starts again very soon!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

6 WEEKS??????????

February 15, 2010 was exactly one month after my surgery and my surgeon follow up appointment. I had been feeling better but knew I wasn't necessarily ready to go back to work. Moving alot always brought about pain. So, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when going to my follow up appointment. Dr. B. never really mentioned at my consult what the "post surgery schedule" would be like. My doctor that sent me to her, Dr. D., said once that some surgeons are physical therapy advocates and others just do the surgery and send you back to the world as is. So, off to see Dr. B. I went. Weather was getting bad so the office was crazy, as they were trying to get everyone in and out quickly before it got any worse. It took less than 2 hours for my turn. Dr. B. asked me how I was feeling...said pain was normal even at 4 weeks post op. It wouldn't be until after week 6 that I should start feeling noticably better. She asked if I wanted to do physical therapy and I said "ABSOLUTELY!" That much of my recovery I knew I wanted to do. She was happy with my response and said she would see me back in 4-6 weeks and we headed to the appointment desk. I quickly asked if I had to go back to work and she shook her head no, like I was crazy for thinking I would be going back to work so soon.

My 'script for PT was written...3x a week for 4 weeks...and my appointment was made for March 29! Holy cow!!! The nurse said it was 5 weeks...but something didn't seem right - it wasn't until today...five days later...that I realized my appointment was actually 6 weeks later making it 10 weeks being off. If I'm cleared to go back to work the day after my appointment, I'll have been off work for 10w4d! I'm in shock! I never dreamed I would be off this long, though because I didn't ask the questions at my surgeon consult, I guess I wouldn't know what to expect!

I tend to forget the questions I have in my head when I go see Dr. B. am i cleared to drive??? Minor detail! I knew I wouldn't survive another 6 weeks off without being able to drive. So, I called the nurse from the parking lot to leave her a message about it. She called a couple days later and said I was allowed to drive if not taking pain meds...WOOOHOOOOO I'M FREEEEEEE! Having been homebound for 4 weeks, it felt amazing just knowing that I could drive - even if I didn't go anywhere!

While still in the parking lot, I scheduled my first two PT sessions w/ the same office I had done PT before. . .also the office where Dr. D. is. I was to go in the following day for my PT evaluation, as there was a cancellation, and then two days after for my first true session.

February 16: PT evaluation w/ Alice (who I had for my first PT round in the fall). She did some measurements on my range of motion, which is VERY limited. I wasn't too shocked when I couldn't bend to any of the 4 sides very far and couldn't twist. Back muscles are very tight and they just don't give w/out pain. There was no PT that day but I did get the benefit of electric stimulation w/ ice. . .ahhhh! Heaven! My goal for the short term is moving w/out pain...longer term is none other than softball! Get me back on that field!!! A's short term goal for me was not to increase my pain thru therapy. Music to my ears! The stim was to decrease the pain and it definitely did! 15 minutes of heaven! ...Pain hit me at night, though I think it might have been more from driving for the first time than from any of the tests/measurements...not sure.

February 18: PT really gets started. The goal right now is to increase the strength in my trunk in order to use those muscles when I move. I learned 3 exercises and their value to me and did them. 1 set of 10 for each.... then, my 15 minutes of heaven again to end my sesssion!!! Homework: do the 3 exercises 2x a day, and increase gradually until I can do 3 sets of 10 of each exercise. Whew, that's rough! I expected increased pain after PT...and it happened. The pain hit around 7p and brought tears a'flowin'!!! I was trying to hold off on the pain medicine until closer to bedtime so I tried ice and a hot bath. . . .then finally couldn't take it any longer after round 2 of tears...medicine and sleep.

So, with the first two sessions in the books...I'm still getting better each day. I have PT two times a week for the next 3 weeks, then 1 week of 3x, and then the last session a week before I go back to the doctor. I just might call and try to reschedule for earlier since I'll be done w/ PT...we'll see. As much as I don't want to go back to work, I need to for my sanity and $$!

Healing takes time. . . .

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Life & Times of the Broken Back

Well, as of today, it's easy to see that December 17 has come and gone. It was a great relief to hear the surgeon say that day that surgery was definitely a possibility, and one that would be successful. Since I tried all of the other less invasive methods to ease the pain, this was the last stop. Dr. B. said that should could go in thru an incision in my back and drill down some of the bones around the area of pain to relieve the pressure on my nerves, thus relieving the pain. She clearly stated it wasn't the discs that were compressing the nerves but the bones. Because I appear to have a smaller spinal cavity than normal, there is less room inside than there should be, causing even more issues when there are bulging discs. I was allllll for it! I wanted relief and I was willing to do anything I could at that point to find relief. Never once did any thought what I would go thru after surgery cross my mind. I was elated and could barely stand the wait.

Near the end of December, I got the call! Surgery was scheduled for January 15th!! I wrote it on the calendar and started counting down the days immediately. The pain became, in a weird way, bearable at that point...just knowing there was an end in sight helped so much! The days actually passed quite quickly. The term "slice&dice" was coined by a friend early on in the countdown so that's what it was called. I finally had a named event to look forward to! I got everything squared away with work and short term disability and pre-op testing. I lined up post-op help and a plan that was going to be key to my recovery. I worried about the steps in my condo the most. . .having the bathrooms on the top and bottom floor but the kitchen in the middle. That was quickly a memory when it was offered that I stay with some great friends, where everything was on one level. Perfect! Planning complete! Let's get this show on the road!!

My wonderful parents arrived the evening before surgery and we had a wonderful dinner and relaxed until it was time to sleep...One more sleep until "slice&dice." FINALLLLY!!!

..and then it was here..."slice&dice" was here! I was in a great mood the morning of surgery. I still was not nervous or scared...I left that to all my friends and family. I was ready! I skipped down the hall of the hospital to the surgery check in. I was chipper and excited (even at that early hour)!! I was taken upstairs to get dressed in the styling gowns and get my IV. Dr. B. came in before her first surgery of the day and marked my back with a marker. . .then noticing my tattoo that was sure to be cut during surgery. I didn't care. She told the story how they enjoyed the challenge of putting tattoos back together after surgery and who could do the best job! Hahahaha!! Loved hearing the 'behind the scenes of surgery'. Then I waited and mom and I chatted until it was time!!! Alex came to take me to O.R. 26! Kissed mom and off I went!

It was a long ride to the it was the last one in the hallway. I waited at the doors of the OR and nurse Nancy asked me to tell her what I was having done...on the left: L3, L4, L5 decompression and on the right: L5, S1 diskectomy. In english - she was drilling down the bones to decompress the nerves, as well as removing the bulging parts of the discs in the lower area. Showtime - and thru the doors we went! I took what little time I had to look around and observe what was going on around me. Dr. B. came in and they were trying to get something to print, my MRI pictures were on the screens, the operating table was to my right and I wasn't sure how on earth they were going to get me up there and flipped over when I was asleep. I'm trying to figure out how to explain the table that had 'things' on it to prop me up in the right position, is the best I can do. Never seen such a thing. As I'm looking around, my hand is BURNING!!!! Apparently the anesthesiologist has no bedside manners and did not warn me that he was beginning the medicine...tears rolled down my cheeks. JERK! I could instantly feel it taking over my body and I didn't like the feeling - tho thankfully I was out in probably less than a minute. The rest of the morning is gone from my memory but the magic was being done.

I woke up in recovery and the first thing I did was wiggled my toes - I had to make sure I was still able to move! I ached a lot and it still boggles my mind that I was laying on my back. Seems absurd but it was tolerable. What wasn't tolerable was the fact that I had to lay in recovery for much longer than I should because the room wasn't ready. I was given ice chips here and there and then come the keep the ol' blood flowing in my legs. The nurse who began to put them on was very gentle. Then mean nurse came over and decided to help with the right leg...this was NOT pleasant as she was very rammy and rough and I cried. Do you realize I just had my back sliced open?? Good grief! And if that wasn't enough, she ran into my bed twice while getting to the bed next to me. More tears! Thankfully she got smart and moved my bed a bit but still ran into it again. GET ME OUTTA HEREEE!!! After what felt like an eternity to me in recovery, I was heading to my room. The bumps in the doorways hurt but finally, I made it! I was never so happy to see my Mom as I was then!!

I was still a bit groggy but seemed to be more awake than I thought that I would. My nurse came in and was very nice. . .even if she, too, made me cry. She had to test my strength to make sure everything was 'normal'. I had to do the ever-dreaded-tests...push/pull on her hands w/ my feet which as you can imagine was very painful immediately after surgery. Then I had to do the same with my arms in different positions. My mom is yelling at her to stop because she's making me cry...she said she could come back and do it later..Mom said yes...I said no...she was already halfway done, I was already crying...just finish it! So it was all over and I was left to rest. My poor momma doesn't like to see me in pain and I felt bad for her. I don't like seeing her cry anymore than she likes seeing me cry. The rest of the afternoon was full of resting, parents, friends, minister, nurses...that's about it.

The first trip to the bathroom was not pleasant. I didn't care that my naked bum was hanging out for all to see. I was focused on learning to manuver myself in and out of bed and making the short trip to the bathroom....which ended up with me hovering over a bucket. I wanted to avoid getting sick at all costs....can you imagine getting sick after back surgery? Whew, please don't let it happppppen! Thankfully, the belly calmed down and I think I might have even gotten some medicine to help. I got better each time I got up and down, but it was not a pleasant experience.

I made it through the night with broken up sleep...and was up for the day at 4am. I decided to sit in the chair because it hurt too much to lay on either side. The chair was wonderful. The physical therapist came in later and I had to walk around the halls and even go up and down a few steps. I was surprised how "easy" it was to walk the steps. I never dreamed that it would be almost easier than walking. I made a loop around the floor and back to my room where I found my parentals and a breakfast that I wouldn't eat...ewww. One of Dr. B's partners was on call that morning so she came in, said "So, what do you want to do?" I said, "Go home." and that was it. I was discharged. I had to eat first and the nurse had to change my dressing and take out my drain tube and then was free to go. Absurd, looking back. Was I really ready? Should I have been the one making that decision? But I did and I was leaving.

The nurse came in and took out my drain tube - which was not a pleasant feeling but was over in a second. To date, that has been the only "stitch" I've ever had...there was one suture holding the tube in my back. The dressing was redone and I was free to get dressed...which I needed help! I got some papers and my instructions - walk as much as I could, no driving, rest and heal! That was about it.. oh, and no lifing more than 10 lbs. There were no volunteers on the floor when it was time to go so I walked on outta that hospital, "pain free." The pain that sent me to the OR was gone already - it was time to handle the 'healing' pain.

Coming home was bitter sweet. I was happy to be home but I could not find anything I could sit on that was comfortable. The chaise was too soft and low and the chair was too soft and deep. I sat in a card table chair and got to the point where I could only cry. This wasn't going to work. Mom was ready to take me back to the hospital. Finally, a friend brought me a small recliner that was going to work. I was still in serious pain...then realized...I hadn't taken pain medine in hours and was long past the time I should have taken them. Yep, there's the problem!!! After that realization, I set 3 alarms on my cell and just kept switching them from am to pm and slept with it in my hand so I wouldn't miss a dose. Crucial to healing! Definitely surviving the first night at home is the worst. But we muddled thru!

Post surgery day 2...the parentals packed me up and sent me home with Trina as they headed home. I spent 9 days at Trina's, having help when I needed it. I had planned to go home after about 5 days...hahaha. My back had a different plan! But, I listened and just kept healing. I had a lot of pain and ended up needing steroids in order to kill a 'hip-catching pain' that developed. Dr. B. had figured it was from inflammation and the steroids took care of it. Then it was time to battle the healing incision and the bright red, itchy, welted back from the steri-strips that were used to hold everything together. I then had to add Benadryl to my cocktail of medicine. (I hate taking any medicines so this was rather hard for me to deal with to take so many so often.) Finally the itch started to subside from the strips and from the healing incision. I came to look forward to my nightly glimpse of the healing would. There were pictures taken often, to share and also it was really the only good way I could see what was happening back there.

The strips started coming off on post surgery day 9...and I was allowed to take the remaining ones off on day 10. Welll, I couldn't wait another 12 hours so they all came off on day 9. I finally got to see how my tattoo looked. Although it was cut completely in half during surgery, it was put back together PERFECTLY!!! Every single line was matched up like it had never been touched. Truly amazing! Makes me think they spent as much time putting the tattoo together as they did fixing my back..hahaha!

The first two weeks were definitely the most difficult and not something I would ever want to repeat. The feeling that all my muscles in my back had been sliced in half was not pleasant. Healing is not for sissies, to say the least! Hindsight says I should have maybe spent some time thinking about how i would feel after surgery because it hit me like a ton of bricks. Or, maybe it was good that i didn't think about it because then I would have been more anxious/nervous. Oh well, I survived the first 2 weeks.

The 2nd 2 weeks were better...that's when the emotional side hit me. Feeling better but unable to get in the car and go anywhere was very difficult. I am not one to rely on others to do things and I didn't have a choice. I fought a lot of tears and then, a glimmer of light! My bff in Indy came to see me on a Saturday and I found a way to get to my IN home and back. So, I packed up what I needed for a week and spent week 3 back home w/ the parentals! It was much needed TLC and rest! I had a great visit with my bff and she had company on her trip back. At home, I was able to read a book, play online, get QT w/ the parents, and had an evening with Leah and then one w/ makes an Aunt feel wonderful when the girls each want their own time with me!!! That really made my week! Week 4 was spent back home just resting, catching up on dvr'd shows, playing online, and watching the snow fall. That's when I was happy to not be out driving to work in it!!!

4 weeks post surgery...I went to dinner and grocering w/ my roomie. We had a great dinner and a quick trip to get a few items. Upon arriving home, I watched some tv and when I started to do something else, I had a horrrrrrrrrrrrible pain in my left hip. It got progressively worse throughout the evening until I could barely walk. I got up to bed and it was all I could do not to cry. What on earth is going on??? Pain meds and bed - rest and sleep. My mind wandered - did I move wrong? Was it from all the walking? If it was just from the walking, there is no way i can go back to work next week. Still, I'm puzzled! What a way to end the 4th week of more pain than I'd had for weeks! FRUSTRATING to say the least!!!

Today starts week 5 of healing. I'm still hurting from last night's pain. It's better but the more I was up moving around, the more it hurt. I will be venturing out again tonight and am going to be watching every move I make, to see if it's me doing something wrong or just the act of moving around more than I'm used to. I want to have as much info as I can before my appointment w/ Dr. B. on Monday for my followup! It's at that appointment where I am hoping to be cleared to drive...and hoping for a script for physical therapy. I'll know then if I'm heading back to work on Tuesday or more time off. My wish: at least 2 more weeks off and some heavy PT. Time will tell. I'm looking forward to the appointment.

So there it is...the last 6 weeks in the life of me! I'm thankful that the pain is gone on the right side, which is where it was before, I just have to get thru these healing pains, oh, and the numbness as well, that I forgot to mention that troubled me in week 3 and beyond.

...and for the progression of the booboo...

I am forever grateful to all that helped me get this far in my recovery...thru the pain and the tears...I see the light at the other end!!! I never thought I'd see it. I know there is much more healing to come...but I'm making great strides!