Friday, June 21, 2013


So, I attempted to go back to work this week, for four hours a day.  But unfortunately, the pain in my right leg increased exponentially with that schedule to the point where I wasn't functioning at all, and I was unable to finish out the week.  It has been such a disappointment.  I have worked from the time I was 16 years old and, truthfully, have always taken it for granted.  Now, I find myself frustrated beyond words, and frightened to tears over the unknown aspects of this horrible pain.  Up to this point, no one has been able to tell me what exactly is causing it, how long I will have it, and what can fix it.  Or even how to manage the pain. 

None of my pain meds relieve this pain.  The only thing that helps is anti-inflammatories, which are forbidden until my fusion is deemed complete (usually about three months after surgery).  So I find myself between the proverbial rock and hard place ... the hardest place I've ever been. 

For now, I am back out on medical leave and waiting until my next follow-up appointment with my surgeon to, hopefully, get some updated information and set some sort of plan of action in place.  Words cannot express how grateful I am to my employer for their understanding and compassion for my situation and willingness to work with me.  But I know I have to be able to tell them something soon. 

Unrelenting pain is hard.  It erodes who you are, because it changes your focus and twists it completely around.  Things you have always cared about, things you want to care about, sort of fade to black in the white hot intensity of the pain.  Nothing else matters.  I don't like who I am in the grip of this pain.   I don't like that I have to make a conscious effort to care about something, anything else. 

I don't know how people live with this kind of pain for years, and I hope to God I never have to find out.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A funny

So Steve was driving me to the surgeon's office the other day to get my nerve block.  On the way, we go down this r-e-a-l-l-y nice road with massive houses on huge lots.  We always slip into smart-aleck mode when we go this way, saying things like, that's a nice little cottage, and Honey, I'm home, and so on.  Steve points out one particularly grand abode and I say, "Good Lord, it's got a TURRET!"

After a little pause, "What does one do in a turret?"

Steve's reply:  "Whatever you want to, I guess."


turret photo: Sherbrooke-our room was in turret on left DSC03646_zps7b516005.jpg

Friday, June 14, 2013

International Market

There is a huge international farmer's market not far from our house, the operative word being "huge."  It's been there for quite awhile now and I've never gone inside.  Finally, today I took the plunge.

It's quite something.  The produce section is massive.  There are all the "regular" fruits and veggies you would expect to see:  melons, many varieties of apples, a plethora of citrus fruits, greens, potatoes of every kind.  Take tomatoes, for example.  They had at least a half dozen varieties, including these -- red Romas, green, and orange on the vine.

But then, there were all the exotic fruits and vegetables!  These were some of the melons.  The signs say Hami, Gaya, Canary, and Korean melons.   

Here are some brown and white coconuts.  I've never cracked one open, but I've always heard how hard they are to open.  I think I'll stick to the finished product on this particular item, thanks just the same.  I don't think I have the upper body strength.

How about some sauteed cactus for supper tonight, with a side of mashed yuca?

Besides all the fresh produce, this store had fresh fish and seafood.  Really fresh.

There were tons of organic and gluten-free products, different types of flours and meals, spices, oils, locally grown honey, nuts of every kind ... pretty much anything a recipe might call for.

Then, to satisfy that salty or sweet tooth, there were treats of every imaginable sort.

Yummy seaweed snack, anyone?

I didn't even cover half this store in my first visit.  I bought corn on the cob, a cantaloupe, a small seedless watermelon, some Vidalia onions, and two sweet potatoes (boring, huh?)   I'm looking forward to going again and picking something exotic to try ... maybe one of those melons.  With some sauteed cactus on the side.

More later --

Friday, June 7, 2013

My favorite part of the day

I was up fairly early this morning and outside for my walk.  We are enjoying a little respite from the typical Memphis heat and humidity and I am enjoying being able to walk outside.  So this morning, once I got off the main thoroughfares, I chose a route down a couple of streets with no sidewalks.  There was very little traffic.  Actually, I only saw one car (which was pulling a big yellow and white ski boat, lucky guy) and one other walker (who was accompanied by two beautiful yellow labs).  I did, however, see a lot of birds and squirrels, and a couple chipmunks. 

I love that route because it is so quiet and peaceful.  Once I get on those side streets, I can hear the birds.  In fact, sometimes the birds are really loud!  This morning I heard a mourning dove ... beautiful.  I can hear my steps, my breathing.  Things just seem to be clearer, more in focus.  I feel centered, alive.  It's the best part of my day. 

Oh, I saw one other memorable thing on my walk this morning, besides the squirrels, birds, ski boat and dogs.  I saw the sign that never fails to make me chuckle, "Please Leave Your Address So My Dog Can Poop On Your Lawn."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Nerve block number two

Actually, it's nerve block number three hundred and forty six, but since my spine surgery this will be nerve block number two.

I had a meltdown on the phone yesterday with the nurse practitioner at my surgeon's office.  I mean, an honest to God sobbing-so-hard-you-almost-can't-speak meltdown.  Amy, of course, was kind, patient, understanding -- everything you could ever want on the other end of the phone when you're falling apart.

I apologized repeatedly and she was so nice about it.  It actually took me by surprise, the depth and breadth of it.  I had called with my list of questions (you do know I'm a list maker, right?) and concerns, and somewhere in the middle, it all fell apart.

I am in such an odd place right now.  I totally feel like the back surgery will be, eventually, successful.  The problem that has plagued me for years -- the incessant tingling and numbness down both legs -- is much improved and is getting better all the time.  I just finished a .96 mile walk in our neighborhood this morning.  I walked down my favorite street past my favorite houses -- something that at one time (and not that long ago) I truly thought I would never be able to do again.  So, yes, the surgery must be a success, right?

But ... how can it be that I traded one big trouble for another big trouble?  The constant pain that now goes from my right hip down the leg to my foot ranges from nagging to almost more than I can bear.  The only relief I can find is while sleeping and occasionally while walking.  Otherwise, it is always with me.  Nothing relieves it - no medication, no change of position -- but sitting upright in a chair definitely aggravates it to the point where it feels like an electric shock going down my leg.  The scary thing is, my job involves me sitting upright in a desk chair.

Nerve pain is a strange thing.  The places I feel the pain worst -- my ankle, the back of my knee, my calf -- are not really what is hurting.  The pain is originating from the base of my spine.  The nerve root has to heal.  Amy said that sometimes the nerve needs more steroid than can be given in one dose, so she is hopeful that this second shot will work much better.  I hope so.  I truly hope so. Surely this isn't a permanent thing, right?  It's not a permanent problem. 

On a related note, I started on a new drug this week to try to treat the nerve pain.  It was not created for that purpose; it's actually a seizure drug.  But it has been found to be effective in treating nerve pain for some people.  Please ... let me be one of those people.  And let me escape the weird side effects ...  The last drug I tried made my appetite go crazy, which is a deal breaker for me.  It wasn't working for the nerve pain anyway.  So fingers crossed on this one.

Finally, just because I need to smile (and you too, if you've suffered through reading this tale of woe), I'm putting a picture of my baby here ... just to make us all feel better. 

Tell me ... how can you look at a face like that and not smile?

More later --

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hobbes and the mouse

We have a desperate hunter in this house.  His prey is a sisal mouse on a string.  He stalks that poor mouse and, eventually, captures it.  Every time.

Mission accomplished.  Now, for a snack and a nap. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday morning musings

It has been almost seven weeks since my spinal fusion surgery.  My back feels much better, much stronger than before the surgery.  The numbness and tingling down both legs are still present, but usually to a much lesser extent than before, and I can stand for a longer time before they occur.  My doctor has told me that this will probably be the last symptom to disappear, because nerves just heal at a much slower pace than bones, muscles, tendons, etc. 

What continues to concern me is the pain going down my right leg.  This was not present before surgery, and it was present immediately after surgery - even in the hospital while lying in bed.  It significantly worsens with sitting.  Now - while I am still on leave from my job - I deal with it by getting up very, very often and walking around the house and by doing my longer daily walks.  When it gets really bad, I lie down for awhile to "stretch it out" and that eventually relieves it. 

I wonder how I'll do when I return to work, since the vast majority of my job is done while sitting.  I have to say, this weighs heavily on my mind every day.  What I don't want to do --- can't afford to do --- is injure myself or hinder the healing process.  I had a nerve block done last week, which offered absolute pain relief for one day.  For one glorious day, I was completely free of pain, from head to toe.  I can't even begin to remember how many years it has been since that happened.  But then, much to my disappointment, the leg pain returned the very next day. Maybe I did too much on the day when I felt so good.  Which brings me to another thing I hate about this whole process:  I'm constantly second guessing myself and wondering if I'm doing enough, if I'm doing too much, ad nauseum

The doctor has offered to do another nerve block, and I think I will do that before I go back to work a week from Monday.  I am also going to talk to the doctor about what, if any, damage I could do by sitting for an hour or more while experiencing worsening leg pain.  I just feel like I have gone through too much to do something now that will mess me up.  I do not want to extend my time off.  I worry about creating a hardship for my co-workers, who have to do their job and mine while I'm off, plus I am just ready to get back to real life and to doing something more challenging with my brain than crosswords and reading who-done-its.  And, I miss the social aspect of my job and seeing my co-workers and friends. 

Wouldn't it be nice to have a crystal ball and be able to see exactly what you should do to give you the best outcome? 

Maybe I am just worrying too much.  It sure wouldn't be the first time. 

Oh well.  It is Saturday morning and there is 85% humidity outside, so I am off to the lovely treadmill, to do my morning walk!  Can't wait for cooler weather where I can breathe again outside. 

More later --