Not that kind of slice.
In less than a week’s time I’ll be having my first major surgery since I broke my arm jumping out of the bathtub at age seven (I had to pee!).
2018 has been a rough year for me, mostly stemming from my physical condition.
I’ve had low back pain on and off since I was a teenager, but starting in January, it was different than normal. It was more in my glute and down my leg than ever before. And I have no idea what caused it.
I had a few massages from my friend the incredibly talented, co-low-back-pain-sufferer Nick, which usually help big time, but no dice.
I had a steroid shot in my butt which nearly cured me for precisely eight hours.
Started seeing a chiropractor, which also helped in the past, but my condition got way worse after his treatment—to the point of not being able to stand up straight at all.
So, since early April, I have had debilitating pain in my low back and left leg to the point where I can’t be on my feet for more than two or three minutes without crumpling into a chair. I have numbness in my foot intertwined with shooting pain in my glute region (pain the ass to the layman), knife-like stabbing pains in my ankle, and tightness at the top of my calf that’s had me convinced at times that my muscle was going to literally explode.
I did six weeks of physical therapy, including dry needling, which helped improve my pain to a degree, but not enough for me to get my life back.
I’ve had an epidural steroid injection which also alleviated the pain to an extent, but wore off after only a few weeks.
Well meaning acquaintances and even total strangers have offered solutions to my back pain—everything from hand stands to taking a cold shower to switching to a strictly vegan diet.
(By the way, if you see a person in non-emergency-type pain, please don’t offer a half-baked, home-grown solution, even if it worked for you once. I can guarantee you that if they’ve been in pain for very long, they’ve probably tried it already and you’re only the twenty-fifth person that day to tell them how they can just get rid of it, as if they wouldn’t have already done that if they could…)
Thankfully, another friend and co-century rider, Amy, is a top-notch P.A. at an orthopedic clinic and got me in to see a top-notch spine surgeon’s team. I had an MRI and sure enough, (in the doctor’s words), I have a “massive herniation” of my L5-S1 disc, which is “absolutely crushing” my sciatic nerve.
So on Wednesday the 22nd I’ll get cleaned up in there.
Oddly enough, I’m not that nervous about it. I’m sure my anxiety will increase as the time draws nearer, but as of now, I’m kind of handling it. The pain I might experience really can’t be much worse than the pain I’ve been in.
Which has given me so much appreciation for those of us suffering with chronic pain. It is exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. It causes you to snap at the people you love (and be sure to apologize immediately), it makes you miss out on important things, and even makes you miserable during happy occasions. I haven’t been on my bike since I rode my first century on November 11 of last year, and that’s depression inducing.
I have also realized how thankful I am for the gift of modern medicine.
Less than one hundred years ago I would have been a cripple by the age of forty with no hope of recovery. I wouldn’t be able to support my family, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my kids or my wife or my favorite activities.
So in light of that, I am thankful.
I’m thankful to soon be off my steady diet of naproxen and acetaminophen.
I’m thankful I’ll be able to play with my kids again.
I’m thankful for my wife who has picked up major slack in the absence of my ability to do perform normal tasks.
I'm thankful for the kindness, grace, and patience my daughters have shown.
I’m thankful for my family who have helped cart the kids around, make meals, mow our yard, and a host of other things.
I’m thankful for friends who have used their professional skills to knead me, needle me, support me, and advise me.
I’m thankful for life and laughter and sorrow and the ocean and warm breezes and hugs.
I’m thankful that I’ll soon be able to ride my bike again.