I've been having back problems on and off for about a year.
It comes on, I suffer through it, go to the doc, get a prescription for prednisone, feel better for awhile.
Then the whole process starts over.
Last time, I went in saying I didn't want to take any more prednisone, but after a few minutes of being poked and prodded - does this hurt? yes. this? yes. what about this? yes, yes, yes. - I gladly accepted steroids and would have taken anything handed to me for the pain.
Before I go any further, I need to confess that when it comes to pain, I'm a whiner. I try to suffer in silence. But everyone knows "OMG! Crap! or Sweet Jesus!" pack more of a punch when punctuated like a child who drops her ice cream cone after one lick. Sometimes the pain shimmies down through my leg like an electric poker and my initial response is to shout.
My primary care doc reading my X-ray. "You've got rust, in there."
Doc: Yeh, like an old car.
ME: My back is like a rusty old car?
Doc? Anybody your age is going to have some rust.
ME (to myself) Rust happens.
ME (to the Doc) So what does one do about the rust.
Doc: In the old days, before insurance companies got involved, I would give you an injection to relieve some of the inflammation. Now, I have to send you to a back doctor.
A few weeks later.
Back doctor: You've got some arthritis. The space between you L4 and L5 discs is compressed. I've seen a lot worse. You won't need surgery. Let's start with physical therapy.
ME (Relieved, the "s" word has been avoided, but not so sure I like the sound of PT.) Ok, sign me up.
The next week. Three days after another round of Prednisone. I'm feeling good. I go in for an evaluation by physical therapists.
Therapist: Does this hurt?
Therapist: Bend over. Pick your leg up. Lean to the side. Any pain?
Therapist: Hmmm, I'm not sure what to say if I can't reproduce the pain.
ME: Just wait.
Two days later. As I predicted, the pain inched its way from my back to my hip. A twinge here, an electric jolt there.
New Therapist: We'll start slow. Stretch this way. Bend that way. Hold for 5 seconds. Do three sets of 10.
ME (lying on my back, knee bent, pushing and pulling): This isn't so bad. I learned the routine. Continue every morning and every night.
Next appointment is with Jon. He and the intern working with him, put me through the paces. They add riding the stationary bike, placing a stretchy band around my legs as I do "bridges" and "clams." Jon has me lie on my stomach while he manipulates my lower spine. Don't ask me what manipulate means. It felt like I was a ball of dough and he was kneading it. He called it "mobes" - therapist shorthand for "mobility." I thought he said "mojo."
I go to Tennessee to be with my sister when she discusses possible brain surgery with docs at Vanderbilt University. Sitting for 3 days does not help my back at all. I ask to board the airplane with the "passengers that need a little extra time." I stand at the bottom of the stairs (who knew they still had stairs for airplanes) and debate how I'm going to get to the top. The other passengers that didn't need help walk around me. By the time I deboard in Jacksonville I look like one of the stages of homosapien development … still stooped, not yet fully erect.
Jon: How are you today?
ME: Um, does the fact that I resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa tell you anything?
Jon to Brandon: We'll have to go back to the beginning and start slow.
ME: I want some mojo. I want some pain medication. I want my mommy.
Eventually I get back to where I was before the trip. I progress to 10 minutes on the stationery bike. Modified squats. Lifting my butt off the table. Counting to thirty with 5 second intervals. Marching while sitting. Raising my left leg and right arm at the same time. I can tell I'm more flexible. My "core" feels tighter. I take Bella for a walk, undaunted by the height and length of the bridge I decide to cross. The next day I have what Jon calls a "flare up." Note to self: So what if your core is tight, walking causes flare ups.
Murphy's Physical Therapy Law: Flare ups only happen on the weekend. There is no one to address my pain. I use my fall back position. I ask the doc I work for to give me something, anything to take away the pain. He comes through with Ibuprofen big boys, some muscle relaxants and foamy topical cream. I survive the weekend. The back doc orders an MRI. I develop complete sympathy for people who live with constant pain.
My sister Jean says "you reap what you sow." She thinks her hearing loss could be the result of not being sympathetic enough to our hard of hearing father. I begin to wonder if I'm having back pain because I fussed at my dad so much about the drugs he took for pain. Drugs I'd give my eye teeth for at this stage of the game.
An MRI shows nothing new or unexpected. The word "moderate" is used to describe why I have what I call "severe" pain. Back to PT. I work my way back to where I was before the bridge walk. Still have some pain. On the proverbial scale from 1 - 10, I'm under 5. This is progress.
Jon: I think if we can keep tightening up your core, you'll be finished here. Let's try something new since you work with a baby.
Jon: (handing me a wooden box with a 10lb weight inside) Keep your back straight. Bend at the hips. Pick this up. Put it back down. Repeat 30 times.
ME: 1-3- This isn't so bad. 4-6- How many do I have to do? 7-9 - Good god, I think my arms are going to fall off. 10 - Where's the mojo?
That was Thursday. On Friday afternoon I felt a slight twinge in my back and leg. By the time Bella is in bed and I'm on my way home, pain is radiating to my ankle.
Sat. I call Jon: Just take it easy over the weekend. Use a lot of ice.
ME: Ice is my new best friend.
Sunday: I can sit, but can't walk with out pain.
Monday: I call the doc and ask for steroid injections.
Tuesday. Sweetie watches over me like a mother hen. He won't let me do anything that might hurt. Everything hurts. I go to therapy.
Jon: Don't get discouraged. This happens sometimes. Let's try something different. Manual traction.
Me: I watch a young girl stand on a plastic platform that is like a big ball cut in half. She's doing lunges that look impossible for even a person with a good new, let alone someone whose knee is recovering from some kind of strain. I watch a man who fell 20 feet off a ladder do alphabet circles with his foot that was shattered. I watch an old man doing leg lifts, an old woman exercising her shoulders. Everyone appears to be making progress. I start to cry. I feel like the barbeque cooker whose bottom had rusted out.
Rust. Schmust. I need some ribbon to finish off some bears. Sweetie drops me off at the front door of Walmart and gives me strict instructions to wait for him. I feel like a two-year old and walk like an 80 year old. Here comes Sweetie with a riding cart.
Sweetie: Get on.
ME: Where in the basket?
Sweetie: No. You're going to drive.
ME: What? I don't know how to drive one of those things.
Sweetie (the man who says he can teach me how to drive an RV): You can do it.
ME (pain trumps pride): I get on, pull the go lever and shoot forward almost knocking over through traffic. I release my grip coming to a swift and complete stop. I try again. Slower this time. Think putt putt putt. I find the ribbon department. I scan the shelves for the colors I want. I pay no attention to where I'm going. When I remember to look up, I've boxed myself in between the shelves and boxes sitting in the middle of the aisle. I can't move forward, there is only one way out - backward. Backing up has never been my forte. Ask my friend Mary Bruton about her fence I took out just a few weeks ago. I swear when I looked that gate was open. I have no idea how it got in my way. I press the reverse lever. Beep! Beep! Beep! Dammit all. I suppose it is a good thing to warn people of my coming, but jeez, why don't they just get on the intercom and announce there is a student driver in the ribbon aisle. Then there would have been an audience when I backed into the end cap, causing the clearence items to fall precariously close to the edge. I round the corner, without hurting anyone, including myself.
There is a man standing mid-aisle. I warn him I'm a woman driver without a license.
"Oh honey," he says, "I'm the worst driver ever. A bag of M&M's and road rageare a deadly combination." I laugh as I go by without driving over his toes. I spy Sweetie in the fry pan aisle. I think it's time to go. I head for the door while Sweetie goes for the car. Thinking I'm doing a good deed, I attempt to manuever said cartmobile into a parking spot near the door. The plug is on the other side, which means I need to do a Y-turn. On my 3rd attempt to back out straight, I notice two men watching me.
ME: What? What? Are you enjoying the show?
Man: I'm just waiting for your cart.
ME: This cart? The one I'm trying park?
Man: Yes, that one.
ME: Well here, be my guest. I limped out the door.
One the way home, the doc called me. I'm scheduled for an epidural injection on Friday. I'm not real sure I want one, but it's got to be better dragging my leg behind me like some creature from a B movie. I probably should have thought twice before giving dad's motorized wheel chair away.
Live and learn,
PS. If being rusty, inflexible, unable to walk or work isn't enough. When I got home from work tonight Sweetie informed me that he'd ordered a stop snoring, sleep apnea curing chin strap for both of us. It was a 2 for 1 special. Good god, growing old is not for sissies.