I almost titled it "No Pain No Gain". The neck brace keeps my chin up, but also this has been an emotional trial for me. It's a helluva journey back. There have been tears and, at first, lots of number 10 pain. One day, before entering Rehab, before my pain was under better control, they had me sitting in a chair and they were trying to get me to stand up and walk. I was having an increasingly severe pain event and I was crying that it hurt too much and I couldn't get up. My daughter walked into this calamity and she started crying. Behind her walked my husband and he started crying. OMG my husband was weeping. I finally mustered the strength to get up and thankfully most of the worst pain subsided in the standing position (because my hands on the walker took the weight of my arms off my shoulders), so I walked! I walked with my daughter in tow behind me with a chair in case I needed to sit and my husband in front encouraging me on.
I've experienced reflection and moodiness. I cry easily. I just want to be me again, pain-free and able to do things again. Independence is a long process after this surgery. In order to reach the spine they must cut and pull aside the shoulder muscles. There's the pain. No reaching over my head, no lifting over 3 to 5 pounds. I need help getting anything higher than the 1st shelf in the cupboard. My hubby fills a small water bottle with milk so I can make my coffee and cereal. At this point, reaching into the frig and pulling out an 8 pound gallon of milk is not advised and would likely put my neck and shoulders into a night-long throbbing pain event.
At least my neck has healed enough for me to put on my shoes. I can sit at the computer for longer periods of time. I can dress myself. If anything must go over my head I lie down to do it. I can't wash or comb my hair. My daughter must attend to those things. No driving, no turning my head other than very slowly side to side as an exercise. The neck brace is hot. Sometimes I lie in bed with it off, so my neck can breath.
Surprising physical changes...
When we were still in Crescent City (see Stories from the Mist) I suspected something serious was beginning to happen but I didn't know what. Some of these symptoms began a few years ago and worsened progressively. My stomach was taking a long time to empty and it was getting worse. My bowels weren't moving, well, not more than once a week. Probiotics encouraged things slightly, but they were becoming less effective. I had trouble emptying my bladder. My right hand was turning numb along my little and ring finger. My left toes were numb. My legs cramped every night. It was increasingly severe on the left, with only the slightest movement throwing my leg into terrible cramps. Other parts were not working right. I didn't mention this before because I was focused on a healthier location for my husband, but deep down inside I knew somehow that I was going to be needing a specialist for my own health. The race to move for both of us was increasingly important.
I had no idea all those problems were related. Sometime after my surgery my stomach woke up, and so did my bowels. The sudden restoration caused gas pains, slight nausea and cramps, but after time they settled down to a normal routine. The numbness gradually went away. Everything else because working properly. My legs have not cramped at all. My blood pressure went to normal, a perfect normal! No more blood pressure meds!! Another possible resolution is the pain I had shooting across my left hip when I walked no longer seems to be present.
The thing with spinal stenosis, when it's that severe it can cause permanent damage if left alone. One doc said I was one bad fall or accident away from being in a wheel chair for the rest of my life.
June 15 I go back to Milwaukee to get an X-ray and see my surgeon. I hope to be able to remove the collar at that time, or at least begin removing it for periods of time. I read that the bone graft will need about three months to heal and continue to strengthen over the next year. Neck and shoulder muscles will continue to heal and strengthen.
On May 26th I felt well enough to handle the short drive to Pike Lake. We had asked my therapist and she said I should be ok for that, just don't overdo. I had been taking short walks to the corner with my therapist and she could see marked improvement. I nearly cried I was so happy to finally get out to do something besides seeing a doctor. It was a beautiful day, breezy, sunny, puffy clouds.
In the meantime...
There have been family changes. My daughter and her husband had mutually decided to divorce, so her move here from California is permanent. She needs a car and an apartment, and to begin working (she put in for a transfer and medical leave). I am finally becoming independent enough to be left at home while she works, so I'm sure she will be going back to work soon. All of this mess has stressed our budget severely. My husband missed a lot of work and now work is slow. Well, we are all hopeful for things to normalize soon.
The air is so fresh here! The breeze is rustling the leaves. It's mostly cloudy but it's not hot. I love Wisconsin!