Once jogging was something to do rather than a milestone to celebrate in every day affairs. The first pains felt more like a sore hip and nothing to fear if a cold pack or hot water bottle was nearby. After all when your past sixty sudden stiffness and unforeseen problems were always part of the morning wakeup. But this was different. A nagging chronic feeling that was always noticed in the morning before a foot could touch the floor.
I never thought that with high blood pressure, type two diabetes, pills, diet, exercise and new life style my serenity would be challenged. Working part time making messenger deliveries was supposed to be my retirement dream. With a pension and Social Security to be able to work a few hours a week and sit in the sun in between could not have been a better dream.
A walk around the park past the picnic tables and lake a couple of times a week became an issue as the pain rotated from the hip down through the thigh to the lower leg. Where sleep was once the end to a long day it became the beginning to a longer night tossing and turning trying to find a spot where pain was not. All the while thinking that once I saw a doctor the hip problem would be resolved.
As they say pain makes you focus where other things may not. Midyear and with some time on my hands I decided to finally see my MD and get the issue straightened out. It was the beginning of a long journey that taught me many things about patience, ambulatory surgery, medications, physical therapy and acceptance.
We become spoiled sometimes in the belief that there are absolute cures. Falsely so when the pill box is full and more prescriptions are on the way. Diets change and healthy so called lives are proudly displayed and lived. Insurance commercials boast of great rates for special chronic cases and the ease of acceptance is stunning. Patience, patience, patience and in time the body and the mind adjust.
When I received my diagnosis after a visit to the specialist and MRI the surgeon was my next stop. It was there that the certainty of my ailment was discussed and the confirming tests covered. It was spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that could pinch exiting nerves and cause sciatica. Not news that I expected, it was not the hip but the spine and my hopes of a fast cure plummeted.
The options were ambulatory spinal steroid injection that would flush out possible particles that cause pain but not permanently fix my problem. Three times could be done in a year. Actual surgery to align and correct with the possibility of recurrence or side effects as a result of the surgery. Physical therapy, medications, live with the pain in combination with the items mentioned or cold turkey without them. A lot different than take pills for blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.
My mood was depressed with the thought that there was no obvious easy way out and in the end pain would be my closest companion. I started with the steroid injection which after the pre opt test I was required to take was more personal drama than actual problem. For me it was very scary lying on my stomach and strapped to the table to avoid any involuntary movement that might cause permanent disability. Unable to see behind and see what was going on my patience was tested. Forty eight hours after recovery my condition and sciatica remained. I disdained another injection and decided to try the next option of rehabilitation.
From the beginning the idea that flexing and bending and twisting with rubber balls and other apparatus did not make sense to me. I reasoned that if it was not a cure then why bother. Different conversations with family, friends and my own research only convinced me that it was worth a try if nothing more than to cross it out and off my list.
So I joined the early morning physical therapy crowd. Flat on my back with the hot towels and other suffering folks to my left and right. The crunches with a large ball between the legs and then under the knees to aid the twisting from side to side. Off the table and the hamstring stretch followed by the other parts of the protocol. Having entered in a reasonable state of discomfort I could bravely walk back to the lobby, out of site of the therapists and collapse on the sofa. It took thirty days at one center and one day at another to realize it was not for me. Maybe I am a pragmatist but for me nothing that causes pain can cure pain.
In the beginning lead up to my ambulatory procedure I was given a medicine for epilepsy patients that I was told could be used to combat the sciatic pain and nerve problems being caused. While resting 48 hours before the procedure I found myself at one point staring at the wall for a half hour and the pain was still there. It confirmed what I always knew or felt about drugs to relieve pain without the other side effects. More than the pain I did not want to become a drug addict. A functioning individual in society that could not cope with the intricacies of changing fortunes.
That left two remaining options pain management or surgery. New and perhaps more effective medications that could be provided under the care of a pain specialist. To me it was no more than a fancy name for drug dealer. I feared what I might become if my natural inclination for sobriety did not last. The surgical procedure that was described as a laser inserted and used in a spinal process sounded simple enough.
But I did not trust my ability to make the right decision. Should I try another injection, some said the second or third worked better. Did I give rehabilitation enough time? How about medications taken on a minimal schedule? Would I ever be able to work again? How about walk the park again? All I could feel was lost and with pain and relief only when resting. One thing I knew was that resting all my life was not an option.
In the interim I continued my research with prayer and medical opinions. Conversations with strangers that I met along the way that walked with canes and or not at all. From these moments came reflections and thoughts about what to do next.
I heard a small memory piece that I could not remember was written or verbal. Something like sometimes in time there is some change and left alone the condition will improve. Sounded like they were talking miracles because how could the spine change itself. Then I realized that for me it was not a matter of the spine changing but my attitude toward the problem changing.
I realized that I first had to accept the reality that I was now partially disabled. That it was not a major problem and every day that I accepted then I ignored all the things that I once was. Instead of long walks around the park I can take long walks around the block and there would be different flowers but flowers nevertheless.
That I lived with pain and was not devastated by it but was able to still function and find ways to do what I always did but differently. If I needed the cane then I walked with the cane and it did not lessen me in the slightest. My vital signs and the heartbeat of my life remained strong and I said a prayer for total remission of the pain that I had accepted. I have an open date for surgery, my final and best solution that I believe I will not have to use. I believe I am better in every way.
I now consider Spinal Stenosis to be one of my best friends because it forced me to stop and smell the roses.