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Category Archives: Surgery and recovery

Comparing

I tend to compare myself to who I used to be…. Before I had to quit working in 2004. Even though I was in a fair bit of pain, I was still fit. I was working. I was riding my bike in the summer and skating in the winter. I was running a fair bit too. I was strong. I loved my strength more than anything. It made me feel so good about myself.

On Sunday, I tried skating again for the first time since before I started having surgeries way back in 2007. Yay! It felt great but it became evident quite quickly just how out of shape I have become. I didn’t realize how fit you need to be to go skating. I was out of breath within maybe a few minutes of skating. As I sat there catching my breath, I started to remember how I could skate before without getting slightly out of breath. I had no idea how fit I really was before things really went sideways and how much I clearly took for granted.

Of course, with this realization of how badly out of shape I am, I started to get really hard on myself as I often do. I know it isn’t my fault and I have tried to keep up with as much exercise as I could do but in my head, that was still not enough. “I should have pushed myself harder between surgeries” “I have been too lazy” “I should be able to skate for much longer” “I am so pathetic” are just a few of the many thoughts that were running through my head before I start to realize how silly those thoughts were.

I have been through 5 major back surgeries since the first one in 2007. The first being the hardest. It felt like I was having to relearn to walk again. I couldn’t get down on to the floor for months. The pain was excruciating. I was pretty much stuck in bed for close to a year due to complications. Through the past 10 years (almost 11 now) I have struggled with so much back pain that has made it hard to even walk at times let alone consider anything beyond walking. So I should be able to let myself off the hook right?

Yet even if I “let myself off the hook”, it doesn’t stop me from missing and comparing myself to the girl I used to be. I used to be into sports. I played soccer. I loved skating and skiing. I was physically fit. The girl I used to be felt like the opposite of who I am now. I miss her so much. I wonder if I will ever be that girl again.

Currently I am still dealing with back pain where I had the crack in my spine that needed to be fused again. I have si joint inflammation because I am putting extra strain on my lower back because my upper back is fused. It takes a lot to push through the pain to do basic stuff, let alone exercise. But I do push myself because from what I understand, there is a chance that it will help. So, every evening I push myself. The pain is horrible, but I do it anyways. I do it at night because it wears me out and then afterwards I can go to bed. I usually want to cry from the pain but apparently exercising doesn’t hurt anything, so I keep going. What amazes me is how far I can go beyond the point that I feel like I can’t push any further. I can still only last about 15 minutes though and it truly does take everything out of me. The girl I used to be, would have been running circles around who I am now. Yet, will pushing myself so hard bring me closer to getting “better” or just wear me out? Am I holding on to a dream that will never be attainable again? Is what I have now, my new normal? Is comparing myself to who I was before, leading to me pushing myself farther and harder than I should be? Am I being too hard on myself? I think I know the answer to the last question, but I really do not want to admit it.

If you are wondering, pushing myself so hard isn’t anything new though. I have always pushed myself. Some say I push myself too hard and need to relax. The truth is, I don’t know how to do anything else. I used to compare myself to other people which kept me pushing to be better and stronger. Now I just hope to become who I used to be because I know what it felt like and how good it was. Plus, apparently it isn’t good to compare yourself to other people. LOL

Maybe comparing myself to myself yesterday and even the past year, can be good because it can help me to see progress that I have made. Yet, comparing myself to who I was 10 years ago might actually be harmful. None of us are likely where we were 10 years ago. For some, it might be good we are not in the same position that we were. For others, it leads to feelings of sadness and loss for what we used to have.

There is a huge thing about comparing yourself to yourself to help motivate you to keep going. Although maybe it is only helpful if we look back as far back as yesterday or the past year to remind ourselves of progress we have made and not to remind ourselves of something we have lost like health or strength that we may never get back.

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The Little Things Wear Me Out

This morning I had to change my bed sheets. It has been quite a long time since the last sheet change. I put it off because it takes so much out of me to do. It seems like such a little thing, but it wears me out. It takes me about 2 hours to do because of all the breaks I have to take. For the rest of the day, I feel very tired and the pain level is much higher. My hips hurt a lot as well and I can barely walk. There are so many little things that need to be done and I can only do so many each day, so it is inevitable that things get left longer than they should.

I feel so guilty and horrible about not changing my bed sheets as often as I should. I do it as often as I can manage though. Recently I decided to ask if I was alone in this on a group I am in, and so far, there has been over 70 replies from people saying that they have the same struggle as me. Changing sheets is very tough when you have an illness, chronic pain or any sort of disability. It is probably a chore even for  people not dealing with disability! LOL One person even thanked me for posting because it helped her know she isn’t alone. That really helped ease a lot of my guilt and frustration at my body for not working like I want it to.

There are many little things that are a challenge. Making meals, personal hygiene (showers, washing hair etc) running errands, meeting people for coffee, doing laundry, cleaning rooms or the house, gardening, etc. These are all “little things” that can wear a person out. I don’t often share how difficult the little things are for me and many of my friends likely don’t know how hard it can be for me and others who also deal with disability. This is why I wanted to share this- that others who also struggle know they are not alone and for everyone else to maybe gain some more understanding.

 

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I’m Back :)

Hello again,

It has been quite awhile since I was regularly posting on here and I apologize. Starting January 1, I started another blog for my photography called Heather’s Photo a Day challenge and I didn’t expect it to take up much time and I thought I could continue with both. Somehow, my other blog has taken up more time than I thought and I had to let this one slide a bit.

If I am being honest, I have to admit that I stopped the weekly Gratitude Challenge posts because I felt like I couldn’t continue at the time. I was supposed to have surgery in December 2014 but it got postponed and I had a really hard time with that. I was struggling with being grateful for stuff when I was in so much pain and frustrated that my surgery didn’t happen. I have been in pain for so long and I was looking forward to the surgery so much that it really hit me hard when it had to be canceled. I had planned to get through the recovery and start running again in the spring which wasn’t possible due to the surgery being postponed. It was difficult. I thought I would just take a break from the Gratitude Challenge but then a break turned into a longer break and now it has been around 6 months. Part of that is because my other blog was taking up more time and was getting a better response than this one ever had. I thought no one would miss it if I didn’t post here and focused on the one that would help me get better at photography which is what I hope to do in the future.

I have decided recently that I should make time for this blog as well. I keep being told that sharing what I go through could help other people. So I am going to attempt to keep up on here as well. 🙂 I am excited to say that I have surgery finally coming up as well. 🙂 June 18. It is coming up fast. I am trying not to get too hopeful that it will be the last one but I am, despite my efforts. It will be the fourth one. Apparently an easy one too. 🙂 Hopefully no complications as well. I wish I knew why things happen the way that they do but I think that there is a reason for everything. I wish I knew what the reasons were but I don’t. I try to be ok with that. I will hopefully have a chance in the next few days to update how I am doing in more detail and what I am up to currently (other than the upcoming surgery). Stay tuned!

Thanks for taking time to read my blog!

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Surgery and recovery

 

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Daring to Dream

Hello again,

Since receiving the date for my next surgery, I have been doing a lot of thinking and planning and I realized that while I have many dreams for the future, none seemed very likely. I have had dreams for some time in the future and not stuff that I truly thought would be possible. This morning I started to dream about the near future. Next year. Real dreams…. or maybe goals is a more correct term. Stuff I see as a possibility of happening either next year or in the next few years. This surgery seems like it might actually be the final one. I feel like there is a chance that I will actually get my life back after this one. I haven’t felt this amount of cautious optimism before the previous surgeries that I feel I can possibly begin to make plans again.

Over the past seven years, my life has consisted of surgery, recovery, complications, lots of medical tests and then waiting for more surgery. Plus being pretty much housebound. Between the first and second surgeries, I spent pretty much a year being unable to sit up for more than about 10 minutes at a time. I didn’t go anywhere except the necessary check ups with my surgeon. It felt like hell for me. My room started to feel like my prison. The years after were not as bad but still consisted of serious limitations. All I have had the option of thinking about is basically surviving each day and trying to make the most of it. I am not trying to complain but just explain the reality I faced each day for the past several years. I would day-dream a LOT. I sometimes got through days by dreaming about the future and what I would do when I got better. 🙂 But the future always seemed so far in the distance and sometimes the future I hoped for seemed unattainable. This has been my reality and it kind of became my identity. I was this person who dealt with limitations and pain and that was all.

Now I feel I finally have the chance to be someone else. I can be the person who gets to choose what I want to do and I get to carry out those goals and dreams I have for myself. I will be able to do what I want to do without having to think about how long I can last till I have to rest my back, having to hide the pain from people around me, making sure I take pain killers on time, or having to work around the other limitations I have faced. I feel like I can dare to make plans for my future which feels like it is next year and not some time that may never come. I am not sure how long it will take to recover and regain my strength but it feels like next year will be my year to begin to do that. 🙂 I could possibly stay out for an entire day without having to deal with pain increasing to the point that I can’t sit up any longer. A whole day! 🙂

I do have to admit that I feel some fear about getting my life back. For the first time in a long time, I will have choices and options on what to do with my life and I don’t want to make the wrong decisions. I look ahead to next year and it feels wide open and full of possibility. I haven’t felt that in a long time. Facing the unknown though is a bit scary for me. For the past several years, I have had a pretty good idea that the year ahead would be more of the same. Of course I never know what will happen but I knew enough to know that I probably wouldn’t be seeing any major changes at least in the near future. One thought I have had is that I should train for a race of some kind, just because I will be able to. 🙂 It would definitely feel wonderful to feel that strength again and to cross some sort of finish line would have a lot of significance for me. I look forward to the next year and seeing where I end up in a year’s time. Or in five year’s time. I feel this is an exciting time for me and I can’t wait to start really living my life again rather than just surviving. 🙂

Thanks for reading my blog! 🙂

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Surgery and recovery

 

My Fourth Surgery Has Been Scheduled

Hello again,

Today I once again got the call I’ve been waiting for since I saw my specialist last. The call from his wonderful assistant telling me when my next surgery is scheduled for. I finally have a date for my fourth (and hopefully last) surgery which is December 8.

My first thought after the call was that it will interfere with Christmas and that isn’t fair to my family. Although I am quite thankful that my family is very understanding and our Christmas celebrations are always very relaxed and fun. So it won’t be too big of a problem this year if I won’t be able to bake the Christmas goodies that I normally bake or help decorate stuff. We may not have the goodies or have as many decorations but I am told that is OK. I also likely won’t be able to go to the Christmas eve service either. I love Christmas because it is so much fun for me to give people gifts. I also love Christmas because of the time I get to spend with my family and to remember the reason that we have Christmas. To have something interfere with my ability to do that is tough but I think it will be ok. I will hopefully be able to finally get my life back after this surgery so I rather have it sooner than later. 🙂 Plus I have next year and many more years after that to enjoy and celebrate Christmas so I think I will be ok to take it easy with this one. 🙂

Now I am in planning mode. What needs to be done before the surgery…. what appointments need to be made… what forms need to be filled out… etc. I have 28 days to get it done. Yes I counted. lol

I do have to admit I feel a little nervous. Just a slight bit. But I am not sure if I feel nervous about the surgery itself or about whether I have time to get stuff done that I want to accomplish before the surgery. I also feel sad because it will interfere with Christmas. I feel happy though too because it is finally happening and hopefully the fourth time is the last time. I was hoping the third surgery was the last one because you know what they say about the third time being a charm or what ever. lol

Just like with the first three surgeries, I start getting excited about the possibility of getting my life back and what that would mean. The thought of getting my strength back and being able to work again…. that would be amazing. To be able to be independent and not need to rely on others to do so much for me that I  can’t do myself would feel great. I would love to take a vacation….. somewhere with a beach. 🙂 I have been pretty much housebound now for over 7 years. It would be wonderful to spend time away from home and see some new scenery. I am definitely hopeful and I hope that this time is different from the first three surgeries and I can actually do these things I dream of doing.

I am going to try to blog about this and share my experience with this and maybe it will be helpful or useful to someone else. If one person is helped by what I write, then it was definitely worth it. If nothing else and no one else reads this, it might be helpful/therapeutic for me to write and share my experience. So if you want to follow me through this, I want to say thanks and I hope it helps and/or encourages you in some way. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2014 in Surgery and recovery

 

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An Update

Hi again,

In my last post, I mentioned that I might share more about what is going on in another post…. well this is that post. 🙂 I actually find it interesting that it seems to be getting increasingly difficult to share about my physical challenges. I used to be fine with it and could share what I was dealing with at any time and with anyone that wanted to know. Now, it feels like I need to keep it more to myself. Maybe it is the fear that if people hear me talk about my problems, they won’t want to be around me anymore. If people hear that I am struggling and not happy, they will feel I am a person they do not want to be around. But I wonder if sharing my “stuff” will help someone else who is dealing with stuff too and I think it is important to share. This is a bit long so please bear with me. I feel like I am trying to cover a lot of stuff in one single post and it makes it rather long.

Back in March, I saw my specialist about the results of my bone scan that I had earlier that month. He basically said that there was bone irritation but he couldn’t figure out why. He felt that injections might help and if they didn’t, I might need more surgery. I hate that word…. surgery…. it sounds painful to me. I have been through 3 already so I feel like I have had enough of them. I don’t want any more. So I hoped so much that the injections would work. I had to wait till June 13 though to get them. It turned out to provide plenty of time for me to worry about whether they would work or not. I wanted them to work so much because I wanted relief and the ability to have my life back again. Since early December, I have been slowly on the decline in terms of pain levels increasing and my ability to do stuff decreasing. By June, I was getting out of the house maybe 2 times a week for a couple of hours each time and then I would spend the next day or so after trying to recover from it. The pain level shoots through the roof after being in town. I can thankfully look relatively normal though with the help of painkillers but they only cover the pain for so long which is why I can only get out of the house for a couple of hours.

Fast forward to June 13. Lucky Friday June 13 to be precise. lol I am not a person of superstition so it doesn’t bother me. The injections went fine and they used freezing first which was great. The freezing lasted most of the day which was also amazing. I nearly passed out when I got the injections but that seems to be a regular thing with me and needles. lol No big deal. With the freezing in, the pain level dropped right down and it worked even better than my usual painkillers. 🙂 I felt like I could do anything! But it didn’t last. The pain came back with a vengeance and I really hoped that the injections would still kick in despite that. I was told that it could take up to 5 days for them to work. But with each passing day, I got more nervous. They ended up not working. I was so discouraged. I cried a lot because it felt like it would never end. I felt like I could go through yet another surgery and end up still in pain. I don’t want to keep living like this because it isn’t a life.

As it turns out, it seems to mean something to my specialist that the injections didn’t work. He seems hopeful which helps me have some hope. I need to go see him to talk about what is next but I can’t get in to see him until September. So I wait. I don’t know what is next. I am trying to remain positive. But it can be hard when the pain level is so high some days that I can barely get myself out of bed and make my breakfast.. It is so painful to do simple tasks like getting changed or washing my hair. I am struggling to get the painkillers I have to work enough that I can still go in to town once a week for a couple of hours. I feel like I spend a lot of time cooped up. On the bright side, I am getting to sit outside some and enjoy the fresh air, flowers and birds. I have one of those zero gravity chairs that I can lean back and be ok for a bit. I get to read as well. But it seems to come with a price. I struggle to bring meaning in to my life most days because I can not accomplish nearly as much as I want to be. I am trying to enjoy the moments I can sit outside and not feel guilty about it. I tell myself that when I get my life back, I will be so busy that I won’t have time to just sit so I should enjoy it while I can. Sometimes that logic works. 🙂

I realize this is really long but I feel that I covered an awful lot of stuff. I am hoping that by sharing what I am going through, it might help someone else. I don’t know how but maybe it will. I have found it helpful to read stuff other people share about going through and then overcoming their struggles so maybe sharing mine will help someone else. If it does, it feels like it brings some meaning to it all. I hope you have not fallen asleep from boredom yet. lol I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and joining me on this journey called life. 🙂

 

 
 

An Update on my back recovery

Hello again,

In May of this year, I had my third back surgery to fix a broken rod. Recovery has been a bit of a challenge as I expected but easier than with previous surgeries. It has been difficult emotionally as well because I had thought this was the year I would finally get my life back. Instead I spent a large part of the year in recovery mode again. As you can imagine, this whole surgery recovery thing is getting rather frustrating and tiresome after 5 yrs of going through it. I keep getting fed up with it and wishing I could just move on with my life.

Recovery typically takes up to a year and I had hoped this time around would be quicker since I should be getting good at it right? lol Joking aside, this was a rather simple surgery replacing the broken rod and wasn’t very invasive. The first part of the recovery went very well and quite quick which gave me hope I would be on my feet again very soon. But this was not to be.

Sadly, I hit a bit of a roadblock in my recovery I suppose you could say. I continue to deal with pain that should be getting better which has left my specialist scratching his head. He told me (much to my dismay) that I may need another small surgery but only if it would fix the problem. I could end up getting by with just spinal injections as well depending on what the problem is. I need a ct scan to help him figure out what is causing the pain. So I am currently playing the waiting game again and I am not sure when I will manage to get in. So until then, I try to deal with the pain the best I can.

As for how I am doing in terms of pain and mobility, on a good day, I can manage to be up for a 1-2 hours maximum before the pain gets too intense and I need to rest. On a bad day, 30 minutes up and moving around is about all I can manage before needing to lay flat and rest my back and then repeat. Lately the bad days outnumber the good but I try to just deal with it the best I can. I have to admit that emotionally it is very difficult because I often feel like my life is slowing passing by and I am not accomplishing nearly as much as I feel I should be…. or as I want to be. I push myself very hard to do as much as I can because I feel it is very important to live each day as fully as I possibly can because it will never come again. I don’t want to look back and have regrets that I didn’t take advantage of each day I have been given. So I do what I can which is all any of us can do. 🙂

Thanks for taking time to stop by and read my blog. 🙂 I really appreciate it! 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2012 in Surgery and recovery