Sunday, July 28, 2013

49 days and {unfortunately} still counting

Well, I haven't posted much of anything this month. The reason behind that is that my life is basically being consumed by my lingering back issue.  Yes, 49 days later and I am still struggling with lower back pain.

The last time I posted about my back it was two weeks after the initial beginning to this continuing saga over 6 weeks ago.

I have been seeing a physiotherapist every week, and while I am definitely in better shape than the first couple of weeks, I am still in almost constant pain and discomfort.

A few weeks ago I took a week off of work {as cleaning houses is NOT a good job to have while trying to recover from a back problem} and that definitely seemed to help move the recovery along.

The week I went back to work, I worked 3 days in a row. Not full days, but enough! I was very careful with how I moved and bent and I thought I had been pretty successful at making it through the week without having too much of a set-back. My back was definitely getting a bit more sore again but nothing unmanageable.

Until I sneezed while cleaning a shower.

I may or may not have said a bad word. It literally felt like my back was splitting in half. I had sneezed several other times so far throughout the weeks but I had been prepared for them and was able to at least somewhat support my back while sneezing, if my attempts at shutting down the sneeze failed. This time, however, it came from out of nowhere, and given the position I was in at the time...there was absolutely no support for my back while it endured the almost mind-numbing pain that seared through my body.

And just like that I fell 10 steps backwards in my recovery process. I could, thankfully, still walk upright - but my range of motion instantly decreased again and I tried - unsuccessfully - to fight back tears. I somehow managed to finish cleaning the house and then I had the rest of the day to relax by my sister's pool while the kids played and swam.

The following day when I got up in the morning it was absolutely terrible again. For the first time in many days, it took a few minutes for me to be able to fully straighten myself up after getting out of bed. I cried again as I wondered just what this setback meant for me. And on top of that, I had to spend the day packing and getting ready for a camping weekend.

Now camping, as you know, is not something I look forward to at the best of times - nevermind while having bad back pain. The 3 hour drive up was enough to make things even stiffer right upon arrival at the campground and I tried my best to put on a happy(ish) face around Les' family.

The first night in the tent was one of the most horrible nights of my life. We had tried to make my "mattress" as comfortable as possible with several layers of blankets on top of my pitifully thin sponge mattress...but as I lay there and the minutes and hours s-l-o-w-l-y crept along, I got more and more uncomfortable. The 4am trek to the bathroom was a nightmare in and of itself. Trying to duck to get out of the tent - and to do it quickly to prevent the millions of bugs from entering the tent - and then walking in the dark on uneven ground, all the while trying to swat away the mosquitoes that were literally attacking me at every angle without having full mobility to reach the ones I desperately wanted to...well, it was just awful. And I couldn't run to keep up with my family (yes, we all went together). I tried to hold it all together, but by the time I finally got back to the tent and collapsed on my bed hard rock, I couldn't stop the quiet tears from falling.

I eventually fell asleep for the first time as the sun was already coming up. And then I got woken up with a start at 7:15 from the hot, baking sun. Hooray for 2 hours of sleep...

The second night I slept in my in-law's 5th wheel camper which was a million times better, but regardless of the sleeping conditions, I was pretty miserable the entire weekend. Luckily everyone was very understanding of my condition, and I literally lived in my zero-gravity lawn chair the entire weekend. I got up to go to the bathroom and walk to the beach and that's pretty much it. Les served me meals and everything. And somehow I survived. I did enjoy the conversation, the time around the fires and watching my girls have fun with their cousins, inspite of the situation I was in.

Following the camping weekend, my back wasn't the only thing "broken" spirit was as well. Like this picture clearly shows, things were definitely not properly aligned. My right hip should not be jutting out like that and seeing how bad things physically looked - combined with how things felt...well, quite frankly, it was more than enough after all this time had passed.

Emotionally I was in a really bad place in the days that followed. My summer was passing me by and I had not been able to enjoy much of it at all. Being so restricted in everything that I did - and being confined to a lawn chair for a lot of the time - was not how I would've chosen to spend these many weeks.

Being forced to be lazy isn't as fun as it might sound.

On the Tuesday following that weekend, while I was getting my heat treatment at physio, the tears could not be stopped. It all just felt so incredibly overwhelming, especially not knowing WHEN this journey would be coming to an end. My spirit was definitely broken and I felt like I was at my wit's end. I sent up desperate pleas to God for healing and tried my best to regain my composure before my physiotherapist came into the room.

Later that day I had my annual check-up at my doctor's office and after telling her of my latest back "episode", she sent me for an x-ray.

At the end of that day of appointments, I was feeling lower than I had felt in a long time. My emotional state was extremely fragile. I had basically resigned myself to the fact that this was a permanent thing. I figured I would never again be free of this pain and discomfort. Never again be able to sit snuggled up in the corner of my couch again (instead of always being reclined in my anti-gravity lawn-chair-turned-living-room-chair). Never again be able to run - or do any sort of working out for that matter. Things were so bad that I decided to cancel anything in the near future that wasn't a necessity. Meetings, music practices, hosting a friend for lunch - it all got canceled. Other than work, I had decided I wasn't going to commit to ANYTHING.

The day after my appointments, however, my prayers were being answered as the next couple of days brought tremendous relief to my back. I was flooded with relief and gratitude as I thought that now I could finally start to resume my life as usual. I enjoyed more freedom with my mobility and being able to almost bend over without having to hold onto something. With only one house clean on my schedule for the week, I was feeling stronger than I had since this all began. I was still being tremendously cautious with my movements and had to force myself to not right away take on too much. For that reason, I made sure to stick to my decisions of putting other things on hold and it was a good thing that I did...

The following week (which was last week), I had 4 house cleans to do - and while I went into it feeling strong and ready, by the end of the first job of the week - which of course happened to be my biggest house clean of the month - I could already feel the negative effects. As the following two days passed with smaller cleans, I was getting in more and more rough shape again.

The discouragement that came from that was almost unbearable. How can I expect to make a full recovery if I keep working? I can rest up as much as I want on my off days (which are usually 4-5 days in a row), but as soon as I go back to cleaning for more than a couple of hours, things flare up again. On the other hand, I'm too worried to take too much time off. First of all, our budget will be affected of course. But I'm also worried about long-term effects of taking any time off. I'm worried that my clients will find someone else to take over for me - OR that they will start to realize that cleaning their own houses is not so bad and that maybe they won't need me to come back at all.

On another note, my physiotherapist phoned me on Thursday with the results of my x-ray. Apparently I have moderately advanced disc degeneration - which is uncommon, especially at the "moderately advanced" level - for someone my age with no earlier trauma in life that would've caused this. I don't have any answers right now for what this diagnosis means for me, but I do know that the next step is getting an MRI. This in itself frightens me as everytime I picture myself going into the MRI machine, I panic. My claustrophobia does not lend itself well to an experience like this one will be.

Today my back is feeling better again, as yesterday and today I have done the bare minimum again. I have one more day tomorrow before resuming work again. It leaves me very unsure, given the way things have been going as I start to work again.

I am trying to take things one day at a time, but of course that's easier said than done. If you have noticed me being anti-social lately, please know it's not personal. The majority of my energy is going into surviving this emotional and physical battle. And I am trying to focus so hard on not letting the emotional stress consume me. If you do see me happy and seemingly "normal", know that it is taking a lot of effort to pull that off. And, on the other hand, if you see me seeming distant and upset, it is because I have no more energy left to cover that up.

I feel like I could so easily totally fall apart at the seams if I would continue to give in to the emotions that started to overtake me at the beginning of last week (before the temporary healing began). For the sake of my family, I cannot allow myself to sink into that pit. So I will put on my "big girl pants" and do the best I can to not let those feelings consume me.

And as I wake up tomorrow morning - on day #50 - I will continue to pray that it will be the final morning of this difficult saga.


LaughingLady said...

Some of the most famous hymns and inspirational poetry were written by bed-ridden or disabled people. (here's a short list:

Maybe this is a season to explore some of the gifts God gave you that, until now, have been waiting in the wings, largely overshadowed by life.

In despair is where I find communion with God the very sweetest. I hope you will find it so as well.

Jenn said...

I'm so sorry this has been so rough. I am praying for relief and healing and for continued strength for you.

Jackie Klassen said...

Oh, my poor dear friend...I pray for relief and healing for you! And a joyful spirit:) This has been such a hard summer for you, my friend.

Gin said...

My heart breaks for you. The kind of pain your in is something that I have never experienced. I read this again this evening and want you to know how much I care and that I pray for relief for you. Please know that if you need to know that someone is praying at a specific time, please text me and I will pray at that time specifically. You are loved!

TammyIsBlessed said...

Praying for you!

For joy in Him, not in circumstance; for peace that passes understanding; for grace and His strength to endure; for hope that does not disappoint; and for Him to give you exactly what you need in order for Him to be most glorified through you in this weakness.